Construction Project Management

Donald Kipnis – Development Service Solutions, LLC

  • Broken by design
  • Benefits to professional owner/Association representation and project management
  • Replacing a contractor
  • Bidding versus Best Value – is low bid the lowest cost???
  • Contractor Insurance & bonding

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.

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


Paul: Hello everyone. Welcome back to the “Everything Building Envelope podcast.” This is your host Paul Beers with GCI Consultants. And I’m really excited about today’s guest, an old friend, Donald Kipnis. Welcome Donald.

Donald: Thank you Paul.

Paul: So Donald is the founder and CEO of Development Service Solutions, LLC, which otherwise known as DSS. I’ve worked with Donald a lot. I’ve known him for quite a long time. We’ve worked together on construction projects, existing buildings, things like that. Donald, maybe tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Donald: Sure Paul. I have degrees in both science and building construction. My father was a mechanical engineer. And in 1982 I went to work with a local general contractor, and ended up purchasing the company in an LBO, a leveraged buyout in 1985. My partner and I ran the company until 2004 when I joined a local developer. After about two and a half years of facing the onset of a downward development cycle I started my consulting company, Development Service Solutions, with the goal of representing developers, hoteliers, and anyone else who would have me. I ran solo for many years but in the past three years have doubled the size of the company each year and I’m happy to say we’re now 16 people as of last week. Over half of our team has master’s degrees in architecture, but we actually don’t design. Two of our team members are attorneys but we don’t practice law. Two are general contractors but we don’t act as a contractor. And we actually have one individual who has a master’s degree in Real Estate Development, but we don’t develop properties, we support developers. And we have one professional quantity surveyor, and yes, we do verify values and quantity.

So now we’re in a position where we see projects from beginning to end through the entire acquisition, design, procurement, contracting, and development construction cycle and delivery, which puts us in a position to give specific input at different phases of the project and bring value to our clients.

Paul: And what are some of the kinds of projects that you are… You can name them or not, however you choose. What are some of the kind of projects that you’ve been working on the last few years?

Donald: We have been fortunate to work on projects such as The Surf Club and Surfside, The Carlton [SP] Betsy hotel on Ocean Drive. We were the owners rep for 1111 Lincoln Road, the Clevelander Hotel. We are currently on Ransom Everglades doing their STEM and La Brezza building. We’re working on the Cisneros property, which are luxury homes on Douglas Road. We’re in Wynnewood doing Wynnewood Park. We recently finished Eve, which is 195 units, a multi-family 62,000 feet of black box retail, and we did that job together. We’re on Lincoln Road doing retail, we finished 530 Lincoln Road. We’re on 800 Lincoln Road and we’re looking at Park Central Hotel, we’re working on that, which is a redevelopment of four buildings as well as the South Seas Hotel on 17th in Collins.

Paul: Yeah. So, I can see how things have been growing rapidly and doubling in size. Sounds like you’re keeping very busy. Let’s dive into the project management, and actually owner representation and… What would you call…I mean, if you were gonna give somebody the elevator pitch, what would you call it what you do?

Donald: We represent our clients’ best interests by adding value through proper design, procurement, and execution of their development project.

Paul: So let’s dive into the design part. I know we’ve talked about this before and one of your really cool terms I think you say it, things are broken by design. Can you talk about that a little?

Donald: Sure. This is something I’m passionate about because there’s so many places that go wrong in the development process. So we look at it as either broken in the design on the plans or broken in the relations between the parties, which is typically done by choosing the wrong team or in the contract documents themselves. And I’ll give examples of each of it. So something’s broken by design, a good example was 1111 Lincoln Road where a structural engineer came into town, was used to designing bridges and highly complex structures, made a structure that cost twice as much money as what we know how to build here, which is a reinforced concrete post-tension structure. When we converted the hybrid steel design to a typical structure for South Florida, reinforced concrete post-tension, we saved 50% on the cost of the building and several months on the timeline. But that’s a simple broken by design. And it can happen in air conditioning systems where we just had a very simple design [inaudible 00:06:12] with an HVAC engineer on a 36-storey building and he was putting in hot water for the cooling tower. And we said, “Well, why don’t you just use heat strips and heat pumps for cooling?” And we changed the design and saved a lot of money. So even if you low bid something which is designed extensively, it costs more than negotiating something which is designed efficiently and effectively. And that is a concept that we have been able to successfully communicate to our clients and we have many more case studies of that.

When we look at broken by contract it might be that there isn’t a proper termination clause dealing with a contractor or that the owner and its design agreements didn’t get their copyright use of the plans done properly in that provision and the architect owns the sole use of the design that the developer or owner has paid for. So that can create problems for the developer along the lines.

Paul: And then, how about the relationships?

Donald: So there are two ways to build. I think in the governmental section we find that everything is low bid and it becomes adversarial, and a contractor has to make his money through claims and change orders. And that’s the antithesis of what we wanna do. We try to build teams of people that wanna work together, that respect each other and respect the value of the other party. And by doing that, it’s a much more effective job. It typically cost less, you get better quality work, and it’s delivered faster with less claim.

Paul: So Donald, I think back to one of the early jobs that you and I worked in with DSS, Yacht Harbor in Coconut Grove. And that was way over-designed and you had a lot of things that you’re talking about. You went in and really brilliantly I think and got things sorted out. We were fortunate enough to be involved as well. And, you know, we took basically a project that was over budget and needed another money, and all this kind of stuff, and got it all sorted out and did a really good job with it. Brought contractors in, everybody was on the same team, you know, with relationships, all that. And ultimately they were delivered a really quality project that was affordable. You know, a really good example of all this.

Donald: Yeah, that was great for everyone involved. All of the relationships are intact with the team that was there. We were able to simply bipartite what was a contract with a major sub working under the contractor into two separate contracts with a cooperation provision in the contracts. So it was multiple prime with the association. And the initial general contractor removed his 10% mark-up on a $2 million subcontract and that simple mechanism of having two contracts saved the association $200,000. So it’s just knowing what to do and when to do it that results in great efficiencies.

Paul: And it worked beautifully.

Donald: It really worked well there. To say that there were no change orders, wouldn’t be the truth, but everything was managed well. In the rebid of that job we saved over a million dollars, and by the end of the job the condominium association was able to replace a million dollars of glass windows that they had never intended to replace. So that was a really wonderful outcome for the home owners who ultimately, you know, paid the bills for these condominium repairs.

Paul: So let’s talk a little bit how independent third party representation, the benefits that are passed on the professional owners or associations and project management.

Donald: We’re able to bundle the skills of analyzing logistics, business terms of contracts, scope of work, schedule analysis, how to optimize schedules, alternate schedules, scrutinize design, and create competitive RFPs, Request For Proposal for pricing, for design, for construction, all under one operation so that our clients get best value and the best product in the end. And we’ve done that by having expertise in our company. We have development expertise that runs pro-formas for financial analysis. I do contracts and design. We can take a simple item. I’m gonna give an example. And the project is Mirador on West Avenue where they designed a rail repair, a supplemental railing system that the fire department was requiring the association to put in their building; 4 stairwells 16 stories each. The architect designed them, it went out to competitive bid, and it came in at $135,000. Our team looked at that rail design and I gave them a challenge. I said, “How many ways can you design that railing in 10 minutes, that is more effective, more efficient than the way it’s designed now?” In 10 minutes we had about 6 different design, we picked a hybrid of a couple of them, we put it out to bid, and at the end of the day saved $60,000 and the building department and the fire department accepted the repair.

Paul: That’s some significant dollars.

Donald: For a simple item. And there are hundreds of these items throughout a job, hundreds.

Paul: Let’s dive into some of these things that you just mentioned, logistics. So what are some logistical type of things that you can do to benefit owners and associations?

Donald: It’s critical for an owner and a contractor and the design professionals to understand how a job is going to get built. Typically, we prepare phased logistic plans that show the use of sidewalks, easements, how cranes come on and off of the job, which towers or areas are repaired first, second, civil engineering work, underground work, so that there is a clear roadmap, a visual roadmap of how the project’s going to be built. Many times we do that ourselves and put it out in the RFP package to get feedback from the contractors and that help guide them to be more efficient in their pricing of the project, and that lowers the price and makes a job be delivered faster.

Paul: And time of course is…not only is it money, but if the building’s occupied then the disruption is shorter. So, you know, it’s a big benefit to the users or occupants to the building as well.

Donald: Well, it’s critical if you’re on a drop of balconies in an existing condominium. Now we’re on several Mirador, 9 Island Avenue, or doing Grove Isle, their sculpture decks. We’re out at Key Colony on their pool building or HOA lap pool building. And the residents want us out as fast as possible. So logistics, and manpower, and sequencing of the work is the critical factor in getting in and getting out, understanding it from the onset and managing it, being nimble as things sometimes change is fundamental to one of the aspects of what we do.

Paul: So something that seems kind of innocuous, you talk about contract. What can be done with contracts to help the process?

Donald: Contracts, to me, are like tools in a tool box and if you don’t have the right tools in the tool box you can’t build your project. There are times you need a hammer, there are times you need a screwdriver and there are times you need a razor knife. By understanding contract provisions and how they work and working carefully with the association or developers’ attorney, we craft documents that are very effective for our client that mitigate change orders that only allow the most appropriate types of change orders, not those for coordination that mitigate delay expenses, that allow an owner to make a change of a contractor when necessary and sometimes it’s necessary, or to supplement contractors’ resources. And all of this is very effective when dealing with design professionals and contractors because by it being there in and of itself, it’s a tool. It doesn’t have to be used. Everyone knows the tools that are in the tool box and tend to perform better knowing that they’re there.

Paul: Do you happen to see the same correctable issues happening over and over?

Donald: We do. And they can happen in a contract. One we see is ownership of documents, the other that we see is improper terminations for convenience clauses. We see owners allowing contractors to build on a schedule of values rather by invoices which are carefully checked. We see waterproofing detail problems, we see issues where someone just wants to clean a surface instead of take it down to, you know, the proper concrete level of finish. It’s remarkable how the same mistakes are made again and again, remarkable.

Paul: Yeah. And you’re the one that you’ve mentioned a couple times, ownership of documents. I mean, to me… So I don’t necessarily live in that world as much as you do, but to me that just seems like a no-brainer. I mean, if I’m paying for it, I don’t think actually that somebody else should own it.

Donald: Right, but the reason that architects wanna own it, is if they get in a dispute with their clients they have leverage. There should at least be co-ownership and to the extent that an architect is paid or an engineer that the party paying should have the right to use those documents and should collect them, should collect electronic and paper files, and when they finish the design-development phase, they should own all of those electric documents and have them in their possession.

Paul: Yep, makes perfect sense. So when things maybe aren’t going as well as we might like, maybe coming into an existing project that’s already got some players in place. But what happens when you have to replace a contractor? I mean, well, I guess we should ask this first. Do you ever have to replace contractors, and if yes, what happens?

Donald: Well, we’ve actually replaced the… We’ve administered the replacement of contractors, of engineers, of architects, because the reality is it doesn’t always work out perfectly. And I believe a lot of it is cooked into the structure initially of the deal. That’s back to broken by design. But when we’re brought on a job that is in trouble we look for the reasons why it’s in trouble and try to address what is dysfunctional. If a contract has proper provisions in it, it makes it easier to address either supplementing or changing an architect, engineer, or a contract. If it doesn’t, if there isn’t a proper termination for convenience, if the owner doesn’t own their documents, if they’ve overpaid and are upside down, if the job wasn’t bonded with payment and performance bonds, you have to get a lot more creative and it really depends on the exact circumstances to craft an appropriate solution. And it takes working with the developer or the ownership entity, their construction attorney and ourselves, and candidly whoever party, whichever party or parties is troubling on the job, you end up working with them also.

Paul: So, are there alternatives to replacing a contractor of, you know…I mean, can these things sometimes be worked out or maybe sometimes you just can’t replace them.

Donald: Yes. We just started a project where we actually supplemented the contractor’s staff with appropriate staff so that the contractor could perform better. And the contractor recognized the issue but was unable to cure it themselves and welcomed the help.

Paul: Are you seeing more issues like that now that things are so busy in South Florida?

Donald: I think there will be more issues on a sub-contractor level than on a contractor level. And that sub-contractor default insurance and payment and performance bonds at both the contractor and sub-contractor level are critical for a developer. A developer can’t have SDI insurance on a contractor level, but they can add payment and performance bonds. And for the cost which may be a point of the construction cost or a half a point of the development cost, it is money well spent.

Paul: Are you seeing contractors or subs these days that are having labor issues as far as, you know, not just body counts, but getting qualified folks to do what needs to be done?

Donald: Yeah. Miami is still growing. And even though projects like Brickell City Center are finished and the condominium boom has somewhat cooled off, the multi-family is booming, there’s retail being built, and other types of projects, the remediation business has taken off like wildfire. So there’s always, I believe in Miami, going to be a stress on the available resources.

Paul: And hurricane Irma, there’s a lot of work going on as a result of that. And I was in the Florida Keys last week and roofing contractor… Well, I was looking into a project that had some damage and the owner was telling me that the roofing contractor wasn’t having the best of days. He spilled something in the parking lot, had to clean it up, and then he said he had to call the police to have half of his workforce removed. So, obviously, there’s…in that business, have a really hard time getting people. You know, they’re doing body counts and it’s not working out so well.

Donald: Oh I agree. When we did work for Andrew, which is many years ago, we brought in roofers from Georgia, and we bought the roofing products directly by the semi-load and was able to solve the issue. That way we bought labor separately from materials, we join them together, everything came from out of state. So there are resourceful ways to deal with it. We are having issues. We’re on several projects and simply having issues getting them adjusted.

Paul: Yeah. That’s a whole another topic with the property insurers and how they’re handling claims which the reputation is not good at this point. And I think it’s deserved. Let’s talk about bidding versus best value. Is the low bid necessarily the lowest cost?

Donald: Well, a great example was earlier in this podcast when I talked about the railing. The key to getting best value is to have the best design, and the best design really isn’t done in a vacuum, it’s done collectively through having an open mind and looking at different alternatives to solve the same problem. We’re doing a job on [inaudible 00:24:50] with architect Hanukah, [SP] and they showed a very large cantilever, and we had a discussion about it, and they came up with a very creative solution by hiding some columns in sculpture and in the store front, which effectively made the cantilever go away structurally, but looked like a cantilever. And it’s based on having these great conversations with creative people, identifying the issue, and then solving the problem on paper. Now when that goes out to bid, it will be best value, had it have been designed as originally conceived if no one said anything. Even though it was a low bid, it would have cost easily a million dollars more. But they…architect Hanukah was so great to work with to solve the problem, it was effortless. Design’s critical.

Paul: Yeah. So, let’s walk through that a little bit. So what got you to that point? You know, when were you guys involved and, you know, what stage was the project? So how did that opportunity present itself, I guess is what I’m trying to say?

Donald: We were hired at the onset which is actually the best time to engage us, and during Schematic design while we were running with the developer financial pro-formas, we were looking at floor plans, elevations, and sections of the building. When we looked at the elevation with a particular section… And remember, this is very preliminary, they’re stick drawings. We noticed this significant cantilever, raised the issue, and architect Hanukah came out with a design solution right away that was accepted by the owner. It became a feature.

Paul: At what point would it have been too late had you not been involved as early?

Donald: I think once you start the construction documents, it’s too late to change design. Value analysis or value engineering needs to take place first in schematic design and at the latest during design development, because when you’re in CDs you’re gonna be changed in the knobs on the cabinet doors or the cabinets, but you’re not gonna be making fundamental changes to the engineering of a structure or the systems of the building. It’s too late.

Paul: Well, so many times you see these projects though where, you know, they go to the whole design phase, they get into, you know, bidding, or final pricing, or whatever. Then they’ve suddenly back in the value engineering because, you know, they’ve blown the budget.

Donald: Well, you know, that’s interesting because we believe there are two ways to approach a project. You either build to a design, you budget to the design, or you design to a budget. Now our clients like a project that’s designed to budget because they have to financially work. So we establish a realistic budget that works with their pro-forma, with their investment and yield, and we validate that budget for with a schematic RFC. We actually take the dream plans and put them out to several contractors who respond, and as a result the budget is validated, adjusted if necessary, a contractor is selected out of that group and engaged under a pre-construction agreement to work to keep the project in budget, with your dollars well spent. And typically, when that contractor builds the project in budget, the owner is rebated the pre-construction fees that it was initially charged during the pre-construction phase by the contractor. It’s a win-win.

Paul: Yeah, because, you know…I mean, my spin on this is that after the fact…nothing good happens with after the fact value engineering. We work on projects early on and you get to the end and all of a sudden they’re taking out, say the fluid, applying waterproofing on the exterior walls that they’re gonna save $80,000. And they make…generally make stupid decisions in the quest to save money and, you know, and probably make the project viable with the resources that they have.

Donald: Yeah, but what happens is to make that repair later on could be $500,000.

Paul: No, no. That’s exactly right. I mean, that’s pay me now or pay me a lot more later. I think is basically what that boils down to.

Donald: Yes, so our goal is to design to budget. That is the song we sing and the life we live and we are pleased to bring that message to everyone and participate in it.

Paul: So let’s talk a little bit more about contractor and, you know, big, big issue these days on sites and… Well, it’s always been, but even still I think it probably gets more and more difficult sometimes is insurance and bonding. What’s going on with that these days?

Donald: So an owner needs to protect themselves through insurance policies and there are two basic areas to deal with. One are payment and performance bonds, which is the world of surety and that protects the title of the property, that’s the payment bond, and the performance bond insures the terms and conditions of the contract. And the surety which is an insurance company of type is essentially guaranteeing that it will finish the job on behalf of the contractor if the contractor fails, if the contractor is declared in default. So obviously, the default language in a contract is critical and works hand in glove with having a performance bond. The insurance for a project covers multiple layers, the owner’s liability, the contractor’s liability, the design professionals, need both, general liability access, and professional liability, you can get what are called Wrap policies, they’re expensive, that cover everyone. I don’t recommend a Wrap worker comp policies, but we’ve found that Wrap general liability policies called OCIPs, an Owner Controlled Insurance Program, is very effective in saving money and mitigating liability for an owner. And it provides in many cases a 10-year tail-end covered for an owner, which is a great feature. So we wanna make sure that there is automobile insurance by the contractor and the sub, and that the waiver of subrogation which is a simple concept is implemented throughout the levels of the project, benefit of the owner.

Paul: OCIP is something that I see a lot of times and I involve an expert witness and whatnot, the OCIP guy shows up and he’s always the big player because he seems like he’s representing most of the people in the room if there’s a lot of parties. So it helps the owner obviously stabilize their risks. Does it help the contractor and the subs as well?

Donald: Candidly, it’s somewhat of a pain for the contractor because it requires them to administer with an OCIP administrator who typically works for the party that sold the OCIP program to the owner like Wells Fargo, for example, might sell a Zurich policy and they have an administrator, but the contractor has to help administer it. So contractors think it’s a little bit of a pain, but on the other hand it protects the contractor because by contract, the owner is saying that they’re taking on the liability…

Paul: To me that seems like a win.

Donald: That’s a win. And I think it’s a little bit a pain to get out of a lot of liability for a contractor and for the enrolled sub-contractors. It’s a win for them too. And the quid pro quo is that the contractor and the subcontractors give back money, and because they’re buying liability insurance in little pieces, their rate is higher than the owner buying it collectively as a big purchase, and the owner saves money, the premium is lower, and they get better coverage. They get Wrapped coverage.

Paul: So speaking of wins, you know, we look at everything we’ve talked about today and I don’t…it’s a really interesting and good way to approach and to look at projects. I know, I’ve been impressed and a fan of what you’re doing for quite a while, and, you know, getting everything kind of all under one roof and having, you know, a team that can address all the issues, not just some of them, that’s where the problems happen, I think is, obviously, you know, you’ve demonstrated the benefit of that.

Donald: Well, thank you Paul. We’ve spent many years growing together in this industry and we all bring in valuable knowledge to our client with the goal of bringing extra value to the work that we perform to the services we provide.

Paul: And it’s fun being involved with a good team. It really is. If people wanna learn about Development Service Solutions, where do they find that?

Donald: We have a website, it’s or they can actually call me on my cell phone. Dare I give my cell phone number?

Paul: Oh yeah.

Donald: 786-201-2870. And we’d be happy to have a conversation or to meet and discuss what we do and how we do it and how we can apply it to your project and your success.

Paul: Great. Well, really interesting conversation Donald. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom with the listeners today.

Donald: All right, thank you Paul. And candidly, we are passionate about what we do. We love what we do. And so, you know, getting paid for it is almost like icing on the cake because every project we’re involved in is fascinating, it’s rewarding, we enjoy working with a variety of different people. It’s just a lot of fun doing that, and need I say more.

Paul: No. No, and that’s really great. It’s really great. So that’s what makes it fun, is actually as you say being passionate about it and not just going through the motions and obviously that passion, you know, shows through on the other side with the customer and the project team getting best value.

So I guess that concludes this episode. I thank everyone for listening to “Everything Building Envelope.” Please tell your friends about it at and also listen on iTunes or Stitcher. Before I say goodbye, the opportunity to give a small plug for my company, GCI Consultants. I’ve got a bunch of new videos out regarding hurricane Irma, water infiltration, and things like that. So you can find them on our website, and also on YouTube, the GCI Consultants YouTube channel. So check them out.

And with that, until next time, this is Paul Beers saying so long.

Building Envelope Architects

Brian Neumann – Neumann Sloat Arnold Architects

  • About Brian
  • Building Envelope Architecture
  • Materials Used
  • New Technologies
  • Building Systems

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.

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


Paul: Welcome everyone to the Everything Building Envelope podcast, and we’ve got a really interesting guest today, Brian Neumann. Brian is a building envelope architect, so that’s obviously near and dear to all of our hearts. Brian is with Neumann Sloat Arnold Architects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Welcome, Brian.

Brian: Thank you.

Paul: So Brian, before we get into our topic and our discussion, could you please tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and your firm and how you got into the business of being a building envelope architect?

Brian: Well, like you said, I am a building envelope architect, I started off as a traditional, conventional architect doing design work in firms, and when I moved to San Francisco, I had a couple of classmates that got jobs in this building envelope firm. And I used to call over there and pick their brains, and I thought it was really interesting that there was a firm out there that just did the detailing and just did construction documents.

And eventually, I needed to find another job. My design career kinda fizzled out a little bit because of the economy. And I went back to the building envelope firm and I told them I needed a job, and they hired me on the spot. And they said, “Well, you’re a design architect, we’ll give you two, three years max.

Well, 20 some odd years later, I’m still doing it because I just think it’s a really fascinating field and I really believe that it matters. And as architects, I think, you know, it’s really important for us to be able to kinda walk that building science path as much as the design path, and so I found that it’s a very rewarding thing for us to do.

As architects, we get involved in lots of different jobs. I think that’s one of the more rewarding things I find is that you can get into lots and lots of jobs. You can affect many, many projects. You’re not stuck on one big design project for two, three, four years.

Paul: So does your firm solely do building envelope work or do you do other things as well?

Brian: Well, we’re primarily building envelope architects, so we work with other architects, we work with contractors, we work with homeowners, but we also get involved in historical restoration work. We get involved in construction defect work. We’re expert witnesses. We’ve actually testified in trial.

So anything related to the exterior envelopes of buildings from commercial, multifamily, high rise, from new construction, restorations, additions, remodeling, up to construction defect work and reconstruction projects.

Paul: So from birth to, I was gonna say to death, birth to the finger pointing stage and everything in between?

Brian: Yeah. Pretty much. You got it.

Paul: So what kinda things are you working on these days with materials, methods, those sorts of things? Anything new out there that’s got your interest?

Brian: Well, you know, I think it’s interesting because what I find is that it’s a constantly evolving industry as far as new technologies, new chemistry. I mean, chemistry to me has changed so much of how we do our work.

I remember back when self-adhered membranes came along, and that was like, “Wow. That’s the best thing since sliced bread.” And people were using self-adhered membranes, and you know, then 10 years later, we were watching them fail like crazy.

And I think right now, what we’re seeing is a lot of products, materials, mostly at the chemical level where we’re starting to see different types of sealants, STPEs, silyl terminated polyethers for instance, great materials, you know, silicones. We’re starting to develop silicones that no longer bleed so that you don’t have the staining associated with the silicone sealants.

So, you know, the rain screen applications, those, you know, STPE, fluid applied air barriers. They’re making, you know, silicone air barriers, acrylic air barriers. So, you know, I find that there’s always new things happening, new ways of doing filming, new ways of detailing, and a lot of it is based on, you know, chemistry of these products. You know, what sticks to what? What is compatible with what? What is not compatible with what now?

You know, we’re learning things about how silicones and urethanes affect each other’s cure. So you can actually stop the silicone from curing if you install a urethane joint next to it. You know, things like that.

Paul: So you’re talking about new materials. What’s your tolerance for being the guinea pig? I guess, maybe I would ask it that way.

Brian: Very low. What we tend to do is…there’s certain numbers of contractors that are a little bit more willing to try, willing to experiment. And what we generally do is we’ll try and find projects where we have a very low risk application. We’ve installed new membranes on stem walls and crawl spaces, you know, just to see it go down, see how it reacts, see how it’s detailed. You know, not really hanging your neck out too far because, you know, I do not like to try new stuff.

You know, it needs to have a track record. There’s a lot of products coming from other countries too, though, so, you know, you have to be careful about, you know, a 25 year track record in China, for instance, you know? Does that necessarily equate to the same track record you might have here, you know?

Some of the other things that we see is, has it been used in our region. Certain things don’t react the same way in Seattle as they do in Southeast Florida, you know, the materials, the environment. So it’s also, how much has this product been used in our area?

Paul: Yeah. You know, I feel like the construction industry might be one of the slower to evolve industries. And, you know, you see some of these industries where technology is, you know, growing leaps and bounds and, you know, making things irrelevant and whatnot.

And construction seems like, I mean yeah, we have technology. Everybody’s got an iPad in the field now, and we’re in the cloud and all that kind of stuff. But you don’t see the change as fast. I think part of the reason is it’s the long-term implications. You build a building, and it’s there for a long, long, long, long time.

So you’ve got, not only does it have to…you know, you’ve got the latest and greatest materials. Not only do they gotta stick to things, or not stick to things, whatever their intended, but the durability thing where they’ve gotta last for a long time. And you and I, I know can both reel off a long list of materials that seemed great when they started and, you know, have been colossal failures and cause all kinds of problems going forward.

So that’s something that I agree with you. You gotta be really careful when you’re trying to embrace new things, and I like new things, but not without knowing what’s gonna happen, what the ultimate consequences are with using them.

Brian: Yeah. I worked with a couple of guys, very early in my career. They were very old school. They were, you know, great craftsmen, you know? They were a little older and they would use the most basic materials, building paper, nothing fancy. And they would install things as simply as possible but as well as possible, and it’s still what I believe is the simplest the detail can be, the easier it can be implemented in the field, the more successful it’s going to be.

But what’s happened is now we’re changing into this new realm where, well, you know, if this product will do x, y, and z, let’s use that because then we can do that item here as opposed to three different things. And that’s where we’re starting to see some of the dangers, you know? There’s not like a catch all, the product here is gonna do all of these different things.

So you still have to rely on the guy in the field that’s handling these products, that’s installing them, that’s doing the work. That’s to me where most of the success is actually gonna come from, is the guy doing the work.

Paul: And as you say, the system has gotta be able to overcome user error to some degree. If it’s gotta be installed 100% perfect, it’s just not gonna happen. So one of the things that we really like at our firm these days are fluid applied waterproofing systems because you can really inspect them and see if they were applied right, especially if you’re using different colors and things like that.

As opposed to the sheet goods where, you know, they could not lap them properly or not detail them properly or get damaged after they’ve been on there for a while. So, you know, there are some instances where the new technology is good, but not all.

