Facade Investigations

Chris Matthews, Jason Bondurant & Shuana Serafini – GCI Consultants

  • About Shuana Serafini & Jason Bondurant
  • What is a Facade?
  • Facades & Waterproofing
  • Facade Performance
  • Facade Investigations
  • Identifying Problems
  • Due Diligence Work
  • Condition Assessments
  • Forensic Inspections & Reporting

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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Litigation Consulting and Expert Witness Services

Will Smith & Bret Taylor – GCI Consultants

Podcast about Litigation Consulting and Expert Witness Services

  • Litigation Support and Consulting Services
  • Field Water Infiltration Testing
  • Forensic Testing of Buildings for Litigation
  • Construction Defect Cases
  • Water Leakage Causation
  • Plaintiff and Burden of Proof
  • Expert Witness Testimony
  • Forensic Inspections & Reporting

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

*** Subscribe to the show and leave us a Review on ITunes!

Will: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to “The Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Will Smith, president of GCI Consultants, and I’ll be your host today. Now, with me is Bret Taylor, a professional engineer and senior consultant, too, here at GCI. Bret is one of our consultants that also provides litigation support services. And today, we’re going to be talking about GCI’s approach to the providing this type of service. But Bret, before we get into the details of this, we probably have some people that listened the last time you were on, and maybe some that didn’t. So, maybe you can just give them briefly a little summary about yourself and your background.

Bret: Okay, sounds good. I’m Bret Taylor. I’m a professional engineer of 26 plus years, graduated NC State, University of North Carolina. I got my start like most engineers do in the design and drafting part of engineering and worked my way up, then started my own business, and did typical consulting for a while. Gradually, over time, that morphed into the forensic field where I would get calls from people to come investigate their building for different issues. Oftentimes, water’s involved, so that sort of led me to migrate into the building envelope arena. And so, today I found myself with GCI doing building envelope consulting.

Will: Great. Thanks, Bret. Now, today, we’re going to be talking about the topic of field water testing in forensic investigations. And water testing is a subject that we discussed in our podcast many times before. And in fact, Paul Beers and Jason Bondurant did a podcast just a few months ago about this. But today, we’re going to look at it in a little bit different perspective, that is, we’re going to be talking about water testing and forensic investigations as part of litigation.

Now, let me introduce this first by saying that GCI’s objectives in litigation support services are generally the same regardless of what side of the table our client sits on. Now, whether a plaintiff or defendant, we want to investigate a claim and render an opinion no matter how pleasing or how painful it might be to the client. And at the same time, however, we recognize that there’s a difference between the obligations of a plaintiff and the defendant.

Bret: That’s right, Will. The plaintiff has the burden to prove the defect in the case. And unfortunately, sometimes the building owner sees water coming in from an event, whatever that event may be, and they tell us that it appeared but that does not tell us exactly where the water is entering. So, we have to determine where it’s coming in, why it’s coming in and demonstrate that a problem actually exists that’s actually related to a construction defect in order to assist the client. And that could be, that water entry point could be anywhere, it could be the roof, it could be the wall in several different locations. It could be through penetrations to the wall, be it a window or a vent. It could be the sealants, it could be the paint. It could be maintenance or combination of all these things. So, in order for us to testify in a construction defect case, we need to identify and prove that defect.

Will: Okay, that’s good, Bret. But how is this, what you just described, how is this obligation different from the obligation that a defendant would have if they’re defending a case?

Bret: Well, the defendant doesn’t have the burden of proof. You know, in our court system, you’re innocent until proven guilty. So, they don’t have to prove that there’s a defect for the plaintiffs. So, they obviously can investigate the claims being made at their level, but they’re not required to prove the case against them.

Will: That’s true, but we often see water leakage that occurs and the plaintiff applies testing that sometimes implicates the wrong parties, ain’t that right?

Bret: That’s true. That is true. And so, at that point in time, perhaps, the defendant might want to do their own testing to illustrate that the test, that the plaintiff’s testing was done improperly.

Will: Right. In fact, you know, I can speak from some experience in this. I have been involved in some litigation cases in the past where an investigation wrongly implied fault to somebody, but it ended up costing a lot of money to a lot of different people, For example, one case in the town of Palm Beach involved a large estate in which the owner lodged a lawsuit against the developer and several of the defendants in it. It was a case that, actually, it went to trial and it was tried over several months. As a matter of fact, it was a multi-million dollar case.

We happened to represent a window installer in that particular case. And our position was that the plaintiff’s expert who did testing almost every single window and door in the home just simply did it wrong. It was improper, it did not recreate the leakage that the owner was complaining about. In fact, they made new leakage occurred in some instances. And it went it in a, like I said, to a trial for several months and instead of a $7 million jury verdict for the owner, they got a verdict in the low five figures, which was actually awarded because of what the jury considered to be bad advertising on the part of the developer. It had nothing to do with the windows and doors.

The exact opposite of that, I just seen…saw occur on a project down in Miami. Yeah, it went to trial just a month ago. And in that one, it was another large single-family home in which the owner’s consultant recommended that the owner have testing done but they never did it. So, they never proved that the cause of the leakage. And again, it went to trial, and in that case, I represented a window manufacturer on the defense, and we got a defense verdict.

And then another one I can tell you about is a large, multi-district class-action lawsuit, which involved 14 plaintiffs, you know, unnamed plaintiffs in 11 states. The plaintiffs’ expert performs the testing once again. It implicated the window manufacturer, but it did it wrongly, and they ignored all the other causes of water leakage into the building, which were clearly apparent, but they used the wrong test method and the test procedure and implicated the wrong party. And eventually, it got before the judge. And the judge throughout the plaintiffs’ expert’s report excluded it in its entirety.

So, it’s just three examples of occasions where one party in a case can be really very severely jeopardized if a testing agency or consulting firm goes about doing a poor job. So, Bret, let’s talk about, a little bit about what makes an inspection and testing proper? What is a good guideline, a good thing to follow here?

Bret: Well, there are different standards to follow. We can kind of get deeper into that. But let’s start out by talking about, in general, about a window or a door product. So, they are manufactured products, they’re manufactured to certain standards. And they have different performance requirements based on the type of unit that you buy. So, not all windows and doors are the same. They’re not all going to perform in the same way. So typically, what we get involved with in these forensic investigations are water leakage issues. So an analogy there might be, and most people are familiar with car doors and they have a gasket around the edge of the car door. And most people have probably been seen on TV a car that drove into a creek during a hurricane or a flood or whatever it is, those vehicles, they flood. So it’s got a gasket on the door, it keeps the rainwater out when you’re driving down the road. But if you inundate that vehicle, ultimately, it’s going to leak into the vehicle.

So, the same thing applies to windows and doors. If their performance level is exceeded, they can leak. So, one has to consider the conditions in the field, and you have to follow proper protocol in order to develop a testing program that’s going to actually properly test and discover where the water intrusion occurs.

Will: That’s all really good. And I admit, I’ve seen that, you know, the example you gave is a good one. You see that on the news often, and oftentimes, the example you’re talking about, the expectations of performance of a window are entirely different from various owners. So maybe this is a good point to talk about some of those guidelines of water testing and how they apply, particularly, you know, we’re talking about legal situations here, and why it’s important in a legal case to not just go out and put the window in a puddle, but maybe, for example, but maybe figure out a way to do it, right. What kind of standards are we looking at?

Bret: Right. So, there’s a couple of different groups that we referenced commonly. ASTM is one of them, and then AAMA the other one to. So, ASTM is known by a lot of folks. AAMA is not so known and we can talk about those two different entities separately.

Will: Okay, that’s good, Bret. And maybe before we discuss those important points of these standards, like you said, ASTM is well known, and maybe AAMA is not. Explain to our listeners a little bit about these organizations in their standards, ASTM and AAMA.

Bret: Okay. So, AAMA is the American Architectural Manufacturing Association. So, it’s an organization that publishes guidelines and standards related to the manufacturer application, installation, and testing of windows and doors. And then ASTM used to be known as the American Society of Testing Materials, but since then, gone global, and now it’s just known ASTM International. So, ASTM International is an organization with 12,000 plus members, it publishes guidelines and standards for many different things, anywhere from household goods to aerospace, and this obviously also includes building systems and their components such as doors and windows.

Will: Okay, super. So, when we’re called to investigate water leakage in a claim in a legal case, let’s talk about how these two organizations fit in and into the investigation.

Bret: Okay, well, probably the best place to start is ASTM E2128. So, that one is the standard guide for evaluating water leakage of buildings and walls. And then another one AAMA 511, which is the voluntary guideline for forensic water penetration testing of fenestration products. And for those of you guys that don’t know, fenestration is windows and doors essentially.

Will: Okay. So, you also, you know, a little bit, you mentioned, earlier you mentioned forensic. Explain to our listeners what’s meant by that, and how it’s different from other types of investigations.

Bret: Well, there’s a couple of definitions that are kind of floating around there. I guess, one definition could be more of a legal definition where it states that forensic implies that it’s in support of litigation. But I think over the years, forensic has morphed into being synonymous with investigative consulting work. So, ASTM E2128 references forensic in its verbiage, and AAMA 511 also references forensic in its title even. Those two standards just imply that forensic is for the purpose of investigating a condition in the field. In this case, we’re investigating water intrusion through fenestration products, it doesn’t have a specific definition, necessarily. It’s kind of broad.

Will: Okay. So, let’s talk a little bit more now about doing an investigation, and let’s say, it’s in a case that’s in litigation, whether we’re working for a plaintiff or a defendant. We already discussed the various organizations and the standards that may apply. And we talked about how the burden of proof is actually upon the plaintiff in these cases, but there are occasions in which a defendant may also want to go and do a thorough investigation and maybe even testing. So, let’s talk a little bit about, for example, these standards. So, let’s talk about the purpose of doing an investigation. Why should we do an investigation following a guideline such as, you mentioned ASTM E2128, why use 2128? What does it afford the user?

Bret: Well, in general, the intent is that there’s a laid-out protocol there that allows the user to craft an inspection or forensic evaluation that can not only recreate the leakage that’s reported to exist but also do it in a way in which someone else can repeat what they’ve done. So, it affords the other side an opportunity to test if they would like to in the same manner, so all parties can test in a similar way.

Will: So, it is an opportunity then to do an investigation that’s systematic, but reproducible?

Bret: Correct.

Will: Okay. So, doing that investigation, there are certain steps that the guidelines recommend, but they’re not all required. Is that correct? I mean, you can’t necessarily do every one every time?

Bret: That’s correct. And as long as you’re following the intent of the standard, that you’re capturing the data that needs to be captured to recreate the leak and illustrate where that leak is coming from, I think that would follow the spirit of the standard.

Will: Right. Okay. And, for example, as I understand it…For example, one of those things that it recommends that you do is, it’s called a document review, in which the investigator collects all the construction documents, like plans, specifications, performance records, all that kind of stuff that dealt with construction of the building. And remember, you mentioned building fenestrations, but of course, when we’re doing an investigation where we can’t just focus our eyes only on the fenestration, but we need to look at all of the building components that surround the windows, doors, and the wall construction, the exterior wall cladding in the finishes, the sealants, and all those kind of things. So, they’re asking you to collect all these documents. But in my experience, I don’t know about you, but in my experience, usually, those documents are not available. They often don’t exist. Have you found that to be true?

Bret: Absolutely. And that’s…so, even a lot of documents show construction that may not be consistent with as-built conditions either. And there could have been remodeling that had been done, repairs, maintenance, those types of things. So, you have to evaluate the conditions you have in the field with whatever documentation that you can acquire. And then with that information, hopefully, you can piece together the existing construction and perhaps some of the issues that could be occurring.

Will: Right. And you mentioned…you said one of the conditions in the field may not be the same as what was originally intended anyways. And one of the things that the guideline recommends is getting a service history of the building and the components. Is that where this falls in, service history?

Bret: That’d be part of it. Absolutely, one needs to figure out as best they can where the issues are reported to be. Some of that’s going to be within the service history document in the building, the maintenance records, so that’d be part of it. And then going back to the document review, one also has to figure out what the design concept is, so is it a drainage plan, is it sealed surface barrier system, is it a mass-wall system, you know, and what the cladding material is requirement for the installation, that particular cladding material. So, you’re trying to develop an overall understanding of how the wall should have been built, how it is built, and then also how it should be performing.

Will: Right. And each one of those things that you mentioned, like a drainage system, a surface barrier system, mass wall, and so forth, we could have a whole separate podcast on each one of those. So, we’re not going to go into all of the details of that today. But the point is that before or as part of an investigation, you need to understand how the building is supposed to be working.

Bret: Correct, correct. That’s right.

Will: All right. Okay. And then, once we have this background information, then we can get into doing the inspections, testing, so forth, analysis, and all these other things that go along with that. Let’s talk about testing for just a minute. And again, according to the guidelines that are published by ASTM 2128, for example, what should be the objectives of someone? If you’re going out there to do the testing, what are you trying to do by that?

Bret: Well, at the end of the day one is trying to recreate the leakage that’s been reported to occur or if the investigator can observe it themselves, or even if they can…if there’s no indication of where the leakage is coming in, if they can visually discern it, what they think is going on, they take all that information, they try to figure out, you know, where it’s occurring and try to recreate that leakage.

Will: Okay. There’s, in the standard, it talks about tracing leakage paths. And as I understand this, the way I try to explain it to people is when you’re standing inside the building, and you see water collecting on the inside, let’s say, it’s at the bottom of the wall, it is collecting on the floor. That tells you where the water appears, but it’s not telling you how it got there from the outside of the wall to the inside where it’s appeared on the floor. And that’s where the standard says, “Trace the leakage paths.” How do you go about tracing the leakage path?

Bret: Well, the short answer, I guess, is isolation. But, I mean, I’ve had instances in which even isolation didn’t do tracing the leakage justice because water travels or can travel in places that you may not think. But ultimately, what we want to do is we want to try to isolate the wall conditions so that we can test it incrementally. And then by doing that, we can hopefully isolate the entry source of the leakage.

Now, in the cases in which it’s not immediate around the opening, you may have a crack, let’s say, you know, a few feet away that you’re not aware of, water could be getting in through the building cladding in that location and traveling towards the window unit, and even manifesting, like you said earlier, at the floor and you may not even see it around the window unit.

Will: Right. There are occasions in my experience that the only way you can, even if you do the isolation like we talked about and we’ll probably talked about in a little bit more detail, a lot of times the isolation…for the benefit of the listener, what we’re talking about here is applying covers strategically on the outside of the building so that the various areas are not subjected to the water spray when you’re doing a water test. So, you’re only testing certain areas, in that way, you’re able to more better define the location where water is entering the wall on the outside. But even when you do that sometimes, for example, let’s say, you have a wall that you’re testing that’s 10-feet wide, and you narrow down to a section of the wall that’s only 1-foot in width. So, that tells you that water is coming in at that general area, but it’s like you talked about earlier, if we’re talking about a drainage design, water that’s coming into the wall, let’s say is getting past the stucco at that point is supposed to be collected and drained backed out. But if it’s not, it’s coming in, there’s still a defect that’s causing that to occur. And my experience is, the only way you can find that defect is often to do destructive testing, where you need to remove stucco or remove drywall in the inside and take part walls, take out windows, whatever, in order to find what is the defect that’s causing that leakage to occur. Do you agree?

Bret: I agree. And part of the standard actually requires that the drywall in the interior is removed around the windows. So, when you’re doing testing, you can observe the conditions where the water may be coming in, and sometimes, you do have to remove the cladding and the window. I’ve gotten lucky a few times, and actually I’ve been able to isolate, that was a kind of a unique situation [inaudible 00:24:07]. Yeah, typically, you got to do DT.

Will: Okay. So, let’s talk a minute about those tests. We’ve thrown a lot of things out here. ASTM has a test method out there. Explain basically what that is.

Bret: E1105 is ASTM water test method to chamber test. Essentially, it specifies the chamber that needs to be built and a spray rack that needs to be built and calibrated so that you can apply water to the outside face of the building. The chamber allows you to put pressure on the wall assembly and the pressure differential. You’re trying to recreate the wind conditions that are reported to have occurred when the leakage was occurring.

Will: Okay. And that comes from ASTM 2128. Also, they say that you’d need to recreate those conditions, but then, there’s the document by AAMA out there, AAMA 511, that gives some guidance for how to do that, right?

Bret: Right. So, AAMA 511 is the volunteer guideline for forensic water penetration testing of fenestration product, and that references the ASTM E1105 test method. So, they work in concert, so to speak, but 511 gives you a little more information in terms of performing a forensic evaluation using the ASTM E1105 standard test.

Will: Right. And it even gives you examples about how to determine those pressures to be used to recreate the wind-driven rain, I think, research the weather records, and all that kind of stuff. So, it gets into more detail that you don’t have in E1105, so that’s a big help.

One of the things that I think we ought to talk about here briefly is types of tests that might not be appropriate in doing. I mean, we see it happen all the time where, in fact, I mentioned examples where people did testing improperly. Give us some examples there of what type of things could be improper testing?

Bret: Well, improper application of the standards. So, for example, when you’re building up a building and installing windows that are new, there’s a standard that apply or several actually that apply to those products. One of them is AAMA 502, and that’s a specification for field testing of newly installed fenestration products. And that standard says, in a nutshell, that these products as they’re manufactured and they come off the assembly line, are going to perform at a certain rate with respect to water resistance. But when they’re installed in the field, we’re going to give a one-third reduction in that factory performance, because of the transportation, the installation, the effects of installation on the product being slightly at aplomb, those kinds of things.

So, that new standard would apply only if once you have been given your CO for the project, then that window is now considered installed and you can’t use that standard after that time. Sometimes, it applies a little bit further on. It’ll extend to six months after being installed, if you haven’t gotten your CO yet. But the purpose there is that’s a new product. Once you’ve gone past the new product stage of installation, you’re migrating into the forensic realm, and you have to use the AAMA 511 standard to test if there’s any leaks for that product. So, let’s kind of tie that together so it makes more sense.

So, if you install a new product, you have to use AAMA 502 to test it according to the required pressure for that particular product. If it fails, then you would correct whatever the failure is. And assuming that minor correction that you’d make, maybe it’s just adjusting the window or whatever, and it passes and you get your CO, after that date, if leakage occurs in that same product, it would become a forensic evaluation because it’s gotten CO or its past six months page. Let’s say that the window was installed a couple years ago, obviously, it’s past its six months and gotten its CO. So, now you’re starting with AAMA 511 to begin with.

Will: The six months is…

Bret: Yeah, cutoff date.

Will: The cutoff date. Okay. All right.

Bret: Yeah, that’s the cutoff date provided by the standard 502. So, if someone where to test an existing window that already passed the six months cutoff or gotten its CO, and they use that 502 standard, and test it to its newly installed field, water-resistive pressure, that would be an improper proper application, and they may be creating a new leak versus recreating leakage that’s occurred in the field. So that’s why AAMA 511 is important because it gives you the criteria that you need in order to evaluate the conditions in the field that created the leak, and then use that standard to test and rediscover or recreate the leakage.

Will: Okay. How about…I see this happen often is somebody goes out there with a garden hose and a spray nozzle, puts it on windows or whatever, is that appropriate?

Bret: Yeah, those are not appropriate on operable windows. They could be used as diagnostic tools but not an operable window. And that could create a new leak in an operable assembly.

Will: Okay. So, that gets back to what we were talking about earlier, when you were saying recreating leaks versus here we’re making a new leak. And, you know, there’s a paragraph in ASTM 2128, in Section 10 of that document that I always think is quite interesting. It says, “Creating new leaks during testing may be useful information, but it is not a valid assessment of the existing leakage problem.” So, basically, that’s saying you can go out there and test. And if you look at 2128, it lists out several different testing methods. But it’s basically telling you that unless you recreate the leakage, anything else is really of not a much value because you’re making leakage occur that would not normally occur, and your objective should be out there to find what’s going on by recreating the leaks, right?

Bret: Correct.

Will: Okay. And then another thing that I’ve often found is, in 2128, which is kind of telling about this whole issue is, in one of the appendixes to that document which deals specifically with windows and doors, it states, “Make a careful distinction between leaks caused by windows or glass metal curtain wall systems and leaks that originate from other wall components that appear to be window or curtain wall leaks on the interior.” Windows are often wrongfully blamed for leaks because the interior symptom of a leak appears at a window even though the cause is elsewhere. This gets back to what we were talking about earlier. You might find water on the floor. It could be right below a window. But unless you do the testing properly, you’re not going to know whether it was a window or a flashing defect or a sealant defect or what the defect is. Is that right?

Bret: Or a combination of all those.

Will: Or a combination of all. That’s right. So, I guess what we’ve talked about here are various aspects of testing and how to use those in a litigation. And I guess these are just some examples. Getting back then to, we talked briefly about isolation, explain that a little bit more detail.

Bret: So, that could also be used inappropriately, or, typically, it’s not done at all. And that would be the appropriate part because you’re not making sure that you’re testing recreates the leakage, then you could have several different entry points that apply to different components of the wall construction. And you’re not defining why the water’s coming in and where the water is coming in. So, the lack of or improper use of isolation would be another inappropriate testing method.

Will: Yeah, that’s all true. And another thing that I see happen quite often is people use improper pressure differentials. And what I mean by that is, we talked about the need to recreate leakage at the conditions which have occurred in a forensic evaluation. And oftentimes, we’ll see a firm go out and want to do water testing based upon performance standards when the windows were brand new, or they just totally ignore the weather conditions that have been known to occur. And they test it at weather conditions that far exceed anything that’s ever been experienced at the project site and they create leakage, which again, is leakage that is not representative of what’s been known to happen.

Bret: That’s right. And sometimes, if the pressure that has occurred in the field and you’re trying to go back to that wind event, if it exceeds the product capability, then you’re supposed to go back and test at lower pressures before you test it to higher pressure to demonstrate that wind event did exceed the capacity of that window, and they don’t necessarily do that. So yeah, those are some good examples of how consultants, you know, fail to comply with the recommended guidelines, and the results just weren’t good for their client.

Will: Right. And I think we’ve seen several cases where either a plaintiff or defendant ends up spending a lot of money chasing a case by hiring an investigator and consulted firm, and then they see that money go to waste because of the failure to execute an investigation that’s in general conformance with the published guidelines.

Bret: That’s right. So, I’ll summarize, the litigation matters where water leakage is alleged and requires some pretty much a methodical investigation. You’ve got to follow the guidelines, at least the spirit of the guidelines, which is the majority of them. There’s some flexibility in utilizing the guidelines given your unique situation in the field, but you have to follow the spirit, and have a reproducible testing and trace the leakage that describe the type of investigation. So, that testing differs from the testing that’s used in new construction in that thing. A lot of people aren’t necessarily aware of that, and that’s what makes the difference between forensic testing and new construction testing.

Will: Right. And failure of a consultant firm to do an investigation or perform their work in a manner that generally complies with these guidelines ends up placing their client’s case in jeopardy.

Bret: That can happen, absolutely. Well, Will, that was fun. I enjoyed the talk today. I appreciate it, big issue, and that’s something that we here at GCI deal with every day. I’d like to thank everyone that’s listening on the call today. If you want more information about GCI consultants, we’ve got some videos and things like this podcast on our website that show water leakage testing. You can find that at www.gciconsultants.com. And that’s consultants with an S. If you’ve got some specific problems that you’d like to talk about, you can reach out to us today at 877-740-9990. And again, that’s 877-740-9990. Thanks again, everybody. I look forward to talking with you next time in the future on “Everything Building Envelope.”

