Field Chat – Text Messaging for Construction Projects

Stephen Smith – FieldChat

  • About Stephen Smith
  • What is Field Chat
  • Job Site Communication
  • FieldChat Platform
  • Text Messaging

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!

Chris: Welcome everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, VP and principal consultant with GCI Consultants and I’ll be your host today. I’m really excited to have as our guest Stephen Smith from FieldChat. I’m interested to learn about FieldChat’s capabilities and hearing all about that from Steve. Steve, why don’t you introduce yourself and then let’s jump into our topic.

Stephen: Hey, Chris, happy to be here. Super excited to be on the podcast. Thanks for having me. A little bit about my background. I’m a computer guy. I’ve been building apps for the software world for, oh well over 20 years. In the past couple of years, I got pulled into the construction world and really started focusing on that communication problem that we saw in construction. I’m one of the co-founders here at FieldChat. Through my early years, construction was kind of a little bit in my blood. I grew up on a farm up here in rural Ontario and I’ve lived in my childhood through building barns and building arenas and all kinds of construction. So, even though I’ve been kind of in the tech world for most of my career, it was super fun to kind of come back to construction and, you know, kind of relive some of the things that I saw when I was quite a bit younger.

Chris: Neat. Yeah. So, that’s great. You could kind of combine those backgrounds and come up with what, with your offering today. So, can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of FieldChat?

Stephen: Well, co-founder and I, we have a common friend who owns a large construction business. And I had been finishing off my last software project and was looking for the next thing to do. And he invited us to come in and spend time interviewing people at his company, at various job sites all across North America. And this is a large multi-trade specialty contractor. They do electrical and mechanical, mostly on the industrial and commercial side. And we spent a lot of time on job sites, talking to people, talking to project managers and foreman and superintendent. And one consistent theme that came out of all those interviews and conversations was communication. It’s a real challenge. People are using many different ways to communicate, phone calls, emails, WhatsApp, text messages, group meets, face to face conversations, you know, napkins. And it’s really, really hard, especially when you’ve got a bunch of different companies all trying to together to build something great to keep everyone on the same page.

And one thing in particular that we saw was especially as younger generations move into more progressive roles in the job site, this explosion around text messaging. People are using texting like crazy on job sites to get work done, to communicate, coordinate, to document issues, take pictures, schedule, logistics. And the problem is, is that those text messages are trapped on people’s phones. It’s the easiest way to get people from different companies to communicate together because it’s hard to get everybody all to use one common technology. It’s hard to get everybody, say, to use one app, like WhatsApp, but texting just works and it’s super, super easy. All you need in order to be able to communicate with somebody from another company is their phone number. And then you can immediately send them information and pictures in real-time. And from that perspective, texting is perfect.

But then in terms of having, you know, a central place where all that information is stored and captured and where you can go back and look at things if there’s disputes, it’s a nightmare. And, you know, we talked to project managers that were saying, you know, I’m getting 50, 100, 150 text messages a day and I can’t stay on top of it. On the one hand, it’s great for keeping everybody on the same page, but using, you know, my tiny phone as the way to manage all this communication is also really, really ineffective. So, we saw that and we just thought there’s a huge opportunity here to do something better, to take the power of text messaging but then organize it and, you know, provide an interface that makes it easy for people to manage multiple conversations across multiple projects, have it all searchable and auditable. And so, that really was the genesis of FieldChat.

Chris: That’s great. And as an older guy, I’ve seen that progression in the communication on the sites. Just as you describe it, five, six, seven, eight years ago, even though techs had been around for a long time, it really hadn’t made its way into the job site communication. Then in the last four or five years as you said, as the younger generation has come into more leadership roles on the site, you see that. And another thing I thought of as you were describing some of the challenges with text is that who all needs to be in on that conversation as well. It’s usually just person to person, but you may need this person involved or getting some of that information. So, some great things and some challenges that I’m sure you guys identified. So what are some of the benefits that teams see when they’re using FieldChat?

Stephen: Well, I think the biggest thing is that you’re getting everybody on the same page in a way that it’s hard to do without something like FieldChat. So, you have communication between, you know, headquarters, the people on the ground, on the job site, and communications with your subcontractors. That communication flow is dramatically improved because now you’ve got the right people involved in the conversation. Really at the beginning of a project, you set up the conversations the way that you want it to work. And it also eliminates rework because once you have this communication flowing more effectively, it allows people in the right roles to help catch errors, mistakes, potential problems before they happen. And that’s what we hear from our customers is, you know, up to three-quarters of mistakes are caught in advance because you’ve just got this higher velocity of information flow and you’ve got the right people involved in these conversations as opposed to just a bunch of one-on-one conversation happening.

So, ultimately, you know, you’ve got teams that, with that increased information flow, become more productive because they’re getting the information that they need in order to do their jobs more quickly. There’s also, you know, kind of a related benefit that some of our customers use FieldChat for. And that is really for site broadcast. So, you know, you can use FieldChat to make sure that your foreman and supers and project managers and engineers are, you know, all on the same page and executing work. But there’s also a mode in which you can enroll every single tradesperson on the job site to, you know, one-way broadcast messages. And these can be, you know, messages about, you know, safety, they can be, you know, mandatory site meetings and, you know, even effectively allows that communication to be the ends trade person that makes sure that what’s happening on the job site is, you know, being conducted in a safe and well-orchestrated manner.

Chris: Sure. I can definitely see the benefits from a safety standpoint. You know, you’ve got lightning in the area or something like that that would affect the exterior trades and to think there’s a quick and effective way to communicate with every single person on the site, that’s…you can definitely see the benefits of that. So, how does FieldChat work?

Stephen: Well, basically there is an app that you can install, there is, and this is what you know the managers would use. You can also run it on your laptop, but a lot of the foreman and end tradespeople, if they’re part of FieldChat, they’re just texting. And so, you can add anyone to FieldChat just by putting in their phone number. Or tradespeople can self enroll by scanning a QR code that you can put on the job site and it will automatically add you into the app. Unlike group texting, people don’t get dropped. You know, I think if you’ve ever tried to set up a group text and you’ve had both Android and iPhone users, it can be a nightmare because as crazy as it sounds, group texting doesn’t work very well across iPhones and Android devices.