Brian: And fluid applied has really opened up. They’ve eliminated the sequencing issues. You know, you mentioned, you know, sheet goods. That’s all about sequencing, right? So the fluid applied, I think that’s really enabled a lot more, you know, contractors to come in and use these materials, but not have to worry so much about, you know, the sequencing of it.

You can always come back and add more. You can install windows. You can then come back and do the weather-resistant barrier, you know? And that’s really enabled the contractors to use these products more successfully.

Paul: Yeah, because they sure weren’t doing well with the sheet goods. In our business on the, you know, forensic expert witness side, we’ve probably done a thousand failures of sheet goods. And it’s not the material. It’s always, you know, the way it was applied or the lack of direction, lack of detail, installer error, all that kind of stuff.

Brian: Yeah, exactly.

Paul: How do you give a particular system the best chance of succeeding given the variability of installation? How do you get from, you know, a really good design to actually, you know, getting it installed and having it work? In other words, does that involve…I mean, obviously it involves more than just good details. What’s the sequence it needs to go through to have a successful installation?

Brian: A lot of times… What I like to call them is working meetings where early in the process, you’re sitting down. You might have the architect there, but you also have the contractor and the sub, or multiple subs, and you’re talking about different conditions. You’re looking at different issues on the building, and you’re proposing ways that you would recommend addressing them. You’re talking about, you know, different detailing or different products or different methods of addressing something.

Paul: I’ll tell you one thing that drives me crazy is when you get out in the field, for instance, on a window installation, and the installers have never seen and don’t have the window shop drawings, you know, which are basically what they’re using to build the building, to build that trade with. So frequently, we see that the information does not get disseminated down properly, and that’s where a lot of problems ensue.

Brian: Yeah. I agree. Like drawings. You know, you’ve got guys out in field, and they’re doing work on a certain area and they don’t have a drawing. They don’t have a clue as to what the detail actually looks like. And, you know, the contractor hasn’t provided it to them. You know, they’re out there doing what they always do.

Paul: They ultimately become the designer.

Brian: Yeah. Well, this is how we do it. Well, that’s not how we detailed it.

Paul: I’ve been doing it this way for 20 years, that’s…

Brian: And I’ve never had a problem.

Paul: Right. It’s because they’re long gone before the problems start.

Brian: Yeah.

Paul: You had mentioned rain screens. Are they becoming over-specified, and what do you feel the long-term outlook is with them?

Brian: Well, you know, it’s interesting. That question came up recently. I’m part of an organization, the Sealant, Waterproofing and Restoration Institute. And this is something that one of the contractors raised and said, “You know, what is the deal with rain screens? Every time I turn around there’s another rain screen.” It’s like, you know, is this like green washing? Is this that anything and everything should be a rain screen and that’s the way we’re, you know, gonna be building buildings?

And actually I responded to it because, you know, my feeling is that the concept behind the rain screen is solid. The differential pressure, allowing the drainage plane beyond your cladding system to perform. The part that sorta makes me crazy is there’s still people out there that believe a rain screen is like the slatted wood, and we’ve got some black material behind it which is supposed to act as the weather-resistant barrier and the slatted wood and that’s a rain screen.

And the other bit that I take, you know, sort of offense with is that they’re not necessarily intended to just take in an incredible amount of water. They’re intended to take some water. Five percent is what the Air Barrier Association feels as an open rain screen, if you get 5% of the actual water on the membrane. Five percent is not a lot. That means 95% of the water is not touching the membrane.

And so to me, I think it’s solid science. It comes from Canada. They’ve been doing it for years. That’s kinda where we adopt a lot of our detailing and our standards, is from the Canadian codes. So I think rain screens are great. I think they’re starting to slowly become understood by, you know, the people that are designing and the contractors that are installing them.

The stucco subs. I’ve tried to fight the battle with stucco subs for years. And finally, it’s turned the corner where now the stucco sub says, “I won’t install the stucco without a drainage plane behind it,” you know? And I love it, you know? It’s like, “Finally. We’ve crossed over.”

So I think it’s a good system and I think they are here to stay. I think we’re just gonna learn to build them better and I think we’re gonna continue to develop additional weather-resistant barriers, especially fluid applied barriers.

Paul: Yep. And that’s where, you know, the emerging, improving materials and technologies associated with them can really be a big help. But you know, it’s a market to market thing because in South Florida, if you suddenly started doing rain screens, it would be a dismal failure. And the reason for that is because they don’t do them, so there’s a whole transition of education and how you get, you know, the market comfortable with it.

I remember a job that we did, oh, maybe five years ago, which was a healthcare, an ACLU building, like a five story building. And the architect was from the Midwest and wanted to use a high performance rain screen with eaves cladding. And the contractor, who’s actually from the same part of the Midwest but had a Florida office, argued against it saying, “Nobody knows how to do that down here.”

And the contractor was right. It probably wouldn’t have gone well. So ultimately, they did the block and stucco that they’re so used to doing in Florida. And it’s unfortunate but, you know, a lot of it is just, I think it’s regionally, does the market have the expertise to execute something that takes a little bit more workmanship than say, you know, block and stucco type application?

Brian: Yeah. Well, you touched on a good point in regional changes in how construction is done. We have offices in Oregon and California and we do a lot of work in Hawaii. Those are actually the three states that we’re licensed to be, you know, the architect of record. And you can’t detail buildings the same way you do in the Bay Area as you would in Hawaii for instance.

We’ve done construction defect work in Hawaii where we actually brought our own crew with us because we needed to have the guys that had the experience, that understood what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how we wanted to go about it. We would go over there and we couldn’t work with the guys because they didn’t understand, you know, destructive testing, for instance. It’s like this isn’t demo. This is slowly peeling things apart.

And so you run into that. And so, and you know, it kinda goes back to what I was talking about originally with a working meeting. I really think that as architects, as designers, that we’re the smart guys, right? I want my people to be able to reach out and function with the contractors and subcontractors, in their realm, you know?

If they’re really good at these systems, if they’re really good at running, you know, these products or these materials, and we feel they’re appropriate, then I wanna work with them to help them install their stuff that they’re experienced with as well as they can, you know? Detail it, help them understand that this is the architecture. This is what we’re trying to honor, but we’re gonna use these products that you guys are very familiar with and you’ve used thousands of times.

And I think that’s important because you’re also letting that contractor and letting that subcontractor know that, you know, they’re part of this process, you know? You’re not the designer just telling them, “This is what you’re gonna use.” You’re part of the team and you’re saying, “This is what we anticipate, you know, we’re gonna use here. We’re gonna recommend this there.”

And they often will have good insight, you know? And I wanna hear that. I think the dumbest guy on the job site can actually teach us some of the best lessons.

Paul: Yeah. They live and breathe that everyday, so…

Brian: Exactly.

Paul: …who better than them that should know about that?

Brian: Mm-hmm.

Paul: So as we get into, you know, these newer systems and different types of betterments, I guess I would call them, you know, from an architectural education and design focus, what can be done there to help the winds of change blow a little better?

Brian: You know, this has been a long running issue for me. Depending on what architecture school you go to, you’re gonna get a different version of what it means to be an architect. You don’t actually learn to be an architect until you get out of school.
And what I found is that there’s been an increasing focus on the design aspects and the theoretical aspects of architecture, and this is a broad generalization. There are certainly some schools that do have a good technical focus, but what I think we need to do is we need to start understanding that there’s traditional architectural design and then there’s building technology or building science.

You know, just kinda why is there even building envelope architecture out there? It’s because, you know, we’re specializing. We know have lighting designers and AV guys and color consultants. Well, we’re a waterproofing firm. We’re the building envelope guy and I think the education of the architectural students needs to respond to that.

I think the materiality, the how things are put together and how things are built, that’s a really, really important aspect of what it means to be able to design a building. But in Canada, you do two years of school and you decide to go into design or technology. So I’ve actually hired, you know, a few people from Canada with an architectural technology degree.

And, you know, I think that’s kinda where it’s going. You’re gonna see more and more of that type of architect out there that doesn’t have a design focus.

Paul: So with regards specifically to the building envelope, able to teach anything about that in school? Or is that strictly a field experience acquired type of discipline?

Brian: Well, it kinda goes back to what I was saying. Like because I went to the University of Michigan. We had construction documents. We had materials and methods. So we actually were learning some of that stuff in school.

I was having a conversation with a former dean of Cal Poly out here in San Luis Obispo. We partnered up with Cal Poly to be part of their internship program. And he actually is reengaging with Cal Poly because he feels they’ve gotten too far away from the materiality of architecture. He thinks they’ve gotten into more theory.

Where are you actually gonna teach these kids what materials are? You know, he wants them to be able to pick up a brick and feel a brick and know what a brick is. As opposed to like, you know, how does a brick express itself in my building, you know? Those are the things that he was identifying that he really felt was a problem, you know, that we can’t be all theory. We have to be able to teach these kids the real nuts and bolts of architecture.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. I mean there’s nobody I admire more than a really good designer in an architectural firm. I mean, they come up with these spectacular looking buildings that are form and function, all that kinda stuff. But you gotta be able to build it. And I think that’s probably why firms like yours, and mine, and you mentioned other disciplines, are becoming more and more prevalent because nobody could possibly be an expert at everything.

And, you know, different firms with different focuses, if you get all the right pieces together then, you know, you complete the puzzle, basically.

Brian: Right. And I enjoy that, you know? It’s like you said, there’s some fantastic designers out there. That’s not us, you know? We’re not designers. We’re nuts and bolts guys and we wanna help you realize that vision. And, you know, so that high end residential stuff, I think those are the architects that are actually pushing some of the limits of materials on a certain level, you know?

You can’t do it so easily on a commercial project but, you know, residential stuff? Nobody wants to have a house that looks anything like anybody else’s. And no design architect wants to do, you know, the same house that they’ve done before. So those can be really, really challenging but extremely rewarding.

Paul: Yeah, so pushing the limits, what do you see going on these days with the effects of climate change? How is that affecting designs and applications?

Brian: Well, I think people are starting to…I mean, out here in California, we had years of drought. And then this last winter, we basically had a, you know, the 100 year storms and, you know, we got rid of our drought and we said the drought is over. Well, people were having, you know, leaks that they had long ago forgotten about, you know? It hadn’t leaked. There was five years of drought. And all of a sudden this storm comes along and it’s leaking like crazy.

I think what it’s done is it’s really starting to help people understand that design pressures for windows and cladding systems are important, you know? We’re not just trying to do a three pound window that in this location, it needs to be a six pound window. Do you remember the storm we had last summer…or last winter? “Oh yeah.” Okay. Well, let’s do six pound windows.

So, you know, it helps people understand that things are getting worse, you know, as far as events and they’re starting to see it in their building, you know, where they’ve never had a leak here. And lo and behold it’s leaking now because that storm was worse than anything they’ve ever seen.

Paul: It definitely raises the awareness level. So as we’re recording this, we had just gone through all these hurricanes this season. And so, what we’re seeing is…of course, you got the people that were affected by the storm, but you got a whole other group that right after Hurricane Irma hit, we got all these proposals returned to us, you know, signed and accepted. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, you know?

They were like, “Oh boy. We need to, you know, make sure our envelope is in good shape, you know, on new construction projects. And so the awareness level, well, it’s just like the economy. It rises and falls, so you know, people are very aware right now. Don’t have any storms for a few years, let’s see how that lasts. I’m sure it will probably wane.

So we were talking before we actually started recording the podcast, we’re talking about warranties, manufacturer’s warranties. And, you know, that’s always a big deal that you gotta get…you know, there’s always warranty requirements in the construction documents and getting the, you know, good warranty and what do you have to do and all that. What’s your view of warranties in general and what are you seeing out there? The good, the bad, and the ugly, I guess I would say.

Brian: Well, I guess the bottom line is I’m not a big warranty guy. I’m not sure I think warranties are doing anything but protecting the manufacturer. And, you know, conversations with manufacturers off the record, they’ll admit it. They’ll just say, “Yeah. I know. That’s purely to help us get outta, you know, making [inaudible 00:23:54].

And you get a lot of the industry that wants to, you know…companies are starting to develop a broad range of products. They want them to be used together. They try and sell you as a single source warranty, when the reality is they might have two or three pieces to that assembly that are what you would say below the level of quality that you want, or is substandard, or is not a detail that you can get behind.

So what I find is that we work really hard with manufacturers to try and get them to honor the use of their product in a certain assembly that may not be perfectly aligned with what their warranty documents say. For instance, there’s some companies that won’t warranty one of their own products when it’s applied to another one of their own products. I point that out to contractors, to owners, to people, say, you know, “What are you actually trying to buy with this system?”

So my focus has often been to pick and choose the best products across a number of different companies and do, you know, the best detailing you can do and get these contractors, these manufacturers to see it, to bless it, to understand that, “Okay. This is where I’m using your material. Can I get a letter saying you’re okay with me, you know, putting your material in between these two products?”

And it’s surprising. A lot of manufacturers will allow you to do that. And they will write a letter and say, “Yeah. We’ll warranty that.” So that’s where I think you can kinda play around a little bit with it. But ultimately, I am so not interested in hearing about warranties, you know?

Paul: I agree completely. Do it right, you know? When you’re into the warranty claim stage, you’ve missed. You really need to…if you’re getting into, you know, finger pointing, then somebody hasn’t done something right along the way.

Brian: Yeah. And a lot of these warranties are not even…you can’t even comply with them. You know, I’ve looked at, you know, some window manufacturers’ warranties and they talk about, well, you have to test a certain number of windows, you know, 10% of the windows have to be installed and they have to be tested within two weeks of installation. And, you know, it has to have the protocols submitted within this time frame and they have to be approved.

You know, and it’s like, who’s ever gonna be able to even comply with that? Nobody, you know? So just by putting that document out there. You’re selling all these windows. Not one of them is warrantied because nobody has been able to comply with your warranty documents ever, so it’s a joke.

Paul: Yeah. I think people tend to put way too much importance on getting warranty. I mean, yes. You should have warranties. You know, if you have, say, silicone sealants and there’s a product failure, well, of course. You should have a warranty on that.

But these system warranties, there’s almost always an out if something does happen. And a lot of times, there’s an out because, you know, something wasn’t done right or whatever, and there should be an out. But, you know, even when things are done correctly… I mean, I try to think back of actually having a warranty claim and having it honored, and I don’t know if I can think of that ever happening from where I sit.

Brian: Yeah. They’re the toughest cases. If you’ve got a manufacturer issue and it comes down to a warranty fight, those are incredibly expensive cases, you know? And usually, you’re never gonna win, you know? Because, you know, you can imagine what does that open up?

If you, you know, won a settlement against a manufacturer based on some sort of warranty item, you’ve just opened the floodgates. You know, they’re never gonna let that happen because then they’ve exposed themselves to all kinds of cases.

Paul: Right. It’s not necessarily about right and wrong. There’s a lot of other factors that obviously come into play. So we’ve been talking about change and new things and what not. So, you know, another thing is the workforce is evolving, both, you know, workforce, both in the design side of things and on the construction side. So what’s your view working with, you know, the younger, the millennial workers that are probably comprising a big part of the workforce now?

Brian: Well, I think it’s interesting because this has been an ongoing discussion. Earlier, you said like well, this is how we’ve always done it. Well, these kids are walking into this industry that’s been dominated by those kinds of attitudes like this is the way we’ve always done it.

And there are certain amounts of technology that are starting to be used, you know? You mentioned the iPads on job sites and things like that. And what I found is that, you know… We hire a lot of millennials. They, you know, get them right out of school. And what I found is that they look at some of the methods that we use to do our jobs and wonder, “Why are we not taking advantage of technology?”

One of my most obvious examples is somebody is showing something on a computer screen, and I say, “Oh, hey. Can I see that?” And they turn their computer screen towards me. And I’m like, “No, no. I mean, print it for me.” And they give me this quizzical look of like, “Why would you wanna print it? It’s right there,” you know? And you start to realize, it’s like, you know, these guys, they take advantage of the technology that’s available to them.

The other part that I found is that you need to let them know that you’re hearing them. So when we’re doing a certain, you know…say we’re doing a project and we’re doing a construction defect case and we’ve got this massive database. The way we do photo logging, the way we, you know, log our issues, they’ll sometimes say, “You know, it would be easier if we did x, y, and z and took advantage of this software, whatever.”

You have to be able to sell, you know, say, “Okay. Do it. I hear you. Go ahead.” Let them be effective in their positions because if they’re not affecting change, if they’re not being heard, they’re gone, you know? These kids wanna change the world. They wanna feel like they’re part of that, and if you don’t empower them and sort of let them know that you’re hearing them and actually let them see you making changes based on their input, they’re not interested, you know?

So it’s been an interesting sort of process to get to know some of these kids. I mean, I’m hiring kids that are my kids’ age and, you know, and so I know how these kids grew up, you know? I know what they were like. I know they were getting their trophies for participation.

And there’s still a little bit of that, you know, kinda leftover mentality, and you have to understand it. But I also think that they’re, you know, a fascinating group of kids, you know? They offer a lot and their ability to use technology, their willingness to, you know, take things on, try something new is commendable. And I try and empower them to help me learn and help me grow.

Paul: I love millennials, personally, for all the reasons you just said. I mean, they’re so smart when it comes to the technology and, you know, the systems and doing things better. How do you feel about their, the word would be patience, with putting their time in to get the necessary experience as opposed to, you know, figuring out how to do this, that, or the other thing?

Brian: You know, I think that’s a really good point. I think that’s a really good point because they want to affect immediate change. And I think those of us that have been around for a while recognize that this is a long path, that this takes a lot of experience, a lot of, you know, trial and error, hits and misses. You have to, you know, do a lot of projects over many years in order to really develop the skill set, I think, that makes you successful.

I mean, I remember when I was in school, they used to say that architects didn’t become productive until they were in their mid 40s or early 50s. It’s because it takes that long to develop all those skills and then have those skills start to, you know, interact and use them and integrate those abilities.

And so for me, I try and make sure that my people see where they are in the path. And I also make sure that they’re aware of, that they’re never gonna be stuck doing, say one job. They do not want to be pigeon-holed. They wanna continually be offered new opportunities, get to job sites, do something that they’ve never done before.

And it’s impressive because so many of them are like yes people. You offer them to, you know, do some new testing or surveying on a high rise or something like that, and they are so ready to jump on it, you know? They’re so ready to do something new and to try something new.

And so I find that it’s really important to make sure that they see that path, that you’re constantly introducing new things to them but help them see that this is a long-term path. It’s a process where you can’t just jump forward. It takes time.

And sometimes, you do that by putting them into a situation where you know they’re probably not going to succeed. It’s going to be a little bit above their head and they’re gonna flounder around a little bit. But my job is to, you know, kinda catch them before they completely fall and then make sure that we’re still going in the right direction. But you kinda let them see that they’re not quite ready but, you know, this is where we wanna get you.

So I think it’s important to let them see kinda the projection of their career and that it’s not an instant overnight thing because it’s not like that for a lot of industries. I think that’s particular to, you know, things like architecture, and it takes a long time, you know?

You don’t just pop out with those skills, you know? You come out of school with an architecture degree, but that doesn’t mean you know the first thing about what it means to be in an office, or be on a job site, or work with a contractor, you know? So I…

Paul: All true. All true.

Brian: …think that’s something I do with them.

Paul: You just can’t teach experience. I guess that’s the bottom line. I mean as much as… I wish we could because some of our young, really bright people, that’s all they’re lacking, and they can figure anything out. But you can’t just throw them out there and expect them to do everything. You gotta put them in a chance to ultimately succeed or help them, you know, get through something so that ultimately, you know, they learn and they move on.

And I think it’s a great point about varying the experience and not having them stuck doing one thing because that’s not what they signed up for, particularly in our industry.

Brian: Right. I just hired a woman that just got into a design firm. They did winery buildings, great projects, and her boss told her, said, “You know, you’ll never go to the job site. I’m the only one that goes to job sites. And, you know, she looked at him and a month later, she laughed. She was like, “Forget it. I didn’t sign up to sit behind a desk, you know?”

So I hired her, and she’s out surveying high rises and doing water testing and crawling around building sites and she loves it, you know?

Paul: Yeah. That’s great. That’s really great. So Brian, really great discussion. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on. I know that the listeners are gonna really get a lot of good wisdom out of this. And I really appreciate, as I say, coming on today.

Brian: No, thank you. My pleasure.

Paul: If anybody wants to learn more about you or your firm, where would they look?

Brian: Well, the website is Neumann Sloat, And they can always reach me at

Paul: Great, great. So once again, thanks for coming on and really enjoyed the discussion.

Brian: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

Paul: Thank you everyone for listening to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. Please tell your friends and colleagues if you enjoyed it. And if you’d like to subscribe, you can do that through iTunes, Android outlets such as Stitcher. So until next time, this is Paul Beers saying so long.

Kryton Smart Concrete Technology

Alain Lok – Kryton International Inc.

  • About Kryton International
  • Krystol Technology
  • Krystol Internal Membrane
  • Crystalline Admixture
  • Waterproofing Concrete
  • Membrane Systems
  • Warranties
  • Product Explanations

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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Paul: Hello everyone. Welcome to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. Our guest today is Alain Lok with Kryton International. And they make an admixture for waterproofing concrete. So, welcome, Alain.

Alain: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me, Paul.

Paul: My pleasure. So, excited to hear about concrete waterproofing. So could you maybe tell us a little bit about yourself and also Kryton?

Alain: Yes, I’d be happy to. My name is Alain Lok, I’m the senior business manager for the eastern U.S. So I cover the eastern portion of the country from Maine all the way down to Florida. And I manage our… and support our distribution network and I conduct a lot of presentations and similar things like this podcast.

Paul: So, tell us a little bit about Kryton.

Alain: Well, Kryton specializes in building dry and durable concrete structures using smart concrete technology. One of which is a crystalline waterproofing called Krystol technology. And since ’73… Oh, you know, we are now a 44-year-old company, still family owned. We are in over 50 countries with over 100 distributors worldwide. And we hail out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Paul: Wow. So, and you have a crystalline material or product. Would you call it a product or a material?

Alain: It’s a material.

Paul: So you have a crystalline material and you call it Krystol, K-R-Y-S-T-O-L, technology. So, can you tell us what that is and how it works?

Alain: Sure. Well, Krystol technology…it’s a trademark term to describe the crystalline technology. And, you know, it goes in with the products that we have. So it’s added directly to the concrete mix or applied to the surface of concrete. And once added, the crystal chemically reacts with water and unhydrated cement particles to form insoluble, needle-shaped crystals.

And these crystals fill capillary pores and micro cracks in the concrete to block pathways for water and waterborne contaminants. As well, the crystal will continue to give the concrete structure a self-sealing ability. So, if water is reintroduced through a rise in hydrostatic pressure or through hairline crack or through voids in concrete, the crystals will initiate further crystallization to ensure, you know, essentially permanent waterproof protection. And this happens for the life of the concrete.

Paul: That’s interesting. So you said that it can be an admixture or it can be surface-applied?

Alain: Yes. One of the easiest ways, if you like, to apply or add the products to the concrete is by an admixture. And that admixture is called Krystol Internal Membrane or KIM Admixture, as it’s known in the market.

Paul: So, what are the applications for it, I mean, obviously, I mean, so what kind of uses would it be for? It sounds like it will be slab on grade. Would it be below grade, what other or anything else?

Alain: Right. Well, the Krystol technology and, you know, that includes the KIM admixture. You know, it can be used in really all types of concrete structures, whether it’s below grade, above grade, such as the below-grade parking, basement, sewage, at treatment plant, water containment structures of all types such as swimming pools, foundations. We also do a lot of dams, you know, tunnels and infrastructure projects. So, anything concrete, you can actually use the crystal technology to waterproof it.

Paul: So, if you’re using it as an admixture, do you recommend also surface applying it or is that more of a remedial application?

Alain: Yeah, that would be more of a remedial. Now, if you were to use the KIM admixture, you can use that as the sole and primary waterproofing system. So, I mean, yes, you can use it along with a traditional membrane system or use it as the sole waterproofing system on its own.

Paul: So, what are the main advantages of the Krystol technology over, say, a membrane or a coding system?

Alain: Sure. Well, the typical benefits of the crystal technology over traditional membrane systems are, you know, they provide a more of a permanent and reliable water-proofing solution. It helps to greatly shorten the construction schedule by reducing and eliminating the need to apply the membrane system. It also helps to reduce initial and long-term waterproofing cost by greatly reducing or, you know, reducing the risk for callback at future leaks and remediation work. And, as well, the self-sealing ability does also help to prevent, you know, future repairs and other types of issues that you may get with, you know, deteriorated or leaky membrane systems.

Paul: I know with below grade in particular, and maybe on grade and other applications that, a lot of users like to get a warranty with that. Is there a warranty issued here? Is there different options or how does that work?

Alain: Yes. Now, the KIM admixture does provide a 25-year limited product warranty. And that’s essentially, you know, tops and unmatched with, you know, in the industry for crystalline waterproofing product. So that is a warranty that guarantees that the product is, you know, free of defects and doesn’t perform as stated, we, Kryton, we’ll provide free repair materials for the duration of the 25-year period.

We also offer a 10-year labor and material warranty, and we call it the Krystol Assurance Program or KAP. And what that entails is very common, you know, with other systems that you… if there’s any issues, both labor and material is provided to remediate any leaks and damp spots within the structure.

Paul: So, I’m sure it doesn’t happen very often, but if you do have to go in and do remediation, how does that work? Do you have to dig out or is there a way to do it from the inside working out?

Alain: Yeah. So, you know, on the chance that you have to, you know, repair concrete or do remediation, we do have a line of products that can be applied either on the positive or the negative side. And it’s actually different from, you know, other repair systems like injection or, you know, grout injection where you use PDU or epoxy. We have a system that’s called the leak repair system. And that utilizes a hydraulic plug, a crystalline grout and a surface treatment. And those three work together.

Paul: I don’t know what a hydraulic plug is.

Alain: Oh, so the hydraulic plug is like a… it’s a very fast-drying cement.

Paul: Can you describe what is KIM admixture and how it works?

Alain: Sure. Now, KIM admixture is a hydrophilic crystalline admixture used to create permanently waterproof concrete. Now, KIM lowers the permeability of concrete and is used in place of externally-applied waterproofing membranes. So by stopping the transmission of water through concrete, KIM adds durability and longevity to concrete by protecting it against chemical attack and erosion of reinforcing steel.

Now, the KIM admixture contains the Krystol technology and it’s added to concrete at the ready mix batching plant. And it’s simply added together with the other ingredient and it’s mixed and then you would simply, you know, go on site and then pour the concrete, consolidate, vibrate, finish and cure as per normal ACI concreting guidelines, nothing more and nothing less.

And how it works is, it will now turn the concrete into the waterproofing barrier. So, compared to a membrane system where you’re simply, what you’re doing is you’re applying a barrier between the water or the water table and the concrete, and relying on a thin layer of protection. You’re now, with the KIM admixture, turning the concrete into the waterproofing barrier. So if you have, let’s say, if you have an eight-inch wall, you now have eight inches of protection. If you have a two-foot slab, you now have two feet of waterproofing protection versus relying on a sheet membrane.

Paul: You were saying that if concrete, you know, if it develops cracks that the admixture would self-heal so to speak, I don’t know if that’s the right terminology for it.

Alain: Yes. So there is the…one of the main features of the crystal technology and in turn, you know, with the KIM admixture is the self-sealing. And what that is, it’s an autogenous feature where once water comes in contact with the crystals, the crystals will reactivate and seal up any hairline cracks up to 0.5 millimeters in width. As well, if you have any damp spots, you know, dampness which is quite common, those damp spots will simply dry up on their own through the self-healing feature. It’s really a great way to avoid having to go in and, you know, fix every single leaking crack and damp spot that you would get in concrete.

Paul: Where has this been used?

Alain: Well, the KIM admixture… I didn’t mention earlier but, you know, we, Kryton actually invented the crystalline admixture back in 1980. And since then, it’s been used all over the world, you know, waterproofing many deep hole foundations, you know, tunnels, dams, and other types of major infrastructure projects. And especially in the East Coast, we have hundreds of projects, you know, from Boston down to New York City to the D.C. metro area, and then down into Florida. So again, it’s been used in multiple applications for well over three decades.