Hurricane Information and Recovery Procedures

Paul Beers – GCI Consultants

Podcast - Hurricane Information and Recovery Procedures

  • Hurricanes in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
  • GCI’s Prior Involvement with Claims
  • Maria Rivera & Paul Build a Team
  • Recent Hurricanes & Damages
  • Water Leakage & Remediation
  • Pre-Inspections of Buildings
  • Glazing Inspections & Reporting
  • Water Leakage Investigations
  • Litigation Consulting

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the “Everything Building Envelope Podcast.” This is Paul Beers, and I’m happy to say it’s two in a row for me after a long absence. So it’s good to be back doing these. And thank you for tuning in to listen. I’m recording this, it is October of 2019. We’re at the peak part of hurricane season, but still, there’s three disturbances out there. And so this month is our hurricane theme and that’s exactly what I’m gonna talk about. And I’ve been wanting to do this for a while because there’s a lot that has gone on since the recent hurricanes for 2016, ’17, and ’18. 2019 is not over yet, but so far, it looks good like maybe we won’t have one this year hit the U.S. So, I just wanna share what we’ve been doing and what some of our experiences are. I hope you’ll find it interesting. And it all began with… Well, it began with Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that hit Daytona Beach area mainly. And then in 2017, we had a big one, Hurricane Irma, which basically got the Keys, Marco Island, Naples, and most of the rest of the state. And then a year later, Hurricane Michael, which was a category five storm, hit the Florida Panhandle. So needless to say there was like an eight-year vacation between storms in Florida, but they’ve now seemed to have come back with a vengeance.

And I look at what we were doing back in, after the storms of 2004 and 2005 we never really got involved with the claim part of that until 2008, ’09, and ’10. So there have been, several years have gone by where people were filing claims and trying to get them resolved and whatnot. And then, I guess the ones that weren’t resolved ended up with public adjusters and attorneys. And we worked on, you know, over 200 claims back then. So, when Irma hit, it was a big deal. It was a very strong storm, it impacted a wide area. My expectations were that there would be a lag until we, GCI would get involved in working on claims. Of course, there’s always a bunch of first responder things that we do with buildings leaking and damage and things like that. But from the insurance claim perspective, I expected it to be a bit of a lag before it started. Let me tell you, that was not the case. It started fast and furious, almost within weeks, and it probably could have even started faster, but I just wasn’t expecting it. And I visited some of the clients that we had worked with in the earlier storms and they were just going crazy with new assignments and folks that needed help with the insurance claim. So it seemed to be a different mindset this time around, where people were hiring adjusters and attorneys, right from the start, as opposed to the lag that happened…at least from what where I sat, the lag that happened the first time around.

So we very quickly we’re out in the field assessing damage for clients, and we’ll talk more about that later. But we were doing inspections and basically saying, “Yeah, this looks like damage or no, it doesn’t.” And what we’re talking about here is windows and doors, which is what the big interest was. So really quickly we were involved with a lot of damaged buildings or losses as they call them in the industry. And what was interesting was the last time around ’04, ’05, we’re in the middle of the Great Recession, the financial crisis, all that. And we were honestly looking for things to do, because the construction market that we’re so heavy in didn’t, exist anymore. And, you know, the labor market was wide open, we could hire overqualified people at will. Well, this time, we were super busy, to begin with, when this happened. We were fully engaged, we had a lot of work going on. The team was very busy, including some people that were hired back the first time around in the hurricanes of ’04 and ’05. So there was no resources available internally at GCI to just start working on these claims. Maria Rivera and I took it on in the very beginning. Maria is the head of our hurricane program. She’s doing a great job, and I know many of the listeners probably have interacted with and know her. And she and I were out in Marco and Naples early on looking at buildings, and getting assignments, basically, because there was so much damage over there. And we didn’t have any team to work with, basically. So we had to build the team. We had to hire inspectors, we had to hire office personnel report people, we had to refine our process. It was the same process we used the first time around. But 10 years later, of course, the technology was so much better. We had to build that up and basically start from scratch. And we were going 100 miles an hour when we started.

So it was really interesting. I’ve often said I could write a book just about that part of it, about what we had to do, and we did it. Not that there weren’t some bumps in the road, but we did it and we did it well and here we are. And that’s why I disappeared from the podcast scene for a couple of years, by the way. But it’s all good, and I wanna share some of our experiences. So before we do that, let’s just briefly talk about the recent hurricanes. As I said before, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew went up the entire coast, east coast of Florida, scared everybody. I remember being… My house is in Palm Beach Gardens and I remember it was supposed to hit there and it didn’t. That’s a theme we’re gonna talk about again, I think. And it did get very close to the coast of Daytona Beach. And Daytona Beach has a lot of high rise buildings right on the ocean, some of them are older, and there was significant damage in that area. And you know, also south of that, New Smyrna Beach, Melbourne and north of it up to St. Augustine and Jacksonville were probably more fringe areas, but they had some as well. So Matthew, we probably worked on 10 or 20 assignments that time, so a little bit of a warm-up. Then in 2017, first we had Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were some big winds with Harvey in Corpus Christi and even into southern parts of Houston, and I think even downtown Houston. But it stopped and it rained, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained and it was a big-time flood event. And we’ve worked on some losses in Houston area following Harvey, mainly water leakage issues, some wind though too.

Then along comes Irma, which is what really got this whole thing going gangbusters. That was in September of 2017. It was a category four through the Florida Keys, category three through Marco Island and Naples and then went right up through the middle of the state and didn’t leave a lot of areas untouched. There was a lot of damage on the East Coast, winds were generally hurricane force and gusts being up into the 90s and 100s a lot. It was a water leakage extravaganza because it was moving so slow. It was the wettest storm I’ve ever seen. Every building I’ll tell you on the east coast of Florida and southwest Florida leaked that was a tall building on the ocean. If people tell you they didn’t have any leaks, I would have to really seriously wonder if that was the case, or maybe they just didn’t see, it wasn’t major. But some buildings had horrible amounts of water in them to the point that they had…you know, people had to move out. There was major remediation. Everywhere I went for the first six months I would go into a building and the drywall would be removed about halfway up the wall all throughout the building, even interior corridors and whatnot because so much water came in, it was under remediation. Around the same time as Irma was Hurricane Maria. You notice the name, Irma starts with an I and Maria starts with an M, so it formed after Irma. But Hurricane Maria got the Virgin Islands and, and Irma I think might have got the Virgin Islands too and Puerto Rico. So Puerto Rico was badly damaged. It was a category four went made landfall there. San Juan didn’t get the cat four conditions but got high winds, and then the interior of the country, some really bad stuff. And we’ve been over there, we’ve done a few projects there. And we’ve looked at others and it was, you know, it was a catastrophe. I think that would be the only way to describe it.

And then there was Michael in 2018. So Michael was in October. We’re in October now. If this was a year ago, Michael hadn’t even occurred. And it was a storm in the Gulf and it was a category one, no big deal. Well, every hurricane is a big deal, but didn’t seem like was gonna be a catastrophic event. There weren’t really any predictions that it was gonna intensify to the level that it ultimately did. But as it approached land, it did start to intensify, and it kept intensifying. And by the time it made landfall in Mexico Beach, which is near Panama City, it was…at the time they said category four, but they’ve since updated that to it was a category five storm. Obviously the damage was catastrophic. It went inland, it got a place called Lynn Haven and also Panama City. And it was tremendous damage. It was a smaller storm than Irma, much smaller and moving faster. So it was different characteristics, but the intensity was really pretty crazy. And I remember seeing it for the first time when I had gotten into Panama City at night, everything was dark, I staying up by the beach. And then the next morning, I went into Panama City to look at a project, I drove over a big bridge that you cross before you get there, and it looked like a bomb went off. I mean, oh my goodness. I’ve seen a lot of Hurricane damage and that was right up there with anything I’ve ever seen. And the storm was, you know, the really big damage was confined to…the big damage being buildings collapsed and, you know, roofs gone and things like that, was confined to a relatively narrow swathe, maybe 40 miles across. Now the fringe areas which got all the condos along the beach and whatnot, and still had very high winds was much, much greater area. But Michael was really something else.

And then here we are in 2019, everybody remembers Hurricane Dorian, and I think they scared 20 million people that, up and down the East Coast of the U.S. that it was gonna be so terrible. And that was another one, it was cat four, maybe cat five and the line five days before, which didn’t turn up to be five days before anyway was pointing right at my house in Palm Beach Gardens. So, yes, I was paying attention to that. It ended up stalling over the Bahamas and I just cannot imagine what would have happened there or what did happen. I mean, I knew it was gonna be terrible. And 185 miles an hour sustained winds when it made landfall in the eastern Bahamas with gusts at 225 miles an hour, and then it stalled. And it was there for days. It got Marsh harbor really, really, really badly damaged, devastated, and it moved into Grand Bahama Island and Freeport, and it was just terrible. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the folks there that had to go through that. It’s just unimaginable that they would be in these conditions for days and days. We’ve all seen the news, really bad. And then it went up the east coast of Florida and passed South Carolina, and North Carolina, like it couldn’t have gotten much closer. And basically, there was not a lot of big winds. There was rain and things like that, but from doomsday to non-event is how I would have characterized Dorian.

So, anyway. We’ve been working on all this stuff. What do we do when we get a claim? I’d like to review that with you a little bit and then talk about what we’ve seen following some of these storms. So the first thing that we do, we call it pre-inspection. And what that means is, if somebody contacts us and says they have a possible assignment for us… And generally, the people that are contacting us are property owners, public adjusters who represent property owners, or attorneys who specialize in insurance claims and also represent property owners. We occasionally do work for insurance carriers, but generally in these hurricanes, particularly in Florida, we seem to generally end up on the property owner, public adjuster, insurance attorney side. So what we do when a call comes in is we wanna go out, me as the expert or we as a company or other experts that work for us, we wanna go out and take a look and see what’s going on. So we do the entire exterior building envelope, windows, doors, glass, exterior facades, which would be the outside walls of the building and roofs. The vast majority of the requests we get are windows and doors because that’s a specialty that we have and there’s really not others that do it as well as we do. So we go out and what I wanna do is I wanna go take a look, I wanna kick the tires so to speak. So the first thing we do after we get a call is we do planning and scheduling. We gather information about the project, we schedule a site visit, and we review the process of what’s gonna happen when the pre-inspection does occur with the property manager, board members, whoever’s gonna be in charge, or maybe an adjuster and an attorney will meet us out there.

The actual pre-inspection, we wanna inspect four units, I say three to four generally that are… And we don’t ask for the worst stuff we just wanna see typical conditions. In fact, if I had my druthers, I’d wanna see the worst unit and then I’d wanna see what they consider one that doesn’t have any damage, because a lot of times the damage to windows and doors is discreet. And the average building owner may not think it’s damaged but actually sometimes they are. So we go out, we go into these units, conduct a walk around visual inspection. And generally, I just look at key areas on windows and doors where if there was damage where it would show up. And I document the findings with digital images. Actually, the technology is so great today with phones, I use my cell phone and it takes really great pictures. So at that point, I make a go, no go decision. And we have plenty of times that we say, “No, I’m sorry. We don’t think that this is something we can help you with, because I just honestly don’t see the damage that would be worthy of being part of a hurricane claim.” But lots of them do have damage, especially if you’re going to areas that had the big winds, which typically we are. And once we’ve gathered everything up, we prepare a pre-inspection report we call it. And it’s got examples of the pictures that I took and what the damage is. And generally makes recommendations and usually, you know, the report will say something to the effect of, “I found damage that’s indicative of wind storm damage to the windows and doors.” And we’ll submit a proposal with the pre-inspection report to go back in and inspect everything, basically. And at that point, if the proposal gets accepted, then we move into the next phase, which is the inspection and report process. So what we do with inspection and reports is we gather more relevant information about the building and the onsite people that we’re gonna be working with. At this point, we’re looking for site plans, floor plans, photographs, any original documents, if they have original blueprints from when the building was built, which oftentimes they don’t. Anything like that we wanna get our hands on, and we go about setting up the project digitally.

So we set up the floor plans and the window elevations digitally. We use a program called Blue Beam, which is a PDF review program, and we then get into the planning and coordination of actually doing the inspection. So we confirm… Once we’ve got it set up digitally, we’re gonna go out to the building, we’re gonna confirm all the layouts are correct, and everything is where it says it was on the plans we were provided. Sometimes, particularly buildings that are older, there’s been changes, and they’re not always accurate, so we go check that out,make sure it’s accurate. We’re calling this onboarding and we meet with the property management folks or the property owners. We basically tell them what to expect, what’s coming, what we’re gonna do, and try to get on the same page so that we can all work together to have a very successful inspection. And success is defined by getting in and out as fast as possible while being able to get a high quality of observations and being very thorough. So when the inspectors go out there to do the inspection that we need escorts with us, so that could be security guards, that could be property owners, it could be representatives of the attorney or the adjusting firm. But somebody’s gotta get everything organized, get us into the units and be with us while we’re in the units just to make sure everything is going well and that there aren’t any issues. If we really have things going our way, the property owner will help move furniture and open window blinds and things like that. Anything like that always helps move things along faster and ultimately results in a lower fee. We document all of our findings with digital images, and at this point, we’re using iPads. So the iPads have Blue Beam for iPad on it, and we’ve got the floor plans and the window elevations digitized. And we’ve got a list of typical damages, what we call keynotes. So we drag the keynote right onto the page of each particular window, and we take a picture of any damage observation. So a big building can actually have thousands of pictures because if it’s repetitious damage, there could literally be thousands of instances of damage. It’s not at all unusual.

Once we’ve collected the data, it then goes in for what we call quality control. So the office goes through it and just make sure that everything is laid out properly on the page, and that the inspectors called the damage by the right name, just things like that. And then once that’s all done, then the expert, me or somebody else, will review it all and basically look at every single picture, not a lot of fun, but that’s what we do. We look at every single picture, and we make sure that whatever is in the report is accurate and representative of damage that occurred during the storm in question. We also author what we call a front page, which is basically the introduction and it lays out the scope of what we do and how we do it, and has photos of representative damage, and then sometimes makes recommendations, how to correct the damage. So for the scope of our inspection is that it’s a limited, non-invasive walk around inspection, and we wanna look at every accessible window and door in the building. Usually, that doesn’t work. Usually there’s gonna be a unit maybe where they don’t have a key, or maybe we’ll go into some units and do the furniture placements and window treatments that can’t get opened and t,here are some windows usually that we aren’t able to inspect. But, you know, we’re going for 90 percentile 90 or higher. Sometimes we get 100%. The more the better. Our damage evaluation is based on an insurance policy, not an expert judgment. So there’s expert judgment involved, but the standard for how we evaluate is based upon the insurance policy which says, which is insuring the building and the windows and doors for damage. And damage, if it occurs, then it needs to be repaired to what they call the pre-existing condition or the condition it was in before the storm. And there’s different strategies for having that happen once you spot the damage. But basically, you know oversimplification is you’re either gonna repair the window and door or if it can’t be repaired, you’re gonna replace it. And replace it obviously might make it better than the pre-existing condition, but the obligation is to restore it to its pre-existing condition or better.

So, a lot of times with older windows, you got 30-year-old windows and doors, almost 100% of the time the window company is long gone, out of business. And if you’ve got a need for parts aside from hardware, wheels and locks and things like that, you can still get in the aftermarket. But if you’ve got actual window frame members or glass stops that hold the glass in, things like that, you can’t get them anymore, or if you can, they’re gonna stick out and be really ugly because they’re gonna be a different color, everything else is worn, then we end up replacing the window or door. So, what did we find? We’ve done all these inspections. And right now, our pre-inspection list is pushing 900 jobs that we’ve looked at. And we probably inspected ,I don’t know, 400, maybe half that many. Not everyone becomes an inspection. We do a pre-inspection, of course. And what we found is this time around… Well first, I wanna say there’s a difference from when we did the hurricanes of ’04 and ’05. A lot of buildings have a combination of old windows and new windows in them. Old windows being non-impact, new windows being impacts. In the mid-’90s’ most of the codes in Florida were changed and impact-rated assemblies were required in coastal areas. And so most buildings, the unit owner is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of windows and doors, and that includes replacing them if they feel that’s necessary. The caveat here is that with a catastrophe, the building insures all the windows and doors on behalf of the unit owner. So while they’re responsible for them under normal circumstances, when there’s a catastrophe, then the condo association generally takes over. That’s in a condominium of course.

So what we see a lot of times is a building where half of the windows in the building are the older original windows that were installed when the building was built, and then the other half are newer ones that unit owners have replaced along the way. I spoke earlier about the water leakage. There was a lot of water leakage, wasn’t discriminate with older or newer windows. You get these high winds that, the windows are rated to a certain level, and when you have 100-mile-an-hour winds let’s make up a number. That exceeds basically the rating or the capacity of any operable window. So a few leaks during the storm, not necessarily hurricane-damaged by the way. But if the window or door is damaged during the storm, and that contributed to the leakage and that’s causing it to continue to leak after the storm where it didn’t leak before, then that’s an issue that’s tied into the insurance policy. And there was a tremendous amount of that going on. The third thing that’s really interesting is storm shutters. So we see a lot of storm shutters. And my opinion of storm shutters right now is that they basically don’t do anything for you. They don’t help in any way except flying debris. When you look at a 20-story condo on the beach, there’s no flying debris. So they’re in place. And what we saw in Naples and Marco, multiple times, was the shutters were intact, and the windows blew in behind the shutter. So shutter is fine, it doesn’t look damaged. Window is lying on the ground inside the unit. The other thing is they really don’t do anything to stop water leakage either. So they’re not airtight, the air pressure bleeds through them. And then they kind of act as a pendulum, the shutters and the windows are moving tremendously during the storm. The Hurricane effects, by the way, are high winds and cyclic wind gusts on top of that. So you have a very strong wind, hurricane force, pushing on the window and door and shutter if it’s there, bending it, they bend, they’re designed to bend, that’s okay. If they bend and they don’t break, that’s good. But not only that, you’ve got cyclic wind gusts on top of the wind pressure, and it basically causes them to vibrate in and out with the big load on, and then additional loads. So the gusts are always higher, just by definition, than the sustained winds of the storm.

So what did we see? We saw… First of all, I wanna say, you know, I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I was very involved after Hurricane Andrew, which was the first big catastrophic event that I saw and I think a lot of people saw. And it resulted in new building codes. I’m one of the inventors of the tests that was done with that code. You’ve probably seen the flying two by fours on television. And that was all developed and I was a big part of that after Hurricane Andrew. But I have to tell you, since Andrew, Irma, I had never seen so many blown out windows and doors until Irma came in Marco Island and Naples and the Keys. And it was spectacular kind of blowouts where the window would blow out fly across the room and smash a flat screen TV lying on the wall across the room. So tremendous amount of blown out windows and doors, broken glass, impact damage. And that’s what I call obvious damage. And that’s something you’re not gonna likely get an argument from your insurance company about. They generally will acknowledge when something is…evacuate the opening. Sometimes they wanna put it back in, which is kind of silly, but that’s just the position they take. Then with the argument that the insurance company generally comes in is what I would call the not as obvious damage. So I’ve got what I call the big four. So the big four is damage to window and door frame joints, where we have two pieces of metal coming together. Think about a sliding glass door, you’ve got metal all around a piece of glass that rolls in the opening. Well, where the vertical and the horizontal pieces come together, that gets stress because the connections can be old or maybe just not as strong as everything else. And again, you’re putting these loads on it, these high wind loads that are bending it, and then you’ve got the vibration from the pressure cycle. So we see a tremendous amount of frame joint damage. I did an insurance appraisal hearing, insurance appraisal hearing which I’ll talk about later, that’s how they determine insurance company versus property owner, who wins, and we had 2,000 pictures of frame joint damage on one project.

Another thing that we see a lot of is glass stop damage. A glass stop is a piece of metal that holds the glass in place. So when the windows are manufactured, the glass is set into the frame, and then it’s gotta be fastened in somehow. So there’s sealant that seals it to the frame, and then there’s usually a piece of metal that snaps in place that’s called a glass stop that secures it in the frame. And a lot of times we’ll have vinyl or something, rubber gaskets too also to keep the glass stop from touching the glass. Third, not as obvious damage that we see is called frame movement. And that’s where you see cracking between the frame and the building either on the inside or the outside or both. And that’s indicative of all those high loads and cyclic wind gusts, basically damaging the attachments of the frame to the screws that hold it into the structure. And when you get frame movement, there’s another issue and that one’s really hard to deal with because you can’t see what’s going on inside the wall unless you take the window out. And almost every single time if you try to take the window out, it’s not going back in because it’s been damaged, it’s old, just the fact…even without a hurricane, just the process of removing it and reinstalling it would cause damage. The fourth, not as obvious, although I should say sometimes it’s very obvious depending on what you see around the window opening, is water damage. And water damage is very prevalent in every storm. And again, leakage during the storm isn’t necessarily damage, but leakage after the storm caused by damage to the windows or doors is definitely in play with the insurance policy. And we call it…we say that the water is coming in through openings formed by the storm. So I’ve added a fifth item to my big four after Panama City experience, and that’s insulated glass failure. So insulated glass is something you don’t see so much of it in South Florida and the further north you go you see more and more of it. But insulated glass is a very common architectural product. It’s two pieces of glass with a sealed airspace in between, and you’ve got these throughout the U.S. and throughout the world. And they basically are good for lower temperatures. Like, if you don’t have insulated glass in the Panhandle, in the winter when it gets cold out and you’re heating up inside spaces, you’re gonna get a lot of condensation on the inside surfaces. So it’s very popular, and even now with the new energy requirements and the code, it’s mandated basically throughout the entire state, not 100%, but basically it is.

So what happens with these insulated glass units is if the sealed airspace loses its seal, then moisture accumulates inside between the two pieces of glass. You get dirt, dust, things like that, and eventually, you can’t even see out through the glass. So imagine this, this storm with high winds pushing on the glass bending it, and then you’ve got the cyclic wind pressure rallying it in and out, there’s a tremendous opportunity for insulated glass seal failure. It doesn’t show up right away all the time. We do have a test to check to see if the seal has failed or not, which I’m about to talk about. But that’s the fifth item I’ve added into the big four. So again, the big four are frame joint damage, glass stop damage, frame movement, and water damage. And then the fifth is insulated glass seal failure.

So, other ways that we investigate hurricane damage, aside from the non-invasive walk-around visual inspection, is to do a water leakage investigation. So water damage and continuing leakage big, big issue with these storm, and we do what we call a water leakage investigation. And we use a standard…it’s ASTM, which is a consensus standards organization that, really, so many things are ASTM rated, carpeting, tile, lots of stuff. And they’re a big part of the window and door testing and certification as well. And also, an organization called AAMA, the American Architectural Manufacturing Association, also very involved with consensus standards. So ASTM E2128 provideds, basically, it’s a guide for how to conduct a water leakage evaluation. So the first part of it is information gathering. You’re gonna review project documents and evaluate the design concept. So if you can get drawings and details and things like that that the building may have from construction, you wanna get all that. Sometimes you can’t so you’ve gotta basically do an analysis without it. And you evaluate how everything works. If you’ve got a sliding glass door, for instance, the way they work is when they get hit with wind driven rain, the water is supposed to go down into the track of the sliding glass door assembly and then drain to the outside. And when they leak, normally, you’ll have issues such as the tracks lost a seal at the corners where the vertical and horizontal members come together, at screw penetrations that are through the track, they’re typically sealed. But again, you’ve got all this movement occurring during a hurricane and you can lose a seal there. You’ve got weather strippings that are not aligned anymore, you’ve got sealants that fail. So there’s a lot of things that can go on. And you need to understand how these assemblies work in order to be able to diagnose what’s going on. We also look at the service history. So if the building has any maintenance records, sometimes they do sometimes they don’t. In condominiums, they often don’t because the unit owners are responsible. So if the building doesn’t, we interview people at the project, property managers and board members, unit owners, whatnot. You know, we wanna find out, “What was it like before the storm? Were there any problems, and if there were, were they widespread? And what’s it like now?” And if they’re telling us, you know, “We didn’t have any problems before the storm, or maybe we had a few problems, but nothing serious and now everything’s leaking, and it ties right into the storm event then that’s obviously some valuable information that you wanna consider as well.

