Building Enclosure Consulting

Facade Doctor

Construction Phase – Consulting and Monitoring – Commissioning of Building Enclosures (BECx)

We collect data in the field, conduct field observations, perform quality tests, review submittals, and monitor construction in progress for conformance with the approved submittals and good industry practices. In the field, we provide standardized  traceable reporting, and periodically generate list of outstanding items.

Torched SBS roofing installation.

In the field, we provide standardized  traceable reporting, and periodically generates list of outstanding items. However, construction progresses quickly, and nobody benefits from a report filed after the condition has been already concealed. Therefore, we exercise the proactive approach by informing the respective sub-contractors about discovered problems and offering assistance in developing mitigation plans.

We also help contractors, and owners identify unclear design intent requiring a request for information (RFI) and assist architects in responding to RFIs. We analyse architectural specifications and offer advice regarding the contractual obligations and scope.  Kaz’s post about the Spearin Doctrine deals with some of these issues.

The typical scope:

  • Bid and submittal reviews, substitution analyses,
  • RFI development and research
  • Waterproofing compatibility research
  • Proactive monitoring of construction in progress,
  • Witnessing QA and QC tests and verification of procedures,
  • Air, water, thermal, and structural testing,
  • Construction dispute resolution,
  • Construction defect evaluation,
  • Negotiations with contractors,
  • Ownership transition (take-over) assessments,

Unitized curtain wall installation.

This post was written by Kaz
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What is a Building Consultant of the Building Envelope?

We tackled the question What Is The Building Envelope or Enclosure? in my other post.

Mur Vegetal - reintroduction of wildlife into the facade engineering.

Now it’s time for the General Description of the Profession.

Building facades are a very emotional subject – they are expressions of owners’ and architects’ individualities and become a lasting monument of their earthy achievements.

Facades account for up to 25% of the total construction cost and are the largest single determinant of a life building performance.

Their functions and construction are seldom fully understood by architects. By the end of the 20th century, high performance facades had become so complex that facade engineering began to gradually emerge as a specialized discipline.

However, façade engineering services are scarce in the U.S. and many architects are not even familiar with the concept.

Facade engineering is typically devoted to high-rise and high-end construction; one reason is the economical justification of the service, the other the scarcity of architects familiar with high-rise construction.

Facade engineering comprises all functions of the building shell holistically. The elementary function is to protect the occupants by controlling forces acting on building enclosures such as: rain, wind, snow, hail, flood, sun, light, wind borne debris, blast, heat flow, water vapor, wildlife, aggressive airborne and waterborne chemical, noise, vibrations, fire, smoke, theft, dirt accumulation, maintenance loads, and normal wear and tear.

They should be analyzed in conjunction with each other because all these factors overlap and intertwine. It naturally follows that it is a bad practice to analyze any of these facets in isolation from the others. A very frequent example is an unconditional endorsement of a plastic spray foam insulation by building enclosure consultants unaware of basic code requirements. As a consequence, their clients: owners and architects are required by municipal code inspectors to modify their buildings at a great expense.

Building Enclosure Councils are the first step in the direction of educating the general public about sciences and risks involved in building enclosures.

(The above description is partially quoted from “Facade Engineering. How To Design a Functional Building Enclosure” with permission of the author.)

Double-directional curvatures

Double-directional curvatures – sign of the old architectural trend becoming available to ordinary architects due to advanced parametrical computer modelingKaz worked on the schematic design and design development of the facade of the “walkie-talkie” buildng pictured in the center. London, UK.

This post was written by Kaz
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Calendar of Past Meetings of BEC Miami

For those of you, who may need it to keep track of your continuing Education, below is the copy of the BEC Miami “next_meeting” website:


Silicone Sealants in Construction, Application and Quality Control

Mr. Kevin P Dunphy of High Performance Building Solutions Group at Dow Corning Corporation will review sealants on building façades including selection, installation and QC. Topics:
-Sealants – a general overview
-Silicones vs. Organics
-Design & Proper installation of Weathersealing Joints
-Structural Glazing/ Protective/Hurricane Glazing
-Reference Standards, Testing, and technical Service

1 Learning Unit (LU) for registered architects

Please note the change of location! We meet at the UM, not AIA.

Past Meetings



5 Critical Roofing Performance ConsiderationsMr. Mario J. Ibanez of FiberTite Roofing System will explain how major roofing systems perform against top five criteria that effect roof life. He’ll first provide a brief description and installation methods of the six major roofing systems for low-slope roofing: Built-Up, Modified Bitumen, EPDM, PVC, TPO and KEE.  This is followed by a discussion on the major performance criteria that effects the life of the roof; e.g., UV, Wind, etc, narrowing a broad list down to the top five.  Lastly, we’ll compare how these six major roofing systems typically perform vs. these top five performance criteria.
Learning Objectives:1.) Identify and discern the six basic low slope roofing membrane / systems.  2.) Understand the installation methods and options associated with the six basic low slope roofing membrane / systems.  3.) Learn the objective measurements behind the five critical performance criteria associated with roof system longevity.  4.) Learn how the six basic low slope roofing membrane / systems compare when evaluated by the objective performance criteria.

1 Learning Unit (LU) for registered architects

Please note the change of location! We meet at the UM, not AIA.


Title: Greening Building EnvelopesTopic Areas: Sustainability and Technology

Today, the real-estate and construction industry focuses on two new buzzwords: “Green” and “Building Envelope.” The industry also looks for savings, and what can be more economical and greener than prolonging the technical life of the existing structures? We will present several case examples of troubleshooting and preserving value of building envelopes of large buildings, which, often built wrong from the start, are typically the most expensive and most maintenance-demanding part of a building. We will show successes and lessons learned in reducing energy use and addressing persistent failures. We will also address relevant energy regulations pertaining to the existing buildings in Florida.

Learning Objectives:
Often Overlooked Secondary Consequences of Energy Upgrades.
Combining Energy Upgrades with Renovations.
Diagnosis of Building Enclosures: Tools of the Trade. ( MacGyverizm).
Do you Know Where Your Money Went? Tracking Energy Costs.


Mr. W. Reid Morgan, P.E. is a Physical Plant Director at Broward Campus of the Florida Atlantic University. He manages several educational buildings, including two high-rise towers. He is a civil engineer by education with a BS from the University of Maryland, College Park. He worked ten years in heavy construction managing foundations and concrete techniques for wet underground structures, such as subway tunnels and multi-storied basement in NY, Wash., DC, Philadelphia and Dallas. This early introduction into the negative effects of water leaking through “solid” walls has been a lifelong challenge of determining the solutions to pervious to impervious phenomenon. As he progressed into general construction and now maintenance management issues, the long term effects are not only costly from life cycle of structures, but the total operating costs for HVAC systems. There is a correlation between humidity outside and how it gets inside via the building envelop, doors, windows and sometimes roofs. He has found solutions in the most curious of areas, such as measuring long term effects of humidity been left in buildings when unoccupied. He has saved many thousands of dollars for FAU and others by examining the existing “as built “drawings for oversight of insulation, or the lack of it; HVAC systems that are oversized or undersized. He has quantified how different lighting and computer systems has changed the HVAC systems over the last 30 years, and yet we have plenty of buildings that had minimum of modifications over the years. His speaking engagements have been from lecturing to engineering and architectural students at FAU, APPA presentations and local chapter of IFMA and BOMA. He also has lectured about the benefits of solar and LED fixtures to community and civic groups.

Mr. Karol Kazmierczak (Kaz) M.Sc. is a Facade Doctor. He cares for ailing building facades. On the average day you may spot him climbing a skycraper or crawling dusty roof cavities, and on the average night he wanders your roof with a thermal imager searching for rain leaks. He specializes in high-rise buildings, and worked with facades of over 400 buildings located on two continents, in miscellaneous climates, and has 16 years of façade engineering experience diversified among building enclosure technical design, consulting, construction inspections, and field investigations. He no longer practices facade engineering; instead he practices MacGyver engineering by developing custom procedures and tools to diagnose failures of existing buildings. He runs a blog at which is as boring as his profession.

1 Learning Unit (LU) for registered architects

Please note the change of location! We meet at the UM, not AIA.


We will learn about Lean Construction of Building Enclosures from Dr. Lincoln Forbes Ph.D.(U. of Miami), MBA, MSIE, BSc. (Electrical Engineering), P.E. (Florida), LEED® AP, Assistant Professor (Visiting) in the Department of Construction Management at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, and the lead author of a book on the subject, titled “Modern Construction: Lean Project Delivery and Integrated Practices” (CRC Press, 2010). Dr. Forbes has over 30 years of experience in various aspects of facilities design, construction, and maintenance as well as quality/performance improvement. He has been administrative head of several facilities-related departments and functions in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He also served as an adjunct professor with Florida International University (FIU), Miami, Florida, in the College of Engineering and Computing’s Construction Management and Engineering Management programs.Dr. Forbes has published and presented many papers internationally on the application of lean techniques and quality and productivity improvement in construction. He is a member of the The Lean Construction Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting knowledge and awareness of lean construction principles. He has served as a columnist on Continuous Improvement in the Construction Industry for the ASCE publication “Leadership and Management in Engineering” , and as a reviewer for various ASCE journals. A Senior member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, (IIE), Dr. Forbes is also the President of IIE’s Construction Division. He is a Senior member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and has served as an examiner for the Florida Sterling Council’s Quality Award.Lean construction is a new methodology that is based on highly successful Japanese maufacturing methods; it promotes closer collaboration between project participants that leads to fewer errors, lower cost, and higher profits.  It also results in greater satisfaction among all participants as well as the building owner.  In the not distant future, practitioners of this methodolgy will have a distinct competitive advantage.learning objectives:

What is Lean Construction? Explanation.

Principles of Lean Construction. Application to Building Enclosures.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Lean Construction.

Lean Construction i n Practice. Lessons Learned.

1 Learning Unit (LU)


We will learn about Insulated Composite Backup Panel Technology and Achieving Superior Thermal and Moisture Protection from Dean Kauthen of Centria. Dean needs no introduction. He spoke about Metal Wall Systems one year ago.Learning Objectives: After completion of this course, participants will be able to:
Understand the functional differences between an inner backup wall and the rainscreen component.Identify key weaknesses in popular multi-component backup wall assembliesComprehend the nature of problems created by popular backup wall assembliesLearn strategies for creating superior backup wall assemblies when steel framing is employed as the structural elementRecognize the benefits of new backup wall system technology and how it is superior to multi-component assemblies.

1 Learning Unit (LU), HSW: Yes, SD: Yes


We will learn about Thermocromex, which is a one-coat exterior limestone finish used as an alternative to stucco from Glenn McFarland, the salesperson at Southwest Progressive Enterprises.Description: Using American National Standard Institute specifications for exterior wall finishes, this program will provide current information along with a discussion on some exterior wall finish systems including three coat stucco, one coat stucco, EIFS and one coat limestone finishes. Emphasis will be placed on each systems’ various components, application methods, maintenance costs and environmental impact including VOC’s and Sustainability.This event will come with 1 AIA LU.06/18/2011

Facade Engineering University – “Hot and Humid Climate and Hurricane considerations in Building Enclosure Design”

What are two methods of floodproofing the design? What is more dangerous: hurricane wind, flood, or windborne debris impact? What are the questions insurance adjusters ask? What is the most overlooked performance aspect in roofing design in windborne debris regions? Is it true that a straw carried by a wind can pierce a trunk? Is an open door or window rated for wind? Do Interior assemblies need to be rated for hurricane wind pressure? What are the biggest overlooked challenges of post-hurricane recovery in design choice of facade materials and systems? How your design may cause a mysterious rain fall in a middle of a building without a breach in building enclosure? Would an addition of thermal insulation alone wreak a havoc of an otherwise sound building? Where a vapor retarder should be located if at all? Where NOT to locate thermal insulation? What old architectural details would not work with new code requirements and new materials any more?

Those and other questions will be answered in the course of this 3-hour long seminar followed by 1 hour workshop.

The lecture presents non-obvious aspects of building enclosure design in hot and humid climates frequented by hurricanes. It discusses typical hazards and perils such as: flood, posthurricane scarcities, sun, rain, humidity, temperature, wildlife, wind, windborne debris, and cultural challenges.

4 LU

Cost: $45 per person plus $2 per car

Details and Registration:


Greg Galloway of YKK will tak about Impact Resistance.Learning Objective for this presentation is:Using the ASCE7 Standards and the detailed information provided in this seminar, the participant will be able to make more educated decisions  when designing projects that must meet the stringent building requirements of hurricane prone areas. Since the 2010 Florida Building Code has incorporated ASCE 7-10, he will provide an overview of the changes from the previous version.


