GCI Services

GCI Services

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 77: GCI Services

In this podcast, listen as GCI’s Alfonso Alzamora, PE, CGC, Vice President and Principal, and Jason Bondurant, PE, RRC, Senior Engineer and Principal, highlight GCI Consultants’ services.”

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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Alfonso: Welcome, everyone, to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I am Alfonso Alzamora, Vice President and Principal with GCI Consultants, and I will be your host today. I am really excited today to have as our guest one of our partners and engineers that I work with here at GCI, Jason Bondurant. Jason, since you are a repeat guest, let’s just jump right into today’s podcast.

In this podcast, we will highlight our services and talk about the different types of projects that we are involved with, where we work, and whom we work with. For those who haven’t worked with us in the past, GCI is a consulting and engineering firm that specializes in the exterior building envelope. The building envelope is the part of the building that separates the interior from the exterior. It includes the roofs, walls, windows, doors, and foundations. Our specialty services primarily include property condition assessments, forensic investigations, expert witness services for construction defects and first-party insurance claims, and quality assurance inspections and testing. So, Jason, let’s dig into each of these services and discuss scenarios in which we help our clients.

Jason: Yes. And I’m glad that we have the opportunity to discuss our services today, that following the tragic collapse of the Champlain Tower South in Surfside and the subsequent passing of the condominium safety bill in Florida, there’s been a greater interest from building owners in hiring engineering firms to evaluate their buildings. One of the main concerns that owners typically have is with the envelopes of their buildings. The types of assessments that GCI performs is different from the typical 40-year structural and electrical recertification process. Instead, we offer a more specialized assessment of the building envelope systems.

We focus on a variety of forensic procedures to evaluate the condition and performance of these various building envelope components. These evaluations are useful to building owners because they can provide them with an overview of the general condition of the building’s walls, windows, roofing, and waterproofing systems, and they can be useful when planning for maintenance or repairs.

I recently did a building envelope condition assessment at a high-end home in South Florida that’s located directly on the ocean, and it was relatively a new construction. And the owner was experiencing some problems with their building. They were starting to have some problems with water intrusion around windows, and they started to see some cracks in the exterior stucco, and because of that, they were concerned about the overall condition of the building envelope and the construction of the home. So, they hired GCI to come and do a condition assessment of the full building. And our assessment on this particular project included the roof, the walls, windows, balconies, basically the entire exterior.

As part of our evaluation, what we did was actually a multi-step process. So, we start by reviewing any kind of documents that we can get from the building construction or anything relevant to the building performance history. So, we reviewed the original construction drawings for the building, we reviewed prior reports from prior engineers or contractors that had visited the building and had done their own assessments prior to our involvement.

And then we start with the fieldwork by doing an initial visual inspection. So, we do a walkthrough of the exterior and interior of the home where we’re looking at, is there any visible sign of distress to any of the building envelope components? Is there anywhere where it looks like water could be infiltrating from the exterior? And we document these conditions. And then based on that inspection, we decide whether we need to do any additional investigation in terms of testing. Now, in this particular project, we did water infiltration testing of the exterior windows and doors, and we also did destructive testing of some of the exterior wall areas. And both of these test procedures were very useful in helping us evaluate the performance of the building.

And we were able to find that there were actually quite a few issues with leaks through the exterior windows and doors on this particular building, and some of these issues were not very visible without doing our additional investigation. And then there were also certain areas of the walls on the building that were constructed differently from the other areas. And through our testing, we were able to pinpoint what those areas were, and ultimately what would be needed to be done in order to repair the building in those areas.

So, that’s just kind of an overview of what our process would be for a condition assessment. Once we finished on this particular project, we provided the owner with a report that summarized all of our procedures, and all of our findings and recommendations, and then at that point, they can take that and decide next steps as far as…you know, they could take that to an architect and a contractor for repair, or in some cases, depending on how old the building is, they may take that to their attorney to review if there’s any question about construction defects. But that’s just one example that I recently had.

Alfonso: Right. Jason, and on those type of projects, like you just described, when you’re taking these samples of the exterior wall cladding materials, are you sending those perhaps to a lab for some kind of analysis as well?

Jason: So, on this particular project, we didn’t actually because the main concern was what was behind the cladding. So, in this particular instance, there were wall areas that were constructed out of metal studs and sheeting, and there was no waterproofing behind the stucco, which is required by the Florida building code. So, the purpose of our destructive testing there was just to see those concealed conditions. But I know that we have had projects in the past, and I know there was one that you worked on that I’m thinking of in particular where we did do some pretty extensive lab testing.

Alfonso: Right, yes. So, sometimes as part of our assessment, like you were describing, besides doing the visual examination of all the exterior wall surfaces, we document any crack locations or visible defects. Sometimes we also, for this type of projects where we have…or this one that we did in Miami that you referenced that I was working on, it was actually a direct-applied stucco system. This was a large warehouse building in Miami. And one of the things we also did there was to submit some of the samples we took of the stucco to a lab for petrographic and chemical analysis to allow us to verify the application of that stucco product and determine whether the application complied with the required thickness, verify if there was any underlying bonding agent that may have been used, as well as determine the proportions of components in the stucco mix, including the air content of that mix. And then based on those results, we can come up with an engineering judgment as to whether the application satisfied the project specifications and requirements.

Jason: Right. And so, those are examples where we’ve done kind of general condition assessments of the building envelope components. There are other cases where we have been called in to look at something more specifically. As an example, we have a lot of projects where we are hired to evaluate the building envelope for storm damage. So, these types of assignments, very similar kind of approach, it’ll just be a little bit more specific. So, we’re typically hired to do an assessment of the building to identify any evidence of storm damage. Typically, that would be wind damage, but it could also be flood or hail damage. And as I said, these types of assessments are performed very similarly. It’s just instead of evaluating the overall condition, we’re just looking for wind damage specifically.

And that may be damage to windows such as broken glass or areas where the windows and doors may have deflected and caused separations in frame joints, which can cause the windows to leak in the future, or it may be damage to the roof. Maybe if it was a shingle roof, maybe shingles were torn off or creased or some other type of functional damage to the roof, or perhaps with a low slope roof, maybe there was some kind of uplift damage where part of the membrane got peeled up at a corner or something. So, we’re often called in to do these types of storm damage assessments to buildings as well.

And actually, we recently just completed a pretty large assignment for us that was actually in North Florida, and it was a resort-type property with multiple high-rise buildings. And the buildings were affected by Hurricane Sally in September 2020, and shortly after the storm, we were hired to go evaluate the buildings for storm damage. And our evaluation included the walls, the windows, the doors, the roofs, as well as in this particular instance, the glass balcony railings, which there were several of them that actually blew off of the building during the storm.

And so, in this particular project, again, we performed a similar type of assessment where we do our visual inspection. In this case, it was a very large project, so that was quite the undertaking with much of our staff involved throughout the whole process, which took the better part of a year or more. And then following our inspection, we did field testing which included water testing, windows and doors, and also performing moisture surveys of the roof areas to identify any concealed moisture that was within the roof system from the storm. And we’ve been involved in many similar types of storm damage assessments for much smaller buildings, even down to single-family homes. So, that’s another area where we have a lot of experience.

Alfonso: Right. Jason, and on this type of forensic assignments as well, do you also get involved sometimes on projects that have specific performance issues that you have to investigate, and then maybe those ultimately turn into a litigation matter?

Jason: Yes. So, there are many of these projects that could end up into litigation, and that’s why we… The way we approach all of these projects is similar, and we take them very seriously, and we make sure we follow all the industry standards when performing our investigation. And we make sure that we’re documenting everything appropriately and in a professional way that in the event that it does go into litigation, we have a strong background as far as that goes. And in these cases where some of these building failures are ultimately the subject of lawsuits, GCI does have multiple experienced experts who do serve as expert witnesses throughout the litigation process.

Alfonso: Okay. And what that means basically is these experts have been testifying under oath, either for a deposition, arbitration, or even trial, correct?

Jason: Yes. Of course, yes. And even other types of alternative dispute resolution like mediation or those types of situations.

Alfonso: Right. And you mentioned that, you know, you follow industry standards when you’re conducting these types of investigations. Are there any particular standards that are frequently used on these type of testing and investigation that you have described, Jason?

Jason: Yes. There’s actually many different industry standards, and that’s why it’s important that you have an experienced professional involved in these types of investigations, so they know which ones apply in which type of a situation, especially when it comes to testing. But just to name a few, one of the typical standards that we use for our building envelope condition assessments is published by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and it’s their Guideline for Condition Assessments of Building Envelopes.

Another standard that we typically use in our practice is published by ASTM, and it’s ASTM 2128, which is called the Standard Guide for Evaluating Water Leakage in Building Walls. So, that’s another standard that outlines the methodology for evaluating leak problems through building walls, and that includes everything that I talked about before where you’re reviewing documents, you’re performing inspections, and performing testing. So, we use all these types of standards when we’re conducting our investigations.

Alfonso: Jason, and I know that along with your professional engineering qualifications, you’re also a registered roofing consultant. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the type of testing that would be conducted on a roof that is suspect to have moisture intrusion problems?

Jason: Sure. So, again, for a roof, we would have a similar type of approach. We’re first looking at the history, looking at the construction, and doing a visual inspection, which is going to tell us a lot. But then oftentimes, we do wanna do some additional testing. And the reason why that’s so important for certain types of roofs, especially for low slope roofs…when I say low slope roofs, they’re typically called flat roofs, which are typically on commercial buildings or condominiums. But these types of roofs have a membrane that’s installed over insulation, and oftentimes you can’t just look at these roofs and visually tell whether or not there’s moisture within the insulation because it’s underneath the membrane.

So, there’s a variety of different test methods that we can use to check for that concealed moisture within the assembly. And that might include infrared surveys over the roof, or electrical impedance scanning, or nuclear technology that we can use to survey the roof to identify areas that have relatively high amounts of moisture. And then once we identify those areas that have relatively high moisture, we would typically do destructive testing or core sampling where we would actually take a sample of the roof just to verify that it is indeed wet, and then we can compare that with the results from our non-destructive survey. But those types of test methods can be really useful to detect concealed areas of moisture in the roof.

And then we do other types of roof testing as well. Like on some of these storm damage assessments that I talked about, we may recommend to do some type of uplift test on the roof to where we’re actually checking the attachment of the roof to see if it’s been compromised in some areas. So, again, we have a lot of different tools that we can use to perform our evaluations on these types of buildings.

Alfonso: Okay. Well, that was a great overview of our condition assessment services, as well as our forensic investigation, and storm damage investigation projects. I also just wanted to add that we offer services for new construction projects. These typically involve performing quality assurance inspections and testing of windows, doors, exterior wall claddings, above and below-grade waterproofing, and roofing systems during construction, as well as performing peer review of the associated architectural details and probe submittals to make sure that all the components of the building envelope are properly integrated and performing in accordance to the standards that they were specified to perform to.

And our experience investigating buildings within envelope performance problems, Jason, like you were just describing now, gives us a unique perspective to help our clients prevent this type of problems with their new buildings. In fact, just next week, I’m flying down to Grand Cayman Islands in the Caribbean where we actually have a nice mix of all these different type of projects that we have been discussing, including a couple of new construction high-rise buildings that we are providing quality assurance services on, and some existing buildings that have some envelope performance issues that we’re gonna be investigating, and assessing, and using some of these standards that you just described when we’re performing our testing and investigations down there.

So, that basically covers the different types of services that GCI offers, so now let’s talk about who might be interested in those services.

Jason: Our typical clients include building owners, developers, architects, contractors, and even product manufacturers in some cases. That may be window manufacturers, siding manufacturers, roofing manufacturers, any of these kinds of manufacturers that make building envelope products. And then, of course, often when a project becomes involved in litigation, our client would usually be an attorney. And that attorney might represent the plaintiffs in the case, which is typically a building owner, or they might represent a defendant who’s typically a developer, architect, contractor, or manufacturer.

Alfonso: What about some of these properties where they may have issues that go beyond the building envelope?

Jason: Sure. So, you know, as we discussed, our specialized area of expertise is with the building envelope, but there could be other aspects of the building that have issues such as mechanical, electrical, or plumbing issues, which would be outside of our area of expertise. Now, we do have several partners in other disciplines that we’ve worked with on projects in the past, and if those issues arise on our projects, we’re always happy to connect our clients with these other firms.

Alfonso: Okay, great. And we serve these clients throughout the country, and, like I mentioned before, even overseas. And while we’re based in Florida, we are also registered in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and we have consultants working on projects throughout North America and the Caribbean. Since our consultants are located near major airport hop [SP] cities like Miami or Minneapolis, we’re typically able to accommodate travel requests for an urgent site visit on short notice.

I hope you have enjoyed our podcast today, and that covers everything that we wanted to talk about. I thank everyone for listening to this podcast, and we invite you to take a further look at our services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com. 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.


What Are Storm Shelters and What are The Requirements for a Storm Shelter?

What Are Storm Shelters and What are The Requirements for a Storm Shelter?

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 76: What Are Storm Shelters and What are The Requirements for a Storm Shelter?

In this podcast, listen as Dan Johnson, the senior consultant for GCI Consultants, and Jim Bell, the director of operations for the National Storm Shelter Association, discuss “What Are Storm Shelters and What are The Requirements for a Storm Shelter?”

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!

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Dan: Welcome everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I am Dan Johnson, the senior consultant for GCI Consultants, and I will be your host today. I’m excited to have as a guest, Jim Bell, the director of operations for the National Storm Shelter Association. Today, our topic is What Are Storm Shelters and What are The Requirements for a Storm Shelter? Let’s start off by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll jump into our podcast.

Jim: Good morning, Dan, and nice to be here. I started out with wind codes after riding out Hurricane Andrew in South Florida. I was on the fringe of it, the county north of Dade County, and it affected us a lot. And going down and looking at the damage that following weekend, it was…it amazed me, and it lit a fire in me. And I got involved with the codes there and it kind of expanded and went on to the tornado codes, and I joined the National Storm Shelter Association, which at the time was outta Texas Tech with Dr. Kiesling. And I’ve since gotten very involved with the national codes and all about shelters.

Dan: Okay. Jim, I know…you and I go back aways back to my storm shelter testing days. And so I know that you’ve just briefly been with NSSA. So, what is the NSSA and what does it serve the industry?

Jim: Yes. Thanks. The NSSA is an organization started in 2000. It was really started after a series of severe tornadoes in the Lubbock area, near Texas Tech. And there was a professor of wind sciences at Texas Tech, Dr. Ernst Kiesling, who started up this organization to talk about how we can prevent loss of life in tornado events. And he is considered the grandfather of the aboveground tornado shelter, and they did a lot of studies. The NSSA was the group that put together the ICC 500, which is the building code in the International Building Code, which covers the United States for shelters, and then partnered with ICC who then took the code as an ICC standard. And the ICC 500 is NSSA/ICC 500 in the code, which covers how you build a safe room.

Dan: I was just gonna say [inaudible 00:02:49] the NSSA is basically, it’s like a trade association comprised of many different building officials and also shelter manufacturers, correct?

Jim: Correct. We have a membership of industry professionals, architects, engineers. We also have producer members who produce, you know, pre-manufactured shelters for the home, site build shelters, and then the officials who actually build the community-type large shelters in schools and other types of buildings. We also work with building officials and emergency managers. And then the associations like FEMA and NOAA, and NIST are some of the other people that are members of NSSA.

Dan: Okay. Yeah. I know that NSSA and ICC 500 goes from large structures down to residences. But for just kind single-family residents, what type of advice could you give to homeowners about protecting themselves from the severe storms, i.e., hurricanes and tornadoes?

Jim: That’s a great question. The majority of the calls I get from the general public are just that, you know, “How can I protect my family during a severe storm? There’re so many different people out selling all kinds of different structures for homeowners.” First thing a homeowner needs to look at is to make sure that the shelter that they’re using has been tested. You can ask for a test report. There’s a number of test labs. Texas Tech started out doing the testing, but they stopped testing about five years ago, and it’s basically ITF. There’s a new testing lab, that’s an ICC test lab, called NTA. And then there’s…UL has done most of the testing. And they’re a certification agency, so once you test, products get certified that they’ve met the test, and so the manufacturer who did the testing will use that documentation in continually building their shelters to meet the code.

So, you have to look for a label from one of those certification agencies on… It first started out for the doors because the doors are the most severely affected by tornado shelters. They have to open and close like regular doors, but they have to act like a wall during a storm. So, the doors are the most vulnerable and they should definitely per code have a label on them, but now they’re asking for labels for the entire shelter. And a homeowner should ask for that material, or at least ask for a test report that their shelter has been tested to go forward. It’s an ongoing process. Some manufacturers are in the process. Some manufacturers they can at least give you a test report showing that they did test.

Dan: Okay. And you mentioned testing and labeling and that type of thing. I believe ICC 500, the 2020 version, is kind of the test standard that’s required. What are some of the requirements of the ICC 500? And then also, kind of branching off a little bit to the FEMA 320 and FEMA P-361 guidelines that, you know, if you can give us a few of the highlights of those documents.

Jim: Yeah. First off, and that’s a good point, Dan, that ICC 500 is the code. It’s the code of the land. FEMA 320 and 361 were the first that came out there. They’re excellent documents of…especially FEMA 320 for residential shelters, but they still have to meet the ICC 500. FEMA 320 and 361 call themselves near-absolute protection. You know, they talk a lot about operations and citing and a little bit more severe. Just for a quick clarification, FEMA calls their shelters safe rooms, and ICC 500 calls them tornado shelters or shelters. Kind of the testing standards that we look at, they’re tested for structural load while they go into a wind wall that they’re put up against and they’re tested for pressure to meet a 250 mile an hour of wind. And that will vary from the size of the structure that you’re doing, but it should show that you were tested for a static load of 250 miles an hour.

Then the doors separately are tested for inswing and outswing. And a door, we talk about door, but it’s the assembly, and that’s for windows, doors, overhead doors, they’re tested as an assembly, not components. So, when you use a door, a window, it’s gotta be used as it was tested, or it’s not the same thing. And then you do an impact test, and the impact test is for a 250-mile-an-hour area, which is the most severe tornado area, which encompasses about 15 states in the middle of the country. And they test to a 15 pound, 2 by 4 at 100 miles per hour. And then they test to make sure there’s no perforation of the wall or the door that you’re using. And then they also…for deflection because if that impact hits and deflects more than three inches, they’ll fail a test.

Then there need to be engineered drawings of how the materials that they use to build the shelter is put together. They also do calculations for anchors of how it anchors into the ground. Specific anchors are usually required, so a homeowner needs to make sure that they’re using the appropriate anchor. You know, the slab that it goes into, it needs to be on a slab, it can’t be, you know, installed in your house if your house is not sitting on a slab. It has to sit…you know, it has to be mounted to the slab. So, it makes for different areas that you have to check and you have to make sure the slab is thick enough in order to hold that, to keep that shelter from being hit and/or being toppled over by the wind, being picked up with the house when, you know, the house is destroyed. So, anchoring is a very important aspect of… And those anchors are calculated for sheer and uplift and… Dan, did I miss anything about testing a residential…? There’s a bunch more that goes into a community shelter as far as engineering is concerned. I’m just trying to cover the residential shelter right now.

Dan: Yeah, no, you hit the residential shelter very well. Like you had mentioned there is a testing criteria, and basically, that’s just to make sure, like as you said, if you’re inside the shelter, if a piece of debris is thrown by the tornado that hits the shelter, it can deflect it. You wanna make sure that the people inside of the shelter don’t get injured. You know, I think that’s amazing [inaudible 00:10:07] deflection. One thing that, you know, that I always thought was kind of bizarre was, you know, after the testing was done, the shelter was…just looked in this horrible shape, which makes sense. And there is no way that the door can open up in order for us to get out again, until, you know, some fire department or somebody comes in and opens up the door for them. But they’re safe, which is exactly what the shelter meant to satisfy.

Jim: Two of my most important aspects is that number one, when you’re inside of a shelter, don’t lean against the wall because, you know, you’ve seen the Newton’s cradle where the energy transfers through the balls, you lift up one ball on one end and you let it go and it transfers to the other end. It’s a transfer of energy through solid objects, and that’ll happen in the tornado shelter. So, I’m glad you brought that up. It’s very important.

And then the other thing is the fact that we do a certificate for a homeowner that will include the GPS address of your home. And then we ask those homeowners to get with their first responders to give them that GPS address so they can come and find you just in case you do get locked into the shelter after the storm, that they’ll be there first to make sure that they will be able to help you out. You should have some tools inside the shelter that kind of would help that. But yeah, definitely. And those are two important aspects.

Dan: Yeah. And like you said you got some… You know, the main thing for a storm shelter is to keep the inhabitants inside of it safe during the storm. You know, getting [inaudible 00:11:44], that’s all secondary, but everybody will be safe. I agree.

Jim: Absolutely.

Dan: Just kind of a, just a general, if a family is looking for a shelter, you know, what things should they look for to see what’s right for them?

Jim: You need at least, I think, three square feet per person inside your shelter, so you should know how many people are going to be using your shelter so you can get the right square footage of a shelter. You know, if you’re going to allow a couple of neighbors to come in with you, I think it’s a great idea for several neighbors to get together and build a shelter, or family members or whatever. But the first thing is the square footage of making sure that you just don’t buy a shelter and then you find out that you can’t put everyone in there. The second thing that I’ve mentioned before is that it’s been tested properly, that it’s properly certified. You’ll have certifications that are listed with whoever tested. You know, if you’ve gone UL, ITS, NTA, they will have records online and you can go see what they tested with and the components within that shelter that they tested with. So it’s always a good reference to pick up. You know, the shelter manufacturer should be able to give that to you though if you ask for it of their testing requirements.

You know, the one question is above ground, below ground, if done properly and tested properly, they’re both safe. Both have their pluses and minuses that you might wanna make that determination of where you wanna have the shelter. You know, below-ground shelters have an issue with water and ventilation, but the ones that are done right, you shouldn’t have that problem with. Also, that they’re installed properly because if the water table comes up, you know, during a storm, you know, we’ve seen below ground shelters pop up outta the ground because the water pressure pushes them up.