Once we’ve done all that, we may and often do elect to do investigative testing. So we do what we call diagnostic water infiltration testing. We use an ASTM test method there as well, ASTM E1105. And basically, it simulates the conditions of a wind-driven rainstorm. We spray water on the outside of the assembly from a uniform spray rack. It’s not a fire hose, it’s not high pressure, it’s just a spray of water that’s calibrated to a certain level by the ASTM test method requirements. And then on the inside, we vacuum air from the inside, and we do it at a measured rate so we can simulate wind conditions. So we’re pulling from outside to inside and we’re spraying water. It’s the same thing as a wind-driven rainstorm. When do these investigations, do we test to the hurricane level? No, we don’t do that. We’re not trying to recreate the hurricane. What we’re trying to do or what we are doing is we’re recreating normal weather conditions that might occur at the project, not tropical storm or hurricane conditions. So we research weather records from a nearby weather station for a year or prior to the date that we’re doing the test to the date that we’re setting up the test. And we’d look for days with high winds and rain. Usually, we’re gonna find stuff in Florida in the 30, 40-mile-an-hour wind range and rain. It’s the summer thunderstorm typically, sometimes a frontal passage in the winter. And that’s what we test. We wanna know how these assemblies are performing under normal weather conditions. We actually run the test with no wind pressure first because we got it all set up. And many, many times if they’re damaged they’ll leak with no wind pressure, but if they don’t then we put the wind on and we see what happens.

Once we complete that, we analyze the results, we prepare a pre-comprehensive report with photographs, and we take video and we really got good information. Also for the testing, we’ll often remove interior wall finishes so that we can see not only if water is coming in through the window, but is it leaking into the wall. Now, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “Oh-oh. I don’t want them cutting my walls up,” it’s a necessary part of the investigation. We always make arrangements to have a quality contractor involved that can remove window treatments, provide protection to the interior of the unit for protection, cover all the furniture with tarps and plastic and whatnot. And then they remove the drywall in a very neat and orderly fashion. And then, of course, when the testing is over, they put everything back. And the goal and the objective and what we accomplish is it looks as good or better than before we ever did the testing. So water leakage investigations are another piece of the puzzle. We’ve done the visual inspection, we’ve done the water leak investigation. We talked about insulated glass seal failure. We have a procedure for that that we call frost point testing. So frost point testing, we have a device that we put on the glass and it’s got dry ice in it, and it’s able to lower the temperature inside the air space between the two pieces of the glass to a very low temperature. What we try to use is the lowest temperature on record in the given area that we’re testing for the first phase of it, and then the second part, we take it down to zero. We could take it to minus 100 if we want to, but we don’t do that. We try to, again, use conditions that may or could occur at the sites. So, in Panama City, I don’t know what the number is, it’s probably 10 degrees is the record low or maybe give or take a little bit, and that’s what we use. Now, we’ve taken the temperature and the airspace down to 10 degrees. If the seal has failed, there’s moisture between the glass and ice forms in between the air space where we’ve put the device on the glass unit. And that’s an indication of seal failure. So even though the thing hasn’t fogged up yet, even hasn’t clouded up, we can do this test to determine if seal failure has occurred, and depending on other observations with the windows and doors, we can then further give an opinion or not that the storm caused or contributed to this failure.

Another thing that we do sometimes, an additional investigation beyond water leakage investigations and frost point tests, is take things apart and see what’s going on, destructive analysis. So we don’t do this a lot, but sometimes we do. And we’re looking for hidden and internal damages. Sometimes we do it to test repair hypotheses. We also produce repair protocol. So we may have a job where they’ve got a lot of, say newer windows that they have a lot of water leakage and the water leakage is still occurring. So maybe internal seals have been damaged, weather strippings have been crushed things like that. Newer doors, sometimes it’s possible to do a repair. So we may go through a building that’s got half old doors and half newer doors, and we’ll recommend to replace all the older doors and windows. Because you can’t get parts and you can’t fix them, you know, they’re basically not in good shape, to begin with. But they were insured and there is an obligation to restore them to their pre-loss condition. And then the other half of the doors might be newer impact doors, and we’ll develop a repair protocol for those. So every job is different, and that’s why you have experts and expert judgment. You hire somebody like GCI Consultants to do the analysis because we can sort out what needs to be done to get things back where they need to be. So we’ve done all this, you’re probably wondering what happens with these insurance claims. Well, one outcome could be that all the information is submitted to the insurance company, the reports and the cost estimates and things like that, and they pay it. I can tell you, that doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s possible. Another outcome is that there would be some negotiations and there would be a negotiated settlement between the insurance company and the property owner or the property owner’s representatives. When those two things don’t happen, then it’s headed into some form of dispute resolution. So what’s unique to insurance policies, and you see a lot of this going on, is what’s called an appraisal hearing.

So an appraisal hearing generally, will be each side presenting their damages. The insurance company appoints an appraiser and the property owner appoints an appraiser. And then the third person on the panel is a neutral, often called an umpire, who’s either an insurance industry professional, a contractor, and a lot of times a retired judge. So the two appraisers present all their portions of the claim…well, both, actually the property owner presents the claim, and the insurance company either agrees or disagrees with it. Many times experts are involved. I’ve been doing a lot of appraisal hearings lately and the calendar is booked up going forward. So a lot of times there is expert testimony. And so what I see typically being done is experts will go in, give a presentation. I like to use PowerPoints and visuals, videos, things like that. And then the experts, pro and con, insurance company and property owner, will walk into some…inspect the property basically, typical units, things like that with the two appraisers and the umpire. And it’s not like courtrooms or deposition or anything like that, it’s more informal and there’s a back and forth. But ultimately, what the appraisers try to agree on as much…the insurance company appraiser and the property owner appraiser try to agree on as much as they can. What they can’t agree on the umpire rules on and his ruling is binding. So that’s probably a lot of the way these go. But if they don’t go to appraisal, sometimes they go to either arbitration, which again, is usually a panel. And the one the arbitration that I’ve done for Irma, the panel consisted of somebody the insurance company appointed, somebody the property owner appointed, and a neutral. And there, there were lawyers involved and we had a hearing. It was like a three or four-day hearing. And there, was expert testimony…testimony in general, and also expert, in fact, witness testimony just like a regular courtroom trial. And this was in a hotel conference room. And after all of the testimony was heard by the arbitration pane,l they met the next day. They made their ruling. And by agreement on this particular one, I don’t know that they’re all like this, there was no appeal there either. It was a binding arbitration.

The other way to go, which is always the one that gives everybody the most apprehension, is courtroom trial. So courtroom trial, I’ve done a lot of them so far. This time around I’ve only done one, a trial in federal court in Miami, from Irma. So it can be federal court or it could also be Circuit Court, which is generally county by county. But federal is not unusual in these things because the insurance companies are typically from out of state. They’re not Florida registered all the time. So a trial is, it is what it is. It’s depositions, it’s called discovery. So you write reports, you exchange information. There’s depositions where the attorneys asked all the witnesses fact and experts questions. Sometimes there’s challenges to qualifications of experts and whatnot. And then there’s a trial with a jury. And when that’s over, the jury renders a verdict, and oftentimes those get appealed. So that’s the way these… The possible outcomes are insurance company pays, insurance company and property owner negotiate, appraisal hearing, arbitration hearing, or trial.

So we’re in the phase now where… There’s a three year limit on filing insurance claims. So with Matthew, it’s over. With Irma… This is in Florida too, by the way, because in Texas with Hurricane Harvey the limit was two years. But in Florida with Irma, which was the big, large geographic area, claims are still being filed and will be filed until sometime in September. I’m trying to remember, I think was September 17th. No, September 10th. September 10th of 2020 will be the limit on filing claims. That doesn’t mean they all get resolved by then either. That’s just have to file it. Then there’s typically a long duration until disputed claims are resolved. The last two weeks in a row I’ve done appraisal hearings in Daytona Beach, and those were Hurricane Matthew claims. And Hurricane Matthew was…I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in 2016 during hurricane season, August, September, probably somewhere in there. Here we are over three years later finally starting to get some of them resolved. So it’s very frustrating to everybody involved that it takes so long. The property owners, especially, they have to put up with a lot, and it takes a long time until they finally get their day in court, so to speak. And that could be an appraisal hearing too just, that’s just a figure of speech. So I’ve thought about this, is there a better way to do this? I mean, it just seems so cumbersome, so confrontational, stress, anxiety, angst, and lots of money at stake. I’ve wondered, why don’t we go in before these storms and assess the buildings and really establish a baseline for what they’re gonna be like? Maybe agree on what the definition of damage is up front. Seems to me that then everybody could plan accordingly, buildings could upgrade if they were advised as such, and insurance companies could have a better expectation on what the potential damage is, maybe have an opportunity to provide better pricing for their customers.

So it’s not the way it’s done. And in fact, I’m reaching out…right here. I’m reaching out across the aisle to, if there’s any insurance company folks listening, they wanna talk about this further, let me know. I’m happy to sit down and try and see if we can come up with a better model. But right now, it’s basically us against them. It’s confrontational and it’s just what we do. So it’s been a really interesting two, three years since I really got into this, two-plus years, I guess I would say. The whole thing with my company from a business perspective of starting out at 100 miles an hour with no resources and rallying to meet the demand. And now, you know, there’s so many of these things that didn’t get resolved and are coming around in appraisals and in other forms of final judgment, and there’s a lot of work that goes into that. So that’s basically what I’ve really been wanting to share. So I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

And I want to just tell you a little bit more about our company, GCI Consultants. So if you’re wondering, what else do we do? I told you we were super busy. So we do expert witness work, litigation, construction defects, things like that. And we’ve been doing that, by the way, since 1988, when I formed the company. So we’ve got a lot of experience with that. We actually work with insurance companies that represent building owners. Well, not building owners so much. Well, building owners, contractors, architects, engineers, so we do a lot of that kind of work. We also do forensic and water leakage investigation. So what’s the difference between what I just told you? The difference here is maybe the building is not in litigation, maybe it’s not in a hurricane claim, but there’s problems. Maybe the underground garage is leaking, maybe the pool deck is leaking, maybe the windows are leaking or the roof is leaking. So we do a lot of investigations with that, similar concept to what I was telling you we do with the hurricanes. We do building enclosure consulting. We’ve worked on some of the biggest buildings in Florida. In fact, the tallest one, Panorama Tower in Miami, which is the tallest building in the eastern U.S. outside of New York City, 86 stories, I think, we finished up on that one last year as the building envelope consultant. And we’ve done a lot of iconic work. We’ve worked with the Daytona Speedway, we’ve done a bunch of Orlando properties, Championsgate Resort, and others. And pretty much any town we go into in Florida, I can point out large properties or important properties that we’ve worked on. And then, of course, the wind damage catastrophe stuff we’ve already talked about that a lot. So that’s kind of what we do.

If you want more information about some of the things that we talked about in this podcast today, go to gciconsultants.com/gci. Again, our website gciconsultants.com/ letter G, letter C , letter I. We’ve got information cards about outlining the services that we provide for wind storms, and we also have one that goes through what we do beyond hurricane inspection. So we’ve got the pre-inspection process, we’ve got the inspection and report process, and we’ve got the water leakage investigation. So if you go there, we’re gonna ask for a little bit of information from you, and we’ll either just mail you a hard copy or send you a digital copy, your choice. Again, gciconsultants.com/gci. If you want to sign up for our newsletter and other information, special offerings videos that we produce things like that, text. You can do it via text message, and the text is 22828. So text GCI to 22828 to sign up for GCS’s newsletter and our special offers. If you want more information about GCI, there’s also a wealth of information on our website, lots of videos talking about hurricanes, construction defects, water tests. If you want to see what the water test looks like, there’s videos on our website that show that. And our website, of course, is gciconsultants.com.

In addition to our websites, gciconsultants.com and everythingbuildingenvelope.com. Also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. We’ve got material in all those places and love for you to follow us and just kind of keep up with what’s going on. And, of course, we love to hear from you and interact with you as well.

So if you want show notes, you can visit our other website, the everythingbuildingenvelope.com website. We have show notes there and we also have other episodes. I had a lot of listeners and I really appreciate the support, everythingbuildingenvelope.com. So I hope you enjoyed this episode of “Everything Building Envelope.” This is Paul Beers saying thank you for listening, and so long till next time.

Building Inspections, Cleaning and Restoration

Derek Segal & Ken Larsen – International Dry Standard Organization

  • About Ken Larsen
  • International Dry Standard Organization
  • The Restoration Industry
  • Building Restoration Contractors
  • Hurricane Michael Examples
  • Competent Standards of Care
  • F500 Standard of Care
  • Moisture Management, etc

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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Derek: Welcome everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Derek Segal, a senior consultant for GCI Consultants and I will be your host today. I’m very excited today to have as our guest Ken Larsen. Ken is a third-party evaluator and works with the International Dry Standard Organization. Welcome, Ken.

Ken: Thanks for having me on the show.

Derek: Excellent to have you here. Ken, let’s start off by telling listeners a little bit about yourself, how you came to be in the industry you’re in and, you know, what you’re involved with at present, you know, to help improve the industry and educate professionals for the good of all.

Ken: Sure, thank you. So, I’ve been in this business of repairing structures, typically on insurance claims for 41 years now. I originally come from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, and recently, in fact six days ago, I am proud to say that I immigrated here to the United States and I am now a citizen of the U.S. I had my own restoration firm in Vancouver, British Columbia for 20 years and sold it in the year 2000 and ended up moving down to the States where I was taught how to be an instructor in this line of work.

And so I’ve been teaching contractors how to repair buildings after fires and floods for multiple different certifying organizations, including the IICRC, the Institute of Inspection and Cleaning and Restoration Certification as well as the Restoration Industry Association, that’s another entity. And another one is the American Council for Accredited Certification, that’s the ACAC. And I’ve been approved to teach courses for each of those important industry groups.

From there, I still teach these courses around the world, including Australia, Canada, U.S., Europe. And now what I find myself doing is in addition to teaching these courses, I’m being used as a consultant in court cases, depositions, expert witness type work. And as it relates to the consumer who might have an insurance claim of their own, I’m used to help establish the scope of work necessary to do a competent standard of care project whenever there is an insurance claim and I do it from an independent third party status. So that’s my background.

Derek: Sounds good. Wow, so you’re busy. And I see just doing a little research. So you’re a third-party consultant, you are a lecturer, you are an instructor, you’re an inventor, and you’ve written some papers as well. With that in mind, what tips can you give property owners to help them be better educated to recognize they have a problem? And to find out, you know, what these important next steps are that they should take and also where they’re most likely to see these problems and how they need to be better educated on their property.

Ken: Well, so that’s a very broad question there are going to be so many different scenarios that we’re considering. I think the way…the thing, what I would like to say in response to that is that if they suspect that their insured property, your home, your business, the building itself has in some way been compromised by some event. Let’s say it was a pipe burst or a sprinkler head that failed, or maybe there was an unusual weather event that came in and water found its way in there, or something burned in a sensitive location, you know, and you don’t know if there’s the need for damages. Well, we could go on and on about all the possible scenarios.

If you get some type of a situation where you need to have answers, I would encourage the policyholder to call their agent and very carefully phrase their question, think before they make that phone call. They should pose it in the form of a question. So, for instance, “Hello Mr. Insurance agent. I was just curious if you could answer a question for me. I’ve got my insurance policy through you and this is the insurance carrier. Can you please tell me if I’m covered for this kind of peril?” And you describe what the situation is. Now you didn’t state that you have, or that you are filing an insurance claim. You didn’t even say that you had that scenario. You’re just looking to find out if it’s a covered peril. Now that’s important because it doesn’t go onto your file, but with that information, you can get a straightforward answer and then you can decide whether or not you wish to proceed with your insurance claim. And I think that’s an important first step.

Derek: And is there a particular area of the home or building they should look or be aware of? Are there areas in the home that are more likely to have experienced a leak or more likely for them to be able to see or feel something?

Ken: Well, it could be all of those things. So it’s not uncommon. So the latter thing that you said, can they see or feel something? It’s not uncommon that somebody will have a water intrusion come into their home and they don’t know about it. They didn’t discover it, it might’ve been behind the kitchen cabinets, they just didn’t know it happened. And then all of a sudden, you know, their children are starting to have a rash or they have watery eyes, or they’re complaining of headaches or that they’re dizzy, or whatever the symptom might be.

And then they go like, wait a minute, maybe I’ve got a problem and maybe it’s associated with an event that I’m not aware of. Like that water leak behind the kitchen cabinets. This is when you need to bring in some experts to try and find out what is happening in that structure and then you can proceed with some intelligence rather than just speculating what’s going on.

Derek: All right. Ken, now that you mentioned that, and you and I both know you’re up in the Panhandle of Florida where they, you know, in the last several months you had a devastating storm, Hurricane Michael, that hit you folks up there. What are you seeing? What are companies not doing a very good job with in helping these folks? And what do they need to do a better job of doing to properly investigate document damage and give these owners the right information and guidance in order to get them back to a sound condition?

Ken: Right. Well, this is a really good question and it’s an important one. The fact of the matter is that in Hurricane Michael, and that is true with most hurricane or weather-related events, especially in Florida, you’re gonna have a variety of different contractors show up in town, each claiming to be the best in the industry and trying to secure prospect projects that they can, you know, have a job after one of these events. Now it attracts these…weather events attract the full scope of quality of contractors. I have seen some of the finest work in my entire career as a result of some of the repairs performed in Hurricane Michael. I mean, seriously, just case studies of perfection, really proud to be associated with those kinds of jobs.

And on the other hand, I’ve also seen some of these jobs that are so embarrassingly substandard that you wonder how they are gonna get any revenue whatsoever out of what they do. They have no business being in the industry. And I think that that’s true of all industries on the planet is you’re gonna have some good guys and some bad guys. So what can the homeowner do to try and find out what they need in the event that they have an insurance claim? The answer is, look at who is involved. So for instance, if the insurance company says, “Oh, you need to use my preferred vendor,” well, there is a reason why they are so-called preferred. And so the question is whose interests are they serving? Are they gonna serve the property owners or their client, which is the insurance carrier?

And you know, this kind of is a good segue into the second thing that a homeowner can do. Aside from the first step of calling the agent and making sure that they are covered for a particular peril. The next thing they can do is they file a claim to find out if the insurance carrier is in a contractual agreement with the entity, this restorer that they want to bring into the house. If they are a preferred vendor, there’s a very good chance that there is a written agreement in place on the terms of that relationship that they will or will not do certain things, or they will limit prices or limit…just, you know, there’s some terms that are in there.

Derek: Scope of work.

Ken: Yeah. So it’s completely appropriate for the policyholder to inquire from the claims representative if their preferred contractor has an agreement with the insurance carrier for this arrangement and then ask for a copy of that agreement. I mean you’re about to enter into a contractual relationship with this contractor, he’s gonna ask you to sign a form. But if he’s already got a contract in place with another materially interested party being the insurance company, that may be a conflict that you would be concerned about. So research that, and if you’re not comfortable with it, explore your options to find a contractor that you are more comfortable with.

Derek: Right. And I think that’s becoming more prevalent in the industry today. There’s a lot of language in policies out there called the right to repair. And you know, again, I think you bring a valid point to the table, which is, you know, are they doing it right? Are they doing it in the interests of the property owner? And you know, what can they do if they don’t do it right? The insurance company contractor comes in, does the job, or perceived to do the job. And then a year later the homeowner is now still having problems. I mean, that’s gonna be a difficult road to go down to go back to these people and get them taken care of.

So one thing you mentioned earlier was, you know, what are they not doing right? Are they preparing the property? Are they doing a proper investigation? Are they taking baseboards off the walls? Are they…you know, what needs to be done to do a proper evaluation that maybe you’re seeing is not being done?

Ken: Okay, so that’s another bright question and I could spend hours talking just about what I’ve seen happen and what should happen.

Derek: Right.

Ken: But I think what the consumer, the policyholder needs to know is that this isn’t just a general cleanup service on aisle street. This is a skilled trade that requires a lot of training, years of education, lots of experience to try…and then an understanding of the built environment. A house isn’t just a piece of gypsum wallboard or some two by fours, it’s a system. You have a system in place where the HVAC system is the lungs of the building that can disperse a problem from one room to another room very readily. And so the whole understanding of the structure and how it works and what needs to be addressed is an important understanding that, you know, you don’t get just by going to a store and, you know, buying a bottle of disinfectant and trying to wipe things down.

So here’s what I want your radio listeners to know is that there is a standard of care that has been around for decades now. It’s called the F500, so standard 500 and the most current year is 2015, and it continuously gets updated. So we’ve just kind of gone through a recent update and it defines what is and is not expected to perform a structural drawing project in a fashion that meets the standard of care. And so, there’s a lot of contractors out there that know about the standard and they claim that is in accord with the standard of care, but you should see how wrong they have it. They say it’s in the standard, but it’s not in there. And so there’s a lot of that going on. So let me give you a very brief example if you don’t mind.

Derek: Yes, go ahead.

Ken: Here’s one thing that I saw in Hurricane Michael all over the place and it made my head explode. You’d be driving down the road and you’d see one of these little realtor signs. You have small little signs on the side of the road saying, “Oh, you’ve got a…if you have a problem in your house, you know, call us,” whatever. The one that I saw everywhere in Hurricane Michael that was so distressing to me was, “We fog for mold. We fog for mold.” So there’s introducing a mist of a disinfectant to fill the house with a gas of disinfectant, claiming that this will resolve their mold issue that they have in their house. Make no mistake that there’s all kinds of issues associated with this.

The most egregious part of this is that if you have a registered disinfectant, an EPA registered disinfectant and you deviate from the product labeling, it is a violation of federal law and these products don’t say that you can [inaudible 00:13:18]. You’re introducing that into a space that people will breathe and it’s engineered to kill stuff. Why would you subject your homeowner to that potential issue? So this was happening all over and they were charging exorbitant rates. I will say this on this show.

Derek: That’s terrible.

Ken: The product typically costs $20 a gallon, just so you know. But they put it through a machine that makes a wet mist, and so they’re using very minimal product and then they’re charging thousands of dollars for the service. They’ve got pennies invested in it. And I feel so bad for these poor policyholders because they are paying a premium price for something that is pure snake oil. It doesn’t work.

Derek: And that can hurt them actually.

Ken: Yes, absolutely it can. So beware of the fraudulent charlatans that come into these homes.

Derek: That’s out there.

Ken: They’re all over the place.

Derek: So now that you mentioned that, I’ve got moisture in my home or my building, in my mind, I mean a lot of these homeowners are thinking, let me just turn the AC down cooler. Let me put some fans on, let me open a window or two. Is it a technology? Is it a science, or is it just machinery? Do I just need three machines and the fans? Is it just a formula or a calculation? Tell me a little bit about that.

Ken: Well, again, I could spend days on that subject too. The bottom line is these, insurance carriers believe…or insurance claims rep typically try to control their costs by limiting how much equipment is placed on the job site alleging that as long as you have two or three air movers or whatever the number is and, you know, one dehumidifier that the structure will dry in an arbitrary time frame. Usually, they claim that it will be dry in three days. For the record, there is no such reference to any time frame like that in the industry standard. Furthermore, the subject of air mover counts and dehumidifier counts, there isn’t a single reference and there never has been any reference in the industry standards that state that if you install a certain quantity of air movers or dehumidifiers, it will result in a dry structure. It doesn’t say that, and especially it doesn’t say it’ll happen in three days.

So the question is, what are these equipment formulas that are spoken of in the standard supposed to do? Here’s what it does. Whenever you have wet surfaces in a building and you turn on air movers, you’re going to increase the rate of evaporation. It’s going to get real humid in there. So there’s going to be a spike in humidity at the start of every drying job. So how do you manage that humidity that you are generating and that is when the standard describes this formula that in order to control and manage the anticipated spike in humidity, the moment you turn on the air movers, you would install a minimum of so many dehumidifiers.

That’s all it’s saying, now it doesn’t promise a dry building. It just says this is a technique that you can use to manage that anticipated spike in humidity and that’s it. And so it’s a really twisted understanding when you see any reviewer of an insurance claim. When they say, you had too much equipment or not enough equipment that needs to be corrected forcefully. Because when they imply that these equipment formulas result in a dry building, they are dictating that there be a substandard approach to the effort to restore the building.

Derek: So then, in my opinion, it sounds like it takes quite a lot of skill to know exactly what you need to do, not just simply the machinery and the equipment. It sounds like it’s a science to me. I mean this interpretation is required according to the type of structure, the area of the country, you wouldn’t use the same process in Florida as you would in Canada or Arizona. And you can’t just have anybody off the street doing this. You need a specialist that’s been trained and…

Ken: And understands the process, absolutely. So that’s another really good question and it’s an important one, is that it’s not the tools that the contractor would bring into the house that results in the dried structure. It’s the technician’s skill with their tools that will result in the desired results. So here’s the illustration, I do like to use. A car mechanic can spend tens of thousands of dollars purchasing the best ratchets and wrenches that money can buy. It’s not uncommon to spend over $50,000 in one of these red toolboxes that you might have for repairing your car.