But FieldChat takes care of that issue. And really it doesn’t matter whether you’re texting using the FieldChat mobile app or you’re on the desktop, it kind of sends the same information to all those people regardless of how they’re communicating through FieldChat. And it’s all centrally organized and in one place. And really how it works is you set up channels which are really just groups of people and every channel has its own distinct phone number. So, general contractor would often set up FieldChat where they might have, you know, maybe some groups for all their superintendents and maybe another group that’s for the internal GC management team. And then they would have channels for each of their individual major subcontractors. So, you know, you might have an electrical channel, a mechanical channel, you might have, you know, a framing channel. And, you know, depending on the size of the project, you might have 15, 20 channels for each of your major trades.

And then you include the right people from the general contractors as well as, you know, the right people from that sub that are coordinating the work. And then you can, you know, have a bunch of simultaneous conversations going on but in a very organized way within FieldChat. And it just, it helps, you know, somebody who’s maybe the project manager at the GC can have kind of a view across all of these conversations, see what’s going on, catch things before they happen and, you know, help make sure that people are on the same page. But. you know, we also have multi-trade and subcontractors using the platform as well. And when they use FieldChat, they would often, you know, organize the communications by job and by team. And then it’s more of a tool for helping, you know, communicate between, you know, head office and the project managers and the people that are working on different jobs.

Chris: So, they may be using it more on a company level from their perspective. And I guess even if maybe the general contractor wasn’t using it on a certain site, they may still be using it from a company perspective for themselves or I guess it could be that the GC was using it as well.

Stephen: That’s right. In some cases, you might have both companies using FieldChat and they, you know, the channels that they both see and communicate with each other on and then some channels that are private to their respective company.

Chris: Interesting. So, how’s it different from traditional texting or WhatsApp or one of those options?

Stephen: Well, you know, none of those tools were really built for construction. And so, you know, the FieldChat really provides an organized view by project and by team. And it works really, really well with texting so that you can add somebody into FieldChat without them having to install an app. If you, you know, have 30 companies all working together on a big project, it’s well nigh impossible to get them all to agree to use something like WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams or Slack. But everybody can text message.

So, you know, FieldChat works really well with text messaging but it organizes it in a way that, you know, you can’t do with texting. Texting is chaos. You know, group chats don’t work very well in texting because of the Android and iOS challenges. And then, you know, if you’ve got 50 one-to-one texting conversations going on, it very quickly becomes extremely hard for a, you know, a project manager to stay on top of all of that. So, you know, we’ve taken some of the good things about a product like WhatsApp that’s super easy to use but make it work really well with texting, centralized all that information so that you, you know, regardless of who’s having the conversation, it’s all searchable after the fact. You’ve got this record. If there’s ever a dispute later, you can go back and understand who said what.

And, you know, it also supports some construction-specific use cases. Like, you know, I may want to send a reminder to people on the job site first in the morning, you know, to remind them that maybe there’s an inspector coming or there’s a new person starting or maybe there’s an issue that I saw in reviewing the communication. But I don’t want to bother these people at 10 o’clock at night. So, you know, I can schedule messages to get sent out when people first arrive on the job site. And, you know, FieldChat has other features that are really designed to work really well with existing construction management systems and workflows that, you know, general contractors and especially contractors already have in place.

Chris: Nice. Sounds great. And definitely you guys have put a lot of thought into how it can make everybody more efficient. What devices is it compatible with?

Stephen: It will pretty much work with any device that’s capable of sending a text message. Literally even a, you know, year 2000 era Motorola Razr flip phone, it will work with. As long as you have a device which is capable of supporting text messaging, it will work with FieldChat and then, of course, you’ll chat also has Android and iPhone apps as well as a desktop app that that just runs inside a browser. So, you know, no matter what technology you have in your hands, whether, you know, regardless of whether it’s an old phone or a smartphone or a tablet or a laptop, you can access FieldChat.

Chris: Right. So, and I think you had touched on this, so it integrates with construction management software?

Stephen: Yeah. We realized that very quickly that FieldChat has to work really well with your existing workflows that construction companies already have in place. So, we have integrations with Procore, PlanGrid, BIM 360, and those integrations make it easy to do things like share contact information that you may already have in your project directory. Use the same credentials that you already use in say, Procore or PlanGrid, do things like upload pictures. So, you know, one of the crazy things that we saw on job sites back in the early days is project managers would get text messages with pictures from their subcontractors and then they’d have to do not so fun things like try to email themselves those pictures so that they could get them back into their project management system. So, you know, FieldChat makes it easy to automatically take those pictures that maybe a subcontractor has sent in and automatically upload them into your construction management system.

And in some cases, for example, with Procore, you can run FieldChat. Have an embedded app right inside, you know, the Procore app. So, it doesn’t feel like you’re learning a new tool or you know, you have to log into something different in order to use FieldChat. And really trying to make it easy so that when, you know, a communication comes in from someone, you can take action as quickly as possible, you know, within that project management system. So, you know, hey, somebody raises a safety issue and it comes in as a text message. I should be able to go and create a safety observation really quickly so that it’s tracked.

Same thing with you know, punch list items or, you know, other things that require actions to be taken and tracked. That’s really hard today for a lot of companies to bridge those worlds. And that’s why a lot of stuff gets missed because somebody said something, you know, in an email or a text message or in a face to face conversation, but then, you know, it got lost. It didn’t get captured. It didn’t get put into the right workflow in the construction management system so that it actually gets dealt with. So we’re trying to do everything we can to make that easier and bridge that, you know, that world of kind of human communication back into the workflow.

Chris: Yeah. That’s great. And I could definitely see the advantages there. People don’t want to have all these different systems that they’re working across and trying to pile information from one system into another. So, to me, that would be a big benefit there. It’s all within that construction management software. The efficiency there sounds great to me. So how easy is it to get your team going and set up with FieldChat?