Paul: How does it work in areas like Florida where the water table is very close to the surface?

Alain: Well, the KIM admixture is actually very effective in places like Florida where you, you know, you dig down a few feet and hit the water table, or there’s a very high water table. Really, that’s really the, you know, the strength, the robustness of the KIM admixture is that it is used in place of membrane system to provide that reliable waterproofing protection, whether you have a few feet, whether you are a few feet in the water table or you’re, you know, you’re dozens of feet into the water table.

And we have many examples where we have situations where it’s very high hydrostatic pressure, very high water table, many feet below sea where, you know, the product has shown to be very, very reliable, and essentially keep the water out of the structure.

Paul: Are there any restrictions with saltwater intrusion?

Alain: No. It actually performs very well in salt water, as well when there are, you know, as you know, with water is a carrier of many aggressive chemicals. You know, whether we’re looking at chlorides or sulfate, the water….the crystal technology, you know, keeps the water at bay and it’s actually able to resist hydrostatic pressure up to 460 feet, backed up with third-party testing.

Paul: Yes. Seems like since it’s part of the concrete that it would… that would be a strength of the system.

Alain: Yeah, yeah, and, you know, in addition, because you mentioned, you know, salt water, the KIM admixture, it has been tested in tidal condition where there’s salt water and it does show to be highly effective at preventing corrosion. There’s actually a solicited study, 10 years, through the University of Hawaii, where they tested various corrosion inhibitors along with our admixture and [inaudible 00:13:32] products. And, you know, in a nutshell, they did conclude that the addition of the KIM admixture was very effective at preventing corrosion. And again, this is a 10-year study that was unsolicited.

Paul: Has it been used in the high rise buildings in coastal areas for the problem with rebar corrosion and concrete spalling?

Alain: Yes, yes. Yes, it definitely has, and again we have hundreds of examples, you know, not just in the U.S. but in North America and globally. And again, you know, with the ability for it to resist high hydrostatic pressure and in turn, preventing chemicals and salt water from getting into the concrete, it’s really a great way to prevent corrosion in, you know, high rise foundation. And as well, the ability of the KIM to produce simply higher quality tighter concrete, you know, your risk of spalling and honeycombing is reduced. Of course, you know, spalling and honeycombing is also relied upon, you know, good concrete practices like proper finishing and curing.

Paul: Yeah, makes sense. So, how’s the KIM admixture different from other crystalline admixtures?

Alain: Yes that’s a great question. Now, I think the first thing to note is that not all crystalline technology, not all crystalline products are the same. You know, the first factor to really be aware of is that the crystalline technologies are chemically different. For example, our Krystol technology is based on a reaction with water and unhydrated cement. And we’re actually very unique in the industry, in that we’re the only company with the crystalline technology that reacts with water and unhydrated cement. Whereas, there will be other systems where it’s available, you know, right on their technical data sheet that their crystals form through a reaction with free lime and concrete, you know, free lime being a byproduct of hydration.

So what you’re getting is, you’re getting different types of crystals. You know, essentially, physically, they’re very different. Ours is very long and needle-like. And they’re purely hydrophilic, so they use water, they like water to grow and to reactivate, in turn growing more crystals. And that really, you know, lends to the self-healing feature of the crystal technology. So, chemically, there is a difference. And then second, the chemical difference leads to a difference in performance. Anyway, we’re… you know, I guess we will get into, you know, what’s better, what’s worse, but, you know, do look at the different performance values of individual products.

Paul: Seems like, you know, being compatible with moisture as opposed to most things are incompatible with it would be a big plus for the KIM admixture.

Alain: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s a good point, you know, because some other materials would be, you know, densifier or hydrophobic pore blockers, those are better used in, you know, above grade conditions or where there’s very little hydrostatic pressure because those… like, for example, hydrophobic materials, those, they would plug up the capillaries in the concrete but, you know, when you get very high hydrostatic pressure, the water just passes through… eventually, pass through those materials. With crystalline being…you know, with Krystol technology being hydrophilic, if water tries to get through, it actually uses up that water to fill up any available voids in the concrete.

Paul: Interesting.

Alain: And once the crystals are formed in the concrete, it really, it’s permanent and it becomes part of the concrete matrix. So it doesn’t deteriorate over time. And we always say, “If the concrete is sound and standing, the crystals will remain in the concrete, protecting the concrete.”

Paul: What other types of products do you offer?

Alain: Yes. So, in addition to the KIM admixture, which is used only for new concrete, new construction, we do have, you know, a very comprehensive product line where you can…where there’s a topical product called Krystol T1, T2. So it’s a surface treatment that is applied to both new or existing concrete. And there’s also a repair system called Leak Repair System, where it’s used to remediate leaks, and cracks, and damp spots, and leaking joints in concrete. And we also have a system for jointing, for construction joints, preplanned and unintended cold joints as well as crack control joints. In addition, we have products for pipe penetration and tie hole and as well a sealer called Hydropel. So, you know, there’s a very comprehensive system that will allow you to not just tank a structure but to go in afterwards if there’s an issue to remediate and rehabilitate.

Paul: So basically, you have everything you need concrete, related to concrete and ceiling?

Alain: That’s correct. That’s correct.

Paul: So, do you have a final message for the waterproofing and construction industry?

Alain: Well, the final message is, you know, there’s lots of options on the market. You know, with a lot of designers, you know, whether you’re an architect or an engineer, there are options available. But that’s…and at the same time, with the crystal technology, you know, it’s something that’s been around now for well over four decades. A proven technology that’s been used in all types of challenging conditions, you know, not just in Florida, but throughout the U.S. and globally.

But to really consider, you know, the overall pros and cons of, you know, whatever type of system that you are looking to specify and introduce to the end user, to the owner/developer. So, you know, if you’re… if people are looking for, you know, a quicker, easier more permanent method to waterproof concrete, you know, consider the use of crystalline waterproofing. You know, it’s something that you cannot…you may necessarily not be able to be to see and feel as you get with a traditional membrane system. But it’s actually, it’s something that is highly beneficial to the concrete and will add, you know, many years to the durability and service life of the structures that we are all a part of building.

Paul: Did I hear you say before also that there are cost advantages to using the product?

Alain: Yes. So, you know, with the use of the KIM admixture over your traditional membrane system, the cost advantage is, number one, you are able to eliminate, you know, the need to apply the product, you know, the labor required. So, you know, the cost of the KIM admixture, you’re simply just paying for the material. There’s no added cost for labor. It also helps to save and shave the construction period. So if you can imagine, there’s no need for surface prep and obviously, you know, you don’t need to apply the product. And that really can, if you’re dealing with a large foundation, can shave days if not weeks off the construction schedule. And that all, you know, can all translate into money saved for everyone.

Paul: So, if people wanna find out more about Kryton and the products offerings, how would they go about doing that?

Alain: Well, we have a really great support structure. You can definitely contact the headquarters at We also have a toll-free number. As well, we have a…in Florida, we have an exclusive distributor, and they’re called ABC Supply and they’re more than happy to assist with inquiry and provide sales and technical support.

Paul: So Alain, really good information, appreciate you sharing it with the listeners. And thank you very much for taking the time to come on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast today.

Alain: You’re very welcome. And I’d like to thank you for taking the time, Paul. And we’re very grateful to be part of your podcast here. You know, hopefully, there’s an opportunity to work with you and your customers in the near future.

Paul: Yeah. So, thanks again. So, this concludes another episode of the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. Please, tell your friends and colleagues about it. And you can access it through our website, or through iTunes or Android sources as well such as So, until next time, this is Paul Beers saying, so long.

Energy Efficient Fiberglass Windows & Doors

Michael Bousfield – Cascadia Windows and Doors

  • About Cascadia Windows and Doors
  • Cascadia’s Experience in the Building Envelope
  • Making Buildings more Energy Conserving
  • Heat Gain & Loss in the Window Assembly
  • Product Strength & Longevity
  • 3 Categories of Products
  • Read our Article Here

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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Paul: Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Everything Building Envelop Podcast. And our guest today is Michael Bousfield. He’s the Technical Director for Cascadia Windows and Doors, welcome Michael.

Michael: Thank you, Paul, happy to be a part of this.

Paul: Great. So, maybe we could start out, you could tell the listeners a little bit about yourself, and then about Cascadia windows and doors.

Michael: Sure. Thank you. Yeah, I’m the Technical Director of Cascadia, and basically, that means I get to split my time between speaking to the industry about our technology and also helping with product development and engineering in our own operations. But Cascadia as a whole is a manufacturer with an actual…a story behind why we’re a manufacturer because we didn’t choose manufacturing by choice, we chose it out of necessity.

Our company was started by a group of building science engineers about 10 years ago, and at that time the…just before the company began, these building science engineers had been operating in Vancouver, British Columbia and in the Pacific Northwest of North America, helping the industry in that region for about the last 15 years up until that date, overcome what had become known as Vancouver’s leaky condo era. A period of time where the design and construction of the exterior of buildings and building envelopes had been had been found to have many, many premature moisture-related failures.

And this was a terrible time for that local industry, although it is now referred to in the past tense. It has happily been overcome, these engineers were looking forward and saying, “Well, since this problem has been virtually solved and overcome, what are we gonna do with our employee base that has gone from 6 to over 100? What’s the next problem that we can solve them industry?” And around about 2008, it became evident to them that that was going to become an attention on energy conservation in buildings.

So they’re kind of thinking of it big picture, how could they leverage their experience and knowledge with building envelopes to assist with helping buildings become more energy conserving? And they figured that, “Well, for a building envelopes, by far the weakest link is the heat loss or the heat gain, and that is through window assemblies.” So they looked around and said, “Well, how can we improve window assembly?” And they found that aluminum was a very highly conductive material, it couldn’t help that very much, and vinyl had some structural limitations, and fiberglass became the material that had the structural characteristics necessary for large and commercial windows, and the thermal performance characteristics necessary to help them achieve their goal of energy conservation, but nobody was manufacturing it.

Then that’s where we circled around to Cascadia was born out of a necessity by being building science engineers, to want to be able to use the products which we now produce. They had to start this engineering company to create the windows they wanted to use.

Paul: So Cascadia’s been basically in business for about 10 years now, is that what you said?

Michael: Yes, that correct. We’ve been able to grow every year, and take on as new partners in addition to the original founders.

Paul: So today 10 years later, how are things going as far as the markets that you’re serving and what not?

Michael: Well, 10 years ago, the year that we started, and I actually it was 2008, and if you remember the construction industry in 2008 turning 2009, what an amazing roaring economic time to start a construction company. Well, not really.

Paul: Yeah, that was probably about the worst time you could have started.

Michael: It turned out to be the very, very worst time, and it was a painful start, especially as we reinvested any money we made into…back into our products, back into our processes. But now we have grown about 29 to 30% every year compounded annually, and we are now serving markets that stretch from Alaska down to San Diego, California and everywhere on the West Coast in between.

We’ve also been much more recently, expanding our attention and our offerings to the New York area and the Greater Eastern Seaboard area, and other areas on the East Coast, as well as eastward across Canada including Alberta into the Prairie Provinces.

Paul: So as your product, would you consider to be commercial or residential? And what kind of buildings does it typically go into?

Michael: Yeah. That’s a good question. The intent of our product is to be what we refer to as commercial grade. And when I use a term like that, I’m speaking to the product’s strengths, its physical strength, its longevity of its service life, and also its physical test ratings. All would be well summarized this commercial grade, but it’s used in both commercial construction and in residential construction.

The major types of projects that we see over and over again are kind of fall into three categories. Number one, high-end customs homes for owners who wanna build something that’s very durable and energy conserving. Number two, rehabilitation and retrofit projects, building that have had let’s say, moisture damage to the building envelope, have pushed the building owners to want to repair or update their building, and they want to do this retrofit with something that has greater durability and great water tightness. And then the third type of buildings is, commercial and institutional buildings, buildings where long-term value is really key for the group that’s building it, like schools and hospitals.

Pau: When an owner is making a decision to use your product, what other types of products are they typically considering?

Michael: Well, our fiberglass product, that question is actually different for us than most other fiberglass window manufacturers. For us, the other products that the owner is typically considering is aluminum windows. And mostly, that’s because there is either a building code limits or just a general reluctance for widespread use of combustible windows and composite windows in non-combustible and commercial construction. Typically, combustible or composite windows haven’t been used in large-scale commercial construction just because of a perception that they’re not strong enough.

So, we’re generally used where you want a strong commercial grade window, but you also want a window that’s incredibly thermally efficient. And up until our product line started to come into its own, those have been almost exclusively separate in its design criteria. You could either get commercial grade or thermally efficient but not both together.

Paul: And you use the word combustible. Could you explain that a little more please, what the context was there?

Michael: Yeah. So, generally speaking when you’re dealing with a large-scale commercial building you are of course dealing with a concrete or a steel building, which is a not…a building required to be built of non-combustible construction. And as you probably know, most windows are combustible, PVC windows, fiberglass windows, and wood windows are combustible. And thermally broken aluminum windows are combustible as well, but because of the prevalence of the aluminum coming outside, they are perceived rightly or wrongly, to be windows that are more suitable for non-combustible construction.

But from a scientific point of view, there really aren’t meaningful differences. So as wider spread use of combustible windows and all types of windows, they’re using commercial construction, North America will tend to catch up with the rest of the world in that respect of using composite windows, where there’s the biggest advantage for that.

Paul: So why would an owner select a fiberglass window over an aluminum window?

Michael: So an owner is going to get the same necessary strength out of either a choice of an aluminum window or certain fiberglass windows. And in the context, I’ll include our product into it, and fiberglass window, they’re stronger enough. But the differences that they would be choosing between, for fiberglass window, you’re looking at somewhere between a 50% to 100% improvement in the thermal efficiency of the fiberglass product over the aluminum product. And the price will be very, very close to the same. In some cases the fiberglass window will be marginally more, in other cases, it might even be marginally less.

Paul: Do you find that price is ultimately the deciding factor, or do you see customers looking at the positive attributes or the pluses and minuses when they’re making decisions?

Michael: Yeah. You’re right, that the decision is usually more complicated for purchasing a fiberglass window than simply is at the lowest price. And definitely for our product, they are not the cheapest product allowed by a law to fill a hole in a wall. They are definitely not that. Although their price competitively in many other choices that don’t perform as well as them.

So to circle back and truly answer your question, sometimes the decision simply comes down to price, but typically especially for projects where the designer has sought us out on behalf of his or her client, the decision is based around the pluses and minuses of the performance, and longevity, and environmental profile, not simply the lowest cost.

Paul: So there’s a standard called…we called in the window industry, we called NAFS but the North American Fenestration Standard and it’s a code required window test standard for North America. Can you describe what that standard is, and how Cascadia assured its customers that their window will comply with the standards?

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. The last part of that is easier so I’ll address the first part of it mainly. So the North American Fenestration Standard or we often NAFS, is standard that collects together a group of physical tests that are intended, that a manufacturer would subject their window to these group of tests to show that all aspects of its physical performance are adequate and are tested, and have gained a rating that can then be used to compare whether or not the window’s suitable for a particular building, a particular exposure, a particular wind speed.

So that group of tests that the standard requires includes strength tasks. So it’s a structural strength, and a water penetration resistance test, and an air leakage resistance test. Additional tests which are usually referred to as, kind of secondary tests compared to those also include testing for resistance to burglary, and the operation of force necessary to you know, work the windows hardware, that cannot be too difficult or too tight. And then depending on the type of window, there are further tests to ensure durability, certain products require cycling.

And the result of this testing, it’s battery of tests that the single window or door would be subject to, results in a window or door getting what is called a performance grade, which is a summary value that is described in the standard, and the performance grade indicates that of course, all the tests have been completed and passed, and second, the performance grade is actually a number that refers to the design wind pressure for a building.

So that number if it is a low number, would indicate that the design wind pressures at that window could withstand and succeed in all those tests, is a lower number, which would equate to making that window or door suitable for use on a maybe a single family home or a low-rise building that has lower wind loads. And then if it has a very high number as a result of this testing, then it would indicate that it’s a stronger window, it’s a more water-tight window and it is more suitable for applications on buildings of greater exposure, taller buildings, buildings in areas of particularly high wind speeds, things like this.

So finally the last part of what you asked me, how does Cascadia make sure that we’re complying with this, and offering our customers well-tested windows? We engage with intra-tech testing, and other independent test plans to make sure that our products are fully tested, and we’ve developed a library of different tests that have been done over time to ensure that when our customers order costumed products from us, and perhaps, that’s all products, they’re all made to order, that whatever it can figuration in size and shape of products they choose has been covered in one or more of our past tests.

Now, in addition to doing these physical test, Cascadia takes one step further, and this has nothing to do with code compliance. This is because we think it’s very good idea, and we want to build up a sleep at night factor for our owners and our shareholders, and that is that we conduct in-house testing on a regular basis, virtually a daily basis, which is water penetration resistance testing in the same way that the laboratories conduct water penetration resistance testing. And we do that with a large wall, which sprays water and provide air pressure on window samples. And the products that we conduct these regular testing on in-house, are actually our customer’s products.

We’ve developed a practice of how to use our in-house testing equipment to non-destructively test the products that are coming off of the assembly line. So rather than just testing one particular specimen that for example, the best technician put together and inspected, instead of testing just one specimen on our daily testing, we’re testing our actual customer’s product. Up to 10% of them that are coming off of our production line, and they’ll end up getting a water-tested before they go on to our customers.
Paul: That’s really good. So what happens if one of them leaks? Well, what do you guys do at that point?

Michael: Yeah, that’s super rare, but it would be irrational for me to say that they never leak. So when a product leaks or otherwise exhibit some sort of result that wouldn’t…that’s not a perfect pass of our own testing, the really wonderful diagnostic and training tool, as I’m sure you can appreciate a window is constructed of more components than simply four pieces of frame and a piece of glass. There’s a lot of accessories, there’s a lot of joineries, there’s a lot of hardware involved, so we’re able to take the production staff members and the supervisors that are related to the area in our production that assemble the component that resulted in the leak, and that’s very easy to diagnose. It’s very easy to observe a leak and know what caused it.

And then we can bring them over to it and say, “Hey, look this is the result we’ve just got testing this morning. Here, take this window, take apart a little bit, diagnose it, and then give it back to the testing worker, get them to re-test it, and check the other work we’ve done in that batch.” And so in that way, we’re allowed to combine training and quality control in kind of the same practice.

Paul: Good stuff. I wanna go back to NAFS for just a second just for the benefit of listeners that may not be familiar with it. So North-American Fenestration Standard, North-American means Canada and the US, correct?

Michael: Yeah.

Paul: Yeah. So that’s something that just for those that are listening, it hasn’t always been like that, and I can’t remember if it was 10, 15 years ago when they first started producing the Canadian’s window organization and the Americans combined. So I think that made things a lot easier to cross borders obviously, by using the same standard.

The other advantage of NAFS, and you described the ratings that they have, and the numbers and whatnot, is that, everybody’s basically using the same standard for testing, and it gives an opportunity to compare products, making sure basically their apples are apples when you’re comparing two products, if you had one of your products that had a higher rating than a competitor’s, you could differentiate that just by the ratings. Did I explain that well? I’m not sure if I did.

Michael: Yes. That is good and actually… Paul, I think like to leave your listeners with just one more comment, kind of a little pearl of wisdom related to selecting windows and understanding how a manufacturer makes a choice for trade-offs when they’re conducting NAFS testing on their product. And that is that, because the NAFS testing includes a structural test which is performed by applying air pressure, basically wind to the outside of the window in both inward and the outward direction, because every window has its own physical limits, the strength of the frame, strength but glass, and the strength of the hardware that keeps it shut, regardless of what the weak point is, there will be a weak point, and it means the trade-off that must be decided upon by the manufacturer is the size of the product to be tested.

That if you have a large product, therefore when you add up the amount of pounds per square foot of air pressure, you have a higher amount of pressure overall because you have a bigger product. And why the size of the product is so critically important is because the NAFS standard allows a manufacturer to build a product that is the same size or smaller than the NAFS test but not bigger. You can test…you can build what you test or you can build more conservatively, but you cannot extrapolate results. And both height and width are independently restricted.

So if a manufacturer has a product that they want to claim a very high test rating on, then it makes sense for that manufacturer the choose the smallest allowable sample with which to perform the test. However, if the manufacturer wants to be able to legally and properly spell, and have a tested product that is a large product that will enable them to sell to many customers who might want to a larger window, whether it’s an open window or a picture window or whatever, logically a larger test sample is a more versatile test. It will cover more future orders for different sizes of that same product type. But the larger tests will result in a lower pressure.

So the nugget of wisdom that the potential buyer or the specifier needs to recall is that, for your particular project, for your particular home or school or whatever building you’re working on, the fact that a manufacturer has a high pressure, a high rating in a test doesn’t necessarily mean that they can produce your windows at that test pressure. They may have done a test or a very small window to create a very good result, but in fact, it may mean either not have tested on larger windows, or they might have testing on larger windows, which has a much, much lower rating.

So you simply ask, don’t be super suspicious or negative to your subconscious supplier, but definitely ask. And if they don’t have a test or if they don’t have at test at the necessary rating to build that larger window, to be the pressures that your particular project requires, then that’s just because physics got in the way, and that product line may not be the part of point suitable for your project.

Paul: So if somebody asked the question about size, what would a manufacturer do to evidence what they did test that?

Michael: Yeah, that manufacturer and ideally speaking, should spend that inquiry customer, that professional a test report from an independent test lab, and right on the front cover, that test support, there will be the performance grade, which I mentioned before, is it is a summary value indicating with all the testing was done, and the wind pressure at which the product survived, where the certain number of pounds per square feet.

So you’ll have performance grade with that number illustrated as a Performance Grade 30 or PG30 for example, indicating that the product can survive up to 30 pounds per square foot of weight pressure. And then right up to that number, there will be a five test with dimensions. And those dimensions are limits. It means that that test is relevant for that type of product built up to the size and not bigger.

Paul: So if the dimension’s just to make up numbers, where…and we’ll use inches here, 48 inches by 48 inches, which is 16 square feet, if a manufacturer then wanted to sell a window that say, 36 inches by 60 inches, which is actually slower in square footage, 15 square feet, what I heard you just say, they could not do that because the height exceeded the tested height, the 60 inches.

Michael: Yes, it’s correct. Even though your mathematics looking at the overall square footage and therefore, the overall area the pressure’s applied to, it’s less square footage, those dimensions are independently restricted, and cannot, you combined them for square footage in order to interpolate. The logic behind doing this is that, let’s say that you take an operable window, whether that a sliding window or a casement window, and you picture the hardware and the locking points that are necessary to keep that window shut in a storm, that hardware components in your example, it would be a 48 inch component in the first dimension you gave, and then the next scenario you set at 60 inch dimension, and that may be the same component that’s used on the same window product, but now it’s having to create locking over a 60-inch dimension, not just a 36, sorry a 48 inch dimension. As a result of that, the physics are different, the forces are different. And whether or not the window is capable of being built at price is not the point, the point is that the test does not permit you to exceed the measurement.

Paul: Because you don’t know how it’s doing until you test it?

Michael: Correct. That’s the logic of this data. Now, a lot of companies will say that they can get engineering to do that interpolation or extrapolation, but that’s not entirely correct. Engineering had a limited role to play in compliance with the NAFS Test Standard. And usually, engineering is limited to the design of the frame components that would be in the center of an overall window perimeter frame.

Let’s say for example, that you have a casement and a fixed window, and you will mold them together or couple them together in the field when you install them, that connection, that frame component that therefore goes to the middle of your window opening, that can be engineered utilizing generally accepted engineering practices, and that’s something that the text standard allows as long as those components have also been subject to all the rest of the testing. But in terms of interpolating or extrapolating size, no, it’s quite explicit about that.

Paul: Yeah. And I’m glad to hear that because it wasn’t always like that. The word I remember is comparative analysis, and they would use the area dimensions to qualify different products, which really gave an awful lot of latitude, and as you just skillfully explained, it doesn’t always work.

Michael: Yes, you’re absolutely correct. Yeah. And in fact, it’s an aspect of the industry that is at such a detailed level that the enforcement of the standard, and the respect of that particular aspect of the standards, those limits, that’s something that has not always been easily and fully enforced or even understood, both on the building design professional level and the building official level, the authorities. But as everybody becomes more educated and more practiced by using and applying the current version of the standard, hopefully, the industry both comes up together.

From a manufacturer standpoint who invests a lot of money and a lot of research time and attention to making sure our products are fully in compliant, we have in the past been irritated to see other companies, you might almost describe it as “get away with” supplying products which are not as fully tested as the product that we would propose and compete with them on.

Paul: Yeah. Well, there’s always that element of the market, looking for the cheapest price they can find, and that’s probably what that caters to.

Michael: Yes, it’s true.

Paul: So I’m assuming, I mean assuming, I know Cascadia obviously is not the only fiberglass window manufacturer. How are Cascadia fiberglass windows different from other fiberglass windows?

Michael: Yeah. That’s a good question, but the first I’ll touch on the similarities. Fiberglass was created as a window frame material over 30 years ago in order to solve compromises. And it’s actually probably the newest of the mainstream when the frame materials. Let’s say that the other three are wood, an aluminum, and PVC.

And wood, aluminum, and PVC had some historical compromises, durability and maintenance for wood, thermal performance and condensations problems for aluminum, strength and dimensional stability and restrictions on large sizes for PVC. So fiberglass was introduced to the window frame material to combine strength similar to aluminum, and thermal performance as good or better than PVC in a window frame material that basically solves compromises.

So in that way, our fiberglass windows are similar to pretty much all fiberglass windows, having the basic characteristics that they cannot rot because they’re not organic, they cannot rust because they’re not metal, and they have a very, very low coefficient of thermal expansion and contraction, which means they won’t cause their own components to experience fatigue over time, the same way that a plastic one would.

However, that’s where the differences between our windows and other fiberglass windows kinda end. Other fiberglass windows have been designed to be suited to residential applications, and the sizes and the environmental and physical loads that are all typical of residential applications. And when I say that, I mean houses and multifamily building that are low rise. But are windows, even though they are used in some of those types of products, have always been designed to be commercial grade.

And when I say that, I mean that they collected characteristics of being of higher strength, I mean engineering and testing point of view, having higher test ratings, which means they’re more appropriate for exposure in high wind and storm areas, and on tall buildings, and their lifespan and the longevity of all the components down to even the material with which the hardware is made out of and generally being stainless steel, all of these components combined together are designed to be commercial grade for strength, and longevity and exposure.

Paul: So commercial grade windows obviously have higher performance criteria structurally and rain-water penetration and whatnot. So how does Cascadia or how did Cascadia design their windows to meet these higher ratings?

Michael: Yeah. That’s a complicated question. How do we design a window to meet higher ratings and to deserve the term commercial grade? And I should point out that that terminology that I’m using when I’m saying commercial grade, that’s not a defined term in the industry, that’s just a summery term that I’m using to apply to those criteria of strength and longevity, but how do we design for that?

Well, we start by having our technical team come from…mostly from our founders and also from some fenestration specialists that have worked in windows all their life. The technical team, in summary, has a strong building science background, and part of that is from pretty much growing up, our skills and experience in a situation where our city and our region in North America was experiencing a leaking building crisis for years, and years, and years.

So we understand both the importance and the detailed level physics behind making buildings and the product in buildings very, very watertight and having multiple lines of defense against water. So having a team that has a background in making buildings, in general, have great water penetration resistance and that experience including the interfaces between different products, different membrane different fields within a building itself, when you have that experience and you understand the physics behind it, you can then actually apply that at the product level as opposed to the assembly level. And in that way, you’ve been able to make sure that we’ve applied our first principles thinking to the water penetration resistance of our products. Essentially that means having multiple seals, that means meaning having meaningful drainage and pressure equalization existing between fields within, and a window that opens and closes.