So imagine you had that much money and you went out and you’ve bought this amazing toolbox and put it in your garage. And then you bring your car into the garage to park it for the night and you park it two feet from the very front of this $50,000 red toolbox. And then you go inside and you go to sleep for the night. When you come out in the morning, is your car sick? Well, of course, it isn’t. It would be absurd to think that, you know, the tools would produce the repaired car. Rather it’s the mechanic and his skill with those tools that will produce the repaired car.

And the same is true with all of these dehumidifiers and air movers that restoration contractors frequently bring into the home. It’s not the air movers or the dehumidifiers that will result in the dry building. They are tools that are commonly used in that process, but it’s not the tool itself. And so there are many ways in which you can configure a responsible use of this equipment and produce a nice healthy structure. But it does require an understanding on the part of the technician who was using those tools. So you mentioned other places in the country, Canada, Phoenix, Arizona, Nevada, and comparing that to the world of Florida, this is a huge deal because, I mean, we all know how humid and hot it is in Florida. And then you have these chilled indoor environments where, you know, the laws of physics dictate that high humidity and high temperatures are going to seek areas that are cooler and dryer. This is just physics at work.

And so when we have some claims reps, representatives who say, oh, that should have been dried in three days, we must remind them that not only are we in a hot, humid environment, we’re on the everglades, this is wet soil, wet air, hot air and solar, you know, that’s beating on the building, driving thermal energy and the humidity into places that it might not get into if you were in an opposite environment. So there’s much to know and it’s not a simple answer to just follow this formula and every building will dry.

Derek: And you know, I’m a fan of, no pun intended, when I walk into a building and I see something, obviously I’m like, okay, I see something. Sometimes when I don’t see something yet, something doesn’t feel right. I’m maybe even more concerned when not because a lot of people are under the impression, oh, if I don’t see something we’re good. But you know, what are your thoughts on that? I mean, sometimes what you don’t see that can cause more damage than what you do actually see.

Ken: Well, it’s just quite humorous to me that you would bring up that subject after this very fascinating discussion I just had in Boston yesterday. And there was an individual who was at this event and she came to me with some mold testing results. So these are results or some consultants would come in there with a device that will pull a sample from the air and then they send it to a laboratory and they look at this little glass slide with a thin film of grease on it and they wanna see, you know, what kind of particulate stuck to the grease. And from that, they can say, oh, there was this species of mold and this hair fragments and that dust fragments and whatever. And then from there you can try and figure out if there’s an issue in the built environment or if there’s not.

Well, one of these tests, I think there were four samples that were collected. One of the samples was perfectly clean. I mean, perfectly clean. There was no dust, no debris, no mold spores, nothing in the air. Well, that’s a test where there’s, you know, no apparent problem. But the fact is that was a huge red flag because to have an air sample with nothing in it, there’s something going on in there. That is such rare, rare occurrence that you would have a perfectly dust-free environment in somebody’s home after walking around on the carpet and the HVAC system is running, and on and on you go.

So what was going on there? So there is a sample with nothing. Here’s what the conclusion was after conversing with my expert colleagues, he said, after 40 years of him doing samples, he’s seen maybe 15 or 16 of those samples where nothing came back. And he says, this is usually a clue that the contractor bent the rules or did something in that chamber to produce that ultra-pure environment and hid or caused the mold problem to be a hidden issue that can re-emerge down the road. So what does he suspect? He suspects that the contractor went in there and fogged the area with a sealant. This is different from trying to fog it to kill mold. What he did is he sprayed a sticky substance over all the surface in the building. And that way things would just stick to it. And that way there’ll be nothing in the air when they pull up the air sample.

The problem is that this encapsulant or sealant or whatever it was that they sprayed, it doesn’t stay sticky forever and it will eventually release that contaminant. And if it has toxins, you could still have the toxins that…a reaction to those toxins and almost regardless of species, I know that’s a sweeping statement, but it’s true of all mold. All mold is allergenic, which means that you can have an allergic reaction to those exposures. So what that contractor did is they cheated to get the good results. Well, the contaminant issue looking down the road. And that’s the kind of things that we look for.

Derek: Wow. Well, that doesn’t sound like that’s really working well for the homeowner or whoever got those results. But you know, I mean, I wouldn’t put anything past anyone in the industry today. You know, you need to seek out the right folks and the right experts to hire. And that sounds like that’s definitely a case of that happening. With that said, I know I’ve seen over the past couple two, three years, the intensity of the storms, more coastal flooding and probably the likelihood that things are not going to get better as far as our exposure to these events and moisture coming into our properties, especially along the coast. What advancements have you seen recently in the industry compared to the last, you know, 20, 30, 40 years that you’ve been doing this, that we can feel encouraged that, you know, you guys on your side are, you know, making these advancements and improving the technologies out there. What can you give us that’ll make us feel better and easier to sleep at night knowing that things are getting better on that end while the climate obviously and the intensity of storms, you know, continues to go in the other direction?

Ken: So in order to answer that, I think it’s important that everybody understands that there is an inherent conflict of interest that exists on an insurance claim. Insurance companies are publicly traded firms, therefore they have a fiduciary responsibility to produce profit for their shareholders. And every dollar that is spent on an insurance claim is one less dollar for their shareholders. So there must be an effort made to limit these expenses in order to make the stock as profitable as possible for the shareholders. So we understand that, we accept it, it’s just the nature of that business. With that in mind, we now understand why there is such a vigorous attempt to try and limit the scope of work and costs associated with repairing a structure. I get it. But now that I understand it, what can we do to bring fairness to an insurance claim for only the repairs that are needed, justified, usual, and customary. That’s the challenge. The insurance company is trying to keep the cost down. Contractors are inspired to make as much profit as possible.

Derek: Inflate them.

Ken: Therefore you want to have a…you know there’s the conflict. So how do you control that and, you know, there’s been bullying techniques that have been attempted by certain entities who are trying to sell the service of we will beat up the contractor’s invoice and save you 30%. In fact, they’ve published that. So a few of these entities have gone out there and said we will save the insurance carrier at least 30% by beating up the contractor’s invoices, whether it’s justified or not. That’s a very adversarial approach to this business transaction.

So the latest trends are this, that I’m seeing, and I’m encouraged by it, is a greater and more consistent practice of bringing qualified experts to figure out what is actually needed in that structure and is in accord with the standard of care not inflated, not an insurance claim shortfall, just what’s necessary. And so I’m finding more and more policyholders with an insurance claim are calling either an attorney or a public adjuster for representation. This is at least in the state of Florida has become almost a necessary practice because there is such an adversarial experience when trying to settle an insurance claim in Florida. And the other thing, I’m extremely busy being called in when there are questions of the sort of, you know, what needs to happen on this job? Is this really… Here’s a case in point.

Hurricane Michael was in excess of 170 miles an hour. You think that those winds are gonna pick up stuff off the road and off the ground and mix it with the rain and as it comes into the building that that’s probably a contaminated water source. Well, of course, it is, usually, usually it is, but insurance carriers understandably argue, come on, it’s rainwater, it’s just rainwater, it’s distilled water. Just dry it out and be done with it, no biggie. But at the end of the day is the policyholder having a house returned to them that is free of the contaminants that were introduced from the covered peril, the rainstorm, the hurricane.

Is it free of that? And this is where it takes testing to determine if in fact the structure is repaired correctly. This is how I’m involved, and my business is that I’m helping determine those answers. And you know, I am encouraged to see that more and more policyholders are understanding the necessity to bring in some qualified non-conflicted experts that can speak for the needs of the structure rather than the wants of the insurance carrier, desire of the contractor to make profit.

Derek: Got it.

Ken: So I’m encouraged by that.

Derek: So you are encouraged. Well, that’s a good thing. So for those folks that are listening, Ken, how would they reach you? What’s the best way, if they have a question or they wanted to talk to you about their property, how, what’s the best way to reach out to you? What would you recommend?

Ken: Well, I would welcome all inquiries, even from the insurance carriers who want to talk about this and some of the things that I said. Homeowners, contractors, I’m happy to speak to any of them. They can certainly reach me on my email, ken@drystandard.org or my phone. Go ahead and give me a phone call or text message. I’m fine with that too. Area Code (817) 542-1189.

Derek: Great. Thanks, I appreciate that. I’m pretty confident that all of our listeners got a lot of benefit out of our podcast today. I wanna thank you, Ken, for joining us and sharing your history and your experience with our listeners and just wanted to say thank you for coming on the show. I think it was very beneficial and I certainly enjoyed it.

For those of you that were listening, thank you for joining us on today’s podcast, on “Everything Building Envelope.” Please check in on us for, you know, future podcasts. We aim to bring you, you know, the most, the latest information and technology out in the industry today regarding the building envelope. And I encourage all of you to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Once again, thanks so much. Derek Segal with GCI Consultants with Ken Larson. Thanks so much for listening today.

Ken: My pleasure.

Water Leakage Investigations

Paul Beers & Jason Bondurant – GCI Consultants

  • Forensic Investigations on Existing Buildings
  • Water Leakage, Water Intrusion & Water Damage
  • Insurance claims due to water infiltration
  • Structural ratings versus water intrusion
  • Laboratory tests versus tropical storms or hurricanes
  • etc

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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– [Paul] Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. I’m Paul Beers, CEO of GCI Consultants, and I’ll be the host today. I’m excited to do this podcast. It’s probably been over a year and a half since I last did one.

I’ve been super busy working on hurricane claims. As you know, there was a lot of hurricanes in 2017, 2018 and we’ve been scrambling ever since to help folks identify and remedy the damages. I’m really excited today to have as our guest returning Jason Bondurant. Jason is a senior consultant here at GCI Consultants.

So, we have a really interesting topic to share with you today which is all about water leakage investigations. So, Jason, welcome. – [Jason] Thanks for having me.

– Probably we have people that listened the last time you were on and maybe some that didn’t, so you can just tell them briefly a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll hop right into the topic.

– So, I’m a senior consultant for GCI. I’ve been working for GCI for about six years. Right now I’m dealing mostly with problems with existing buildings, doing forensic investigations. It’s something that I really enjoy doing and I look forward to talking about it with everyone today.

– Great. So, I think the underlying factor here with obviously talking about water leakage investigations is the problem of water getting into buildings and water damage. So, Jason, could you maybe just talk a little bit more about…that goes on when water starts coming into a building and causes the damages?

– Yeah. Well, and I’ll just say, to start off, that when we’re talking about forensic investigations of buildings, the majority of the cases that we deal with are water intrusion problems. Water damage is the biggest source of insurance claims and it’s something that’s it’s a really big issue for us especially in South Florida here where we have extreme weather conditions.

So, water damage is a big problem. It causes damage inside of buildings, it’s difficult to accurately trace and resolve, and it’s something that I think most building owners, property managers, architects, contractors have experienced.

– Yeah. So, it’s funny, because I always say, “How do you have a big problem with the building and have water start coming into it?” It’s just nothing good happens. People get upset, there are going to be health issues, it damages interior finishes, things like that. And what’s really interesting, Jason, and I know that you’ve been involved in all these areas, is that any type of building can be affected by water damage, from a newly constructed building or even a building under construction, which is construction defects, things like that, to existing buildings that maybe have had problems all along, or maybe over time with maintenance issues and whatnot, problems develop.

And then, of course, storm damage. So, you’ve worked on a lot of different scenarios where you have water problems, haven’t you?

– Yeah. We get involved in all of those types of situations. And one thing that I will say is that every single one is unique. There’s not a single one that is exactly the same. They all have to be assessed and evaluated uniquely according to the conditions on that specific project.

But absolutely, we deal with condominiums, hospitals, office buildings, single-family homes, water damage affects all of them.

– It’s a big problem. So, I thought what we might do is lay a little foundation for…and let’s focus on windows and doors today as opposed to… water damage can occur in many areas, from below grade, underground, right up to the roof. But there’s a lot of stuff to talk about there.

We could do many podcasts. But for right now, let’s just focus on windows and doors. And so let’s lay a little foundation for what some of the standards are for windows and doors and then we can talk more about how to investigate specific problems. So, Jason, what is the criteria for new window and door assemblies to basically get certified for use and building codes nationally and regionably?

– Well, any window or door product has to go through a slew of laboratory tests in order to get approval. And basically, tests involve structural tests, water infiltration tests, air infiltration tests, impact resistance tests, which are especially important here in South Florida, forced entry resistance tests, so on and so forth.

The important point here in this podcast dealing with water intrusion is that there’s a big difference between how the products are tested and what the design rating is of the products from a structural standpoint versus a water intrusion standpoint. So, typically, when the products are tested in the lab from a structural standpoint, they’re tested as much as 150%of the design rating of that window or door.

So, if that window or door is rated for 100 psf, it was tested in a lab for up to 150, just as an example. Now, when it comes to water, the bar is set much lower. And we can talk about why that is, but as of right now… And we can talk about whether we think that’s adequate or not, but as of right now, the requirement for the testing for water infiltration resistance is only 15% of the design pressure rating of the window or door.

So, just think about that for a second. So, structural 150%, water 15%. There’s a big difference there, and it’s somewhat justified. I mean, structural is more of life safety issue, so it’s understandable. But the point is that if you have…and we deal with a lot of building owners that have this misconception, they think that their window or door is rated for 100-mile-an-hour winds.

Well, that may be true from a structural standpoint. That’s not necessarily true from a water intrusion standpoint.

– So, when these things…and then on top of that, when these things are tested in the laboratory, it’s… How would you compare the laboratory conditions to field conditions?

– Well, obviously, a lab, it’s a very… So, the way that they test these things for a water test, for example, in a lab, it’s typically a 15-minute test.

And as we all know, especially being here in South Florida, we get rains that last a lot longer than 15 minutes. So, it’s not necessarily simulating all different types of natural conditions that can occur. So, it has its limitations, it’s designed that way for a reason, but you can’t compare these lab tests to the conditions that the window or door would experience during tropical storms or hurricanes.

– Yeah. So, the thing that we’ve seen and heard in the last year or two in Florida and other areas, actually, is that you have a 15-minute lab test to certify the products for building code approval. When hurricane Irma hit South Florida, they were basically under high loads and heavy rain for 8, 10, 12 hours or longer, so the duration of the real storm…

And that can happen not only in a tropical storm, even in a low-pressure system, whatever. The duration of the time that windows and doors are subjected to wind-driven rain in the field can vary greatly, obviously, from a laboratory test.

So, let’s kind of just go through this. So, we’ve talked about what they do in a laboratory, then we go out and we install these windows in a building. Let’s say it’s a high-rise oceanfront building somewhere Florida, or Northeast, or wherever.

So, is it… How do you…when you install a new window, Jason, how do you know… how can you give yourself assurance that it’s not going to leak once the building is occupied?

– Well, GCI also gets involved in quality control for new construction projects as well. And typically, what we would do on these kinds of projects, when you have a newly installed window or door into a building, there is a test, a field test for testing the water infiltration resistance of windows and doors.

And it’s very similar to the lab test. Basically, we’re spraying the exterior of the window or door with a spray rack that’s uniformly spraying water over the surface area of the window or door. And then on the inside, there’s an interior chamber that’s mounted to the window or a door, and that’s done in order to apply a pressure inside in order to simulate a wind-driven rain.

So, you’re basically sucking water into the window or door during the test. And it’s very similar to the lab test. The only difference is that the field test is performed at two-thirds of what the lab test was performed at. And the reason why it’s done that way is just to account for imperfect conditions in the field, so they allow a one-third reduction factor.

But again, it’s still a 15-minute test and this is the appropriate test. This is the test that architects are specifying for quality control on new construction projects.

– So, just to take it through the numbers again, with our 100-pounds-per-square-foot-rated door, can you just run through the structural test pressure, the laboratory test pressure, and now the field test pressure, just so people can get a feeling for what we’re looking at?

– Yeah. So, if it’s rated for 100, then the maximum load that it was tested at from a structural performance perspective was 150% of that or 150. And the laboratory test for water infiltration resistance is done at 15%of that or 15 psf.

And the field test would reduce that lab test pressure by one-third, which would be 10 psf for the field test.

– Yeah. So, I’m going to just say that reducing it to two-thirds is not my favorite thing to do. It’s an industry standard and I understand, but architects and specifiers are also free to write their own field test specification. And my recommendation is to test it at the laboratory pressure if it’s a brand new window.

It just gives you a higher margin for error. Manufacturers, contractors, whatnot, installers may not like it, but it does raise the bar a little bit.

– And just maybe put this in terms that people would maybe understand a little bit better than pressure. So, if we’re going to do a rough approximation between the pounds per square foot and the wind speed, if you’re talking about 100 psf, you’re talking about almost 200 miles an hour. If you’re talking about…

So, that’s from a structural standpoint. And we sometimes see this in marketing of the window and door products, that they say it’s rated up to 150 miles an hour. It comes from that. But when you look at the 10 psf, you’re talking about just over 60-mile-an-hour winds and, that’s even quite high.

I think it’s normal for us here in South Florida and other parts of the country. That’s very high, and most products are not rated that high. So, that kind of puts it into perspective for everyone.

– And the 60-mile-an-hour wind speed, we’ll just use that as an example, pretty much will take care of everyday weather conditions, even when you get a microburst or wind-driven thunderstorm, summer thunderstorm, things like that. It’s when you get into these extreme weather events like hurricanes that it exceeds the rating and stuff will leak that’s not rated that high and…- We would expect it to leak.

Yeah.

– Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, now we’ve talked about something that’s newly installed, and that’s how it gets tested. So, now let’s talk about further down the road. So, what the industry standards say is that the field testing of a newly installed window or door assembly should be done within six months of installation, which is interesting because some projects, they’re in place for longer than six months even before the building’s finished on a large high rise building, but…So, if leakage occurs later than that, say it occurs five years later, what has to happen then, Jason, to investigate it?

– If we’re talking about down the road, I think more often than not, the reason why the testing is even happening in the first place is most likely because there’s some kind of a problem. There’s some kind of a leak. So, what AAMA, who is the governing body for all these different test standards for window and door products, what they say is that you should use AAMA 511, which is the guideline for forensic water penetration testing of fenestration products.

So, basically, what you’re trying to do with AAMA 511 is it’s more of a diagnostic procedure as opposed to a quality assurance one. So, you’re trying to determine where that water is coming from under normal service conditions of the building.

So, AAMA 511 directs you to another standard, which is ASTM 2128, which is the standard we use for evaluating water leakage in building walls. And these two standards together are what kind of guide us through this type of leakage investigation.

And so, I think we should probably start from the beginning, before we even get to the testing on these types of projects, there’s other things that need to happen. It’s basically a whole systematic approach to investigating the water leakage.

– So, let’s take a deeper dive into ASTM E2128, which is called… what is it called, Jason?

– Evaluating water leakage in building walls.

– Yeah. Let’s go through all the steps of a water leakage investigation. I guess the first question I would have for you is, is it just water testing or is there more to it?

– No. So, when we get called into these kinds of projects, it’s usually an existing building, maybe it’s been constructed and in service for 30 years, 40 years, even longer, sometimes new buildings.

– Let’s take a deeper dive into ASTM E2128, which…and the title of the document, by the way, is “Standard Guide for Evaluating Water Leakage in Building Walls.” And the document basically outlines eight steps in the process for what you would do to investigate water leakage in building walls.

And I’ll run through the list, Jason, then we’ll go back in and talk about them. So, the first thing they say you should do is a review of the project documents. Then number two, evaluate the design concept, in this case of the windows and doors which we’re talking about. The next thing is a determination of service history, then an inspection, obviously, a site inspection.

Then investigative testing. We’re going to talk about that, I’m sure, more. We’ve already talked about it somewhat. An analysis of the results. And lastly, the production of a report. So, Jason, the stuff that we do before we go out and do the inspection and we do the investigative testing, let’s talk about that a little bit. And I want you to also focus on what happens if sometimes some of this information isn’t available.

How do you go through trying to figure out what we’ve got and how to work with it?

– So, typically, when we get involved in these kinds of things, usually it’s a building owner that comes to us and says, “We need your help. We have a leak in a unit,” whatever, or, “We have leaks all over the building and we need you to come and tell us how to fix it.”

And there’s very little information that’s provided upfront. So, the first step that we always do in these kinds of things is, we try to gather as many relevant documents as we can that would help us in our investigation.

So, usually, what we ask for are things like construction drawings. If we’re dealing with windows or doors, we would try to see if we can get shop drawings, if we can get any information about what the types of products are, if there’s any leak logs, anything, maybe a maintenance book, something where they’re recording when the leaks have happened.

I would say that this step, it varies widely between different buildings. It mainly comes down to, I think, the property manager and how good a job they’ve done of collecting and retaining all of this information over the years. Sometimes we get almost nothing and sometimes we get a lot of stuff.

And this is the type of stuff that can really help expedite our investigation if we have a lot of this information to build on. So, once you’ve gathered all that information, then according to ASTM 2128, the next thing that they say needs to happen, you need to evaluate the design concept.

And what they’re really referring to there is how is the envelope of the building…how was it intended to manage water? If you’re talking about a wall system, is it a drainable rainscreen type of wall system, where you have a weather barrier behind an exterior cladding? Is it a barrier wall system which is more typical for us in South Florida?

Also evaluating the design concept of the windows and doors themselves. We just want to understand what was the intent of the design. The step after that is determining the service history, which, that, we’re trying to find any information about, like I mentioned before, if there are any leak logs, let say, when and where leaks have happened.

That information is really useful. If we can get any information about prior renovations or remediation attempts, a lot of times when we get involved in these kinds of things, we are probably not the first, maybe not even the second, but maybe the third or fourth person that’s been called in to help them determine how to fix this problem.

I mean, typically, most owners are going to contact a contractor first if they have a problem. And generally, when we get involved, it’s when someone has tried and failed to fix the problem. So, we want to know what were the prior repair attempts. And so all this is done really before we even really start any fieldwork on the project.

– Yeah. So, it’s interesting that a lot of times when we do get involved, there’s been various types of attempts to stop a leak. And it’s hard. And we get these calls every week, where things been done, money’s been spent, contractors have done things, installers, whatever, and it’s still leaking. And that’s why this systematic approach to evaluating water leakage using this ASTM standard with some AAMA guidelines about how to use it really is a great way to go because it’s a scientific way to evaluate the problem and to determine what the fix is, and then you can even verify it with further testing that the fix worked.

And, Jason, this is… There’s never any guarantees for success, but can you talk a little bit about… I know you’re humble, but can you talk a little bit about how much luck we have had with this?

– Well, and you just made me think of one other thing. And just to give you one quick example about what we were just talking about. So, part of the reason why when you’re going through all this stuff is you need to evaluate the design concept. And a good example of that is a lot of times we’ll come and we’ll see that there were past remediation attempts on a particular project.

And in some cases, the remediation attempts have even made the problem worse because whoever either designed or performed those repairs did not evaluate the design concept, just as an example. If you have like a drainable wall system, like a weather barrier behind the stucco, as an example, that’s typically designed to drain out at the head of a window or a door, and it does that by having a through-wall flashing at the head of the door, where the weather barrier laps over and directs the water out and prevents the water from collecting on top of the head of the window.

Well, we’ve been involved in several of these, where maybe the contractor comes out and he sees that opening there, doesn’t really understand what that’s for, seals it up, and now they’ve just made the problem worse. So, not only did they not fix the problem, they’ve made it worse. So, that’s just one example and why…it’s really why, like you mentioned, ASTM 2128 is laid out that way, so that you don’t make those kinds of mistakes.

And just to answer your question, I mean, I think we have a pretty good record for fixing these things. I will admit that some of these are incredibly challenging and we’re not always going to have all the answers after our first time walking on a project and looking at some of these conditions.

And I think we’re about to get into the testing aspect, but I think in the end, we’re going to go through the process and I think we’ve been very successful as long as we stick to this general methodology.

– The word that I was thinking, and when I think of you this is a word I think of, is tenacious. I mean, you’ve got to sometimes dig deeper, and deeper, and deeper. I know you’ve literally done this in, like, areas where you’ve got leakage of, say, a basement or something. You have to dig up all the dirt out just to get there to look at it, but it’s sort of the same thing with windows and doors.