Meeting cancelled.


“Fluid Applied Air, Vapor, and Water Resistive Barriers: Function and Specification” by Joseph Dugo, the Engineering/ Market Specialist at BASF Wall Systems. He is responsible for the promotion of BASF’s Wall Systems sustainable solutions for Air Barriers, EIFS and High Performance Stucco to the consulting, military and general contracting communities.This presentation qualifies for 1.0 Sustainable Design (SD) Credit. Air/water-resistive barriers are vital systems that minimize air and moisture intrusion throughout the entire building envelope. The learning objectives of this presentation include:§        The role of barriers in building envelop performance
§        Methods of evaluating air/water-resistive barrier material and assembly performance before installation
§        How to treat rough openings using fluid applied air barrier systems
§        How to evaluate air barrier system performance after installation
§        What to require in a performance-based fluid-applied barrier material specification


“Green Design with Translucent Daylighting” by Mr. Michael Crowder. Michael Crowder is the National Sales Manager for Structures Unlimited, Inc., operating out of the corporate office in Manchester, NH.  He is responsible for all sales and marketing functions, as well as traveling extensively with the distributors nationwide for the company.  He has been with SUI since January, 2002, where he started as a Regional Manager.  He is a LEED Accredited Professional, a member of the Construction Specification Institute.  Michael is the in-house LEED consultant for both Structures Unlimited and Kalwall, strategic partners in the Keller Companies.Content:Utilizing various forms of translucent daylighting to earn LEED credits and/or assist in the implementation of Green or Sustainable design. Topics discussed include the origins of translucent daylighting, considerations in design, enhancement of daylighting techniques, energy conservation and opportunities offered in contrast, design, form and aesthetics.01/18/2011

The seminar titled “Architectural Anchoring Systems” by Mr. John Shedleski of Halfen Anchoring Systems.Description: This program is a general overview of architectural anchoring systems for diverse applications, common in commercial and institutional construction. There are six sections, each one devoted to the following anchoring specialties: Glazed curtain wall, architectural precast panels and columns, architectural exposed structural steel, exterior cladding with dimension stone, brick veneer, and concealed lintel systems for masonry. Most of the material is covered graphically for a quick grasp of the fundamental principles.

Learning Objectives:

      • Review curtain wall anchoring systems with 3-dimensional adjustability, and benefits they offer from architectural and installation perspective.
      • Evaluate anchoring systems for architectural precast concrete panels and for precast columns.
      • Identify applications for architectural exposed structural steel systems, and the typical components for tension and compression rods.
      • Recognize differences between custom-designed and pre-engineered adjustable stone anchors, and consider features that allow for precision installations.
      • Examine brick veneer anchoring systems designed for different thermal insulation requirements and load conditions.
      • Understand concealed lintel systems, their main components, and aesthetic qualities of all-brick appearance vs. exposed steel soffits.


Traditionally we skip December due to the large number of other events, Have a wonderful holiday season!


(NOT A BEC MEETING BUT NEVERTHELESS WORTH ATTENDING)Thermal Performance of the Exterior Envelopes at Whole Buildings XI International Conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida


The seminar titled “Fundamentals of Air Barriers” by Mr. Robert Erwin, who sells Tremco products. He has 33 years of field experience with Tremco Global Sealants as a generalist in the area of glazing sealants and waterproofing.Learning Objectives:RELATIONSHIP TO SUSTANIBLE DESIGN


(NOT A BEC MEETING BUT NEVERTHELESS WORTH ATTENDING)RCI Building Envelope Technology Symposium in San Antonio, Texas.


The seminar titled “Sustainable Green Construction using High Performance EIFS” by Mr. John H. Thomas, the District Sales Manager of BASF Wall Systems.Here is the description of the seminar received from the speaker:Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) are relatively new wall cladding systems that have evolved to meet the construction industry’s demand for buildings that offer outstanding aesthetic value at low initial cost.  Concerns related to energy conservation and environmental preservation are changing the traditional lowest-first-cost paradigm.  This lunch-and learn presentation discusses EIF systems that offer architects new ways to create building designs that combine outstanding thermal performance and visual appeal with low cost and extended building longevity.A detailed discussion of LEED, Air, Water and Vapor barriers will be included in this presentation.

This program also qualifies for HSW credits as well as standard CEU’s.


(moved from 09/21/2010)

The seminar titled “Surviving the Warranty Wars” by Mr. Carl Kuhn, the Architectural Representative of Soprema.Learning Objectives:
What you should know about roofing warranties, what they will cover and what they will not. What to look for in a roof warranty to be sure your owner receives the best protection possible as well as the various types of warranties available in the roofing market today.RSVP to the next meeting   08/17/2010The seminar titled “Understanding the Critical Elements of Below Grade Waterproofing” by Jim Simpson-Quigley, the
Senior Architectural Sales Representative of Grace Construction Products.Learning Objectives:• What is Waterproofing?• Why Waterproof?• Where to apply waterproofing.• Types of waterproofing.

• Establishing design criteria.

• Application issues.



The seminar titled “Common Mistakes in Designing a Roof” by Karen L. Warseck, AIA, LEED AP, since 1988, founder and President of Building Diagnostics Associates with responsibility for technical, administrative and business development functions.  Completed over 1200 roofing and exterior wall consulting projects including investigations, preparation of construction documents, bidding and construction administration for built-up, modified bitumen, clay and concrete tile, slate, single ply, shingle, metal and coated polyurethane foam roofing, structural concrete, masonry, EIFS, stucco, glazed curtain wall and sealant problems.  Six years prior experience as Director of the Southeast Regional Office of a national rehabilitative architecture/engineering firm, Hoffmann Architects, North Haven, Connecticut.  Projects included roofing investigations and replacements for single ply, built-up, coated polyurethane foam, shingle, and slate roofs, structural concrete repair and exterior wall investigations and repairs. Author of over 50 magazine articles and anthology contributions on various building system topics, including roofing, sealants and exterior wall systems.  Contributing Editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Married 22 years to architect Jeffery Gross. 2 cats no kids.  Thank goodness.

Using Modified Bitumen Roofing” ARCHITECTURE
Why Sealants Fail”  ARCHITECTURE
Reroofing Historic Buildings”  PROGRESSIVE ARCHITECTURE
Detecting and Identifying Roof Maintenance Problems”  PLANT ENGINEERING
Member, Roofing Technical Advisory Committee, Florida Building Code Commission
Past President, Fort Lauderdale Chapter, Construction Specifications Institute
Chair, City of Hollywood, Florida, Unsafe Structures Board
Member, Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals Roofing CommitteeLearning Objectives:
1. Learn the most common errors that designers and specifiers make in their contract documents.
2. Learn what details in building design lead to “impossible to roof right” scenarios.
3. Learn what manufacturers can do and can’t do for you.
4. Learn what effect specifying a warranty has on the roof.
5. Learn what is important on a Notice of Acceptance to be sure your design meets Code.


“A Closer Look” at Metal Wall Systems, by Dean Kauthen of CENTRIA Architectural Systems.Learning Objectives: After completion of this course, participants will be able to:
 Recognize metal wall system solutions for different climactic conditions
 Understand how moisture and thermal problems arise in a building enclosure and how to prevent them
 Comprehend the importance of air barriers in exterior wall design
 Identify and assess wall testing criteria and performance requirements
 Understand sustainability of metal in exterior walls
 Acknowledge the performance, aesthetic, and sustainable


We will hear about PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY AND THE BUILDING ENCLOSURE from Mr.Charles E. Rogers, Esq., the partner in the Atlanta office of Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP. This is the firm that wrote the famous textbook “Common Sense Construction Law: A Practical Guide for the Construction Professional.”


Charles focuses his practice on the representation of parties involved with the design, construction, ownership and development of commercial and residential construction projects. This representation includes traditional litigation, contract drafting and negotiation, alternative dispute resolution and general consultation, for projects and matters ranging from office, shopping center and retail complexes to multi-family residential and condominiums, mass transit infrastructure, major highway design and construction and large scale residential development. Charlie actively represents design professionals, developers, owners, general contractors, subcontractors and insurers in many of the same aspects of construction-related disputes. This representation has, with respect to actual litigation, included the utilization of mainstream alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration, through the assistance of the American Arbitration Association and other nationally recognized third-party neutrals, and the defense and pursuit of claims in all levels of state courts and in the District Courts of Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals within the United States Federal Courts. Charlie’s construction practice also encompasses a growing specialty in handicap accessibility compliance in the context of design and construction, which includes both state and federal accessibility statutes which are or may be applicable to the myriad types of residential and commercial buildings being designed, constructed or developed in today’s marketplace. Accessibility compliance services can, and often do, take the form of consultation which occurs outside of the context of formal court filings or litigation, as well as the active defense of allegations of non-compliance which are asserted in formal complaints filed in various U.S. District Courts throughout the country. In addition to assisting construction professionals in the resolution of disputed claims and other contested issues, Charlie is actively involved in providing consultation relating to contracts and other construction-related documents, the resolution of construction-phase issues, the interpretation of contractual responsibilities and obligations and the development of appropriate risk management procedures and safeguards. Charlie also regularly participates in the presentation of annual risk management seminars to construction professionals, risk management specialists and insurance representatives.
In both 2005 and 2006, Charlie was identified by Law & Politics and Atlanta Magazine
as a “Rising Star,” and one of Atlanta’s best lawyers under 40.

Here is an early draft of what we may expect:

1. Architects will learn the meaning of the term “standard of care” as it pertains to the
exercise of “due diligence” in the design of the building enclosure, and will discuss a
range of implications resulting from different degrees of diligence.
2. Architects will learn to differentiate and distinguish between what may constitute an
appropriate increase in the amount of information typically provided on the construction
documents and that which is more likely to address the “means and methods” of
construction, the responsibility for which are typically assigned contractually to the
General Contractor.
3. This seminar will provide training on the legal requirements associated with the
performance (or non-performance) of construction-phase contract administration services
on a project, and in identifying other situations in which the design professional often
faces an increased risk of liability.
4. Architects will learn and discuss how to most effectively manage and allocate risks in the context of the utilization of manufacturers’ information, product characteristics, testing results and installation procedures during the design phase of a project in order to increase the successful performance of building enclosure systems following the
completion of construction.




On April, the 20th, we will have a tour of a factory producing exterior windows, doors, and glass railings in Hialeah.The learning objectives are as follows:

  • Familiarization with production process of architectural glazing.
  • Understanding production limitations of architectural glazing.
  • Quality Assurance and Control in glazing production.
  • Most typical available options in windows and glass rails.

Please, note that we will NOT meet at our usual location. Instead, we will meet at 5:15pm at the following location:

325 W. 74th Place
Hialeah, FL 33014

Please, download the file with directions to the site of the meeting.

The tour attendants will be provided with 1 AIA CES Learning Unit. Latecomers will not be allowed to join, so please be punctual.

(This is the tour originally proposed by CSI Miami, but CSI Miami informed us they will not join.)

On April 12-14, 2010, BEC members from all over the country will attend the BEST2 Conference in Portland, Oregon.


Karol Kazmierczak, the BEC Miami chairman will give lecture titled “Review of Curtain Walls” on 04/12/2010 and will chair the session on Wall-Window Interfaces nad Air&Water Control on 04/13/2010.

We encourage those BEC Miami members who still hesitate to attend.

03/16/2010 – NOTE THE CHANGE IN YEAR 2010 !We will hear about Concrete Deterioration- Building Enclosure Specific from F. Carter (Bud) Karins, PE and CEO of Karins Engineering Group.F. Carter Karins has been engaged in the restoration of reinforced concrete structures since 1999 utilizing conventional repair methods, carbon fiber reinforcing and impressed current cathodic protection. Mr. Karins has more than twenty-four years of experience in construction management, real estate development, residential design and light commercial design. Mr. Karins also has mechanical engineering experience with practice specialization in design and engineering of hydraulically operated cranes, packaging machines and systems and fluid dynamics. Mr. Karins’ combination of experience makes him uniquely qualified to provide consulting services during planning, design and construction phases of building projects, as well as consulting services for the design of machine components and systems.The learning objectives are as follows:
Provide basic understanding of the following:

  1. Science of concrete corrosion
  2. Corrosion repair methodologies
  3. Corrosion mitigation techniques
  4. Corrosion repair and mitigation materials

At the conclusion of the presentation, one should:

      • Understand the visual signs of corrosion damage
      • Recognize successful repair methods

This meeting will be held at our usual time and location. We will NOT hold the joint meeting with CSI Miami, about which we talked during the two latest meetings. It turned out that the topics of the presentation may not necessarily be of interest to us. Since this explanation came two days ago, the time was very short to secure an out-of-house speaker, and we were prepared to employ our usual emergency scenario: Kaz giving a lecture on a randomly chosen building enclosure subject. Fortunately, the speaker whom we called yesterday responded affirmatively today, and we once again changed the description of this meeting. We apologize for the confusion.