Stephen: It’s pretty easy. The only thing that you really need to decide is how you want to set up these groups that are called channels. So, when you look at the project and you get started, you have to decide, okay, how am I going to communicate with these people? And, you know, on a typical project, like I said, you might have a couple of groups or channels that are set up for your internal teams and maybe that span across all the superintendents, foreman, and then channels for each of your subcontractors to make it easy to coordinate, you know, with each of your subs. And so what you do is you sign up for FieldChat, you create your first channel, and you add people into that channel. You give that channel a name and you invite people to FieldChat just by putting in their phone numbers.

So, it’s pretty easy once you’ve made that decision about kind of what your first couple of channels need to be and then you just start inviting people. And people get it pretty quickly because, you know, at the end of the day, it’s just like texting. You’re texting to a different phone number, to a FieldChat phone number that’s assigned to the project, but, you know, everybody knows how to text. So, they’ll get a text message that says, “Hey, you’ve been added to, you know, the superintendent channel on the 123 Queen Street project.” And all they need to do is reply to that message. They can save it in their phone contacts so they can refer to it later. And you really don’t have to learn a new app or do anything different.

Chris: So, from the end-user, the guy out on the site, like you said, you know, every single person out there could be connected, it just looks like texting to them?

Stephen: That’s right. It just looks like a text message. It has the name of the job or the project, and it has the name of the, you know, the person that sent the message, and you just reply back to it. So, it’s super obvious, you know, who sent this, what job is this for? And then you see the message and you can just reply back and everything just appears inside FieldChat. So, you know, you can be the person back in the office with their laptop open and you can be having, you know, conversations to, you know, all of your subcontractors. They’re getting the text messages, they’re replying back as text messages, but you’re seeing it all organized in one spot.

Chris: Nice. So what kind of teams do you have using this now?

Stephen: Oh boy. We have all kinds of teams. You know, the product we found is amazingly useful across, you know, residential, commercial, industrial projects. We have, you know, homebuilders, scattered lot home builders that are, you know, building single-family homes using the product. And for them, you know, it’s about the fact that they, you know, they might have 10 or 20 homes on the go. And, you know, there’s people moving around from one job to the next that are doing all the coordination with the subs. And, you know, this really helps get it organized. We have, you know, condo towers and large condo developers that use the product. And, you know, in that case, you’ve got a lot of subcontractors on-site and it’s, you know, it could be a larger site at the tower. You’ve got people all over the place or if it’s a, you know, a big job site, it just makes it easy.

You know, when you’re dealing with the fact that, you know, to get to someone or find someone on the site could take you 15 minutes. You know, hydroelectric dams, commercial industrial projects, airports, we’ve got, you know, a bunch of different kinds of applications using FieldChat. And then, you know, we have subcontractors or specialty contractors using FieldChat as well. So, you know, people that do civil work, people that build foundations, people that do mechanical, electrical use FieldChat. And then, you know, as we touched on earlier, it’s more about, you know, that coordination with different teams working across different jobs.

Chris: Great. Well, I think you’ve really given our listeners a lot of information about what sounds like a really useful upgrade to communication on job sites. I can speak from experience that it’s a big challenge and I think you definitely have addressed a lot of those challenges. And it sounds like a real leap forward in communication on the site. I’d sure like to thank you for joining us today. And I’d like to thank our listeners for tuning into our podcast. Steve, if any listeners want to reach out to you, what is your website address and the best way for them to contact you?

Stephen: So, the best way is just to go to to the FieldChat website, which is and you can speak to us just by booking some time with us. So you can book a meeting right on our website and be happy to answer all your questions, hear about your specific organization and try to help you figure out how you might be able to use the FieldChat to improve your business.

Chris: All right, well, thank you again, Stephen Smith, for joining from FieldChat for joining us today. We also invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultant services on our website at You can also reach us at (877) 740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you once again and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

Drainage vs. Barrier Wall Systems

Chris Matthews, Jason Bondurant & Bret Taylor – GCI Consultants

  • About Bret Taylor & Jason Bondurant
  • Barrier vs Drainage Wall Construction
  • Drainage Wall Systems
  • Cladding Systems
  • Barrier Wall Systems
  • Mass Wall 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!

Chris: Welcome everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews of GCI Consultants and I will be your host today. I’m really excited today to have, as my guest, two of our forensic engineers at GCI, Bret Taylor, and Jason Bondurant. And we’ll be talking to you about a very interesting topic today, barrier versus drainage wall construction. First, I’d like to introduce my guests and have them tell you a little bit about themselves. Bret, why don’t you introduce yourself to our audience?

Bret: Hi, I’m Bret Taylor, a senior consultant too with GCI. I’ve been in the engineering and building envelope industry now for about 27 years. I graduated from NC State, North Carolina, back in the early ’90s. And I’ve kind of progressed from pure structural engineering into building envelope and forensic investigation, litigation support type work for GCI.

Chris: Thanks, Bret. And, Jason, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Jason: Hi, my name is Jason Bondurant and I’m a Senior Consultant with GCI for about six years now. I work mostly in forensics and dealing with problems with existing buildings.

Chris: All right. Thanks, guys. So, as I said, we’re going to talk today about drainage walls and barrier walls. We think it’d probably be best just to define what we mean by those types of walls first. So, Bret, can you kind of explain how we would define a drainage wall system?

Bret: Yeah. Well, in general, a drainage wall system is going to be a system in which there’s an exterior cladding behind which there will be some form of the drainage plane made up of different construction components, just depending on what’s needed for the area that you or the building happens to be in.

So, the general premise is that the exterior cladding controls the majority of the water, but based on experience and years of construction and co-development, it’s commonly known that there’s gonna be some sort of moisture that’ll make its way behind the primary cladding system and that hence little water will need to be drained back out to the exterior. So, with the drainage wall system, we typically understand that we’ll have to provide some sort of flashing to redirect that and send that water back out to the exterior.

Chris: And I think maybe like kind of the most commonly known or the most historic method of that would be a masonry veneer with through-wall flashing would kind of be the typical go-to reference for that type of construction. Jason, what are some other types of cladding systems that we see in a drainage wall application?

Jason: So, I would say one of the most common these days that we deal with are stucco and modern brick systems, which also incorporate some type of weather barrier behind the stucco and eaves and through-wall flashing to manage that incidental water penetration. And then there’s other types as well, like metal panel wall systems.