And this is a nice segue for us to talk about what we do as we start getting into the investigation. So, again, maybe we’re not even ready to test yet. What do we do when we go out to the site? How does that process work as far as figuring out what we’ve got and what we need to do?

– So, when we go out to the site, one of the first things I like to do, and this is part of the determination of service history aspect of it, but you want to interview as many people as you can that do have information about the in-service performance of the building, so usually, managers, building engineers, maintenance people, owners.

We like to talk to them and have them show us where the problems are, get an idea when or where the problems occurred. So, that’s one of the biggest things we do when we first go out to a project. And then the other thing we do is, obviously, we’re there to perform our initial visual inspection. And when we do that, we want to look at…usually, how I like to handle it is I like to go inside the building first and see what the evidence is of the leak, just to get an idea of where the water damage is occurring and maybe start to get some theories about where it could be coming from on the exterior, then we would go to the exterior and just visually look and see, “Is there any obvious things that we can point out right away that we think could be suspect?”

So, now we’re really starting to maybe focus on certain aspects where we think we really need to dig deeper on. And so that’s really the first visual inspection part. And then the other thing that I like to do is, typically, when we do these, there is going to be some amount of testing that’s required.

So, while we’re there for that initial visit, we’re already thinking about, “Okay. These…” Like I mentioned, we’re developing a theory and we’re starting to think about, “In what ways can we perform some kind of forensic diagnostic water test in order to help verify or disprove that theory?”

– So, now we’ve looked at the damage, we’ve looked inside and outside at any… for any obvious defects or errors, and we’ve elected…which we normally do, not every time, but many times, we then elect to do investigative testing.

So, how does that work?

– Yeah. And I would say most of the time we do the testing, it’s really important. And the first thing I’ll say, I guess, right off the bat, and this is something that a lot of people don’t totally understand is that the testing…a lot of times on these cases, if you’re dealing with water leakage problems on a huge building and the problems are very widespread, it’s not realistic to go and test every single location, but some amount of testing should be done, and I think it’s very important.

So, what we try to do is we come up with a really detailed plan for what we want to test. What we’re trying to do with the testing, just as a big picture, is we’re trying to recreate leaks that would cause observable damage that we’re seeing inside the building, and we’re trying to do it in a controlled way where we’re isolating different aspects of the building envelope at a time.

So, in other words, and I always tell people this, but I could go to a building that has leak problems when it’s raining, and I can see leaks coming in, but it’s not really going to tell me that much because the whole wall, and windows, and the roof, and everything is getting wet outside. And as most people know that have dealt with these types of problems, water can work in sometimes seemingly mysterious ways and it’s difficult to be able to pinpoint exactly where it’s coming from just by looking at it.

So, we’re trying to isolate different things. And we’re trying to verify a hypothesis. So, prior to the testing, we’ve already gone and we’ve inspected the building and we’ve seen… I think we’re starting to see what the patterns are. Are we seeing water damage mostly at the head of the window? Are we seeing it mostly at the base of the wall?

Are we seeing it in multiple different types of conditions? So, we’re starting to try to see what are the patterns there, and then we want to test some of these typical conditions. So, we want to select locations that are representative of what we’ve seen from our visual inspection and come up with a specific protocol for how we want to do the testing.

It takes a lot of coordination. Typically, we’re working inside of someone’s unit, or we might be working inside of a hospital, or a government building. And the testing itself can be sometimes pretty disruptive if we’re doing destructive testing, which is also a part of our investigation occasionally.

That is obviously destructive. And so it is an interruption to the building’s activities and it’s something that has to be carefully planned and organized between us, the property manager, the owners, anybody else that’s involved in the project.

– I’ll just say, tell us a little bit more, when you say destructive, that’s a scary word and I know nobody likes to hear that. And I don’t think we like to say it, but it’s a necessary evil. Can you talk a little bit more about this, maybe an example of what we would do that’s destructive and why we would do it?

– Well, I would say that we don’t always do destructive testing. This is something that we determine on a case-by-case basis. But the reason why it is sometimes necessary, to state the obvious, we don’t have X-ray vision. A lot of times people think we can use things like infrared cameras.

And we do and that’s a useful tool, but still, we can’t see through walls. So, if you’re dealing with a wall system, as an example, like I’ve already mentioned, that has a weather barrier behind the exterior wall cladding like stucco, typically, what we would do is we would do our water testing first before we modify or destroy anything, obviously.

But if we’re able to recreate a leak in a certain area, the fact is, with that kind of a wall system as an example, we’re not able to see the actual weather barrier, that actual component on the wall that’s resisting the water and where the failure most likely is occurring if the leak is there. So, we would need to actually remove the stucco there in order to see what the problem is.

Now, for South Florida, most buildings do not have that type of wall construction. They’re mostly barrier wall systems, concrete and CMU, and direct-applied stucco, which are designed to just deflect all the water at the exterior face of the wall. So, in that case, the destructive testing is probably not necessary on the wall system.

Where we usually…well, not usually, but where we sometimes may have to do it, at least when we’re investigating wall and window leak problems in South Florida, is we may have to remove interior finishes, usually around a window or a door, in order to see, because what can happen is you could have water that could get in behind drywall at the interior and it can run down.

It can enter through the building envelope higher up on the building and then run down within interior finishes where you can’t see it and you may only be seeing it at the bottom of the wall when it’s really getting in at the top. So, that’s typically…if we’re doing anything destructive on leak investigations in South Florida dealing with doors, and windows, and walls, it would typically just be that, just removal of interior finishes.

And sometimes if it is just removal of interior finishes, that step would actually be done prior to the water testing just because we want to be able to actually see inside better while the test is going on. But that’s something that we determine on a case-by-case basis. And we only would do…we would only ever do anything destructive if we had really good justification and reason to believe that there was a problem there.

We’re not just going to go into a unit and say, “All the drywall has to be taken out because we’re not sure.” No, we’re going to pinpoint it as best as we can to a general area and we’re going to focus on that only if it’s absolutely necessary and we feel like we can really justify having to do that destructive step.

– Because if you didn’t do that, you may have incomplete results or maybe things going on that you couldn’t see. And just to set people’s mind at ease, when you’re talking about cutting their drywall, how do we handle that so that when the evaluation is over and the problem has been solved and all that, how do we handle removing drywall on someone’s unit, but getting it back to like we were never there before?

– Well, like I mentioned, these things… I think the important thing is we need to have a good plan for what exactly we want to do ahead of time. And as part of that plan, depending on what needs to be removed and replaced if we were in that type of a situation, we would probably involve a contractor who would be able to assist us with the testing and be able to cut things open, and then be able to immediately follow behind us and close things back up at least temporarily so we can return the unit or that space back over to the owner.

– Yeah, because the other thing that I thought of when we were talking about this is a lot of times the window treatments need to be removed, and that’s sometimes easier said than done. But a good contractor can remove and protect the window treatments, can, in a neat way, open up any areas around the window with the drywall, and paint, and then put it back, and restore it, and repaint it, and make it look like we were never there.

So, it’s not something… Unfortunately, sometimes that’s just a necessary thing that needs to be done, and not doing it might get an incomplete result which, obviously, nobody wants. We’re there to solve the problem. You had mentioned that if you had a building where water leakage is occurring all over the building, that you wouldn’t test every window, you would only pick certain areas to test.

So, the question that’s often asked is, “Well, if you’re not testing every window, how do you know in the end you’re not going to fix everything or whether you’re going to be able to successfully fix everything?”

– Yeah. And I think the amount of testing we do is going to depend on the amount of different conditions that we’re seeing and the amount of different things that we feel like we would need to test. So, this really is something that is determined on a case-by-case basis. I think some people think they have in their mind that we need to do 25% or you need to do 50%.

And these are just basically pulling numbers out of thin air. There’s nothing to really support that. And it’s important to keep in mind that there have been people that have talked about the statistical significance of these kinds of things. And I think we have to be realistic when we’re evaluating these problems.

And, like I mentioned, if we’re dealing with…just to give you an example. If we’re dealing with a problem at a building and let’s say we surveyed 100%of the units in the building, visually went in and looked at 100%of the units.

And let’s say that 50% of the units that we went in, we saw evidence of water leaks at the window sills. We didn’t see anything else. That was it. And they all pretty much looked about the same. Maybe some of them were a little worse than others, could be depending on what the exposure is on the outside of the building.

But let’s say that the evidence of water intrusion was pretty much the same in every single one that we saw was leaking. Is it really necessary to test every single one to be able to show that they are all leaking the same way? I think if you…in that example, you pick a few that are representative, maybe you pick a couple on the east side of the building, a couple on the west side, a couple with higher floors, whatever the case may be, and you test your theory, and I think it’s not hard…it’s not a big leap to understand that it’s most likely the same problem that’s occurring on other units that have similar evidence of water damage.

– So, what you’re talking about, which is what the ASTM E2128 is based upon, is a qualitative analysis. So, if you look at every unit in the building, that’s a quantitative analysis. Quantitative is, you know, that the number of units you’re going to look at is 100%.

A qualitative analysis, in the case of ASTM 2128, is where you would find areas with known prior leakage and you would investigate them, and as you said, of the typical conditions, and maybe there’s one, maybe there’s more than one, and then you can use expert judgment to apply those results to the remainder of the project.

– Right. I feel like we skipped over the water testing part a little bit. And we should just mention at the beginning, when we’re doing the water testing, we’re trying to isolate different parts of the exterior envelope at the building at a time in order to pinpoint where that water is coming from. And I think we began this whole conversation talking about what windows and doors were rated for, what they were lab tested for, what they were field tested for, for new construction.

And I think it’s important to point out that, like we mentioned earlier, the test standard for the forensic water testing of windows and doors is AAMA 511. And the important thing that we have to talk about and we see a lot of people make this mistake is that it’s not appropriate to test windows and doors to their original design pressure after they’re more than six months old, according to AAMA.

And we can take an extreme example and say, there’s a 20-year old window on a building, it’s not logical to go and say, “We’re going to test it according to its original design.” It’s 20 years old. It doesn’t make sense. And not to mention that the fact that that original design pressure, that window never even experiences those conditions normally at this particular location.

So, if we decide that it’s necessary to do a chamber test to simulate a wind-driven rain condition on a window or door, how we determine that test pressure according to AAMA 511, is based on local weather conditions. So, what they tell you to do is, ideally, you would know when exactly the window or door was reported to be leaking, and you could look up what the weather conditions were on that day, and you can do that on NOAA.

There’s various websites you can find that information, going back years even if you wanted to. And you would test it to simulate the wind on that day. So, let’s say, on that day, you look up the weather and it said they got a half an inch of rain and there were 30-mile-an-hour winds.

Well, you’re going to do the chamber test to try to simulate those 30-mile-an-hour winds, which is, at least in South Florida, often much, much less than what the window was originally designed for. And I can’t stress this enough because we see other experts in our field that also make this mistake all the time.

And you should not be testing these older windows and doors to their original design pressure. Now, it could be that the leak only occurred at much higher wind speeds, so it’s certainly plausible that something leaked only because the conditions exceeded what it was rated for, but there should be weather data that supports that and the whole thing.

We’re trying to simulate conditions that actually occurred at the building.

– So, the point here being that you’re not necessarily trying to make things leak when you do these tests, you’re actually trying to use the tests as an evaluation tool under real-world conditions to find out what’s going on, figure how to fix it, and confirm that the fix works.

– Well, and I think you’re trying to recreate a leak. You’re not trying to make a leak. You’re not trying to make things leak that have never leaked under normal conditions, but if you can recreate a leak that looks like it could have caused damage inside the building and do that in a controlled way, like I mentioned, by isolating different things, then I think that tells you a lot and that’s really what we’re trying to get at with the test.

– Yeah. So, let’s real briefly talk about what a leak is because it sounds so simple, water coming in the building, it’s leaking. There’s industry standards around leaks. And leaks can be interpreted differently by different people. And the thing that comes to mind when I think about this is that when you have a sliding glass door going out on a balcony, and it rains, what happens inside the sliding glass door track, Jason?

– Right. And this is something we get comments on all the time. Most sliding glass doors in South Florida, they have a drainable sill member which is designed to collect water that meets the door and drain it back out to the exterior.

– So, you can… During a rainstorm, the homeowner could be looking into the track and it could be full of water, and maybe not understand that and think that they’ve got a problem when, in fact, it’s performing the way it was intended to.

– Yeah. And this is going back to evaluating the design concept like we talked about. And I’ve seen cases…buildings in South Florida, where we’ve had maybe it was a maintenance guy or somebody went and they saw water was getting into the track, and they felt like it shouldn’t be there, and they applied caulking to the inside of the track, like, between the fixed panel and the sill, and not really understanding what they’re doing.

Now they’re actually reducing the ability of that sill to drain water, and now they have water that’s overflowing inside of the unit over the sill. Again, by not understanding the design concept, you just made it worse.

– Yeah.

– We do see that all the time.

– So, let’s just talk about some of the dos and don’ts with the water leakage investigation. So, Jason, that’s really interesting. I don’t think people realize the complexity of water leakage investigations and to do them correctly. And as you said before, we see so many times when we go out and there may be people that are working for the property, contractors, design professionals, whatever, that don’t really understand this, and they don’t do it correctly, and ultimately, unfortunately, the problems don’t get solved.

So, I’ve got a list of dos and don’ts that I wanted to run through in closing. So, do select test assemblies based upon the service history and known water leakage occurrences. So, you want to test in areas where leakage has occurred before. And you don’t want to randomly select test locations.

This does bring to mind a project that we just recently worked on, Jason, around a hurricane claim, where we did exactly that. We tested assemblies based upon where we saw evidence of water, ongoing water leakage and water damage. And what we did after that was we actually tested some assemblies where we didn’t see evidence of water leakage.

But it wasn’t random. It was done purposefully, and the reason was twofold. One was that all the windows and doors in this building got hit with extreme winds, over 100 miles an hour, rain, long duration of time. And we wanted to… We suspected there may have been concealed damage inside the assemblies with sealants and weather strippimgs things and things like that, that you could only see if you took the whole thing all apart, and we wanted to basically verify if there was water leakage occurring as a result of concealed damage.

The second thing that we wanted to evaluate was this building was, I can’t remember, 30, 40-year-old building and many units had the original 30, 40-year-old windows in them. Other ones had windows that were replaced before the storm that may have on/ly been 2 years old, 5 years old, 10 years old. And we wanted to test some of them also to evaluate how they perform in everyday weather conditions.

So, there’s a lot of latitude to the investigator using ASME 2128. And in this case, to do a thorough investigation, we expanded the sampling to cover that. Another thing you just got done talking about was do carefully follow the professional standard of care in determining test pressures.

You want to get appropriate test pressures to simulate real weather conditions that have occurred at or near the site. Don’t test to cause leaks. You don’t want to just test away and have everything leak because you’ve really proven nothing except that you can make them leak with your test equipment. Another thing that you touched on, Jason, was do isolate test area to conclusively document water leakage sources.

That’s where we might, for instance, put tape and plastic over the caulking and the stucco that surround the window and door so that the water only goes on the window and door, and that way, you can basically see how the window and door by itself is performing. And you could do it the other way around.

You could… And sometimes we do it both ways where you can isolate the window and test the stucco. So, there’s a nice little list of dos and don’ts. Jason, really great job, really interesting talking about this. I know it’s a huge issue and it’s something that we deal with every day. So, thanks so much for coming on and sharing wisdom with our podcast listeners.

– It was fun. Thanks for having me.

– So, I’d like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast today. If you want more information about GCI Consultants, we’ve got some videos and things like that on our website that show water leakage testing and whatnot. You can look that all up at www.gciconsultants… there’s an S on the end of consultants, gciconsultants.com.

If you’ve got some specific problems that you want to talk about, you can reach us at 877-740-9990. Again, 877-740-9990. Thank you once again, everyone, and I look forward to talking with you next time on a future Everything Building Envelope podcast episode.

This is Paul Beers with Jason Bondurant. Signing off till next time. So long, everybody.

Infrared Testing in the Construction Industry and Beyond

Terry Malagoli & Ilsa McIntyre – Infrared Testing, Inc.

  • What is the role of infrared envelope inspections in building commissioning for verifying new construction and reducing liability?
  • How can infrared envelope testing add value to green initiatives and energy saving programs?
  • How does IR imaging detect failing window seals and faulty or missing insulation invisible to the naked eye?
  • How much can energy loss disrupt building heating and cooling distribution, and how much can it affect utility costs?
  • How can IR testing be used to evaluate current masonry conditions and control costs on repairs?

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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Chris Matthews: Welcome to the Everything Building Envelope Podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, Vice President of GCI Consultants, and I’ll be your host of the podcast today. I’m very excited today to introduce our guests, Terry Malagoli and Ilsa McIntyre of Infrared Testing, Inc. based in Chicago. They’re gonna talk to us today about all the exciting activities and current events related to Infrared Testing in the construction industry and beyond. Welcome, guys.

Ilsa McIntyre: Great, thanks for having us.

Terry Malagoli: Good morning, thank you. Uh, my name is Terry Malagoli, I’m the, um, Founder and CEO of the company. I started this company in 1990 and, uh, from a fledgling little seed and today we’re a multi-million-dollar corporation and we, um, are a global company working all over the world. We have in Chicago 14 people in our office and we have 18 people in the field. Uh, they’re scattered across the country from California to Florida to New York. We have a team that actually, uh, travels outside of the country for us on a constant basis and we’ll do inspection in China, India, Europe, Australia, and pretty much what we cover.

Chris Matthews: Interesting, great. All right, so, let’s talk some about how your work interacts with the building envelope and maybe some areas beyond. So, what is the role of infrared and envelope inspections related to building commissioning, for verifying new construction and reducing liability?

Ilsa McIntyre: Well, infrared is really sort of an essential part of the toolbox for building commissioning, and building commissioning is getting to be, uh, a much bigger thing especially as states and companies and governments are focusing on going green initiatives. Uh, more states like California with California’s Cal Green Code are starting to require building commissioning for all new, uh, larger, non-residential projects. Um, it’s also essential for, uh, things like lead certification and what building commissioning is, is it’s a full sort of top-to-bottom systems check quality assurance process that compares the design and functionality of the building. It assesses the new construction prior to occupancy and sort of top-to-bottom the building envelope and then inside all functioning of the systems, and where infrared comes into play in this is both from an electrical, uh, standpoint as well as a building structural standpoint, the envelope of the building and the roof.

Chris Matthews: Oh, I was just gonna add that, and we’ve been involved with that at GCI, not from the in-, the infrared standpoint, but doing some of the envelope commissioning work related to other types of testing and assessment of the system. So, I’m familiar with that as well.

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly, exactly, and, you know, not just new constructions actually, it’s getting to be a thing for recommissioning as these, uh, historical buildings are redeveloped for additional uses to sort of convert the building to its new uses, and we go in and check everything with that as well. I don’t know if you’re familiar with continuous commissioning which, I guess, has been developed out of Texas A&M University. Sort of as buildings are, you know, becoming more technological they developed a system to sort of quantify energy use to continually increase not just as the building was being built and redeveloped but sort of re-evaluate continuously the increased efficiency in building operations –

Chris Matthews: Nice, yeah.

Ilsa McIntyre: – whereas the initial commissioning and sort of recommissioning focuses on verifying design, uh, continuous commissioning looks at the total overall efficiency, especially with the subsystems, you know, and the new technology you have the IOT connecting all your equipment and, uh, thermal imaging really compliments this technology to pinpoint problem areas with further precision.

Chris Matthews: Great, yeah, very interesting. So, how does the infrared envelope testing add value to green initiatives saving programs, I think you were kind of touching on that.

Ilsa McIntyre: Yes, so, again, you know, it, it’s necessary for things such as lead certification but the building envelope inspection from an infrared standpoint really came into use in the 70s and 80s, and this was a time, um, where they really saw fuel price increases, and so it became necessary both from mostly a cost standpoint to make sure that you’re not leaching energy out of your building, you know, from air leakage, from improper window sealings, you know, from roof problems, and, you know, they estimate that excessive leakage from problem areas can as much as double energy use. So, the energy systems lab, again at Texas A&M University in developing their continuous commissioning systems, estimated that as much as up to really like a fifth of energy consumed in an average commercial building is waste and caused by poorly operating systems. So, uh, the infrared standpoint is to try and reduce that energy, both leaching out of the building envelope, and then from an electrical standpoint leaching out of the electrical system.

Chris Matthews: Right, and I see that from my work in the building envelope, you know, that that airflow through the walls is something that wasn’t always looked at historically, but now as you say, everyone’s realizing that this seals and airflow are costing people a lot of money –

Ilsa McIntyre: Oh definitely.

Chris Matthews: – over the long term.

Ilsa McIntyre: I can see it even in the, in my building. I live in sort of a converted, it was a clothing manufacturer actually. The building was built around 1900. They converted it to lofts in the 1990s and this was before sort of, you know, retrofitted all this, this, these building parts and now we’re sort of having leakage out of the window sealings and around the outer part of the masonry, and I think that our heating bill for the last month, especially with how cold it’s been in Chicago, has been over $200.00 just for the month. So, we’re certainly feeling that as well.

Chris Matthews: Yeah.

Ilsa McIntyre: We need an infrared inspection **** building.

Chris Matthews: Yeah, there, there is a real world example of how it affects you right there. So, how does the IR imaging, uh, kind of related more to the work that I’m familiar with, how does it detect failing window seals, faulty or missing insulation, um, things that might be invi-, invisible to the naked eye in an inspection?

Ilsa McIntyre: Sure, sure, so, what we’ll do, um, a lot of times we get called up from clients who think that they have a problems somewhere but they’re not sure or, you know, sort of like I said with my building, they, you know, just are encountering, like, massively expensive utility bills, and so, they’ll call us up and we’ll come up and set up the building to an inspection. Um, what we want to do is we create a negative pressure inside the building by altering the HVAC system. We want to make it either, you know, if it’s cold outside and we’re doing the inspection in winter, to raise up the heat in the building to make it quite hot or vice versa in the summer, and that way what we’re looking for is it can be anything from faults in insulation, interior air sealing, and faults in the moisture retardation systems. Each type of insulation has a characteristic thermal pattern, something like, you know, with an injected foam insulation, what we’re looking for is sort of that cracking and shrinking. Um, it can be from poor installation from the get go, and we see faults in, you know, brand-new buildings, and again, that’s sort of what we’re looking for from the commissioning standpoint, and then certainly in older buildings as these insulation systems start to wear down as moisture starts to get into, um, you know, the moisture retardation system starts to fail, that’s when we really see it.

Chris Matthews: I had some experience with a similar project. It was a hospital building with a large curtain wall, and they had done some infrared testing that was indicating, it was in Florida, it was a warm climate –

Ilsa McIntyre: Right, yes, humid.

Chris Matthews: – and, right, and they were, they, they had concerns about air leakage through the curtain wall and had done infrared testing and identified some, I guess, localized problem areas within the curtain wall, and then we were able to use that information in the, uh, report from the, from the thermographer to go to those specific areas and identify what the problems were and help them to resolve those, because luckily for, in this case, it wasn’t a systemic thing that was throughout, it was more isolated locations, but the infrared was great for, you know –

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

Chris Matthews: – you’ve got problems in these ten areas, and then enabling us as the experts to go up and put our eyes on it and figure out what was going wrong rather than looking at this 40,000 square feet of curtain wall inch by inch and trying to, trying to –

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly, right.

Chris Matthews: – figure out e-, even if there’s a problem, you know, so.

Ilsa McIntyre: Right.

Chris Matthews: Yeah.

Ilsa McIntyre: And, yes, the infrared testing, you know, in the end once we do pinpoint the problems, obviously we’ll have to sort of get into the walls to, for corrective measures, but this way, um, it can be sort of a good way to estimate costs before you get involved and commit, overly commit to a larger project than needed, but the infrared really, a lot of times we get calls from clients who think they have a problem or what they think is actually, uh, a water leakage problem in their building is really, as you said, an air leakage problem, and the air –

Chris Matthews: Mm hmm.