And after all of those engineering principles have been applied and they result in a product that been built and have it test, we further ensure that our windows are designed to meet these ratings by testing in-house every day. We’re testing between 5% to 10% of all the windows we actually produce, and we continuously prove to ourselves that the testing success that we got in a laboratory once every few years is not just a one-off success that the best technician in the factory was able to achieve, but in complete contrast to that, the results are proven every day in the normal course of production across multiple shifts.

And so from both an engineering standpoint and an in-house regular testing standpoint, we assure our customers of those high water penetration resistance ratings, and that aspect of our NAFS compliance are in particular.

Paul: So that addresses a big issue I have with window testing and certification, in that, it’s not always repeatable in the field. I know that sometimes you can get the perfect test in the lab and get your rating and then they’ll start building windows installing them and lo and behold, it doesn’t seem the pain at the same way in the field. So I think it’s really good to hear what you guys are doing, and I wish more would do. I know of the manufacturers do test products on the line and whatnot, but it’s a problem with that we see with water leakage, and that products don’t always perform up to snuff with what their rate, how they were certified what they’re rated for.

Michael: It’s true actually. And it’s interesting to hear you comment about the differences between a company’s lab testing and the question that you experienced during your professional practice in the field. And I actually come from the building science consulting steel myself before I joined Cascadia as a manufacturer, and I too was involved in actually performing water penetration resistant tests on construction sites that involved both walls and windows. So I understand that it’s very, very different to see an installed window that’s a production line product being tested in the field compared to what the laboratory says you should experience.

One of the thing that has influenced our decision to do this optional, so not code required in-health testing that I was describing earlier, is that in our home market, which is bank Vancouver and the Pacific North America, the leaky condo crisis that I referred to earlier where there were many premature building failures or building envelope failures due to moisture index [SP], caused a hypersensitivity in the industry to water index [SP] rightly. So, and the result of that hypersensitivity has been the ongoing normal practice of rigorous water penetration resistance testing on construction sites. And pretty much any construction site of a commercial building that’s greater than a, you know, let’s say larger than a bank or a restaurant, and most multifamily residential building that are, you know, four stories and higher, water penetration resistant testing could be conducted on any project, but it is routine to have it on every project that’s bigger in scope than what I just described. And that’s not the practice in all regions of North America.

Paul: So Michael, what kind of warranties are available with the Cascadia windows?

Michael: Right. So Cascadia as windows and doors are warranted for all of their fiberglass frame components for 20 years, and their hardware and glass components for 10 years. And the interesting thing about our warranty compared to some other warranties is that ours is a product warranty and it’s not proper a bunch of exclusions that are designed to kind of negate the warranty and obligations under it. If you look at some warranties and this is just a caution to potential buyers not, not a slight against any other manufacturer, some warranties are limited where if a residential owner sells their house the warranty concludes with their ownership, it doesn’t pass on to the buyer. Differently as well some warranties are different for commercial applications and installation where there are hundreds of windows compared to a single-family homeowner.

Our warranty is the same for all products in all applications, and it doesn’t matter if you sell your house, change the ownership, change the use of the building, the product is the product and therefore it carries the warranty.

Paul: Where we’re talking a little bit before we start the podcast about Hurricane Irma, and we’ve learned some warranty lessons since then. We had a project in Florida that had some issues with the roof, and we asked the manufacturer, well, the roof had some up left issues. We asked the manufacturer to come and take a look at it, and they refused to come. We asked them why the refusal and they produced their warranty that said that the warranty is void for any winds that are higher than 55 miles an hour, which was really sleazy. I think since they’re selling roofs in hurricane-prone areas, with the design pressures are way, way higher. But the lesson learned is, read the warranty folks, read it because just because you get some says warranty, it doesn’t mean you’re getting much.

Michael: Yeah. And you know some warranty documents, they can look through, they can have a long time attached to them, but they also have a lot of exclusions that exempt the manufacturer from their obligations. So I think the best warranty is the one that doesn’t have such exemptions that time period is less important than the strength of the warranty during the time that it lasts.

Paul: Very true as we’re seeing. So speaking of hurricane Irma, has that had any effect on Cascadia’s business?

Michael: Geographically, we’re not commonly serving these markets that’s affected by Hurricane Irma, but although we are willing to in our expansion efforts would definitely include that area, now and in the future, but the effect that we’re seeing is just all over the whole North American industry. There’s definitely a noticeable increase in the amount of attention to resiliency. And in some ways, that’s almost becoming a buzzword. But you know, as much they hate buzzwords, I think the attention to it and the awareness of it is good, good for the industry, good for the buildings that result from this.

So increased resiliency when it comes to product selection is something where our potential customers are now giving more attention to our test ratings, the types of materials that we’re using in the construction of our products. So I think it having a good result on buying decisions and it’s increasing the number of items that people consider when they’re trying to assess the value of a product not simply its price.

One more thing that I’d like to add about Hurricane Irma related to our earlier discussion about the physical test for NAFS, is that although the products themselves are subjected to NAFS testing, the way that the products are attached to a building, the installation attachment is not part of the NAFS standard. And the products that are being tested can be attached for the purpose of testing in any way that the manufacturer wants, that you can overkill the method of attaching, the product, and that’s not something that’s tested or rated in the standard.

So the takeaway from that is that a builder or an installer should be careful to meet or even exceed the recommended attachment the manufacturer makes, or that the building engineer prescribes, in particular, being careful they don’t do less. And if there is no information from a certain manufacturer, then information should be sought. You shouldn’t just do what you’ve always done because the environmental loads and the winds pressures on one building could be different than another.

Paul: Yeah. So Michael if people, if listeners wanna get more information about Cascadia windows and doors, how would they go about doing that?

Michael: Yeah. The best way is to start with our website, where you can discover both a summary of our tested products, a gallery of examples of our products use in the description of even our newest product, which is of a brand new fiberglass commercial grade passive-house certified, window and door line. And this line is our newest technology. It’s called the universal series. It’s gaining a lot of ground because it’s not only our highest-performing product, it’s also our least, equal or least expensive product that we’ve ever made. So all that information is found on our website, and our website is,

And from that point, I would invite anybody who’s interested in discovering more or if we can just be helpful by sharing some technical information, to just to reach out to us with whatever method is convenient. Whether that’s email or telephone, it’s easy to find our contact information on

Paul: So Michael, it’s been very interesting and informative, I really thank you very much, and other listeners I’m sure enjoyed the material today. So thank you very much for coming on the podcast today.

Michael: You’re welcome Paul, it’s been a pleasure.

Paul: So thank you, everyone, for listening to the Everything Building Envelop Podcast. Please tell your friends and colleagues about it. If you’d like to subscribe, it can be found on iTunes and Android outlets such as Stitcher. And until next time, this is Paul Beer saying, so long.

Glazing Systems, Leaks, Restoration and Repairs

Jeff McGovern and Mike Buchholz – Tremco

  • What’s wrong with the traditional way of just cutting the head off a gasket and shooting a bead of silicone around the perimeter of the frame?
  • What is the value of using Tremco’s restoration wet seal approach?
  • Smearing silicone on the issue doesn’t solve the problem.
  • What’s the process if I wanted to do the leaky skylight job we just discussed?
  • Any idea of ballpark cost of using Tremco’s approach vs. putting in new windows or a skylight?
  • What’s the best way to determine what or how the Glazing system is leaking? Field Testing?
  • Why is it important to understand the glazing system before starting to repair it?
  • What usually is the failure mode for Glazing systems?


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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Paul: Hello, everyone. This is Paul Beers. Welcome back to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. Today we’re gonna talk about glazing restoration or restoration of glazing systems, and I’ve got Mike Buccholz and Jeff McGovern from Tremco. Mike has already been a guest. Mike, thanks for coming back on.

Mike: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Paul.

Paul: Welcome, Jeff.

Jeff: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Paul.

Paul: So, Mike, why don’t you refresh everybody a little bit about you and Tremco, and maybe you can segue over to introduce Jeff as well.

Mike: Sure, absolutely. So Mike Buccholz. I’m the Southeast regional manager for Tremco Commercial Sealants and Waterproofing. I’ve been with Tremco 14 going on 15 years now. The first six years with Tremco, I was in the fire division, and then we rolled that division into our sealants and waterproofing business where we capture the whole building envelope, so for the last eight years or so, I’ve been on that side of the business. And I think, you know, what really separates Tremco is, and I know this is a bit of a cliché, but it’s our people. And we’re nearly a hundred-year-old company, and we’ve been focused on the commercial glazing, waterproofing, sealants market, for a very long time. Our field support folks have real-world experience as contractors, engineers, or consultants, and glazing is no different.

And I’m pleased to have Jeff McGovern joining us today. Jeff has a strong background, an actual reputation in the glazing industry. He was the director of regional operations with Architectural Testing, Inc., so ATI for four years where he was instrumental in creating impact tests for contracts. Prior to that, he had roughly 30 years working his way up through the corporate ladder with Trainor Glass. And he started in Chicago as a fabricator, then a field glazer, and learned all aspects of the commercial glazing industry, and eventually, relocated down to Florida where he continued to advance his career and become a vice president at Trainor. And while he was at Trainor, he was instrumental in numerous monumental projects in Florida such as the port of Miami, Kravis Center, Jackson’s Health Hospital, Memoirs Children’s Hospital, and a variety of others. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Jeff to speak a little bit more about how Tremco approaches the glazing restoration market.

Jeff: Thanks, Mike, that just made me feel old. Yeah, a lot of years in the glazing industry.

Paul: Welcome to the club.

Jeff: What’s that?

Paul: Welcome to the club.

Jeff: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, thank you for that, and Paul, again, thanks for having me on here today. I think it’s kind of a very appropriate topic today since we’ve just had Irma kind of go through the state like a snowplow. So…but basically, yeah, as Mike said, I started out in the glazing industry, and when hurricane Andrew went through Florida, it kind of changed the codes. And it turned regular glazing contractors into, not only contractors, but we had to design our own systems. We became manufacturers. So with all of that background, you get a very in-depth involvement in your company and in your products that you make. Then went onto the test lab which I continued to test building products. And then I’ve been at Tremco for three years now. So with that, let’s get started.

Paul: Great. And Jeff, you know, you and I, I can give a me too into everything Mike said. You and I, obviously, have known each other for quite a while. Worked on a lot of different things together over the years, so I’m really excited to have you here to talk about some stuff today. And it’s funny, you know, you mentioned Irma, so we’re recording this, I don’t know when it’ll come out, hopefully soon, but within a, you know, probably a month or so. And Irma was about 10 days ago. What’s really interesting is we’re starting to really hear from clients and customers and whatnot, and big, big, big, thing, in the room, and from what I can tell, Florida is water leakage. I’m getting many, many, many phone calls with that. So, this is a very appropriate subject as far as that goes and… So let’s have at it. So what’s usually a failure mode for glazing systems?

Jeff: One that comes to mind immediately is improper installation, and, you know, there’s a couple of different ways. I mean, a lot of guys know how to install the system from the screws and put the glass in the hole and caulk the parameter, but a lot of integral critical seals are either missed or not followed properly per the manufacturer’s installation instructions, or poor or just not cleaning before applying sealants. So the systems, and we have a plus down here in Florida because we test most of them in the lab and get approval, so they’ve pre-been tested to meet certain design criteria, but if you don’t install them in the field properly, that’s where you typically see glazing failures.

Paul: So, it’s interesting you mentioned the testing, and I know, you know, it’s good that you have experience in the test lab and in the field. So just so that everybody understands, that when a unit is tested in a laboratory, you know, certain things are done to it with sealants and weather stripping and accessories and things like that. What’s supposed to happen when it’s installed in the field? Is it supposed to basically be the same thing or can you have variations? Or what’s the rules there, so to speak?

Jeff: Yeah. Sure. Yeah. It is to be installed per the way that it was tested. There are only a couple different substitutions that could be made, and they’re very minor. Perimeter sealants of a glazing system could be changed, if they’re even labeled on the test report, those items could be…attachment of a curtain wall to a building could be engineered whether it was with structural all angles or imbeds, those could be changed. Outside of that, you’re pretty much gonna follow what was tested. The aluminum that’s used, how it’s steeled, the size of the sealant bead that holds the glass in place, the type of glass that’s in there with the proper inner layer, and the fastening, all right? And along with that, manufacturers, once they get these products tested, should have installation instructions that get reviewed by third-party during the processes. Now, obviously, a lot of that gets missed, and thus results in some sort of failures between water or even structural failures.

Paul: So glazing systems, you know, there’s different kinds of system, and they function a little bit differently, but, you know, they’re all designed a certain way so that they’ll either repel the water or collect it and drain it back to the outside. Well, basically, so that they won’t leak, so why is it important to understand the glazing system before starting to repair it?

Jeff: The most common problems resulting in restoration work, usually, are just adding sealant over everything. And I remember listening to one of your earlier podcasts and you used the word, “Yes, baring silicone over a glazing system just doesn’t work.” You know, so to understand the glazing system, there’s so many different types, and they work in different ways. It’s important to understand how the system takes on water and evacuates water. Most of them are designed to take in water into the system and drain them out.

And, as you know, Paul, most glazing systems in South Florida, certainly before the hurricane impacted us and changed the codes here, were flush glazed storefront center glazed systems. Those systems are meant to have a pan underneath them. The water goes through the system, hits the pan, and evacuates out. A lot of times what happens with those is they put the pan down, and they put a frame in and they blow holes through it to anchor it, so now your pan that you created to hold water, no longer holds water.

So I can remember being in the glass world in my days with storefront framing, and we would almost end up wet sealing all of that product anyway to keep the water out. So kind of a poor design, so to speak, where it takes in water, but then it’s punctured so that it’s hard to seal that up, causes the problem. Understanding the glazing system also lets you to come up with a proper repair. A lot of times just smearing caulk doesn’t do the trick. And I can use an example from Irma of a call I got today of a building that was restorated, meaning it was wet sealed…we’re talking a little bit later on here…was wet sealed, but they didn’t address the horizontal to vertical intersections.

They did field chambers test on this building, and they passed along the way at a prescripted 12 bsf pressure. Well, Irma came, and they have several leaks this morning, and it’s coming through horizontal to vertical connections that they didn’t address. So there is a scenario where they possibly didn’t understand the glazing system or how it worked.

Paul: So, yeah, the storefront systems that you were talking about, you know, I always said they were designed to leak. And like you say, if you don’t understand how they’re supposed to capture all the water that gets in and gets it back out, it’s gonna be really difficult to repair it. So what’s the best way to determine what or how a glazing system is leaking?

Jeff: Well, AAMA has two field prescriptive tests. Both of them will expose leaks usually if there are. And one of them is AAMA 501.2 which is your nozzle, spray nozzle test. And then there’s AAMA 502 which is a chamber where you draw a negative pressure and putting a spray rack outside. I’m pretty sure that GCI does both, and I’d kind of throw this back at you, Paul, is, what would you guys do when you get one of those calls of a building leak? How would you determine what to do as far as figuring out where the water is coming from?

Paul: Yeah, and also, every situation is different. What we try to do, you know, first at GCI Consultants when we…when a leak, which we’re gonna be doing a lot of apparently after Irma, I know what we like to do first is just try and understand the service history of the buildings where we go out, and we meet with the people that are in the building or the maintenance people or the manager, I mean, the property manager, and hear their story. You know, water is coming here. It’s dripping out of this. It’s on the floor or whatever it is. And then we try to, as you say, understand what kind of system is in the building and how it’s supposed to work.

And then, you know, oftentimes, we go into either, well, a combination of destructive analysis. So that might be removing interior drywall so we can see really if the water is coming through the window or bottom of it or coming around it or whatever. And then there’s various ways to test it. We don’t really like the hose test. We like to use the AAMA 502, or also, ASTM E 1105 which Will Smith and I, Will works with me at GCI. We did an earlier podcast on that.

And basically there, you create the conditions of a wind-driven rainstorm so you can see what’s going on. Recreate the conditions that cause it to leak. Whereas water hose, you know, that doesn’t have the wind, so sometimes that’s, you know, maybe wouldn’t give you the same results, so we like to do that. And then once you see what’s going on, that’s when you guys can figure out, and you guys can help us figure out exactly, what’s a good way to fix it. What’s Tremco’s restoration approach with glazing systems?

Jeff: Well, the first thing to understand is, you know, we have a full line of glazing system products. Just from the initial design with glazing systems, designing gaskets, steels, internal, not only do we help with the engineering and design of that, but we manufacture those products. So we’ve kind of got a leg up, so to speak, where we’re helping in design but we also manufacture it, so we can help change the design to make it better for air and water infiltration.

As far as the restoration, we also make a whole line of those types of products. There is system overlay, silicone overlays that we can put over failed exterior systems. There is, obviously, we make silicone sealants to do the wet glazing. We make fixtured gaskets, so any type of custom gasket that would need to be replaced, we can do. And, you know, there’s also a product called Simple Seal which is extruded silicone sheet that can be used as overlays. So Tremco has all of those types of products to help the initial design of the system, and if there was repair needing to be done afterwards.

Paul: So you mentioned wet sealing, and I’ll say this, that half the buildings in America at this point have been wet sealed or more. It’s like, you know, any building that’s any kind of aged to it has probably had some sort of sealant application to, you know, stop leakage problems that either were earlier on or developed over time. And, you know, typically like on a commercial glazing system, they would cut back the gasket between the glass and the metal, and then shoot a bead of silicone around the perimeter of the frame. So that’s, I’m guessing you’re gonna say, that’s probably not the best way to do it. And what’s wrong with that? And, so why not? I guess is what I would say.

Jeff: Right, and yeah, I would say that that’s not the best. I would say that’s part of the approach of fixing or a restoration of a leaking system. The problem with the wet seal alone is if you did understand the glazing system, like you should before you get started with this, you’re gonna know that there’s other places for water to get in other than that glass to aluminum frame connection.

So you have intermediate to horizontal connections all over it, you also have silipans, possibly, that are involved. So you have to look at those also. Because once you “wet seal” you’re sorta all in. In other words, if you partially seal the system, you might actually make things worse. Where now, you’ve might have stopped some water from a location but let it in, and it’s still going to leak with, like I said earlier, maybe the internal seals were never done. So by wet sealing the glass to the aluminum, you’ll stop some of that, but you won’t attack all of the problems. So addressing all of the issues comes into play when you wet seal.

Paul: I love the way you just said, “Once you start you’re all in.” I mean, I agree completely. It’s really a good way to put it. There’s no halfway there wet seal, is there?

Jeff: No. And Paul, as I just said earlier. I mean, I was on a call earlier today of a building that they spent a lot of money restorating, it did not include attacking the horizontal to vertical joints, and it’s a building that’s, well before the HVHZ came into effect,.So it’s a stick-built system where the horizontal, the verticals, literally, let airflow through. So, you know, now, you’ve got a scenario where the perimeter of the building was redone. They’ve cap beaded or wet sealed from the glass to the aluminum. That was well and good, but the water actually just came through a horizontal to vertical connection. So by just cutting off the head of the gasket and shooting a bead around it, which we’d seen… I bet you, Paul, we probably see that a third of the time on projects if not more. That’s gonna help, but it’s not gonna solve your problems totally.

Paul: Yeah. If you’re gonna wet seal, you need to, obviously, seal everything. So you mentioned some of the products and materials that Tremco has that help with this, and could you maybe just kind of run through that? Like what you were just talking about with the metal to metal joints that weren’t sealed? Now, I know that you don’t… Can you just smear caulk over that joint, and would that work? Or is there a better way to do it?

Jeff: Yeah, right. There’s better ways to do that. A lot of times that gasket which becomes older, dry, brittle, cracking. The other big problems with it is it shortens up as it gets to the ends or the corners of the glass, and usually, that’s because guys stretched it when they rolled it in during the installation. So it will shorten up. Sometimes you could see it’s several inches shorted up. So obviously, the gasket that’s supposed to keep the water out is now got a big hole there to take it in.

So by just cutting off the head and caulking over it, you may be, a gasket that’s left inside, may just fall out, and there may be no compression from the aluminum to the glass. So we make a product called headless wedge which allows you to remove that gasket, and insert this new gasket that will be recessed for you to allow…allow you to put in a proper wet sealed bead joint structure. A lot of times with those top loaded gaskets that go into window systems, they are very large in size. So to completely cover them with just a wet seal, you would need to have a very large bead of sealant. And it’s just not the proper joint structure. So the headless wedge with the combination of a wet seal silicon usually will take care of that component of the system.

Paul: So we seal the glass to the metal, but I’ve seen that headless wedge. And it’s really cool because it gives you, you know, basically, it gives you a real nice looking sealant joint or a sealant joint profile. And so that seal does a nice job with the glass to the metal connections. What about when you get to the frame joints and what not where they come together, what’s the technique for sealing them?

Jeff: Sure, Paul. Tremco makes…we call them cruciforms which are actually are extruded punched out silicone shapes that would go over the whole intersection. Whether it was a four-way intersection, two-way, three-way, whatever the case may be, they’re made of silicone. They would be installed over the metal to metal joint before you did the wet seal so that you could tie the wet seal into it. The typical field approach to handling a horizontal to vertical intersection is usually just smearing a thin bead of silicon over it. And we all know that a bead of silicone, that’s a 16th to an 8th inch thick, that’s been smeared over a joint that has movement capabilities, does not perform very well at all. So these cruciforms allow you to cover up the intersections. They’re neat. They’re clean. They can be made to any color that you want because they’re made out of silicon. And it covers that intersection up and protects from the water to get it.

Paul: I love those things, by the way. We use them whenever we can and that they’re very effective. Because you can seal all those joints with regular sealant which involves a very, very high, you know, involves some bond breaker tape and a very high degree of workmanship. And that’s when it all comes apart with the workmanship. So would you say that’s another big advantage of the extruded silicone is that it’s easy to put on?

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, the cost involved in them outweighs the labor that you have to do to make a decent bridge of that gap. Like you said, if you build it up and put bond breaker under it, and to really make that look good, it does take a lot of work which takes time. So, you know, when you look at a cost of a cruciform, you know, you may think, “Well, a couple of dollars for each intersection, that adds up,” but however, the labor savings, and ultimately, the longevity of it, is going to be there.

Paul: It’s gonna work, too.

Jeff: It’s gonna work. You’re correct.

Paul: So let’s say I have a restoration job and it’s a big barrel skylight, and, you know, the aluminum’s all pitted and they’ve been chasing leaks around it since the day it was installed and trying to figure out if it should be replaced at this point or, you know, caulk it for the 10th time in a row. What to do with…? Using some of your materials, the headless wedge and some of the other parts and pieces, would that be a good alternative to try and actually fix it?

Jeff: Sure. Now, one thing and I know, Paul, you guys have been out on leaking skylight projects. What’s interesting about skylights is they become the catch-all of silicone and who knows what they squirt on them, but because most people can’t see them from the outside, there has been several renditions of trying to seal them up. And, you know, they’re just piling more sealant on top of more sealant isn’t usually the fix. So, yeah, the headless wedge works well with the, you know, the metal cover or cap to the glass, that would solve that problem pretty well.

Again, you’ll have to address the intersections which the cruciforms would definitely help you out there. And then also addressing, you know, the perimeter. I see a lot of skylights that, you know, they, you know, sometimes the only perimeter is the seal along a gutter or up against the wall. A lot of times that connection is a bad one. It needs to be looked at, and again, and like we said earlier, once you start wet sealing you better understand the whole system, especially, skylights that are made to take down water and run down a rafter and weep out at the bottom.

If you don’t address all of those problems, you could have a bigger buildup that you’ll seal and have more water in some cases. But the same thing goes true with [inaudible 00:23:30] and the skylight is a vertical glazed system, we, you know, we make the headless wedge. We make the sealants. We make cruciforms. We also make restoration overlay shapes, where we can extrude a silicon cap that could cover the entire metal system that could be detailed at the intersections, again, it’s all silicone, so it’ll stick with silicone sealant. It will also, as you said, this skylight could be pitted, damaged, paint needs to be redone, this could be extruded in a color that, now you have a new look finish on the outside of that skylight.

Paul: That is really cool. I never actually thought about that. Just to cover, you know, basically, using fitted shapes to cover the exterior because as you say, those things can be an epic mess by the time that, you know, renegade, or our maintenance guys up on the roof with different colors of caulk they bought at Home Depot or whatever. And, you know, a lot of times, skylights are invisible, but also, a lot of times they’re not. You know, it may be like the entrance to a building when everybody looks up the window above and can see them. So, you know, appearance is important, and that’s really slckk the concept of encapsulating it, basically. Is that what we’re talking about?

Jeff: Yeah. And Paul another thing on that, and in working either a glazing contractor or a caulk and waterproofing company who might do this work, they also say the same things. They spend most of their time cleaning off the stuff that’s been put there for years than they do actually fixing the problem once they have the right products and design in place.

Paul: That’s the same thing we do when we investigate. You know, sometimes you gotta get all this gook off before you can even start to figure, you know, and run a test on a mock up or a repair that’s got so much crud on it, you can’t get anything accomplished. You’ve gotta basically get it cleaned off before you can even start to address the issues. So doing a, you know, like fixing the skylight, any idea the ballpark cost of using Tremco’s approach versus putting in, you know, a new window or a new skylight?

Jeff: Yeah. Going back a few years from my estimating times at the glass company, but I can tell you that most glazing systems, even just take a fixed glazing system for a commercial building, you’re probably looking at the, you know, 80 to $100 a square foot cost for, you know, just that impact system and the installation. And that’s not including, Paul, any permits, any engineering, maybe some of the perimeter structure isn’t sufficient to attach new stuff into, so that needs to be looked at as a cost.

You also have a disruption with tenants, obviously, tearing out and replacing, so there’s relocation of people for a day or two or depending on the scope of the job. So, you know, you’re probably looking at 100 bucks a foot. So if you took just a 16 square-foot opening, a 4 foot by 4 foot, you know, you’re at 1,600 bucks just to put in a glazing system there. Not including all the other stuff I’m talking about. With Tremco, you’re probably looking at, I mean, if you got 32 lineal feet of repair to do around that window, whether it’s glass or metal and then perimeter, you’re probably looking at a third of the cost for doing that depending on what you did to cover it up. But certainly, the cost of a new glazing system far outweighs restoration work.

Paul: Yeah. And, you know and I think one thing you mentioned that’s really key is the disruption to the people in the building. That’s a, you know, there’s not just a dollar cost, there’s, I guess, I don’t know if I’d call it an opportunity cost or a headache of going through this and, you know, introducing all the protection you’ve gotta do and putting people on notice, the inconvenience. Like, you know, if you’re a office building owner, then you’re gonna have a, you know, you can possibly have angry or displaced tenants. So what we find is, anytime you can leave something in place and fix it, it, you know, from a cost perspective and from a logistics perspective, that almost, without question, always goes better to be able to repair rather than replace.

Jeff: All right. And, you know, working hand-in-hand, Tremco and usually, these types of projects involve companies like yourself, GCI as consulting, we can put together a package up front. We can do this to metals. We can show the testing that needs to be done if you’re using all of Tremco’s products. Now, you’ve got a single source, tested, warranted manufacturer to back up what we’re going to do, which eases the pain on a building owner, right? Where even if you tear it out and put something new in, there’s several players involved to getting that work done. And your warranty may not be as good as a restoration where you can get a single source out of it. So that’s just something to think about.

Paul: Yeah. And you know, Mike, when we did the last episode, we talked about the single source being such an advantage. And I know maybe the restoration may go beyond the glazing system, and then Tremco’s got a variety of products that will work for any surrounding or adjacent surfaces as well. Isn’t that right?

Mike: That’s correct. Yeah, we’ve got a full array of flushing systems that we can tie into here. And, you know, one of the things that I wanna make sure that I mention is the fact that all the concepts and the products and the systems and the approach that you guys have been speaking to, these aren’t just concepts. These are proven, tested, warrantable, defensible systems that we’re installing. And we’re writing fleet free warranties on these systems for up to 20 years. So it really comes with a bang for the bucks and really great systems.

