Expert Interview Series: Robert Weitz of RTK Environmental Group on Environmental Issues in Contracting

Continuing education

Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, is an environmental testing expert and a certified microbial investigator who frequently appears in the media regarding environmental issues.

We recently checked in with Robert to learn about how contractors may affect the environment and the importance of contractors receiving continuing education about construction and the environment. Here’s what he shared:

Can you tell us about the mission behind RTK Environmental?

RTK’s mission is to provide high quality, professional and accurate environmental testing to both residential and commercial clients and to help to solve problems that are identified with complete solution guidelines. These services include testing for mold and other indoor air quality, lead, asbestos, dust, soil and water.

By performing these services from beginning to completion with a team approach to independently and with no conflict of interest to provide our clients with expert advice so they are able to make informed and knowledgeable decisions based on expert reporting and recommendations.

What are the most common types of environmental testing you perform day-to-day?

Indoor air quality, lead, asbestos, soil, dust and water testing and analysis.

What are the long-term risk factors of not performing inspections or testing of potential environmental problems in a structure?

Possible long-term factors in any structure include, but are not limited to, significant occupant health issues (respiratory, poisoning, cancer and auto immune illness among others), contaminated air, surface deterioration and structural failure.

What types of environmental issues should contractors have knowledge of today? What seem to be the most prevalent issues you’re coming across?

Environmental issues that contractors should be aware of include lead, asbestos, dust, soil and indoor air contamination. Currently, the most prevalent issue is lowering of volatile organic compounds.

What types of training is available to contractors who want to focus more on environmental factors of a project?

Training is available through multiple organizations including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), local and state Department of Health agencies, and multiple builders’ professional organizations including the National Association of Home Builders and Builders Association.

What are some best practices you would like to see more contractors following when it comes to designing and building structures that are environmentally sound and safe?

Improved insulation and waterproofing methods that will better protect from water infiltration and potential mold growth. Low VOC building components and coatings that will emit fewer gases. Plumbing materials with no lead content in their manufacturing process. More use of products produced in the U.S. that more firmly regulate the contents, not only of plumbing products but other materials as well. Heating and cooling systems that trap particulate (HEPA filters) and gases (carbon), conservation of material (preventing excess waste).

What tools or resources should contractors be using in order to ensure they are being environmentally responsible?

Overall, using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that specifies green building materials and practices, including the use of green building materials that can lower ozone levels in the building envelope. Care with fossil fuel burning equipment (backhoes, graders, compressors, temporary heating equipment).

What trends or headlines are you following in the world of environmental testing and/or the construction industry? Why do they interest you?

Constantly improving techniques that make detection and identifying more accurate levels of contaminants, specifically volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide and ozone. LEED building and design to help provide more efficient use of building material and waste management and reduction. Governmental regulations that indicate allowable, or “acceptable” levels of contaminants that can accurately be reported to clients. These interest me because they allow more accurate and educational reporting and increased awareness to the overall population to allow improved decision making.

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