They can be handled with installation, we’ll put anchors or webs in them so they won’t do that. That’s something that you can ask. And of course, and this is a general statement, but usually the cheapest product is probably not your best, well-tested product. You can make these things cheap with using inexpensive doors on ’em or inexpensive materials, but when you’re in a shelter, sitting in there with your family and a tornado’s coming, you got that loud noise, you don’t wanna be worried about whether or not that shelter’s gonna be there. You wanna be at least have that feeling that you did the right thing and your family’s safe.

Dan: Yeah, for that reassurance you had mentioned, you know, like the ICC 500 code, you know, kinda has the requirements for, I believe it was like for certification and lifting of the product. And basically, there isn’t any substitutions allowed from the tested product versus what’s installed. Is that correct?

Jim: None. One of the issues we have when our shelters get older, you know, hinges may sag, or the latches may break. You have to replace… It’s very important to replace exactly what it was tested with. I mean, generally on especially community shelters, the hardware on there is just not your regular hardware that you buy, and even on your storm shelter. Our residential storm shelter could have steel bars and deadbolts and things, but still you have to use the same ones that were tested because it’s important that everything interacts properly, that it’s aligned, that, you know, the bolt on the shelter that keeps the doors closed have enough engagement into the strikes or the frame that holds it to the shelter itself is the same… You know, there’s a lot of testing and [inaudible 00:15:37] tests that there’s a lot of failures with tests as you’re testing products to come up with the right combinations that work with different materials.

If you’ve got a very stiff shelter while you pour solid concrete, you know, the anchors that you may use to hold the shelter in, or the hardware that holds the shelter door closed have to engage differently. If the door is very flexible and it bows during a storm, you’re gonna have longer engagements. So, the testing process tests all that out to make sure that you get the right combination that will hold. And like I said, these tests aren’t inexpensive, so they go in… Companies go in thinking they’re gonna pass, and when they don’t, it’s a big deal because they gotta go test again, but they gotta find the right products that will meet the code. That’s why it’s the shelter, the doors, the windows, everything that’s in a shelter has to be tested and has to be used as tested because, you know, if you make a deviation, you change the type of anchors they can make a severe effect on whether or not that shelter will hold up.

You know, one of the observations that I made going down to South Florida after Hurricane Andrew, so I’m walking through neighborhoods where none of the windows were in… You know, most of the building in South Florida was CBS block and that’s what they used to build just a regular home to meet the hurricanes down there. And that you’d walk through and you’d see a concrete opening, and where a window used to be it’s just concrete because the window was just either toenailed in or just using concrete nails or whatever to hold it in, and it just pulled it right out. There was a pressure… And we found a window where the glass wasn’t even broken, the window was sitting inside the house laying on a bed or something that…it just popped out of the opening. So, the anchoring, you know, is very critical, and the correct anchoring that was supposed to go with the project is very important in hurricane-safe rooms and tornado-safe rooms.

Dan: Yeah. That’s very true. Like you had mentioned, you know, depending on the substrate that you’re actual attaching, you know, your door or window into, it makes a huge difference. You can have wood substrates, but they definitely need to be reinforced.

Jim: Right. And that’s the key that even a building inspector can inspect that to make sure it’s correct because a lot of times they won’t see the anchors. So, it’s important. In commercial buildings, they do an anchor inspection before they can cover it up until they can actually see the anchor shoes. So, it’s very important that when a homeowner is working with their shelter manufacturer and you end up having a good relationship with him, he’ll tell you what anchors to use and he’ll show ’em to you. I’ve had a few calls in my tenure at NSSA where they had a failure and they found out that they didn’t use the correct anchors, and the failure wasn’t even during a tornado, it was just regular operations. And so the one they had to come back and replace the shelter because it wasn’t put in correctly. So, it’s important to have confidence with your supplier of the shelter.

Dan: Yeah, exactly. And in order to, you know, gain that confidence is to have, like you had mentioned, you know, the written documentation that the shelters have been tested and certified and listed by a reputable company. You know, that is very true. You had initially kind of talked about naming structures types of things, you know, so what’s kind of the difference between a properly constructed tornado shelter, a safe room or a best available refuge area?

Jim: It’s very important. A tornado shelter has to meet the ICC 500. And basically, in section 423 of the building code, if you’re going to put a shelter in, it has to meet the ICC 500. It’s…like I said, it’s section 423 that tells you that, you know, shelters have to meet the ICC 500. For years, you know, being in the door industry is where I come from that…I’ll hear architects come in and say, “Well, we wanna put in a shelter that will meet, you know, an EF2 tornado, but I don’t need one to meet an EF5 tornado.” Well, there is nothing that’s tested in between. You either test the worst case for the area that you’re building the shelter.

Now, you could have a shelter let’s say in Florida that has a wind load of… You know, in Florida I think it is 100 mile an hour missile speed, but then they have to test with a 9 pound 2 by 4 instead of a 15 pound 2 by 4 for essential facilities. In the regular building code, the impact test for just a regular object to be put in a home in Florida that’s not a shelter, they use a 9 pound 2 by 4 at 34 miles an hour, which hits, you know, with 350-foot pounds of force. Then you get into a tornado impact of 15 pound 2 by 4 at 100 miles an hour and at 5,000-foot pounds of force. So, there’s completely different… Hurricane and tornado, even though they’re tested pretty much the same way, the pressures and the impacts are completely different. So, you never use a hurricane-tested device in a tornado. I think you would probably be safe if you used a tornado device than a hurricane device.

But then we get into the best available refuge area, which is what happened in Illinois this past December when that Amazon building was torn apart and, you know, they had nine deaths in there. Well, they had best available refuge areas, which did meet the code. Amazon did nothing wrong with providing these best available refuge areas, but that’s just a regular building that they go in and that’s the safest place they can be in the building without having a tornado shelter. So, they pick areas without windows and…but they won’t withstand impacts and they won’t withstand falling debris.

And that’s what happened there, was the fact that they had best available refuge areas. The code requires certain types of buildings to have shelters and safe rooms, which are basically right now requirements in the 250-mile-hour wind zone require schools, emergency operations centers, police stations, fire stations, 911 call centers. They’re protecting the first responders and the most vulnerable, you know, the children in schools, but it’s not required for any other type of building. And there’re communities across the country right now looking into, especially after the Amazon building of maybe requiring it for occupied warehouse spaces where they’d have to have a tornado shelter in it.

But a best available refuge area is, and, you know, architects can go in and do a survey and find out which area would be the least hazardous to be, but it’s not saying you won’t get injured or you won’t be killed in that area. It’s just saying that’s the best place to be until you put in a tornado shelter. Be careful… You know, I see all the time I go into buildings and look at a bathroom door with a push-pull and it’s a hollow core wood door and they have a tornado shelter sticker on the door. That’s not a tornado shelter. At best it would be a best available refuge area. So, all over the country, they mislabel openings. And neither…

One of my biggest is that, you know, there’s a lot of home builders who will say they have a shelter…in a new home that they put in, they separated a space, you know, maybe they put, you know, block walls in. They don’t usually put in a tornado door in it. And sometimes if it’s on a house that’s built up on there’s a crawl space underneath the house, you know, whatever tornado shelter you put in it, it’s gonna go when the house goes, because it’s not anchored to a concrete slab. So, a lot of people misuse the term tornado shelter when they’re just putting in a best available refuge area. If I get one thing through in my tenure here is the fact that if it is a tornado shelter, mark it a tornado shelter. If it’s not, mark it a best available refuge area. You’re telling people they’ll be safe in this room when they won’t be. So, that’s my message for the day.

Dan: That is some very good food for thought, because even like myself, when you’re in larger buildings, you see the signs all the time, tornado shelter, storm shelter, whatever. And in your mind, you think, well, of course, that’s where you need to go if a storm happens, but in your mind, you know, you should think, “Well, then I should be safe in there.” But like you said, you’re safe from a storm but not a tornado is what you’re saying.

Jim: Yes, very much so. And I’ll say one thing here, I have much respect for building officials. I’ve trained many, many, many building officials and they have 10, 20 homes to inspect. They’re inspecting roofing and plumbing, electrical, and everything else. They don’t really have time to inspect your tornado shelter. We’re making it easier to inspect with the labels if all they gotta do is go in there and look for the label saying what it was tested for. You know, I see people test for a hurricane wind pressure and then stick it on a tornado shelter and it’s tested to 200 miles an hour instead of at 250 miles an hour.

It makes a difference. And a building official can catch that very quickly by just looking at the label and making sure, you know, they’ll know what territory that they’re in of just doing a quick review of the tornado shelter for the benefit of the homeowner. But very little of that gets done. And I think, as many codes as we have, and we’ve got very intelligent, very dedicated people serving on the ICC 500 committees and the FEMA 361 and 320 committees, but none of that is any good unless it’s policed. And the only people that can make sure that those are correct are building officials and emergency managers’ offices.

And I just implore them to maybe hire some extra staff to take a look at these because there’s a lot of shelters going in. I get a lot of calls from people that after they hear of a severe tornado outbreak, you know, a lot of people are looking to invest in putting a shelter in their home. I just would like to make sure that we’re looking at ’em and make sure that they’re safe.

Dan: Yeah, I agree. That’s kind of one of the areas that I believe…you and I talked about in the past that kind of needs probably the most improvement of just kind of increasing the [inaudible 00:26:48] just to make sure that structures are being built for that geographical area to sustain to the codes. Are there any other areas that you see, in your opinion, that should be improved on for the general public, you know, to keep them safe?

Jim: Well, one of the things we’re struggling with right now is keeping up, you know, a shelter manufacturer, usually they’re smaller family-owned companies that have done a good job over the years of trying to keep up the latest codes. We ran into an issue where the state of Georgia had a rebate program that came out that said that the shelters that are put in to get rebate money have to meet the 2020 code, which requires the labeling, the listings of the products that are in a shelter. And also it has to be…have a follow up where every year they get reviewed by their certifier that they’re still making ’em the same way that they tested ’em.

And in doing a survey, really, nobody met the 2020 code. They didn’t have a lot of ’em that had labels. There are several that are in the process. It’s not an easy process to go through, and they’re doing it, but a lot of people don’t meet the 2020 code because, you know, their shelters aren’t labeled and their doors aren’t labeled. That’s taking time…

Now, I know FEMA got involved and a couple of other organizations and they gave ’em a two-year open window to get that done so that they can still produce tornado shelters for people who needed ’em. But they may not have the labels yet. Well, that happened almost a year ago, so, you know, we’re coming up on another year to make sure that… And that gives not only the homeowners a way to make sure he’s getting a proper shelter, but also the building official to make sure that the proper shelter’s being used if they’ve got the proper labels and the testing requirements. And so when that happens, when everyone gets up to the latest code, I think that’s probably the most important thing that gets done.

You know, a lot of community shelters are being put in, in schools and they have proper inspections, they have proper… You know, the architects gotta have their drawings. All the trades have to meet, you know, the tornado and hurricane code. I think that’s going pretty well right now. I tell people that when they’re looking for a tornado shelter to go to when there’s a storm eminent, there’s not a lot of community-type shelters that everyone can go to. Most of the shelters are protecting the first responders. School shelters are protecting the school children, but not all of them are opening to the general public.

I know Alabama did a great job in the Birmingham area putting up large-domed public shelters that serve certain communities after the tornadoes they went through in 2011 and after. They’ve had a lot of severe tornadoes. So, they put up big community shelters that’ll hold 1,000 people. But the best way to protect yourself from a tornado is have a tornado shelter in your home. You know, that way you’re assured… You’re not in your home 24 hours a day, so I would say I’d make sure that there is somewhere that I can go if I’m not at my home. But at least make sure that your family can be protected in your home by having a residential shelter.

Dan: Yep. That sounds like a great theme to kind of recap our talk today. Be safe, that’s the biggest thing. You know, and Jim it’s been great talking today. I mean, I appreciate you coming on with me. So, if listeners wanna reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Jim: You can go to nssa.cc, and the telephone number’s there. You can reach me. I’ll give you my…it’s actually my home number. It’s (954) 253-0883, and I’d be glad to talk to you. I’m always happy to talk to homeowners who are looking to put in… I may not have, you know, the right answers, like I said, but a lot of companies right now are working towards getting their products. So, they tested in Texas Tech back in, you know, 2010, 2009, and there have been some changes in the codes. They didn’t have labels at the time. They had some different requirements. So, to get something that’s up-to-date, I tell people, just make sure they have something that has been tested and there’s proof that it has been tested. Even if it was an old test, you’re better than having no test at all. But please, you know, call me, that’s what I do.

Dan: All right. Well, thank you, Jim, for coming on. I mean, I’d also like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast today. If you’d like more information about our company, GCI Consultants, you can find it on our website at www.gciconsultants.com, or you can give us a call at (877) 740-9990. Thank you once again, and I look forward to talking with everyone next time on “Everything Building Envelope Podcast.” This is Dan Johnson saying, so long.

World of Windows Part 2

World of Windows Part 2 – Paul Beers and Dan Johnson

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 75: World of Windows Part 2

In this podcast, Paul Beers and Dan Johnson at GCI Consultants continue the conversation about all things windows. Listen to this episode to learn how to take care of one of the most important pieces of your building envelope.

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


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Paul: Hello, everyone, welcome to “The Everything Building Envelope Podcast.” This is Paul Beers, CEO and Managing Member for GCI Consultants and I will be your host today. We’re gonna do Part 2 of a podcast that we started last month with our Senior Consultant, Dan Johnson, and dig deeper into the topic of windows and doors and testing and whatnot. Dan joined our team of experts in April of this year, and he’s been a really strong addition to our team. So welcome back, Dan.

Dan: Yeah, thank you, Paul.

Paul: Yeah, so we had a really interesting discussion, there was so much to talk about that we decided that it’d be good to have a Part 2 here. And I’m really excited about that. Just for those that may not have listened to Part 1, maybe you can give a little run-through of your background before we get into today’s topic.

Dan: Yeah, definitely, I’d be happy to. I graduated with a BSc. degree in engineering technology with a quality control emphasis. And out of college, I went right into the building and construction industry as a test technician for a number of years testing windows and doors for air-water, structural performance, acoustic performance.

And then as I progressed in my career, I’ve built a couple of different laboratories for architectural testing and then one for Intertek Testing Services, continuing in the air, water, structural testing of windows, doors, curtain walls, mock-ups. And then also in the thermal testing for U-value and concepts and resistance factor testing. A little over 34 years of experience in both laboratory and field, quality control, and forensic testing and valuation services.

Paul: Cool. So let’s talk a little bit about…so you’ve been with GCI now for what like about six months, I think, and coming up on six months. So what have you been doing since you joined GCI and what’s your role at this point?

Dan: My role at GCI has been a new position has kind of been evolving. I’ve been assisting with not only the GCI podcast and blogs, but as I’ve become acquainted with GCI customers, I am the window expert for GCI Consultants. And what that entails is basically going on-site, reviewing claims that are potential litigation claims, and just confirming that the windows and doors have been installed correctly, tested correctly. And then assisting window manufacturers in the final result of litigation claims, depositions, court appearances, or testimonials, and that type of thing.

So the role is continually evolving. I’m also just, you know, with my testing background and becoming…I’m accredited for field testing, so I’m assisting with that transition. So I’m working with training our technicians and the other consultants.

Paul: So on the consulting side, who typically would be your client, or who would hire you for a GCI assignment?

Dan: Typically, it would be either the window, curtain wall, storefront fenestration, product manufacturer, or their representing attorneys who would hire me.

Paul: And so you also mentioned that you’re helping GCI with AAMA accreditation for field testing, which is something we’ve never had before. Not necessarily needing it for forensics and things like that, but it does provide another layer of depth that we’re really, really excited. So, thank you for helping us with that. And obviously, that’s right in your house.

Dan: Yeah, I think that’ll just give GCI another set of credentials because basically, you know, being accredited, that just kind of shows that we do ongoing training, and our quality control system is what is ISO accredited and it adds credentials to the testing that we do both in new construction, you know, quality control type testing. And then also like you said it’s not needed for the forensics, but it gives some of our technicians, you know, that they have been trained on the proper processes and how to perform the tests.

Paul: Yeah, very cool. So last episode, we talked a lot about laboratory testing with your wealth of knowledge there. Some of the different tests that were required, air, water, structural, and some of the other tests. And we talked about some of the standards organizations and things like that. What we didn’t get into that I’m really excited about talking about today is fieldwork, field testing. So we were in the lab in the first episode and now Part 2, we’re gonna go out into the field. How’s that sound?

Dan: It sounds great. It’s just a natural transition. Like we mentioned on the last podcast is that you can have a phenomenal window that test great in the laboratory, but if it’s not installed correctly, then you will potentially have issues. And to determine where the issues are is through laboratory testing and investigations. I mean field testing investigation, I’m sorry.

Paul: A question that I’ve been asked many times by consumers and even contractors is, if a product is tested in the laboratory, why do I have to do a field test now?

Dan: Like I’d mentioned field testing basically it’s a quality control check to verify that there wasn’t any damage to the windows during shipment and also during installation. And it’s also to verify that the installer installed the product correctly per the manufacturer and code regulations. It’s more of a quality control check just to verify that everything was done correctly. The second mention you can have a great laboratory-tested window, but if it was not installed correctly, you still will probably have issues.

Paul: And the other thing that comes to mind is the laboratory, obviously, that the window is installed in a certain way in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. But it couldn’t possibly account for all the varying field conditions that you would have with, you know, surrounding conditions of maybe stucco or wood siding or brick or a variety of other things. So can the field testing account or evaluate that interface as well?

Dan: That is correct. A typical laboratory test you’re testing the product only. So everything interior of the installation is what you’re testing. So in a laboratory test, you’re really not testing the different sealing or flashing techniques that could be accounted for and/or should be accounted for in a regular field application.

So yes, the field test is not only testing the window product itself, but it is testing the different variations in building construction because as everybody knows during the construction, there isn’t a perfect surround opening, you know. So the installers use the various flash and sealing techniques and the field tests is just to verify that they’ve done it correctly.

Paul: Yeah, so we’ve been talking about water testing. What other tests can be done in the field or would be recommended for an evaluation?

Dan: Yes, depending on the location, i.e. your weather conditions you can also run an air infiltration, and an exfiltration test just to verify that all the weatherstripping contexts are correct and then your product performs per industry standards.

There are also a few other more on the forensics end of it, you know. You can do frost point testing on the insulating glass with ASTM F574 I’m sorry and 576 that you can do just to verify if there are issues with glass that your insulating glass is fogging up some, you can make a quick frost point just to verify that the seal has not broken down from a previous storm or from the age of the product.

And then there are also different dynamic type of testing that can be done where you can actually put a dynamic blower on the outside and do a water investigation test also. But yeah, it’s done only water penetration but you can do air filtration frost point just do some destructive type. You know, take it off to have more forensics but take it off exterior components just to see how everything was installed and then flash if it was done correctly.

Paul: You mentioned in the first episode some of your credentials and one of the things that you said was you’re a fenestration master professional, and I believe that’s an AAMA certification. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dan: Yes, I am. Basically, what that entails is there’s…I don’t remember the exact number of segments, but it’s close to 20 different segments of the window and door and installation in the, you know, facets. That the person that needs to review and learn goes all the way from just the basics nomenclature of the products, all the way through the different types of sealants, the different types of finishes on different products, all the way through the different types of installations that can be done. And then also going through the various test procedures, kind of highlighting the different test procedures.

And then once you’re done with that training then you take an exam. And you have to have a minimum of 80% correct on the exam. And if you are, then you’re considered a fenestration master professional. And then what that credential entails is for your AAMA 502 and 503 tests, they require that you have a master professional on staff that is reviewing and training of your technicians and all of the reports.

Paul: My understanding is there’s not a lot of AAMA master professionals out there, is that correct?

Dan: That is correct. Of course, the AAMA credit test agencies that are out there will have at least one on staff. And there are several window manufacturers that have sent their lead field people for that training also. But yeah, I don’t know the exact number, but yeah, there isn’t a lot.

Paul: Yeah, I thought I had heard like 125. I mean, like, you know, in the general scheme of things, not a big number.

Dan: Correct.

Paul: Let’s talk about some of the test methods that are used in the field. You just mentioned AAMA 502 and AAMA 503. And I know yesterday, you mentioned AAMA 511 as well. Let’s talk about 502 and 503 first, and then 511 which is a forensic standard we’ll save that for last.

Dan: AAMA 502 we just completed…I happen to be the chair of a task group that just did the revision of a document. And we just completed that in 2021. That test procedure is…I’m gonna get the exact title for everybody. It’s Voluntary Specification for Field Testing of Newly Installed Fenestration Products.

So basically, that is more of a quality control-type test procedure. It’s for both air filtration and water penetration. And when we say newly installed, we mean that it’s probably they have been installed within six months.

So, like we started the podcast, it’s a quality control test procedure to confirm and verify that the windows and doors have been installed per the manufacturer’s requirements. Typically, what ends up happening is I’m installing a five-story apartment building, for example, it may have 400 different window or door components. What the architect will do is say, I wanna test X percent of the units as they’re being installed to verify, you know, the different crews, the different individuals are all installing them correctly.

So that X percent, you know, could be from 1% to 3% or sometimes higher. You know, so as things are being installed at 50% of installation is what I recommend is test one or two. That way you can catch things if there are issues you can catch them before everything is completely done. And it’s a lot easier to…you know, say a step was missing in the flashing, for example, it’s a lot easier to fix it on the fly before everything is installed.

The other requirements for the 502 is you test air filtration for ASTM D783, which is, you know, the standard test method for field air leakage. And then for the allowable, if not specified by the architect, AAMA 502 recommends that the allowable is 1.5 times what was listed in the performance requirements section of the project documents. And the reason for that is just to account for field conditions.

And then the water penetration testing is done per ASTM 1105. And kind of in line with the additional air leakage allowance AAMA 502 unless the architect specifies differently, they recommend that you test it two-thirds of what’s listed in the performance requirements section for the test pressure.

And then there’s different areas of water leakage that have definitions in the document, you know, just to kind of verify, you know, if things are leaking and if water is visible if that’s going to an issue or that.

And then AAMA 503 we’re actually in the process right now of revising that document. It’s in the final ballot so the new documents should be coming up here, this year is the plan for publication. And AAMA 503 is the Voluntary Specification for Field Testing of Newly Installed Storefronts, Curtain Walls, and Sloped Glazing Systems. So where 502 was meant for basically window and door products, AAMA 503 is meant for the commercial fixed type of products.