Ilsa McIntyre: – as it’s coming into the building, especially in more humid clients, climates, hits, uh, you know, a certain material that it leads to condensation and that’s where you’re starting to have the moisture build up rather than moisture coming in directly into the building, and that can be sort of hard to, to ascertain and guess on, especially, um, if the problem is going through, you know, an indirect pathway such as through, you know, anything like a plumbing chase, an interior wall, rather than coming in directly through, you know, a failed window seal.

Chris Matthews: Right, and isn’t that usually the, that the IR is kinda, well, at least in the envelope, in the work that I’ve done, that the IR is kind of the first step in identifying here are your problem areas, and then usually you need to go in, like in the case that I had mentioned, then you’re gonna go in with some more in-depth visual analysis, or maybe some destructive testing or something to figure out –

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

Chris Matthews: – okay, here’s the problem area, and then what are we gonna do to confirm and come up with some, with some solution. Is that kinda you guys’ approach, uh, when it comes to the envelope?

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly. It’s a, it’s a good first step from the envelope, also with problems with roof systems. Rather than, you know, literally tearing your building apart, removing wall-, all the interior/exterior walls to sort of get the lay of the land of, you know, I know I have a problem on the roof. Again, you know, the moisture being **** referred from somewhere else, so, you know, I don’t really know how much of the roof is damaged, and with the, the infrared scan we can sort of give you an idea is it 10 percent of the roof, is it 2 percent of the roof, is it really just a couple of problem areas, or is it better just to replace the entire roof?

Chris Matthews: Right, and, and you guys had mentioned that you’re getting heavily into the drone, um, type inspections when we were talking before the podcast. I would think that the drones are very useful for the roof inspections in a lot of, a lot of situations.

Ilsa McIntyre: Oh yes. For the roof as well as the envelope it’s really sort of revolutionized what we do, and we’re just very excited that our drone division is, is really taking off, literally, and, uh, both literally and, um, physically. So, what we do is, especially in the urban areas, we have certified drone pilots now and we, um, and they make drones that are outfitted with thermal cameras, and instead of the way we used to do these inspections, um, especially for the high-rise buildings, you’d have to find a series of buildings nearby and have people strategically located on various roofs. You’re sort of, like, becoming, like, Spiderman, having to jump from roof to roof just to get good angles and views of the entire building, and now –

Chris Matthews: Mm hmm.

Ilsa McIntyre: – with the drones we really get that full 360-degree view, um, especially just, you know, if there is various overhangs of buildings or multiple roofing types, um, we can really jus get in and see every corner.

Chris Matthews: Yep, right, great, and the, and we have used probably, certainly not to the level of expertise that, that you guys have, but we, with some of that similar stuff with IR in looking at roofs where people believe they have a problem, I’m trying to find where there may be some moisture, and then typically doing some, same as I was talking about earlier, confirmation testing where we do some core samples or something to find, okay, is there actually moisture under there, um –

Ilsa McIntyre: Yes, exactly.

Chris Matthews: – but a great tool to either indicate areas where there may be a problem or rule them out either way.

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly –

Chris Matthews: Um –

Ilsa McIntyre: – before you even have to get to the destructive core sampling.

Chris Matthews: Exactly. You don’t, you don’t want to do, you don’t want to punch anymore holes into the roof than you have to, so.

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

Chris Matthews: Um, so, back to the energy issues, how much can energy loss disrupt building heating and cooling distribution, and how does that impact utility costs?

Ilsa McIntyre: Right, so, like I said, you know, and that has sort of been quantified as the with Texas A&M and their continuous commissioning and saying that, you know, 20 percent of energy consumed in a building can be wasted. So, you know, that’s just sort of money that’s being thrown away, but even going beyond that, you know, you’re sort of decreasing the longevity of every system in your building by having this energy leach out. Right from the start, you know, things like building commissioning can find HVAC systems that are sort of hampered by design problems, by insulation problems, that result in either extensive energy use and just, you know, things like uncomfortable buildings for the inhabitants, and then, you know, as you get to have the problems with air coming into your building, building up moisture, you’re, you know, leading to things such as, you know, the sick building syndrome that your workers are just becoming physically sick from things like mold problems.

Chris Matthews: Right, right, exactly, and that, and that obviously we deal with that a lot from the water side as well.

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly. Yes, you know, excessive energy consumption can increase your utility costs, but, you know, if you attach onto that the indirect costs of, you know, if your water pipes are freezing up, you’re having issues with your fire sprinkler systems, again, you know, problems caused by mold, by condensation, the water intrusion, um, and then you’re, you know, of course opening yourself up to, um, liability from the building inhabitants.

Chris Matthews: Sure yeah, yeah, the whole sick building thing that you mentioned. So, how can the IR testing, um, be used to evaluate current masonry conditions and control costs on repairs?

Ilsa McIntyre: Sort of like we were talking about with the roof inspection. Um, the envelope it works the same way. Um, we really go in for the client’s both, um, if they think they’re having a problem with **** we recommend, um, doing every couple of years and it’s starting to get codified, I think Chicago is starting to pass some laws that they require, um, masonry inspections, um, every, Terry, can you help me out, is it –

Terry Malagoli: Two years.

Ilsa McIntyre: – every year, every couple of years?

Terry Malagoli: Yeah, it’s every, every 2 years.

Ilsa McIntyre: So, this is something that we go in and, um, with the drone again it’s really simplified and, um, beautified, honestly, the whole process that we can get these, these beautiful views of the entire structures of the out-, of the building, and also a really helpful study of trying to get a baseline condition of what, how, you know, how much of an undertaking is this masonry repair project? Do we sort of have to go in and redo the whole thing or is it just some spot, spot repairs.

Chris Matthews: Right, and I’m familiar with those requirements. A lot of the big municipal areas in the, um, now, you know, we have, we’ve got aging buildings and this is a, a huge concern is that the –

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

Chris Matthews: – masonry facades, um, are not going to last forever, and –

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

Chris Matthews: – um, you know, you’ve got to assess ’em. You don’t want to wait till things start falling off the building.

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly. So, its’ both from an inner standpoint, it’s not an option to ignore. You have air and moisture coming into the building which creates problems inside, as we’ve already gone over, but outside as you just said, you can have, you know, serious injuries caused by, you know, falling masonry, falling tile from the outside of a building and, you know, you’re opening yourself up to a huge amount of liability from that.

Chris Matthews: Sure, yeah, right, right. Well, lots of areas that the, that the IR is useful. Um, some I’ve had experience with and, and certainly some, even in the envelope that I’m really familiar with and some areas that I wouldn’t have had thought about at first. You guys had also mentioned, I think it’s kind of interesting for our audience, some of the work you’re doing related to inspections of power grids and how, and wildfire risk, those types of things. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Ilsa McIntyre: Sure, sure, yes. This is something that we’re really excited about, especially with our drones and, and energy savings and going green. Um, something that’s really on people’s mind a lot, um, from an electric standpoint is with the wildfires out in California, um, how much of that can be caused by problems in the transmission distribution lines, and what we could do now, and we have been doing for large companies is going through and inspecting miles and miles of overhead and transmission lines for false, uh, using our thermal drones, before they contribute to things such as wildfires and, um, are obviously very destructive, um, to property and to, um, to people.

Chris Matthews: Right, yeah, very interesting, yeah, another application that, uh, obviously is, is very important, uh –

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

Chris Matthews: – we’ve seen it, seen it in the news a lot recently for sure.

Ilsa McIntyre: Yes, and getting back to sort of the, the spot, isolating hot spots before they lead to bigger problems. Obviously it’s something that before it leads to, you know, the bankruptcy of a company or, you know, such as PG&E –

Chris Matthews: Right.

Ilsa McIntyre: – it’s something such as, you know, repairing, you know, certain cutouts before they, you know, take down the entire system.

Chris Matthews: Yes, well worth the investment to get someone like you out there to test these before it’s a much bigger problem. Well, great, I really appreciate you guys joining us today. Why don’t you tell our audience how to reach you and talk to you further if they have questions or, or need your assistance.

Ilsa McIntyre: Thanks, Chris, it’s been a real pleasure. We have a website. We’re just at www.infraredtesting.com. Happy to reach out, we have some really cool samples of all our drone studies, uh, electrical, building envelope, roof, roof inspections. We’re happy to speak with anyone and, um, discuss services in further detail.

Chris Matthews: Great, thank you.

Terry Malagoli: Want to give ’em our phone number?

Ilsa McIntyre: Yes, and our phone, we can be reached also by phone at 312-670-5005.

Chris Matthews: All right, thank you, that, uh, concludes this podcast. We will be talking to our audience again soon.

Ilsa McIntyre: Thanks, Chris.

Terry Malagoli: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Meteorological Data, Storms, Wind, Rain, Intensity, Accuracy & Computer Models

Rocco Calaci – LRC Services

  • About Rocco & LRC Services
  • Meteorological Data
  • Federal Weather Databases
  • Repository of US Weather Radar
  • Weather Event Historical Data
  • Microscale to Synaptic Scale Data
  • Mesocyclones, Microbursts & Tornadoes

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

*** Subscribe to the show and leave us a Review on ITunes!

Derek: Welcome to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. My name is Derek Segal. I’m a building envelope consultant with GCI. I’m excited about today’s topic, which is forensic meteorology. And I’d like to take a moment to welcome, Rocco Calaci, with LRC Services. Welcome, Rocco.

Rocco: Well, thank you very much, Derek.

Derek: For our guests, Rocco, and our listeners, would you spend a couple of minutes telling us a little bit about your history, your training and how you landed up as the head of a top-notch forensic meteorology organization?

Rocco: Sure. I had a 20-year career in the United States Air Force as a meteorologist, and I was fortunate enough also to be an instructor of meteorology for the Department of Defense.

And, in those 20 years, I worked at multiple high-profile locations. And near the end of my career, my retirement I was fortunate enough to be the manager of the largest military weather station at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

After my retirement, I got heavily involved in the development of Nexrad, which is a National Weather Service Radar. They’re nice and colorful, what you see on television. I helped set up a couple of companies across the United States. I started LRC Services in 2006, and here I am today.

Derek: Thanks. That sounds good. LRC, so forensic meteorology, for us lay people, what do you folks do? I mean, what are some of the services that you provide and who are your primary customers? Is it just storm people that are in the storm industry or what are some of the different areas that you provide services in?

Rocco: LRC Services provides a variety of products to a wide range of clients. We do forensic meteorology, which is basically an after-the-fact reconstruction of weather events for storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and such. But we also do site-specific forecasting for a wide range of clients.

For example, I do site-specific forecasting for parts of South America, China, Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, and across the United States. We also do data research and we issue a daily weather newsletter that provides you weather outlook for the next 2 to 3 weeks to 8,000 to 10,000 people in businesses, including the federal government each day, Monday through Friday.

Derek: Wow. That sounds like a lot of different areas that you work for and a lot of different customers. I know, you know, GCI is a forensic expert that does a lot of work in the storm arena. How are you able to reconstruct some of these events?

Is it, do you rely on a lot of your training, or is it scientific data? Or what are the different resources you use to put… You know, I guess it’s like looking into a crime. How do you recreate these things? Do you look at facts? Do you look at evidence? What do you… How do you go about it?

Rocco: I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of tools. One, I have access to a number of federal weather databases. These are free to the public so I can dig into weather that occurred as far back as 1980 across the United States.

So I can find out weather events, what time something happened, the location it happened, who reported it. There’s also another tool that tells me all the different types of weather elements such as tornadoes, hail, severe thunderstorms, when they occurred, every four to five minutes across any given point in the United States.

I have surface observations that are taken at airports and by other agencies. And we also have, again, an extensive background and a repository of weather radar for the entire United States going back about 25 years. So I can pinpoint what happened over a site-specific address, let’s say your house, every four minutes.

Derek: Wow. So, are you saying that what happens at my house, it does vary from house to house or location to location? And how does the properties location influence what’s gonna happen?

Isn’t it easy to assume that if there’s a storm at my house, the same thing is gonna happen two blocks away or how does that work?

Rocco: Well, everything is broken down into different scales from microscale to what we call synaptic scale, which is very large. But we can all…we all know that weather is different from block to block, as you pointed out.

So, some of the other things we do to differentiate is we make site visits. We go to a location and we look and see, what’s the surrounding environment? For example, is a building surrounded by taller buildings or is it surrounded by flat land which would allow the wind to blow unobstructed?

Are there trees nearby? Is it at a higher elevation? Is there a nearby water that might cause…have a maritime effect? There’s a lot of different factors. So, just because the wind is hitting your building one way, two blocks over because of the configuration of the building and the surrounding environment, the wind could affect that building totally differently.

Derek: Interesting. I know we had a conversation some time back and I’d like to bring this up because I know this is fascinating for a lot of our listeners. You basically provide services to, am I correct in saying, all across the world or for other regions and continents?

Rocco: That’s correct.

Derek: So, I think you told me a story about a barge or something that you had to help a shipping company or someone prepare for a journey. Tell us a little bit about that because I think that’s to me, that’s pretty interesting.

Rocco: Yeah, I have a lot of examples for that. But the one we were mentioning is, I had a client that needed to get a large barge from the western end of the Amazon River all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean, and it was gonna take about seven to eight days.

So I had to provide a weather forecast broken down into six to eight-hour increments for the entire journey. To do that I had to have access to a variety of weather satellite information over the Amazon basin, surface observations from Brazil, radar observations from Brazil, and information on the climatology of the area.

And it took me several days to gather up all my references and sources so I can then come up with a forecast. And we monitor the weather in realtime so that if we need to make a slight change from the forecast we were able to do that. And luckily we were able to make the…have the barge go the entire seven, eight-day trip without any occurrence of unexpected weather.

Derek: Wow. That sounds adventurous. That sounds really good and very valuable to obviously that client. We also, for our people listening and perhaps people that are not as technologically advanced as you are, to me, is wind just wind? Is there directional wind? Are there different winds out there or is wind just wind? Maybe tell us a little bit about that.

Rocco: Well, to the average layman, wind is just wind, but to a meteorologist, wind is just as an umbrella for a variety of subcategories. For example, we have what’s called pressure gradient wind. That’s what drives most of the wind across the globe. And that’s the differences and the temperature differences and pressure differences across the globe.

As you see on a map, you see a high and a low, a frontal situation, and those are helping to initiate winds. Then we have what we call thunderstorm winds. These are winds generated by thunderstorms and caused by thunderstorms. Then we have what’s called a wind gust, that’s a three to five-second sudden burst of wind speed.

Then we have what we call a microburst. That’s when a storm totally collapses and the winds come down from the upper atmosphere, hit the ground and spread out almost as if a bomb had hit the ground.

We have winds associated with hurricanes. We have a variety of winds. Same with any weather element.

Derek: So and these can be different intensities or is a microburst, is a microburst similar to a tornado? Or, I’ve heard the term mesocyclone, I love that word because it really helps me with my elocution. But, is a microburst the same as a mesocyclone, or what is a mesocyclone?

Rocco: A mesocyclone is a large, rotating cluster of storms. It can be one large storm, let’s say six to eight miles across or it could be a cluster of storms, all rotating.

Now, within the mesocyclone, the mesocyclone can then produce large hail, can produce local lived heavy winds, let’s say 55 miles an hour or greater. It can produce some microburst, it can produce a tornado, it can produce heavy rain.

Think of it as a massive storm. A microburst like as I said though, originates in the individual storm cell where the storm cell collapses from the top down. It has… The mass of the storm rushes to the ground. It picks up speed and wind and when it hits the ground, as I said, it spreads out as if…almost like a bomb blast.

Derek: Wow. Is that… So that’s like it has the same effect as a tornado or what is that? The same power?

Rocco: It has the same power but in a different…with a different effect. A tornado is vertical and with a lot of sheer over short distance, whereas a microburst creates what we call a horizontal vortex or a horizontal tornado so that when it hits the ground you have this…it’s like a large barrel rolling around…rolling across the ground and affecting everything it hit.

Derek: Wow. That sounds pretty dramatic. I’m sure we’ve had them around Florida and you know, Hurricane Michael was just up in the Panhandle, and those folks got really hurt up there. And, I was…I happen to be up there. I’ve had two or three trips up there and some of the damage I saw up there is heart-wrenching. It was just very disturbing. And I know they’re struggling to get back on their feet.

I wanted to ask you because this is something that I’m very interested in and I’m sure our listeners are as well. Historical weather that’s been going on I think the last two, three years was very dramatic. We had, first, we had Harvey in Texas, 50 plus inches of rain. We had Maria that hit Puerto Rico and Florida.

We also had Matthew, we had Irma, and we had Michael. What is going on? I mean, it seems like things are really getting more intense and more frequent? What is as an expert, what…can you tell us what’s going on? What has happened and what we can expect?

Rocco: If you look at the records, the hottest 10 years on record have all occurred over the last 25 years. Water temperatures continue to warm. We’re retaining a lot more heat in the atmosphere. As the polar ice caps start to melt, that puts more moisture into the air. And as you have more moisture and warmth, that adds fuel to the atmosphere.

And as a result, as anything, the more fuel you have, the more explosive results you can have, which is why we see things like Irma, Michael, and Harvey. All of those were category 4 storms, and we haven’t had that many category 4 storms in such a short period of time ever in the last 50 years.

So, I would expect hurricane intensity, storm intensity to continue to remain high for at least the next two to three years until we enter into a possible less active cycle.

Derek: Downturn. Yeah, and I guess that’s exacerbated by the fact that the population keeps growing, people are continuously moving closer and moving towards the coastal areas which obviously are more prone to catastrophic impacts.

And also we’re changing the topography of the land. I mean, if you look at a city like Houston, and they have a bayou drainage type system where they’re moving the water all the way from the top of the city synthetically, because obviously, that’s not the natural drainage pattern, and it’s just flooding neighborhoods left and right because of the massive population and the way that we’ve tried to steer water away from residential areas. It’s not a good combination. Let’s just put it that way. I think I asked you, should I start…do you think I should start building an ark?

Rocco: Well, an ark may be a little premature unless you live maybe up in the Kentucky, Tennessee area. They’re getting a lot of rain lately. But I would… We have rising sea levels.

In fact, Miami, as you mentioned, there are some areas where the sea level is so high, a little bit of rain or a little bit of wind off the ocean causes neighborhoods to flood.

And I think this is gonna be a continuation of this trend for the foreseeable future. I don’t see any turnaround where we’re gonna, you could say, gain land instead of losing land.

For example, in Louisiana, there’s a portion of Louisiana, the water rise is so rapid that they lose a football field of land every two hours.

Derek: Wow. I remember being in New Orleans and I came out of my hotel and I looked up and the water was actually above the hotel. And I guess when you’re living basically almost underwater before there’s a flood, that a scary fact that things are getting worse especially for a city like New Orleans or the Gulf Coast, where they’ve had a lot of this going on.

I wanted to ask you, so this phenomenon, these levels that are rising, the extreme weather, the cold, the heat and the storms, is this just a national phenomenon or are we seeing these trends across the world in other countries?

Rocco: That’s definitely a global phenomenon. As we’re worried here about record cold temperatures or heavy rain, places like Europe over this past winter have had record-breaking snowfall.

Major floods and droughts in Australia, major droughts in China, record cold in Siberia. So, it’s definitely…when they say global warming, they definitely mean global effects also.

Derek: I mean, maybe you don’t know this answer, are other countries doing anything better than us? Are they more proactive in… I know Holland has had the windmill or used hydro energy, solar energy. I mean, are we catching up?

I know some of the other states like California, and Nevada, and Arizona are more active with their solar programs. Is Florida pulling their weight or are we kind of behind the curve?

Rocco: Well, it depends on who you’re asking and what area you’re looking for. We have a lot of areas where we have solar panels for like the use of solar farms, but I don’t…I’m not aware of any large scale wind farms, whereas out west, you see thousands of acres covered with large windows, so it’s all a variety of…of where you’re at.

As far as how we rank with other countries, I’d have to say we’re probably in the middle. We have some countries that are more aggressive towards climate control. And we have other countries who don’t make any effort at all, whatsoever. So, I guess it’s…we’re kind of stuck with what everybody else is doing around the world too.

Derek: Right. And I guess that’s dealing with the consequence as opposed to the cause, because like the medical profession, oftentimes they are giving medication for a condition when they’re not dealing with the source of taking down forests and doing stuff like that that’s creating this climate change.

We’re just dealing with the consequence and not really addressing the fundamental cause of these problems. I also wanted to ask you, I mean, something that has…throughout the years, that’s really fascinating for me is the storm chaser thing.

I’ve always wanted to just jump into my car when I hear about a storm and just drive straight into it, not really straight in but at least see it from that perspective. Is this something that you’ve… Have you done this? Are you on…doing this on an ongoing basis or have you ever done… Have you ever been a storm chaser?

Rocco: I’ve faced many storms over my years. I’ve chased hurricanes along the coastline. I’ve chased tornadoes in Alabama, and Mississippi, and Texas, and Oklahoma. There are actually commercial companies that will…you can sign up for and go out and they’ll try to chase a tornado with you.

They’ll try to locate where a tornado is gonna form, and they try to take you out there within a safe distance and let you actually watch the tornado form and dissipate.

Derek: Wow. Interesting. So, looking into our crystal ball, is there anything, any technology coming down the pike in the future that’s going to improve or make us better able to have more accurate forecasts or help the population be better prepared? Is there any newer technology that you’ve seen in the works out there coming?

Rocco: Everybody relies on computer models. Now, we can make computer models by having faster computers, but we’re not providing better information. And until we can provide better information, more detail, more routine and incremental information, our models won’t be able to really provide any greater accuracy.

And the reason I say that is, we can… Like right now we have a weather station, let’s say…I’ll say in Biloxi, and then another one in New Orleans, and another one then in Houston, but a lot of weather happens in between those three locations. And we don’t have any real-time information for that.

We need more real-time information spread across the United States and the globe to access, then feed that into a computer model. And then we can maybe have greater accuracy. But until we get better information, the models aren’t really gonna do much.

Derek: I recall seeing a program fairly recently about NASA, how much they’re doing. And I know it’s fascinating they’re actually, I guess, studying because they have all these global satellites. Obviously, I think they probably, they have the best or the widest array of satellites around the world.

They’re actually studying marine life and ocean currents. And, it was fascinating to see how the ocean, obviously, that takes up more than 70% of our Earth, is related to our weather. Is there any correlation or how do you… I mean, obviously, you don’t look at…when you’re forecasting weather systems, you’re not looking at the temperature of the water. Are you or are you using any of that data?

Rocco: Oh, definitely. You have to know what’s happening over the water. As you said, 70% of the Earth is covered by water. So you’ve got to know what’s happening over the water as it starts to move towards land. That’s very, very important in places like Japan, the United States, Europe, parts of Africa, you have to be aware of what’s happening over the ocean.

Like us, for hurricane season, we put most of our focus on Africa because the strongest tropical waves come off of Africa, across the ocean and head towards the United States.

So, you definitely have to watch the oceans and water bodies to have a good understanding of what’s gonna happen on land.

Derek: Wow. This has been a really fascinating conversation. I know, I’ve certainly learned a lot, and I’m hopeful that our listeners also are happy with, you know, our topic and our guest today.

Rocco, if we wanted to get in touch with you or anyone listening out there wanted to get in touch with LRC, can you give us the information of how we would get in touch with you?

Rocco: Sure. First, you could always call me. And my phone number is 850-830-8652. I also have a couple of websites. The best one though is www.myweathersearch, all one word, www.myweathersearch.com. And that contains a variety of maps for the United States and other parts of the world, real-time satellite, real-time wind information, radar information.

And at the bottom of the website I have my daily weather newsletter that goes out, as I said earlier, to about 8,000 to 10,000 people. But, on the web, I have no idea how many people are reading it there. That would… That’s another way of getting a hold of me. I have a tab up on the top of LRC Services where you can click on it and then contact me also.

Derek: Great. Well, thanks. Thank you so much for coming in today. Once again, folks, Derek Segal here with GCI. You’ve been listening to our Everything Building Envelope podcast. And once again, on behalf of everyone and especially myself, I’d like to thank Rocco Calaci for joining me today from LRC Services.

Please don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram. Check out our website at gciconsultants.com, and we look forward to bringing you many, many more interesting guests and topics for our Everything Building Envelope podcast series.