Don’t miss this learning opportunity! One of the most sought-after speakers on subject of building enclosures in the U.S. will give us a lecture.Architectural Glass – What Every Designer Should Know

  1. Trends – Why this ancient architectural material is also one of the newest. Trends of the last 25 years and where we are heading.
  2. Technology – What works; what doesn’t. Steps to improve reliability and durability.  Focus on laminated and insulating glass performance.
  3. Case Studies/Lessons Learned – New: Espirito Santo Plaza, Miami; Old: John Hancock Tower, Boston

Thomas A. Schwartz, P.E. of SGH, the president of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. the building enclosure consulting company will give us a lecture.

He is a famous facade consultant, focused on building envelope systems, including curtain walls, glazing, roofing, waterproofing, and masonry, who worked on many notable projects including determining the cause of breakage of the insulating glass at the John Hancock Tower in Boston, MA and investigating the cause of limestone curtain wall deterioration at the Metro-Dade Government Center in Miami, FL.

Recipient of numerous awards: the Walter C. Voss Award, Engineering News Record Award for Contribution to Engineering, ASTM Award of Merit. Mr. Schwartz is the ASTM International fellow, a member of the ASTM board of directors, ASTM Committees on Performance of Buildings, Exterior Building Wall Systems, on Glass and Glass Products, and on Forensic Sciences. Mr. Schwartz is a construction industry arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association, a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Boston Society of Civil Engineers. He was also a technical editor for Glass Digest for more than a decade. Published numerous papers and presentations.

Building Facade Maintenance, Repair, and Inspection

Water in Exterior Building Walls: Problems and Solutions

ASTM International News Releases

RSVP for this event: email 01/19/2010

We will hear about The Principles of Rainscreen Construction from Joe Bandy, the East Coast Sales Manager of Pohl Inc. of America. A Graduate of School of Architecture from the University of Kansas, has 29 years experience in the façade industry, has managed and executed work in design, engineering, installation, training, research & development and sales, has executed testing and compliance documents for air, water, thermal, sound attenuation, blast and hurricane impact requirements, worked on projects in 20 plus countries on 5 continents.Learning Objectives:

  1. Compare characteristics of early cavity wall design with rainscreen wall design
  2. Understand the forces that enable water to penetrate the building envelope
  3. Understand how rainscreen components resist the forces described above
  4. Specify the methods critical to a successful rainscreen wall
  5. List the features and benefits of a rainscreen wall


We will NOT have meeting in December. We will skip December because each of us has plenty of other social events to attend this month. We look forward to see you in January.Have a Happy Holiday Season!11/10/2009We were supposed to learn about Anti-Terrorism and Blast Mitigation in Aluminum Glazing Systems but due to last minute cancellation by the presenter, we learned about Sloped Glazing from Karol Kazmierczak (Kaz). The lecture titled: “Sloped glazing” presents typical challenges and solutions associated with sloped glazing and skylights.Learning objectives:
1. History of sloped glazing.
2. Types of internal and external drainage of sloped glazing.
3. Typical sources of failure.
4. Analyses of frequently misunderstood details
5. Examples of correct details.
6. Energy ramifications of sloped glazing.



We will learn about Rainscreen Facades from Alex Hidalgo-Gato of FORMAS, Architectural  Products  Consultants. This presentation will offer comparison how different manufacturers address environmental principles without compromising façade aesthetics. The program concludes with some case studies illustrating this process.



We skipped September. 08/11/2009On 08/11/2009 we will learn about Storefronts and Curtain Walls
from Ed Crim of Kawneer. This presentation is intended to provide a better understanding of the differences between Curtain Wall and Storefront designs and functions. Additional information relative to performance, cost, and applications are also explored. There is a special emphasis on how each system controls infiltrated water.


The special feature of the evening will be the lecture titled “Avoiding Moisture in Exterior Wall Construction” presented by Dawn Griffin, the Southeast Building Science Specialist of Henry Company.In this presentation we will discuss technical issues around the cause and effect of condensation created by air & vapor leakage through the building envelope. How does relative humidity and temperature play a role in vapor diffusion and mold growth? This technical presentation will examine “air/vapor” and “vapor permeable” membrane systems, connection details and how to achieve a continuous plane of air tightness.meeting

This post was written by Kaz
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Design Phase of Building Enclosure Commissioning

Design Phase  of Building Enclosure Commissioning

Due to our European façade engineering roots, we offer a unique design service, assisting designers in pushing the edge as opposed to emphasizing limitations. It has a liberating effect on the architects, who can then concentrate on the higher-level tasks. We specialize in challenging high-rise and high-end structures, where the principles of science apply more spectacularly than in the low-rise development.

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3D Static Structural Engineering Simulations

3D Static Structural Engineering Simulations are performed for verification of stresses in the material or assembly.

Below is an example of an exaggerated deflection of the curtain wall mullion receiving reaction from the roof above.
3 D static von Mises

Using 3D Thermal Modeling to Improve Performance Requirements by Mr. Karol Kazmierczak – JBED 2/2010


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One-dimensional Transient Hygrothermal Analysis

Would there be a water damage inside, at the absence of any rain intrusion or plumbing leaks? Microbial growth? We found the answer in many cases is yes.

These hygro-thermal analyses are performed on facades of buildings in design stages, in order to assess the moisture behavior of very simple assemblies. Most typically performed to assess the need and location of vapor retarding layers.

We also perform a long-term hygrothermal monitoring of assemblies in the field, in order to identify sources of moisture damage after the possibility of leakage has been ruled out.

One-dimensional Transient Hygrothermal Analysis

You may also be interested in reading the following technical publication:
Condensation Risk Assessment (PDF, size 3 MB) by Mr. Karol Kazmierczak – The Construction Specifier 10/2007

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2-Dimensional Steady State Thermal Analysis

2-Dimensional Steady State Thermal Analysis is performed on simple assemblies to identify the thermal transmittance (U value) and assess the condensation risk.  What is the thermal transmittance? It’s composed of the three modes of heat transfer: thermal heat conductivity, thermal heat conductivity, and radiation thermal.   It’s often expressed as U values (for windows, curtain walls, skylights, and other glazing).

2-Dimensional Steady State Thermal Analysis

These NFRC-compliant simulations are nationally accepted as an alternative of the expensive laboratory testing of fenestration. Also, this type of analysis can yield SHGC of the fenestration (measure of solar direct gain in windows) , with the popular software we use.


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Whole Building Energy Modeling

Whole Building Energy Modeling is the energy analysis to estimate the building energy use. It’s often performed for the comparative analysis of design trade-offs to meet the predefined energy goals. Also, it’s an important part of the energy rating process, particularly when combined with the air tightness verification in the field.  Required by many energy conservation building codes for energy trade-offs. Energy modeling and simulation is an absolute must for the green building and more generally for energy efficient houses
thermal balance

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Solar Heat Gain and Shading Studies

How much energy can you save by adding exterior shading? What would be the return on investment on a better window? How about adding a shaded patio? Wouldn’t it get too dark inside? The only way to find out is to simulate these alternatives ahead of time, because the same component would perform differently in different buildings.

These analysis are performed for identififcation of comparative energy impact of individual components of a building. Also helpful in design of passive energy houses, taking advantage of passive solar heat.

Sample solar studies.


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Daylight and Illumination Studies

Would it be too dark in the working spaces? Would prison guards be blinded by glare from windows precisely when inmates are out?

We never loose the primary function of glazing from sight: letting the natural light in.We perform daylight simulations and illumination studies to verify the daylight factor. Particularly useful in verification of compliance with the LEED credit 8.1 requirement.

Sample daylight studies.

Make your green building more sustainable! Optimize use of natural day-lighting to increase comfort, and minimize artificial lighting!

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Spectrophotometric Simulations

Glass is seldom matched properly, as seen on the photos below, and therefore owners often require a blanket glass replacement, after only few pieces have been broken or scratched.

Glass is seldom matched properly, as seen on the photo

Save hundreds of thousands of dollars which would otherwise be spent on replacement of the intact old glass not matching the new replacement glass. [Read the rest of this entry…]

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3-Dimensional Transient Thermal Analysis

3-Dimensional Transient Thermal Analysis are performed to assess the passive solar design with materials of large heat storage capacity or to assess the condensation risk. Useful in analysis of 3D assemblies made of high-heat storage capacity materials, such as masonry and concrete precast. Would they store and release enough heat to ride through the cold winter night? Would they absorb enough heat to ride through the hot sunmer day?We would give you the answer.

Sample 3-Dimensional Transient Thermal Analysis.

You may also be interested in reading the following free technical publication: Using 3D Thermal Modeling to Improve Performance Requirements (PDF, size 353 kB) by Karol Kazmierczak – JBED 2/2010

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3-Dimensional Steady State Thermal Analysis

3-Dimensional Steady State Thermal Analysis are performed chiefly to assess the condensation risk of those details that escape the 2D representation, such as shading brackets, anchors, and framing intersections  in verification of impact of thermal bridging caused by components penetrating the heat-control layer in two directions.

Sample 3-Dimensional Steady State Thermal Analysis

The image above shows the Sample 3-Dimensional Steady State Thermal Analysis, revealing the thermal [Read the rest of this entry…]

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“What is Thermal (Heat) Transfer in Building Construction?”

thermal analysis

Consulting architects, I often get surprising elementary questions. Building architecture design of glass houses resulted in careers for consulting engineers occupied full-time by 3-d modeling heat transfer, while some facade architects still ask why double glazed windows or doors are required by building codes.

Here are some frequently-asked questions: [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Facade Engineering – How To Design a Functional Building Enclosure

Facade Engineering. How To Design a Functional Building EnclosureFacade Engineering – How To Design a Functional Building Enclosure – Free PDF

The paper presents elementary concepts of façade engineering and focuses on areas typically overlooked by architects and engineers, chosen on the basis of observations derived from forensic investigations of failed assemblies, peer reviews of architectural documentation, and a façade engineering practice.

A balanced, holistic approach to the facade design is emphasized. [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Using 3D Modeling to Improve Performance Requirements – Free PDF

3D FEA Article

This article is about building construction, and more specifically about application of the finite element analysis to heat transfer and energy sources design analysis of glazing by a consulting architect engineer.

The growing performance requirements introduced gradually in building codes or accepted voluntarily in order to achieve a recognized certification (e.g. LEED)  force architects to include engineering in the early phases of the architectural design to address potential vulnerabilities and efficiencies of the design. “Using 3D Modeling to Improve Performance Requirements” by Kaz is the feature article of the Summer 2010 edition of the Journal of Building Enclosure Design (JBED). [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Seminar “Façade Engineering With Glass”

Façade Engineering With Glass How to use the glass to achieve the desired architectural goals, and what advances in technology help to shape the modern architecture

Glass is the design medium of the today’s architecture and it will may easily become the material of choice of tomorrow. Kaz developed a new seminar about the architectural glass, which addresses the typical architectural questions: how to use the glass to achieve the desired architectural goals, and what advances in technology help to shape the modern architecture.

[Read the rest of this entry…]

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Facade Impact Resistance Manual

This manual is intended for designers designing large facades in the high wind regions and is organized in four logical steps: Where, What, Why, and Design, explaining the steps a façade designer needs to follow in order to verify and address the elementary impact resistance requirements in the areas subjected to the peril of wind-borne debris impact. This manual is intended to clarify and respond to some frequently asked questions, typically posed by northern designers experiencing lack of information regarding impact resistance design for public, commercial, healthcare, cultural, and other large projects in the South. The manual is available free of charge for download in PDF format. ( Number 9 on the publication list).

Windborne impact manual

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Trivia Responses

Q: How many times a wind pressure changes when the wind speed doubles?

A: Doubling the wind velocity increases the pressure four times. The relationship is square.

This, apart from being fairly intuitive for sailors, pilots, CFD modelers, and other folks who deal often with wind, is specifically codified for the construction sector in ASCE 7 by references in building codes. The equation 6-15 in par. 6.5.10 states “Velocity pressure, q,, evaluated at height z shall be calculated by the following equation:

qz = 0.00256 *Kz * Kzt * Kd * V^2 * I(lb//ft2), ” where V is the basic wind speed, according to p.6.3 and all other components of the equation are coefficients.

Therefore, when the wind speed doubles, the pressure quadruples because the relationship is square. Many of you used handy windload pressure conversion charts to figure out the answer. Below is an example:


Q: Which is quieter: grouted CMU or insulated stud wall?