And basically, it has the same requirements. We tried to mirror each other in these rewrites. It sits for…it’s been installed within six months of installation. And have the same air filtration and water penetration requirements, you know, 1.5 times allowable and then also, you know, two-thirds of the product performance section requirements.

So those are basically the two quality control procedures. There is one other…the one that is out there it’s AAMA 501.2. Many may know that as the hose spray test method. So basically that is done without a pressure differential across the product, it’s just done on the exterior, you know, with a calibrated spray nozzle.

One thing that I’d like to highlight for everybody is to make sure that that test method is meant for non-operable products. And I should say even more than that non-sashed products. You can have a fixed window that has a sash that is fixed in place. That test method is not meant for that it’s meant storefronts, curtain walls, and sloped glazing systems. It’s a nice quick quality control check.

Paul: There’s some controversy around that one in my view and how to properly use it, you already…you’re all over that, you already hit on it. But, you know, the title…and the most recent addition to that is AAMA 501.2-15, is that correct?

Dan: That is correct. Yep.

Paul: Yeah, so the title is Quality Assurance and Diagnostic Water Leakage Field Check of Installed Storefronts, Curtain Walls, and Sloped Glazing Systems. So that seems to be…basically the way the title reads it seems they’re limited to commercial rather than residential type of applications. Is that correct?

Dan: It can be used for residential applications but like I mentioned it would have to be on a direct glazed product. Because it spells out in the scope pretty clear, scope of purpose that it’s not appropriate for [inaudible 00:19:59] and operable components. Operable windows and doors. So if you have just a direct glazed fixed window, it can be used on a residential product but not anything that has a sash.

Paul: So you mentioned just backing up into…come back to 502 and 503 for a second. You had mentioned that the test method used there is ASTM E1105. Can you talk a little bit about what that is and how it relates to the AAMA standards?

Dan: Yeah, sure. ASTM E1105, it’s the water penetration test. It’s the test method that tells you how to perform a static pressure differential water test. So basically, the way the test is done is you build a chamber either on the interior or the exterior surrounding your product that you wanna have test, that you’re testing. And that chamber is built typically…it can be done many ways, but it’s typically built out of wood framing with a clear plastic attached to it.

And that is attached, you know, to this round of the window or curtain wall, whatever you’re testing. And then you have a blower system that can either…if you’re on the interior side, will create a vacuum between that plastic chamber and the product to simulate your different wind speeds based on the performance criteria that’s listed in the project specifications.

And then there’s a method A and method B that is performed. So you can either have a straight 15-minute static test where you’re pulling the pressure the whole time. Or you can have a cyclic static test where you have five minutes with pressure applied, one minute where the pressure is released, five where they’ll apply it, one is to be released.

And then the whole while during this testing, there is a spray rack that is put on the exterior side of the product that will apply a uniform water spray across the entire opening. And the water sprayed you have to be between 4 and 10 gallons per hour per square foot when you do the calibrations. But that is equivalent to approximately 8 inches an hour of rainfall. It’s not a driven water spray it’s more of a misting type water spray.

But you are definitely saturating the exterior of the opening that you’re testing along with that static pressure vacuum that’ll draw simulating the wind. So that’s how you get the different test pressures and different criteria. You have the exact same water spray, but you increase or decrease the vacuum that is being applied depending on the conditions that you wanna test to.

And then during that testing, the reason we use clear plastic is you wanna be able to make observations on the interior side of the product including, you know, the rough openings surrounding it to see if any water leakage is occurring.

Water leakage could be from air leaks that are in different weather strip joints. So you’ll have a bubbling effect that’ll splash on your plastic pipe and that would be to the interior of your home. Or it can overflow the seal, or you could have a frame corner that may leak that may have been broken during transit. Or you could just have water that keeps out as current from the installation.

So that’s where a lot of the…when we mentioned about the training that is required, you know, having your technicians being trained to be able to diagnose and figure out where the water is coming from is very critical.

Paul: So you mentioned the water spray rack and the 8 inches per hour that they face have based it on in the past. I noticed in the latest version of ASTM E1105, they don’t reference that any longer. And in fact, they have an addendum that says, you know, that there’s been objections to that being too severe in the past and it’s really not intended to replicate anything only to be a baseline to compare products. Do you concur with that?

Dan: Yep. I agree 100%. The calibrations that are done on the spray rack it’s a catch box that are one-foot square sizes, and then you put that in three different locations of your spray rack depending on the size of your rack. And then each of those areas has to be within, you know, 4 to 10 gallons per square foot, and then you have to have a total of 20 before, you know.

So the 8 inches I’ll be honest, I don’t know exactly how that was calculated. I’ve never done it myself. That’s just what from the years of running the test, that’s a number that I’ve always been told, you know. So it’s more of, you know, having your spray rack calibrated for your gallons per hour per square foot.

Paul: That number came long before you or I were ever involved in this. And we’ve been around for a long time.

Dan: I agree.

Paul: It was an old deal. And I guess the other thing to just kind of add on to that is that the water spray that’s supplied from a calibrated spray rack does not look extreme. I mean, it’s kind of a uniform spray that goes over the entire assembly. And I can just speak from personal experience living in Florida that I’ve seen actual rainfalls put a lot more water in place than the spray rack does. So 8 inches sounds like a lot, but the reality is anybody’s seen the spray rack, it’s really not severe.

Dan: Yeah, it sounds like a lot but it’s more of a…depending on the type of spray nozzle that you have. But it’s more of a real heavy misting [inaudible 00:27:11] to make sure that your exterior of the product is saturated is basically what it is. Yep, you’re correct.

Paul: Is it possible to use ASTM E1105 by itself without reference to any of the AAMA standards?

Dan: Yes. The ASTM 1105 is a standalone document. It’s actually…you know, it’s kind of, you know, bizarre or maybe not bizarre. But it’s actually the other way around you can’t do AAMA 502 without 1105. So, 1105 is basically the base document and it just tells you how to perform the test.

Paul: Yeah, it doesn’t tell you what pressures to use or things like that. So, it’s a test method, not a specification, correct?

Dan: That is correct.

Paul: So let’s segue into AAMA 511.

Dan: Yeah, AAMA 511 basically is the forensics version of the documents. I was actually elected to the task of chairing that one. We just did the rewrite on that one also. So the actual title is “Voluntary Guideline for the Forensic Evaluation of Water Intrusion at Fenestration Products.”

So, basically, this procedure is meant…you know, I guess, there’s several different reasons. If during your quality control testing you do see leakage then you kind of go into AAMA 511 and use 511 as more of the investigative to find out what exactly…to pinpoint where that leakage happened.

Another reason for 511 is like we mentioned before 502 and 503 are meant for products that are within six months of installation. After six months, then you have performance 511 which is a little bit more involved. The prep is more involved. And then also for the forensics end of it when previous water leakage has been observed, you use 511.

You know, when I mentioned the 511 is more involved the reason it’s more involved is basically what…you have to do your homework prior to the testing. So, if at all possible, you wanna interview the building owners to find out exactly where and when water leakage has occurred, you know, has been observed I should say.

So, you know, say during the month of July, there was three occurrences where water leakage was observed and during…you know, so we can get those dates, and then you can do the investigation back to find okay, what was the exact windspeed during that rainfall? You know, to determine what the average wind speed was.

The next step is to look at if that storm occurrence happened to be above the performance level of the product that was installed, well, you know, then you gotta kind of put your thinking hat on. Okay, the storm, you know, was more than window or door, you know, was certified to so it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. But yeah, that’s kind of where the homework has to be done.

And then this AAMA 511 it’s based off of ASTM E2128 which is, you know, the ASTM International method of doing the investigative testing on a facade. Yeah, it’s more of…AAMA 511 is more of the investigative forensic portion of testing as documented.

Paul: You mentioned…well, let me ask another question first. So AAMA 502 and 503 are for the first six months as a quality control check during or immediately after construction. So what is AAMA 511 say about when it’s appropriate to use that document?

Dan: In the scope, it doesn’t 100% spell it out exactly when. It’s appropriate to use it basically after six months of installation, and if water leakage has been observed. If water leakage has been observed, then you go into 511 which kind of gives us step by step process of figuring out where that leakage occurred at, was it a pinhole in the weather barrier, was it a window frame corner? It kind of gives you where to dig in and gives kind of a guide on how to dig in.

Paul: Now let’s talk a little bit about…to bring this all together. Let’s talk a little bit about forensic investigation, which is one of the things that you might be tasked with on assignment, you know, now that you’re at GCI. So what are the…if you get a call from a potential client, or you get hired on a project that, you know, maybe it’s a litigation maybe it’s not, you know, there’s always the threat seeing the world we live in now.

But say, you know, [inaudible 00:33:21] and that office or hotel or whatever, and, you know, we’re getting water leaks. [inaudible 00:33:30] guy goes out there and he’s cocked and hasn’t fixed them, and we don’t know now, can you help us? What would your approach be to a forensic investigation of water leakage and kind of like what you do in the beginning into actually getting into the fieldwork?

Dan: Okay. Yeah, basically the steps that I follow is during that initial phone call just gather as much information as you can. Quite often the phone call will come from an attorney. So, they won’t have a ton of information that they can tell you verbally initially at least.

But kind of the steps is, you know, I ask for all of the basic project documents that they have available just to kind of, you know, see the as-built, that can kind of assist a person into figuring out where to dig in if there is an issue. You know, instead of just going haphazard at it look at all the project documents, which are the drawings and the project specs.

And then kind of talking to the building owner, and do an evaluation of the design concept because forensics can not only be because of water intrusion it can be because of, you know, vapor drive or different things like that, and it might not even have anything to do with the rainfall. So, just figure out what the design concept that the building was meant for.

And then interview as many people as possible that are in the building that have seen and/or experienced, you know, the issues that are being investigated. This is quite often, you know, the building maintenance people. You kind of get determination of the service history, you know, that has occurred on the facade, and also the leakage or, you know, the issues history so you can kind of start setting up a game plan.

Once you have kind of a good idea of the design concept and the service history that is going on, then I like to perform just a visual inspection. Where if you need to you get up in a man lift or, you know, swing stage, or whatever is needed, and then go and do an inspection just to find out, okay, based on all the data that we’ve collected visually, is there something that really jumps out at you.

And then if there’s something really just kind of jumps out at you, then you determine if you need to do investigative testing. And the investigative testing can be either destructive, or it can be non-destructive, you have to make a determination there. The non-destructive testing is like…well, we were talking about kind of doing the ASTM E1105 water spray testing or doing some 501.2 water spray testing. And just kind of…along with isolating different areas just kind of okay, try to recreate the leakage that has been occurring.

And then once you complete your non-destructive testing, then you can look at it and figure out okay, should we start tearing things apart? And then, you know, start taking the exterior and/or the interior off layer by layer and find out okay, we know we have a water entry occurrence happening in this upper corner of this storefront window area.

Let’s start digging to find out okay, was something that’s left once in the flash and incorrectly, was a ceiling joint missed. Just digging in and finding out what is actually wrong. And then once you have that done, then you do an analysis. And then that analysis can be, you know, just kind of stating what we saw, or it can get as involved as giving…I like to say repair A, B and C. Suggested you know, repair methods. Let’s repair A just kind of making it work. B is more involving and costly. And then C is basically sometimes just tearing it out and putting it back in again and doing it correctly.

One of the biggest things that I didn’t highlight but I should have is when the non-destructive water spray testing when that is being done, the purpose of that is to recreate a known leak. That’s why that service history portion is so important to identify where leaks have occurred.

You know, there’s been too many times where I’ve been out on investigative testing, you know, and we’re testing one area because that’s the area that has leaked over time, then all over sudden by the test facility agency, there’s an aha moment. We have a leak that never ever leaked before in the past. And they say, “Oh, we got a leak over here.” And you can kind of say, well, that’s fine, but that has never leaked in the past. So that means that you’re potentially over-testing that area. But the purpose of the AAMA 511 and ASTM 2128, is to recreate known leakage points.

Paul: So when there’s a leak it could show up in a lot of different places, obviously, you can see maybe water running down on the inside of the window or glazing system. You could have, you know, a very common area where you see water often is near the bottom frame corners. You could have it an operable product maybe being blown in, percolating in over the seal. You could have puddles on the floor, you could have ceiling stains on the floor below, a lot of different possibilities.

So, what do you need to do when you’re testing to basically be able to…say there’s water paddling on the floor and then you do a non-destructive test and the puddle shows up on the floor. What do you need to do to figure that out?

Dan: Basically it’s a step-by-step process. What you need to do is…at least the steps that I take is I make sure…you know, once we recreate the leak make sure that everything is dried out and the leakage has stopped. Then start from the lower points, do water spray testing at the lower points, and progress your way upwards on the facade. And then the whole time basically isolating different areas.

Ideally, you wanna test one…you quite often have an idea of where this water is coming in. So on the exterior with different types of sealing techniques using, you know, tape sealing plastic is isolate on the exterior so you’re only testing one component or one joint at a time.

And then as you’re testing really start from the bottom. Of course, you start at the top and it starts leaking or you don’t know exactly where that leakage occurs, you start at the bottom, work your way up. And then as you get to a certain elevation on the exterior facade then you can pinpoint okay, this is where leakage has occurred.

And once you recreate that leak then the next step would be to start digging in and potentially doing some destructive, you know, just kind of digging things apart and seeing, you know, exactly what’s behind the stucco metal panels or whatever you have

Paul: I know a sore spot a lot of times when we’re going in into occupied buildings typically residential, it is…or fear or maybe by the people who are, you know, the owners or whatever whose windows and doors are being tested with removal of interior finishes as part of the testing process. Why is that necessary and why is it important?

Dan: You pretty much have to tear the interior part. What I like to do is basically pull up all of your sheet rack or casing returns, you know, surrounding the opening your seal stool for your investigative portion. And then you want to pull your sealants and different things like that that are between the window and the rough opening.

If you can get a decent visual there, then you don’t have to go any further. But sometimes you have to go further and you have to start cutting out the interior sheet rack walls typically below the window openings. So you can get observation to the interior of the exterior sheathing of the building.

The reason for that is as you’re running these water tests, you know, you may just have a pinhole in the sealant or flashing tape, you know, maybe 4 inches up on an alien flange jammed. And then as you’re running the test, you know if you have the interior already taken out, you can actually see the stream of water, a trickle of water that could be coming in.

So by having the interior, you know, pulled out for the forensic evaluation testing is very critical in order to determine where…you know, because it’s one thing to know where the water enters the building, but then it’s another to see where it’s actually visible on the interior side also.

Paul: So what goes, you know, for better or for worse, what goes hand in hand with the forensic work oftentimes is a dispute or what I like to call it the blame game. But probably a more eloquent way to say that would be attributing responsibility to, you know, whoever maybe didn’t do things correctly, that would cause this issue. So that’s where obviously, expert witness work comes in. And, you know, as I say for better for worse, it’s kind of a natural extension of all this. So can you kind of maybe run through some of the things that occur when you’re a litigation expert on a case

Dan: Basically when I’m a litigation expert what I look at is okay, I look at the project drawings, and then I also look at the manufacturer’s drawings and installation instructions and drawings. And then as we do the investigation just kind of keep on peeling back the onion so to speak. Is okay, was this installed per the project drawings? If it was not, okay, then which trade in this building was responsible for what portion of the install and the weatherproofing? And then kind of just keep on digging back and find it okay, which trade and what was responsible for what area.

And then just keep on expanding onto that system seeing okay, you know, what was it…like my main area of expertise right now is in the window industry. You know, was it or wasn’t it a window issue? If it was well, you know, then, of course, then you talk to…my customer would be the window manufacturer and say here’s where some of the issues were.

But if it wasn’t, then I just keep on digging back and digging in and finding out okay, which areas of the actual installation and the construction of the building weren’t done according to the project specs and according to industry standards.

Paul: And then on the litigation side typically, would you produce a report with your finding?

Dan: Yes, depending on where it works, you know, at what stage of litigations, then yes, it’d be a report either disputing or contradicting or agreeing to, you know, the initial plaintiff report, you know, with all of their findings. Or just a report basically stating okay, here’s exactly what I saw, you know, here’s exactly how it was installed and what the testing showed. And then issue that report to the customer which can be used, you know, for the litigation portion of it. Yes.

Paul: And just briefly, tell us about your experience with the litigation process, depositions, trial testimony, things like that.

Dan: Yeah, as far as my experience, like I said I’ve been doing the forensics and litigation work for probably about…I don’t know the exact first one was about 20 years back was the first one that I got heavily involved with. And it’s basically just gathering all the facts, all the data, making sure that everything is correct.

And then if the mediator can’t…during mediation if things can’t get resolved, well, then it gets into the deposition stage, you know, where you’re basically being interrogated and asked questions by all the different sides’ lawyers just to kind of see where…so that they can determine where I’m coming from and more or less my experience.

And after the depositions, you know, the multiple sides, you know, can it come to a resolution, then it does come to the litigation portion. And then basically get on a stand and basically backup all of the test reports that I’ve written, and everything that I’ve seen and just, you know, give my side of the story.

Paul: And you’ve testified in court before?

Dan: I guess I’ve done it about half a dozen times, yes.

Paul: It doesn’t usually come down to that but sometimes it does. And that’s a whole different ballgame, I guess, than anything else. You had mentioned…just to wrap things up. You mentioned that you were involved in…we talked about the AAMA standards, some ASTM standards. Can you just…you mentioned you’re involved in some of that, it sounds like you’re very involved. Can you just kind of summarize that as well?

Dan: Yes. At GCI we’re members of the FGIA, which is the parent organization for the AAMA documents. And I’m the vice chair of the Method of Tests Committee. That committee, what we basically…you know, as the title says we oversee all the different tests procedures, and test methods that AAMA looks at and produces.

So the ones that I’ve been very heavily involved with is the revisions of AAMA 502 and 511, which those two we have just recently completed in ’21 and ’22. AAMA 503 actually, within the week now we’ll have the ballot and the resolutions on the ballot. So that one should be coming out in 2022. And then we’re going to start digging into the AAMA 501.2. And basically, all the documents are very well written good documents, but as everything else over time, things change and you always wanna refine and make them better.

So, that’s kind of my involvement with AAMA. And then also I’m on the Installation Methods Task Group and committees just to kind of review their different installation guidelines, you know, that they have. Then I’m also a member of the ASTM E6 Committee, which the…E6 Committee along with a lot of other things, it basically entails all the different, you know, building facade testing methods and procedures and guidelines and that type of thing.

So I’m on that committee which the meetings come up fairly shortly. You know, we’re just continually revising and refining, and making all the documents more user-friendly is basically the best way of saying it. Because myself included once you get a bunch of techy individuals in a room, you can make them pretty difficult to read. So our approach now is to kind of, you know, make them more user-friendly.

Paul: Yeah, sometimes you need to have…some of them can be really difficult. So that’s a really good charge is to try and make them simpler. Dan, you’re a wealth of information, really interesting and we’re super excited that you’re part of the GCI team now. And I think we both agree that it was really a good fit. And also thank you for doing not one but two podcasts to kind of go over everything. So it’s been really great and thank you so much.

Dan: Yeah, it’s been my pleasure. And it’s only been a few months, but it has been a great job transition. And I think that GCI and myself I think we complement each other very well.

Paul: Yep, agree 100%. So thanks again. So in closing, I would like to thank our listeners for listening to our podcast today and I invite you to take a further look at our GCI consultant services on our website. You can find that at www.gciconsultants.com. You can also reach out to any of our experts at 877-740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you once again. I look forward to talking with you next time on our “Everything Building Envelope Podcast.” So long everyone.

World of Windows Part 1

World of Windows Part 1 – Paul Beers and Dan Johnson

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 75: World of Windows Part 1

In this podcast, Paul Beers and Dan Johnson at GCI Consultants sit down to talk about all things windows. Listen to this episode to learn how to take care of one of the most important pieces of your building envelope.

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


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Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is Paul Beers, CEO and managing member for GCI Consultants, and I will be your host today. I thought it would be interesting to talk with our very own senior consultant, Dan Johnson about his experience in the world of windows. Dan joined our team of experts in April this year, and is a strong addition to our team. So, Dan, welcome.

Dan: Yeah, thank you, Paul.

Paul: So, Dan, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll go back and do a deeper dive?

Dan: Okay. Thank you, Paul. Yeah, and I’ll be glad. As I mentioned, you know, thanks for allowing me to join GCI. And, kind of, my experiences. My college education is I was engineering and technology with a quality management emphasis. And then when I graduated college, of course, the typical, you need the experience, and so I got a job as a test technician with Twin City Testing Corporation.

My role there, I was their laboratory air, water, structural, and acoustical technician. We tested anything from doors, windows, to interior walls, exterior walls. And then also, I was responsible for doing the field testing for windows, and doors, and curtain walls for air infiltration and water penetration testing, and also, the acoustical testing in the field. I was there for a couple of years, and then when architectural testing wanted to expand into the Midwest of the United States, they contacted me to assist. And there, we built a lab. That was in 1990. And that lab, we did the full series of testing for air, water, structural for window and door manufacturers. We also tested on insulated glass and also safety glazing.

We were a small lab at the time. We had… I’ll be honest, we had three employees. But as we grew, my responsibilities also grew along with that. So I was responsible for, initially, you know, for basically all of the field testing, which ranged from, you know, quality control testing, all the way through forensic evaluations. And then as we grew, we outgrew the space. And we moved into a larger space, which allowed us to expand into the thermal testing realm, which thermal testing is basically, you know, determining your U-values and your condensation existence factors based on the NFRC and AAMA test procedures. And so I assisted our company, and we built the thermal chamber. And at that time, it was Saint Paul, Minnesota.
And then also, run, did the installs, the evaluations. I became the person responsible charge for NFRC. And then also along with thermal testing, we expanded into more of the insulated glass testing, which we tested mostly for the Insulated Glass Certification Council, and then also for ALI and MAM [SP] for their certification programs.

We lasted there for about 15 years. During that time, we were purchased by Intertek Testing Services. And then we ran outta space once again, and then we moved into a new building. So then, during that time, I assisted in design and did the full move to a new building. And one of the biggest reasons for the move there was we were able to… We had over 30 feet of interior wall or ceiling heights. We expanded into the full-service mockup testing also.

And so during that time, I was the person responsible in charge for thermal testing, the air, water, structural testing, the mockup testing, and the insulated glass testing. And then also, I grew into managing more of the field testing. Prior to that, I didn’t… I don’t have an exact count, but it’s definitely thousands of field-testing tests that I performed personally. And then I’m also an administration master professional certified individual, and so which allows me, you know, to do a full review of both residential and field quality control testing, and then also to continue divulging into the AAMA 511, which is the forensic evaluation.

