When it comes to building performance, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Humidification to provide medical patient comfort is a good thing. Frost and ice damage due to that same humidification is not so good.

When new building code requirements require high performance and innovation incentives, such as those found in green building rating systems, significant confusion and some building failure will ensue. This is the current situation that designers and contractors are facing in wall system air barrier design and performance. Overly complex and problematic exterior wall systems due to a market-driven design emphasis on energy savings, high performance, and innovation inevitably lead to increased risk and liability in all climates, and concern about mold and moisture damage in hot/humid climates.

Significant in 2012 was the issuance of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). This provided a vehicle for codifying many elements of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)® rating systems and ASHRAE standards that have been issued over the last decade. (Most of them have been released in just the last two years.)

The development of codes such as the IgCC are often based on collaboration through cooperating industry professional society sponsors. Despite the benefits of collaboration, high performance and innovation initiatives are often driven by code empirical laboratory analysis, which sometimes does not translate well to field applications. This codification is then pushed out to contractors, who unfortunately must then face the task of interpreting sometimes puzzling requirements that don’t always make sense or work in the field.

Continue Reading AIR BARRIERS: EXPECTATIONS VS. REALITY
 — THAWING A FROSTY RELATIONSHIP

 

What Did You Miss? What Did Building Owners, Developers, and Contractors Miss?

Richard Scott, AIA – Vice-president, Senior Forensic Architect

Over 15,000 architects attended the recent AIA 2017 National Conference on Architecture (A’17) in Orlando, Florida. What did they learn that you missed?  As a speaker and attendee, the following are the top three things I learned at this invigorating Conference:

1. Building forensic sessions were well attended, and still scare architects. And building forensics should still be scaring owners, developers, and contractors. There were over a dozen sessions on building envelope technology, disaster avoidance, and commissioning, some presented by forensic experts. Even the 7 AM forensic sessions, such as my Liberty Building Forensics Group (LBFG) presentation on air barriers, had over 100 attendees even though it was concurrent with 19 other sessions. No one likes a building failure unless of course, it is someone else’s failure.  So advice on prevention, based on failure case studies, drew many interested parties, questions, and concerns. Those who did not attend may want to at least obtain the handouts from forensic sessions.

 

LBFG’s session not only presented the complexity and difficulty of specifying and constructing air barriers but also the checkered and uncoordinated landscape of code and industry standard requirements (the session handout is available on the AIA A’17 app as well as LBFG’s website, www.buildingforensicsgroup.com). LBFG’s business is investigating and litigating building envelope and HVAC failures. The combination of failed envelope air barriers and failed HVAC leads to exponential damages to building facades, structures, finishes, and contents.

 

Continue Reading The Top 3 Things I Learned At This Year’s AIA National Conference on Architecture

Three major changes will impact the success of construction in Florida over the next decade. These changes began as trends during the last decade and have now evolved into requirements for construction professionals. This requires one to consider the risks of potential moisture problems and determine how to mitigate against these risk on the project. These risks are due in large part to changes in building code and how the industry is viewing the products that are being used in “green construction.”

 

  • There is a drive to certify products as “green” and this has substantially increased the risk of moisture problems when certain products are used. Knowing the anatomy of these products will help the construction professional alleviate this risk.
  • Green initiatives have become codified and are required now by code these for projects. It is a critical skill to be able to know the parts of the code that result in the greatest risks for causing moisture problems.
  • As the construction industry shifts from primarily a USGBC LEED® rating credit system to other rating systems like Green Globes there is a risk that comes from the introduction of confusion in the “green” marketplace and the construction industry. This confusion affects the contractor’s’ ability to communicate the needs and costs of green construction. This lack of communication can lead to budget and schedule overruns that are costly. The skilled professional will need to know which rating systems are critical for projects in humid climates and how to communicate the requirements of those rating systems to clients.

Continue Reading How to Avoid Moisture Problems When the Requirements and Practical Applications of Green Collide

In our work as forensic architects and engineers, we are regularly involved in litigation over stucco failures, including hotels and high-rise condo complexes. (For this article, ‘stucco’ refers to traditional portland cement plaster direct-applied to a masonry substrate, rather than using lath.)

 

Myths abound around stucco cracking. In truth, it is not abnormal to have some cracking with stucco, much of which can be relatively harmless. The key is paying attention to the types of cracks, and minimizing any significant issues that might lead to actual failure, including debonding, water intrusion, and mold problems. It is not a good idea to pack out stucco so thick it may end up debonding and falling on those Bentleys (and their owners) below.

 

Myth #3: Direct-applied stucco is easily packed out to meet a finished plane.

Continue Reading Stucco Myth #3: Direct-applied stucco is easily packed out to meet a finished plane