A: Heavier is better. This is one of the rules of thumb in noise resistance.

I.e. a  10” CMU grouted 2ft o.c. wall is approximately ten times (10 dB) better than 4” metal studs wall covered with ½” of sheetrock on each side and insulated with fiber insulation because it is heavier.

Q: Vapor retarder goes on which side, generally?

A: Warmer side.

We typically assume that the WARMER side is experiencing the higher water vapor pressure. This is true for the majority of the normal above-grade building envelope applications. Therefore, a pressure differential is created across the building envelope assembly. Generally, in order to keep the assembly dry, we would need to layer it in a way that would create a drying potential. This would require that the permeability of the layers of the assembly should diminish in the direction of the flow. Consequently, the least permeable layer of the assembly should be placed against the warmer side.

This is typically further complicated by the transient character of the weather, causing periodic reversals of the “warm” and “cold” side. There are many sources available for those of you who are interested in reading. This and other items are discussed in my lecture “Thermal Engineering in Building Envelope Design.”

(I apologize for insulting intelligence of some of my respectable readers. This question was oversimplified to the point of being ambivalent for those who understand the building physics. The need for the vapor retarder is disputable in the first place. Secondly, if it is needed, it is needed at the side experiencing the higher water vapor pressure; however, I was never successful in introducing and explaining the term water vapor pressure to the average architect. The term “warmer” is also ambivalent: I assumed for most folks in my target group it means the DRY bulb temperature, and I added a clarification regarding the above-grade applications because it would not work in the typical basements, where the water vapor pressure is often higher on the COLDER side.)

Q: What shades work best on south facade in the U.S.?

A: Horizontal.

 This was a shortened version of the previous trivia: “What shading configuration would work best on the south facade in the North Hemisphere: horizontal overhangs or vertical fins?”

Generally speaking, the horizontal shades are suitable for the high sun and the vertical louvers are suitable for low sun positions. Assuming that our goal is to reduce the solar heat gain, the horizontal shades are more suitable for the facade facing the equator. The sun is generally higher on the sky at the 180 degree azimuth, regardless of the season, longitude, or latitude.

The answer comes from many sources; I was always inspired by the book: “Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies” ISBN 0471820636 by G. Z. Brown, V. Cartwright

Again, I must apologize for the oversimplification. I had to settle at the certain level in order keep the questions short. The question was directed to the average U.S. architect within its contiguous geographic latitude range. I noticed that those of you who have some experience with the shading design got confused by the multiple choices available. The goal was defined in an ambiguous way. (In the North, as well as some arid climates, the solar heat gain is often welcome). Also, I did not define whether the shades are operable or not, and whether placed on the exterior of the interior. The hidden assumption was that the goal is to reduce the solar heat gain, the shades are fixed, and placed on the exterior.

This and other items are discussed in my lecture “Thermal Engineering in Building Envelope Design.”

Q: When parallel wind blows faster, the wind pressure…

A: The pressure DECREASES. And it decreases a lot.

This was a shortened version of the previous trivia: “How a wind pressure acting on the cladding changes when the wind velocity parallel to façade increases?”

It is fairly intuitive for sailors, pilots, CFD modelers, and other folks who deal often with wind, and architects seldom happen to have enough time to enjoy these activities. Architects are taught that a cladding reacts to the perpendicular component of the wind force. Therefore, they assume that if the wind is parallel to the facade, the component is zero. Those who intuitively sense, that it doesn’t make sense, decided that the pressure must INCREASE. It is the illustration of the confusion between the direction of the wind flow and its pressure. This is an interesting, elementary question that I typically explain in my lecture “Principles of Facade Design” because architects  exhibit generally poor ability to distinguish a wind velocity from wind pressure.

The wind pressure decreases exponentially according to Bernoulli’s Principle. I am sure you already googled the Bernoulli’s principle once I gave you the right answer. For mental illustration you can make an experiment:

Grab an illustrated magazine, e.g. The Architectural Record. Bend the two covers over, and blow the air from your mouth between the two covers.

wind parallel to cladding

You will notice that the pages move closer, like attracted to each other. This is the same what happens to cladding between two buildings.

Here is the similar experiment scanned from page B11 of the great Rod Machado’s “Private Pilot Handbook”

Bernoulli - wind parallel to cladding

Q: Which IGU is quieter: 1/4”-AIR-1/4” or 1/4”-AIR- 5/32”?

A:The unequal glass is roughly 1dB better even though it’s lighter. The two plies rezonate at different frequencies (besides other benefits as well). This is how  glass units are made in Europe: with unequal plies. America is backwards.

This was a shortened version of the previous trivia: “Which insulated glass is better: the one composed of two plies of glass of equal thickness, e.g. 1/4”-AIR-1/4” or the one with the interior glass ply thickness reduced by 30%, e.g. 1/4”–AIR- 5/32” ?”  Of course the latter one.

Q: How to make 50dB window?

A: Increase IGU cavity depth.

Air is cheap. Although all these strategies are used in noise reduction, the increase of the cavity distance is the most effective method in the glazing design. A window composed of two plies of monolithic glass separated by 200 mm deep air cavity achieves 50dB sound reduction. However, the 200 mm (~8 inches) is the practical limit of the depth of a double window cavity, above which the increase of noise reduction is less economical.

Q: Would aluminum stop rats?

A. Not, unless they prefer another target. Rats are capable to bite through aluminum and lead.

Q:  Can an adult rat pass a 1/2″ dia. hole?

A. Yes.

Researchers spent years measuring stuff like that, and the complaint about pests, are often the largest hassle for building owners, and hence the excessive use of pesticides leads to the dramatic destruction of the natural habitat.

Q: Can an adult mouse pass 1/4″ dia. hole? 

A. Yes. They are amazing acrobats. There is a hole book about the capabilities of miscellaneous pests. Every architect should read it.

Q: Don’t place glass below:

A: All alkaline materials.

This was a shortened version of the previous trivia:” The deposits or water runoff from what kind of facade materials may affect inorganic glass?”

Mortar, stucco, and concrete are alkaline materials that in presence of moisture will deteriorate the glass. This is how it looks:

Pyrolitic glass coating fails quickly when subjected to washout from certain cladding materials.

Q: How many times the thermal resistivity of a polyurethane spray foam (closed cell) is higher than a fiberglass batt, approximately ?

A: Two times.

Approximately two times. Fiberglass batt has the average R-value 3, while polyurethane spray foam (closed cell) has the average long-term R-value 6.

This was a shortened version of the previous trivia:” Approximately how many times a polyurethane spray foam (closed cell) is better than a fiberglass batt in terms of the long-term thermal resistance per the unit of thickness? E.g. What is the ratio of the R-value of 1 inch of SPF to 1 inch of batt?”

Q: How much more the spray foam costs, approximately?

A: 100 times.

Why does it matter? This is why it pays to reserve sufficient depth of the assembly in early stages of the design, to avoid insulation choice limitations.

This was a shortened version of the previous trivia:” How much more would you pay for 1” of SPF than 1” of batt and how much more would you pay per R1 of SPF than R1 of batt?”

One board-foot of SPF costs on average $2, while one board-foot of batt costs on average 2 cents.  Good luck finding the answer online; there are powerful interests working to obfuscate the answer.  I used the professional cost estimating books, but this was almost 10 years ago, and I believe the difference has dropped since then. However, the larger the projects, the lower the cost difference, due to other considerations, such as labor and SPF packaging. E.g. your average single family house would cost on average 3 times more to insulate to the same R-value with spray foam as opposed to mineral wool. However, SPF would save you on the air barrier, which on some projects, such as lumber frame cannot be economically retrofitted other way.

Q: You placed R-19 batt into stud wall; and your total R-value is:

A. R-7

This was a shortened version of the previous trivia: “What would be the approximate ratio of R-value of the metal stud wall filled with the insulation versus the insulation’s nominal R-value? (E.g. If you pack the R-19 thermal insulation into the 6” deep metal stud spaced 16”o.c. wall, what would be the ratio of the resulting overall R-value of the wall to the initial R-19?)”

The ratio would be 0.4. The thermal resistance would diminish 40% as a result of the thermal bridging, and the R-value of the wall would be R-7. How do we know? From ASHRAE 90.1 and many other sources.


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Facade Engineering Books

Suggested literature

My visitors are always surprised by tons of books and folders on my bookshelves.  It took me many years to collect my library of facade engineering books and publications, and since I consider it an indispensable tool, I would like to share some of it here, for your benefit.

Glass and Glazing

Glass Construction Manual ISBN 3764360771 (Birkhauser, 1999); by Christian Schittich,Gerald Staib, Dieter Balkow,Matthias Schuler, Werner Sobek [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Floodproof Design Manual

floodproof design manual

In the recent floods in New York and Miami, we saw pictures we hoped we would never see again: abandoned, submerged cars, inundated houses, and gigantic traffic jams. Human memory works in a mysterious fashion: we tend to remember good times, while we push away bad memories. This may explain the irrational exuberance evidenced in some new construction projects.

The lesson still stands: The flood is considered one of the most devastating hazards with a predictable recurrence. Read the manual and understand the steps required to make a building enclosure floodproof in your design. The manual addresses questions frequently asked by architects suspecting their projects may be subject to the flood hazard.

The manual is available for free download at our old webpage.

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About Us

Building Enclosure Consulting is an independent consulting and diagnostic architectural engineering company devoted to sciences and technology of building enclosures. We serve only one master: YOU.


Here is the link to our main website.

We provide 3D FEA Computer Simulation, building enclosure commissioning, diagnostic services, and forensic investigations, such as rain intrusion investigations.  We own a state-of-the-art specialized equipment used for building enclosure investigations and testing, with which we serve the east half of the U.S. and Caribbean Archipelago.

The father of modern architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright once said “if the roof doesn’t leak, the architect has not been creative enough,” and it seems many architects followed this motto, consequently making building occupants miserable, and they in turn made the forensic construction analysis a thriving business. To revert this tendency, we are also devoted to education of our customers and other building enclosure consultants in sciences and technology of building enclosures.

[Read the rest of this entry…]

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Thermal Simulations – Applicability

We  are sometimes asked to simulate or test assemblies, in order to verify whether the inferior specifications are met. It’s always awkward for us to volunteer to identify the engineering question actually worth answering, or to actually respond to the question no-one have asked. For the benefit of those specification writers who are still on speaking terms with us, below is a simple overview of thermal simulations’ applicability:

Generally speaking:

  • 1D simulations are suitable for uniformly-layered make-ups of partitions (i.e. adhered “sandwich” roofing assembly),
  • 2D simulations are suitable for one-directional variations of assemblies (i.e. studwork),
  • steady-state simulations are suitable for low heat storage assemblies (i.e. fenestration),
  • transient simulations are necessary for high heat storage assemblies, (i.e. masonry)
  • moisture transport analysis are necessary for permeable and water storage assemblies (i.e. solar transport in brick-veneered wall),
  • CFD analysis are necessary for convection-sensitive assemblies (i.e. double skin walls),
  • radiation analysis are necessary for radiation-sensitive assemblies.

[Read the rest of this entry…]

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Building Enclosure Council (BEC) Miami Suspension

Sadly, after 5 years BEC Miami suspended its operation due to circumstances beyond our control.

With a heavy heart, I decided to close the Building Enclosure Council (BEC) Miami.   At our fifth anniversary meeting in July 2012, we were unable to find a new chairman to step in my shoes, and I am too stretched  to keep managing The Council these days. We struggled to find a room for the last year, and it all proved to be a little bit too much. I must thank all members and supporters for their support and sympathy. If you would like to help reactivate BEC Miami, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Building Enclosure Commissioning Game – Construction in Field

As a recent economic refugee, I conduct periodic building enclosure construction observations in a field; the task normally delegated to junior employees.

The performance of the building is the contractors’ ultimate goal, or so they say. However, you may want to pay more attention to their actions.

Dismayed to realize what some construction managers suppose to be the truth about periodic building enclosure construction observations conducted by owners’ commissioning agents in the field, I have occasionally tried to show them the reality at personal expense. So here is the generic version, which hopefully would raise less anxiety and less pushback, as the readers would be sure to distance themselves from these circumstances described below. The circumstances described below are purely fictional.

Having seen the same scenario repeated dozens of times, I decided to put it on paper for benefit of those who are still trying: [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Sloped Glazing – Problems and Solutions

This is the BEST3 Conference paper. The DVD will follow soon. Its working title is  “Skylight 101, or what you have always wanted to learn about sloped glazing.” It presents typical challenges and solutions associated with sloped glazing and skylights, [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Spontaneous Microbial Growth in Winter.