And then one thing that I forgot to mention is during this whole time, I was also… A few of window manufacturers. So I was their expert when it came into litigation, you know, potential litigation, and those types of cases.

That’s, kind of, a background on my work history, which goes, kind of, hand in hand with the actual hands-on. I was and still am a representative with various trade organizations. I’m currently on the Demonstration and Glazing Industry Alliance. I’m the co-chair of the Method of Tests Committee, which what that involves is we review all the different test procedures. Primarily, the field test procedures, but pretty much all the test procedures. We just continually review them and change them as they need to be revised and they need to be changed. Then I’m also a member of the E6 Committee with ASTM International, which the E6 Committee, you know, deals primarily with the exterior building components of the building, which goes along, you know, with my FGIA associations. So that’s, kind of, a recap of my history. I don’t know if there’s anything you’d like to talk, you know, a little bit more in-depth, Paul?

Paul: Well, there’s a lot [inaudible 00:05:36] but that’s impressive. You know, I know that you did have an experience with the lab field and whatnot, and then the litigation work as well. Let’s try to break this down a little bit, and let’s just talk about some of the things that go on in the laboratory. You mentioned several times air, water, structural. So can you just talk a little bit more about why do they do that, number one? And then number two, what’s involved with that?

Dan: Yeah. So, yeah, most definitely. I apologize for, kind of, breezing over that a little bit. When I mentioned air, water, structural, that’s just, kind of, a synonym for the certification testing that is done by window manufacturers. And the reason that you want to have quality control testing done and certification testing done on by window and door manufacturers for their products is, you know, every window manufacturer has a full team of engineers, and they’re continually designing and making new and improved window products.

In order to confirm and verify that those window products are to industry standards, which the industry standard right now is NAFS, which is National American Fenestration Standard. Which is, kind of, when I mentioned air, water, structural, that is, kind of…it’s more than just air, water, structural, air infiltration, water penetration, and structural performance. So those are the three main components that gets tested to in order to determine the performance levels, performance grades of different window and door products.

So the way it’s set up is a window manufacturer will have a new design they want to bring into market. They will typically both have… They have a bunch of their R&D testing done already to, kind of, get most of the bugs worked out. But then they’ll send it to a certified and accredited lab, which is the one that I manage and work for. And the lab would test it to the industry standard, to that mass standard.

And then you would test it for air infiltration, which is typically done at 1.57 PSF, which is equivalent to a 25-mph wind. And then also if it’s a higher-level architectural-grade window, then you’d test it with 6.24 PSF, which is a 50-mph wind. You test it both for infiltration, which is, you know, the air being drawn into the building. And then also exfiltration, which is the air being exhausted from the building. And then you measure the amount of airflow that occurs at simulated wind speed, and that gets converted into cubic feet of air per minute per square foot of window opening. And there is…based on the different performance levels, there’s a certain amount of air that can leak through the opening in order to pass the test.

Once you have passing tests for the air filtration, then you move on to the water penetration testing, which what that entails is you dry a static load from the outside of the window in to simulate different wind speeds and test pressures. During that time, there is a water spray that is put on the exterior of the opening also that is approximately eight inches an hour of rainfall. That’s a really heavy mist is basically what it is. And then you run the test for a residential-grade or light commercial grade. You run the test for four five-minute cycles, which what a cycle is you have five minutes with water spray plus pressure, then you have one minute where you reduce pressure to zero to simulate, kind of, you know, let the window, you know, relieve itself. And then five pressure, one-off, five pressure, one-off. And then five pressure. And then you complete with the one-off. And during that time, you can’t have any water overflow the interface of the window opening or through any frame corners. And this is done at various test pressures to determine what performance grade. Of course, the higher the test pressure, the higher the performance grade.

And then once the water penetration testing is done, and then you go into uniform load structural testing, which basically what that is you increase the amount of pressure to simulate the wind speed that the window is going to be rated at. So, like, if you have a design pressure of 35 PSF, which would be a PG 35 in the industry. You test it for a 35 PSF, you measure the deflections on the key components. For most grade windows, the lower the residential and light commercial grade windows, it says four information only. But then when you get to the architectural grade window, then your window can’t deflect more than the length of that member divided by 175 in order to get a passing result.

Then once you have your 35 done, then you go to one and a half times that, which is called the structural overload. And that structural overload testing is done more or less as a safety factor. You know, the window is designed for that 35 PSF performance grade because it has both air, water, and the load deflections. But then you wanna make sure that, just as a safety factor, you’ve got 1.5 times that.

So, for example, we’re using a 35 PSF, for example, 1.5. So you test it for a positive 52.5 PSF load on the window for 10 seconds. And during that time, you can’t have any excessive permanent deformation, or you can’t have any components that break. And then after completion of that, then you’ll do the negative, which, you know, negative 52.5 PSF, which is you’re trying to blow the window out of the opening. And then the same criteria. You can’t have any excessive permanent defamation, and can’t have any breakage.

So once you pass those three key components of the NAFS standard, if the manufacturer is happy with the performance grade that they received, then you move on. If they want it to go higher, then you inch in your way higher at 5 PSF increments. But it has to pass both the water penetration at that higher level, plus the structure performance at that higher level. Once you get to the level that the manufacturer would like to rate their product at, then you move on to the forced-entry resistance test.

What you’re trying to do is you’re trying to manipulate the locks with a few different components and tools, and then you also put force on the locks just to make sure that they’re structurally solid. So if somebody wants to break in, you know, the homeowner can feel confident that window and door are going to be able to sustain different modes. There are four different classifications, you know, for forced-entry resistance. And you have a grade 10, 20, 30, and 40, and each one being a higher grade.

Once you’ve passed forced-entry resistance, there are several different component-type tests depending on the type of product that if you have a double hung window, you do operate at force, and you do a couple of different other torsion tests. And then if you have a crank-out casement window, there’s a side load test. And there’s a couple of other tests to make sure that if you happen to leave your window open and a heavy gust of wind would blow, it’s not going to break the hinges, and the operator, and blow the window off.

Once all the testing is completed, what the test lab would do is they will actually cut up the window and then compare the key components of the window to the manufacturer’s drawings. Basically, we wanna make sure that the window that was tested is the window that they make every day. So there’s typically…you have your stash component, and your frame components, and your structural members. You’ll compare, you know, a half a dozen of the key measurements on their drawings, and then verify that they’re within tolerance. And if they’re within tolerance, the test lab will write up a test report detailing how the window was made, all the test results, and then also include a copy of the approved drawings, or rather, the verified drawings. And then that will get submitted to the manufacturer, who in turn will submit that to a certification body.

And then the certification body, basically, they’re responsible, you know, for the follow-up quality control checks that are done, which are basically in-plant inspections. There are several certification programs out there that will do follow-up inspections to confirm. They’ll take the test report that the lab wrote, and then they’ll confirm that during their inspections that the windows that are being made on the manufacturing lines are the same as the window that was tested.

Paul: It’s very rigorous.

Dan: I’m sorry. Go ahead. It definitely is. And the reason is you wanna make sure, you know, that the consumer is getting a quality product. And, you know, the way to get a quality product is to make sure that you have third parties. You know, the test lab is a third party that is checking up on the manufacturer. And then the certification agency is the third party that is making sure that the test lab is doing things correctly, and then also doing the follow-ups. And so you wanna make sure, you know, not only for a consumer but the two key components that are vital for the consumer are typically the water resistance of the product, and then also the structural load of the product. Because everybody knows, you know, once you get water in the building, then you gotta, kind of, go to the next level and try to figure out what’s going on. So, you know, the more robust the products can be, you know, the less likely that water will be, you know, damage during a windstorm of the product.

Paul: So let me ask you a couple of questions about the water and the structure, which are the two main things. On the water side of things, I’m gonna put my expert hat on for a second. And, you know, I’ve been in hearings and whatnot where opposing experts, who may or may not be window experts, make statements like, “Oh, windows are supposed to leak.” Is that true?

Dan: No. No, windows are never designed to leak. Quite often, I get those same questions. And quite often, it all depends on the definition of leakage, I guess. This is probably the way of looking at it. I’ve been in several depositions where it’s a horizontal sliding window or it’s a horizontal sliding patio door. And during a storm, water is visible in the sill of the window. But it does not overflow into the residence, but there’s water visible. So some homeowners and i.e. experts say, “Well, that’s water leakage. ” And it’s really is not.

The sliding window product is, kind of, made to accumulate water, and the sill height or the cavity of the sill, depending on the rating that you wanna have, the performance level you want will have various levels that water can only be pushed up so high depending on the wind speed that’s out there. And then once the storm is over, it just drains back out. So, yes, water can be visible in those tracks during a rainstorm. But is that considered water leakage? No, it is not.

Paul: So what’s the exception to that rule with regards to wind storms? So if you have a window that’s rated… Well, your example of the 35 PSF certification pressure for a window, is the water test pressure also 35, or is it different?

Dan: Very good question. Yup. For laboratory testing, if you’re testing a residential or light commercial window, your test pressure is done at 15% of your design pressure. So, for example, the test pressure on our PG 35 window, your laboratory test pressure would be done at 5.25 PSF. And then once you get into the field, just due to different applications, and installations, and just different field components, the water test pressure that you would conduct in a field test for AAMA 502, 503, or 511, you know, any of those documents would be done at two-thirds of that laboratory test pressure. Or for this case, it would be done at, you know, 35.

Paul: So if you’ve got a window that’s got a water test pressure of 5.25, what is that about in miles per hour, if you know?

Dan: 5.25 would be right around 40 mph.

Paul: Yeah, so somewhere in that, give or take. So if you had a wind-driven rain storm with 60-mph winds, what could happen?

Dan: The window product could leak. And the reason I say that… I’m not saying that it would leak, but the potential would be there because, you know, the window wasn’t designed, in that case, designed for that storm that was out there. Most window manufacturers, you know, have different series of windows that are meant for different areas of the country, or different environmental conditions. So, like, in the case that you mentioned, a 60-mph wind, if it was a PG 35 window, that storm would be above what the window was rated at, so there is a potential that it would leak, yes, just because it’s above the… I’m not saying that it would, but there’s a potential that it would.

Paul: Yes, if you’re in an area like a coastal area where you could get 60 mph wind-driven rain, obviously, it would be appropriate to have a higher-rated product in that environment. And likely, the code would require a higher-rated product, is that not true?

Dan: Yeah, that is correct. Yeah. You know, kind of, the guideline is ASCE 7, which doesn’t really give the water performance rating, but it’ll give, you know, the minimum structural rating of, you know, the products, and walls, and roofs, and the whole building that would be needed for that geographical area. And then based on that, and then you can backtrack and figure out what the actual water rating would be.

Paul: Yeah. So on the structural rating with the safety factors [inaudible 00:20:32] a window that’s rated at 35, and it’s tested to 52.5 at the 1.5 safety factor. Why isn’t it rated at 52.5 since it passed the test?

Dan: It’s rated at the 35 because that’s the performance level of the pride that the unit should be able to sustain a 35 PSF storms for….or should be able to sustain many, many of the 35 PSF storms. So because it’s rated at that, so if, you know, anything that 35 PSF or below storms that occur, the window should continue to perform at the level for many of those storms. The 52.5, the 1.5 times that, as we mentioned, it’s meant as a safety factor. So if it gets a numerous 52.5 PSF wind loads on it, then, you know, it’s not meant, you know, to perform after that wind speed. It’s meant to stay in the opening, and keep the homeowners and everybody safe.

Paul: So you had mentioned…was it NAS standard?

Dan: NAFS, National American Fenestration Standard.

Paul: NAFS, which used to be ANSI/AAMA 101?

Dan: Yup, it’s the North American Fenestration Standard, yeah. It used to be AAMA 101. It still is AAMA 101. It’s just that NAFS is, kind of, the shortcut for it instead of saying it all out, yes.

Paul: Yeah. So NAFS is where it lays out all this criteria for certification of products, is that correct?

Dan: Correct, yeah. NAFS lays all of the test methods and test procedures that are required to satisfy a product. And then the certification programs. Each one will have their own individual criteria that they have above NAFS. But, yeah, NAFS is the industry standard that envelopes the test procedures that are done.

Paul: And who are the organizations that are involved with publishing or keeping up with that document?

Dan: There are three organizations, one is FGIA, which I had mentioned, it’s the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance. You have WDMA, which is the Window and Door Manufacturer Association. And then you have CSA, which is the Canadian Standard Association. Prior to… You’re gonna catch me on the exact year. I can’t think of the exact year off the top of my head, but there were two. In North America, there were two different testing standards out there. Canada had their own standard, and then the United States had their standard, AAMA. And then the two countries saw so much alliance, that’s when they developed NAFS, and just all three organizations are working together now.

Paul: And then you also talked about once you complete all the testing, then you go to a certification organization, or I guess that’s what I would call it. What are some examples of who that might be? Obviously, AAMA is one.

Dan: Yeah, AAMA is one, WDMA, which their certification program is called Hallmark is another one. Keystone Certification is another. You have, NAMA, North American Manufacturer Association. And then there are a few other ones also. Like, for example, you know, Miami-Dade County has its own program, but their program doesn’t test, you know, to the NAFS. But those are probably the key ones.

Paul: They all use some of the basic standards, and then maybe put their own wrinkle on it?

Dan: They all have passive tests. For all of them, the product has to be tested to the NAFS standard and pass the NAFS standard for all of those programs. What they’ll do is they’ll… Probably the differences are, you know, the frequency of retesting, you know, to verify that the windows are still being made. You know, it can be once every 10 years that a window gets pulled off a line and sent to a lab, or once every four years. You know, each one has their own wrinkle there. And then the other wrinkle is basically, you know, the frequency of inspections that are being done.

Paul: So let’s shift gears. You mentioned thermal, and I know thermal is becoming more and more… There’s a bigger and bigger emphasis on thermal from the way things used to be. So tell us a little bit about the thermal requirements and the testing that’s done. I know there’s calculations also. Because nowadays window manufacturers not only need the performance criteria, they also need the thermal information as well, is that right?

Dan: Correct, yeah. So thermal is primarily being regulated through NFRC, which is the National Fenestration Rating Council. The way that window manufacturers will get their product thermally certified is it’s initially done through computer simulations. You know, so what a window manufacturer will do is they will send all of their window drawings along with profile drawings, the assembly and profile drawings. They’ll send their drawings in electronic format to an NFRC-accredited simulation lab, and then they’ll also have all of their different types of glass options that they want to offer. Yeah, I still remember one which just amazed me. Probably about 10 years back, there was a manufacturer that had 3,112, that number sticks in my head, 3,112 different glass options that they offer in their window products. When I say glass options…

Paul: Wow.

Dan: …that means, you know, different types. Yeah, it was wild. When we did our report, it was wild. So that’s why computer simulation, you know, came out probably about 20 years back. Prior to then, you had to physically test every product in order to get the U-value ratings. Now, it can be done by computer simulation, which really streamlines it. Once all of the different glass options are put in, then the computer, kind of, just crunches the numbers out. It’ll have a U-factor, a solar heat gain coefficient, and a visible light transmittance factor, you know, for each of those different glass options. So you’ll have this large matrix of glass options with those ratings. And then what gets done is the manufacturer, along with the simulation lab, will typically pick one of the best U-value rated product glass option. And then that option will get manufactured and sent into the test lab, who will install it into a thermal chamber, which is a different name for it, it’s a guarded hot box. And we will test it for NFRC 102.

And that test procedure is, basically, you’ll have a perpendicular wind on the… Let me backtrack a little bit. The chamber is two rooms separated by a wall. On the one side, you have, you know, the room is kept at a cold temperature, typically right around zero degrees along with a perpendicular wind being blown on the product that is installed in that wall. On the opposite side, you’ll measure the amount of energy that it keeps…you know, to keep that room at 70 degrees. And then that amount of energy gets converted into your Watts, and then it gets converted into a BTU per hour, per square foot, per degree Fahrenheit temperature difference between interior and exterior, and then which is your U-value. And then that U-value is compared to the simulated U-value, which as long as they’re within tolerance of each other.

If they’re within tolerance of each other, that means that the window manufacturer can actually make a window with the way their drawings show, and the way they were simulated. So if they match, then the window is torn apart once again, compared to the drawing just like a water-structural program. And then the test report of that product line is validated. So then what the manufacturer will do is they’ll send that simulation matrix report to a certification agency, who will, in turn, upload all that data, you know, to a certified product directory, the NFRC [inaudible 00:29:03].

And then consumers can go into that directory. And depending on the location and the requirements that they have for the residents, they can pick and choose the window and glazing option that is needed, you know, for that location. It’s to help the consumer, you know, to give it an even playing field since all manufacturers, if they have to simulate and test to the same standards, they’re all rated through the same procedures. Then they can pick and choose the one that’s best for their location.

Paul: So you mentioned consumers. So if I’m a consumer, you know, all these terms I don’t know what they mean or what they’re for, so let’s go through that. What is a U-value?

Dan: A U-value is basically the amount of energy that conducts through a product. That’s pretty simple terms, but it’s basically the amount of energy that transmits through a product. So the lower the U-value rating, the better the product is at not allowing heat to transfer through.

Paul: So the U-value is basically… I mean, is that, kind of, like, insulation as far as, you know, the better it is, the more resistant it is to heat or coal going in or out?

Dan: Correct. Yeah, basically, the U-value is the reciprocal of the R-value. Yeah, so if you have an R-value, you know, of insulation. You know, like, you have an R-30 wall, your U-value would be 1 divided by 30. You know, so that’s what your U-value would be. So, yeah, they’re basically the same thing. They’re just reciprocal of each other.

Paul: And then you mentioned solar heat gain, what’s that?

Dan: Correct. Solar heat gain is the amount of heat that transfers typically mostly just through the glass. So it’s the amount of heat gain that the product will allow from the sun, basically through solar radiation. If you put some low emissivity-type coatings or tints on a product, it will deflect the solar radiation back out of the building. So your solar heat gain will be less, which is what you need, you know, for the southern half of the United States. For the northern half of the United States, quite often, you want it to have… You know, in the cold months, you’d like to have that solar heat gain. You know, so there’s different types of coatings that will allow the solar radiation to come through in order to assist in heating up your homes. So depending on where you are in the country, in the southern portion of the United States, you want to have a good solar heat gain coefficient. And then in the northern half, you want to have it so it allows some through.

Paul: So the Minnesota glass is not the same as the Florida glass?

Dan: No, it is not. No, the Minnesota glass will typically have, you know, your… It’s a low-emissivity coating. Typically, they’re selective, so they just allow certain rays. And it will allow the solar radiation to come through. And then when it tries to go back out of the window, depending on the [inaudible 00:32:11] it’s on, it’ll bounce it back to keep the energy to stay inside your home. In the south, you don’t wanna have that solar heat coming into your residence, into your home, so it’ll block it right away and keep it from coming in.

Paul: You know, I put new windows in my house in Florida maybe five or six…maybe even longer than that, six or seven years ago. And, you know, they weren’t that old, they had tinted glass at the time. And the new windows had the low-E coating on it, and it was a very noticeable difference when the sun hit it. With the old, the tinted glass, the sun would hit it, and the room would get hotter, and hotter, and hotter. And the low-E glass, you know, really did a nice job. You could still feel the heat coming through, but not nearly as much as before that.

Dan: You know, technology has come a long way. You know, I remember back when… The house that I’m in right now was built in the ’60s. And when we moved in in the ’90s, it had this clear glass, you know, because, in the ’60s, there really wasn’t such a thing as any type of low-E. And, you know, right away, I put the windows. After the first winter, I should say, we put all the windows in, and you can definitely tell the difference now.

Paul: And then the third thing that you mentioned was visible light transmission?

Dan: Correct. Yes, that’s basically… When you had mentioned about your windows from five or six years ago, they probably had a fairly heavy tint on, which deflects, you know, the visible portion, you know, of the sunlight out. But you still have your infrareds and that type of thing, which is what low-Es work on, is more in the infrared portion.

So the visible light transmittance. You know, depending on the type of building that you have, and where you’re at, they’re typically done via the tints that are put on the glass, and that’ll just collect out the visible portion of the sun rays. It does assist with some solar heat gain, but it’ll assist with user comfort, you know, so it’s not always bright in your house. You know, it also assists with some shade of the different furnishings inside your home.

One of the kind one of the tradeoffs that you need to look at is where it’s been shown that for a person’s health, you want to have as much sunlight as possible, so you don’t wanna make it too dark if you don’t allow any sunlight in. Because then if you make it too dark, then you have to turn the light bulbs on, on the inside of your home, so using energy then. You know, so it’s, kind of, a catch-22. But, yup, the visible light transmittance is basically the blocking of the visible light of…

Paul: I know. You know, from thinking back to my projects that I’ve worked on as a design consultant or a construction consultant, solar heat gain and visible light transmittance are a big deal with architects. They want to, you know, obviously, keep the heat out or in wherever the project is. But at the same time, they want to have as much natural light as possible. And not too much. You know, not too much so it’s bright. You know, there’s always… You hear these horror stories about, you know, people move into a building, and it’s reflecting off the one next door or whatever, and now they all have to wear sunglasses sitting at their desks. But to get that balance right is a really big deal I know with architects these days as far as energy. And then, as you said, the user comfort.

Dan: Yeah, correct, yup. Commercial structures, that’s probably one of the larger things. Yeah, you’re correct.

Paul: One other thing that you mentioned when you were talking about thermal testing, in the beginning, was condensation resistance. Is that a rating, or how does that fit in with everything that we’ve been talking about?

Dan: Yeah, the condensation resistance. There’s a couple of different ways that it’s being determined. It’s actually more than a couple, but the main ways are NFRC is doing it via simulations, it’s NFRC 501. And then there’s also the AAMA 1503, which is a physical test. But, yeah, it’s a rating. It’s a comparison rating for the AAMA 1503. It goes in numerical five increments. And the higher the number, the better resistance to condensation that the product has. And the test is done… Basically, while the U-value test is done, the condensation resistance factor test can be done also. And the way it’s determined is you put different thermal couples, and we attach them to the interior of your window or door on the glass and then also at key locations on the framing of the door. You know, so you measure the temperature of the interior surfaces of the product. And then through calculations, then your CRF, your condensation resistance factor is calculated. And like you mentioned, you know, the higher the number, the more resistant to condensation that product is. It’s not saying that condensation won’t occur. it’s just saying that, you know, as a rating system between product A to product B, if product A has a CRF number of 40 and product B has a CRF number of 45, the product B will be more resistant, you know, to the potential condensation developing.