Wind Damage to Windows, Investigation & Claims

Paul Beers – GCI Consultants

  • Paul Interviewed on Newstalk 101 in Panama City
  • Intro to Tara Munoz & Paul Beers
  • Wind Damage to Windows, Visual & Discrete
  • Building Code Changes by Paul Beers After Andrew
  • Expert Testimony and Forensic Testing vs Insurance Claims
  • Wind Damage Characteristics
  • Insurance Company Obligations & Claim Denials
  • and much more…

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

*** Subscribe to the show and leave us a Review on ITunes!

Windstorm Insurance Claims, Coverage, Experts & Litigation

Gina Lozier – Berger Singerman

  • About Gina Lozier
  • 2017 Hurricane Season Damages & Costs
  • Insurance Company Claim Mitigation Tactics
  • Why policy owners should have an expert on their side
  • When claims go to trial, etc.

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

http://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

*** Subscribe to the show and leave us a Review on ITunes!

Derek: I’d like to welcome our listeners to the ”Everything Building Envelope” podcast today. My name is Derek Segal and I’m a building envelope consultant with GCI Consultants, a podcast to bring you great information about our industry today and I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of this. Today’s guest that we’re fortunate to have is Gina Clausen Lozier of the law from Berger Singerman. Welcome, Gina.

Gina: Hi, Derek, I thank you for having me here today.

Derek: Gina, great. Can you tell us a little bit about and the listeners about yourself and how your journey came to put you where you are today with Berger Singerman?

Gina: Oh, absolutely. I am an attorney who represents policyholders against insurance companies. I have been with Berger Singerman for almost five years now. I’m a partner there with the firm. Prior to being with Berger Singerman, I was a partner at a large statewide insurance defense firm, so I learned a lot about the industry from representing the insurance companies and all of the different coverage obligations and compliance issues, you know, the policyholders face every day. So now I’m able to use that information and my experience on this side to represent the policyholders against the insurance company. So I’ve been practicing for almost 12 years, very involved in the industry with the Wind Storm Insurance Network and FAPIA and different other organizations. So use all that experience as well and in my everyday work. And I’m excited to be here and talk about how the industry has changed over the past 12 years since I’ve been practicing.

Derek: Great. That’s all fantastic information, especially the fact that you’ve kind of, you see the picture and the challenges from both sides. And, you know, with that said, it leads into a very good question and I did a little bit of research before our podcast today. I don’t know if you knew this or if our listeners knew any of this, but 2017 was the costliest hurricane season ever accounting for an estimated $320 billion in damages, a total of 17 main storms and the 7 most active ever since record-keeping began in 1851. I mean, that’s dramatic. Conversely, 2018, we had not necessarily the most storms, but we had four category four between 2017 and 2018, excuse me, four category four storms to hit the continental U.S. as well as Puerto Rico. And you know, that’s, I think why, you know, this podcast today, it’s so important is because, you know, property owners out there are facing some of the biggest challenges ever. And insurance companies strictly are not making life easier and it’s important to know what you’re doing and have an experienced team in place to help you through the process. So, you know, with that said, you know, what can listeners expect when they report a claim? What do they have to be ready for? What should they have document wise? What are some of the challenges they’re gonna face out there?

Gina: Yeah, you know, Derek, those points that you made are really interesting, especially because I don’t think we even can realize the impact of the 2018 season yet given that Michael was in the not so recent past. So I can expect those numbers to significantly increase. And, you know, one of the other things that you had mentioned is, you know, people, the policyholders, insureds are making comments about how difficult it is to get the insurance companies to pay. And I hear that every day, unfortunately. I hear it from the residential clients that I have who are just trying to restore their home, so they can move on with our lives. And I hear it from the commercial developers who are dealing with multiple properties well into the eight million, you know, I’m sorry, the eight-figure claims that they’re also not getting paid.

So there’s really, you know, the carriers are doing this across the board. It’s not specific to any type of claim, you know, residential versus commercial or high end. It’s kind of a general consensus that things have gotten more difficult to get the carriers to pay for various reasons, which I think, of course, we’ll talk about today. But to focus back around to your point about what you can expect when you report a claim, one of the first things that we’re seeing now that may not have generally been a consensus of the past is that the insurance companies are hiring experts right out the gate. And there’s a lot of reasons for that that have evolved over the years since the 2004-2005 hurricane season. A lot of which has to do with the different policy language that has been approved by OIR.

But one of the first things we’re seeing is that the insurance companies are asking to send out an engineer. They’re sending out building consultants who may not necessarily be licensed, independent adjusters. They may not necessarily be licensed contractors. They are consultants who are sent out there to assist the insurance company in scoping and pricing the loss, you know, in conjunction with an independent adjuster or seeing a team converge on these properties and these inspections taking days and potentially then weeks, which unfortunately is kind of working almost sometimes to delay the claim as well.

Derek: Right. Yeah. I mean, yet you’ve got a homeowner or a property owner that’s stressed out, they’ve just gone through a life-changing event and they’re being confronted with this team defending on them. I mean, what I’m seeing out there as well is that some of these experts are coming from out of state California, Texas. Florida is a pretty interesting area because the code is very specific here and there are types of construction that are not the same as they are in a non-dream wind prone zone like Florida.

I mean, some of these people don’t really know what they’re looking at and they don’t know how to accurately evaluate this. Does this make it even more vital for homeowners and property owners to have someone like yourself and someone on their side to handle this process and make sure that the property’s full damage is accurately evaluated not only for the claim but for a property owner to make sure that they know exactly what happened to their property.

Gina: No, absolutely. It used to be, as I mentioned in the past, the insurance company would investigate a loss and issue a coverage decision and pay undisputed or then you would just fight over the difference in the amount or the coverage. It’s not happening like that anymore. So absolutely it’s vital, especially in certain circumstances to have a team of experts to counteract what the insurance company’s team of experts is doing. It’s funny you mentioned that having all these experts and consultants come from out of state. I was on an inspection last year following Irma and the building roofing consultants were from Iowa. And it was in December and it’s not too hot in Florida in December. But they were only able to stay on the roof for two hours because they said it was too hot outside.

So it’s little things like that that absolutely do make a difference because when the insured is opening up their property for an all-day inspection and you have the insurance company’s consultants not able to move forward with that inspection, it just delays things and it’s an inconvenience to the insurer and the property owners. But you know, with respect to having that team of experts, it’s absolutely important. And there’s a few reasons why, which I’m happy to go into detail why experts and consultants should be retained, and in most cases, should be retained early on in the claim.

Derek: Is this something, yeah. Gina, is this something that’s paid for? Like, you know, again, cost is an issue. These people have just incurred a loss. They’ve got to spend money to fix their property. How are they gonna be able to afford cost? Is the insurance company gonna stroke them a check out of the gate to pay for someone to fight them? I don’t think so.

Gina: No, I haven’t seen that. I would love that. I haven’t seen it yet, but you know, crazier things are possible. Typically, under a standard homeowners or residential policy, there aren’t many provisions that allow an insurer to recover those costs under the policy. If you get into litigation and you ultimately go to trial or you potentially have an extra-contractual claim, otherwise known as a bad faith claim, there are avenues to recover the costs of your experts and engineers and professionals. It’s a little different in a lot of the commercial policies, especially the ones that are issued by the London syndicate. A lot of times there are provisions in the commercial policies that allow for professional fees. And the professional fees are typically tied to costs that are necessary to investigate the cause of the loss or to quantify the scope of the amount and the damage, which it’s a great thing to have in policies especially when you’re dealing with, you know, a claim that’s well into the millions, these fees add up pretty quickly.

Now the caveat to that is a lot of those provisions will only kick in if you get expressed written authority from the insurance company to incur those fees. So it’s important to understand what that provision says in conjunction with your post-loss obligations because sometimes if you have a duty to give the insurance company itemized quantification of the loss and support for the causes of loss, you have to incur certain expert fees to be able to provide that information to the carrier that they’re actually requesting. So, you know, there’s really not a black and white issue on that, but you always wanna look at the policy to see if those types of fees are recoverable. And make the best argument that you can and preserve your right to seek those costs in the long run.

Derek: Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ve spoken with…in fact, there’s one situation, one story that comes to mind. It’s a loss that we inspected down in Candor where the insurance company sent out their engineer, their engineer basically came out to this condominium complex. He said one of the units actually a huge three fell on this person’s home. And they eventually, six months after Irma made it out, they sent an engineer. The engineer basically said there’s like $15,000 damages, nothing wrong with the home. Well, the homeowner decided to get a second opinion from an independent engineer and basically the home was condemned. You know, they went and they wrote a letter to Dade county basically saying that this home is unsafe for occupation. And I mean, that’s a scary thought because I think a lot of folks out there are under the impression that when insurance companies sends out an expert and quotation marks, this expert has a fiduciary obligation to tell the truth no matter if it’s black or white or gray. And I mean, that’s a scary thought when, you know, these people come out and to a normal homeowner and these people are not getting the right advice and basically, you know, they’re under a huge risk because their home could collapse. I mean, these engineers don’t they have any type of, and maybe you don’t know this out, sort of under some type of oath or don’t they have a fiduciary obligation to do the right thing, so to speak?

Gina: I mean, it’s kind of a difficult question just because it involves so many different aspects. But generally speaking, when the insurance company sends out the engineers, they’re doing so to determine the cause of the loss. And if you look at most of the engineering and consulting reports from insurance company’s experts, it will specifically outline if that is the limited scope of their involvement. And they’re not providing an opinion, most of the time, it’s to the proper method of repair or code compliance issues. So really, it’s such a limited view of the loss that is the homeowner property owners in the position that there is significant damage, especially if it’s structural, they do need to get a second opinion, an independent, you know, engineer, someone who can draw up the plans, someone who can submit the permit, someone who can supervise the work. You know, especially when you’re dealing with, like you mentioned, the code issues in the tri-county area here, there are a lot different than they are across the state of Florida even.

And I have found especially recently given the 2017 and 2018 storms with these higher end commercial apartment complexes and office buildings, a lot of times they were built in the ’60s and the ’70s, and they comply with the code in the ’60s and ’70s but now once you reach a certain threshold of repairs, the building departments are requiring them to upgrade all the life safety issues. And some of these are coming up to such a high level of repair that the ordinance and law on code issues are trumping the actual direct damages from the storm. And that can get really expensive and really technical. And so, you know, if you’re faced with that situation, you absolutely want to get a second opinion. And it’s a good thing that the homeowner, you mentioned with the tree went out and did that. Unfortunately, the property was condemned but it’s not something they…

Derek: Right. But then they actually had to move out.

Gina: Right. You know, it’s unfortunate.

Derek: Tragic. Yeah, good. Let’s move on. That’s some good information about experts and how they fit in. As far as policies today, I mean, my history goes back, I’ve been through several storm seasons. I remember 2004, 2005 used to be a lot simpler. Correct me if I’m wrong, policies were different. They were less stringent on what constituted direct storm damage. I think verbiage has gotten very much more difficult to actually prove. That’s one of the things is that your experience between ’04, ’05 versus, you know, now, are there any other trap doors or any other loopholes that, you know, homeowners need to be aware of that may come back to hurt them later on?

Gina: Absolutely. In my prior life as a defense attorney, you know, I grew up with the litigation following Frances Jean and Wilma back in 2004 to about 2010 and I handled hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits. And that time on behalf of insurance companies and the policies were absolutely different then. So you’re seeing a little bit of a trend in some of the language that has been approved for a few different reasons. One of the biggest changes that has come about recently, and it’s more prevalent in policies now, even though it has been lingering around for a while, is what’s called this Wind Created Opening Provision or Apparel Created Opening. And what happens under that provision is it typically says we do not cover interior damage resulting from rain or wind-driven rain unless there is an opening in the building and the building could mean windows or roofs or building envelope, but just, it depends on the policy language. But they won’t cover the interior damage unless there’s first an opening that’s created. I’ve seen policies that actually say the opening has to be permanent.

So there’s all these little tricks that are in these provisions and they’re really important for one major reason. The major reason is, switches the burden to the insured to prove certain things. Under a standard, you know, most standard exclusions, the insurance company has the burden to show that this loss was excluded. But when you have exceptions to exclusions, meaning we won’t pay for this and unless X, Y, and Z happens, that language shifts the burden to the insured to prove something. Right. So if you get a claim in and it’s a hurricane claim and there is a provision that says, “We don’t cover the interior unless there’s a wind created opening,” you better have some evidence of a wind created opening. And that really starts with the consultants and the experts because if the condition of the property changes or the insured makes repairs and there’s no photographs or videos, that can really prejudice the ability to recover. And you know, unfortunately, insurance companies have and continue to win in court on this issue. And you know, they’re winning dispositive motions, they’re winning trials. And if that happens, there’s the insured will have no ability to recover. So these provisions are scattered and you know, the residential and the commercial and all the policies. So it’s very important to recognize those and identify them very quickly because if you don’t, it may be too late.

Derek: But now okay, so I’m a homeowner. I have water coming into my home. I can’t see the sky through my roof, so there’s no massive opening. But how did the water get in? I mean, isn’t a common sense, I mean, how could this water travel through a building by osmosis? Isn’t that enough that I had a leak inside to say this, the insurance company, how could the water get in? Obviously, there’s an opening somewhere. I mean, I don’t know where it is, but there’s an opening and I’m covered, right? Is this not the case? Is it not enough?

Gina: It’s magic. It just comes in through magic. You know?

Derek: It doesn’t make sense to me.

Gina: Unfortunately, that’s not enough. And the reason being when you have that more limiting language is, as I said, you have to show that there was some type of opening. It may not have to be permanent. It could be a temporary opening that occurred during a wind event or a wind storm. Whereas typically if you do have water coming into your house and it’s coming through because maybe your window is old and, you know, it’s kind of subject to deterioration and water came in, that may be covered under certain provisions as an ensuing law to the wear and tear. But if you have this more limiting provision, it’s not gonna be enough. And I agreed, it is common sense, the water had to come from somewhere. I had a hurricane, there was wind, water came in. But what you’re seeing is the insurance companies raising, you know, the failure to maintain the wear and tear, the old age, as the reason the water came in, not the wind allowing the water to come in. So that’s the difference.

Derek: Even more reason for a homeowner, let’s say, or a building owner, you know, before something happens on an annual basis to have an independent company inspect the property, document the condition so that they set a baseline. For example, doing a moisture scan on a roof so that you know, God forbid you have a hurricane, you have water get into the roof, the insurance company could say, “Well, you didn’t maintain it. How do we know the water wasn’t there a year ago?” And if you’ve got that proof, then I would think that’s something that would be very valuable to you as a property owner.

Gina: Oh, absolutely. I mean, normally you don’t have that type of proof. A lot of the buildings you see will have their 40-year certifications and those are often very helpful because of the process that the buildings have to go through and to document its condition. But if you own a lot of property and you have a huge risk to hurricane damage, you know, as part of your risk management program, it’s not that expensive to have a drone photo taken of the roof or that. And you know, most of the drones now can do the infrared right from the drone. So it’s saving the man-hour time of actually someone climbing up on the roof with an infrared camera. It’s an easy thing to do.

Derek: I often assimilate, you know, somebody maintain their property or their roofs to go into the dentist. We hate doing it, you don’t wanna go until there’s pain, right? And the pain is severe. So do you want a little bit of pain, clean your teeth now, or do you want a whole lot of heartache and pain later on where, you know, this affects your business and your life, especially with the way policies are written now? I mean, I think, you know, if property owners that own multiple buildings have a relationship with someone like you or GCI that’s already in the corner and checking out the building every two years, I mean it seems like after a storm you’d just be able to flip a switch. And any piece of paper they ask you for, you can provide very quickly and very accurately. And you know, what a lot of people don’t understand is that an insurance policy that they simply buy and throw in the bottom drawer is a contract that says it’s an insurance contract and you have obligations.

And I think there’s a misunderstanding or a discounting of what that actually means, a contract that they will enforce is, you know, it’s something that one needs to be aware of and be able to comply with very quickly. So with that said, I wanted to ask you something else that I’ve run across. And that’s the matching statute in policies which, for our listeners, matching statute means if my roof is damaged or my floor is damaged and that product is no longer available in certain policies, the insurance company is liable to pay for the replacement of the entire home or what have you because it cannot be matched and it’ll look like a checkerboard. Is that something that, you know, folks still can expect to happen or insurance companies both on commercial and residential claims is gonna be fighting these as well? I mean, what are you seeing out there?

Gina: As far as the residential, there is a statute that is commonly referred to as the matching statute. And as far as the residential, typically, you know, they might fight it because there’s other things that come into play as well because they’re gonna be arguing what percentage of the roof and one of the tiles can be painted, whether they can be found in the boneyard, whether they’re operating under an approved NOAA weather code comes involved, so it’s not ever gonna be very clean cut and then you have issues. Maybe not even the roof, but interior flooring, whether there’s a threshold, whether it’s aesthetic. I mean, there are certain policies now where for a while there, there was a lot of litigation overmatching of the interior tile floor. And a lot of policies have inserted limitations now saying that if the damage to the floor is purely aesthetic, we’re only gonna pay $10,000. So if it’s an aesthetic issue versus an actual functionality of the flooring system, there’s gonna be a huge debate over that, which again is where the experts and consultants come into play. Because if the usefulness and the purpose of the floor is somehow impacted by the loss, that’s not just aesthetic. So those are permissions that you need to look for in the policy. I mean, for the most part, I’ve seen those aesthetic provisions linked to flooring, but I can’t tell you whether there’s not ones out there that are also linked to roofing systems. So it definitely has something…

Derek: I know there are. I know there are. I had a situation in Texas which, you know, because in Texas we know hail is pretty prevalent everywhere, and in the San Antonio, Dallas area there’s a tremendous amount of hail and insurance companies got beat up pretty bad. And what happened was with all these metal roofing systems and what a lot of these property owners were unaware of is that there was a cosmetic exclusion in there which basically said if baseball hit your roof, baseball size hail hit your roof and it’s dented everywhere but the damage is only cosmetic, then we’re not gonna pay for the replacement. So I mean, your roof probably look terrible now. And if somebody was gonna come and buy your building or buy your home, they’re gonna ask for a huge discount because your home looks terrible and yet insurance companies are standing on the fact that a lot of these folks that were unaware of these cosmetic writers or exclusions in the policy were now basically left out in the field. And that’s very scary. I mean, metal roofs are very expensive. So I certainly think having evaluated hundreds of rooms that a metal roof that’s dented now is gonna hold residue after a storm because now all the water’s not gonna be able to drain off of that. Yes, it may not be directly damaged right now, but five years from now, you know, the corrosion, the surfacing of that roof may have been impacted and it may start rusting and now I have to pay out-of-pocket to have it replaced. So I know that’s a tough one for Texans to swallow, but it’s all about, you know, knowledge is power and it’s being aware of what’s in your policy.

Gina: No, absolutely. You know, I was looking at a client’s policy the other day for a specific issue, but as I was looking at it, it was a new renewal policy. I see in like, you know, this little corner of the policy that they exclude wind-driven rain. And you know, it boggles my mind, you think you’re buying a policy for hurricane coverage and, you know, interior water damage. And it may cover it, but to have those little exclusions hidden throughout the policy, you know, one of the things I always say is what you don’t know can hurt you because it is unbelievable the things that are in the policy and I bet everyone listening, most people don’t have any idea what their policy says. They don’t read it.

Derek: And also what happens is you get…like if you, for example, if you would farmers or all state or state farm or what have you, the year that you buy the policy, you get a full copy of the policy. Each, and correct me if I’m wrong because you may be the expert on this, each year I renew it, all I get are some basic pages and I don’t even know what’s being taken out or put in that policy. I mean, what kind of a deal is that? I don’t even know what it’s in my policy, yet I think it’s the same as the one I have in my drawer and it might be completely different. Is that the case?

Gina: Well, typically you’re gonna have the standard form and then once a year you’ll get whatever applicable endorsements or changes to the policies. On my last renewal, I got an endorsement to make sure the carrier knew that marsupial damage was no longer covered under my policy, which you know, just made me laugh because of the detail that they go into on these exclusions. But you can always ask for ask your agent or you can ask the insurance company for, you know, you prefer to get a certified copy. That way you know that it’s a full and complete version. Citizen is very good about giving certified copies. Other carriers, you know, kind of argue whether it has to be certified or not. But you know, it’s always a good idea before hurricane season hits to make sure you have a full copy of your policy and do it soon because if there’s any issues that you didn’t have time to address them with your agent.

Derek: So, yeah. You, so you got a note saying Marsupials were no longer covered, so you know that if a kangaroo jumps onto your roof, you don’t have coverage, right?

Gina: There’s no coverage for kangaroos. Yeah. Yeah.

Derek: Shoot, I mean that’s an important one to have I guess in Australia but maybe not here.

Gina: Yeah. I’m really glad they clarify that for me, so

Derek: Any other points you want to make? I mean, I think we’ve covered a lot. I think, you know, we’ve some real valid points for the listeners out there, how important it is to have, you know, a plan ahead of time so that you limit the stress and the anxiety later on. I know one other thing that has changed and I think maybe you can expand on this a little bit before we wrap it up, but appraisal is there. So I’m having a struggle with my insurance company. What are my options? Like what’s option A, B, and C and how has that changed over the past few years in your experience?

Gina: Yeah, and for those who are listening who don’t know what appraisal is, appraisal is an alternative dispute resolution process that is kind of specific to property insurance policies. And in the event that the insurance company and the insured don’t agree on the amount or the scope of the loss, each party selects an appraiser. They tried to agree on the amount of the loss. If they can’t, they appoint a third person called the umpire. And the decision of any two is binding. I mean, there’s a lot more to that, you know, depending on the facts of the case and what jurisdiction you’re in and everything. But essentially, that’s how it works, kind of an alternative dispute resolution process. Appraisal used to be pretty big and for a while a lot of carriers were getting hit what they believed to be pretty hard in the appraisal process, so they backed away from it a little bit.

Now, it’s back. It’s coming back now. You know, I just saw an article and I don’t know if it was a Sun-Sentinel or The Palm Beach Post talking about how Citizens is offering to cover certain costs of the appraisal to get claims resolved, where typically the insured has the obligation to pay their appraiser and half of the umpire. So it could be an option depending on the case. It’s typically a lot faster than litigation. It’s a little bit less of a headache because you don’t have to be involved with depositions and discovery in court, but the decision of two people is binding unless there’s some type of extraordinary circumstances, which normally are fraud or, you know, some type of misrepresentation, it’s hard to overturn an appraisal award.

You know, when I’m seeing a lot of in the larger-layered policy, which are typically, you know, people who have Lloyd policy developers who have master policies in many properties under it, there’s a lot of arbitration provisions. A lot of times, those arbitration provisions could potentially preclude your ability to file a lawsuit. It just obviously depends on the policy language, how it’s written. But if you don’t know that and you think you have the ability to file suit and maybe there’s an argument that you don’t, that’s quite a huge surprise to any property owner.

Derek: Well, that tells me that they need someone like you to make sure they know what their options are and what the consequences of each are before they make that decision. I mean, making an educated decision versus a knee-jerk decision sounds like a pretty vital thing to be able to do. And having you in their corner would make a difference real quick. So after appraisal, I got a good settlement. I mean, and you know, we spoke a little bit about ordinance and law. Do I just expect the check for all these different coverages immediately? Can the carrier hold back any depreciation for any part of this or do I get, for example, if the payment is split between, you know, coverage A and then ordinance and law, can they hold anything back? Am I gonna be required to have completed the work as it would be, you know, in a normal claim recovery or how does that process work?

Gina: For the appraisal award, payment of the appraisal award, the timing is gonna be governed by the policy. The policy has a lost payment provision which says, “We’ll issue payment within so many days after the filing of an appraisal award with us.” It’s normally somewhere between 30 and 90 days. Depending on the policy, as far as the ordinance and law coverage, most policies do require that that be incurred or that the repairs are being made. So, you know, often, and I can’t say that this is all the time or all carriers do it, but sometimes an insurance company will just pay the whole appraisal award to be done with the claim or to try to get a release to give some consideration for the insurer to release the entire claim. Other time, they want the documentation of incurred expenses or they wanna see that the repairs have been made. It really is gonna depend on the policy. It’s gonna depend on the carrier.