Chris: Yeah. We see metal panels sometimes some flowstone veneers, different types of siding systems. Pretty much any type of cladding system that’s going to go over a backup wall should be set up as a drainage wall system. And then comparing that or contrasting that to a barrier wall system, Jason, can you kind of explain how we would define a barrier wall?

Jason: Yeah. So, a barrier wall system, unlike a drainage wall system, a barrier wall system is really designed to stop all water at the exterior face of the wall. So, there would be no provision to manage any water that got behind that exterior plane of the wall. So, typically the wall is going to rely on exterior coating, sealers, and sealant joints to keep 100% of the water out of the building. It’s basically a zero-tolerance type of a wall.

Chris: And some of the types of barrier wall systems that we work with would be…

Jason: And I would say that for us, based in South Florida, this is the most common type of wall system that we deal with on a regular basis. And most commonly in South Florida, that would be stucco direct applied bonded over CMU and concrete walls. That’s the most common type of barrier wall system that we deal with.

Chris: Sure. And then in some of the larger buildings, commercial buildings, healthcare buildings, buildings in other areas of the country that we work on, precast panels, tilt-up walls, those types of things are also a real common type that I think of that are a barrier wall assembly. Then we had also talked about kind of one other historic type that we’re not gonna touch on as much, but that’s a mass wall system. Can you talk to us a little bit about the concept of that, Jason?

Jason: Yeah. So, the mass wall is not something that we see too often, but we do deal with it sometimes when we’re dealing with problems with much older buildings. And basically, the mass wall system, it’s essentially just relying on the sheer thickness of the wall and the ability of the wall materials to absorb and handle the moisture in order to keep the water out. So, essentially what’s happening is the wall is getting wet and then you’re just relying on the evaporation of that moisture to dry it out. And so, usually, the types of walls that we see that are managing the moisture in this way are more historic masonry-type wall systems, multi-ways, you know, brick types of walls, or other types of masonry cladding.

Chris: And I think, Bret, you had mentioned that an older type of construction that you’ve worked on, some with direct applied stucco mass wall application where they didn’t have an exterior paint on those?

Bret: Yeah. That’s correct. In South Florida area, it’s going to be direct applied stucco to CMU or maybe some other type of brick or block. But the older systems would typically, it would either be just a grey stucco or perhaps a tinted stucco. So, the tinting would address the coloration needs so that there would be no paint applied to the exterior.

Chris: And I’m telling you guys that I worked on and continue to work on a lot of projects down in the Cayman Islands and their construction method down there was similar to what Bret was saying where they would build a CMU wall, put a stucco render on the outside, and then they wouldn’t do furring and drywall like we would do here in the U.S., they would just do a plaster render on the inside of the wall with the idea being in their climate, the wall was going to get wet and they would just let it dry out. They didn’t even try to have any components there that wouldn’t be tolerant to constant wetting and drying. So, something that we don’t see very often nowadays, but another type of wall that’s out there.

Bret: So, Chris, I’ll add to that as well. That’s, or at least it was back in ’95 era. That’s how they built them in Germany. Believe it or not, over there they would use different type of block coat. So, they would have a foundational block that was a solid limestone-type cementitious material for the foundation walls. But for the upper walls or insulation, they would actually use an extruded clay block that had air entrainment in the actual clay itself.

And these things were…gosh, they must’ve been at least 12 inches wide with diamond shape, you know, extrusions on the interior and that provided the insulative piece. But then they would do a direct applied stucco on the outside and, just as you mentioned, a plaster rendering on the inside. So, they, you know, being in Germany, that’s how they got their installation with that diamond shape air void system in the block itself. So, you know, that system can be applied anywhere really with different materials.

Chris: Right. So, in those different parts of the world, it may still be a pretty common construction method, even though here we’re seeing more of the barrier and drainage type walls on the newer projects that we deal with?

Bret: Right.

Chris: So, we were going to talk some about the pros and cons of each type of system and I think just generally the performance of each type. So, Bret, could you start the conversation about the drainage wall system and some of the pros and cons and construction concerns with that type of wall system?

Bret: Sure. There are many, but to keep it relatively generic, I guess some of the pros with the drainage wall system is it does offer some redundancy, it allows you to drain any incidental water that may make its way in. And for those of you that have been following our other podcasts, you’ve heard that, you know, windows systems have a limit. They’re designed for structural capacity, but they also have some level of water resistivity, but they’re not going to resist all storm events depending on what that particular window unit is designed for.

So, if you do have a storm event that occurs that exceeds that window’s capacity, you could have some interior infiltration around or even through the window, or you could just have infiltration at other penetrations in the wall or detailing conditions in that wall. So, the redundancy that the drainage system provides and the flashing provided to kick the water back out to the exterior is definitely a pro.

An example of a con might be, at least compared to, let’s say, direct applied stucco to the block, it could be an additional cost. The detailing between the envelope components and flashing the architectural detailing and all those things could really complicate the construction and elevate the costs and perhaps even create conditions, which are, you know, really difficult to properly provide waterproofing and sealing for. So, and a lot of the newer construct is really turning out that way.

The newer construction has a lot of different architectural transitions, we’ll call them, you know, for example, bump-outs in the wall or corners in the wall, decks, patios, those types of things are going to create conditions in which you really have to pay attention to the detailing and the flashing.

Chris: And as you said, I mean, it’s a great system and I think is the logical method in that the idea being that water will get behind these cladding systems, hopefully not a lot of water, hopefully just incidental, as you said, but the plan should be that it will and that it needs to be managed. But there is a lot of workmanship, from our experience, that’s required in…workmanship and detailing required to get these things right. And as you both know, we go to a lot of jobs where it wasn’t done right and there are some pretty severe problems either by a bad plan about how these weather barriers and flashings are installed and integrated or poor execution, poor workmanship in putting those materials together.

I think a lot of people understand the purpose of the weather barrier to protect that wall behind the exterior cladding, but we also find a lot of people that don’t understand that that drainage flashing is just as important. I don’t know what you guys feel about that, but I often see buildings that are wrapped up great, but there is no through-wall flashing or it’s not properly integrated, and I try to explain to people that no matter how well you protect that wall, if you don’t drain that water out, eventually it’s going to find a way back in.