Paul: So I think about all of this, and I think the average consumer… I know the average consumer and I think maybe even a lot of professionals don’t really grasp how much technology is involved with windows, and doors, and all the things that are evaluated, and all the things that need to be considered. And, you know, it’s more than just looking out through a piece of glass, and we open, and close it, and walk through it. There’s a lot of other factors. And this has been really interesting. I have a lot more that I want to go over with you, and I think that this is just screaming for a part two to this podcast. What do you think about that, come back? Because I want to go through all the fieldwork, and the expert work, and things like that, so I was thinking maybe we’d do that in another podcast. Is that okay to you?

Dan: Yeah, I think that makes total sense. Yeah, it’s always good to have, kind of, the background information, which, you know, I believe the background information is more of the laboratory and design, and that type of aspect. And then, you know, a podcast too could be, you know, how is that actually taken into the field for different types of settings, so that is correct.

Paul: And that’s where it all can go haywire, correct?

Dan: Exactly. Because I get asked all the time, “What windows should I put in my house?” And, you know, I say, “You know, it all depends on the look that you want.” And then I also tell them, “You can have a lower performance grade window. If it’s installed perfectly, it will perform great. But you can have a high-performance grade window in the lab, and if it’s installed poorly, you’re gonna have problems.” You know, it all comes to fruition in the field.

Paul: Yup. Well, listen, Dan, you did a great job explaining some pretty complicated technical stuff, and making it real and understandable, so I thank you for that. And I look forward to the next part two of this. And thanks so much for your time today, and, as they say, “We’ll do it again.”

Dan: Thank you for having me. And like I mentioned initially, it’s been a pleasure being on board with GCI Consultants, and I’m looking forward to more, and more, and growing. Thank you.

Paul: We’re all super excited about it. So I’d like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast today. And I invite you to take a further look at GCI Consultant Services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com. You can also reach out to any of our experts at 877-740-9990. I’ll say it again 877-740-9990. Send us any of your building envelope consulting needs. Thank you once again. I look forward to talking with you again, and, Dan, also, on our next episode on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

Hurricane Preparedness: Documenting Structural Conditions

Hurricane Preparedness: Documenting Structural Conditions – Chris Matthews and Vincent Decicco

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 74: Hurricane Preparedness: Documenting Structural Conditions

In this episode, Chris Matthews, President and Principal for GCI Consultants, speaks with Vincent Decicco, owner of Full Frame Virtual Reality. They discuss hurricane preparedness, documentation of structure conditions prior to an event, and what people can do as policyholders to protect themselves and document their structures and their possessions.

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: Welcome, everyone, to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, president and principal for GCI Consultants, and I will be hosting today’s podcast. I’m excited today to have as our guest, owner Vincent Decicco of Full Frame Virtual Reality. He’s going to talk to us about hurricane preparedness, documentation of structure conditions prior to an event, and what people can do as policyholders to protect themselves and document their structures and their possessions. So, welcome, Vincent. You want to tell us a little bit about your background, and we’ll get right into today’s topic?

Vincent: Wow, what a great intro. Thank you so much, Chris. And thank you, listeners. Thank you for having me on the podcast and putting up with some shenanigans. My longwinded sentences. And sure, I’d love to tell you a little bit more about me. The business that we’re talking about today was created in 2020, Full Frame Virtual Reality. And I’ve been in the business since…in this particular industry, the property loss industry, since 2015, is when I was originally introduced to it, and I’ve never left. There’s a lot of pros and cons to it, as I’m sure you’re very, very well aware of, Chris.

So, I started Full Frame Virtual Reality back in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 scare. The market was changing dramatically. You know, at the time, I was working for attorneys down in South Florida, and identified with the Matterport Pro2. I’m sure that a lot of folks that are actually listening to this podcast can relate to this, and how useful a tool it is. Not that I’m promoting Matterport at all, but it’s a useful tool. And jumped out to apply my learnings and my ability to market with people within the industry, water loss mitigators, and roofers, and, you know, just about everybody that was out there, and started this business. And here we are today. We like to simplify it, so it’s DBA, FFVR, for Full Frame Virtual Reality.

Chris: And you were telling me before we started recording a little bit about what you do with the Matterport, what, kind of, your process is. So, you wanna just kind of take us through that, as to what services you offer, and how that can help the policyholder in the event of a storm?

Vincent: I love it. I love it. And thank you so much, Chris. So, this was founded on…so, the services that we’re extending out to clients now, really founded on after Hurricane Ida, what we were learning during Hurricane Ida. So, me and my ragtag group of service providers went out to help with the hurricane, and we got there a little bit late. We actually got there…let’s see. We actually were in Louisiana in October last year. October, November. And what we discovered is probably relatable to every single hurricane, is there are people that have already gone through some really terrible times. Right? The hurricane hits, and they go through…

Chris: Right.

Vincent: …that very, very incredibly slow process. Not to badmouth insurance carriers, but there’s no way for an insurance carrier to have the staffing required for an after-hurricane event. If they were to keep that much staff on hand constantly, premiums would have to go through the roof. There’s just no way to be a profitable company, right? So everybody winds up waiting. So, while we were out there, and we were helping out folks in the industry, and direct to clients as well, we formulated this process that if people were just aware enough to understand that there’s this massive gap…it’s a huge gap. There’s a massive gap between securing a policy, and then, in the event of a hurricane or a major disaster, they can actually be a part of fixing this enormous gap. I wish the insurance carriers did it a little bit better. But unfortunately, it kind of falls on the steps of the policyholder.

If you do some really super simple things… You guys, if there’s policyholders out there listening to this conversation… By the way, I actually push your podcasts. They’re the best. But it’s real simple. There are core components to getting a claim done properly. And our offering is based on very four simple kind of pillars of interaction. One is to get proof of value at the time. The time is before the damage, that you’ve maintained your home, that your seals weren’t busted on your windows, that your door frames were square, all of the visual stuff that every adjuster, whether public or independent, is looking for. Looking for traits of what was going on prior to the storm. But the Matterport [inaudible 00:05:11] supports what the value was, what the upkeep was on the property that was insured. So, that’s number one.

Number two is an accurate floor plan. I don’t know of any adjuster that’s ever come out to a house, especially after a hurricane, that does not have to spend time with accurate measurements. And it’s all in the details. So, having a pre-populated, accurate floor plan for that adjuster, it’s ideal. You’re literally helping him do his job and get right measurements. Because you and I both know, a half inch off on a sketch, going through Xactimate can mean thousands of dollars that nobody picks up on. Right?

Chris: Right.

Vincent: Continuous flooring and…

Chris: Right.

Vincent: …that sort of thing. So, we also do a 28-point inspection, that reinforces what you can’t touch on the Matterport. It reinforces that yes, we did confirm that the seals are, they’re still pliable, that the silicone seals on the doors and the windows…that the energy efficiency of the home is where it should be. And that’s a 28-point inspection that we do. We do a light roof inspection. We don’t do the full roof inspection, but we do do a light roof inspection, to just validate the state of the tiles, or whatever the roofing happens to be [inaudible 00:06:31] to maintain condition. Super important. And we take all of that, and we keep it on the cloud, including a copy of the policy. So that in the event there’s a hurricane, it’s one call or one email to my company, and it makes all of that information available to the carrier, to the attorney, even to the adjusters, or the water restoration guys. Everybody and anybody that they want to authorize to have that information, we send it right over to ’em.

Chris: Perfect. And the idea is that you guys are creating that baseline that’s always difficult to recreate after an event.

Vincent: Yes.

Chris: You know, what were those conditions prior to the storm? And we see that on our end all the time, because we’re out there doing the detailed inspections of windows, doors, exterior walls, roofs after an event, and documenting those conditions then. But there can be arguments, as you well know, about, well, which of this was pre-existing damage? Which of this resulted from the storm? So this is…the policyholder should be aware that if there is a very well-documented baseline, a lot of these arguments that can come up are taken care of before the process even starts.

Vincent: Exactly. And to a lesser degree. So, what I feel really good about is there is some discrepancy. And I know…if I don’t know anything, I know this fact. I don’t know nothing. Right? Honestly, you spent years in college, and you’re an engineer. Like, that’s a big title for me. So you really understand the mechanisms behind deterioration, or…hopefully this will be a different conversation. Why do we have so many sinkholes in Florida? Like, that’s a ridiculous situation. But, yeah. So, the idea is that I don’t know if it’s gonna necessarily change the industry, what we’re presenting to the mass public. But I think it’s an opportunity to best foot forward. We’re not blaming the insurance carriers for doing X, Y, and Z. But now the policyholder has an opportunity to go in educated. To know what’s going on, go in educated, and be a part of the solution.

Chris: Exactly. And provide clarity for everybody as to, this is what it was before, and the adjuster, or if it’s necessary, someone like us is coming in and saying, you know, this is…these are the conditions afterward. So it makes it a lot more of an exact process, I think, if there is that baseline to compare things to. So, if you’ve come in and done your work, you have the information stored on the cloud, what do you recommend to the policyholder if there has been an event? If they have damage to their home or their property, what do they do at that point?

Vincent: Well, great questions. Thank you, Chris. So, because you and I are old hands at this, there’s a few things you wanna do. One thing you wanna do for sure is to contact your carrier. And I’m sure they’re aware that there’s been a hurricane, but you want to contact your carrier and let them know that there’s damage, and you’re requesting an adjuster to come out and evaluate. Right? So, that’s absolutely prime number one. The other thing that everyone should be aware of, and I’m sure that they are, is the timeline.

If we’re focused on Florida…my company right now only covers Florida. We can get out to clients within 48 hours, if it’s needed. Within 48 hours, I should say. But keep an eye on the timeline, because mold literally sets in, you know, within 24, 48 hours. After the AC goes out, literally, we’re living in a wet box. So be particularly careful of your timelines. And if you’re a client of ours, I would strongly recommend you, as soon as you call your insurance carrier, call us next. Make sure that the information is ready to go, pass on the contact information for the carrier, who your assigned adjuster is, and we’ll make sure that they have information before they even get to your home.

Chris: So, do you interact directly then with their insurance company, or is that one of the services that you provide, or is it just providing the baseline data, and they take it from there? What’s kind of…what’s your normal process there?

Vincent: I love it. I love it. So, because this is a new service, this is a new process, we haven’t seen the end results of the outcome. Here’s what I can tell you. We are not having the client sign an AOB. This is a pre-existing service that was extended to a policyholder. So we’re not acting on an AOB. We’re not acting in any direction, except we have the information available for the client. So, ideally, what will happen is we will just package that up and send it via email and/or text message, however it needs to be delivered. We’re not that client’s public adjuster. That’s a different contract entirely. They don’t…

Chris: Right. Okay, [crosstalk 00:11:45]

Vincent: …have to take that route, if that makes any sense. Mm-hmm.

Chris: Yep. Got it, got it. Just wanted to be clear on that. So, you talk some about being up in Louisiana after Ida. So, there was something that was kind of interesting to me in the notes we had from you, is that you were talking about some settlement issues, some foundation settlement issues with the hurricane, which is kind of out of our area of expertise. You know, we’re focused more…

Vincent: Yes.

Chris: …on the vertical sections above ground. But what were some of what you were seeing as far as that foundation settlement issue?

Vincent: So, thank you for opening that up, Chris. Totally want to pick your brain. Florida is built on sand. It just is. Right? So, I was born in Florida. I didn’t ask to be born in Florida. It is my environment. But in Louisiana, they got nothing but mud over there, those poor people. If anybody is from Louisiana that’s hearing this, I apologize, but I also love your mud. So, let’s put that there. So, it was like the emperor’s new clothes. Like, no… I kept seeing the same things repeatedly in house over house over house over house that I was called into to help with.

Number one, the foundations for the majority of the homes were cockeyed. Everything’s built on stilts. Everything, at least that I touch, everything was built on stilts because of the “mud.” But it seemed like adjusters were going the other way. They were not considering that the house is literally…you could put a marble in the kitchen, and it would wind up in the living room. And in Florida, you know, we have concrete foundations. I totally didn’t understand why people were overlooking that. And I couldn’t imagine how an engineer would prescribe how to fix that situation. It was just crazy. And it was the majority of the homes that I did.

And what was incredibly noticeable was the door frames went from rectangular to kind of a diamond shape, where doors wouldn’t even open anymore, front doors wouldn’t open. So that was, like, a big, continuous thing that was going on out there. The other thing…and not to jump around too much, but the other thing was brick work. Both the foundational brickwork and the facade brick work was a mess. And I’m assuming that’s because, you know, everything was shifting at that particular time. But, yeah. So that was…that’s why that was actually in the notes. Like, what’s up with foundations in Louisiana? And what do you do with that?

Chris: Yeah. And we saw that too. We inspected a lot of houses in the Lake Charles, Louisiana area, and saw similar things to… Now, we were focused on the windows there, so it was kind of beyond our scope. But certainly, anecdotally, we saw the same types of things you were seeing, with the brick, and the door openings, and foundation-related issues. At this point, I’m not sure how those are being resolved, but that’s what caught my interest in your notes, is that we were seeing those same kind of things, especially in certain areas, certain types of construction, those kinds of things where we were really seeing a lot of that, floors out of level, door openings that were no longer plumb and square, those kinds of things.

So, yeah, I think that’s something we’re both kind of interested in. What’s the outcome of that? And you had mentioned, too, ceiling and wall molding issues. We saw a lot of that same kind of thing. It makes it clear that there’s been an issue with the foundation. But, like I say, that was kind of beyond our scope. So I’m interested to see what the outcome is on some of that. And I don’t think those are things that are easily remedied either. Right? I mean, to correct those kinds of things, you’re usually talking about pilings, some other core drilling issues to get down to solid ground, and re-level that foundation. So, yeah. Not easy things. It’s not easy replacing windows and doors either, but getting into that foundation is a lot…is a big thing, I’m sure.

Vincent: So, I lost two pair of shoes in the Mississippi mud. I kid you not. I lost two pair of shoes. And literally, they were pulled off my feet. So, the first pair that I came up there with, regular lace-up shoes, I lost them. I had to pull them out three times in order for me to go across a yard. And then I got a pair of boots with, you know, a little bit taller, a little bit longer laces. But yeah, that mud is still amazing to me. I have nightmares about the mud in Louisiana.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely different. Definitely different. Lots of different issues, lots of different construction types, lots of different damage types. You know, it’s interesting to us. You know, we’ve been to hurricanes after…you know, after hurricanes in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and the effects of the storm, based upon the type of construction, as you were talking about, the kinds of foundation, the types of building materials, there could be lots of different things going on, depending upon where you are, how long the storm was affecting the area, whether there’s a lot of storm surge involved. All these different things can really have a big effect, based upon our experience…

Vincent: Absolutely.

Chris: ….through the years and going in after these things. But really, I think it’s a great track that you’re on with building this baseline information. And we at GCI have talked about that a lot. Even in the larger commercial buildings and large multifamily residential buildings, it would be really worthwhile for everyone to have that baseline information. Because hey, let’s be honest, some people don’t take care of their property. Right? Some people don’t do their…

Vincent: True.

Chris: …maintenance. Some people, it may have had some pretty severe problems before the storm. But it shouldn’t be assumed of everybody. And somebody who is doing all that work would definitely benefit from having that baseline, to show that things were in good shape before the storm affected it. So I think it’s a really needed service in the industry. Like you said, will it change the industry or not? I don’t know. But I think it’s the way things should go, in my opinion, from our end.

Vincent: Well, thank you for that point of validation, Chris. Because educating so far has been a, it’s been a challenge. It’s been a challenge [crosstalk 00:18:14] So, what we’re currently trying to do to kind of educate the policyholders is we’re throwing little, like, lunch and learns right now in Central Florida, throwing lunch and learns, [inaudible 00:18:26] to help sponsor it, and we’ll also get insurance brokers to come in, and they certainly, you know, give their 10-minute speech about what they service and offer. But it’s all about educating policyholders. We’re all policyholders. You can’t be in this society and not have an insurance on your car. We do nothing for cars, but on your car, your home, your health. Right? So, that’s just kind of how it goes.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Good stuff. Well, that’s great. And it is. It’s all about people who have not been through the experience, right? They need to understand what the process is going to be. And if you haven’t been through it, it’s different than what you experience in your everyday life. So that’s where it starts, I think, with education.

Vincent: Yeah. Well, I don’t know how process of the podcasting does, or how it actually functions, I should say. But I would love to get feedback to any professionals in the industry that can either, say, maybe give some good pointers, or think that it’s a good, valid thing. Or, the other way around. Like, it may be a waste of time, or there’s a different road to go down. But I’m trying to push for more connections, but any feedback at this point, because it is difficult. It’s difficult trying to change or introduce something that’s fairly new into the industry, and love to know, you know, from other people. Ideally, I try to keep this whole thing neutral. It can serve everyone, everyone that has to touch a policy.

Chris: Exactly, right. Right, right, right. Yeah. And we will…you know, sometimes we do get feedback on our podcast, and we do get some responses and that kind of thing. And we’ll certainly share those and invite everyone. You know, as Vincent said, this is a new service offering that he’s putting out to market, and feedback on the value of that, how that’s presented, everything else, I think, would be great for him to hear, and great for all of us in the industry. As you said, in my mind, as a neutral baseline of what the conditions were. I think that is…to me, it’s a great service, and we’d all love to hear any feedback from any of our listeners. I thank you very much for joining us today, Vincent. And again, what’s your website, if anyone wants to get more information about your services and your educational events, etc.?

Vincent: Oh, I love it. So, we do list all of our lunch and learns on our website. Our website has been simplified. It’s ffvr.org. F-F-V-R.org. Or you can go to the old one, which is fullframevirtualreality.org. Go ahead and go with the first. You can also reach me directly by phone, 954-849-2052. I certainly take text messages or calls, and happy to talk to anyone, from policyholder to other professionals in the industry.

Chris: Great. All right. Well, thank you again for joining us today. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in. We also invite you to take a further look at our services, at gciconsultants.com, or you can reach us at 877-740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you again, and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.


Clean Energy and Affordable Clean Energy Systems

Clean Energy and Affordable Clean Energy Systems – Dan Johnson and Ron Kamen

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 73: Clean Energy and Affordable Clean Energy Systems

In this episode, Clean Energy and Affordable Clean Energy Systems, Dan Johnson, senior consultant for GCI Consultants talks with Ron Kamen, with EarthKind Energy Consulting. They discuss, “Clean Energy and Affordable Clean Energy Systems.”

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


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Dan: Welcome, everyone, to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I am Dan Johnson, senior consultant for GCI Consultants, and I will be your host today. I am very excited to have as our guest, Ron Kamen, with EarthKind Energy Consulting. We have an interesting topic today, “Clean Energy and Affordable Clean Energy Systems.” So, Ron, let’s start off by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll jump right into the podcast.

Ron: Thanks so much, Dan. Thanks for having me on the show. “Everything Building Envelope” is an outstanding podcast, and I love the work you guys are doing. And thanks for adding in my piece of this, which isn’t 100% building envelope, but it has an impact on the envelope in various ways, and then has a dramatic impact on the building performance in general for those who are interested in building performance. EarthKind Energy Consulting is my consulting company. I’ve been in clean energy for over four decades, actually. I started out with energy policy, and having clean energy policies that helped drive programs. I rolled out a number of different clean energy programs over the years that we can talk about.

But really for the two decades that I’ve been in business with my EarthKind Energy Consulting practice, which started out as starfire.net along the story. But for over two decades have been representing commercial building owners who wish to make clean energy transitions that reduce their cost, access, a number of government programs and utility programs that provide both cash and tax incentives, and then give an outstanding return on investment, and make their buildings more profitable, more efficient, healthier, and simultaneously have a positive environmental impact. So, looking forward to the conversation.

Dan: Whoa. That is a very thorough and an in-depth bio, and I’m looking forward to all the wealth of information that you’ll be able to give myself and our viewers during our talk today. So, let’s kind of jump right in. And one of the things that I’ve always had questions on, and through my research I’ve kind of somewhat done, seems other people have also, I know we’re gonna talk about clean energy. What is the actual definition of clean energy, and how does that relate, or does it even relate to renewable energy?

Ron: Yeah. Great question. And depending upon who you talk to, you might get a different answer on that. But my answer on this is that clean energy starts first with energy efficiency. And as a guy named Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute I think coined the phrase, the cheapest energy is that energy that you don’t use. So, becoming more efficient with energy always makes a tremendous amount of sense in clean energy category. The first category is efficiency and reducing your energy consumption. And you guys, of course, you know, look at the building envelope, and how tight the envelope is, and then how to supplement that tight envelope with fresh air so that you make sure that it’s a healthy building. So, those types of efficiency measures are part of clean energy in the conversation. And efficiency is always the first place that we start with. But then once you’re done with making a building, or making any entity as efficient as possible, then you look into the sources of energy.

And when you take a look at energy, we’re really talking about three aspects of energy. Everybody usually thinks about electricity as the first thing that comes to mind when we mention energy. And that’s definitely a key component is how do you get clean electricity onto a building? And we’re gonna talk a little bit about solar technologies in particular, which are applicable to almost any building everywhere now with various different technology improvements, cost reductions, utility, and government programs, and the ability to put solar on your roof, or in a parking lot, or on the grounds, or even have community solar where you have a solar system someplace in your utility territory, but you’re still gaining the benefit of that utility energy, that solar energy coming through your utility system to your particular property.

So, electricity, a key component, and there’s various aspects of electricity that go into the clean energy that wind up in electricity. Most people think of clean electricity, they think of solar, and that’s definitely the prime thing that everyone should think about as a first wave for their buildings. But then there are other aspects of clean energy which some folks look at, including wind energy, certain instances every once in a while would be hydroelectricity. And on electricity generation there’s some other clean energy technologies we can talk about there.

The second aspect of energy, though, that many people also come to mind if you’re asking what is energy, or what is clean energy would be the energy that we use to drive ourselves around our transportation system. And that’s a second form of energy, and that’s really gasoline, or diesel, or other forms of energy that we use to move our vehicles around. So, transitioning those from fossil fuels to clean energy is another piece of the energy equation and that’s in transportation.