What is interesting that the law did clarify in the recent years is that an appraisal award is sufficient evidence of the amount of loss to allow an insurer to file a bad faith lawsuit, which you know, the bad faith lawsuit is for extra-contractual damages that may not be covered under the policy. So it used to be that the theories were you had to go to trial and get essentially a judgment or you had to get a judgment through the court system. But the case law has clarified that significantly to say that an appraisal award is enough. So carriers are often hesitant to go to appraisal because of the threat of bad faith. So in the event that there are damages such as, you know, law and ordinance damages that could potentially be outstanding, sometimes carriers may be motivated to resolve it so they can wrap up everything and know that there’s not a bad faith lawsuit coming.

Derek: So the property owner can file suit even after appraisal for bad faith if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly.

Gina: Yes, as long as they…I mean, a prerequisite to any extra-contractual lawsuit is the filing of a civil remedy notice which a civil remedy notice is a statutorily created document. It essentially puts the carrier on notice of what they did to act in bad faith. And there’s categories of statute sets out. And then the insurance company has a certain amount of time to cure those allegations. If you don’t file the CRN, you absolutely do not have a right to the bad faith lawsuit. It’s a statutory prerequisite that you wanna make sure it’s done. But generally speaking, yes, the appraisal award is gonna be a sufficient award, sufficient document to allow you to proceed further if necessary.

Derek: Yeah. Right. Is there anything else you wanna bring up before we wrap up or I think, I mean we’ve discussed quite a bit. That’s been some great information for the listeners. Anything else you feel we need to know and that, you know, would help us down the road? And you know, a lot of people, I know of tons and tons of homeowners and property owners that are still waiting for their first dollar after Irma. Can they still call you? I mean, are they done? Can they hire you now or how does that process work and how do they get in touch with you?

Gina: No, absolutely. The time’s not out to file the hurricane claims at this point. You do have certain notice provisions under your policy. So if you have not filed a claim for whatever reason, it’s really important to figure out what your damages are and get that filed as soon as possible. Generally speaking, you know, you have to give notice promptly, but the statute of limitations does not run out on the hurricane claims. And there’s a lot. And I have a lot of claims, especially the larger commercial ones that are still being adjusted by the insurance company. And I think a lot of that has to do with the volume of claims and the amount of hurricanes we’ve had over the last couple of years. It’s been a stress on the industry for sure. But depending on your policy, you likely can file a lawsuit or demand appraisal or arbitration or mediation.

There’s a lot of different ways to resolve a claim. It’s just, you know, it may not always be a rush to litigation or to file suit. It really depends on the insured and what they need to get their life or their business back in order. For some people it’s, let me just get paid and move on. Some people wanna go all the way and have their day at trial. But there are a lot of options to get things resolved. But if you think that you know what you’re getting from the insurance company isn’t sufficient, I absolutely recommend talking to a professional to see if there’s anything that can be done.

Derek: Yeah. Then they should just give you a call. How do they, should they email you? What number or how do they reach Berger Singerman and how do they get to you?

Gina: Well, my direct line is 561-893-8711, that’s 561-893-8711. You know, we have offices in Boca, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Tallahassee.

Derek: Fantastic. Yeah. And I know I think you may be presenting again at the Windstorm Conference coming up in Orlando at the end of January, which I’m looking forward to. I know there’s gonna be a lot of good information and experts on hand there, you know, in our industry. So with that said, you know, thanks so much for being with us today and sharing your experience and vital information with our listeners. For you folks out there, thanks so much for joining Gina and myself today. Please visit us on the web at www.gciconsultants.com and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and be sure to check out some of our cool videos and where you’ll actually see us in action doing some forensic testing on windows, doors, and roofing. And we’ll definitely bring you, you know, valuable information in the future. Just stay tuned and thanks so much for joining us today and thank you, Gina, for being a part of “Everything Building Envelope” podcast today.

Gina: You’re welcome. Thanks again for having me.

Roofing and the Wet Suit Waterproofing Membrane System

Matt Leslie – Poseidon Sales

  • About Matt Leslie & the Roofing Industry
  • Wet Suit Membrane & its many uses
  • About Neptune Coatings
  • Wet Suit Durability
  • Building Envelope Applications

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

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Derek: Welcome to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Derek Segal, and I’m a building envelope consultant with GCI. We’ve got a very special guest today. Matt Leslie is joining us. Welcome, Matt.

Matt: Thank you, Derek. It’s good to be here.

Derek: Excellent. I think you’re gonna get a lot out of today’s podcast. It’s gonna be exciting. Matt’s got an innovative, excellent product to talk about. And before we get started with that, Matt, would you tell us a little bit about how you came to be where you’re at today in the industry and your journey, you know, to get to this point.

Matt: Sure. Sure. Of course, that’s a 40-year journey, which I’ll do my best to cut down into a few seconds. But it started long ago in the mid-’50s when my father was in the business. And so I grew up in the family, in the industry. And then in the early days, I was in the supply end of the roofing industry. Was in that for several years, 15, 16 years and then transitioned into the contracting end and I’ve been doing that for as many years since. A couple of years ago, I became aware and familiar with this product we’re gonna talk about today by the name of WetSuit that has led my partner and I to opening up Poseidon Sales and we’ve kind of carried the torch of WetSuit in promoting its benefits and uses around the country.

Derek: That sounds really good. I must say, for those of you that don’t know my background, having been in the roofing end of the industry since 1992, you know, new products and new technologies is always an exciting attribute. And we’re always looking for, you know, something just a little bit better, especially given the way the weather has been over the last few years and the intensity of storms. So with that said, and I am holding a sample of the product, WetSuit, real interesting name. It brings to mind scuba diving, swimming in the ocean. Any info on how the name came about? Was the guy in the diving industry or how did the name come to be WetSuit?

Matt: Yeah. That’s a good question. I don’t have an answer for that particular origination of the name. But it’s an interesting story in that the gentleman and creator and founder of this product and company, Neptune Coatings, the manufacturer of WetSuit, he was already retired, chemist by profession and had already retired, and was continually hearing from his friends during his weekly golf outings that they were having trouble keeping their balconies watertight over the long term. And he finally got tired of, you know, hearing their complaints. He said, “Guys, give me a few weeks. Let me see if we can create something for you.” And frankly, out of his garage, was born the product WetSuit. So not so much aware of where the name came from, but the story behind the product is amazing. And he literally produced the product for several years out of his garage for his buddies.

Derek: Garage?

Matt: Yeah.

Derek: Wow, that’s amazing.

Matt: Yep.

Derek: So yeah, I spoke a little bit about weather ability and I think, you know, all of us can agree that over the past two years, I mean, we had… I think we started off with Harvey that hit Texas. We went from there to Maria that, you know, impacted Puerto Rico. We then got Irma that pretty much impacted the entire state of Florida. And then Michael, obviously, really created some serious damage up in the panhandle of Florida. And I think we can all agree that, you know, the intensity, the duration of these things, the amount of rainfall has just been astronomical. I mean, we’re looking for a product that can stand up to nature’s fury which seems to be kind of always on the increase. How is this product different to other products and how is this gonna give me more peace of mind and a property owner the peace of mind, you know, during these weather phenomenon that happen, to know that his building is in good shape and he has nothing to worry about?

Matt: Well, it’s interesting because the storms have actually created an opportunity for WetSuit. WetSuit, when it was created in 2001, it was created as a long-term solution for a total building envelope, waterproofing, and roofing solution. The product can be used from below grade to roofing and everything in between, but it was created as a long-term solution. But as a result of the storms and some problems that are inherent with the storms and their damage and then the repair that’s subsequent to that, we’re finding that as an example, high wind event might just pull off a portion of a roof. Maybe just a corner of a couple of hundred square feet, but conventional methods have somebody run out there and drop a blue tarp over the entire roof area, which typically is several thousand square feet and, of course, it’s costly to cover such a long area.

They’re penetrating the good roof with several hundred nails to hold the tarp in place, and then the tarps are not resistant to ultraviolet rays and strong winds and they end up getting blown off, you know, after the initial fix and then they’re back up there doing the same thing again. Where with WetSuit, we’re finding that the contractors can go in and spray just the affected area, which might be a couple of hundred square feet, not a couple thousand, they can get in, get out quick, make the building watertight. The product adhesion properties are above and beyond anything in the business. I mean, the downside to WetSuit is once it gets on something it stays there. But for wind events, that’s a good thing. So they can run in and fix a smaller area, do it much faster and the product is UV stable over the long period of time. In laboratory testing, we’ve shown no degradation from ultraviolet rays over a period of as much as 35 years.

Derek: That’s impressive.

Matt: Yeah, it really is a remarkable material.

Derek: So with storms, you know, obviously you mentioned one type of storm, which is a high wind event. Obviously, the other catastrophic-type events that we’ve been seeing a lot more of, especially out west in Colorado, and usually we see that around Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas. But we’ve been seeing more and more of it. I think Colorado, Denver got hit two or three times over the last year by massive hail. Is this something that will, you know, be able to absorb these large hailstones, these hard structural hailstones? Is this something that WetSuit can stand up to and resist?

Matt: There’s a multitude of physical properties with WetSuit that put it above and beyond anything in the business and, of course, we’ve been through every test requirement by either ASTM or Factory Mutual. Specifically to your question about hail, we’ve passed Factory Mutual’s most severe hail test with no impact at all. It’s an extremely durable, flexible material. And like I said, resistant to, you know, the effects of sun over the long term. These hailstorms create a huge problem in the roofing industry and, frankly, WetSuit is completely unaffected by these things.

Derek: Fantastic. So, okay, now that we found out, you know, some of the positive benefits, I mean, is this thing… I mean, how do we put this down? Does it come in rolls? Do we have to get a crane to lift these rolls up onto the roof? I mean, being that it’s such an innovative product I would think it’s got to be unique in the way that this thing goes on. And it’s got to be, you know, better and easier to install. Is that the case or do I now have to hire, you know, double the labor or how am I going to put this product on the roof?

Matt: Well, they continue to say how amazing the material is or what a phenomenal product it is. It goes so far beyond just the product itself. The process, the logistics required in the application, this material, the crew size and the skill set required have been significantly reduced or minimized or made more efficient. Not necessarily by design, it just evolved that way over the last 18 years. But specifically with your first question about the process of application, it’s a spray application. There’s specialized equipment that’s not very expensive, just specialized because of the pressures that are required, which are very minimal, by the way, which is unusual for a spray application. But it’s a spray application, it’s extremely fast in its application, but your typical roof assembly is going to consist any more of a single-ply membrane that’s approximately 60 mils thick.

Now, they’ll vary by a little bit, by five mils, plus or minus, but basically your 60 mil thickness in a membrane is your most popular solution. WetSuit goes down in a single-pass spray application in a 60 mil application. So we have some continuity there with what the market is accustomed to, but WetSuit, because it’s a spray application, is seamless. And over my years in the business, I have found, you know, roofs will fail and leak at certain conditions, whether it’s a rooftop piece of equipment, or a transition from roof to wall or conditions like that, similar to that. However, what the common denominator in all of those conditions is the seam and it’s the seam that fails, not the membrane itself. And so by virtue of the fact that WetSuit is a seamless membrane at 60 mils, we’ve eliminated the fail point. And so now all of a sudden there is no fail point in the roof.

Derek: Right. That’s very beneficial. I gotta tell you, you know, being that I’ve been on, you know, hundreds and hundreds of roofs, what I’m seeing more of now and that you make a good point is that in a lot of cases, you know, now that the world is so technologically advanced, there is more equipment up on the roof buildings typically, we’re building up more and not out because we’re running out of space. And so really you have only one place to put all your building system equipment and that’s up on top of the roof, and I know I’ve been involved in some roof projects where it’s an absolute nightmare. You’ve got, you know, 300, 400, 500 roof penetrations, you’ve got cellular equipment, internet equipment and…

Matt: Yep, they’re a mess.

Derek: That becomes a real issue because if you’ve got a leak around a pipe that’s coming through the roof and you’ve got, you know, sensitive equipment downstairs, that’s a nightmare you want to try and avoid. I definitely get that.

Matt: Yep, and that brings to mind a project that we recently completed or at least one of our contractors recently completed in Orlando. It was a pedestrian deck. So it was a… Basically, I like to refer to it as party central in an apartment complex. And so they had five different planters and they were full planters. They were false planters that had a steel grate over the top that they put their artificial turf on and some other architectural features, but the support to that steel grade was a two-inch square leg. Well, in five planters we had 300 penetrations in about 1,500 square feet.
Now, that’s just a ridiculous amount of penetrations in any roof system.

And, of course, the fact that it’s, the application of WetSuit was seamless on a square product which, you know, the people that aren’t in the roofing industry don’t understand the difficulty of getting that watertight and keeping it watertight, especially with all the structural movement that’s going to take place in any structure of any height. So not only is it seamless but because of the elasticity and the elongation of the material, which is, by the way, 2,000% elongation, the movement is irrelevant, it’s of no impact to the WetSuit product. But for the construction industry, here’s the single strongest benefit, is those 300 penetrations would take, oh, probably 20 or 30 minutes each penetration and 100 to 125 man hours and those 300 penetrations will complete in five hours.

Derek: Wow, that’s huge, because I don’t really understand that.

Matt: Tremendous efficiency in the application process, it’s seamless so we’ve eliminated the fail point, the elongation, just kind of laughs at any structural movement. And then also, you asked or kind of touched on a moment ago, Derek, about the issues of logistics and machinery. This product, it can be sprayed through up to 500 feet of hose and it can be sprayed vertically up 100 feet. So as long as we’re working on, let’s say, a 10-story building or less, we’ve got one very small staging area down on the ground, we haul one hose up with one spray gun and we get anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of surface area sprayed and waterproofed in a day’s work with just a three-man crew as compared to about a 10-man crew with your conventional methods.

Derek: You’d never get 15,000 square foot done in a day anyway on a normal roof, there’s no way.

Matt: If there’s any penetrations at all, absolutely impossible. Maybe a third of that. It’s not really a fun fact, but I’d like you to make it that way. This is a water-based material that’s spray applied and it cures to a rubber membrane in three seconds. So here’s another benefit to the tradesmen. Typically, they’re looking at a weather forecast and early in the morning there might be a forecast, especially in the South Florida market where we know we can almost set our clocks by the afternoon rain. They know that there’s a potential storm coming through and they’re very nervous about whether they send the crews or not, and then what type of work the crews do and how they expose the building to a re-roofing element. Well, frankly, with WetSuit curing in three seconds, this is fact that we can spray WetSuit right up to the moment of rain and have no re-emulsification, have no runoff and what we’ve touched is watertight the instant it’s sprayed. Again, that’s just a fun fact that three-second cure of a water-based material, but man, it provides unbelievable protection.

Derek: Okay, I’m sold. I wanna ask you one real important question for me. We’ve all heard over the last year, two years, global warming, some people think it’s fake, whatever. But I’ll tell you one thing that is a fact and that the oceans are filling up with plastics, single-use plastic, the landfills are filling up. I mean, there’s some stuff we just can’t deny. And for me, you know, the environmental impact is really critical to us and the future generations. Will this product help to protect the Earth and how will me choosing WetSuit help the environment and change the path that we seem to be on, you know, if we continue to use single-use plastic and throw debris and old roofing systems into our landfills? Tell me what benefits they will be to the long-term environmental well being.

Matt: And boy, that’s a huge problem. The amount of debris and tonnage that goes into our landfills from old roofs that have to be torn off and taken to the dump is mind-boggling. It’s billions of pounds every year. And there are occasions when because of the existence of trap moisture in an existing roof system, that there is no option but to remove what’s there, it’s just good roofing practice. However, most cases, the roof does not need to be removed. However, building code throughout the country says that you can only put two roof systems on any building and that’s really more of a weight fact. So if we get into a situation where there’s two existing roofs, the industry nationwide says get rid of everything that’s there and go fill that landfill.

With WetSuit, because it’s a liquid applied product, 6 ounces per square foot at 60 mils, because it’s considered by the building departments as a maintenance item, not a roof system, although it performs better than every other roof system, it’s not considered a roof system. That requirement of tearing two roofs off is not necessary with the application of WetSuit. So we’re going to have a huge impact, reducing the impact on landfills because of the amount of tear off that’s not required. So not only is it a landfill benefit, but this product has zero VOCs. For those listening that maybe don’t know what VOC stands for, that’s volatile organic compound, and that means fumes. There are no fumes coming off of this product. It’s a water-based material.

Derek: Yeah, we’ve both stood around. In fact, I drive down the street and I can smell a roof going on, you know, a mile away.

Matt: Yeah, for sure.

Derek: I mean there’s carcinogenic fumes going into the air, there’s a…

Matt: Here’s a scenario that happens, more often than not is, they’re working on a roof on a hospital and somebody forgets to turn off the intake and the glues that they use for some of the systems have a tremendous amount of a VOCs, volatile organic compounds, and they have a problem inside the entire hospital because of these VOCs. So this happens. Well, that’s a non-factor again, with WetSuit. Now, not only is it healthy from the standpoint of VOCs, this product has been approved as a tank liner for drinkable water. So it is of no consequence to the people working with it. It is of no consequence to the inhabitants of a building that’s getting the product applied to it, has a monster impact on our environment and the people that live in that environment.

Derek: Well, sounds like this is the product of today and the future. I mean, because we really… I must tell you I was recently up in the panhandle and I literally saw buildings and roofing systems that peeled off like a sardine can. The way these storms are going and might I add Irma and Harvey, Harvey was more than 52, 53 inches of rain in Houston. We’ve got to come up with better products and there’s a lot more being thrown at us and we need to be ready to defend ourselves. And I mean, the roof, as far as I’m concerned, is probably the most important building component out there because it protects everything from the top down. You know, most often people are more attuned to putting a fresh coat of paint on a building or putting some new plants and flowers around a building, and a roof is really not something they can see. So it’s out of sight, out of mind.

Matt: That’s so true.

Derek: Having seen Panama City and Panama City Beach, one really grasps the importance of a product that can withstand even a Cat 3, Cat 4 storm, because really everything depends on just how good that product is. So with that said, I mean, I’m gonna go run out right now pick up a bucket myself. I mean, can I just go to Home Depot? I need some of this stuff.

Matt: Well, no. You can’t buy it off the shelf and here’s the reason why. We, Neptune Coatings and Poseidon Sales are committed to high quality, finished, installed assembly. And as a result of that, we are very tough on our contractors in the training process, in the warranty protocol process and just the entire process of applying the material. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s so important to just do things the right way. So we’re pretty dogmatic about what we require as far as training, education, proper quality control. So no, you can’t just buy it off the shelf. So there’s some benefit there, but I did want to address also your comment about, you know, the storms and the wind events.

We have, as I mentioned before, the amount of testing that Neptune Coatings has done through ASTM and Factory Mutual is substantial to say the least. One of those series and batteries of testing has to do with wind resistance performance. And another fun fact about WetSuit, one of those tests was with the WetSuit material applied directly to concrete. Now Factory Mutual’s equipment has a certain capacity, they can measure up to a certain point and then the equipment just can’t measure any more than that. In the testing of WetSuit’s adhesion on concrete, we couldn’t reach failure. In fact, we took the testing up to Factory Mutual’s capacity. Didn’t reach failure. And so FM says, “Hey, you’re good to a 1-990 rating.”

Derek: What does that mean?

Matt: Well, and that’s where I was headed. I don’t really know exactly what it means. But here’s what I do know. Back in the day, when we started measuring things under this, you know, this 1-something standard, we started with a 1-90, and the industry kind of accepted that to mean that that would be good for a Category 1 hurricane of 90 miles an hour. Now, that’s not the exact science behind it. And I like to say this, I’m not really a propeller head so I don’t get into the scientific side of this. I trust those that do know what they’re doing and I trust their conclusions. But we’re now designing systems to about a 1-150, maybe a 1-180.

Derek: But yours is 900?

Matt: Nine ninety.

Derek: That’s crazy.

Matt: And did not reach failure.

Derek: So that’s nine times the design strength.

Matt: Pretty much. Pretty much.

Derek: The industry standard.

Matt: And here’s another thing on that same subject. When it comes to roof failure by wind event, in other words, a blow off…

Derek: Mm-hmm.

Matt: Most of the time it’s not the roof membrane, that’s the problem. It’s the edge of the roof that has a piece of sheet metal and that piece of sheet metal has an edge to it, has a face to it and there’s a gap between the metal and the building. And that little tiny gap when the wind is whipping around there at about 120 miles an hour, that wind grabs that edge of metal and that’s the weak point of the roof and it peels it off from that point.

Derek: How is it different with WetSuit? [inaudible 00:23:44] I was just about to ask.

Matt: WetSuit is a self-flashing, self-terminating material and system. It can, if the architectural and design community will accept it, it can eliminate 100% of the sheet metal requirements in the construction of a roof. Without the sheet metal edge for the wind to grab, the wind will have… Not only does it have unbelievable adhesion to surfaces and substrates, but it allows us to produce a finished product that the wind has nothing to grab.

Derek: Well. it sounds like you guys have thought of everything. That’s kind of the way I started the podcast was just prefacing the podcast by saying that it was gonna be interesting and exciting and really, you know, blow the minds of a lot of people out there that, you know, are used to the same old same-same old, and the same challenges and stresses that come, you know, with roofs. I think at the end of the day… I mean, what we all want and what I want, is I would want as a building owner is one thing, peace of mind.

And that comes with, you know, knowing that storm is coming and knowing that you’ve done everything you need to do and you have the best product possible, especially given the fact that, you know, during Irma and Michael and Maria and Harvey, I mean, we as property owners, we all think we put our insurance policy in our drawer, we’re covered. You know, no matter what happens, I think it’s been painful for a lot of property owners to learn that you really only find out if you’re covered after something happens. I mean, you might think you’re covered, but there are a lot of trap doors in that contract of insurance that’s sitting in your drawer and if there’s anything better.

Yeah, that property owners can do above and beyond, and this system may even save them money because from what you say, I mean, goes on quicker, it doesn’t require as much manpower, you know, I can’t see why, you know, someone wouldn’t want to get some more information to find out about this. But I just wanted to say that this has been one of my best podcasts ever, [inaudible 00:25:50] called WetSuit. I encourage you folks to find out more about it and see if it’s something you’d be interested in finding out for your property.

Well, folks, I think you can all agree that I said at the beginning of the podcast, this was gonna be fantastic and really interesting. And I hope that you got a lot out of this, as much as I did. I’d like to thank Matt for being on with us. Matt, do you have any final thoughts or information you want to give to our listeners?

Matt: In closing, I’d like to tell a quick story. Of course, I’ve introduced this test data and product data around the country to dozens of designers and architects and engineers, consultants. I’ve asked them consistently to dig into the test data and share with me what they think the, if, in fact, there’s weaknesses. We’ve certainly not talked about any weaknesses today, and I’ve asked that they share weaknesses. And so far, they’ve all come back with a denial meaning that they couldn’t find anything.

I did have one humorous response from a consultant. Oh, gosh, about a year ago, he said, “You know, we really couldn’t find any weaknesses or any weak links in this product or its application and so forth.” But he said, and he said, very sincerely said, “But I would give you one piece of advice.” I said, “Well, what’s that advice?” And he said, “Don’t tell everybody the whole story because it’s too good to be true.” And I couldn’t help but chuckle. I said, “Well, I’m sorry, Sean, but I’m going to have to tell the whole story because number one, it’s my nature and number two, we expect to probably change the entire market because of it.”

Derek: Wow, that’s amazing. That sums it all up. And again, you know, I think this was a great podcast. Now, Matt, how do people get in touch with you?

Matt: Well, they should call me personally. My phone number is (561) 870-2259, or they can study some of the product data on our website which, of course, is www.poseidonsales.com.

Derek: Fantastic. Thanks, that sounds great. Thanks to all of you, our valued listeners, our most important resource and please, you know, join us again for these informative podcasts. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and check out our fantastic website and cool videos that you can find on www.gciconsultants.com. And once again, this is Derek Segal with GCI consultants. Thank you so much for joining us and we look forward to bringing you a bunch more fantastic, innovative and interesting podcasts. Thanks.