Bret: That’s right. And what I was gonna say is, the devil’s in the details. And really, I’ve seen both conditions in which the detailing wasn’t necessarily perfect, but there wasn’t, you know, any damage there. So, it was functioning. Then I’ve seen conditions where it was done properly, but maybe someone had penetrated the WRB, the weather-resistive barrier. I’ve seen conditions where bulk water was being allowed to enter and even though it was constructed properly, that bulk water just overloaded the system. So, it really boils down to the devil’s in the details and the construction has to be correct.

But, you know, the concept of a drainage wall is the drainage is only for incidental water. So, if the cladding on the exterior and the attention to detail around the sealant of paint and guttering, you know, anything that could force bulk water behind the system really has to be thought about. And then typically, that’s gonna fall on the designer of record that’s providing design and detailing for the wall construction itself.

Jason: Right. And, Bret, one thing that I was gonna add on to that, which is also I would consider a con to this type of a wall system is when we are dealing with problems with a drainage wall system, a lot of times it’s necessary to do some type of destructive testing in order to get to the bottom of where the leak is coming from because the wall system is relying on that drainage plane and that weather barrier which is concealed behind the exterior cladding. So, I would consider that another con.

Chris: Yeah. That’s a great point. Go ahead. Sorry, Bret, go ahead.

Bret: Depending on the way it was built, the water, you know, as we all know, water can travel in strange ways. So, depending on how it was built, how the water’s traveling, I mean, it could be coming from anywhere. And you’re right, you have to do DT most often in order to determine where that water’s coming in, obviously, using proper testing methods with ASTM E2128 and/or, you know, ASTM E1105 testing to trace that path of water, recreate the leakage event and then trace that path of water. I have been lucky though, a couple of times I’ve actually been able to trace the path of water without doing DT. It’s not very common, but if you have enough time and the conditions are right and you can isolate on the exterior sufficiently, it is possible to, you know, drill-down and find, you know, the only one remaining thing that it could be letting water in. But that’s very rare.

Chris: Right. Yeah. I’ve had the same experience that once in a while you can but, unfortunately, if there’s a leak problem, you can usually recreate it pretty easily, but tracking down what’s going on, as you said, Bret, you usually have to remove that wall cladding to get in there and determine what the problems are or hopefully…or how they’re going to correct them as well. I think another thing along that same line is that diagnosing them usually requires destructive testing, and then correcting them are usually very expensive problems to correct because the problems are usually hidden details behind the exterior wall cladding and that gets expensive fast to correct those.

Bret: That does. Yeah, definitely in comparison to a barrier system.

Chris: So, Jason, why don’t you talk to us about the barrier wall systems, some pros and cons that we see with that type system.

Jason: I would say one of the biggest pros, just generally, is that a barrier wall system, I would consider it to be much simpler in that you’re only relying on that exterior face of the wall to resist all the moisture penetration. So, in terms of, you know, like we were just talking about, diagnosing problems and tracing leaks, that becomes a lot simpler with this type of a wall because you can actually see that exterior plane of the wall that’s supposed to resist the water, and you can see to the condition of the coatings and sealants that are intended to resist that water. And the detailing is much simpler because you don’t have to worry about the through-wall flashing and the transitions become a little bit simpler. And so, you know, I would say those are the main pros of a barrier wall system.

As far as the cons go, and we already talked about this a little bit, but there’s a single line of defense. So, there’s no redundancy in the system, unlike the drainage wall system. So, if there’s any minor deficiency with the coating or the sealants, or if there’s an issue with the stucco, or any other type of minor deficiency in the exterior of the wall if it’s going to allow water pass that exterior plane of the wall, then it’s getting into the building and it’s a problem.

And in line with that, because it’s a single line of defense and you are relying on the coatings and the sealants, you’re relying heavily on the installation of those coatings and sealants. So, you become more reliant on the workmanship of the applicator. And, you know, when you have a large building and you’re applying thousands of feet of sealants, you know, it’s not unusual that you could have some problems here or there with the application of the sealant. So, that’s probably the major cons. And then, of course, you know, over the long-term, as those coatings and sealants tend to wear out, you know, they’ll obviously need to be maintained in order to keep the wall performing as it was intended.

Chris: Right. I guess in theory in comparing that or contrasting that to the drainage wall, in theory, those interior, if those concealed components, the weather barrier through-wall flashings, those water control details behind the cladding, if those are installed properly from the beginning, in theory, there’s minimal maintenance that could be done and that would be required to be done to those. Still would need to be, as Bret was saying earlier, you’d still need to be replacing sealants and those kinds of things, the exposed details, but the actual water control details should last I don’t want to say forever, but for a long time in that wall cavity versus, you know, constant painting of those or coatings, as you mentioned, on the barrier type walls.

Bret: So, the other con, guys, as well for the barrier wall system is, as I mentioned before, if the window system experiences a storm event that overloads it with respect to water intrusion, then you are going to have water come in. Now, I guess one good way to look at that is that if you do have that type of event, typically that’s kind of an insurance loss type situation. Perhaps you will know that the water comes in, you can address it, you know, it’ll be on the interior and hopefully, you can correct it so that it doesn’t become an issue within the wall.

Another kind of pro and/or con is that, let’s say you do get water behind the paint, which is the barrier, let’s say it’s a mass wall to stucco on block type situation with paint. Now, it’s a barrier wall system. If you get wall into the mass of the wall itself or water into the mass of the wall itself, then it’s gonna want to find its way out. So, if you have a paint on the exterior, it will come through and bubble up the paint. So, you’ll know right away if you have a problem versus if you have a drainage wall system, you may have a water intrusion issue into the wall cavity itself, it’s bypassed the drainage plan.

And if that occurs, typically it’s a wood wall construction, you could have rotten degradation that could be occurring over years and years without you knowing it. So, a lot of people want to say, “Well, I don’t want to put paint on the stucco and block wall because you know, that could have a bubbling of paint.” Well, that’s true but as long as it’s done right you shouldn’t have this scenario. And if it’s not done right, you typically know right away that you’ve got to address the problem.