What can be more challenging in the Hot and Humid Climate than a steamy August? A steamy winter. Life of a building scientist in South Florida has two distinct seasons: Steamy and steamier. We recognize them because we get two different types of calls:

1) around August we get calls from desperate people who (as turns out after our subsequent investigation) typically suffer from “vapor retarder on the wrong side” syndrome; and

2)  in a winter we get calls from folks who typically suffer from ” missing winter humidity control ” syndrome.

The present winter is not different in South Florida thanks to the record high temperatures couple of weeks ago. We had some scattered rains which keep the relative air humidity up in eighties. And the telephone keeps calling. Regardless whether a caller complains about a bad floor, roof leaks, or window leaks, or black soffits stains, sick cat or sick children, we may correctly assume it’s the missing winter humidity control, and we can price our visit accordingly without much risk of running over budget.

The slides which illustrate the effect of high air humidity are quite startling for many attendants, judging by sounds coming from the audience when I show them during my seminars. They show microbial growth on many surfaces, and I copied one of them below. If you see mold and mildew like that in a winter, there is a good chance that your building may suffer from this disease. High air humidity in the building is the second good indication.

The reason for such a condition is the [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Value of Field Testing

Every now and then I get a call or email asking for clarification of a specified facade testing. It typically happens after a contractor had asked an architect to clarify the testing location to no avail, and the irritated owner got involved, while the construction of the assembly in question was already underway. After my short translation of the mysterious combinations of letters and digits, such as ASTM E 1105 or AAMA 501.2, into plain English, they invariably come up with the same follow up questions:

  1. Why should we test it in the field? Wasn’t it already tested in a lab?
  2. Where should we test? Why the architect did not show on drawings?
  3. We are already behind the schedule and above budget, is the testing really necessary?

1. The answer is [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Sources of Information

I am writing this post very excited.

I just discovered a great facade engineering blog, titled Facade Confidentials:, and I wholeheartedly recommend you visit it.

In the flood of misinformation, there are few objective and well-researched sources like this, including the magnificent John and Joe’s webpage, Birkhauser construction books, Facade Engineering Society, National Research Council Canada, Brick Industry Association,  Building Envelope Design Guide, and Journal of Building Enclosure Design, and single articles, books, and posts here and there.

I listed some of useful sources [Read the rest of this entry…]

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New Video DVD “Curtain Walls”

We issued the new DVD titled “Curtain Walls ,” which presents curtain walls, their fundamental classification, and challenges and solutions associated with them. The structural role of curtain walls, fundamental classification of curtain walls, glazing types and their modes of failures are analyzed, relevant building code requirements, tests of curtain walls, and main sources of water leakage are discussed.

Here is the YouTube trailer:


It qualifies for the American Instritute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education System (CES) learning unit.

We offer this disc at a discount price for the first twenty discs sold. Also, The other two DVDs are on sale now! Enjoy the new, unbelievably low price! Please note that this is a short-term promotion to inaugurate the new DVD which will last only for the first twenty discs sold. However, due to the sales volume, we will also generally lower the prices permanently.

For more information, and to purchase this and other DVDs, please go to

This post was written by Kaz
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Vapor Retarders in The South

This time of a year in the South, we experience very high water vapor pressures, manifesting itself by miscellaneous moisture problems of mysterious nature. Do you feel uncomfortable, your printers and copiers fail to print, envelopes glued themselves together, steel is covered with a thin layer of rust, wood delaminated and bowed, pests overrun the place, and the musty odor explains why your employees are on a sick leave?

There are many possible reasons, but this time we would take the vapor retarders under a magnifying glass. Why? Not just because of the steamy August behind our windows, but also because this subject is so simple and easy that it would make me look smart enough in comparison.

Have you ever wondered where the vapor retarder should be [Read the rest of this entry…]

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Glass Coolness – Additional Clarification

This is a follow-up to the post titled “Glass Collness.”

In response to my critique of the FBC  insulated glass requirement in the South Florida, we received a question from an architect, who wrote: “Surely you would not claim that double glazing with a low-e coating on the #2 surface would cause more energy use in the building than single glazing, would you?” [Read the rest of this entry…]

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AIA CES Learning Units now come with the DVD seminars!

DVD seminars now come with AIA CES Learning Units! Each seminar qualifies toward your continuing education upon meeting certain requirements in 2011. AIA members will accrue 1 learning unit (LU) if they correctly respond to all questions in an email query, testing their understanding of the principles taught in the seminars. Certificates of completion to non-members will be provided by request upon meeting the same requirements.To read more visit


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The new educational DVD titled “Aspects of Building Enclosure Design in Hurricane Country: Hot and Humid Climate.”

Skip the lines and enjoy another Kaz’s seminar at your convenience!

We issued the new educational DVD titled “Aspects of Building Enclosure Design in Hurricane Country: Hot and Humid Climate.”  The seminar presents non-obvious aspects of building enclosure design in hot and humid climates frequented by hurricanes. It discusses typical hazards and perils such as: flood, posthurricane scarcities, sun, rain, humidity, temperature, wildlife, wind, and windborne debris.  Focuses on the design and rehab of high-rise construction.

Table of contents includes: Climate Classification, Perils, Functions, Aspects, Strom Surge, Post-Hurricane Recovery, Choice of Systems, Glazing Recovery, Good Practice vs. Code, Rehab Considerations, Insolation and Aging, Corrosion, Solar Heat Gain, IGU, Wildlife, Cultural Challenges, Hygrothermal Aspects, Case Example, latent Heat, Dead Spaces, Air LEakage, Diffusion, Pressurization, Wind and Impact, Uplift, Bracing, Roofing, Sources of Information, Final Remarks, and Conclusion.

Details: The seminar runs for approx. 1:15 hour running time plus introductions and presentations. An on-screen root menu allows chapter selection. The original source seminar consisted of 270 slides. The DVD version has numerous videos added, with the average slide lasting for only 10 seconds. Like one of our attendants commented “It’s like taking a sip for a fire hose.” The DVDs come with free replacements and upgrades for two year from the date of the purchase.

The trailer is available here: [youtube]szr8pwe1Fdc[/youtube]

YouTube link for those who don’t see the window with the video:

To inaugurate this new DVD, we slashed $100 from the price on the first twenty discs sold, and allowed for bundled purchases with the DVD “Principles of Facade Design” at an even bigger discount. First come, first serve!

To read more and purchase this DVD, visit

Update: Here are the new links to purchase these DVDs: Amazon and Building Enclosure Consulting.

P.S. As our office turned into a mailing room as shown on the attached picture, I would like to ask you a favor. If you watched the DVD, please post the comment below this post. This would help others in evaluation.


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Glass Coolness

Windows are as old as buildings, the word itself derived from the ancient Norse language in times when Vikings raided North Europe. How to design a window? How should an architectural glass be chosen?  Vikings are long gone, and we found the knowledge remains common among architects in the North Europe, but has not spread much ever since, judging by some familiar examples. Nowhere else so much could be wasted by so few: the glazing is the most advanced and the most expensive part of many facades; therefore, it warrants a good, more than a skin-deep design.

In this article, titled “When You Need a Window – Solar Design” Kaz attempts to shed some light on two elementary aspects of glass engineering: visible light and solar transmittance. Their combination is called  the coolness factor and happens to be the the most important solar glass benchmark and part of the historical quest to bring the natural light deeper into the buildings while avoiding perimeter discomfort.

The link allows to download and open selected articles free of charge. However, we need you to leave us your email address in order to download them. Your contact info is safe with us, according to our privacy policy .

General Comment from Kaz: Dear Readers, Thank you for your emails and comments typed in the download form. These are very valuable and I appreciate them, and will answer every question, as the time permits. However, the purpose of this blog is the education of the general public. Therefore, I would appreciate if you could  kindly post your questions publicly, clicking on “Leave a Comment” above. This way both questions and answers will benefit everyone. Please, also keep in mind that unless you contracted our consulting services, we reserve the right to post your questions and our answers publicly anyway because the purpose of this blog is the education of the general public.

07/18/2011. Additional Clarification by Kaz is posted Here.


In April 2013, my article was printed by The Constuction Specifier under the title “Solar Design for Windows” and is available free of charge here.



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Are You Paying For A Skyhook?

“An engineer went to see the architect and was asked to design a structure…”  Fascinated by “skyhook” jokes and real life stories shared by structural engineers, Kaz developed a short fictional story to illustrate the difference between the inexperienced and experienced engineer, and how both scenarios negatively affect the construction.

Below are two fictional stories about a magical hook in the sky.

Inexperienced Engineer

Imagine the architect and the structural engineer standing in front of  shiny renderings of the photographic quality and the stunning beauty. The architect described the cultural and environmental motives from which certain features of the design were derived, repeating the presentation previously given to the owners and other architects. The engineer, who just spent half an hour politely pretending to listen to the description entirely irrelevant to his task, presently focused his attention on the large and thin horizontal deck floating above the representative front entrance to the building. Using a short pause in the architectural monologue, he points his finger to the drawings and asks:

“Forgive my asking, but how would you envision to support this canopy?”

The slightly angered architect snaps back:

“Well, isn’t  it YOUR role to answer this question for us? ”

In response, the structural engineer pulls out a drafting pad and nervously sketches a neat row of vertical supports.

“Columns are out of question,” comes a quick answer.

Therefore, in the following months, the engineer have been tediously developing a light support for the canopy, to no avail. He had already lost the architect’s confidence. Regardless the awards and doctorates conferred for its support solutions, the canopy would never achieve the ephemeral shape and lightness presented on the architectural drawings, and the architect would never miss the opportunity to blame the engineer for it. In the midtime, several changes occurred in the architectural design of the canopy, with the latest version being presented as a transparent double-curvature wave.  Therefore, the drainage became the primary challenge. Also, the engineer, preoccupied with the canopy, had not devoted enough time to oversee the engineering of the other parts of the building, with the terrible results. After a part of a rear ramp had collapsed, he ends up loosing his license. A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.

Experienced Engineer

We see the architect and the experienced structural engineer in the same situation. The structural engineer bubbles with enthusiasm:

“What a wonderful horizontal accent for the entrance! I could not help but notice this beautiful canopy. ”

The architect, encouraged by the praise, reveals some details of the process:

“You would not imagine how long time it took us to develop this concept. We went back and for with the lead designer, and the owner simply LOVES it.”

The engineer, enriched with the understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the floating deck design, presently utters:

“Magnificent! Of course, any vertical accents would spoil the effect altogether!”

That makes the architect comfortable enough to share his worry:

“The owner’s agent posed some tough questions about the support.”

The engineer calms down the architect:

“Don’t worry, we are here to help you. The solution would cost couple dollars extra, but I am sure the owner would fund it, if he loves the design as much as you said.”

He pulls out a drafting paper and sketches a hook suspending the deck from the sky. Then he pulls his calculator, calculates something quickly and says:

“This would cost seven million dollars per annum.”

(Had the engineer quoted $800 per hour to keep a chopper in the sky, the architect would easily grasp the easier to imagine number,  and further inquire in the details of the solution, perhaps insisting that an alternative option is considered, such as e.g. helium balloons. ) However, the $7M number is abstractive enough to avoid further examination at this time.  Architect, relieved in his anxiety, submitted the number for the owner’s attention, who initially could not understand it and therefore delayed the decision.  Upon learning the details, the whole idea was finally rejected  as utterly ridiculous. Two weeks before the 100% CD deadline, the subject of the canopy returned on the drawing table. Architect apologized to the engineer and blamed the insensitive and parsimonious owner, with the engineer expressing his sympathy in return. The secret of success is to know how to pass the blame.

The time and budget were scarce before the final project deadline. The canopy deck ended up four feet deep and supported on a row of oversized columns, taking approximately one hour of the junior engineering staff to mechanically copy the standard connection details onto a drawing sheet.  The coordination happens when the construction is already in progress. Industrial-looking downspouts double the visual thickness of support columns, and a net of sprinkler pipes embellishes the canopy. Needless to say, all the plumbing was installed sloped and slightly out of plumb.  Rusting from the very beginning, brown streaks mark the surroundings.  Sounds familiar?

Facade Engineering

Have you ever seen a helicopter used to permanently support a building structure? We see these choppers everywhere, although figuratively as opposed to literally. Still can’t see them? You may need an expert to tell you what you actually see, like in our video commercial. Examples of spendthrift design behavior may range from the heating and cooling energy used purely to make an architectural statement to the design negligence lowering the life cycle.