Paul: Yeah. And a big benefit out of, obviously, like we’re talking about, doing it the right way, aside from just going out there and blindly applying material all over the place and then waiting for the next rainstorm to hope that it worked, which, usually, it doesn’t.

Mike: Yeah. I know. That’s correct. You know, we’re looking at coming up with a full system to conquer this restoration project. We work with consultants such as yourself, to make sure that as we’re reinstalling them we test the samples of the windows so that we can confirm that we’re getting the performance that we anticipate out of the prescribed system. And then that comes with a warranty, obviously.

Paul: Yeah, you know, the testing is good for everybody because then you know if it’s working. And then maybe if something isn’t completely doing what you’d hoped it would, it gives you a chance to figure it out, adjust it, and get it right before you do the whole rest of the building.

Mike: Absolutely.

Paul: So Tremco, I know has a lot of resources available as far as, you know, not only the materials, but, you know, how to use…how to best use them and specifications, and I’m guessing, details and things like that. Could you guys talk about that just a little bit about… If people are interested, you know, how do they get more information and what resources are available?

Mike: Sure, absolutely. You can access a lot of this information through our website which is And we’ve got a full array of the information that we’ve provided as well. As you can get on there and you can see some videos of projects that we’ve actually done this overlay type systems with. And one specifically, for the Puerto Rico Convention Center, where we did a full overlay system on a convention center there. Where they had a giant skylight that had been leaking since they installed it, and you can see how we tackled that one.

But you can find more information there. Another way is we’ve got a rep locator on there where you can get in touch with Jeff McGovern who obviously, specializes in our glazing business. And we have other manufacturer representatives that can provide technical, local technical support, and they can be found through that website. And similar to Jeff, most of our folks have a lot of real-world experience that they can pull from and help with…helping you figure out, exactly, what warranty tested systems need to be prescribed for your project.

Paul: Yeah. Well, you know, Jeff said at the beginning, really good stuff. Very appropo with hurricane Irma having affected Florida and points beyond here in the last week or so. And I think, you know, there’s going to be a lot of demand for this with all the water leakage that we’re hearing about. So, Jeff, thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with us.

Jeff: Thank you, Paul, and I look forward to seeing you on the next one, I’m sure.

Paul: Yup, there will be a next one, I’m afraid. And, Mike, thanks so much for adding your insight and helping us get this all put together.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Paul. I appreciate the opportunity.

Paul: So, thank you, everyone, for listening to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. Really interesting topic today. And again, I think it’s really apropos with what we’ve been reading about with all the storms of late, and so, please tell your friends about it.

We have a website where you can access information You can also subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. And as we talked about, as to what the hurricane topic thing as relevant as it is, there are a lot of resources on our company website talking about hurricanes and hurricane recovery at So until next time, this is Paul Beers saying, thank you for listening, and so long.

Radio Frequency Shielding

Eric Kuczynski – Signals Defense

  • You have a unique niche in the construction and envelope market.  How did this begin, and where do you see the future of building shielding going?
  • Can you describe architectural shielding as it relates to RF energy?
  • RF energy is commonly understood by the general public, as it relates to our everyday lives, via cell phones and wifi.  We also see growing security concerns over these and other devices in the news and elsewhere.  What are some of the security concerns that most people aren’t aware of?
  • Your products and services seem to center around the glass and glazing, but that’s just one piece of the envelope.  Can you discuss the other features of construction that might impact RF shielding?
  • It seems our government and others have taken this type of technology and security very seriously for many years.  What other applications or customers do you see benefiting from this?


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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Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. We’ve got a really interesting topic today, kind of nothing that we’ve talked about before on this podcast, Radio Frequency Shielding. And we’re gonna learn all about that related to security. Our guest is Eric Kuczynski. Eric, thank you for coming on.

Eric: Thanks for having me, Paul.

Paul: Yes. So this is pretty interesting, but before we dive into the topic, maybe you could tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.

Eric: Sure. So I’ve been with Signals Defense here for nearly 15 years. Took over the president role here at the company just earlier this year in 2017. And before that I worked for several years for a large general contractor here in the Baltimore, DC area where I had some experience with very unique projects around this space, and for some very unique customers of all types. So I come from this side of the US and look forward to talking to folks here around the world that we’ve been working in here at Signals Defense for the last 15 years or so.

Paul: Great. So tell us a little bit about Signals Defense also, please.

Eric: Sure. So Signals Defense has been around since the late ’90s, and we were founded on several requests to provide higher levels or better levels of radio frequency and infrared shielding for Windows. And that request really came out of several secure government clients who were looking for better technology as the world of technology was proving in the communication space. There was the realization that many existing facilities have some security vulnerabilities that need to be resolved. And so Signals Defense was a pioneer in developing and putting together some products that could be implemented in the field very quickly through window films and glass to secure many of these facilities quickly based on a lot of that new technology development. And so 15 years later, actually closer to 20 years later, we’re still here doing the majority of the same thing with some new technology and moving these clients through, and really developing outside of a traditional government space and into a true commercial space as well. So Signals Defense has a coast-to-coast reach of clients and customers including international partnerships and clients as well.

Paul: This is like an upgrade over the cone of silence in “Get Smart.”

Eric: That’s a pretty good way to put it into pictures. It’s the idea of this technology or uses of radio frequencies to get into a network or get into a client or hack, if you will. The methods and means are just exponentially growing day to day, and you can hop on the internet or the television and see what corporations are having problems or which governments are listening in on other governments even up through these last couple weeks. And the ability and the tools are getting more prolific and accessible to everybody. And so Signals Defense is a piece of the solution for buildings and for customers who have these concerns and might be exposed to threats that they might know about and many that they don’t know about.

Paul: Yeah. You know what you’re saying is so true. Just, you know, reading the paper, watching the news, which isn’t always my favorite thing to do, but you know, there’s so many things going on now. It seems like everything’s coming at you from all sides with the technology advances that we’ve had. And you know, obviously, it gives the people, I guess for lack of better term, the bad guys, you know, more opportunities and things can be a lot more invasive than they used to. So it looks like you really have a unique niche in the construction envelope market. So, and you told us how the company got started. So I don’t know if you want to talk about that anymore, but where is this headed as well?

Eric: So really, originally, as I mentioned in the beginning, the initial driver behind trying to find a product for glass that would secure facilities as many buildings as possible quickly came in the form of a window film. And so in order to deliver that radio frequency and infrared protection – and we can kind of get into what some of that means a little bit later – but the quickest way to do that was through a window film. And I know in the glazing industry, sometimes, the window film gets put into kind of a category where folks don’t really wanna talk about it, they might have issues with it in the past or a bad experience. But the technology in surface-supplied films and coding has come tremendously far, not only in the last 20 years, but even in the last 10 years.

And so our initial products and now six generations later are all based around a sputter-coated metallic films that are high in light transmission and low reflectivity. But it’s all in one single layer or single component, vs. multiple layers or multiple components put together. And so by doing that, these products are purposefully built specifically to reject radio frequency and infrared energy. So it’s not a byproduct or an accident that these films or are coated glass or our laminates provide that type of protection. They’re specifically built to resolve kind of that range across the radio frequency and infrared spectrum that are of concern. So it’s a nice solution in a space that really never had a solution or was just kind of a byproduct, because folks understand especially in this building envelope space, they understand energy rejection, they understand taking care of certain things, whether it be water, air, energy, but that RF, that radio frequency space is something that’s really still new to a lot of people. So that’s kind of a hole that we plugged here over the last almost 20 years.

Paul: So, you mentioned this already, but I was looking at your website before we, you know, did the show, and I know this that there are a lot of different applications for when you’re able to use your technology within the glazing window industry. And you mentioned film and I think you mentioned coatings and laminates. And that was actually my question was, you know, what are all the different components that you can apply your technology to with windows and glazing?

Eric: Yes. Sure, sure. So the film is a great solution to plug the glass, basically the hole in the bucket if you will. And just like all other components of construction, those openings, the windows and doors are always the biggest vulnerability for an architect or a security designer to evaluate. That’s where you have energy concerns, that’s where you have spout concerns. And then same thing in the radio frequency space as well, that your windows and doors are always your weakest link. But again, the Signals Defense technology was based around highlight transmission, yet giving you all this performance. One little parallel I like to give folks is if you ever got an EV Pass for your vehicle in the mail, when it came, it came with a little pouch, a little foil pouch. And they give you the instructions that you need to put this EV pass into the pouch if you don’t wanna use it.

Now, that’s kind of a silvery-looking pouch and you can kind of see through it, or at least it used to be that way. And so that kind of illustrates the intent, okay, that’s an RFID device, a radio frequency device that communicates with a toll booth. So that’s a really simple real-world application of shielding and something that we use every day. However, when it comes to windows and a building envelope or any portion of the envelope, you need that original intent or the original function of those components like the precast or the panels or the glass to do what they were supposed to do from the outset, meaning you want a certain architectural appearance, you need a certain thermal performance, you need, maybe you need hurricane protection or different win-loads or, you know, all those things have to work together to give you what they were originally put there for.

But now, whether you’re government or commercial, you have this new technology to deal with which is a lot of radio frequency energy happening, and you have to make all those work together. So Signal Defense technology is centered around the window opening, but we also have different components and we consult on other products that deal with the opaque surfaces, the areas behind the panels, the areas behind the precast. And depending what you’re trying to do, and the intent or the level of shielding that you need, that will determine what you do with all those other things.

But really, our proprietary data and our patents are based around high radio frequency, and high infrared rejection, and high VLT, high visible light… You can achieve all of this with opaque dark surfaces that you don’t need to see through. But we all want windows, we all want the view, and we need that for leads, we need that for a lot of other purposes. So how do you achieve all those security functions yet maintain the original intent of the window?

Paul: So basically, you’re trying to get the performance and make it invisible, is that right?

Eric: That would be the ultimate goal would be to make this completely unnoticeable to the untrained eye. And for the most part, it is. And that’s what our technology, that’s what makes it still unique, is in most cases our films or our laminated glass is when it’s incorporated in from the start of the project or at the inception of the design, it can be built into the system so that nobody knows it’s there. Now, if we remember from our junior high physics days, that electromagnetic spectrum that contains visible light also contains the UV, and the microwave, and the RF, and the IR, and the X-Ray, and the gamma ray. If we remember that, we have to remember that all these signals and this whole spectrum is all related.

So when it comes to radio frequencies and infrared, both of those occur, especially infrared, very close to visible light. So when you impact one thing on the spectrum, you start to impact something else. And so infrared, for example, is another wavelength, it might be invisible light or it might be visible. So if you have a pointer in a classroom, that is a visible light laser, if you will, or IR energy. But it might also be invisible like your television remote, which you can’t see that signal or the beam, but it’s there. And so back to windows, when you impact or you’re trying to reduce or stop radio frequencies and infrared energy, you generally start to impact some of the visible performances. And what we’ve been able to do is reduce or minimize that impact, yet still give you the other performance. And that’s what really makes it unique.

Paul: What we’re talking about here with the whole platform is architectural shielding. So basically, taking the building and making it resistant or stop whatever it is that you want to go through it, is that right?

Eric: Yeah. So really all of this, as I mentioned, started as a security requirement for intelligence organizations and governments. Because of that, we see a developing need outside of the government today. And again, you can look in the news and see what people are doing to other people. But just in the last 20 years, the proliferation and the growth of radio frequency devices, and by that I’m talking about Wi-Fi. That’s easy for everyone to understand because most of us have it in our house, in our offices, it’s everywhere. Bluetooth technology, right? Everything we have it might be talking to something else so that we can play music on a remote speaker or we can print wirelessly.

And that translates to RFID for all of your inventory control. How do these major retailers control inventory? Everything has an RFID tag on it, just like your EV pass. So translate that into just the last couple of years with smart appliances, smart buildings, all building control systems, data, security systems, many of them going wireless. I mean, you can buy wireless cameras, right, for your house today, and all of that is RF energy, it’s all talking to your Wi-Fi and making something work. Well, it’s still accelerating and there’s no sign of that getting any less. Even here we are in the second decade of the of the 21st century and it’s still growing.

So as we continue to make these buildings and our offices smarter and smarter, and more and more everyday devices start talking to each other, we’re starting to see RF levels and the security concerns of interference or hacking grow, okay? With the more energy we generate inside of our space, in your office today, the more electronics you have, the more energy you are pushing out through your office. So what we’re seeing in commercial world is almost a workplace efficiency problem where there’s too much stuff that’s getting too smart and starting to interfere with each other, not to mention the security piece of that, right? The more stuff you put in the air, the more vulnerable you are to somebody getting in there and taking it.

So this topic of building shielding which, really, for 50 plus years has kind of been really a government-type mindset around security has gotten a little more public, and real corporations are taking this very seriously. So the whole intent of what we call architectural shielding is to enhance your building envelope, or maybe it’s just a room. But in our space, we’re generally looking at whole buildings or portions of whole buildings where you’re trying to provide that shield. And as you mentioned, Paul, the cone of silence, if you will, maybe that quiet in there, maybe it’s a commercial company who occupies three quarters of a building, but they’d maybe do some very sensitive stuff or they have some corporate proprietary information that they don’t wanna have moving across their Wi-Fi down to their neighbors. And so they kind of wanna create that cone of silence or that RF tight space, if you will, that contains that energy.

And it works both ways. You might not want the impact of the interference coming from the outside, from somebody else, maybe you don’t want your neighbor’s Wi-Fi flooding into your space, and you don’t wanna be pushing your energy out of the space. So if you think of it that way, and I like to use it when relating it to building envelope, you think about the water tests that you do when you’re done putting together a system and you do a test. Well, this is similar, not quite the same but you can kind of put it on that parallel and say, “Look, I don’t want to lose my energy, I don’t want people coming and going.” And I’ve kind of coined a term around this called RF predictable or radio frequency predictability. If you can control your environment, then you can be a lot more efficient and secure on top of it.

Paul: Yeah, it’s funny because when you’re talking about that, I was just thinking, I was in a building in downtown Miami a few weeks ago. Right around this new Brickell City Centre development which has, you know, a lot of big high rises all around. I remember looking for the Wi-Fi of the guest Wi-Fi office I was in, and I could not believe how many other signals were showing up. And you know, I could see where that would be a big concern because you don’t know…you know, everybody’s got a way in, you don’t know who they are, you know, you always try to keep people out, but you try to, you know, protect stuff with passwords or anything. But having that much stuff coming in, I would think, would give security concerns also.

Eric: You hit the nail on the head there, Paul. And it goes that way with any technology, right? Everything was developed with a good intent in mind, and all of this technology, the convenience is fantastic. The way we move information is quick, it’s efficient, it’s tremendously positive for the majority of our society and all those ethical uses for it every day, whether it’s health care, education, you name it. Our technology helps us do things so much better than we used to. Unfortunately, all that technology find their way into many unethical hands and unethical users.

And one of the biggest threats we see, and whether it’s the amount of Wi-Fi access points in this space, which is scary enough because whether it’s encrypted or password protected or not, there’s plenty of tools to get into people devices through every day Wi-Fi. But one of the biggest emerging threats we see is the use of drones. And it’s not just the use of the drone itself, and there’s plenty of recreational and corporate uses and benefits out of drone technology. But what the drone does is it brings all those traditional threats into a new up close proximity, right? We’ve seen them crash on the White House lawn, we’ve seen them flying on corporate events or speeches, and we’ve seen them potentially deliver a destructive or maybe explosive device.

Well, in the RF space, now, you now have a tool that can pull right up to the 15th floor of a building and hack the Wi-Fi. Now, it used to be when you were on the 15th floor or the 20th floor or even the 10th floor, or if you had a 30 meter step back with a fence because you had a nice corporate campus, that what you were doing was pretty safe. Well, the drone has eliminated that boundary. And in this country, we can’t just shoot down a drone because that’s invasion of privacy. So think about the new scary, unethical uses of these devices. And now we can use Wi-Fi to heat map what’s on the other side of a wall.

So the drone just makes another tool to get that technology closer to you. And so we’re seeing kind of the dawn of a new evolution of shielding requirements because now you can just drive an RF device or a hacking tool right up to somebody and there’s enough smart people out there who know those kinds of tools to get in to your system. It’s just certainly not the world it was even 20 years ago.

Paul: Yeah. Some of the smartest people are probably some of the most unethical too, it seems. So if you have a building that is fully protected with RF shielding, what do they do, like with the cell phone call if they’re inside the building? Is there…is that just doesn’t work or is there a workaround for that?

Eric: That’s a great question and it’s a very, very common question. So cell phone technology is very, very powerful. It operates in the gigahertz space. So gigahertz is another higher set of frequencies. So if you think of your your FM radio, right, you’re operating in the megahertz, okay? When you dial your radio in, and for those of us that still do that, and you dial in your radio, you are capturing a megahertz signal of that station. And then in AM, it’s kilohertz. Well, our phones operate in the gigahertz. So, and here we are coming up on 5G technology for phones and more and more towers, more and more bandwidth and data because everyone wants to be able to do everything fast and do everything immediate.

So these devices are truly smart and they’re ultra, ultra powerful. The whole intent of architectural shielding in the first place was not intended to turn off or shut down somebody’s cell phone. And we’ve gotten plenty of phone calls from schools or other places that are having a hard time getting their kids to maybe stop pulling out their phones during class. Well, that’s really hard to do. In order to stop a cell phone, you need a tremendous amount of RF attenuation. And the whole purpose of architectural shielding in the sense that we’re talking about here today was not to provide impenetrable, 100% blockage of everything. That’s really difficult to do, that’s a lab type environment only. To incorporate it into everyday building technology, we’re not gonna achieve that kind of shielding levels that you need to shut off a cell phone.

Now, that said, today’s construction market and the growing use of in-building wireless. So with that being said, today’s construction market and especially in new buildings, but in retrofit as well, the in-building wireless or IBW is one acronym or distributed antenna systems, DAS, D-A-S, those systems have been growing again at a pretty fast rate over the last 10 years, and what those are is the pre-wiring or post-wiring of a building to provide all those services from the inside. So traditionally, you would park a car in a parking lot and your phone might be connected to the tower across the street or down the highway, and you would come in to your building and your phone is maybe still connected to that tower that’s half a mile away. Well, especially in denser urban environments, and due to changing life safety codes across the country, but mainly large metropolitan areas, we must provide coverage in these building for these life safety codes for cell phones across the board.

So that means first responders, anybody coming for emergency response must be able to access all of those emergency channels. And everybody working in the building could be a first responder as well. So they expect cell phones and data to continue to work in a building in every corner of the building all the time. So what that means is you’re gonna start to see, from the inside out, it’s becoming another utility in these facilities or any building, any commercial building in downtown Manhattan today has a distributed antenna system being built in from the ground up, which means when you’re in that building your phone connects to the building, not the tower on the top of the building across the street, but you’re actually connected to the building. And you don’t know it, but your phone makes a hand-off from one tower to, basically, the antennas inside the building.

And then the other technology that’s been around for a while is what most people might think of as repeater systems, which means they capture that cell phone signal from the outside and pull it to the inside. So in some cases, it’s possible that architectural shielding might inhibit or reduce some cell phone coverage, but it’s really hard to stop that service to begin with. And secondly, many buildings today are incorporating that service from the inside anyway. So we don’t see it being an issue going forward, and it’s really gonna make those systems work better.

We’ve done a few studies with iBwave, which is a company who does software modeling for in-building wireless systems. And architectural shielding can actually benefit and improve. Remember that RF predictability term I used earlier, architectural shielding can actually improve the efficiency of your space inside, including your cell phones if you have a DAS or a distributed antenna system already incorporated.

Paul: So there’s a workaround, and even better, if you’re starting with a clean sheet of paper, you can really design a really great system that gives you what you want but doesn’t let in what you don’t want.

Eric: That’s where we see the future going with this, is as awareness grows around not only the security piece, but the efficiency piece, is these buildings are getting smarter and interfering with each other. You’re gonna want to start to isolate yourself. Depending in the environment that you live in or and work in, you’re pretty soon gonna wanna have your space to yourself for many different reasons. And that includes the RF. You’re gonna wanna have your own RF space and not have somebody else interfering with it.

Paul: You know it’s funny because I just had some issues with my wireless, my home wireless. And one of the problems was, if I’m saying this right, my frequency was like too close to some other people’s frequencies that was picking up in my house. So that makes a lot of sense in that context.

Eric: We’ve all seen the garage door opener that opens up the neighbor’s accidentally and/or the car keys that maybe one in a million times it opens up somebody else’s car on the other side of the country. But it’s pretty amazing, there are lots of little everyday examples, but what I’m really trying to address is that it’s only getting worse. And the more stuff we make more convenient, the more RF, radio frequency energy we’re putting into our space.

Paul: So as far as using RF shielding technology, what do you do outside of the windows and doors or the glass?

Eric: One of the big services that we provide that not many folks do is the consulting piece around this. So there are RF, radio frequency testing labs across the country, but there’s not a lot of folks doing assessments specifically for this kind of concern. And so we can actually bring some folks on site to assess your current building skin or a wall here or some glass there. Some of this can be done in a lab, but we can actually do that in the field and provide data, real-world data on what you’re building is doing, and this happens every day. We get phone calls from folks who have concerns with a new satellite dish that was put up and what that might mean, or there’s a new wireless signal here that wasn’t here before and it shouldn’t be here or… Those types of concerns come in and we have the ability to provide in field assessments and recommendations on how to improve.

And it’s never…as we kind of alluded to earlier, it’s never eliminate, it’s very difficult to completely eliminate radio frequency transmissions, but we can reduce it to the point where it doesn’t impact you or it’s safe of it’s secure. So that’s a huge, growing piece for us. That also goes for new construction as well. There are so many little things that you can incorporate, and if you’re thinking ahead at the time of inception, you can incorporate small little things along the way that make your building a little bit better. And of course, it’s always harder to go back and fix something later or add something or increase a budget. But when you address some of these issues…because you’re already addressing physical security, regardless of who you are. You’ve already decided that you’re gonna have a certain kind of door or a certain kind of lock or certain kinds of cameras. But again, this RF space, this radio frequency space gets lost and it’s not really being addressed soon enough in the job, and we can help with that.

Paul: So this all began with the government, you know, obviously makes sense. And now others have taken this type of technology and secured it very seriously. So what other kinds of applications are customers are benefiting from this?

Eric: We have examples of a host of different things. And some of them I alluded to where we have a client, for example, in a very dense urban environment who is in a historic structure and they were about to occupy several new floors, and they told us, “We have 1500, count it 1500 wireless network access points passing through our space.” To your point earlier, Paul, about being down in Miami, this company was…they couldn’t even operate because they had so much interference from other people and residential locations and cell phone hotspots, etc. And they just needed a simple shielding solution to cut down and isolate themselves a little bit from their neighbors, the DAs and in-building wireless example. It doesn’t fit every distributed antenna system project or building because some of those, they’re great, they work really well, they provide efficient coverage for the occupants inside. However, you never know.

There have been scenarios where we’ve been asked to come in and help make their system better, make it more efficient because those systems are competing with an outside signal. So if you think about the inside of a building that is generating its own cell service, there’s still a cell tower somewhere outside that building. And your phone might be confused as to who it’s supposed to talk to. My smartphone here might be trying to connect to the outside tower, but trying to connect to the building at the same time. We’ve had clients call us and say, “We’re having a cell phone problem, but it’s only this one carrier and it’s because of this system is confusing the phones.” Shielding helps put a little bit of a barrier up there and make it really easy for those systems to work.

And every day other examples just occur around, “I’m concerned about my Wi-Fi. How far is my signal? How many of my neighbors can see my Wi-Fi?” And I always use that example for folks, how far can you walk away from your office or your home still connected to your Wi-Fi on your phone? Can you get 5 meters, 10 meters, 30 meters? How far can you go? However far you can go as is the limit of your vulnerability, that’s where folks if they get into your air space… So really, the security pieces build the primary driver around all of this.

I will throw in one other benefit and kind of go back to that electromagnetic spectrum discussion, is all of us in the glazing space, in the glazing world, we understand that solar energy, the majority of the solar energy in the sun heat comes from infrared. So hopefully nobody was out there staring at the eclipse the other day without all the proper protection, because it’s not just about making it dark. It’s about those infrared wavelengths that you can’t see that have nothing to do with visible light, that’s what does the majority of the damage. And so that aside, Signals Defense technology is the best product for taking care of radio frequency and infrared energy for security purposes. But because of that, it does a tremendous job at solar energy rejection.

So you actually get a pretty high energy savings benefit out of a product that you were probably gonna put in because of a security concern. So that’s a great side benefit, and we can actually perform energy modeling that says, “If you’re gonna do this on your facility, you’re gonna realize some savings over time and actually help provide some of that ROI.”

Paul: So I think when people think of radio frequency shielding, you know, obviously the first thing I thought was security. But it’s really interesting that there’s so much clutter, I guess, I’d say for lack of another thing. You talk about the 1500 signals going to the building that the the efficiency aspect, and then on top of that even possibly some energy efficiency. It’s really nice to have all those, you know, multi-benefits basically out of the same technology.

Eric: A host of benefits there that…and some of those you can actually apply real-world dollars to, especially on that energy side.

Paul: So Eric, this is really fascinating. So people wanna find out more about radio frequency shielding and Signals Defense and what it is you guys, how do they…

Eric: Yeah, Paul, our website is fairly informative and has quite a bit of content in there. You can go to for more information. We do get around the country quite a bit with a few trade organizations and security events as well. We have some international partners. We’d be happy to help out any way we can with any concerns or questions. We have examples of work all across the country in the US here. And that includes all 50 states. Now, sometimes it’s hard to get good references depending on who we were working for in those areas. So sometimes that’s difficult, but we’d be happy to answer any questions and schedule a meeting or call with anyone who wants to talk about this.

Paul: So when you say it’s hard to get good references, it’s not because you guys do a crappy job but because of the confidentiality, right?

Eric: Perfect, correct. Thanks for the clarification there. Some of our clients…we’re in the security business and so the security functions of what we do, our clients expect us to maintain that confidentiality. And so we do get that often where somebody says, “Hey what did you do here and why? And I need five references.” Well, that might be hard because quid pro quo with some of that stuff and we got to be careful as a security company here.

Paul: All those confidentiality agreements I’m sure you sign every day.

Eric: Plenty of those in this business, that is for sure.

Paul: Well, Eric, really really interesting, and I thank you very much for coming on. I know the listeners are really gonna get some good stuff out of this. So thank you very much.

Eric: So, Paul, thank you, too, to you and the Everything Building Envelope team. I really appreciate the discussion today.

Paul: Yeah, really happy to have you. And I’d also like to thank all of our listeners at Everything Building Envelope. If you wanna get more information about the show with the show notes, please visit And until next time, this is Paul Beers saying, “So long.”

Hurricane Windows, Fact or Fiction

Will Smith – GCI Consultants, LLC

  • Talk about Irma and water leakage that occurred throughout Florida
  • What is a “hurricane window?”
  • How do the structural requirements for windows compare with water resistance?
  • Why can’t operable windows be made with higher water resistance?
  • What happens when severe windstorms such as a hurricane exceed the rating of a window or door for water leakage?
  • Is duration of the storm a factor?
  • Does this permanently damage the product?
  • What should be done in advance of a storm to lessen the amount of infiltration?
  • How can one tell the difference between a leak that was caused by conditions that exceed the rating of the product vs. construction or maintenance deficiencies?
  • How would you go about investigating and repairing water intrusion problems? (E2128, test, fix, test to confirm)


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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Check out our article “Hurricane Windows Meet hurricane Irma“.

Check out our article about hurricane Recovery tips by clicking here.

Paul: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Podcast. And in this episode, we’re gonna talk about Irma again. I’d like to welcome back the first three-time guest Will Smith, who we work together at GCI Consultants. Welcome again, Will.

Will: Thanks, great to be here, Paul.

Paul: So Will, we’re gonna talk today about Irma, which as we’re recording this was two, three, weeks ago and kind of what we’re starting to see some of the trends are with regards to damage I guess, I would say, and kind of just a big broad brush is obviously, there were some devastating winds that struck the Florida Keys and some areas in Southwest Florida.