Chris: Right. For sure. Yeah. Okay, guys, so we’ve talked a lot about the different types of construction and we at GCI travel all over the country looking at different types of projects. Bret, where do we kind of predominantly see these different types of systems that we’re talking about?

Bret: Well, for us in South Florida, you’re typically going to see the stucco on block or stucco on concrete frame buildings. There can be some hybrids, obviously, depending on whether or not it’s a residential versus a commercial structure, but that’s what we’ll typically see in South Florida. And then as you transition up the state, we start to see more and more wood frame construction. So, we transition from barrier wall systems to drainage wall systems.

And going further north, I’m sure it transitions even more and more to wood frame. Obviously, staying away from the coast, but throughout the country you are typically gonna have these days, I think it’s going to be mostly drainage wall systems, wood frame construction. If it’s commercial, perhaps steel frame or concrete frame buildings with metal framing infills, you could have brick veneers, you could have other siding materials throughout the country.

It just depends typically on what part of the country you’re in, what the requirements are for energy efficiency in installation, how things are done in that particular market perhaps. And again, then in South Florida where we’re heavy on the stucco, so. you know, that’s a cheaper and, I guess, faster installation for us in theory versus some parts of the country, it may be more expensive finding material to use, but I have seen it, for example, up in far north as you know, Pennsylvania.

Chris: Sure. And we do go all over on new and forensic assignments. And as you were talking, I was thinking that we’ve got a 26-storey new construction project in Atlanta right now that’s steel frame construction, steel frame infills, and that’s a modular construction of both eaves and stucco. But that’s all drainage wall.

So, certainly, a lot of drainage walls in other parts of the country where we work. And then a kind of very simple barrier type wall that we see all over the country and we haven’t talked about much about would just be precast or tilt-up walls that we see on lots of large commercial buildings all over the country. So, yeah, that’s kind of what we see in our South Florida market where our home base is. We have kind of that unique direct applied stucco that is not used as much in the other parts of the country that we travel to.

Well, I want to thank Bret and Jason for joining me today on the podcast. And I would like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast. We invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultants services on our website at You can also reach us at 877-740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you once again, and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

Facade Investigations

Chris Matthews, Jason Bondurant & Shuana Serafini – GCI Consultants

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

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

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

Chris: Welcome everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews of GCI Consultants, and I’ll be your host today. I’m really excited to be joined today by two of our senior consultants here at GCI, Shauna Serafini and Jason Bondurant.

We’ve got an interesting topic that we all have a lot of passion for today, and we’ll be talking to you about facade investigations. So, first, let me let Shauna and Jason give you a brief introduction, and then we’ll get into this interesting topic. Shauna, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Shauna: So, hi, everyone. This is Shauna. I’ve been with GCI now for about 10 years. I’m a senior consultant here. I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. I have a LEED Green Associate certification, and I typically work on new construction and restoration projects.

Chris: Great. Thank you, Shauna. Jason, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Jason: Hi, everyone. My name is Jason. I’m a senior consultant. I’ve been with GCI for about six years. These days I’m mainly working on the forensic side, so I’m dealing with problems with existing buildings and assessing the condition and performance of facade and coming up with plans to repair them.

Chris: Thanks, Jason. And we do a lot of teamwork here at GCI, and I get to work a lot with Jason and Shauna in a lot of the interesting projects that they get out there and help our clients with. So, our topic today is facade investigations. That may mean a lot of different things to different people. So, Jason, why don’t you kind of define what we at GCI mean by a facade investigation?

Jason: Well, I guess first we should define facade, which is basically the exterior face of the building and the facade performs multiple different functions, you know, one being the exterior face. So it’s, you know, essentially the overall appearance of the building, but it performs other functions as well, which is mainly what we’re concerned with, which is keeping water out of the building and controlling the interior climate, sound control, and a whole list of other functions.

And so, when we say facade investigation, typically what we mean is we are assessing the condition and the performance of the existing building facade. And for the purposes of this podcast, we’ll probably be using the terms facade and building envelope interchangeably, but basically just assessing the condition of performance, identifying problems and any dysfunctional elements with the facade. That’s generally, typically, what we mean.

Chris: Sure. Great. And so, Shauna, what are some of the different reasons that someone may call us out for a facade investigation?

Shauna: So, one of the main reasons is really due diligence work for a real estate transaction. So, either the client’s calling us because they’re wanting to buy a property or wanting to sell their property. And this is really where we’re doing a condition survey of the building to determine performing, basically.

Chris: Right. And what the condition of their exterior envelope systems are, and maybe if they’re either purchasing or selling a building, what some of the maintenance or upkeep requirements may be near-term and long-term. A lot of our clients are looking at these buildings as major investments. So, part of that equation for them is what are the upkeep and repair costs that they may have. So, we try to help them with those kinds of things. What are some of the systems that we might be looking at, Shauna?

Shauna: So, stucco is definitely a major one that we’re looking at. Large cracks, movement cracks, how do those get repaired? And there’s a lot of ceilings that needs to be reviewed? Wall penetrations, the glazing systems, you know, are they impacts, are they up to date? Do they meet code requirements?

You know, exposed waterproofing conditions, you know, how are the balconies looking? Do they have waterproofing? Are they exposed? Really, how does the concrete look on the balconies? Do those need repairs? The roof is a major area also, and the list goes on.

Chris: Yeah, sure. Even gets in sometimes to parking decks, a condition of those exposed areas of a parking deck. Lots of different aspects of the exterior of a building that can be big-dollar items if they’re not well maintained or if there are problems.

And then, Jason, we also get called for condition assessments that may not be specifically related to a real estate transaction. It may be somebody who has a building and just wants to know something about the conditions of their systems, right?

Jason: Right. So, we’re often hired by building owners, condo associations who own the building, and so own the building for a long period of time in the future. And even if there’s not necessarily a particular problem with the building at this point in time, it’s oftentimes very helpful for them to understand what the existing condition of the building envelope systems are.