And then the third piece that most of your listeners are probably most familiar with would be the thermal energy in the building that’s required to heat, and cool, and provide hot water to our buildings. So, three aspects of energy, electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation. My practice covers all three and we work with building owners who wish to impact some or all of those systems. And again, we start with efficiency, but then move into clean energy generation with electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation.

Dan: Well, that’s very thorough and in-depth. A question, just me being a curious kinda guy, is when we classify clean energy, does that include the energy that’s needed to create the, you know, like you had mentioned, solar panels, or the batteries, or that type of thing? Is that taken into account, you know, when classifying clean energy?

Ron: Yeah. So, what you’re speaking about there is embodied energy, right? So, in addition to the impact of using that particular energy generation source, so whether it’s solar, or wind, or hydro, or whatever else to create electricity, or whether it is in a thermal energy sense using the electricity system to then use a heat pump, air or ground source heat pump in a building, or whether it’s electricity to supply the batteries that run electric vehicles, there’s the generation piece of that. And then there’s the embodied energy that goes into the materials that are now making that generation happen. So, when I speak of clean energy, generally I’m referring to either efficiency or to clean generation. And if you wanna take a look at and compare then what are the total carbon, the total greenhouse gasses, the total embodied energy that goes into any of those energy systems, then you’re taking a deeper cut and a deeper dive.

And what we usually say when we’re looking at clean energy is that almost every clean energy source, whether it’s solar, or wind, or heat pumps, or electric vehicles versus gas, compared to their fossil fuel equivalent, you’re always in the positive within a short period of time in terms of the net environmental impact, the net embodied energy impact. So, for instance, when the sun shines and you’re using solar electricity, you had some amount of energy that you needed to build those solar panels, and some amount of greenhouse gasses and other environmental impacts you have from building those panels. But once those panels are built and the panels are on your roof, or on your parking lot, or in the grounds, or on your grounds, or wherever it is that you put those solar panels, the sun shines and now you have emission-free electricity.

And the amount of time it takes to recover that energy that went into those panels versus the impact, the environmental impact of continuing onward with a fossil fuel generation source is usually measured in some number of months, or at the most a couple of years before you get back all the energy that went into producing that clean energy generation source. We can talk through the various different aspects of stuff. There’s a whole range of different studies, but when I’m talking about clean energy, I’m talking specifically about emission-free energy or low-emission, low-impact on the generation output, and that usually has a recovery period of embodied energy to make that particular clean energy generating asset. Does that make sense?

Dan: Yeah, that makes total sense. Yeah. I just had a few people that have kind of questioned me on that and I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a good for them, and you just gave us a wonderful answer. So, thank you very much, Ron. That clears it up for me, and hopefully, it does for our listeners also. When we’re talking about clean energy systems, can they really provide all the building’s heating, cooling, hot water, and electricity for the building? Can it really provide, you know, a one-stop-shop, so to speak?

Ron: Yeah. So, it’s easiest to do when you have a new construction, when you’re doing a new construction, right? Because at that point you have design considerations, how you’re orienting the building? What are the solar gains? What can you do with minimizing the solar gain in the summer, and maximizing the solar gain during the winter in terms of orientation, in terms of shading and various different things, in terms of materials that you’re choosing to build a building? And then, yes, absolutely. I work with a number of different developers and property owners, and in new construction it really becomes a no-brainer. I mean, at this point with the technologies that are out there, and the right architect, design team, working with the right implementation team, you can absolutely create buildings that are net zero in terms of their energy consumption, and that have resiliency built in so that in the event of power failures from dorm or whatever else, grid failures, you’ll be able to have resiliency built into that system so that it can carry you through with clean electricity, heating and cooling through that catastrophe. So, it’s absolutely possible.

When you look at retrofits of existing buildings, that definitely becomes a bit more of a challenge, although it’s significantly more doable than I think many people realize. I work with a lot of existing building owners who have high electricity bills these days, or they have high heating and cooling bills, or they need to replace their HVAC systems because they’ve been aged out, and they’re not running efficiently, and they’re having major problems. And on all those instances, when you take a look at the clean energy technologies that are out there, talking about specifically solar, solar electricity on many buildings makes a tremendous amount of sense, especially if you have a large roof, it make a lot of sense if you have a parking lot with, let’s say, 100 vehicles or more that you’re parking in a parking lot, or if you have a field nearby that you’re not using, you won’t be able to use for whatever reason for other purposes.

Now what happens is that you can generate clean electricity on that site, and every time the sun shines, you’re getting electricity generated. And that solar electricity, depending upon the height of a building, the square footage of the roof, the parking lot space, or the grounds can provide some or most of the electricity that you need to run these systems inside that building. And then you take a look at, “Okay. Well, what kind of systems do we have inside?” And traditionally in many parts of the country, the heating and cooling systems and the hot water systems, you have the cooling, which is generally electricity based. So, you have some amount of air conditioning that has electricity as its energy source, so, you take a look at that air conditioning system. But then what happens with the heating systems are generally they’ve been fossil fuels, right? It’s been oil, or natural gas, or, in some instances, propane. All those costs are going up very dramatically. They’re very expensive, some significantly inefficient.

So, even if you have the most efficient natural gas boiler doing something, you know, 99 point whatever percent efficient, you’re always less than 100% efficient. And when you have oil-based systems, oil-based systems traditionally are very less efficient. And the most efficient oil-based is somewhere less than 90%, usually down in the 80s. If you have your oil and hot water on the same boiler and you’re just using that boiler for hot water during the summer months in spring and fall, I’ve seen efficiency as low as 30% on these oil boilers. So, what that means is that for every dollar you’re spending, you’re getting less than a dollar back in energy output from your fossil fuel heating system.

And that’s where all these new technologies, these air source heat pumps or ground source heat pumps become very cost-effective. So, when you take a look at an air source heat pump, an air source heat pump is really an air conditioner, and it’s the same technology that’s in our refrigerators and freezers, by the way. It’s a compression and expansion of a gas that then takes heat out of one space and expels it someplace else. So, an air conditioner really takes heat out of your building and expels it out into the air. Same with the refrigerator or freezer. It takes that heat out of our freezer and refrigerator and puts it out in the coils, in the back. In an air source heat pump, that process is reversed so that you can take and use that heat. And during the winter, air source heat pump technology has improved so that you can get heat out of the air even when it’s cold, down to minus 15 degrees. Those air source heat pumps are 200% to 300% efficient.

So, for every unit of electricity you put into an air source heat pump, because you are using the energy that’s in the air to either heat or cool your space, you’re getting two to three times that energy coming out of that unit and going into your space. So, air source heat pumps have efficiencies of 200% to 300% except when it’s extremely hot or extremely cold. When it gets extremely hot and you’re fighting 100 degrees temperature outside, and you’re trying to expel your hot indoor air outside, it’s fighting that extreme heat.

And similarly, when you’re trying to take heat out of the cold air when it’s 0 or minus 15, you’re fighting that cold and you’re not able to take as much energy out, and those efficiencies go down to the point where they get close to 1 with either on the cold side or the hot side. So, instead of the 200% or 300% efficiency when it’s really hot or really cold, your efficiency is going down closer to just 100%, which is okay, much better than less than 100%, but still not great especially when electricity prices are high. And that’s where this other technology, especially a new construction comes in, and those are ground source or geothermal heat pumps.

The ground source heat pumps have been around for a long time. There was a certain wave of technology that they used to grab water out of an aquifer, so you would take water up out of an aquifer, out of your well system, you would take the heat out of that, and then you would dump it back down into the ground. And those were called pump and dump geothermal heating and cooling systems. And they’re very efficient. They were very effective. The challenge with those types of systems are that you have to make sure that you keep those filters from the water coming in and the water going out very well clean, so you would get sentiments at scale, and other things you’d have to keep a very close eye on water quality.

In the last number of years, geothermal has become much more of a science than an art. And now what happens is that you have generally a closed loop. You drill a hole into the ground or you drill a series of paths through trenches, through your yard or under your parking lot, and now you have the ability to use that ambient energy of the earth to supplement and be combined with a heat pump inside your building to provide your heating and cooling and hot water.

And the reason why that’s important is because the earth for billions of years has been absorbing nearly half the energy from the sun. And that’s why when we go down more than four feet below the ground, the temperature down there is very constant. In the Northeast part of the United States, it’s a constant of around 50 degrees. Other parts of the country it varies a little bit more or less.

But when you have a pipe now that you drill down in a closed loop system and you do this in a field, or you do it under a building, or you just do it into the ground, that closed loop sends us a fluid down, water down, it comes back and now it’s 50 degrees. And now you take that 50 degrees water and you use it to either bump it up slightly if you’re trying to heat with it to 70 degrees with a heat pump that compresses and expands and bumps that temperature up, or you use that 50 degrees as the base to cool a building, and now your efficiencies go less than 100% with a fossil fuel, or 200% to 300% with an air source heat pump. So, 400% to 500% efficient with geothermal heating and cooling, it is the most efficient form of heating and cooling.

And now with the way the technology has evolved, the science has evolved, the case studies out there are just tremendous, people are saving a lot of money and realizing that by incorporating a tight building, like you guys are doing with all your building envelope work, with a geothermal heating and cooling system, now what happens is that you can take pretty much any building in the continental U.S. and North America, and just drilling 500-foot wells under the footprint of any building can provide the heating, cooling, and hot water up to 25 stories or more. So, there are buildings going up throughout the continental United States and Canada that are just drilling wells under the footprint of that building, and those 500-foot wells, and sometimes longer, are carrying the heat and cooling and hot water up to 25 or 30 stories.

The best example I like to give of a geothermal technology is actually at Manhattan. And most people have heard about and many people have visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral right in the heart of Manhattan. And a few years ago, the St Patrick’s Cathedral was trying to figure out the best options for heating and cooling. The cathedral in Manhattan and it’s an historical district, so heating and cooling was always somewhat problematic in terms of equipment, having the right equipment, and being visible. And they found that the geothermal heating and cooling by drilling 2000 feet under St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of Manhattan, that was the least capital cost, and it was also 30% less energy and maintenance than any other option. So, if you’re ever in Manhattan, happen to stop by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, take a look around, the Pope was there blessing the operation, and showing how tremendous geothermal heating and cooling is even in an urban environment like New York City, even when you gotta drill down 2000 feet under Manhattan.

Dan: I’m definitely gonna have to check that out. I have never been there, so the next time I’m there, I’m definitely gonna check it out. I’m assuming they probably have been advertised somewhat, you know, of the energy savings and the fossil fuel savings that they’re encountering. I’m sure they have it advertised somewhere, so I’m definitely gonna check it out.

Ron: Yeah. Go google the line [SP]. You’ll see various different articles about the whole thing and, again, you’ll see the Pope as well who blessed the initial operation. So, it’s great. It’s a great example. I just think it’s… Well, to me it’s a real fun one. But there’s plenty of other ones. There’s schools, there’s campuses, there’s office buildings, there’s multifamily buildings. There’s all different types of organizations, and buildings that have used geothermal heating and cooling as the most effective way and lowest cost way of providing clean, heating and cooling, and hot water to the buildings everywhere around.

Dan: Geothermal, it sounds like one of the no-brainers. I’m sure it costs a little bit more in order to start up with the geothermal. Do you have just an estimation on the upfront cost and operational expenses, you know, from a traditional fossil fuel to a geothermal?

Ron: Yeah. So, you know, the interesting thing is, again, you know, part of it depends everybody’s a little bit different, which is why a custom analysis is always key for any particular property. But in general, when you’re doing new construction, the fascinating thing is that while there is an additional upfront cost for geothermal compared to your traditional heating and cooling systems, what happens is if you are doing it at the beginning, and that’s when I tell my clients, it’s always the most important and the most effective time is to bring us in or someone like me in at the beginning to help define the project. But if you’re doing it at the beginning, you’re incorporating all the equipment into the design, into the actual mobilization of people and materials. And by doing that up front, since you’re already mobilizing people and materials, your incremental cost is significantly less than it would be otherwise.

And the fascinating thing is even on a retrofit basis, what you find is that incremental cost, because there’s a tremendous amount of incentives out there, the incremental costs can be recovered in a relatively short period of time. And everybody’s situation is a little bit different, everybody’s energy cost is a little bit different, and everybody’s usage is a little bit different. So, again, you have to take a look at your situation and what’s right for you. But a few things that impact the decision, a residential homeowner who looks at this realizes that there’s a 26% federal tax credit on a geothermal heating and cooling system.

That 26% federal tax credit, because you’re doing the geothermal as part of an integrated design, that tax credit applies to all the heating and cooling equipment that you do with that geothermal system. So, now you have, you know, what traditionally would be just amortized or depreciated over a long period of time in a home and you get a 26% tax credit by integrating the geothermal into it right at the beginning. So, all your air handlers, and all the piping, and venting, and everything else that goes into the combined geothermal system now can qualify for a 26% federal tax credit.

In many states, there’s state tax credits that go along with it. In New York state, there’s a $5,000 tax credit that also can apply to the geothermal heating and cooling system. And then there’s often utility incentives that help bring down that price even more. And in various different parts of the country, there’s incentives from $1000 return to, in New York, there’s up to $6000 or more per time depending on the utility.

When you take a look then at the energy savings that you’re going to get from a geothermal system or an air source system compared to a fossil fuel system, you find returns on investment that are at least 10% or better. Generally, I’ve seen returns for my clients are somewhere between 25% and 33% or better, which is a pretty outstanding return on their investment for the best heating system they’re gonna have with the least amount of maintenance, with the least amount of hassles and the most comfortable heating and cooling system around. So, a tremendous number of benefits that come out of it, but just on a dollars and cents basis financially find outstanding returns on investments, and the great payback, and long-term savings, and reduced maintenance.

Dan: It sounds like, you know, if a person would wanna go this route, they should do their research and they can get quite a bit of the initial upfront costs taken care of just to switch over and it just makes sense. I know we’ve talked about this a little bit, but maybe kind of digging a little bit deeper. What are some of the misconceptions about the affordability of switching to clean energy?

Ron: Yeah. So, a lot of misconceptions out there that have merged over the years, right? So, you kind of need to take a look at each of them a little bit separately in some ways, but just to give you a couple of examples. So, solar. Solar came out, everybody thought, “Boy, it’s a very expensive technology. It costs a lot. Only rich people can afford it.” Those prices have come down since solar first came out by over 99%. So, solar’s cost-effectiveness now is so much better. Every year they’re going down another 15% to 20%. So, every year it gets better and better. And the majority cost of solar now is actually not in the equipment, but it’s really in the installation cost to put it wherever you put in the solar.

So, things have changed dramatically with solar. Similarly, things have changed with heat pumps where air and ground source heat pumps used to be considered a very expensive technology with long payback periods. And now what people are finding is that because of the incentives, because of the cost reductions, cost of the energy savings, the return on their investments are pretty outstanding. And the misconception that it’s gonna cost me a lot more money upfront, that it’s gonna take me a long time to get that money back really is being disproved day after day after day.

So, that’s one misconceptions that it’s gonna cost a lot of money, that it’s gonna take a long time to get your money back. And the reality is that if you’re done doing it right and you build in the planning at the beginning, it may not even cost you any more money than what you were planning to spend anyway. I have some clients that actually looked at the numbers and they were like, “Wow. I’m kind of getting paid to do this stuff,” because of the savings that they were able to generate in the design and the material and labor cost by doing it upfront, looking at it upfront and incorporating that into this.

So, that’s one common misconception. Another common misconception is that the technology is not reliable. And if done right and always, you know, there’s a full range of people out there doing work, so, always make sure that you get references, and get quality contractors, and quality manufacturers, and back of them. But this equipment is done right, has a much longer longevity, much higher reliability, and much less hassles than a traditional fossil fuel system. When you look at a geothermal system, for instance, all you’re really doing is you have a pump that’s moving water, and it’s just moving water down and around. So, it’s a closed loop. So, it’s a very low energy usage and there’s very little that can go wrong with it and very little maintenance that you need to do on it compared to a fossil fuel system, which always needs someone to come out and do a cleaning and maintain it and all like that.

So, the performance also of these systems has improved dramatically from when people first maybe thought about it, or had a misconception, or heard somebody say something about it. The technologies are tremendously reliable, have great guarantees, much less maintenance and lower hassles than fossil fuels. So, those are the two main misconceptions. And I don’t know if you had others that we could address.

Dan: I’m somewhat new to the clean energy world. Those are a couple of things that I have. I’ve always thought it’s costly, you know, in order to get into. And from our conversation today, it sounds like in new construction it’s not really costly. Sure, it’s more involved and a little bit more costly throughout the renovation or anything like…or the cost comparable, is there a percentage difference, you know, just a rough estimate?

Ron: Yeah. So, you know, it all depends upon what you need to do with a particular building and how you’re looking to do it. But if you were just looking at saying, “Hey, you know, I’ve got an existing system. I wanna rip it out and put in a new clean energy system,” now you have to look at not the incremental cost of what it would be to go with a new fossil fuel system versus a new clean energy system because that delta, that incremental cost is relatively small and pretty easy. What happens is if you have an existing system and you have to take the whole thing out and you weren’t planning to take the whole thing out, now you have to look at how do I recover the total cost of the equipment and the installation? And that, you know, clearly becomes a little bit more challenging because now you’re trying to recover the entire cost in your analysis as opposed to just the incremental cost.

When you’re doing new construction, this stuff is a no-brainer. I mean, people that look at this and they, like, say, “Wait a second. It’s gonna cost me 10 cents more and I’m gonna make $1 back a year? Of course, I wanna do that. Why wouldn’t I wanna do that?” So, on a new construction basis, this stuff almost always makes sense if it’s done right and looking at it the right way. When it’s in retrofit, it definitely gets a little more challenging depending upon your existing energy source, depending on what else you’re doing. Right? So, if you are doing an existing heating system, you’re gonna rip out an existing heating and cooling system because, let’s say, it’s old, it’s gonna need replacing soon anyway, it’s starting to need a lot of maintenance, it’s getting costly, you don’t like the emissions, it’s causing air quality issues, or direct concerns.

It’s also you don’t wanna have that same climate impact with the emissions into your environments. All those different reasons that someone would do that. And you take this tonnage of the existing system and you say, “Okay. Well, do I need that same tonnage now for this new heating and cooling system, or can I combine that with some thermal barriers and make the building more efficient? And therefore, by doing something with my envelope, I can reduce the amount of heating and cooling I need, which means that I can put in a smaller system.” And now when I look at the combined effect of doing building envelope work with installing new, clean energy, heating, cooling, hot water and electricity systems, now all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh, okay. Now the numbers are working much better because I have much less cost.”

So, it really is an analysis that needs to be done on a custom basis. Everyone needs to have somebody that can look at it from their perspective about how much are they currently paying for energy? Where is that energy being wasted? Where can they improve their efficiency, whether that’s in the envelope, or in the windows, or an additional insulation in their attic, or wherever else? How can they use more efficient equipment inside, energy efficient lighting being the best example where you have a 100-watt light bulb you can take out and put in a 20-watt LED, and you get the same amount of light, but it’s 80% less energy and no heat waste that you’re then dealing with. So, energy-efficient lighting is kind of a piece of that. So, first, how can you combine efficiency measures, and then look at the cleaner energy measures you need to do. And that’s on a retrofit basis, you still wind up with good returns, not quite as good as you do when you’re just looking at the incremental cost on no construction, but still very good indeed in most cases.

Dan: Okay. Yeah, that sounds perfect. Yeah. It makes sense. If your heating and cooling equipment is on its last leg, like you had mentioned, it’s a no-brainer to at least have your building and energy needs evaluated and be designed for clean energy. We’ve been able to kind of talk quite a bit about costs. And how much of our greenhouse emissions come from fossil fuels for our energy?

Ron: Yeah. So, when you take a look at greenhouse gas emissions and carbon emissions, almost 90% come from the energy that we’re using in our electricity systems, our heating and cooling systems, and our transportation systems. So, if you’re concerned about the impact we’re having on the climate and greenhouse gas emissions, the largest barrier that we have to have an impact on is on our energy systems and that’s on electricity, heating and cooling, and in transportation.

And the great part about that is that most of us have significant control over those three aspects of our lives, some more than others in terms of electricity. Can you have solar? Can you do energy efficiency inside your building? All those kinds of questions. But on heating and cooling, we can almost all use some more efficient type of heating and cooling system whether it’s take out a central air conditioning system and put it in an air source heat pump or go the next round and actually grab that energy under our feet, the heat beneath our feet to provide the heating and cooling and hot water for our buildings with geothermal.

But we all have the ability to control some aspect of that. And of course, now with electric vehicles becoming much more prevalent, what we’re seeing is that even those incremental costs for an electric vehicle is coming down compared to a fossil fuel equipment and you get better performance, you’re getting less maintenance, 20 moving parts instead of 2000 in a fossil fuel engine, internal combustion engine. So, an electric vehicle is tremendously more simple in terms of the moving pieces of technology. And the cost have been coming down just like they come down in our computers and all other electronic equipment. So, we’re gonna keep seeing this evolution and the step moving forward and we need to have it because 90% of all the greenhouse gasses come from our energy consumption, so it’s good for our pocketbook and it’s good for the world.

Dan: Perfect. Yeah. I know you had mentioned a little bit just now about electric vehicles and, you know, battery power and that type of thing. And one question that I’ve had, once the batteries, you know, on electric vehicles are used up, are they refurbished and put back into service or what happens, you know, to the components of the batteries?

Ron: Yeah, great question. And that question comes up a lot. So, when you’re moving around in an electric car, right, number one, they have great performance, right, because it’s 100% torque. So, you know, you have cars like a Nissan Leaf that gets the same performance as many of the Porsches out there. So, it’s pretty incredible in terms of 0 to 60, right? I mean, actually, if you do a google, you can see a Tesla SUV that blows away the fastest Lamborghini on the planet, which is kind of fun to see. But when you’re looking at electric vehicles, you have to have high performance in those batteries, right? So, when you step on the gas, you have to have a certain amount of acceleration, you have to be able to go so far, so fast.

