The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will close Laurel Hall for the remainder of the academic year in order to effectively clean the building after mold was found in some rooms.
Within the next few weeks, the building’s 586 residents will be relocated for the remainder of the fall and spring semesters.
Preliminary air sample results show elevated levels of mold in several rooms and common areas in the building. At this time, the university has no reason to believe that there are major health and safety risks that necessitate immediate relocation. Laurel Hall residents have been advised to contact University Housing if they have chronic health conditions that may be exacerbated by the presence of mold.
“First and foremost, our concern is for our students’ health and safety,” said Chandra Myrick, executive director of University Housing. “In this instance, we know moving will be disruptive to their semester, so we are providing as many resources and as much support as we can to help through this process.”
University Housing has been communicating with affected residents and will provide a moving timeline and offer accommodation options to Laurel Hall residents. University Housing is still lining up on-campus and nearby off-campus housing options. The university will work closely with affected students to ensure they receive any needed assistance during the transition.
University Housing is working on this project with UT’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Student Health Center, Commuter Student Engagement, and Facilities Services, and with outside contractors who specialize in air quality testing and moisture-related issues.
Belfor Property Restoration, a certified microbial remediation company that has a contract to work with the state of Tennessee, will lead the cleaning project. The company has indicated that full remediation of the building will take at least 14 weeks.
All residence halls were inspected before the start of the academic year. University Housing received several maintenance requests about issues related to the damp, humid weather in mid-September. Housing maintenance staff inspected numerous rooms in buildings and sent an email to students on September 20 reminding them to submit maintenance requests if they had concerns.
Last week, University Housing received multiple maintenance requests from Laurel Hall. After a building inspection revealed visible mold in several locations, staff met with Belfor, UT’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, and Facilities Services to develop a plan, which included placing 42 dehumidifiers throughout the building to stabilize the environment and reduce further mold growth. The same day staff sent emails to Laurel Hall residents alerting them to issues, advising them about the dehumidifiers, and instructing them on proper use of in-room air conditioning units.
The following day, a certified industrial hygienist conducted a building-wide inspection. Although full air quality test results for Laurel Hall are still pending, the industrial hygienist said significant rain and above-average humidity coupled with certain aspects of the building—individually controlled air conditioning units within each suite and the ability to open room windows—likely contributed to escalated mold growth.
The university expects to receive a full report from the certified industrial hygienist next week.
Additionally on Monday, October 1, Belfor began working in South Carrick Hall, servicing all student room and common area HVAC units in the building due to the presence of mold. Air quality testing in South Carrick did not indicate elevated levels of airborne mold spores.
University Housing is currently conducting air quality testing of all other campus residence halls.