And more importantly, what is the expected life of those existing systems so that they can basically plan for not only maintenance, but replacement of those systems when the time comes. And so, basically just to help them budget for future expenses.

Chris: And sometimes it may be as simple as someone has maybe a roof, Shauna had mentioned roofs, maybe a roof that they know is a little older. It may not be under warranty anymore. Maybe they’re not the original building owner, so they don’t have warranty documentation on the roof.

They’ve got some roof leaks, but they need someone to come in and say, “Is it time to replace my roof? Can I get five more years out of it with some maintenance? Is it worth doing maintenance? What are my maintenance options?” those kinds of things.

Again, can be big-dollar items for a building owner that we can help with. And then, Shauna, for our listeners, can you kind of explain our role as that independent third-party when we come in to do that assessment versus maybe someone who has an interest in installing something on the building?

Shauna: So, we’re basically performing a leadership role in sort of a non-biased opinion. You know, we have no sort of vested interest in really who or what, you know, does the work. So, you know, basically we’ll go out and we’ll perform an initial investigation, do sort of a comprehensive report on what we find, provide that to the client with schematic recommendations on how certain systems can be repaired or, you know, for recommending replacement.

You know, we can help the client select contractors and go through the whole bid process with them. And then if they actually decide to do the repair or replacement work, we can be on site as a third-party sort of inspector to make sure the work is getting done in accordance with, you know, the way we want it done and manufacturer recommendations and industry standard, basically.

So, that could mean, you know, being on site full-time during the restoration process or repair process, performing some testing on certain elements of the envelope to make sure the repairs are done properly and really just seeing it through to the end of the repair process.

Chris: Right. And that can be a repair of a specific problem or you’ve been involved…well, both of you, and, Shauna, not long ago you were involved with a major restoration project at a big hotel where we were…I think that wasn’t specifically repairs, right? That was just that they had all kinds of exterior systems that they were bringing up to date, bringing current, and we were involved for probably over a year out there. Isn’t that right?

Shauna: At least. Yeah. Yeah. We had a big project in downtown Hollywood, and we were there probably a couple of years actually, but it was a lot of sealant repair work. You know the sealants have been on the building 20-plus years. They needed some replacement, a lot of delaminated stucco issues.

So, there was a lot of stucco repair work. Some of the exposed balconies, you know, needed sort of minor concrete restoration. We did a lot of water testing on the glazing systems after they did all the sealant work and the sealant repairs. And that was when we actually were there from sort of the beginning through the end of the construction process, full-time, right. And now we’re done.

Chris: Sorry. So, that starts with kind of a facade investigation to…they’ve got a hotel, it’s looking a little run down. It’s a high-end property. We want it to look good. We want our people to come and visit our hotel. So, they’ve set aside some funds to do some work, but they contact GCI and say, “Can you come in, look at my exterior envelope? What’s the condition of these different systems here? Where should my money be spent?”

And then they can assess, “This is what we have available to work with. These are the systems. And we can kind of prioritize what needs to be done to make the building look as good as it can and perform as well as it can for as long as it can.” And I think that was a very successful project for them and for GCI. All the parties were really happy with the results.

Shauna: That same client actually led us to a project in Houston that they were looking to buy some property there, then they asked us to come in and do a sort of a condition assessment of the building before they decided if they were going to buy this property or not.

So, we did some leak investigation out there, some survey work and basically the results, you know, showed that, you know, they had this masonry veneer system that really wasn’t properly draining or really designed to drain. So ultimately, you know, they decided not to buy the property based on our evaluation of the building.

Chris: So, and obviously they have lots of things to consider, you know, beyond just the building envelope. But in that case, input that we provided, steered them in another direction because they didn’t want to take on what they saw as a potential big-dollar exterior envelope situation in a building they were considering buying.

And that’s probably the most dramatic. And I know, Jason, you’ve done a lot of these due diligence real estate transaction inspections. Usually, it’s not that dramatic, but we may be more looking at kind of assessing systems and what may be coming up soon. Isn’t that kind of more typically what we would be seeing?

Jason: Yeah. I mean, I think that the main reason why we’re there is, essentially, to let the client know if they’re buying into a big problem that they’re not aware of. And, you know, it’s not always the case. But I think it’s important, you know, with these types of real estate transactions that you have someone that’s knowledgeable about the building envelope that can look at these things.

Some of these things that we’re talking about, like if the roof needs to be replaced, you’re talking about a huge expense and the project [inaudible 00:12:35] the wall system, you know, it’s a very expensive repair that would need to be done there. They want to know that before they get into those kinds of situations.

Chris: For sure. And then the other thing that you work on a lot, Jason, which is maybe more problem-oriented, and then repair oriented from our standpoint, may not be a due diligence situation, but it may be clients who have a specific problem with a building that they need help with. That’s a big part of what you work on as well, isn’t it?

Jason: Yeah, so, and I would say that’s probably most of these types of facade investigations that we become involved with is they’re calling us because they have a specific problem. Not everybody in the world is as proactive as they probably should be with some of these types of issues. But, so normally they’re calling us after they have a specific problem.

Actually, most of the time it’s not only do they have a specific problem, but they’ve already tried and failed multiple times to fix this specific problem unsuccessfully. And so, they’re going to an expert now to have us investigate and tell them how to fix it.

So, and that could be anything from, there are leaking rustication where there’s water that’s getting through the envelope of the building and causing damage to the building. But it can be other things, too. Like, recently we looked at a project in Indiana where the roof deck was deteriorating. It wasn’t necessarily leaking, but it was obviously failing.

We’ve been involved in other projects that have had sound intrusion issues, issues with concrete and topping slabs, we’ve even gotten into. So, yeah, I mean, each project is completely unique, and we get involved in all types of different issues with the facade.

Chris: And what our focus is is to try to provide value to our clients by coming up with practical and achievable solutions. We’re not there to provide a pretty report that leaves them not much better off than they were to start with. We identify the problem, and then we help them to come up with a solution.

And as Shauna was talking about with some of these restoration projects, it’s similar in the repair work as well, right? You’ve got many projects right now where you’ve identified the problem, helped them determine the solution, and now you’re out there confirming that the work has been done correctly. Isn’t that also a big part of what you do?