Once you are through that life cycle on an electric car, and all these batteries in electric vehicles standard now are warrantied for 100,000 miles…so, 8 years or 100,000 miles is kind of a standard warranty. And then once you get beyond that, okay, maybe you need to do something else and take that battery pack out. And then what happens to it? And interestingly enough is that that energy, the battery systems are still quite good. They’re just not forming well enough for fast transportation. So, the secondary use of those batteries then becomes energy storage devices for either buildings or for the utility grid. And that secondary use is now moving into a large practice opportunity for people to take those electric vehicle batteries, and then use them for stationary storage. Once you’re through those two waves, then the question becomes, “Okay. What happens now?” And because there are a lot of pretty costly metals and other elements in there, rare earth elements, they actually have a value.

So, what we’re seeing now is more and more electric vehicles are put on the road, as more and more capacity, and need, and demand is there. What we’re seeing is recycling of those components now starting to become a bigger industry and a more, you know, just like we’ve recycled other things, for instance, aluminum. We throw out aluminum. And over 90% of the energy for aluminum is from the first wave of it. So, recycling aluminum has become very prevalent. We recycle almost all the cans that we produce. Some of the things are starting to happen now with battery technology where we’ll take apart those batteries, reclaim, and recycle, and reuse those elements, and then recycle a vast majority of it. So, the first wave of the batteries is used on the vehicles, the second wave is used on the stationary storage, the third piece is recycle.

Dan: Perfect. That answers a lot of my questions because, you know, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, “Okay. Are we gonna be filling up more and more landfills?” And it sounds like that is not the issue at all. The whole, you know, battery, you know, has a long life. It may not be just in the vehicle, but it’ll be hidden away somewhere and still very useful. I thank you very much for expanding on that.

Ron: My pleasure.

Dan: Well, Ron, that’s kinda the list of things that I had on my agenda for today’s talk. And I greatly appreciate you being with me. In case the listeners would wanna reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to contact you and your business?

Ron: Oh, great. Thanks so much. So, it’s earthkindenergy, so like mankind or humankind, or in this case earthkindenergy.com. So, just go to our website, earthkindenergy.com. There’s a form there, there’s emails there. You can do it that way. Of course, you can always pick up the phone and call me at 845-266-3723. Or my direct email, if you prefer that, is just ron@earthkindenergy.com.

Dan: Well, thank you, Ron. It was a very informative talk that we had today on clean energy. And I’d also like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast today. If you’d like more information about our company, GCI Consultants, you can find it on our website at www.gciconsultants.com, or you can give us a call at 877-740-990. And again, I thank you. And I look forward to talking with everyone next time on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is Dan Johnson, saying so long.


International Property Maintenance Codes

International Property Maintenance Codes – Dan Johnson and Dottie Mazzarella

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 72: International Property Maintenance Codes

Listen as, Dan Johnson, Senior Consultant for GCI Consultants speaks with Dottie Mazzarella, Vice President of Government Relations for the International Code Council. They discuss the international building code development and the International Property Maintenance Codes.

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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Dan: Welcome everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I am Dan Johnson, Senior Consultant for GCI Consultants, and I will be your host today. I’m excited to have as our guest, Dottie Mazzarella, the Vice President of Government Relations for the International Code Council. Today, our topic is going to be the international building code development and specifically, the International Property Maintenance Codes. So, Dottie, let’s start off by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll dig into the topic.

Dottie: Okay, great. Dan, thank you so much. I’m Dottie Mazzarella, as you mentioned, I’m the Vice President of Government Relations for the International Code Council, or ICC. A lot of people know us with just the abbreviation. And I am lucky enough to cover two very important states, New York and Florida. And I just recently moved from New York to Florida, so now I’m going back and forth a little bit, but it’s really just I love my job, and I love working with both states.

Dan: Well, great, Dottie. Sounds like you’ve been primarily on the East Coast, which seems to be where a lot of the building codes have been in real enforcement and are definitely needed. So if you could kind of explain a little bit, what are the international building codes and how are they developed?

Dottie: Oh, sure. I would love to do that. So I’d like to say that the International Code Council is really, we’re the stewards of the code development and creation process. So we have the unique ability to bring together pretty much every affected organization when it comes to any type of building construction and building in or updating in the built environment. So that means labor, architects, engineers, builders, contractors, but then also the regulators themselves.

So the building and fire officials, the code enforcement officials, and then depending on the specific discipline of the code, so the plumbing inspectors, mechanical inspectors. So really anybody involved with that. And that’s not just on the local level, but it’s also the state level. So depending on if it’s a statewide adoption, you’re going to have some type of state adoption entity like a board or a commission, and then also the federal government. We have many federal agencies, FEMA, HUD, you know, the EPA, several organizations or several federal agencies are very active participants in the code development process.

So it’s really just kind of bringing all these groups together who then will propose their code changes, whether it be following a natural or a manmade disaster, a lesson learned possibly from one of those disasters, building collapses, what have you, but it also could be making sure that we are incorporating a new method of construction. So, you know, we often think of the building codes as those, you know, dealing only with life safety, but oftentimes, it might be a new manufacturer has created a material that is code compliant and provides adequate life safety, but also might be cost-effective.

So we want to make sure that we’re incorporating all those new methods of construction or new materials into each version of the code and the codes do come out every three years. So they’re, you know, always being kept up-to-date for jurisdictions to adopt.

Dan: Okay. Well, that’s a great background on it. It sounds like there’s a whole collaboration of many different facets of the building industry. And with that collaboration, it must be difficult in order to get everybody on the same line or the same page, so to speak. How often do the different committees meet, and what’s kind of that process?

Dottie: Oh, absolutely. So we have to break it down since there are so many codes. We do break it down into Group A and Group B. So right now, for example, we’re in the Group B cycle, and we always will start with a spring hearing where the committees will get together and actually vote on the proposals. So it really goes back to the beginning of the year, where people can propose code changes and then the committees will deliberate and all that can be done online.

So the code development process, you know, begins online. You can propose a code change, and it’s written just in like legislative language, so strikeouts. So you take an existing code section and maybe strike out or add a new provision. And then the committees will meet, and those are done in person. People can attend and participate from that regard, but they’re also online. So they are webcast, and the committees will actually vote on those code change proposals.

And the committee members are representative of virtually every affected organization. So, for example, you know, I’ll use the fire code, you know, not only are there the code enforcement regulator side, so those people doing the enforcement, so your building officials, fire officials, but then you also would have representatives of the users. And then we also make sure that it’s also representative of the country or itself. So we wouldn’t want to have, you know, too many people from say the East Coast or West Coast or North, South. We want to make sure that we’re incorporating individuals from all different parts of the country or internationally. We do have, you know, quite a bit of international participation as well.

And so those committees will vote, and then it will go to…it’ll go through a review process, a public comment process. And then we go to what’s called the “governmental consensus vote.” It used to be referred to as the “final action hearings.” And that’s when only those people involved with the enforcement of the codes will make that final vote. So that final vote of what ends up getting put into the code is reserved for those people doing the enforcement. So it wouldn’t be someone that has a financial gain. It would just be a representative of a local or state or federal government who’s actually doing that final vote.

And then it really goes to our staff, our technical staff, who make sure that…well, there is a Code Correlating Committee, I should also say. Because the codes do work as a family, so we want to make sure that within the building code is also referenced by the fire code or the plumbing code. And then our staff works to make sure that things are incorporated properly, and then the codes get published on a three-year cycle. And we make sure that when the codes are released to the public, that they are out in advance of that year.

So, for example, what’s being deliberated now is the 2024 codes. The Group A cycle has already met. Group B is meeting now. And then during that third year, it’s doing that code correlation, making sure that everything is referenced properly, and then we will publish those codes. And they’re usually out September of the previous year. So it’ll be September of say, 2023 that the 2024 codes will be issued.

Dan: Okay. That sounds like it’s a lengthy and time-consuming and a great process so just to get everybody all on the same page and get all the best minds to put the codes together. Once the building codes and standards are developed and then adopted by the local jurisdictions, how do they help prevent tragedies such as the one that was experienced in Florida last year with the Surfside condominium collapse?

Dottie: You know, exactly, you know what you had said by making sure that states and jurisdictions are adopting the most up-to-date building codes. You know, we do learn from tragedies such as Surfside. I could say 9/11. You know, I hate to say it’s one of those…you know, when we think of we just had the year anniversary of the Surfside building collapse on Friday, the 24th of June, and we want to make sure that we learn from those disasters.

And, of course, the National Institute of Science and Technology is doing a very exhaustive study as they did, for example, in 9/11. And there will be recommendations that come out of those types of studies. And so I reference 9/11 because I was intimately involved in that process. And those recommendations that came out of the NIST report was incorporated into the codes and jurisdictions did adopt those.

And, you know, I should also mention jurisdictions, of course, can modify the codes. You know, I like to say that the international codes are a minimum standard and jurisdictions may amend them to represent, you know, their building enforcement regulations or other unique things that they want to incorporate, or, you know, provisions into the codes. But for most part, the international codes are a minimum standard. You know, we would highly recommend that jurisdictions not go less restrictive.

Certainly, they have the right to go more restrictive as many do. It really starts as a very good starting point of the minimum code requirements. So making sure that jurisdictions are staying current. So, you know, the codes are coming out every three years, making sure that we’re incorporating those code changes. I think the best way to see that the codes are working is years later when a hurricane does come and we saw that from Katrina to say, Michael, you know jurisdictions fared better, homes fared better than they did before.

And even dating back if you think about Florida, you know, with Hurricane Andrew, that’s when the building codes did get quite strong in Florida. And after more recent hurricanes, homes and commercial construction did perform much better. So we know the codes work. But, you know, it’s proper maintenance as well. You know, I always like to say the code books are just a book on the shelf. You know, we need to make sure that the enforcement is behind it.

So, you know, they’re only going to be effective when they’re adopted, implemented, and properly enforced and maintained. So that’s really important. And then I would even take a step further to say that, you know, are the local building departments, state building departments, you know, being staffed adequately? Are they given the resources that they need to do their jobs? You know, because the last thing we would want is, you know, one individual responsible for a jurisdiction and stretched so thin that they’re not able to do their job to the extent it needs to be done.

So it is really important. You know, the formula for success is, of course, you know, getting those codes adopted, implementing those codes, but then supporting them by adequate staffing, training, and making sure they do have the resources that they need to do the job properly. You know, code enforcement is truly a profession and, you know, local government, state governments have to take that very seriously.

Dan: Yeah. That’s very true. You can have all the proper codes and everything out there, but if they don’t get enforced, all they are is just words on a piece of paper. That’s very true. With that being said, I know there’s some recent legislation signed by Governor DeSantis in Florida for stricter condominium inspections. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Dottie: Yes, of course. So you’d be paying attention to the age of a building. So when a building reaches…and it would be 3 stories and over of condominium, when a building would reach 25 years if it’s within 3 miles of the coastline, or 30 years if it’s further than 3 miles from the coastline, it would require a milestone inspection. So you would have a Florida-registered architect or engineer that would be hired by the condo association. And they would come in and do a visual inspection of the building. And they would be looking for, you know, signs of structural deterioration, something they’re trained to do.

And they would fill out a, you know, very in-depth report. And then if there was a requirement for repairs, they would need to do that. They would need to do those repairs. And then after that, it would be every 10 years, once it has that milestone inspection depending on…you know, regardless if it’s 3 miles or more from the coast, every 10 years they would have to do another type of an inspection and all that data would have to be kept and made available to the condominium residents.

Really anybody who has interest, someone who might be interested in purchasing one of those units. They would be housed by the local government, and the building department, as well as at the state level. And there was also a requirement, or is also a requirement that there is adequate reserves for those condo associations because, you know, the last thing they would need is, or would want is, you know, repairs would be identified and the condo association does not have adequate reserves to actually do the work. So that was also incorporated into the law.

Dan: Sounds like very thorough and much-needed. Based on your talk with other states, do you see this kind of legislation maybe expanding to other states?

Dottie: I can tell you a lot of states are watching to see what Florida is doing. We actually took it a step further and right after Surfside, well, I should say a couple of months later, we convened a panel with the National Institute of Building Science, the Building Officials of Florida, the Building Owners and Manager Associations, BOMA, and kind of put everybody together. There was condo board representation as well, and really just talked to them to find out what it was they were thinking, what they were feeling, kind of just put the engineers in a room, architects in a room, etc.

And from that, we created a guide called “Ensuring the Safety of Existing Buildings in Florida: Codes, Standards, and Inspection Guide.” And we wanted to make sure we had something ready to go in case jurisdictions didn’t want to wait or had maybe pressure by their local government to not wait for this law to you know, at that point, it was really just having a legislation, and we just wanted to make sure several jurisdictions also have a property maintenance code. Some do not.

Some are using the international property….you know, of the jurisdictions that have a property maintenance code, the majority are using the International Property Maintenance Code or an earlier version of that. So we’re seeing, you know, jurisdictions that are maybe updating that document, their property maintenance code or, you know, using this guide. Well, we realized, as you mentioned, so many other states are watching or, you know, worried about similar situations.

So, actually, even though we created that guide for Florida, it’s going to become a more formal guideline that we’re going to create so that other jurisdictions can use it so that it’ll just work with the International Property Maintenance Code, the International Existing Building Code, and then local governments around the country or around the world may choose to also utilize some type of document such as that. You know, it’s silly to recreate the wheel if we can create something that is coordinated with the rest of the codes, that would be helpful to other places because people are very interested.

We had a webcast kind of an update after we had put that panel together and we had over 400 people that called in, interested to hear. So I definitely think other states are watching, other countries are watching to see what Florida ends up doing. So, yeah, I think you’re going to see many follow with what Florida’s doing or, you know, even just, you know, pieces of that legislation, or maybe beefing up their internal property maintenance code.

Dan: Okay. You had kind touched on one [inaudible 00:16:03] detail on the appendix to the International Property Maintenance Code and with the milestone inspections and the maintenance of a building. I guess my question is, do you think it’ll become mandatory language in state jurisdictions, or do you think it’ll just be recommended language?

Dottie: Well, I can tell you the Florida Building Commission has just, is in the process, I should say, of creating a work group to look at this document a little more closer. And we are in the process of at least updating our draft of ensuring the safety of existing buildings in Florida guide to reflect the legislation. So we’re going to update that so at least the work group has something more up-to-date to take a look at. And then I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some type of recommendation.

You know, right now, the International Property Maintenance Code is not required statewide in Florida, but several jurisdictions have adopted, you know, either that or pieces of that code. So it will be interesting to see what happens. I will absolutely be following along. Other states that are maybe using the International Property Maintenance Code, it’ll be very easy for them to say, you know what, I’m going to take a look at this guide and maybe use it. And we have heard, you know, states that are interested in doing this.

And then as I mentioned, we’re gonna also convene a guideline committee to take this document and make it general so that it can be very easily adapted in whichever state or country would like to use it.

Dan: You had mentioned earlier, the base of the international codes are kind of a suggested minimum standard. Do most jurisdictions keep its status quo as what the ICC recommends, or do they kind of go and make it a little bit more strict?

Dottie: Yeah. It’s really different state to state. Most, you know, very few, I would have to say, would weaken the codes. Most will do something either more restrictive, often amend Chapter 1 because that’s the administrative provisions of the codes. And usually, they’ll have their own enforcement regulations just by their own jurisdiction, you know, their own internal guidelines or regulations. So usually, Chapter 1 is modified.

Some states might not be able to adopt any type of retroactive provisions without… In the case, for example, of New York, unless there’s a financial appropriation attached to that to eliminate any hardship to local governments. So sometimes it might just be their own enforcement requirements that either, you know, allow them, or maybe don’t allow them to adopt various provisions. But for the most part, states rarely will go less restrictive. It’s usually either, you know, adopt the language as it is, or make it maybe more restrictive.

Dan: Okay. With a fair amount of the codes Northern states of the United States, and so it’s kind of intriguing just to see how the Southeast are kind of the trendsetters, so to speak, you know, because, well, that’s where the storms happen, you know, quite often the more severe storms. So how can jurisdictions in Florida and also other states kind of work with the code council to improve the safety of their existing buildings in their communities?

Dottie: You know, I think more than anything, you know, being involved in the code development process. I love when I can see, you know, a packed room deliberating over the hearings. I know, of course, during COVID we had to do everything online. So it’s finally back to having the hearings in person where people will attend. And I love to see the debate. You know, I love that back and forth. I find I learn so much, you know, what’s the joke, you know, see how the sausage is made.

But it really it’s wonderful to hear the whys. You know, sometimes you see the code book and, you know, you’re reading it or, you know, if you’re a building official, you’re enforcing it. But it’s nice to hear the whys. It’s nice to hear, you know, why this provision came into effect. Or maybe even, you know, it’s a provision that just wasn’t very clear and it wasn’t being enforced properly, because people didn’t understand it. So maybe it’s just, you know, reworking a few of the definitions or a few of the words to make it, you know, more enforceable, but just that participation.

So I encourage, you know, whether it’s after a disaster or not, you know, just that active participation that we can learn from. Prior to coming to the International Code Council 17 years ago, I worked for the state of New York and I was in charge of our state’s code adoption process. And I can tell you, before we got involved at the ICC level, we were only involved in our own state and we thought we knew everything best and oh, we have the best code, the best… You know, we understand it and, you know, this is better than anything else.

And then we brought a few code changes to the International Code Council level. And we talked with people from other states and, in some cases, they were dealing with the same issues as us, and they were able to help us in how they dealt with it. Or we got up thinking that our code change was the best thing going and, you know, there were 50 people speaking in opposition asking, you know, why would you need this? It’s going to only increase the cost of construction, and it may not improve safety. So it was nice to hear from peers, from other states and jurisdictions. And I feel like that’s the best way to learn.

It’s the ability to network. You know, going to the ICC and participating in the hearings and meeting your counterparts from other states and those relationships last a lifetime. You know, it’s wonderful to be able to have an issue that you’re dealing with and pick up the phone and call someone across the country and then give you wonderful advice on whether it’s an enforcement or administrative issue, or maybe, you know, dealing with difficult difficult people sometimes, or just, you know, whatever it may be. We learn a lot from our peers in other places.

And I’ve also found that, you know, many of us do just like me, you know, move clear across the country. So, you know, I’m able to talk with other people, go back and provide that information back to where I lived before. Or, in fact, just today, I put in touch someone who I just recently met in Florida, put them in contact with somebody from New York who had a question. And I realized that this person was probably the best person to answer it and why not hear it from a peer versus me? And I put them in touch and now they’re working together.

So I really love to be that facilitator by putting people together. So I think more than anything else, we’re going to learn so much. You know, of course, we’re going to hear when NIST comes back from the report, I’m sure there’s going to be a tremendous amount of recommendations that come out. I’m sure the codes will be updated here in Florida, as well as nationwide and internationally. And I also think, you know, raising the bar. As I mentioned before, code enforcement is a profession.

And I’ve been nothing but impressed by the level of professionalism here in Florida. The building officials here have to be licensed by the state. So they’re taking an exam to get their job. And then, of course, there’s continuing education requirements to maintain that level. So I think that’s really important. We have building departments here that are accredited. They’ve received International Accreditation Service, IAS, Building Department Accreditation. So they’ve wanted to take it a step further and raise the bar for their own jurisdiction and have an accredited building department.

So, you know, there’s so many things that can be done, but I think just really that active participation is going to go the furthest because we’re going to learn from this disaster, as well as other disasters in the future. And we’re going to keep building stronger buildings and having those buildings maintained. You know, we’re really looking at the life cycle of a building now, not just, “Okay, it’s received a certificate of occupancy, let’s walk away.” You know, now with this new law in Florida, we’re looking at buildings to make sure that they’re performing as we thought they would, you know, 25 years later, 30 years later, and then 10 years following that. So we’re really paying attention to that, you know, property maintenance of a building, and making sure that it is doing what the codes are intending it to do.

Dan: Yeah. I’d like to mention just having the local jurisdictions get involved because they’re the ones with the boots on the ground, and they see what’s happening and what can be improved on, and I’m sure they have just a tremendous amount of suggested improvements that could be to the codes. With that being said, you had mentioned that you thoroughly enjoy being a facilitator. If the listeners here would like to reach out to you, what would be the best way and how could you assist?

Dottie: Oh, absolutely. And I’m happy to give my cell phone number because I know I feel like we’re all so busy though. So I’m gonna give you my email, my cell phone, and actually the ICC’s website as well. So my cell phone is 518-852-6025. I’m happy to take a call or a text. And my email is dmazzarella, standing for Dorothy Mazzarella, so dmazzarella@iccsafe.org. And our website for more information is iccsafe.org. And the government relations department has a tremendous amount of material on our website. We’re under “advocacy.” So there’s several drop-downs.

Advocacy is where you’ll find all of our coded options, our maps to see which data is using which version of the international code, all of our contact information is there as well. But if you’re really just interested in looking at the codes and the code development process, you can do that as well. So there’s a dropdown for codes and standards. It gives you all kinds of information on how the codes are created and, you know, the code development process itself. And if anybody is interested in seeing the international codes and taking a look at them, it is completely free to the public if you go to codes.iccsafe.org, there is a way to view the codes online for free.

Dan: Thank you, Dottie. This has been a wealth of information, you know, for myself and I’m sure for our listeners. And I’d like to thank you for coming on. And I’d also like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast today. If you’d like more information about our company, GCI Consultants, you can find it on our website at www.gciconsultants.com, or you can give us a call at 877-740-9990.

Thank you again. And I look forward to talking with everyone next time on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is Dan Johnson along with Dottie Mazzarella saying so long. Thank you, everyone.


Weather and Scientific Evidence Around Various Disasters

Weather and Scientific Evidence Around Various Disasters – Paul Beers and Howard Altschule

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 71: Weather and Scientific Evidence Around Various Disasters

Listen as, Paul Beers, CEO and Managing Member for GCI Consultants speaks Howard Altschule, CEO, Certified Consulting Meteorologist at Forensic Weather Consultants, CE Instructor. They will discuss various weather disasters and their scientific evidence.

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


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Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is Paul Beers, CEO and managing member for GCI Consultants, and I will be your host today. I’m really excited to have, as our guest, Howard Altschule. And Howard’s the CEO and a certified consulting meteorologist from Forensic Weather Consultants, LLC. Howard, welcome.

Howard: Hey, thank you very much, Paul. I appreciate being on the podcast with you.

Paul: Yeah, it’s gonna be great. So we’ve got a really interesting topic today, which is all about weather and scientific evidence around various disasters. I know hurricanes are obviously on everybody’s mind, but there’s other types of things I think we might talk about as well. But Howard, before we do that, why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll go into the topic.