There was a big storm and it affected virtually the entire state. And the big story in the rest of the state, once you get beyond power outages and trees that landscaping and things like that was a lot of buildings leaked water. So that’s my two cents. Are you hearing the same sort of things?

Will: Yeah, having lived through the storm myself and experienced another hurricane. I’ve been here for many years. So I lived through several of them. This is not anything new but it’s always something that we learn a little bit about. In my case, located in Palm Beach County, we had hurricane winds it’s somewhere in the upper 90-mile per hour area and which in itself, those of us who live in the hurricane zone don’t look at that as being horrible. It’s bad enough but it’s not as bad it could be.

But the fact is that they go on for so long. And you have that with heavy deluge of rain at the same time. As one person told me the other day, going through a hurricane is not so much a wind storm or a rain storm, as it is a durability test. I thought that was a pretty good insight into what we experienced during a heavy hurricane.

Paul: That really is good stuff. You know, as you were saying that I was just thinking, 90-mile an hour winds. I mean, those are high winds. But I don’t think Florida gets enough credit for how well-built things are down here. We have the strongest wind codes in the nation, probably the world.

And a 90 mile an hour winds in some parts of the country are certainly offshore internationally, would cause much, much more damage than it does in Florida. And I really think that there is a lot of credit due to the design and construction industry for doing such a good job to where it’s not necessarily a catastrophe like it would be, had the quality not been as good as it is.

Will: I think that’s very true. And just so the listeners know, there was just recently there was an article published obviously it’s still very early and a lot of investigations are going on and it’s gonna take some time to get the final results. But the early news is that the changes in the Florida Building Code were proven to work. And the extent of the damage in Florida was far less than it would have been, had the same storm occurred 20 or 30 years ago. Just simply because of the improvements in our code and our building methods.

Paul: That’s really great. So one of the big improvements to the code obviously has resulted in what we’ll call, for lack of a better term Hurricane Windows. And so I would pose a question to you. What’s your definition of a Hurricane Window as it exists in Florida these days?

Will: You know that’s a great question. And I think if you were to ask that one question from 30 different people, who are manufacturing windows you’ll get 30 different answers. Essentially though one of the things that I look for in hurricane-resistant windows are windows that have been tested and proven to number one, resist the wind pressures that can be expected in this environment. And secondly, be able to resist damage from wind-borne debris, which is called the impact test. And third, have a higher level of water infiltration resistance than it’s normally seen in most other parts of the country.

Paul: Now, you said hurricane-resistant windows. So I picked up on that. And if people out there that think windows should be hurricane proof, what would your thoughts be, the differences between a hurricane-resistant window and the misnomer I would call that there is such a thing as a hurricane-proof window.

Will: Yeah, good point. There really is no such thing as a hurricane-proof window. Windows can be made to resist wind pressures, made to resist impact, made to resist water. But there is always gonna be the possibility of circumstances when the wind pressure exceeds the ability of the window, or the tested ability of the window. The same thing for impact, the same thing for water, we can design and manufacture products that provide a certain level of protection. But at some point in time, that level of protection can always be exceeded. So there is no such thing as hurricane proof.

For example, if you have a window that has impact resistant glass. Many people misunderstand that just because it’s impact-resistant, that’s resistant. That doesn’t mean the glass can’t be broken. It can and it will be broken if it gets hit by some big, large, heavy object. But the point is that and the purpose of that impact resistance is to prevent that object from going through the glass and creating a big hole in the side of the building, where the glass used to be. So it has resistance, but it’s not hurricane-proof.

The same thing with water, it can resist water up to a certain level, it’s not a submarine. We don’t build windows so that they can go on in to resist water at huge levels and volumes of water and wind pressures.

Paul: So can you talk a little bit about what the structural requirements are for windows? Required by the code and also by industry standards and then how that compares with what the water resistance requirements are.

Will: There is a difference for example and some people would call it a disparity in the pressures that are required for wind resistance versus pressures that are required for water resistance. For example, a typical single or even a two-story residence in Florida will probably require a capacity of let’s say, approximately 60 pounds per square foot of pressure resistance. That can be converted into wind speed and in this case, let’s use the 60 pounds per square foot. That’s approximately 150-mile per hour wind.

So the thought is the way it’s tested is that when it’s in a laboratory and that window is attached to [inaudible 00:07:55] laboratory. They blow wind on this thing, in this window at a wind speed of about 150 miles per hour and it’s not supposed to fail. It’s not supposed to come out of the building. It’s not supposed to come apart. It’s supposed to hold in place.

Now at the same time when you test that very same window for resistance to water pressure instead of using 60 pounds per square foot, the code says that you have to use a percentage of that, which works out to be approximately nine pounds per square foot. So there is a big difference between winds at 60 pounds per square foot or 150 miles an hour, and wind-driven rain at nine pounds per square foot, which is the equivalent of approximately 59 miles per hour instead of 153.

Paul: So, why can’t windows, be made with higher water resistance? Like the structural requirements.

Will: Well, some windows can. But they’re pretty rare and obviously, they can be rather costly. And they also have a lot of limitations for example, one way to make a window, water type and be able to resist this kind of pressure is to design a window that is completely sealed shut, where the glass and the aluminum or wood that makes the frame is all sealed together and provides an impenetrable seal to resist water from coming through.

This would give you a very high resistance to water pressure and there are a couple of manufacturers that make a high-rise glass windows, for high-rise buildings like all glass buildings, curtain walls that have very high resistance to water at those kinds of pressures. But obviously, the deficiency in that for the typical homeowner is you can’t open the window. There is no ventilation. There is no emergency escape in the event of a fire from a bedroom, which is a requirement of the code and so on.

So as soon as you introduce the requirement that the window not only must provide protection against wind that it also must function and be able to open and close. You start to introduce other materials into the window like gaskets, weather-strips and other seals that have to be able to move, slide, compress and as a result, water can bypass those gaskets and seals.

Paul: So we have a 59-mile an hour water resistant window and we have 90-mile an hour wind-driven rain. What happens?

Will: Well, in a normal rainfall event like the day-in day-out use of a window in the state of Florida, it’s not gonna be a problem. And the reason is simply that not only do you not get rain or wind storms that typically have 59 miles per hour. But even if you do, the typical rain storm lasts for a few minutes. You have the wind. It’s blowing and it blows in gusts and but it doesn’t go on for a long duration, a long period.

In the event of a hurricane, it’s a little bit different story. Having just gone through Irma, I can tell you that we went through it for like 16 hours. Now, granted during that whole time that the wind wasn’t blowing for 97 miles an hour here in West Palm Beach for 16 hours but we certainly got a good constant pressure blowing through that rain storm.

What happens is the water starts to build up in the track of your sliding door or your window, and then all over sudden you get a gust that’s added on top of that constant pressure and that gust speed, which is what you see at the airport, in the weather stations. That gust can then push the water and force it to overflow the track.

Now, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna have a constant flow of water coming in. But you can have spurting water. Water is gonna start to bubble. You’re gonna see it start to what we call percolate, where it bubbles up around the bottom of the window and it could even overflow the track. Not a whole lot, but it can happen.

Paul: So and we actually saw that in multiple buildings, probably virtually every building was sliding glass door up and down the Southeast Coast of Florida. Had the phenomenon that you just described, when you said as you said not a lot but what happens to not a lot if it goes on for 16 hours?

Will: Well, again, it depends on how often the wind gusts. If you have an instance where the wind gusts for a minute and it overflows, you’re gonna get a little water on the inside. And like I said, it’s not gonna be very much. If the wind gusts repeatedly, you can get a fairly significant amount of water on the inside and when I say significant, I mean enough that if it’s not mopped up or cleaned up, it can cause damage into your finished materials next to the window.

Paul: Yeah. So I’ve often said in these storms drip can turn into a lot of water over a duration of time. So we talked about duration being a big factor and I think that’s something that’s really missed in the analysis. We talk about 16 hours. When windows are tested in the laboratory, how long are they tested for typically?

Will: Yeah. That’s obviously is a big difference that you’re hitting on a very important point. The standards and codes require that the window manufacturers have to test their windows to these various pressures before they can even…and water resistance. Before they can even offer them for sale in the State of Florida, they have to go through these tests.

But they also, require that the test be a 15-minute duration not hours like we experience during a hurricane. So there is obviously a big difference between a hurricane event and the performance requirements that the code mandates for windows and doors.

Paul: So these windows and doors which, many of which in exposed conditions were exposed to factors that were beyond their rating and they leaked. They were qualified, did meet and continue to meet the requirements of the building code standard. Is that not true?

Will: That’s probably correct. Yes. They were specified and manufactured in accordance with a set of standards and codes which demand a certain level of performance. But even, for example, we were using numbers earlier, where the percentage that is used for determining how much water pressure, we used a number of nine pounds per square foot. The maximum that’s required by the applicable standards is only 12, 12 pounds per square foot. And like we were talking about earlier, when you can convert that into wind speed and it’s nowhere as near the 100-mile per hour winds that you’re gonna get, plus the gusting factor on top of that in a hurricane.

Paul: So we have the… Irma came through and caused water leakage through windows and buildings up and down the coast. Does this primarily damage…no, we’re talking about here like the newer hurricane. We call hurricane windows or the windows that meet the new hurricane codes, which have been in effect for the last 20 years or so. The water leakage event in a hurricane, does that permanently damage the window or door?

Will: No. That’s an important factor that you brought up. Understand this that the damage that occurs or could occur to the surrounding finishes on the inside if you’ve got paint stains and drywall stains and stuff like that on the interior, even that can generally be cleaned up and repaired without a major problem.

The door itself in all probability is or the window itself is in all probability has not been damaged beyond repair. It’s pretty rare that such an event occurs and in fact, for it to occur normally, the storm has to exceed even the wind pressure capabilities of the products. And like we were talking about earlier, that could be 150 miles per hour.

So it’s doubtful that the window or door itself has been permanently damaged. But you need to make sure you need to check those windows and doors and make sure there is no damage so that they can weather another storm.

Paul: Yeah. So basically, that’s the water leakage issues that are problems that we solve and well might, can be considered a one-time event?

Will: Yes.

Paul: Until the next one, I guess.

Will: Yeah.

Paul: One time can happen more than one time. But it wouldn’t cause any problems, any ongoing problems with the normal weather patterns in South Florida, which includes severe thunderstorms and some pretty intense weather just not anything to compare with obviously, a hurricane.

Will: That’s right. It should not affect that performance of the product like that at all. And you should still be able to get many years of performance out of the product.

Paul: So for many owners that have operable windows that are the newer design, the impact-rated and all that. What can they do now or in advance to the next storm, to lessen the amount of infiltration?

Will: A couple of things. First of all, they need to go back and look at the windows and doors, to make sure that they’ve weathered the storm okay. There is gonna be like we talked about, gaskets, weather-strips, seals, things such as that. And just a simple inspection can be done to check and make sure those accessory materials, which are very important for resistance of water, make sure they’re in good shape and they’re performing their intended functions.

Make sure that the window hard work, operating [Inaudible 00:19:11], the locks are able to close and stick the window tight and shut that you don’t have flopping, like in the case of a sliding door when the door is in a closed position it should not be able to move and slide back and forth slightly. It should fit tightly. It should be tightly-fitted. So check those things and make sure they’re working properly.

And then check around the outside. Around the perimeter of the door and window to make sure that the frame of the window and door is properly sealed to the surrounding wall finish material whether that’d be stucco or siding or anything else. You need to make sure that no water can get in around the window. We’ve been talking about water getting through. But water can also come in around it if it’s not properly sealed. So in general, it’s just a matter of checking all those accessory materials in the windows and making sure they’ll all be able to serve their intended function.

Paul: Because one thing I was thinking about when you were saying that. Is that there is a lot of movement during a storm with windows and doors. They’re designed to bend in and out with the wind and in a hurricane, you have cyclic wind gusts. So you talk about perimeter sealant. Well, if there are some movement in the perimeter sealant beam that’s got some age to it, it can actually crack split open and form an opening that could cause water intrusion going forward along with just general, over time maintenance requirements as you were saying with all the different weather-stripping sealants, things like that.

Will: Yeah, it’s really important too, for the listener to understand that a window that goes into your home, let’s say you had it put in 10 years ago or so. I think it’s reasonable for a homeowner to have an expectation that the windows are gonna perform for fairly a good period of time. It should last for many, many years. However, the one thing we talked about, you just talked about was the sealant. Most sealant that goes around the window that keeps water from coming in around the outside parameter of the window in is susceptible to ultraviolet degradation and drying out and so forth.

And so, it’s not all unusual to see the sealant around the perimeter of the window where it just start to crack and fade and deteriorate within five or eight years. So while the window may perform as intended, you could have a lot of water come in around the perimeter because of these sealant failures. So it needs to be checked.

Paul: Just needs like a car needs a tune-up every now and then. Operable windows and doors probably need the same kind of attention.

Will: Yeah. It’s a good analogy. That’s right. You need to look at them. There is no product that goes into your home is indestructible and especially if it’s got moving components, like a window. If it’s got something in it that moves, that means it can wear out. So you need to check it.

Paul: So the buildings that were leaking in Irma, much of the leakage I think is attributed to the intensity and duration of the storm exceeding the rating on the products. But it’s also possible that it could be some construction or maintenance issues that would cause or exacerbate leak issues. How can one tell the difference between a one-time event versus a construction or maintenance problem?

Will: Like we were just talking about with the sealant. Water leakage can occur through the window, because for example if you have the sealant failure. But one thing to remember is if the water enters around the perimeter of the window because of the sealant failure, it doesn’t necessarily happen only in a hurricane. It’s probably been going on for a long period of time.

And an investigation can determine whether or not the leakage that you experienced was a one-time event or if it’s been going on for a period of time. And you can generally tell that by damage and deterioration of materials around the window or door that gives you a history if you will that it makes it clear that if you’ve got, for example, damaged wood trim or damaged drywall, it may be a one-time event, but it’s doubtful. It’s probably been going on for a while particularly if the damage is concealed underneath the drywall and it’s back inside the wall. That’s probably a good indicator that these problems have been going on for awhile.

So there is, other things that also can affect the water resistance capability of a window or a door but these things need to be checked out because a one-time event like a hurricane can overtax the capacity of the window or door. But if you’ve had water leakage before it might be concealed and you need to find out whether there is other damages inside the building or inside the walls that needs to be repaired, because it’s been going on for some time.

Paul: Yeah. The hurricane is like the extreme water test. That’s one way I would say one way to look at it.

Will: Very true.

Paul: So you and I did our first podcast, we did together, which was episode seven in September of 2016. We talked a lot about field water infiltration testing. So that I think maybe part of how you investigate water leakage. So just how would you go about investigating and repairing water intrusion problems?

Will: Well, the first thing you gotta do is identify whether or not there really is a problem. You need to look for the evidence of damage. You don’t just wanna just go out and start doing water testing. The very purpose of the water testing should be to recreate water leakage events that have occurred. So you need to determine whether or not there is any kind of water leakage that has occurred, and whether there is any damage.

Then you need to consider the development of a water testing program. The objective of which should be to recreate a water leakage that has caused damage. For example, let’s say a typical homeowner starts to notice that the baseboard below their window is starting to warp or starting to stain. Well, there is no damage around the window itself. But you know you’ve got something going on because the baseboard is starting to buckle and stain and get this damage.

So what needs to be done is the investigator needs to go in there, maybe remove some of that, baseboards, start to do some other invasive things and see how far what the water path is so for example, on the inside of the wall, where is the water appearing that’s causing this damage. Then do a test and re-create that water leakage path, in order to determine what the point of entry is on the exterior of the building.

Then from determining where the water entry point is and the leakage path that allows the water to get from outside the building to the inside of the building which then created the damage. By finding that disconnect from the outside to the inside of the building, you’re able to determine what the material is on the outside that need or on the inside of the wall. That needs to be repaired in order to stop that water intrusion from happening anymore. So it’s a rather intensive procedure. It can be rather intensive. But the objective is to find the leak, then re-create the leak, and track it back to the source. So you can eliminate the cause.

Paul: So you wrote an article a few years back. Didn’t you about this very thing we’ve been talking about today?

Will: Yes, I did. This goes back I think a few years ago called, “Hurricane Windows: Fact or Fiction.”

Paul: So this isn’t a new topic, necessarily. I mean, the awareness level obviously is very high. But that article really did a nice job of covering the whole issue around what is a hurricane window and what can be expected.

Will: Yes. It really discussed all the points that we talked about today.

Paul: So that article is available on the website. We’ve got a blog and there is actually a lot of articles there that would be of interest on the hurricane topic. But to make it easy for the listeners if you would like a copy of Will’s article, all you need to do is text the word buildingenvelope. All one word, buildingenvelope to 22828.

So again, if you’d like a copy of Will’s article. Text the word buildingenvelope to 22828. So, Will, this has been great. It’s really a relevant topic. I know the interest level was probably as high as it will ever be and it’s really, you know, people are asking all these questions. So I really thank you for providing some real good answers. As always, it’s great to have you on.

Will: Great to be here again. Thank you, Paul.

Paul: One other thing I just thought of. I just recorded a video last week, kind of going over this issue too, where we actually showed some footage, where we did some testing to re-enact what these leaks look like. So that’s on YouTube. So if you go to YouTube and you look for the GCI Consultants Channel, you’ll find that. And the title is shame on me, I don’t remember the exact words.

But something like water leakage and Hurricane Irma.

So there is another resource. And with that, I’d like to thank everybody for listening again to the Everything Building Envelope Podcast. Please tell your friends about it. You can subscribe to it on iTunes or Stitcher. And until next time, this is Paul Beers saying, so long.

Hurricane Irma Recovery Tips

Paul Beers – GCI Consultants, LLC

  • What to look for in Roof Assessments
  • Identifying Exterior Building Problems
  • Windows – Doors – Glass – Frames
  • Mitigate your damage tips
  • Flood Damage
  • What about the next storm


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.

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

Check out our article about hurricane Recovery tips by clicking here.

Hello, everyone, this is Paul Beers, welcome back to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. Today, we’re gonna talk about Hurricane Irma. So as this is being recorded, Hurricane Irma had struck Florida earlier this week. And actually, I think today is the first day it’s not on the map as a storm. So Hurricane Irma started out in the way out in the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical disturbance, and it became a very powerful category five hurricane, with winds of 180 miles in a hour. And it hit some of the Caribbean Islands, St. Martin, Barbuda, Tortola, the U.S. Virgin Islands, at that strength. And obviously, it was devastating, and they’re gonna be in for a very, very long recovery.

After that, it went further through the Caribbean, and it got parts of Puerto Rico, not a full hit, but Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republics, Turks and Keykos Islands were badly hit. At this point, I think it was probably a category four. It ended up off the coast of northern Cuba and then it took a right turn, headed for the U.S. So initially, the line when it was three or four days out, was projected to go right up the east coast of Florida, Miami, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, and into South Carolina around Hilton Head, then turning a little bit west and going up inland, still pretty strong and it was projected a category four at that point.

The line moved over a few days, and then the line showed a couple days later going up the west coast of Florida, Naples, Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, right on up through like Tallahassee and into Atlanta. And, of course, you know, these lines are the best guess and there’s a lot of variability when it’s four or five days out, and the closer it gets the better the predictions are. Ultimately, what happened was it came ashore at… well, it went through the Florida Keys and caused tremendous amount of damage. And then it went ashore again at Marco Island which is southwest Florida through Naples and then inland up through the state of Florida.

When it initially went through Marco Island and Naples, I believe it was a category four still. And as it got further north, up around Tampa, it had diminished because it was over land to about a category one. It continued north into Georgia and Alabama, they had tropical storm force winds in Atlanta, so lots of issues, lots of power outages, things like that. The awareness level of the storm was extremely high, and it just followed a big event in Houston, Hurricane Harvey. And honestly, the people in Florida, they, and rightly so, were very fearful of what could happen. There was a mass exodus, the Keys were evacuated, coastal areas, I think of the entire state of Florida was evacuated, and a lot of people just left because they, you know, were either afraid or just didn’t want to be part of it.

So there was a big exodus, a lot of issue with traffic and finding hotels and things like that. The people that did stay either were, you know, ready to go with impact windows and shutters, or they were boarding up and making their own. So it impacted the entire state of Florida and beyond, and it’s still going on even now with the recovery and the airports are now opening again, but there’s still gas shortages, there’s still power outages. It was a really, really, big event, and I think we’ll see as it plays out over times there’s gonna be a lot of damage and a lot of dollars associated with this.

So now that the storm is done, and, you know, for those that are in the path, either home owners or businesses, what do you do? So, you know, one of the things that you would want to do right away, is assess your property for damage. And what I wanna talk about is something actually that my company, GCI Consultants has done a lot of ever since Hurricane Andrew up until today. We’ve pretty much been involved in every, in the post, in the aftermath of every hurricane from Hurricane Andrew, right on through now in the U.S. and the Caribbean. And what we do, and what needs to be done, not necessarily by us, but by other firms or us, would be an exterior building assessment. And what we’re talking about here is wind, not flood, or what I’m gonna talk about is wind, not flood, touch on flood a little bit at the end.

So with an exterior building assessment, you basically wanna check all the elements of the exterior of the buildings. So, you know, one of the big damage areas of course in wind storms is roofs. So roof is blown off, obviously, you don’t need to assess it, then at that point, you’re in the damage mitigation. But a lot of times there can be damage even if the roof is still pretty much intact or in place. And on a sloped roof, what you’ll see on, you know, a lot of residential buildings, most residential buildings, and also on some commercial buildings, what you’re looking for there is, you know, things that are out of place, such as slipped, loose or missing roof tiles or shingles. If it’s a metal roof if the seams are coming apart, and then you wanna check all the areas where there’s any penetrations or flashings, for instance, if there’s a chimney coming through it or the vent pipes, things like that. Those are usually areas where problems can occur.

And then also you would wanna check around the whole perimeter of the roof. So where the roof meets the eave of that property, and there’s usually a flashing there, and of course that’s where the tiles, shingles, metal roofing and whatever interfaces and then the, you know the eave itself. So, the sopphet or what’s underneath the eave. So those are all areas that you need to check and you’re looking for things that are out of plane, or they look broken or whatnot. I wanna really stress here, I’m gonna say it’s a few times as we do this, probably not a good idea for you to climb a ladder on your own roof and start walking around, especially if you don’t know the condition, it can be really dangerous. If you do that, you need to be tied off to safety ropes. Every storm, sadly, has people that are badly injured or killed, you know, after the storm trying to do the recovery or assessment or whatnot. So be very, very careful if you do this, and probably better if you hire a professional which would be covered typically by a homeowners Wind Insurance Policy if you get into making a claim.

So the other type of roof that’s very prevalent, and more so on commercial buildings and on residential although some residential possibly are flat roofs. And flat roofs are typically affected by what we call wind uplifts. So as the wind goes over the top of the roof, it tries to pull it off the building, similar to how an airplane wing achieves lift. So what you wanna check for there, again so you’re gonna have a roof covering, which is either gonna be a membrane of some sort or a built-up roof which will have, you know, various layers of materials. So you wanna check the whole roof and make sure it’s still firmly attached and there’s not areas that are, have buckles or bubbles or, you know, visible imperfections.

You also wanna check for moisture. No moisture has gotten into the roof and cause it to, you know, been absorbed in the insulation. Usually, that’s squishy when you’re walking over it. In addition the flat roofs. There’s lots of terminations and flashings you might have, mechanical equipment on the roof you might have, you know, various vents and pipe penetrations, you’ve got perimeters which are either a flashing that terminates a roofing material with an exterior wall, or a parapet wall which is a small wall that goes around the top of the roof, and the roof would then terminate with a flashing into the parapet wall. A parapet wall usually has a cover cap on it that’s a metal flashing. All that stuff is vulnerable to being damaged or removed by high winds. So everything needs to be checked. Again, probably a good idea to have a professional do this, but, you know, it’s a little safer walking around on a flat roof than a sloped roof. This is something that should definitely be checked.

So once we get off the roof, the rest of the building, obviously, is the exterior walls. And windows and on the exterior walls, you know, the obvious things are the removal of cladding, where part of the wall actually comes off. But beyond that, the more discrete damages that you would look for would be cracks, voids in the wall system itself that weren’t there before the storm, any of the wall materials that are out of plane. So if you look up the wall and it’s not straight anymore than that’s an indication that something has happened where maybe fasteners have come loose or the part of the wall is become partially dislodged but not come off the building.

Sealant failure, anywhere you’ve got caulk joints. You know there’s a lot of movement in a hurricane which is intended by design, but that can cause sealants to sail and coatings. Impact damages, things being blown into the wall. And then of course, on the inside, if you see water entry, that’s an indication also that there may be problems on the outside. So the other area is windows, doors, and glass and, you know. So again, obviously, if the window’s been blown out that doesn’t really need an assessment. But a lot of times the damage can be more discrete, and we’ve done hundreds and hundreds of buildings where the windows and doors are intact, but they are in fact damaged, and ultimately they need to be replaced.

So things that we look for there is we look for broken glass, obviously, broken or cracked glass. We look for impact damage. We look for damage to the frame itself, so the frame can be deflected, which means it’s bent. And again, this can be discrete. I mean if it’s deflected, it could be a quarter inch out of plane from top to bottom, well that’s damage. It’s weaker than it was before the storm, and it’s not gonna be as strong for the next storm.

Frame displacement is another one where the window frame pieces come together, and that join is actually loose. Frame movement is another item that we look for, where maybe the fasteners have loosened up, and the frame has actually moved around in the wall, and it’s not as securely attached as it was before. Frame separation where the framing members are actually coming apart where they meet, usually at the corners. Sometimes the glass, the way it’s been set has lost its seal, so it may be loose in the frame, or if it has a gasket, the gasket may have become damaged or pulled in behind the frame. And that’s actually a dangerous condition because once the frame is actually, the glass is actually touching the frame, it’s very susceptible to breakage later on.

Hardware damage is another thing. So locks and wheels and things like that are put under a lot of stress when they interact with the loads of a hurricane, and that obviously affects operability which is, you know, how the door opens and closes. We’ve got water and air infiltration. A lot of times after storms, windows will be whistling where they weren’t before because the weather stripping and sealants have created voids for the air to come through when it’s windy, and a lot of times this causes water leakage. Sometimes, water leakage during a hurricane is a onetime event, but a lot of times this damage from the wind will cause further leakage in just normal weather, you know, wind-driven thunder storms, things like that.

Scratched glass is another thing to look for. That would typically, only occur if you have impact damage. But again, with windows, sliding glass doors, exterior doors, thick glass, all these things need to be carefully inspected because they may look fine, they may even operate okay. But if they get this discrete damage, they’re not gonna do as well the next time around. The other thing to look for on buildings is water proofing issues. So we’re talking about here is like balconies on high-rise buildings, decks, pedestrian type areas with living space below. You know, it could be swimming pools with a parking garage underneath or a pool on the roof, or you know, just we call them amenity decks where they have, you know, basically, where people can go outside and there’s occupied space or garages or things like that below.

Planters that have vegetation and things in them, those can be susceptible to a lot of movement during the storm also, and suddenly they’re leaking where they weren’t. And unfortunately, those are really hard to assess because typically when you do have leaks in decks and planters and things like that, you’ve got to remove materials, pavers, or concrete toppings to actually see what’s going on underneath. But that’s another area. And usually, the indication of the problems there is where you do have water entry into the building and adjacent to these areas.

So those are all the things that need to be checked. You can do it yourself, probably a good idea to hire a professional. If you’re making an insurance claim, don’t leave it up to the Insurance Company because they may not give you a fair assessment. You would definitely wanna hire a professional firm to inspect it. And if you’re having trouble with the Insurance Company, you may wanna consider hiring, even hiring an attorney or a Public Adjuster. We work with a lot of attorneys and Public Adjusters on these claims where, you know, the insurance settlement probably isn’t what it should be and they help ultimately to get things, make things right with the Insurance Company.