The mechanism described above applies to other aspects of the facade engineering as well.  The frequent example is the condensation resistance.  Many details in construction documentation would result in failures, absent deep architectural changes. Suggesting such changes is always met with a strong resistance. Architect would indignantly point out other buildings where similar details were used, until presented with the engineering proof in the form of a simple computer simulation or a building science publication describing the failure. “It’s too late for a change,” the architect would then invariably respond, “and this design took our best senior staff many months to develop.” Any further discussion would be futile. You already foolishly implied not only the past buildings designed by her office might be dysfunctional, but also indirectly questioned the judgment of her senior designers.

Experience is the name given to our mistakes. Knowing better, we no longer make such irreverent recommendations. Instead, we praise the design and recommend a heat tracing in the details to allow for their elementary code compliance. The energy cost is easy to calculate, equaling the length of the wire multiplied by its power and the current price of the kWh. In one recent case, we calculated the cost of mitigating the architectural corner detail at  $15k of electricity per month. Eventually, lack of architectural coordination with the electrical engineering specs, and lack of space for an additional electrical panel (required to handle the heat trace installation) prevented the realization of this solution. Powerful fan coils were used instead, directing streams of hot air to heat the facade at an undisclosed cost per month.


Many owners realized the modern buildings are much worse than the old ones after studying and comparing their utility bills. How can it be in spite of the elevated energy code requirements and the installation of the expensive HVAC and lighting systems which promised better performance combined with a lower maintenance cost? The wonders of the modern engineering are largely squandered by the architectural facade design. The efficiencies of the modern HVAC, lighting systems, and improved facade materials were used to offset excessive facade glazing, air leakage, insufficient insulation, and other flaws.  The design solutions may vary from extremely unrealistic to extremely expensive, with the middle grounds  found in the course of the construction. If you own a building like that, then you may need to verify whether you are paying for a chopper in the sky.



This post was written by Kaz
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Spearin Doctrine and The Importance of Design Peer Review


Reportedly, no architect was sued for a color of a paint yet, even in the litigious American work environment. Unlike the less tangible functions of buildings, the protective function of building enclosures makes them a subject of many emotionally charged disputes, due to their widespread poor design and construction. Therefore, building enclosure science consultants are deeply involved in legal aspects of construction disputes.  In a constant pursuit to find and clarify topics unfamiliar to most architects, we found that the average architect is generally unfamiliar with law; therefore we devoted this section to the division of responsibility as opposed to the building physics and facade technology.

“If a builder has built a house for a man, and has not made his work sound, and the house he built has fallen, and caused the death of its owner, that builder shall be put to death. If it is the owner’s son that is killed, the builder’s son shall be put to death.”

Almost four thousand years after Hammurabi, we might have lessened the applicable (un)civil penalties, yet there are still many owners and architects who would undoubtedly convict the builder without regard to the complexities of the design and construction process. Who was the wrongdoer? Has the builder built the house according to the plans and specifications supplied by an architect? Was the builder aware of the errors and omissions relevant to the collapse? Was the engineering of some components of the house was delegated to the contractor? Were the delegated and designed components coordinated? Has the material fabricated off-site been wrongfully certified by its fabricator as meeting the specifications? Who was responsible for surveying the site condition and subsurface soil before the erection? Has the owner coordinated two or more prime contractors?

Answering these and other questions may require a tedious research and may lead to surprising conclusions. The author is not a lawyer: this reading material is provided for educational purposes only. Use at your own risk.

Lonergan Doctrine

A house under construction collapsed shortly before completion on a quiet morning in San Antonio, TX. The building was built strictly in accordance with the architectural drawings and specifications, under the direction of the architect, whose decisions were final and conclusive on all points.  Mr. Lonergan, the head of the company erecting the house, refused to rebuild the house at his expense ($1M in today’s dollars), leaving the unhappy owner with the pile of dusty rubble. It was eventually accepted the house fell by reason of its weakness arising out of the defects in the specifications and without any fault of the builder. However, the house owner sued the contractor, as opposed to the architect. The court found the contractor responsible for the damages, claiming that absent any language of the contract between the owner and the contractor indicating the responsibility for the quality of the architectural documentation, the contractor was in the better position to ascertain whether the plans and specifications were constructible. The Texas Supreme Court’s decision in the 1907 case set a precedence for many similar law cases. In a similar Massachusetts case, the court stated, “It is the duty of one who proposes to enter into a building contract to examine the contract, plans and specifications, and to determine whether it is possible to do the work before entering into the engagement.

Spearin Doctrine

Another story. An owner of a dock was obviously unhappy after its sewer backed up and flooded the site. Therefore, he asked the contractor to come back and fix it at the contractor’s expense. Mr. Spearin the contractor refused because he made the sewer exactly to the design supplied by the owner. In response, the owner (which happened to be the United States Government) cancelled his contract and hired another contractor to rebuild the sewer. The sewer was re-engineered because it was accepted the sewer failure resulted from the defects in its design and without any fault of the original contractor, who was not made aware of the out-of-site conditions  which affected the sewer’s performance. However, the owner sued the contractor, who initially lost in the court of law but appealed. The difference was approximately $64k, which is approximately $1M adjusted for the inflation today. This may explain his persistence against such a potent plaintiff, who could afford to drag the case indefinitely, with the best lawyers the money can buy. They ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Spearin, maintaining that a contractor should not be liable to an owner for loss or damage which results solely from insufficiencies or defects in construction documents. Hence, the Spearin Doctrine, thanks to one persistent contractor who refused to be bullied by the public administration. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 1918 case remains one of the landmark construction law cases.

Privity of Contract and Economic Loss Rule

In both cases the fault of the designer was essentially undisputed. However, the first instinct of an owner seems to be to sue or withhold a payment of a contractor as opposed to an architect.

What seems particularly unjust in the Texas case, is that the contractor has been penalized for the architect’s fault, without any possible recourse against the actual wrongdoer. Typically, a victimized contractor or a building occupant cannot sue a design professional directly for his/her economic damages arising from defects in plans and specifications when there is no privity of contract. It’s called an “economic loss rule.” If the owner warranted the sufficiency of the architectural documentation, which it had provided to the contractor, for their intended purpose, the owner would then turn around and sue the architect to recoup the money. There is no contractual relationship between a contractor and an architect in the traditional design-bid-build project delivery mode; therefore, absent a tort,  contractors can only sue a party with which they contracted, such as an owner or developer. (Several rare exceptions apply, including the negligent misrepresentation.)

Implied Warranties

Not surprisingly, the Spearin Doctrine is more popular than the the opposite doctrines. It says an owner, by passing a set of plans from an architect to a contractor, makes an implied warranty to the builder that the plans are adequate for their intended purpose. A contractor is bound to build according to plans and specifications prepared by the owner, and will not be responsible for the consequences of defects in the plans and specifications. This responsibility of the owner is not overcome by the usual clauses requiring contractors to visit the site, to check the plans, and to inform themselves of the requirements of the work, and a contractor should be relieved, if he was misled by erroneous statements in the specifications.

Many other cases followed, refined, and clarified the Spearin doctrine. The construction documents need to be reasonably accurate adequate for the purpose for which they were intended, and a contractor has a right to expect that. The contractor is under no legal or contractual obligation to inspect the documentation to determine its adequacy for construction prior to a contract award.  If a faulty documentation prevents or delays completion of a contract, the contractor is entitled to recover damages from the defendant’s breach of implied warranty.

The first implied warranty is that the plans and specifications are accurate, and the second warranty is that they are suitable for their intended use. An owner breaches the first warranty when the actual condition of the site is different.  An example might be a fabrication of custom components called by the architectural specification which are found unfit for their purpose or size allocated for them in an  existing structure, and need to be disposed of, redesigned, and reordered at a loss.

An owner breaches the second warranty when a contractor accurately follows the plans and specifications, but the resulting performance fails to satisfy the owner or occupant.  An example might be a contractor who builds a fenestration in strict accord with the specifications and plans provided which then, when finished, sweats with condensation causing damage to interior moisture sensitive materials.

Other warranties may be implied from the construction contract. The implied warranty of habitability is a good example in the residential sector.

Risk Management And Avoidance

Establishment of the above-listed doctrines and clarification of implied warranties were not left without a response. Many parties became using risk management and avoidance techniques, starting from the lengthy disclaimers and broad indemnifications. The observant reader of a construction documentation probably would notice how the area allocated for those disclaimers and indemnifications has expanded at the expense of the space devoted to the the subject itself. The author of this text is not without a fault, having used miscellaneous disclaimers to remind readers of his contractual limitations.

Architectural Negligence

Architectural sureties and legal counsels go to great extents to educate architects in risk management.  Many changes occurred in standard families of contracts produced by industry associations to protect design professionals. Some architects became defensive to the point of their services becoming useless. The example is a rehab design not based on any certified survey to avoid the potential liability tied to the existing conditions. Also, some architect would refuse to ask the owner and define building performance requirements criteria in order to avoid being held to them later. Another technique advised by architectural legal counsels is separating the risk by setting up sacrificial corporations devoted to e.g. multifamily residential design and construction administration.

Contractor’s Review

A contractor may hold the owner liable for the added expense required to complete the project due to the inadequate plans and specifications. The contractor, however, must still show good faith. He does have a duty to report any design errors or omissions which he discovers during his review of plans in order to preserve his course of action. There must be an established connection between the alleged errors and omissions and the damages.  However, the standard of care associated with such a review by a contractor is not equivalent to that expected of a design professional. A simple comparison of education would allow to identify the party with the superior knowledge: a design professional spent from four to six years at a university, while a contractor spent several days taking a pre-licensing course. Contractual provisions placing the burden of such a review on the contractor are insufficient to shift the responsibility for the deficiency, if it would not have been apparent to a reasonable contractor acting diligently in conducting such reviews.

As a result, contractors apply their own risk management mechanisms. Some contractors became defensive to the point of their services becoming useless. They avoid reviewing the documentation in a way which may leave a paper trail, making them potentially responsible for the noticed errors and omissions. They flatly refuse to review and approve subcontractors’ submittals. They flood construction administrators with irrelevant or generic submittals to gain liquidated damages for delays, etc.

A bid is won not by a quality, but by the lowest price. Consequently, parties which set quality as their goal are often penalized. One would think that contractors who employ third party-documentation reviewers, and architects submitting to the commissioning process (which establishes the owner’s performance requirements and assure they are met) should be in a high demand, as opposed to those who disclaim all responsibility. However, unless these requirements are verbalized in a RFP, the quality would be penalized.

Meeting of Minds

Obviously, architects and engineers are the parties ultimately responsible for design errors, but all parties play a role in identifying and minimizing the effect of such errors through prompt notification. Many courts refused to follow the Spearin doctrine, often precisely for the reason why this article is written: the widespread ambiguity and misunderstanding of the involved parties, causing a reasonable doubt whether there was an actual “meeting of the minds” with respect to the owner’s implied warranty.

Based on our experience, many registered architects are unaware of the Spearin doctrine, and the name sounds so exotic to them, that they are not even afraid to admit their ignorance as soon as the name is mentioned. Some of the common misconceptions are so exotic that they are worth quoting: we met some registered architects who strongly believed that a building official reviewing documentation and issuing permits becomes responsible for the subsequently discovered non-compliance with building codes, others believed that contractors in a design-bid-build mode are responsible for setting (as opposed to achieving) the performance criteria and developing the design in order to meet them.

If construction professionals are unaware of the elementary divisions of responsibility, it should be no surprise that laymen, such as owners and developers don’t know any better, and it would be unconscionable to hold them to the contracts they manifestly never intended to enter. Any such obligation should preferably result from a specific contractual language.


The party penalized by the application of the Spearin doctrine are owners and developers, regardless whether they eventually recoup their losses from designers. Outsiders of the construction sector, as they are, owners and developers therefore also turn to risk-management techniques. The frequent example is a residential development company which dissolves quickly after a project is finished, using a “disappearance technique,” which created many interesting situations, such as allowing an occupant to sue a subcontractor directly in one recent court case.

Another, seemingly absurd, situation arose when a former owner of the dissolved development company successfully pursued the condo association for the construction defects in the common spaces (roofs) adjacent to his penthouse unit, for which his former company was apparently responsible.

An owner may prefer to get a design-builder or integrated project delivery, as opposed to design-bid-build, employing a contractor during design to ensure the completeness and correctness of the documents. However, these methods present their own challenges, beyond the scope of this article. Combinations of different project delivery modes making the owner responsible for the coordination of the work is the typical example of owner’s shooting their own feet in the process. Fast track projects seem to be particularly vulnerable because of the inherently reversed sequencing. Two or more prime contractors occupying the same construction site is another interesting example. However, one does not need to look that far. Owners are often surprised learning that their simple design-bid-build projects are tainted with the design-build mode by architects delegating design and engineering of components to respective subcontractors and introducing the reverse sequencing: the choice of the materials, systems, and engineering happens after the design stage is over, preventing coordination among different systems. If such a project is performed by a general contractor who contractually refused the review and coordination, the perfect storm was created, with the unsuspecting owner becoming responsible for the ensuing defects.

