Construction Defects: Building Envelope Failure
When a building envelope system fails, the result is a structure that is less energy-efficient, and more likely to allow the intrusion of moisture and show signs of exterior degradation.
The building envelope is a cohesive engineering system that serves to protect the interior of a structure from outside elements. The building envelope includes the structure’s walls, roof, foundation, doors, and windows, and various weatherproofing components that have to be property integrated with the visible, finished materials.
Signs of Building Envelope Failure
- When a building’s envelope fails, it can allow the structure’s interior temperature to fluctuate, which can significantly increase utility bills.
- When building envelope failure allows moisture to become trapped behind the finishes (think stucco, brick, siding), it can result in wood rot and mold growth. Both can degrade the integrity of the envelope system and lead to structural damage and in some cases even failure.
- Building envelope failure can also degrade the aesthetics of a structure. Delamination of wood, warping, cracking, and discoloration are often the result of building envelope defects.
Common Reasons Why Building Envelopes Fail
- Poor Installation or Workmanship
Improper installation of building envelope components is often the result of contractors setting unrealistic completion schedules, hiring inexperienced workers, or inadequate oversight of subcontractors. Periods of skilled labor shortages tend to make these problems worse.
- No Daily Inspections During the Construction Phase
The best defense against envelope failures includes daily inspections of the building envelope during the construction phase. All issues detected during an inspection should be immediately addressed and re-inspected to ensure the repair was done correctly to prevent future failure of the building envelope system.
- Using an Inexperienced Building Envelope Inspector
Whether the inspector is with the general contractor, the subcontractor, or an outside company, it’s critical that they be qualified to inspect the specific envelope components being installed to ensure compliance with applicable codes and product manufacturer installation instructions.
Product Defects and Mishandling
- Design Deficiencies
Building envelope failure can result from deficiencies in the design of the envelope components themselves. This can occur when inadequate performance criteria is applied for structural capacity, thermal movement, and water-resistance.
- Material Problems
Building products should be carefully inspected by the contractors prior to installation. Building envelopes can fail when construction materials are faulty due to manufacturing errors or damaged due to improper storage and handling.
Building envelope systems can also fail when contractors seek to minimize their costs by reducing the quantity, size, weight, or quality of the construction components themselves, jeopardizing the integrity of a building.
Investigating the Failure of the Building Envelope
Following a building envelope system failure, or even when a failure is suspected, a thorough investigation is required to identify the underlying cause of the failure. Investigations typically include the visual observation of the as-built conditions followed by an in-depth evaluation of the original design requirements. Potential causes of the failure should be examined through diagnostics and testing, including intrusive testing that reveals how all the envelope components were installed, and in particular, whether they were properly integrated with one another and if not, what damage is occurring behind the envelope. Following subsequent analysis of the findings, a thorough report will reveal the results of the investigation and specify recommendations for repairs.
If you are experiencing construction defects in your single-family home, townhome, or condominium association, please contact Burg Simpson now for a free case evaluation.