So the other thing I wanna talk about is, if you do have damage, it’s really important that you mitigate the damage. And as far as insurance policies go, that’s one of the things that they require. Now you’ve got to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate the damage. If it’s unsafe or if you’re physically incapable of doing this, or if you don’t have the money, then obviously, you know, that’s something that’s beyond reasonable. But, you know, here’s some tips for mitigating.

So number one again is stay safe. Do not go into any unsafe areas, don’t climb on the roof unless you have a proper ladder, safety lines and the area is secure. If you’ve got things like broken glass, you need to be very careful with that. And again, there’s always unnecessary injuries and deaths after every hurricane associated with people assessing or trying to repair property damage. Take lots of pictures and video of any damage. It can really be useful later with the insurance claims and you can never have too many, so more is better here and try to get everything very well documented. Then try to mitigate the damage.

As I talked about, Insurance Policies require this and if it’s dangerous or you’re not physically capable, don’t try to do it. Hire a professional to do it if you have the money. But, you know, things like covering roofs with tarps, you see the blue tarps all over roofs after every storm to prevent further water entry. And water entry is usually the big thing with mitigating damage. If you’ve got damaged window openings, board them up. If the windows are now leaking where they weren’t before, you might wanna put towels down in the window sill. And, of course, you know this is a time where you should notify your Insurance Company to start the claims process.

Get help from qualified professionals. Be careful about relying on advice from contractors unless you know them well, and they have a good reputation. If you do hire contractors, make sure they’re licensed and insured. Ask for a copy of their license, and also a copy of their insurance certificate. They should be pulling a building permit with the building department. You know, this takes a little extra time, but this all verifies the legitimacy of who you’re working with. You know, there’s a lot of out-of-town, we call “gypsy contractors”. You know, they’re gonna come in, they’re gonna do some work, you’re gonna pay them and they’re gonna be gone, you’re never gonna see them again. So you really wanna deal with somebody reputable even if it takes longer.

And if you ask a contractor for their license or their insurance certificate or if they’re pulling a building permit and they don’t wanna do any of that, don’t hire them, get somebody else. It’s really important and it’s very, very tempting to, you know, push the easy button and have somebody come in and take care of some. So maybe really personable and wonderful and seem like they know what they’re talking about, but they need to be licensed, insured and they need to pull permits.

Any money that you spend related to assessment and repairs, recovery, temporary housing, any other expenditures that you would not have had, had there not been the storm, you need to keep receipts for everything. And again, you know, the insurance company, just need to be careful with them. If you don’t feel like they’re treating you fairly, hire an attorney or a Public Adjuster that specializes in insurance claims. And I said, you know, my company, GCI Consultants works with a lot of them, so we see what goes on with this. Not to say that the insurance companies won’t treat you fairly, but, you know, it happens and you need to be careful with this.

And a good resource for finding a Public Adjuster or an attorney that specializes in this is the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. And their website is We’ve got all this information by the way on our website, We have a lot of information about hurricanes, damage, and recovery. The mitigation tips I just gave you. There’s a piece on that, that’s got all the bullet points with everything I’ve just talked about. We’re also publishing an assessment guide on how to assess buildings. So again, our website, has a good resource as well.

What I didn’t really talk about, which is not obviously wind-related, is flood damage and there were some areas that were badly affected. Northeast Florida, Jacksonville area, in particular, comes to mind, and from storm surge. And flood damage from rising ground water typically is not covered by home owners or wind insurance policies. So you would need to have purchased a separate flood insurance policy for coverage. The same scenarios for mitigating wind damages applies to flood damage. You know, try to get things dried out, and just make things mitigate it as best you can. And again, take lots and lots of pictures.

So the last thing I wanna talk about is, what about the next one? So, you know, people are listening to this that drove all over the place for a week, running from the storm east… to the west. I have a friend that went to the west coast of Florida to be safe when the line was going up the east coast and then had to drive back to the east coast when the line went to the west coast. It’s a big hassle. So what can you do to avoid that? Well, the one thing you can do, which I’ve done with my house is basically make it hurricane resistant. I’ve got impact windows, the whole roof, there’s house everything was built to the new code so it’s very wind resistant and when a storm comes, nobody has to leave. It’s safe there and if you… and I’m not in a flood plain.

So very important if you are in a flood area you do need to evacuate. But what you can do is upgrade your property, and I’m not going to kid you, it’s expensive and this is for business, this is a tip for businesses and/or home owners. But if you can stay in your property, be safe, be confident, its way better than having to evacuate or buying lumber maybe at inflated prices and trying to build shutters as the storm is approaching. And people that are listening to this that did this, know exactly what I’m talking about. So to avoid that next time, the best thing to do is to start working on it now. I had actually done my upgrades to my windows two years ago.

So last year, I think it was Hurricane Matthew came, I was on an overseas trip. I was actually hiking in Morocco. And I didn’t have any concerns about my property. You know, and that’s another issue if you’re an absentee property owner because it was ready. You know, with impact windows and doors, just as long as everything’s closed and locked, no further preparations are necessary. So it’s concerning when a big storm’s approaching, but when you don’t have to hassle with trying to put shutters up or get it boarded up or whatnot, I can tell you from personal experience it’s a huge relief. And Matthew, of course, my house is in Pamagge Gardens Florida, and Matthew just brushed by, wasn’t really a big issue, in fact, it only did, real wind damage that I’ve seen in Daytona Beach.

But, you know, that was last year, and then here we go again this year with Irma and Irma was a really, really scary looking storm and it scared everybody in the entire state because at one point that projected, the line, the projected path, was probably over your house or your building. I know it was in my house, right over it. And again, I was ready, and I didn’t have to do anything, and it was just such a really good piece of mind and good way to go. So that’s something to think about.

It’s not inexpensive, I’m not gonna kid you, it’s very expensive to replace your windows or to put permanent shutters on your house. And it seems like, you know, you’re spending a lot of money, but if you’re a property owner in a hurricane prone area, gulf coast, or Atlantic Coast of the U.S. or the Caribbean for that matter, you live where hurricanes come, and if you live in a hurricane prone area, you probably should protect your property to be able to resist the effects of a hurricane because the reality is it’s not if one’s gonna come, it’s when. And Irma this time really got some areas that had not had a big impact or a big scare in a long time. The Tampa Bay area had not had a… hadn’t had a major storm I think since the twenties or thirties. And this thing, you know, ultimately, thankfully it wasn’t super strong when it went through there, but everybody really got their attention and I know it scared them a lot.

So here we are, the storm’s over, I’m certain there’s building damage throughout the entire state of Florida and probably even points north. So hopefully, these tips will help, that the key thing here again is be safe. And I’ve given you some resources to look at as far as if you need help with a claim the and our website has a lot of good information. So good luck everybody and hopefully we won’t be having this conversation again for quite some time.

So this is Paul Beer, saying so long, everybody. Thank you again, for listening to the Everything Building Envelope podcast, and good luck and stay safe.

GSKy Plant Systems and Green Walls

Debbie Kotalic – GSky Plant Systems

  • What is GSky Plant Systems?
  • Whare are some benefits of Green Walls?
  • Whare are Trends you are seeing and experiencing in the greenwall industry?
  • What makes a green wall successfull?
  • What are some considertiond to keep in mind when planning a greenwall into a project?


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.

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

Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. This is Paul Beers. We have a really interesting guest today, Debbie Kotalic, and she’s with GSky Plant Systems. And this is a hot topic. We’re running into green walls a lot now and big thing in the industry. So, I think this is gonna be of great interest to everybody. So, welcome, Debbie.

Debbie: Thank you.

Paul: Really excited to be talking about this today. But before we get into it, could you just please tell the listeners a little bit about yourself?

Debbie: I appreciate you having me here today. And I am a landscape designer. I’ve been doing it for about 30 years now, gave away my age. But I have been working in the field, in nurseries and landscape design, built a company. And then I saw the green wall technology, was interested in it about 10 years ago, but it was very new. And when they asked me to come onboard and work with them and do some design work, the company was new. I decided to give it a try, and I’m hooked. So, now, I do this full time. So, what I do with GSky, but I do the design work with the plant material and with the systems. So, that’s what I do.

Paul: So, I don’t know about 10 years ago, but it’s definitely cutting edge right now. In fact, I know we met you at the AIA show in Orlando a few months back. And architects and designers and owners love the concept of green walls for a lot of reasons. It brings texture to different material, it’s very current and very relevant. Your company is GSky Plant System. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about that, as well.

Debbie: Okay. What GSky Plant Systems…I don’t know. Probably years and years ago, people would encourage ivy or grow different things to grow up walls. And what they found was it might look nice but it costs a lot of damage to buildings. So, we have developed systems that can attach to buildings or freestanding structures to give the same effect. And we’re a leading provider of the vertical living green walls in North America, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, and we’re still expanding. But what we have found is one system does not fit every need. So, we have developed four different systems, three different for the exterior and one for an interior system.

Currently, we have over 500 walls, either under contract or they have been installed. And in 2015, we broke our record, installed over 100 walls one calendar year. So, the business is growing fast. We’re doing a lot of different things, but it’s the systems and it’s the knowledge that we have to back the systems because we also do the installations. But that is basically what GSky Plant Systems is.

Paul: So, I was really interested when you agreed to come on as a guest, and I was looking at the GSky website. What is the web address, in case anybody wants to take a look while they’re listening?

Debbie: It’s

Paul: Yeah, it’s really interesting and it’s got a lot of project examples and what not. And I was very interested to see that our firm, GCI Consultants, has worked on several projects with the GSky system. They’re in your project portfolio. And we’ve got other ones that we’re working on now, some big ones. We’re seeing more and more, I guess, is what I’m trying to say. What are some of the benefits of green walls?

Debbie: I mean, some of the benefits…a lot of municipalities, a lot of places now are requiring so much green in a space and they can do it in a park form, they can do it in areas in their lobby, having large expanses of green. But they found that they can’t lease that, they can’t make money from that, and if they put it on a wall, we’ll account for that. But it helps take away a lot of the urban jungle, as far as the concrete jungle look and affect in.

Benefits are not only visual because it’s very calming, but they’re also artistic. They can be a focal point. They help in air quality, especially for interiors, cooling, and installing. If you go near one of the larger walls, if you walk near it, you can feel the temperature go down there. But they increase employee morale, patient morale, if you’re doing it in medical settings. They increase property values, and we’re finding a lot of developers are requesting green walls for large redos of projects, if it’s not a brand new project, because they want to attract people with the tenants, and people love the green walls. So, they’re finding the real estate industry is saying that it has increased their property values.

It’s a really good branding tool, also. We have a lot of corporate clients who are using green walls for different things and they have the branding in that it can either be in the plant design or it’s just that they have a green wall, that they have certain expectations and certain things that they want. But it’s a great recruiting tool for anybody who hires millennials, or who wants millennials as clients, because they love the green walls. And another big thing, I think, of benefit for green walls is you have a lot of people, such as yourself, who are designing things and who are installing, etc., and the lead points, etc., are a big thing as far as the buildings and having green initiatives and doing that type of thing.

I found a lot of times in talking with people is, you know, the green walls will help toward their points. They don’t have a category, per se, for that, but it does help toward the points. But when the employees or when different people see a green wall on the property, even though they have used green technology in the carpets or the wall coverings or the roof, etc., which is great, a lot of times, the employees or people don’t realize that it’s a green initiative type thing. But when they see the wall, they realize it, and that gives them a chance to start talking about that and start making people aware of the other things that are there in the environment, etc.

So, they do a lot of things as far as cover. A lot of places are now requiring, municipalities are requiring, especially parking garages, for people who are doing developments, they can’t get the permits even until they have come up with some type of facade for the parking garages or for different parts of buildings and areas, and we came up with a system. One of our systems is built just for that because it can cover that in a vine material within a year that it’s going in. Especially in the southern region, it may take up to two years to fully cover one at north. But they’re requiring that they do that in order to get permits. So, there’s been a lot of want and a lot of need for the green walls so that they take away that concrete jungle. That’s a big part of it. Schools are a big thing, too.

Paul: The parking garage is something that architects and designers really like to do. Like we had a big project we’re working on that had…there was like a six-story parking garage. This hasn’t been built yet, and in fact, it’s a redesign, not because of the green wall, but because the building was too tall for the city. I can’t imagine that, being a guy that loves high-rises, by the way. But the original concept was there was actually a historic church right in front of this property, they had a parking garage, and they were putting a green wall application over the entire front of this garage, which was taller than the church actually. And really, the concept was it was gonna frame it out really nicely. When you look at the church, you would see this, all this green behind it instead of a large high-rise.

And the other thing I was just thinking about when you were talking about the different applications is we had our company meeting last weekend. And right outside the conference room was a small piece of green wall, and you talked about branding, what was the logo of the property that we were at, it looked really good. You know, it had texture and color, really pretty sharp.

Debbie: Well, I mean, one of the products that we have developed, which is our Basic Wall product, it’s a vine container system, like I said. Well, we only expect our vines to grow five feet because they have been developed to stack upon on top of each other going up the wall. You can’t see them because they’re on the inside, but the plants are directly into that, they stay in their system. It’s all irrigated. Of course, maintenance is a big part of it. One of our big things, as far as GSky goes, is that we not only develop and install the project, design the projects, but we also ensure that the maintenance is done properly. Without maintenance, I mean, you can put in, you can plant a plant in the ground and think it’s going to grow 30 feet, maybe.

But without being in good soil, having good irrigation, and being trimmed and trained to grow trellis, a lot of times, I think, that municipalities have found it didn’t work. And so, they are specking and saying that they have to use this type of system in order to give the permits and, etc., to give the okay to some of the developers.

We’re doing several projects in Highland Beach. I know we just finished one not long ago. It’s a very large wall. But when it goes in, it’s already pretty full, especially if they give us enough time to grow it down south. It was full within three or four months of it going in the whole entire wall. So, it’s not like we’re planting something and hoping it grows 20 or 30 feet. We plant, we put it on, and we know it will because it’s already done it. We’re just taking care of it now.

Paul: Is there any point in time in the lifespan of one of these green sky systems where the plants have to be redone, or can maintenance give them kind of an indefinite period?

Debbie: Right. It depends on the system that is being used and where it’s at and it depends on how good the maintenance has been. And what we do, as far as I say, we do the maintenance, we subcontract local people to do the maintenance. We train them and then they report to us. They have to send us pictures, they have to send us reports every two weeks, and we work with them and support them.

But just like any landscaping that has been done on the exterior, if plants haven’t been pruned properly, if they haven’t been given proper nutrition, if they weren’t planned properly, that they put plants that need to be in the shade, in the sun or vice versa, etc., or they don’t know what a good plant that will work vertically is, because a lot of times a plant that you plant in the ground and it’s used to growing straight up, now you’ve turn it on its side, and now, is that plant going to be very geotropic, is it going to turn up, is it going to turn down, or is it going to do what you want it to do?

So you have to know what the plants are that you’re using and where they go, because that’s a very important part of it. But we have found that our plants are doing very, very well, especially on the Basic Wall because those are growing straight up, as they would normally from the ground. They’re just growing up on the trellis. As long as those are kept fertilized and healthy, every year or so they may have to put a little more dirt in it, the technology is still…green wall technology, as far as they go, is still fairly new. But we are having great success with it.

With our interior walls, which is our Versa product, which is totally different… We came up with a different product for interiors because we had the panelized system, which is our Pro Wall, where you put liners in it and grow it out at the nursery, and then hang it on the wall. And it’s very good and we do use it a lot, especially for high wind areas, etc. But for the interior, we found plants didn’t have the opportunity to dry out with that type of system, because inside, outside… I’m sorry, outside, when you irrigate it, you’re wanting it to not dry out too quickly inside. So, therefore, we use materials that would absorb water and hold it. On the interior, if you have something that’s spongy or something that holds water, you don’t have wind, etc., inside. And those plants and the roots would never get a chance to dry. And then, you start having root rot, you start having funguses and that, and everything else.

So we came up with a system that’s…it’s patented, it’s a pot-tray system where each pot just goes…it’s a four-inch planted pot that sits right in the tray. They’re all engineered to fit right into the tray, normal four-inch planted pots. And it’s watered from the back, when the irrigation down to the system, and it’s very hard to describe this verbally. You can see it on the website, and we have CAD drawings and everything on the website. But the water is then leaked from the back of the pot. We water about every 10 to 12 days, depending on what the plant needs are and the environments inside. And then the plant is allowed to dry, and that’s what plants need. Most plants don’t want to stay wet all the time. So, we’ve found that that does very well, that is in a four-inch pot. People have questioned, how long would that plant last, and what we have been finding…

We tell people to, you know, and that’s part of our maintenance contract is, you know, we do plant replacement. We’re doing very little plant replacements and this system has been in effect for four to five years now, very little plant replacements as long as maintenance companies maintain them properly and they have the right environment. The lighting has been put in properly, lighting is very key for interior projects. Without good lighting, you’re replacing plants more often.

With the Pro Walls, which is the panelized system, which is outside, again, maintenance is a critical factor. Where we find we have to do the most replacements for an exterior wall like that is if, again, we have some projects where they say it’s full sun, it’s full west or south facing sun, it gets no shade, there’s nothing there to shade it, there’s no big building across the street, and then they’ll put some big trees in. And so, now, you’ve got the wrong plant in that site and the plant has to be changed out periodically. But that is part of the maintenance contracts, etc.

Now, we have come up with a system called our Versa XT, which is an exterior product, this is also just using one gallon pots that goes into a pot and a tray system. And that makes it very easy for northern climates who want green walls and you don’t want a panelized system up there because it’s too hard to make the replacements and have it look good. And they expends out waste that they gain for. But with this one-gallon XT product that is fairly new, we tested it in up above Vancouver, at Simon Fraser University, on a huge wall, it did great throughout the winter, grows, came back. And if you do need to make a replacement, you just pick up one pot and throw another pot in that’s full immediately. So that’s a big benefit with that. Because we have people in northern climates who want green walls and we try not to put them where we don’t think they’ll do well.

We can put a Versa XT almost anywhere, as long as they know, if it just is so cold, if you have an unusually cold winter or somebody in Vale want one out, I can put in a green wall there. It’s an annual green wall. So, you are going to have to replace the plants every year because they’re up in their own side of the building. They’re not down in the ground. They’re not insulated like they would be in the ground. They’re up on the side of a building, wind’s blowing through, etc., and a lot of times, people think, they’ll say, “I want a green wall,” and you’ll say, “Well, what’s it facing?” “It was north facing and it’s up in like zone four and it’s everything else.” I’m like, “Well, what else lives there throughout the winter?” “Nothing.” Well, these aren’t magic plants.

So, it’s just…the planning of the whole thing is a key. You got to plan it correctly. You got to take, you know… You have to have people who are knowledgeable in planning the walls and how they go in. But the plants do very well, as long as they’re maintained well, just like plants would in the ground.

Paul: Yeah, I never realized there’s so much that go into it. So, you know, so we’re Building Envelope experts but we’re certainly not plant experts. In fact, I have a hard time growing flowers in my front yard sometimes. So, really interesting to hear, you know. And think about it, it makes sense. All the consideration, particularly with varied climates. And, you know, obviously, Vale is much, much, much different than Miami, and, you know, and even much, much, much different, I would assume, than Vancouver.

Debbie: Absolutely, absolutely.

Paul: You had mentioned retrofit, you know, that the people going and they remodel, they…you know, that’s one of the things that they desire to do. So, I was talking to an architect a few weeks ago about a project, where they were interested in the green wall, and the architect was asking me, do you have to do anything special to the wall to accommodate these systems? She was asking me, “Do I need that double wall? Do I need, you know…what do I need to do?” Could you talk a little bit about, you know, what needs to happen behind the wall, as far as what needs to be provided?

Debbie: I can talk a little bit about it. Our project and structural designers take care of that much more than I do, but I do know that depending on the wall and the interior of a wall, we’re doing our Versa Wall, which is, they have a plywood that they put up. There are a lot of times, people are very worried about moisture and moisture barriers, etc. I know that we tell people they can put up the marine-grade plywood. Again, I know a lot about it. I may give you a few wrong things on this.

Paul: Yeah, you know what, I didn’t want to get too technical. So, what I was trying to get at was, you know, that, you know, I don’t know if this is true enough, but there’s not a lot of special preparation needed to accommodate the system, you know. Like you put your water-proofing up and then…

Debbie: Right.

Paul: System.

Debbie: And I think…they think with retrofitting especially is the water source, what’s the water source going to be. Small wall, we have systems that have a cabinet built into it, that tanks can be put under, maintenance can fill the tanks, and the water can go, can be pumped up and can water it. If it’s a really large wall that’s really not efficient, they need to have water source direct feed to the wall to water it. There can be, at that point, some projects want to recycle the water. With our system, for interior, there’s not a lot of recycling because it waters and the plants absorb that, and there’s no water really wasted. But we still say there has to at least be a drain at the bottom or recycling tanks, just in case somebody leave something on, or valve get stuck on, etc., so that the water can be taken care of in that way. But you have to have things that all walls need to have. And even if it’s a retrofit, you have to think about all walls need a water source of some sort.

There are some that’s not real big that people do hand-watering. Again, I would not suggest it for large wall, but for something smaller, that can be done. But with our Versa Wall, automated irrigation is so simple. That’s not really necessary. There has to be electric available for the pumps.

Lighting is key for an interior wall also. There have to have the proper lighting, and a lot of times, we think, “Oh, I don’t want this bright, bright lights. It’s going to be a lobby that’s supposed to be restful.” As far as the lighting being obtrusive to everybody in the lobby, that’s not true. It’s just washed on the wall, it’s as if you put a picture on a light. But it has to be the proper type of lighting. And now, LED…halogen lighting was what was used for a long time, LED lighting is now working very well because they can get the tone and the temperatures set correctly on that. So, lighting that is a wall wash, not a spot on the different plants. And we have several different lighting companies that we can give people references for so that they can work with a good lighting engineer or a good lighting person to get the proper fixtures on the wall, more on the ceiling to do it.

There are definite ways to do it and that’s done all the time. And if you have the right lighting on your plants, you have no problem with the plants basically because they need light in order to go through their photosynthesis, they take up energy and nutrients, etc. But lighting, electric, a drain, some type of water source, and accessibility. You have to be able to access that wall in order to maintain it. So, we have a lot of walls where, a lot of really, really big, big, tall walls, but before we do the installation, we have to make sure that there is accessibility to it, whether by means of a lift, and can you get the lift in there, and where is the lift stored, or is it rented, etc? And you know, the furniture can’t be right in front of the wall, unless it can be moved. And there’s just some things that take into consideration with that, when it’s being designed.

Paul: And it’s also funny, so some of the same problems you have on this conventional wall, you know, like window washing, the same issue. How do you get in there and do that? And I’ve seen buildings where they haven’t done a good job but that they’ve had to do maintenance and what not and, you know, it’s a nightmare. So, if you don’t have good access, and particularly for something like a living wall like this, I would think it would be a nonstarter.

Debbie: Well, it is. And there have been some walls that we’ve declined because we couldn’t do the maintenance. There was one particular project that I think you’d find interesting. It’s in Ontario, I believe, and it’s a huge wall, indoors, and they couldn’t figure out how they were going to get… Because I believe that it’s next to an elevator shaft and an escalator. And they finally came up with, and because they couldn’t get the lighting to work out because it was so tall, and there are offices coming off of each floor that’s open to this reception area, and it’s a big mall, really. And so, they couldn’t get the lighting to come out because it would blind people and they couldn’t be able to do so.

Finally, it was engineered so that the wall is hung, and on this wall… It’s on the Yonge-Englinton project. On the wall, they have built-in, there’s a structure built on to the sides of the wall which house the lighting that will come out and wash the wall, but it also is framed so that window washing system can power up and down that same frame to be able to do the maintenance. So, they figured it out.

Paul: Wow.

Debbie: Yeah, it’s really nice.

Paul: That’s really impressive. So, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing of late in the green wall industry?

Debbie: A lot of trend I’m seeing now is, well, again, like I said before, anything that has to do with millennials, millennials love it. But reception areas and entry spaces, especially in large corporate offices, and I see in large attorney offices, and just any of them, where they used to have a big reception desk and then they have chairs in places, and they have plants just sitting around, etc., they’re using that more for communal spaces and not a reception desk. They have board tables, they have board rooms, etc., and like I said, their gathering spaces, their event spaces, their photo op spaces, and we’re doing a lot of huge walls in those areas.

Stairways are another big one. We’re doing a lot of things that people are designing large staircases into a lot of these offices, into a lot of projects, and especially colleges, etc. They’re promoting wellness and promoting health, and using the stairs, etc., and it makes it feel more like they’re hiking in the forest, I guess. They’re walking along…

Paul: More natural.

Debbie: Yeah, it’s much more natural, it’s cooler near the wall, and it’s a lifestyle type thing. And we’re seeing that a lot with the stairways. Tech companies are huge. They’re using walls a lot now. Again, they’re recruiting millennials, and that’s who… And I know, I’ve given lectures at colleges and I’ve been at different things where they have had design contests, etc. Very few big projects I see them designing are without a green wall of some sort in there. They are very much into the health. They are very much into everything that it represents.

Airports are another big place I’m finding them. We’re doing them. Airports have known, they wanna make it a little friendlier. They wanna make the…and not so stressful. When you’re sitting there and your flight’s been cancelled for the third time, they have big green walls in these airports now, where people walking by them or they’re near, where large areas are, eating areas, etc., they’re putting in a lot of that, the green walls in.

Hotel lobbies are huge for green walls. We’re finding that a lot. The medical facilities. We put a large one in at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and in several others, too. Medical facilities, not only for the patients but for the families. Some of them are in like surgery waiting areas and emergency room areas, but they’re also in different areas where employees can go for a break or take or relax some, and it’s calming for them. So, it’s not only for the patients, but it’s for everybody involved in the hospital stay and care on that.

So, another big trend I’ve seen with green walls and what I would like to incorporate more is incorporating other things into them such as wood and metal, glass, and things of interest. We’ve done some walls that people have wanted that they had collected ruins or artifacts, etc., and we incorporated those into the walls. I think it makes them very interesting to incorporate other things into them sometimes. You have some type of glass thing, whether it’s a logo, whether it’s just some other form of some sort and have some back lighting on it, it makes it very interesting in walls too. And we’ve done several walls where there are waterfalls in between, where you have a wall that’ll have a waterfall in the middle of it. Somewhat, we don’t do the waterfall, but we design the walls around the waterfalls. So, there’s a lot of people wanting things like that.

Paul: Really funny that you bring that up because I just looked at a project that we’re hoping to get involved with in the Caribbean, like two weeks ago, and we checked all the boxes you just said. It was a hotel and it had a water feature, and it had like, on the entrance to the hotel, which was open air, there was a green wall that was kind of on the front face on both sides of the entry and then wrapped into the building, and it incorporated not just the plant material but it had like wood and stone elements mixed into it. So they’re really into having different materials, different textures, changing plains and surfaces. And as the architect was showing it to me, I told her, I said, “Wow, this is really nice looking, and I had not seen something that well-thought-out and that intricate before, but it look great.”

Debbie: Yeah, and they do. It’s in the planning that work out really well. And the things that…some of the things that make for a really successful wall so that it is long-time, of course, is your system, the type of system you are using, whether it works well in getting the water to the places where it needs to be and use the right type of system. Like I said, I don’t think one system fits every aspect. So, I think that using the right system is huge in making that for a successful green wall. One of the things that we work very hard on is the design, not only in the shop drawings, we coordinate it. We have our professional installers who do the installing. I work with the plant design and procurement. One of the things that people don’t realize a lot of times, an installer, especially our GCs, I work with them quite frequently on is that whenever it’s time to install a wall and we have a large wall coming in, we have to source the plant material.