Building Enclosures

Owners and developers should be particularly interested in verifying the quality of the architectural documentation because regardless whether they warranty it or not, it would strongly affect their bottom line. It pays to have the end in mind while shopping for an architect, by elevating the relevant documentation quality requirements, and creating a level playground for bidders.

Majority of issues happen within building enclosures; therefore, this area often warrants a third-party review. In fact, we see the increasing tendency to hire 2 or more building enclosure reviewers due to the typical fragmentary character of their services. Also, the introduction of the design-build mode in the traditional design-bid-build project requires the design assistance at the construction stage reaching beyond a simple construction administration. Another minefield is the multifamily residential sector. The combination of these vulnerabilities (poor building envelopes in litigatious condos) caused the State of Washington to require the building enclosure review before a building permit can be issued for a condominium building. The interference of a public administration into this area may sound excessive, but it’s meant to protect the general public (homeowners) against unscrupulous design professionals.

In fact, the simple act of review may be insufficient, as recent examples demonstrated. A design review performed before the 100% CD milestone should be checked again against the documentation issued for construction because of the performance failures caused by disregard for reviewers’ comments in the final issue of documents.

On the other hand, reviewers’ competency should be independently verified because, in another recent example, mechanical commissioning agent’s comments on building envelope design contributed to design delays and increased design cost, without adding any value to the project. The agent subsequently admitted that, while he was an experienced HVAC engineer and reviewer, the modern glazing design on which he commented was outside his area of expertise. There is no licensing system for the building enclosure consultants, so it becomes one more caveat emptor for owners and developers.


Useful Links:




“Architect And Engineer Liability: Claims Against Design Professionals” By Kevin R. Sido,

“Project Management In Construction” By Sidney M. Levy

As The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Architects’ Expanded Liability Under Design-Build/Construction Contracting; Block, Hal G., 17 J. Marshall L. Rev. 1 (1984)


“Construction Claims Deskbook: Management, Documentation, and Presentation of Claims” By Christopher Lerner, Esq, Robert S. Brams, Esq


This post was written by Kaz
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Principles of Building Enclosure (some would say Building Envelope)

Design Tangible Functionality in Practice

The building enclosure performs a number of functions, protecting the interiors against adversary forces such as wind, rain, snow, hail, flood, sun, light, wind borne debris, blast, heat flow, water vapor, wildlife, aggressive airborne and waterborne chemical, noise, vibrations, fire, smoke, theft, dirt accumulation, maintenance loads, and normal wear and tear.

The Principle of Continuity

A facade is only as good as its weakest link. The components responsible for performing these functions must be continuous throughout an enclosure, particularly at the transitions, e.g. at the interfaces of fenestration with adjacent assemblies. A discontinuity almost always causes a functional weakness or outright failure. Best facade engineers use a system of visualizing respective layers controlling heat flow, air flow, water vapor flow, etc. and therefore helping to accomplish the principles of facade engineering. The goal is to keep all layers continuous, no matter what part of vertical or horizontal section of building envelope is analyzed. The typical layers include: weather screen, insect or bird screen, vapor-permeable waterproofing, vapor-impermeable waterproofing, thermal insulation, acoustical insulation, fire isolation, smoke isolation, vapor barrier, and air seal. Special layers may include: blast resistance, burglar resistance, bullet resistance, etc. Many of these layers can also be tagged with the required characteristics, e.g. fire rating min 1hr, vapor retarder max 1 perm (57 ng/s•m²•Pa), air barrier min 45 psf (2,155Pa), etc. This is convenient wherever the values change, e.g. where R30 (RSI-6.20) insulation transitions into R10 (RSI- 1.76) insulation, e.g. due to code requirements. All sections of an enclosure opening must be designed in one process: e.g., jamb, head, spandrel, sill, etc. The layers pictured at each section must be located at the same respective wall depth and position around a perimeter of an opening. Otherwise, a wall would be non-constructible, or gaps and offsets in the corners would be created. A common error of this kind was demonstrated by the curtain wall details drawn for the former version of WDBG, which we no longer reproduce to show mercy to their authors.

Facade Components

Some facade components perform more than one function. The rule is to examine and specify for the most demanding applications, which will require particular focus on the choice of the proper material and connections. Also, unless there are special circumstances, it is economical to “bundle functions” to best address the applications. For example, an assembly may need to act as the waterproofing, the vapor retarder, and the air barrier, as well as a primary control layer for fire, noise, wildlife and odor. In such a case, we would be well advised to specify a continous membrane to perform the most demanding functions: waterproofing and air barrier because resistance to odor and water vapor would logically follow. However, such forces as fire, noise, and wildlife would be better served by other components, more capable of controlling them, e.g. metal sheets, and heavy masonry. Even though it is possible to get e.g. a membrane performing all the above functions, but it would seriously limit the choice of materials and contractors, and challenge the design of transitions due to incompatibility.

Functions and Building Physics

Once one determines exactly what function is performed by the particular material, common mistakes are less likely to occur. However, it is easy to get confused in the variety of proprietary materials and systems available on the market and alternated as equals by their suppliers. (This situation is further aggravated by the sales and marketing confusing design professionals. For example, in our open-book survey comparing characteristics of two thermal insulating materials, only 34.15% of respondents picked correct answers.) It’s also important to understand the physics behind certain forces in order to determine what physical characteristics work best to resist them. We often hear architects complain about the lack the basics in physics and mathematics in their curricula, preventing their understanding of more complex phenomena described in our seminars. For example, the two most powerful strategies employed to resist noise are mass and distance. However, in our survey for a better noise resistance strategy, only 1/3 of respondents chose the weight of concrete over the thickness of a fiber insulation . Another example: 8.3% of respondents believed the introduction of the thermal bridging by steel framing would improve the overall thermal resistance of a wall, as opposed to the bare nominal resistance of the thermal insulation. Only 41.7% picked the correct answer.)

Building Envelope – Basic Check

The principle of continuity holds true no matter what scale is considered. In the scale of the whole building, a designer has to determine where the layers are located with regard to all rooms and partitions. This is very easily accomplished by first drawing a single line representing the building envelope: the imaginary separation between conditioned and unconditioned spaces. How many designers do it? Typically, the forgotten spaces are those above suspended ceilings of overhangs, resulting in bursting, frozen plumbing in cold climates. According to ASHRAE statistics, frozen sprinkler pipes are the biggest single cause of mold in New York City, which illustrates how widespread is disregard to this principle among architects.

Facade Movement

The continuity must also be maintained through movement joints. Each layer has to be constructed in such a way as to accommodate the designed movement. The modern wall is typically designed as a curtain wall, regardless whether glazed or opaque. The average curtain wall has several movement joints differing in direction and magnitude of designed movement. Typically the floor deflection joints are most vulnerable. Again, the design verification is easily accomplished by drawing movement joints on facades. How many designers check the movements? We found very few. This is best illustrated by failures of roofing perimeters at parapet walls, caused by the differential movement introduced by deflections of roof decks’ in their midspan.

Final Remarks

The design process requires constant compromises. There are two price tags attached to each compromise: the long term cost and the initial cost. We are slowly entering the world where the emphasis is placed on the long term functionality. Designers attempting this method, would soon discover that many popular design practices, materials, and systems don’t work (who would guess?) and no economical method may exist to solve the functionality puzzle while keeping the layers continuous, absent a major re-design. This is a tough job, which makes the facade engineering such an exclusive club. Ninety-nine percent of the value of the details and specifications come from the underlying research, which is not only invisible to the eye, but also always specific to the project, explaining why the phrase “typical detail” is an oxymoron. It does not stop some firms from producing libraries of “typical details,” we even know some distinguished individuals who are employed full-time producing them (sorry folks). A detail looks always the same regardless whether there is any logic behind it or not. The insanity is expecting different results from the repetition.

This post was written by Kaz
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How to find a rain leak – practical advice from drenched trenches

If you are reading these words, there is a chance you have one and you deserve our sympathy. We will try to help you. As all other materials on this website, this advice is directed to owners and managers of high-rise buildings, as opposed to single family residential houses. It is meant to give you the starting point in often a long and tedious process of remediating rain water intrusion. The process can be categorized in three steps: diagnosis, directions, remediation.

The first step ist also summarized in this instructional video:

Those who cannot see the video in the window may use the YouTube link:

#1. DIY.

You probably already directed your in-house staff to find the leak themselves. Most people do not imagine how difficult it can be to locate a leak; therefore, they often approach it with “we can do it” attitude. Experience is not always the kindest of teachers, but it is surely the best. As with all other tradesmen, the difference is mainly in having right tools and acquiring specialized knowledge and experience. What a pro can do in one hour, you can probably accomplish in ten hours, becoming a pro in the process. If this is the chosen path, skip to the bottom where we described the process.

#2. Find a contractor willing to find the leak for free or a nominal charge.

Some subcontractors may be willing to offer the service for free or a nominal charge in expectation of the award of the work. Those contractors found it a good marketing practice, and they count on pure luck – finding an obvious failure, or a blanket replacement addressing the issue, or simply befriending the decision maker and becoming shortlisted for future jobs. Hungry contractors may not necessarily be the best contractors, however, large and well equipped concerns may be not interested in what they may perceive as a too small a job. You may be lucky and find a good startup. Search engines targeted to individuals may be a good start in your search. It works for those parts of buildings which are easy to access. Don’t expect them to be able to access the exterior of the wall of your 20-story tower.

We are talking here about using contractor to find your leak at a nominal charge and attempting a simple repair as opposed to the replacement or alteration. Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.” The experience teaches us that contractors would invariably come back suggesting replacement (as opposed to repair) of some facade component because chiefly this way they can make a profit. Don’t hire them yet. Not before you get a second opinion.  This can be compared to hiring a surgeon to perform an open-heart operation at the absence of any diagnosis and directions. The odds of getting better are slim at best, and the imaginary savings would be dwarfed by the cost of the ensuing investigation and remediation.

#3. Replace a suspect assembly.

It’s sometimes less expensive than searching for a leak and may be economical if there is another reason for its replacement soon, e.g. assembly has little technical life left, or it needs to be upgraded to an impact-resistant system, or there is a chance your insurer would reimburse you. Your chances of actually addressing the leak? Rather slim but advisable if you would need to replace the assembly soon anyway.  Remember the old saying: “The leak in the roof is never in the same location as the drip.” What applies to a roof, also applies to a building as a whole. Water dripping from a window turns out to come from the roof; while water dripping from a roof turns out to come from the sewage plumbing.

A replacement would be the favorite path chosen by almost all your consultants, including:  sales representatives, technical advisors (rechristened salespeople), architects, engineers, contractors, and public adjusters, because they are incentivized in a way not necessarily aligned with your interests, and count on pure luck in addressing the failure.  An impeccably dressed and well-outspoken architect would walk in the aura of authority and put some shiny folders on your desk. The choice, she would say, is among the standing seam zinc roof, thermoplastic, and SBS, each of the choices beautifully presented on relevant pretty pictures and charts. This way, the conversation would focus on pros and cons of alternative assemblies, without addressing the reason why the replacement would be necessary in the first place and why the roofing, as opposed, say, to the parapet copings, or terrace floors adjacent to the leak.

Were the question asked, a glib response would ensue describing the numerous deficiencies observed on your roof. Satisfied and intimidated this way, you would fail to inquire further. If you did, you would discover that the roof was observed but not tested, and some other relevant assemblies out of sight were not even observed due to the inconvenient access, such as requiring use of a ladder. This tactics works so well because some owners fail to realize that almost every assembly in their buildings is far from impeccable, and an observant individual may easily put together a similar list of deficiencies justifying the replacement of any other given assembly. It also works well because people prefer to focus on small issues which are easy to grasp. (For reference, see the discussion about the bike shed roof described by C. Northcote Parkinson in his “Law of Triviality.”) This tendency would be well illustrated by laypeople itching to comment, and the names of products used in lieu of general types of systems. “My son-in-law had the AAA-BC roofing installed at his house last year, and he says it’s the best roofing under the sun” will say your secretary. A maintenance guy in his dirty overalls may have enough nerve to ask some irritating questions, such as why the roof moisture survey conducted last year did not show any leaks, but he would be quickly made feel unwelcome by the participants of the meeting, who already set their minds on the new roof, and are unwilling to admit that they did not even attempt to read the nerdy scientific report.

#4. Replace another suspect assembly.