Shauna: Yes. That’s right. Yes.

Chris: Okay. Shauna, too. We all are involved in that, but I know we’ve got some projects right now where they’re not as large scale as this hotel project we were talking about, but it may have been a specific problem. And then we’re out there once we’ve determined the solution for them, also doing the follow-up testing and making sure that the repair is done effectively so that we leave them with a building that performs like they want.

I think one other thing that I wanted to cover and have you guys talk about some is that there…obviously use our expertise in helping our clients with these issues, but there are some ASTM standards that are a guide for us and professionals in our industry in that regard. One for building assessments, and then one that we use a lot for leak investigations. Jason, can you talk to us some about the ASCE standards for building assessments?

Jason: Yes. So, the most relevant standard when it comes to assessing the condition and the performance of building facades, it’s called ASCE 30-14, which is published by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Standard is called Guideline for the Condition Assessment of the Building Envelope.

And basically it just takes you through the process from start to finish from, you know, initial contact with the client in defining the scope of the assessment through the actual assessment process, which includes reviewing documents, performing visual inspections, interviewing relevant parties, doing more detailed steps, including leak investigations and destructive testing, and all the way through the analysis and the final report preparation. So, this standard basically guides the investigator or the evaluator through the entire process from start to finish.

Chris: And then, Shauna, that leads into as far as specifically leak investigations, there’s an ASTM standard that is recognized in the industry, and we use as a guideline in our work there, correct?

Shauna: Yes, that’s right. So, we follow ASTM E2128, which is the Standard Guide for Evaluating Water Leakage of Building Walls. And typically, you know, this is the standard we follow when a client calls and says, you know, “We have water coming in our building. We don’t necessarily know where or how.”

So, this standard, like, the ASCE standard follows sort of a certain sequence of events that you need to do or should follow in order to do, like, a complete evaluation, including, you know, the reviewing of the document and, you know, determining how the building was designed and how the walls should be performing.

You know, are they barrier? Are there drainage? You know, talking to building personnel on where the leaks are occurring and, you know, when do they occur? Do they occur during a rain event? You know, are they still leaking? Up through the inspection of the location and, you know, mainly the investigative testing, and then sorta the analysis and sort of a final hypothesis of, you know, where and why the water’s coming into the building.

Chris: We point it, and then, again, give our solutions, which is mentioned in the standard and is really important to us as I said before at GCI, is that we want to come up with solutions for people. Most times when they contact us, they’ve tried some lesser measures with some, you know, we call them band-aid fixes, or maybe had different contractors out there trying to do different stop-gap measures to resolve their problems.

And once they contact us, they’ve kind of, like Shauna said, they may have thrown their hands up and said, “We don’t know what’s happening here. All we know is we have a problem, and we need you, GCI, to help us resolve it.”

So, and not to get too deep in the weeds with these technical standards, but it’s important for clients to understand that we go through a scientific process that’s recognized in the industry, that our reports are based upon that process, that they’re defendable reports. No matter who may question our methods and results, that they can rest assured that we’re doing things to the state of the art and the highest standards in our industry.

Well, I want to thank Jason Bondurant and Shauna Serafini for joining me today. As you listeners can tell, we all have a great interest in this topic and spend a lot of our work lives on these kinds of issues. Hopefully, some of this information is useful to you. And if you have a problem with a building, or need assessment work on a building you own, or are considering owning, we would be happy to assist.

You can contact us at There’s lots of information on our website about our services, about ways to contact us. There’s an interactive chatbot on there that you can communicate with us in that way. And you can also reach out to us directly and any of us will be happy to respond to you. So, thanks again to our guests and thank you to you our listeners for joining us on this podcast today.

You can also, in addition to the website that I mentioned, reach us at 877-740-9990 to discuss you or your building envelope needs. Thank you once again, and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

Litigation Consulting and Expert Witness Services

Will Smith & Bret Taylor – GCI Consultants

Podcast about Litigation Consulting and Expert Witness Services

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

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

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

Select the right expert for your next case. Download the checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bret: Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bret: Correct, correct. That’s right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will: The six months is…

Bret: Yeah, cutoff date.

Will: The cutoff date. Okay. All right.

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

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

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

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

Bret: Correct.

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

Bret: Or a combination of all those.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hurricane Information and Recovery Procedures

Paul Beers – GCI Consultants

Podcast - Hurricane Information and Recovery Procedures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Inspections, Cleaning and Restoration

Derek Segal & Ken Larsen – International Dry Standard Organization

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

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

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

Ken: Thanks for having me on the show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek: Scope of work.

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

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

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

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

Derek: Right.

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

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

Derek: Yes, go ahead.

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

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

Derek: That’s terrible.

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

Derek: And that can hurt them actually.

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

Derek: That’s out there.

Ken: They’re all over the place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek: Inflate them.

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

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

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

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

Derek: Got it.

Ken: So I’m encouraged by that.

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

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

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

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

Ken: My pleasure.

Water Leakage Investigations

Paul Beers & Jason Bondurant – GCI Consultants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

– Evaluating water leakage in building walls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how does that work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Yeah.

– We do see that all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– It was fun. Thanks for having me.

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

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

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

Infrared Testing in the Construction Industry and Beyond

Terry Malagoli & Ilsa McIntyre – Infrared Testing, Inc.

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Great, thanks for having us.

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Matthews: Nice, yeah.

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Oh definitely.

Chris Matthews: – over the long term.

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

Chris Matthews: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Right, yes, humid.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly, right.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Right.

Chris Matthews: Yeah.

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

Chris Matthews: Mm hmm.

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

Chris Matthews: Mm hmm.

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Yes, exactly.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly –

Chris Matthews: Um –

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Malagoli: Two years.

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

Chris Matthews: Right.

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

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

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

Chris Matthews: Great, thank you.

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Thanks, Chris.

Terry Malagoli: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

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

Rocco Calaci – LRC Services

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

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

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

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

Rocco: Well, thank you very much, Derek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocco: That’s correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wind Damage to Windows, Investigation & Claims

Paul Beers – GCI Consultants

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

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

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