Now, I’m not sourcing three dozen plants on some of these walls. I have 16,000 plants on it. And the nursery industry, the way that it is now, we have to plan for this ahead of time a lot of times now. Not always, I can get some of them sometimes, but when it’s time to put a wall in, I need realistic install dates. I know what you want, I know what you guys have told the client, I need realistic. Because it’s not like I’m sending a box of nails that you can set on a shelf somewhere and wait until you can go ahead and finish putting it in. When those plants come, they have to be able to go in the wall and all the conditions have to be right. So, I always tell people, “The plants go in the wall when the furniture’s ready to come into the building.”

Paul: Yeah, we hear about “Just in Time” delivery with factories and what not. Probably the case here, isn’t it, where you’ve got to show up at the right time or it’s not gonna work.

Debbie: Exactly. You can have your construction dust, you can have people who are turning the power off to do other things and doesn’t get turned back on. I mean, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it because we do this all the time. We know how to work with people to get it done, and they get it done properly. And installation is a huge thing. You have our project managers that are on the site. Smaller ones, we have certified dealers who can do some of our interior scapers who are into your projects, who have been trained and who can do those now. But for a large, exterior thing, we have our supervisors on site for that and working with people. Because again, logistics is a big thing. The lifts, safety, everything that goes with that, and working with the GCs on that.

And so, you know, as long as it’s planned and everybody knows it ahead of time, and we’ve been working with them, our project managers working with the GC for several months usually before it goes in, and as long as we’re getting good information, this thing can go up and be very painless. So, for all the other people, all the other ancillary people working on it, we just have to make sure that the contract is, as far as the plumbing is there, the lighting is there, and installed, we can’t wait until we get there and then have them do that because these plants have to be watered. So…

Paul: Yeah, lots of parts and pieces.

Debbie: Lots of it. And then, I think the biggest part of all in having a really successful green wall besides the designing is the maintenance. We warranty any plant replacements, as long as we have the maintenance contracts, and that is making sure that the people are doing the maintenance properly, it’s being done when it should be and pruned, done regular checkups, the reports go to the owners, etc. But maintenance, I can’t stress enough how important maintenance is with the green wall because they’re a living plant. It’s not an inanimate object that you can put it up and it’s a painting and it never changes. And that’s one of the nice things about the green wall is that people find very interesting is watching them change and watching the metamorphosis of the wall and watching how it changes as time goes on.

Now, when we put them in, they’re fairly full to begin with, but they still go through some changes. There’s pruning, there’s different things, and with the interior, or exterior, it grows a lot more. But there’s a lot of excitement around the green wall and I encourage anybody who’s never been, especially a larger wall, who’s never been on an install, where they’ve been putting a larger wall in as it goes in, just to watch the other people around, they’re all amazed. And that’s a lot of fun.

Paul: Yeah, well, you know, this is definitely, we talk about trendy. This is definitely trendy. I know you guys have been doing this for a long time and you probably doesn’t seem like that to you. But it’s really, really catching on. And as I say, you know, we see more and more of it, and it looks great. It’s just that really, really nice feature from the typical stuff you see in buildings.

Debbie: And one of our things that we’re very adamant about and we have worked very hard in bringing the industry to where…help in bringing the industry to where it is is we don’t let a wall fail. I mean, unless people just don’t let you take care of it after it’s gone in, and that does happen once in a while. You know, they’ll say, “Well, we don’t need maintenance.” And, you know, as much as you try, but we don’t let a wall fail, as far as if there’s a problem, we’re right back there working on it and doing what needs to be done. One of the things that we also have done is through AEC Daily. We have an online continuing education program that architects and interior designers, etc., can take and get their CEU credits, but it gives a lot more information on the walls. They can get it online and things that they need to think of when designing them, etc.

Paul: And they can… And if anybody wants information on that, they can find it at

Debbie: Yes, yes. If they go in, there’s a link that goes right to the AEC Daily.

Paul: Great.

Debbie: Continuing ed. It’s free.

Paul: Even better.

Debbie: Very well.

Paul: So, this has been really interesting and I thank you so much. And I know there’s big, big interest in this and it seems like it’s growing more and more. And it’s really interesting for me personally to hear about all of the intricacy and all the parts and pieces and everything that has to come together. So, thank you very much for coming on today and telling us about it.

Debbie: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. And I know, I feel a little scattered with it because there’s just so much information. You can have five or six different talks on this thing and different categories. But I’ve just given you a little brief highlight on some of it there. There’s a lot of intricacy with it, but I think it’s well worth it. People love it. And we just, we have the experience and the knowledge to do it and to do it right, and that takes planning.

Paul: So, maybe we’ll do a follow-up episode just to open the door for them. Again, I know there is, right.

Debbie: Well, I could bring more of our Building Envelope people in, too, that could probably answer questions for you much more about the load bearing on the walls and different things like that, too, that will probably something that the people will probably benefit from.

Paul: Yeah, a little more technical. May not be as much fun as talking to them on the phone.

Debbie: That’s right, I do the fun stuff.

Paul: Well, again, thank you very much for coming on.

Debbie: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Paul: And I’d like to thank everyone for listening to the Everything Building Envelope podcast, where, when you listen to this episode, we’re gonna be in the 30s with the number of episodes. You wanna check out some of the other ones, please visit Please tell your friends and buddy who would like to subscribe, can do so on iTunes or Stitcher. Until next time, this is Paul Beers saying, “So long.”

Stucco Around Wood Frame Window Openings

Bret Taylor – GCI Consultants

  • New Technical Bulletin by the Florida Lath & Plaster Bureau
  • Codes, Standards and Guidelines that Apply
  • Complexities of the Building Envelope Around Window Openings
  • Responsible Parties
  • The Devil is in the Details
  • Florida Lath & Plaster Bureau Future Technical Bulletins

Read the Technical Bulletin – FLAPB – TB-ST-08-17


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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Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is your host, Paul Beers. And our guest today is Bret Taylor. Welcome, Bret.

Bret: Good morning, Paul. Glad to be here.

Paul: So Bret is a fellow team member of mine at GCI Consultants. And Bret, before we get into the subject, maybe you could tell everybody a little bit about your background.

Bret: Absolutely. Well, like a lot of engineers, started working for firms just out of college to gain experience as I came up through the ranks. Focused in on structural engineering as my career focus. And did some building design, like most junior engineers do, so small commercial, residential type structural engineering work, construction repair type work.

And then eventually broke off on my own, started my own firm. I did that for 15 years in North Carolina. Enjoyed that thoroughly, learned a lot. And as I was, I guess, getting exposure as the leader of my own firm, I started to run into different scenarios that were different from just regular design work. Because I’d get calls from clients that would say, “Hey, you know, we have this structural issue. Can you come out and take a look at it?” And I did, and I guess my segue into the forensic world. And it just advanced from there.

And then I started doing work for insurance companies, investigating various types of cause and origins, issues there, water penetration, hail damage, lightning strikes, that kinda thing. And so my forensic career evolved even more. Then a couple years ago I decided to make a change. I wanted to get involved in, I guess, the larger forensic world and made the move to Florida.

Paul: We’re really happy that you did. So you’re a licensed engineer in Florida, and a bunch of other states, that’s right?

Bret: That’s correct. I’ve gained licensure in a total of 12 states. I was just gonna say, essentially all up and down the east coast of the States, and then over as far as Louisiana.

Paul: Great. One thing that I know that you didn’t tell anybody about I think is really interesting, when you were early in your career you worked overseas, didn’t you?

Bret: I have, yeah. Very early on I found an opportunity to work in Germany after the wall came down. Essentially when the wall came down, East Berlin opened up to West Berlin. And the infrastructure was in horrendous disrepair from all those years of socialist occupation from the USSR. And so lots of construction work going on, and they just needed more professionals than they could source. And so there was an architect professor who was German at NC State, from which I graduated, that was getting his architectural students work. I met with them and they helped me plug in. So yeah, I got about a year and a half exposure in Germany.

Paul: Yeah, that sounds like funny actually. Yeah, it’s a great opportunity. I wish I would have done stuff like that in my younger days actually. We got a really great topic today, stucco around wood frame window openings. So Bret, you recently were the primary author on a publication of that same name that was produced by the Florida Lath and Plaster Bureau, is that right?

Bret: That’s correct. Part of a windows committee that broke out around the topic of wood frame window openings with all the stucco litigation going around currently. We decided to break out a committee. I joined that committee. And we have many more technical bulletins planned, but as we were getting into discussing what we wanted to accomplish in the committee it became apparent pretty quickly that this is a huge topic. Because once you create an opening, that’s an opening you have to seal. On top of that, with a window installation you have a lot of integration between the different parties that are performing different component of the wall construction.

Paul: Yeah. You know, so wood frame construction really is a big part of the construction methodology that’s out there. We see it anywhere from single-family homes to, you know, pretty good sized, mid-rise type structures, multi-family residential, hotels, office buildings, commercial, you know, retail, all sorts of different things. And they’re all different obviously, and one size doesn’t fit all. But as you say, there’s been a lot of, over the years, litigation. And on our expert witness side of things we’ve done many, many, many hundreds, maybe thousands of buildings over the years with wood frame and stucco.

And, you know, where there’s been allegations of things maybe not going correctly or having issues. So this is a great topic, and really excited to see the piece that you guys put out. And maybe we can just sort of run through it a little bit more. I know it focuses with codes, and standards, and whatnot. So can you maybe run us through some of the highlights of it?

Bret: Sure, absolutely. I guess to start off I’d just say, you know, it’s for general educational purposes to help folks in the industry get their head around the codes, and guidelines, and standards that are involved. So it should be helpful to folks in the industry. It’s not a document that covers every single aspect, and certainly doesn’t get into details. We plan on working on some details in the future. But the takeaway is that there’s a lot here that folks need to know about. The designers need to be fully aware of these codes, standards, and guidelines, as well as the contractors. Because we’re all having to work together to make this building envelope penetration functional likes it’s supposed to.

So, you know, just having said that, just keep that in mind. And we developed this as a roadmap really to help people focus in on what’s important. And as we started to discuss what we wanted to create with this technical bulletin, it started to get big really quick in terms of information. So we had to step back a little bit, and we decided to break this into different technical bulletins going forward. And the first one we thought, it’d be best to create one that painted this thing as a global perspective so that people had the understanding that it was complex and there was more to come.

Paul: So can you kinda run us through, first, as you already mentioned, you guys talked about introduced codes, references standards, and industry guidelines? And kinda had a discussion that, you know, I think, just to summarize, as everybody’s familiar with the code, the Florida Building Code in this case, or the Florida Residential Code. And I wanna point out, too, by the way, while this was obviously put out by the Lathe and Plaster Bureau, this discussion can certainly go far beyond Florida. In fact, it has a national perspective on it. Now there’s obviously the Florida Building Code is not in other parts of the country, but the theory is pretty much the same everywhere. Would you agree with that?

Bret: Correct. The addition there would be that obviously Florida has many more opportunities for wind-driven rain. And so we seem to see the problems resulting from water leaks a lot faster, and maybe to a larger degree than others may see them. Although, you know, recently we’ve had a couple of jobs, one in Pennsylvania where they had pretty significant sheathing and wood frame damage to a single-family home. So, you know, it’s not isolated to Florida, for sure.

Paul: Oh, you know, and the sequencing of construction, the reference standards, the detail, and what, really doesn’t change from Florida, to Pennsylvania, to Colorado, or wherever. I mean, there’s some nuances with different climates and whatnot, but the concepts basically are the same, or very similar. Would you agree with that?

Bret: That’s correct. In general, the flashing, the concept of flashing is gonna remain the same throughout.

Paul: So let’s go through this a little bit, the document, which, as I said, was put out by Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau. We’re gonna, just for everybody, in fact, if you wanna pause and get a copy of it in front of you, we’re gonna have it on our website. It’ll be in the show notes at website. It’ll also be on our website at There will be a link to download it. Or you can go straight to the Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau’s site, So any one of those places you can get it, it’s free. And if you wanna read along while we talk about it, that’s where you would go.

Bret: Yeah, there’s a special page, Paul, that addresses all the technical bulletins they put out. They have several that are very helpful. One of the other recent ones that was published is a lathe checklist. So inspectors in whatever capacity they function can utilize this to just have a checklist as they go through and make sure the lathe was installed correctly.

Paul: Yeah, you know, that’s great. Really great that they’re taking this one, because there’s certainly an information void at times, it seems like. So very helpful to try and pull things together from kind of a global or big-picture perspective. So the document references some codes, standards, and industry guidelines throughout the construction sequence. You know, without reading it verbatim, could you just kinda summarize what the sequence is and what kinda documents are referenced?

Bret: Yeah, so I put this together in the order of construction, or at least, you know, tried to. So obviously you start with your rough framing. There’s a little bit of waterproofing that can be done at the rough framing stage. Then you have your fenestration installation. Then you have your supplemental waterproofing around that fenestration, your stucco application afterwards, and then caulking and painting, hopefully following your stucco installation. So that’s the general format. We just tried to make it, I guess, visually and conceptually consistent with the way it was produced in the field.

Paul: And what are some of the standards and industry guidelines that are used along the way through this process? Or should I say, what are some of the other organizations that have guidelines that are useful and necessary to really do a thorough job of designing and then ultimately installing things correctly?

Bret: Right. Well, obviously Florida Building Code, Florida Residential Code are key. They’re gonna drive you towards referenced standards in those documents. They have different chapters that point towards reference standards, so that’s the key. So when you’re looking at the Florida Building Code, Florida Residential Code, you know, you’re gonna go towards the chapter six Wall Construction. That’s gonna contain quite a bit of information. They referenced ASTM E 2266, that’s gonna be your standard guide for design and construction or low-rise frame building wall systems. Chapter seven is gonna cover wall covering, finish direction area. Chapter six of the FRC is gonna cover exterior windows and doors.

AAMA is gonna have several standards that are helpful and they focus in specifically on different types of window installation. And they have one specifically, 300, which is the standard practice for installation of exterior doors and wood frame construction for extreme wind and water exposure. So that’s gonna be key down here in Florida. And they’ll have other ones that are just standard installation around wood frame openings that don’t have extreme conditions that would apply elsewhere.

ASTM E 2112 installation of exterior windows, and doors, and skylights is key. ASTM, of course, with regard to stucco, C 926, C 1063, those all address stucco applications specifically, stucco and lathe application. So yeah, there’s plenty of standards there for which to get some guidance. A lot of those standards are consistent in their message. So, you know, once you kinda go through one you get exposure to the other ones.

But my approach there was to just kind of include everything so that the detailer and the installer could be working off consistent documentation. And I think it’s important for everybody to know what’s involved so that they can recognize if someone in the chain of the process perhaps didn’t do what they were supposed to do. And we can segue into that later in terms of responsibility. But essentially everyone has to know what their part is and what codes and standards apply to them.

Paul: So the design professional needs to be aware of all this, and reference, utilize it in developing plans of specifications. Because ultimately that’s what’s used to build the building, correct?

Bret: Correct. And as you know, that’s not always the case. Some plans and specifications for projects just aren’t what they need to be. The details should fall on the designer of record, whomever that may be. And for whatever reason, those sometimes aren’t fleshed out adequately to make sure that the building is gonna perform per the Florida Building Code, or whatever code you’re utilizing. I think they all gotta be relatively consistent in that respect. If they say that the building envelope should be detailed and constructed in a way to prevent water intrusion.

Paul: That’s right. You know, you talk about details and I just think back to the one. My favorite is, you know, you see it on residential and also on multi-family where they’ll draw a typical wall section, and that’s it. There’s a typical wall section, and it’ll say “stucco” with an arrow pointing at it. So at that point, basically you’re leaving it up to the builder/installer/sub-contractor/workmen to put it up the way they think it should be done. And it’s just a process that’s inviting error.

Bret: Absolutely. And here’s where I get a little frustrated with those professionals, and we all kind of…we do it in our designs in certain areas and it’s acceptable. So for example, if we wanna kinda point back towards a structural example. You know, for the structural engineer, we’re designing the building to resist all the loading on that building so it doesn’t collapse, and to protect the public, and protect the occupants, and protect the investment. Well, okay. So I designed the structure but I don’t necessarily design the wood trusses, let’s say, that this property, whether it’s residential or commercial, has a wood truss roof on it.

I don’t actually design the roof trusses. That’s something that’s developed over the years where the manufacturer of the truss typically provides that design. They may have employed an engineer that does that design, or they may farm that out to another engineer. But essentially what I’ll say is, in my plans, you know, “Truss design per applicable loading.” And then it’s up to the building to find a truss manufacturer to provide that truss package and that truss design. And then I review that truss design to make sure it’s consistent with my plans and details.

So that’s a case where it’s okay to point towards someone else to provide a component of the design. But ultimately, as a structural engineer of record, I’m still responsible for that truss package to make sure it is applicable to my design scheme. And similar, this is typically in an architectural realm, similarly the plans and details focused around the building envelope fall under the architect, unless, of course, they wanna farm that out to someone else, which is okay as well.

But you can’t just point towards a standard wall section and say, “Stucco.” That’s not acceptable nor helpful. That really opens people up to RFIs at a minimum, but certainly potential litigation going down the road, which is part of the reason we’re having this podcast today.

Paul: Yeah, I mean, I think the key takeaway from that is somebody’s gotta design all the parts and pieces that go into the building. And ultimately design professionals has a responsibility to make sure that happens, whether he designs it or somebody else does. At a minimum, he or she should be reviewing everything and making sure it’s complete. And what’s interesting is you get into the wood frame…this is Paul’s observation, the wood frame construction market is lacking sophistication and depth. And what I mean by that is, you know, a lot of times it’s a low-bid scenario. So they’re trying to build a house, an apartment building, whatever, for the lowest possible cost and meet the code, which, you know, it’s supposed to be a minimum standard, but actually becomes the baseline standard. You know, “What do we have to do to say we met the code?”

So in an effort to save money, maybe you’re not paying the design professional to be able to do the job that they need to. And you’re ultimately leaving it up to contractors, installers, and whatnot to put everything together correctly. Nobody’s really looking over their shoulder and making sure that’s being done right. And guess what? You end up with problems. It’s just sort of inevitable. So one of the things, and Bret, you’ve talked about this so far, is that somebody’s gotta pay attention to the details.

Bret: Right, the devil is in the details, for sure.

Paul: Yeah.

Bret: And I’ll tell you, with the changes in the code standards and guidelines, along with the products that are changing rapidly…and then the lines are blurring, too, between who’s involved in what. I mean, you have window installers now that apparently they get asked to provide the flashing as part of their scope, versus having someone who may have more experience in that provide the flashing. Sometimes the framers even get called in to provide at least a certain level of building envelops protection and flashing.

Paul: So let’s talk a little bit about the scenario you just described where different people are providing things that are maybe outside of their scope, and, you know, may not have a good set of plans and whatnot. So let’s talk a little bit about what can be done to try to overcome some of these limitations, I guess we’ll call it. And so when GCI Consultants gets involved with wood frame projects, which we do frequently, you know, we basically go through a process where we try to work with an owner and architect that’s our client. We try to work with them to come up with a decent set of plans and specifications that show everything. But really then we get into submittals, shop drawings, product literature, things like that.

And often, you know, with the plans, and specs, and submittals, we don’t always end up with a clear picture of what’s gonna happen. So we really like to see two things happen at that point. One is to have a pre-installation meeting where everybody that’s involved, so that’s owner, architect, possibly structural engineer, framer, stucco contractor, window manufacturer, window installer, caulker, painter, everybody that’s involved comes to that meeting. And now we get the plans out, we get the submittals out if there are any. And we go through everything and basically try to review, “Here’s how we’re gonna do this.”

The other thing that we really like to do is a mock-up at the very beginning of the project. Now this could be an in-place mock-up, like the first area where we’re starting the work. Let’s install everything, let’s frame it, let’s sheath it, let’s waterproof it, let’s put the window in, let’s caulk it, let’s paint it. And let’s, you know, all agree that we’re doing it the right way. And just that alone brings you many, many, many levels above just having the guys go out and put it in. What are your thoughts with that, Bret?

Bret: Well, I agree. And I think mock-ups are becoming more and more popular and important. Because again, with all these new products coming online, and the labor not necessarily being able to keep up with proper installation and use of those products, I think it’s kinda key that you do that mock-up. I think in the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty cheap insurance policy to get everybody on the same page.

Oh, and then that’s kind of a segue to another important code point here, which is, like you said earlier, the code is minimum. But people think it’s baseline, or that that’s really all you should focus on is just meeting code. Sometimes you need to go well beyond code, and sometimes code that’s minimum actually doesn’t even apply to your situation. So an example of that would be stucco attachment to the building. The prescriptive stucco attachment that’s provided by the code doesn’t always work for every location, for sure, especially the higher glossy ones.

Paul: So if it doesn’t work, then what needs to be done?

Bret: Well, therein lies the need for the detailing. The designer of record needs to think about the application that they have in hand. And they need to think through each of the details, make sure that it’s gonna meet the actual code requirements, which in general is gonna mean meeting the wind load resistance. And then if you go through a mock-up, you can often discover, “Okay, well, this may meet the code, but we have an issue here with installation sequence.” Or, “We have a compatibility issue with product.”

So, you know, just running through that process of doing your mock-up, I think will flesh out a lot of the problems, put everybody on the same page. And then on top of that, it gives an opportunity for, you know, a company like us, for example, to go out there and provide third-party water testing in that window assembly and assure that that system is gonna function in the way that the owner intended to.

Paul: Yeah, because, you know, people always say, the question I’ve been asked many times is, “Well, the window’s already been tested, hasn’t it? Why do I need to test it again?” And great, the window has been tested in a laboratory, who knows where and when? So there’s so many things to confirm when you get it into the field. First of all, was the window manufactured the same way as the one that passed the test? And then even more important, you’ve got all these surrounding surfaces, you know, stucco, maybe a balcony floor, a ceiling, you know, whatever. None of that’s included in a product approval test for a window. So the system is never tested unless basically you do a field test during construction.

Bret: That’s correct. Yeah, the window is just a component of the system. And, you know, AAMA has done a lot to drive forward the window industry and window, AAMA, and windows and door manufacturers, and others have done a lot. But essentially the water infiltration testing, the wind load testing, and others, those tests are just testing the window unit. And a lot of times they’ll actually exclude portions of the window that people may not…well, not portions, but a portion of the window that people may not think about. And with respect to wood frame construction, that’s gonna be the window fin. So in other words, the fin, it’s part of the window. But in terms of the water infiltration testing, it’s actually not included.

Paul: No, that’s right. And as well as how it interfaces with all the surrounding materials.

Bret: Yeah. So yeah, your mock-up is key.

Paul: Yes. I see in the publication that you also put a little blurb in towards the end about maintenance. Do you wanna talk about that a little bit?

Bret: Absolutely. I don’t have to tell you that it’s a large part of what we run into when we’re doing our investigations. Florida has some amazing sun and fun. That sun and fun comes with a cost. The sun is very intense here, so it tends to degrade paint and caulking quicker than maybe some other locations around the state. And so owners are having to do maintenance more often, maybe, than other parts of the country.

So yeah, it’s key to do that maintenance. And actually Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau has developed a separate technical bulletin. If people wanna pull that up, that’s TBST-04-12, and that is Stucco and Building Exterior Maintenance. And it goes through the requirements for maintenance there. But essentially, if I had to pick one spot that I would really focus in on that would be the interface of the stucco, and the window frame, and the detailing of the accessories, and the sealant around that interface. That tends to be a location where details aren’t always correct.

And even if they are correct, or even if they’re not correct, let’s say. Even if you do a good stucco or sealant around a not-so-good stucco detail, that’ll go a long way for sure. But if it’s done correctly, but the sealant and the paint aren’t maintained, eventually you’re probably gonna have at least the potential for water intrusion there.

Paul: Yeah, and stucco, I mean, I’ve said this many times, I’ll say it again. Stucco cracks, I mean, it happens. It’s not necessarily catastrophic where it’s cracking and falling off the building, but, you know, it gets hairline cracks and whatnot. And over time, sealants degrade and paint, you know, may chalk, or wear off.

So all these parts and pieces have finite performance cycles, or life cycles. But a well-designed exterior wall system accounts for all this. You’ve got a moisture vapor barrier within the wall system, where if any water gets in it collects it and drains it to the outside. And obviously the maintenance is very important because the less water that gets in the better. But as you mentioned, there’s a lot of parts and pieces. And really everything needs to be done well to have an overall globally well performing and healthy building.

Bret: That’s correct. That’s actually probably even a separate topic because we can go far and deep on that. But in general, I’ll point back to the fact that the code is minimum. And, you know, stucco, as you said, cracks. Stucco, if it’s not painted, is actually going to absorb water and then will release that water whenever the conditions around it dry out. So it’s, you know, it can absorb and expire water cyclically. As long as the system is designed to accommodate that, then you shouldn’t have any issues. But again, the fact that the code is minimum doesn’t necessarily remove the potential for having water penetration issues. So for example, if you’re on the north side of the building, or if you have an area where there’s sprinkles that continually impact that stucco, a good system over time can still have issues and/or degrade more quickly.

Paul: Yeah. So you mentioned that the publication, “Stucco Around Wood Frame Openings” with the Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau as kind of a starting point. What’s next?

Bret: Well, we are in the process of determining what it is we wanna discuss going forward. We have some bullet points in the bulletin. We’re currently talking about details, trying to figure out if we wanna provide some details to assist people with that. There’s a lot of work there that still needs to be done. But I think, you know, stucco to window frame interface details, like I mentioned a minute ago, is the key one that we need to focus in on. That’s challenging, though, because there’s so many different window manufacturers, and a couple…at least three or four common window profiles that need to be addressed. And of course, then you get into different types of flashing, and different configurations of windows, even different installation schemes of the window.

So for example, you have a flush window, or you can have an inset window. So there’s a lot to consider there. We’re still in the process of trying to figure out what it is we wanna cover and how we wanna cover it. But in general, I think we’re going to try to touch on each component that may affect the window installation, on down to, you know, the sheathing, the framing. So for example, there with the sheathing, if you have sheathing that doesn’t have adequate gapping, over time that can create some issues that may impact your stucco and/or window installation.

Paul: Yeah, it’s a big undertaking, no question about it, as you correctly point out. A lot of variability, a lot of different scenarios. So I wanna commend you and the Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau for, you know, having this conversation, having this discussion, putting out this document. And I think it’s really great. And I really appreciate you coming on the podcast today. I thought it was a really good discussion. So thanks very much for that.

Bret: Absolutely. And Paul, let me just give a little bit of a plug for stucco in general. I mean, you know, obviously the Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau is focused around that type of construction. There are a lot of cases going around currently that are revolved around stucco and its construction. Stucco is just like any other building siding material, you know? It’s not perfect, but if you build it properly, it will perform its function. I think a lot of the issues that we’re running into now with stucco aren’t necessarily, you know, just the material. It’s the fact that it’s a wall system is a complex system. A lot of different pieces and parts have to come together properly in order for it to function properly.

But, you know, the first thing people see is stucco. And, you know, they, “Well, this is stucco.” Or even a window, they say, you know, “There’s a leak and it must be the window.” So people tend to simplify things, I think, too much. And there are other causes for building envelope issues other than what you can readily see on the exterior. So I’d say, you know, we’re trying to promote stucco in general at the Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau. It’s been a great building material for a long time. And, you know, we’re just trying to help people understand that the material itself is not necessarily a problem, and you can accomplish a very sturdy, sound, and aesthetically pleasing building exterior with stucco.

Paul: Yeah, I’ll give a “me too” on that one as well. If you look at it from a nationwide perspective, and I don’t think this is an exaggeration, there’s millions of structures that have high-performing, well-performing, durable stucco installation. We do tend to focus on the problems, which, you know, they’re out there. And we don’t focus so much on the fact that it is a really good option for exterior growth buildings, and it’s been used successfully, repeatedly throughout the…actually throughout the world. So yeah, let’s recognize it for what it is.

So with that, again, thank you, Bret. And I’d like to thank everybody for listening to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. Please visit We’ll have show notes, and we will have a link to the Florida Lathe and Plaster Bureau, along with a link to the particular document that we’ve discussed today. And also,, if you’d rather go there we’ll have the same links there as well. So thank you, everyone. And until next time, this is Paul Beers saying so long.