You just replaced one assembly but the leak is still present, in accordance with the “Phelps’s Laws of Renovation:” “Any building component you choose to replace during renovation will prove to be in excellent condition; those you decide to leave in place will be rotten.”  At this stage you probably realized what you are facing. You have paid for the material, labor, necessary permits, the clean-up, and the occupants of your building are more than distraught by twice too many months spent living on a construction site, with its noise, dust, swearing, littering, and peeing workers, and a subsequential damage to whatever was in the way, including this vintage collectioner’s piece practically destroyed by an aerial platform’s operator; the damage which you are still disputing with the contractor. Were the subject leak made a distant memory by all this inconvenience, you would probably eventually deem it a high but nevertheless necessary price to pay. However, the leak, larger than ever, just re-appeared after the last rainstorm.

If you are like most owners, you would need to chill down ( a process which takes at least one year) and collect new funds before you would be ready for the replacement of another assembly. This time, it would be said, we found out it was not roofing that was leaking; therefore , we have to replace the wall cladding above the roof. Some sort of tax incentive would be also presented in favor of the scheme, without getting into the details of the calculation of the actual refund amount versus the total replacement cost. Hence, the perfectly sound cladding would end up in a landfill, carried away by a procession of dump trucks. This time, richer with the past experiences, you made the necessary preparations: crated and shipped belongings to a storage, fenced and wrapped the more expensive plants, placed protective boards on floors and paving, and rented an office space on the other side of the street. You emerged indebted but victorious.

#5. The leak survived the replacement? Replace another assembly.

This time, you are better equipped than ever with the new experiences gained during the last round of construction work. Not only you wrapped all, floors, doors, elevators, and the new roofing with OSB sheets to prevent it from damage. You also hired a dedicated construction administrator, and got skillfully prepared set of bulletproof construction documents, to avoid this ugly situation with the mechanic lien stuck on the property title after one of the subcontractors went out of business last time. Your lawyers spent the last year clearing the title, and you just discovered that both sealant and paint have peeled off the new cladding. Not good. However, the good news is that you became a professional construction manager; individuals like you are in high demand and paid the top dollar.

Something in the back of your mind is telling you “Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different outcome.” However, logically speaking, replacing ALL facade components should eventually lead to the elimination of the deficiency, right?

Unfortunately not. It’s is said that the vast majority of failures originate in the joinery between two adjacent facade systems, outside the contractors’ responsibility, and outside of the realm of your average salesperson, technical advisor, architect, or engineer. Therefore, at the end, your contractors  and consultants would triumphantly point finger at each other; leaving you with the problem.

#6. What Was Missing?

If you reached that far, you are probably ready to get a building enclosure professional. Chances are that you might never heard about them before.

Originally you probably limited your choices to contractors. Why pay extra and wait for some stupid paperwork, your told yourself and skipped architects and engineers. Let’s get three bids and get it done! This is how it’s often done in the small construction industry with varying results. However, you discovered in the process of construction that there were major differences between you and the contractor in understanding of the scope of the work. It turned out that the price quoted was only for replacement of the roofing membrane, not for the removal of the old membrane, and certainly not for the new flashing, and not for the new thermal insulation required by the city inspector… Your cost ended up to be several times the original bid and you promised yourself to better clarify the desired work result the next time. You suddenly recalled Leslie Nielsen asking the gun-wielding Ludwig “How could you do something so vicious?” in the movie “The Naked Gun – From The Files of the Police Squad?”

Ludwig, who just took Jane hostage responds “It was easy my dear, don’t forget I spent two years as a building contractor.”

So you decided to hire a design professional such as an architect or an engineer to prepare a set of drawings and specifications telling the contractor what, where and how. The price tag made your face flinch, but you told yourself there is no other choice. You received books of neatly prepared and printed documentation and rolls of drawings. You selected a contractor and discovered that the two don’t speak the same language. The contractor just pointed out the size is “totally off” and there is no code-approved system meeting the architectural specifications on the market, then the urgently conference-called architect confirmed that the dimensions were never measured, adding “the owner was responsible for providing a survey.” “This is fine as long as we slope the roof in the other direction,” offered the contractor, followed by the architect protesting a perceived code compliance issue. Contractor followed explaining why architect’s directions are self-contradicting, causing large changes in quantities of materials and labor, and asking for a change order. The architect followed with an updated contract including previously omitted contract administration services. The process of writing checks just begun.

In both examples above, the challenges and loopholes of contracting with construction professionals overshadowed the real issue: there was never any true testing and diagnosis done, the fact emphasized by the re-appearance of the leak after the rain last week. None of the hired parties had incentives and ability to conduct such an investigation. Using the medical analogy, you attempted the coronary operation first at the absence of any diagnosis and direction, then getting directions from an aesthetician. The surgeon bypassed two blood vessels, but you still feel sick. It’s probably the time to get a doctor to listen to your heart and perhaps order a CAT scan and echocardiogram, something what should have been done before the operation.

How to Do it Right.

People ask us about the ropes of the trade all the time. The facade doctor wouldn’t do anything different from what you would do as an DIY (see #1 above). As with all other tradesmen, the difference is mainly in having right tools and acquiring specialized knowledge and experience. What a pro can do in one hour, you (or your in-house staff) can probably accomplish in ten hours, becoming a pro in the process.

A) The process starts with the diagnosis, and the diagnosis starts with observation and testing.  You would need to access the entire facade, which typically means having or renting aerial platforms, and some equipment extending your vision, such as boroscopes and binoculars. A review of construction drawings and specifications would help you identify what you see.  Once you gained the access, reviewed documentation, and observed the assemblies, you would need to develop a plan for testing on basis of what you saw. Then you would need to investigate the facade by testing assemblies and gradually eliminating those that do not leak. The example of the simplest test is the garden hose test, in which water is sprayed onto a fixed fenestration starting from the bottom up until the leak is replicated, then the suspect areas are masked (e.g. with a duct tape) and re-tested. If the leak stopped, then you are almost done. Testing equipment is typically composed of some plumbing delivering and spraying water, as well as an apparatus generating and measuring air pressure difference, and tools used to identify gaps in building enclosures, such as smoke and noise generators, thermal cameras, etc. How do you do them? There are standard procedures available from industry associations, such as AAMA and ASTM describing how these tests should be performed, but you would end up modifying them anyway to make them work on your case. The results you would be getting may be quite confusing for someone unfamiliar with the design and construction of a high-rise buildings. Unlike small residential houses, large buildings are seldom alike, therefore their illnesses can be inferred only by a person familiar with both general construction and having extensive experience in high-rises. In some cases the results would be elusive, so you would need to install a monitoring equipment to collect and log moisture data over a prolonged period. E.g. a  water alarm correlated with a weather report may allow for a discovery that the leak becomes active only when the wind comes from north directions. Very often you may need to make exploratory openings in your building in order to get closer to some areas while testing. Needless to say, these openings would need to be temporarily secured once you are done.  There are some tests which are best left to professionals, such as all tests where large hydrostatic pressures are involved, such as flood testing of flat roofs and rain water leaders. There are many things that may go wrong: a roof deck overloaded with water may collapse, and the pressurized plumbing may suddenly burst sending shrapnels around.

B) The second part of the process is the remedial design. Now you need a facade doctor to write a prescription or a referral to the surgeon, so you would be able to tell your contractors what, where and how needs to be done in order to get competitive bids. This is similar to hiring an architect or engineer, except you need this person to be knowledgeable and experienced in the building enclosure rehab, and in the nuts and bolts of the specific assembly identified as deficient. This is the most challenging part of the process, and well characterized by the law of adverse attraction: the quality of the advice would be in adverse proportion to the willingness of the adviser to give it, starting from your neighbour and your wife’s cousin. You will suddenly recall the old saying: “The person with the least expertise has the most opinions.”  The trouble of telling a good advice from a bad advice is that their results may only differ in durability. This is why we bet you’ve been already told to use remedial coatings and sealants. Why? They would almost always offer at least several months of service: enough to get the job signed-off and collect a check.  Russians say: “Paint it and sell it.”

The solution should embrace the issues holistically, address the characteristics of the existing materials, compatibility of  components, differential movements of the building and assemblies, applicable building codes, feasibility, and provide a system protecting the interior of the building not only from the water, but also against all other external adversary forces: wind, water vapor, impact, fire, wildlife, etc. The resulting set of drawings and specifications should be based on detailed survey, and contain a sufficient detail to confer the general intent. It typically requires making exploratory openings in your building to verify how it was built, if this step was not performed while testing. Remember that once you accept this set of documentation, you would become responsible to the contractor for its accuracy (See the article about Spearin Doctrine). A good practice is to have a second pair of eyes review the set. Just like you would do in the medical world, you want another doctor to give a second opinion.

C) The repair, replacement, or alteration. This is the time to get some anesthesia to numb the shock of the incoming invoices. You will hire a general contractor and relevant subcontractors to perform the work, using the documentation from the facade doctor. How do you know if they don’t discover some new conditions after the demolition begins? How do you know whether they actually properly prepared the substrate before squeezing the sealant in joints? You don’t. This is why you need a facade doctor to ocassionally watch over the contractor’s shoulder, help him clarify the situation, and report to you any discrepancies between the contractor’s obligations and the actual work. Remember that everything on a construction site is an experiment, and you don’t want such a risk. Therefore, whenever an assembly installation begins, you need the contractor to build a mockup exemplifying the intended procedures, materials, and effect, and you need the facade doctor to test this mockup to avoid surprises. Such a test is also advisable periodically as the construction progresses. The process described above is nothing new. It’s called building enclosure commissioning, and two industry associations are currently developing  national standards addressing it.

Congratulations! Now it’s time to sit down and wait for the next rain with the high expectations stemming from the pleasant feeling that everything what could be done has been done right.

Read more about rain water leaks on our webpage You can also watch our 30second long video [youtube]d_KSoFw_lRA[/youtube]

This post was written by Kaz
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What Is Building Envelope or Enclosure?

What Is Building Envelope?

A building envelope is the imaginary separation between a conditioned, semi-conditioned, and an unconditioned space. This includes certain walls, doors, windows, roofs and floors. Conditioned space are made comfortable for occupants by means of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Unconditioned spaces include the outdoors and any space within a building not served by HVAC. The building envelope is indicated with respective temperature, humidity, and air pressure differentials, which in turn allow to establish its requirements (e.g. condensation resistance, permeability and location of layers, etc.). This separation should almost always be addressed by a thermally insulative layer, and in majority of cases should control the air flow.

What Is Building Enclosure?

The terms building enclosure and building envelope are often inadvertently used as synonyms. A building enclosure can be easily defined as everything visible from the exterior plus everything made visible if the adjacent soil and rock were removed. The term Building Enclosure is synonymous with the term Facade, and includes exterior walls, doors, windows, louvers, screens, roofs, ceilings, and floors as well as their appurtenances. It is the physical protection of the interior against exterior adversary forces, such as elements, wildlife, wind, thieves, terrorists, etc. The main difference from the building envelope is the inclusion of those components that do not separate conditioned spaces from the unconditioned spaces. These components typically form a screening cladding, such as walls, roofs, and soffits of unconditioned spaces, as well as roofs above unconditioned attics, and shells of unconditioned garages and basements.


Building envelope (or enclosure) consultants work with parties of construction process and owners of the existing buildings helping them to define, achieve, or verify the tangible performance objectives (e.g. weatherproofing integrity) of those assemblies. The profession is not regulated and there is currently neither education nor benchmarking offered in the U.S. Universities in some countries (e.g. Bath in England) have established courses in Facade Engineering.

The consultants in the U.S. come from different walks of life and therefore rely mainly on their individual experience. They typically specialize in the specific phase (e.g. material research, design, delegated design, construction, architectural rehab, forensic investigations) as well as in specific functionality aspects (e.g. resistance to heat, air, moisture, noise, fire, smoke, etc.) and specific systems (e.g. thermoplastic roofing, ceramic cladding, curtain walls, etc.)  The industry is highly fragmented, with the majority of consultants working in small firms, competing with middle, large, and jumbo -sized multidisciplinary engineering firms offering some building enclosure consulting services in addition to their core occupation.


Functionality of building enclosures is as crucial to the cost of construction and maintenance as lacking in architectural and engineering curricula. Lacking a knowledgeable party during design, construction, and investigations of facades is risky, and was proven many times to lead to substantial short and long term losses for building owners. Therefore, working with a building enclosure/envelope consultants often confers a financial benefit substantially exceeding their professional fees.


However, in some cases building enclosure consultants were proven to do more harm than good, by their errors and omissions, as well as by the way they are incentivized. They typically partake in risk but not in expenses; therefore, they may often suggest more expensive materials and systems than necessary to assure a facade’s functionality. Some consultants may also be incentivized by manufacturers and installers, creating conflicts of interests.

This post was written by Kaz
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