Howard: Sure. As you mentioned, I’m a certified consulting meteorologist and the CEO and owner of Forensic Weather Consultants. Forensic Weather Consultants is one of the leading weather expert firms in the country where we provide weather data, weather records, meteorological analyses for a specific incident location, written reports that adhere to the federal rules of evidence, affidavits, deposition, testimony, and trial testimony. It’s a lot to digest there, but pretty much we are the go-to people for weather records and finding out what the weather was in regards to some incident or accident insurance claim or lawsuit. We also do some side projects for private corporations or government agencies, but, you know, by and far, we’re expert witnesses in the field of meteorology.

I received my Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York in Albany back in 1995. And I obtained and was granted my certified consulting meteorologist designation, which is the highest designation a consulting meteorologist can get, several years ago at an American Meteorological Society Conference. My company, Forensic Weather Consultants, we have, including myself, five full-time meteorologists, and we’re all working on forensics all around the country. And with all the crazy weather, we’ve been very, very, very busy with many different types of cases, not only from building envelope issues, but to motor vehicle accidents, boat accidents, plane crashes, slip and falls, and everything in-between.

Paul: So, Howard, you’ve…I know the answer to this, but I don’t know that all our listeners do, have you testified as an expert in court before?

Howard: Yes, I’ve testified in court. Let’s see, I testified a few weeks ago in Western New York. And that was my, I believe, 96th trial. So testified live in trial 96 times with about 76 or 77 other deposition testimonies and other matters.

Paul: Wow, that’s a big number.

Howard: Yeah, it is.

Paul: I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m pretty happy to say I’ve testified a lot, but not that much. So, good for you.

Howard: Yeah, it’s very interesting for sure. And the testimonies range in everything from arbitrations to, of course, lawsuits and trials, for the most part, but I’ve also testified in homicide trials, three of those, including a double homicide case, as well as a U.S. Air Force court-martial hearing where I was the expert for the prosecution for the U.S. Air Force and then motor vehicle accident case. So really interesting history of testimony for me.

Paul: Wow. So what’s the difference between a certified consulting meteorologist and just a regular meteorologist, I guess I’d say?

Howard: Sure. Yeah. A certified consulting meteorologist means that you’ve gone through the entire certification process with the American Meteorological Society. And basically, you have to apply, you have to have a minimal number of years of experience, be referred by other meteorologists with letters of recommendation if you would. You then have to take a 25-essay written examination and then also provide a technical research paper explaining your methodology and basically showing the panel of other CCMs that you know what you’re talking about. And then if you pass all that, you’re invited to go and give an oral exam at the annual conference for the AMS where, you know, the whole board can pretty much grill you on all kinds of questions from the way back in college all the way…you know.

And a certified consulting meteorologist basically allows users like you, Paul Beers, and we worked on some cases together, and attorneys and adjusters and insurance carriers and anybody else who is considering hiring us, it gives you confidence that we know what we’re talking about, that we have the scientific and educational background to do a thorough and reliable job, and that we adhere to the best ethical standards possible. So really, anybody, TV person, or someone who has no experience in forensics could look up the weather at the local airport and then just use that, but that’s not the right way to do things. And, you know, we go way beyond that, as you know, and having the CCM tells people that, “Yeah, you know, Howard Altschule knows the right way to do this. And he’s very reliable and you can count on him.” It was something very hard to obtain, but, you know, well worth it, well worth it.

Paul: So, now, you refer to a forensic meteorologist or a forensic…my reference is forensic meteorology report. So talk about the forensic part, what does that mean?

Howard: Basically, you know, if we’re given an incident location that suffered water intrusion or roof damage or something along those lines, we go back and we get numerous types of weather data and weather records from a variety of weather stations, Doppler radar images, surface observations, NOAA reports, storm reports, hourly information, dual-pol radar, and we do an analysis for some time in the past regarding an incident that occurred in the past. But we do that analysis to figure out what the weather conditions were right at the incident location itself. So most people traditionally, adjusters and engineers just use, you know, a NOAA storm report some miles away, or an airport wind observation, which often is very, very different from what occurred at an incident location. So we go back and we get all this data and tell our clients what happens some date and time in the past at a specific incident location. And that’s really what forensic meteorology is.

Paul: So if we take, for example…well, we’ll start, I guess, with a hurricane, what kind of data do you ultimately report? And why should someone do that as opposed to, as you say, looking it up at the local airport or whatnot?

Howard: A lot of times you have localized effects from different banding in hurricanes, different squalls, different downbursts. You can even have some tornadoes on the outer bands in the right front quadrant of a storm that may not get reported at the airport. And quite often, it’s not. Those type of tornadoes are typically, you know, short-lived and only last a few minutes and go over maybe a few miles. And it’s extremely rare that they go over an airport where it might report it. But even the outer bands where there’s a microburst or something like that that affects an incident location, we can track where those bands and where the eyewall and where the wind are over an incident location and based on not only airport wind observations but, you know, in the case, for instance, of Hurricane Irma, you know, we had hundreds of other wind observations from different types of weather stations that we were able to use to extrapolate and determine what was going on at a specific incident location.

Now, for that analysis, we’re also able to look at Doppler radar and see if, you know, any microbursts or downbursts occurred at that incident location that maybe would’ve caused a much higher wind gust, or a much higher windspeed, or a tornado to occur. So I’ll give you an example, and basically, let’s talk about, you know, where you might have a storm report from, you know, 5 miles away, where there was a downburst, or a very high wind event. Even during a hurricane, perhaps, you may not have the outer eyewall go over that property where that wind report was, but it might have gone over the incident location. So, you know, the winds can change speeds very, very drastically over short distances, and that’s what we’ll find out.

Now, in so many of the cases we work on, you know, we see a lot of reports from non-meteorologists that rely on an airport observation or a NOAA report a number of miles away, and many, many times, they miss what was actually occurring at the incident location itself. So we’re able to button all that up and give a site-specific report. There’s been, you know, lots and lots of, you know, issues with storm reports being, you know, not representative of what occurred at the incident location, hailstorms, for instance, where, you know, an $800,000 roof claim at a condo, for instance, was paid by an insurance carrier, and the plaintiff’s attorney hired us to try and get coverage for the rest of the buildings for wind damage. And when we pulled up Doppler radar, we found that that severe thunderstorm never came within 2 miles of the condominium development. So, to this date, the insurance carrier still doesn’t know they paid $800,000 for a hailstorm that never actually went over the property despite what that NOAA storm report said 2 miles away. That’s just the example of a needle in the haystack. We’ll find that out.

Paul: Sounds like they should have gotten a forensic meteorology reporter.

Howard: Yeah, for $1,000, $2,000 to save $800 grand. Yeah, I think that would’ve been money well spent for them. And that’s just one example. There’s so many others I could go into.

Paul: Well, that’s one of the things, you know, that I always do, and it’s one of the reasons that we obviously have worked together is, you know, I wanna know what the conditions are specifically at that site, not some airport 8 miles away and gives you obviously a much better basis for forming any conclusions or opinions or whatever.

Howard: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I think, you know, for instance, with the Irma cases we work on, as I mentioned, there’s hundreds of wind observations, you know, peak wind reports around the State of Florida. But on average, you know, we look at probably three, four, five, maybe six different hourly weather stations and extrapolate all this data and prepare hour-by-hour tables of not only windspeeds and wind gusts, but also the directions the winds were coming from at a specific loss location, which I think is very valuable for the work you do and what engineers do, for instance.

Paul: For sure. You mentioned hail, let’s talk about hail a little bit. So if there’s a report of a hail event, you know, wherever it occurs, what kind of information can you provide around a hailstorm?

Howard: Well, we can provide, you know, when the thunderstorm occurred, how strong it was, when exactly it was most intense at the actual, you know, loss location, or incident location, what the largest hail size was at that property, and also what were the windspeeds like, what were the wind gusts like? Did it cause the hail to fall from different angles and different directions? You know, what was the terminal velocity of the hail as it fell to the ground based on the size and the winds? We can, you know, give opinions in our reports and information in our reports that answer all those questions. And it’s very different than, say, a CoreLogic report that’s just an automated algorithm. You know, we see that a lot and we often have a very large difference of opinions with what, you know, some of those automated hail reports show. And even some other meteorologists, there’s, you know, some other CCMs out there, certified consulting meteorologists that, you know, miss some really crucial information that makes or breaks a case.

And, you know, we, we find those needles in haystack, and I think that’s why we get so many repeat clients and referrals because of the attention to detail that we go into to figure out exactly what was going on. You know, Paul, I like to say it’s like a detective, you know, at a homicide. You know, we piece together all the evidence and look for those little clues, except we apply those to, you know, weather and insurance claims and lawsuits. But, you know, we dig deep and examine everything to try and find, you know, those little clues that make or break a case that really tell the truth about what was going on. So, you know, that’s the value we bring.

Paul: Yeah, you mentioned the CoreLogic and the algorithm and whatnot, don’t they have a disclaimer in the fine print that says it could be a 20% variation from whatever they’re reporting?

Howard: Yeah, I know they say, you know, that they’re reporting…

Paul: Something like that.

Howard: Yeah, there’s a disclaimer that says, you know, cannot guarantee that their report is free of errors or emissions. That’s in the fine print at the end. And I recall seeing a CoreLogic wind report in the Rowlett, Texas tornado, for instance. And we were working on a claim, and I think the wind report at this property was like 44 miles per hour, the highest winds on that date. Meanwhile, you know, that actual house that we were researching was part of NOAA’s tornado survey, and they measured it at EF2 tornado strength, so very, very different from what the 44 mile per hour, you know, automated CoreLogic report showed. You know, sometimes they’re fairly accurate, but, you know, sometimes they’re way off. And all users should know that back in, you know, 2017 they upgraded their technology to version 2.0, which they sent a press release out and put on their website. And when they did that, it changed all the hail sizes, not all of them, but it changed most of the hail sizes and dates when those hail events occurred for the same exact incident location.

So if I ordered, you know, a report for your house, Paul, before they did that upgrade and it said golf ball sized hail, 1.75 inch on June 5th, 2016, the next day after that upgrade occurred, if I ordered the same report for the same date, it might show no hail at your house on that same June 2016 date. And we’ve had a lot where we’ve actually shown that it’s, you know, not reliable and, you know, our methodology is superior and accurate, and that’s just one of, you know, many issues with these automated products. Not all of them. I mean, we have an automated hail report too, but if the case is a large loss or in litigation or we get retained to work on a case, you know, that’s only a small reference point, our automated hail report. We look at the raw data, you know, just to ensure the accuracy of our opinions.

Paul: So I like to play golf. I think I just learned something that the diameter of a golf ball is 1.75 inches.

Howard: There you go. Exactly. Yeah, so we had to figure what was hail and what was a golf ball for those houses on the golf course, right?

Paul: I’ve been on a hurricane inspection before where I went into the condo and, you know, the glass was broken, and I was looking at it and I figured it out pretty quick when I found a golf ball lying on the carpet inside the window…

Howard: That’s right.

Paul: …what caused that wasn’t hail. It wasn’t hail.

Howard: No, not hail. And if there is a claim of…So here’s the interesting thing. A lot of times when we get a claim, you know, we get retained by defense attorneys and insurance carriers also. A lot of times, you know, there’d be a claim for a date of loss when there was not even a thunderstorm anywhere nearby. And they, you know, the other side may be relying on a storm report from 5 miles away of golf ball sized hail. Well, anybody that knows the way thunderstorms are, you know, if you get a supercell thunderstorm, or one of those pop-up thunderstorms in Florida, for instance, you could get hail 5 miles away and it may not even rain at the incident location. So that’s always something that comes up frequently and always very interesting piece of information that, you know, our clients like to know, regardless of whether they’re, you know, on the policyholder side or on the insurance carrier side.

Paul: Yeah, well, I remember I had a tornado claim in Texas and it was a big building, and we went out and we looked at the building and they weren’t showing us a lot of damage. And I got, you know, a site-specific report and the tornado was like two blocks away, which doesn’t really work, does it?

Howard: No, it doesn’t. And I’ll use another South Florida example where, you know, an engineer was looking at the weather report from the airport, and it was a wind damage claim. And he said that a tornado affected the property on this date because here it is on the Weather Underground report from this airport. You know, I think it was Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, FLL. When we got retained, you know, we pulled the raw data from that weather station in addition to Doppler radar, and when we did our analysis, the control tower operator at Fort Lauderdale said waterspout 10 miles east, which means it was 10 miles east of the tower which placed it over the ocean. And when we looked at Doppler radar, we saw this line of showers and weak thunderstorms just sitting stationary and that’s what was producing that waterspout. So, somebody, some engineer interpreted that as…you know, it showed up as tornado on Weather Underground, so they assumed that this tornado also occurred 2 miles away from the airport, which it didn’t. It was over the ocean.

Paul: That’s why he’s an engineer, not a meteorologist probably.

Howard: Yeah, it was an engineer and the historical trend is, or has been, for engineers to rely on…you know, to look on weather data themselves, right? And they’re not meteorologists and they can’t do the site-specific weather analysis. So they just have to rely on the storm reports from, you know, a number of miles away or the airport. To their credit, many, many more engineers, whether they’re working for, you know, plaintiff’s attorneys or insurance carriers, you know, they’re requesting that we get retained to do a weather analysis so that they can use our findings in their reports, or they can use our findings in their calculation of windspeed and pressure and hail size at the property. And it’s what I like to call a well-oiled machine. And, you know, you and I gave a presentation up in Rhode Island a couple years ago, Paul, and we used some of these examples. And I’m happy to say that we’re being retained by many, many more engineering firms who want a more reliable weather data package that they can use so that if they go testify there won’t be any reliability or qualification issues with the court.

Paul: Yeah, no, I mean, also I’ll give you a plug here on that. That’s the only way to really have reliable and credible information. And if you don’t do that, you’re setting yourself up for a big problem if somebody else went and hired a forensic meteorologist and got the right answers and you were incorrect, so you can’t really take a chance on something like that. If you wanna provide accurate testimony and accurate opinions, then you need to have accurate data, obviously.

Howard: Absolutely. And if you don’t have the accurate data and you don’t rely on…you know, if you’re not qualified to give those opinions, a lot of times, or at least sometimes, you know, we’ve seen some engineers in Texas and Florida, unfortunately, get Daubert challenged out of a case successfully. And, you know, we’ve been on the other side of some of those, but it’s real interesting and it’s becoming a more common issue, which I think is why we’re getting called more often to do the weather. People are realizing it’s not a $10,000 invoice that we’re gonna be submitting for this. It’s very, very reasonable and it’s well worth it for them to retain us.

Paul: Yeah, and the big picture, it’s really inconsequential and, you know, the value you get out of it is exponential for what you have to pay for it.

Howard: Yeah, it really is, especially, you know, like bad faith claims. If there ends up being a bad faith lawsuit or something like that, you know, we have our insurance company clients, you know, they wanna avoid that. So, you know, they retain us to find out what was going on. And, you know, we tell it the way it is so they could decide whether they should settle a claim, you know, or defend it.

Paul: One of my favorite statements, “It is what it is.”

Howard: It is what it is. Exactly.

Paul: Yep, yeah. So we’ve talked a lot about wind. So, in a hurricane, wind’s not the only hazard, obviously, there’s storm surge and things like that. You get involved in that aspect of it as well?

Howard: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we’re involved in, you know, tons of cases down in the Florida Keys, we’ve done some in the Miami area, some Hurricane Michael work over by Mexico Beach, Florida, Pensacola, and we’re getting some more cases now from Hurricane Ida, and even some other ones earlier than that. I think we’re getting a Hurricane Sally case coming in today that we’re working on. But you’re right, not just winds, there’s tornadoes that are usually very common in tropical storms or hurricanes, especially in that what we call the right front quadrant or the northeast quadrant. A lot of people like to refer to it as the dirty side of a storm.

And we have, in addition to that, the storm surge, like you mentioned, and we go back and we’ll determine what the storm surge was, or the storm tide at the property. And then also determine what the storm tide levels were, how high was the water at the actual house or building hour by hour, and then compare that with what the windspeeds were hour by hour to see which came first, how strong were the winds before the storm tide, you know, reached the property. And, you know, we don’t just do weather, I mean, like I said, a needle in the haystack is what we, you know, strive to, you know, be perfect with. So we’ll often request, you know, surveys of a property to find out what the NAVD 88 levels are of the property and heights above sea level above NAVD 88 so that we can do those reliable calculations. And, you know, it’s worth its weight in gold. We’ve had some very, very happy clients when they found out what we can do and basically we proved their case.

Paul: So the classic argument in coastal hurricane-prone losses oftentimes is did the wind destroy the house, or was it the storm surge? Because it’s almost always two different insurance companies and, you know, so two different coverages. So are you able to dial it into that level of figuring out what’s going on?

Howard: Oh, absolutely. I know we have…you know, I’ll give a plug for our website, you know, www.weatherconsultants.com. We’ve got sample reports for all these types of cases on our website, including a wind and storm surge case. But yeah, we put together tables in our report that will show the highest sustained winds every hour, the highest wind gust or peak wind speed every hour. And then what the storm tide was, how high was the water every hour? So our clients, you know, can find out exactly side-by-side comparison, apples to apples about what was going on. And it’s really, it’s remarkable, the detail we can get in into by looking at, you know, buoy stations and seaman stations, National Ocean Service reports, high watermark reports from the U.S. Geological Survey, and we combine that with NOAA data.

And just to give you an idea on the accuracy, this is one of the, you know, proud moment I’ve had recently. We were working on a case in the Virgin Islands about a month-and-a-half ago, and we found an error in the National Hurricane Center’s post-tropical cyclone report that is edited and prepared. So we reached out to them, explained why we think there was an error, and they…the thing is that we look a lot of different types of weather data. We look at buoys, buoy observations, seaman station observations, National Ocean Service observations, buoy data, like I mentioned, U.S. Geological Survey, high watermark data. And then we get the survey…like I mentioned earlier to you. We get at the survey for each property if it’s available to see, you know, how high is the cement slab above NAVD 88?

And using that, we can figure out, you know, when the water reached that property. And our hurricane reports calculate hour by hour what the sustained winds were every hour, what the highest windspeeds or wind gusts were every hour, and then also what the storm tide level was every hour at the property. So now you have an apples-to-apples comparison of sustained winds, wind gusts, and what the storm surge or storm tide level was at each specific property. So now you can make, you know, important decisions about what came first. Did the wind come first, or the surge, or the water? Those are questions that we can answer, and we’re involved in a lot of cases where we do that, and our clients are usually thrilled with the attention to detail that we can find and give them with that information.

Paul: Yeah, that’s really cool. I actually didn’t realize that you could do that. So that makes a lot of sense.

Howard: Yeah, and that’s like that needle in the haystack that we were talking about. You know, we’d like to go above and beyond and, you know, find the little fine details that can make or break a case. So, you know, we contact our attorney clients and we say, “Hey, can we have a copy of the survey?” And sometimes they may not even have it, and they’ll go, you know, get it from the building department, give it to us, and then it’s extremely useful. So that’s just an example of what we do with the wind and, you know, versus water storm surge cases.

Paul: So, shifting gears here, last year, there was an event that I had never heard of in Iowa, and I’m gonna try not to mispronounce it, a derecho.

Howard: Yeah, derecho.

Paul: Derecho, close. And like I sort of know now, but I was saying to myself, “What in the heck was that?” I know it had 100-plus mile an hour winds. So what was that all about? I know you’ve worked on some cases there also.

Howard: Yeah, we’re doing a lot of cases in Iowa, and that derecho actually, you know, moved across the Northern Plains there across the Great Lakes down into the Midwest. And basically, a derecho is…you know, well, we have a couple things. We have a small thunderstorm that can produce a downburst or wind damage over maybe a 1 or 2-square-mile area, then you have, for instance, a bow echo, which is an arcing line of precipitation and wind that often has, you know, colder, stronger winds coming down from the upper atmosphere and, you know, crashing to the ground and then pushing that precipitation outward. You know, that can give you a larger area or a larger area of wind damage. And then you have a derecho, which is a much larger-scale wind event. It’s very widespread, it’s long lived. It usually lasts for, you know, over a number of states as a well-organized continuous system. And it just produces, you know, large areas of wind damage and destruction.

Usually, the wind damage swaths extends over 240 miles. So it just gives you an idea of how big an area these derechos can occur. And usually, you need a very unstable atmosphere with, you know, high temperatures, high dew points, very high what we call CAPE, which is convective available potential energy, and you need good dynamics to kick off those thunderstorms. And once you get the perfect ingredients and strong winds aloft, you get these thunderstorms that form. They form into a line, and then they just organize into a derecho and last for many, many hours of 12, 18 hours as they sweep across many states. And in Iowa, they got hit really, really hard, like you said, over 100 mile an hour winds.

So we’re involved in a lot of cases there, where, you know, certain structures were rated up to a certain windspeed. And even if they’re rated up to 125 miles per hour, you know, we find, in some of those instances, that the winds only gusted to 100 miles per hour. So now, you have a…you know, is it a product liability, defective product case, subrogation case? All those things come into play and, you know, knowing what those wind speeds were, even if it’s 100 miles an hour, you know, can be very important to our clients.

Paul: Yeah, 100 mile an hour is pretty good, pretty intense winds.

Howard: Oh, yeah. Yeah. But if you have windows that are rated in a high rise to 125 miles per hour, for instance, or a radio tower, or some sort of structure and it doesn’t get that high and it’s damaged, then that becomes an issue according to what our client say. You know, as you know, we’re not engineers and we don’t pretend to be engineers, or building consultants or experts, so we wouldn’t determine, you know, whether the damage, you know, was caused by those high winds. We would just give the opinions about what the windspeeds were, what the weather conditions were, what the wind gusts were, and then let some, you know, expert determine, you know, should the windows have been sustaining that kind of damage or not? But again, it’s a well-oiled machine like we talked about before. We provide the weather, you provide the building envelope, you know, information and the structural information and the attorneys put that all together, or the insurance carriers put that all together and have a nice case.

Paul: And the argument begins.

Howard: Yeah, exactly. And when you have these really reliable reports that we’ve been discussing, it’s really hard to rebut them. You know, it’s really hard to say no if you’re relying on, you know, solid evidence and, as we say, sound scientific principles in the field of science.

Paul: And that’s a million percent correct. You know, I always say, “Try to overwhelm the other side with the facts.” And, you know, if you’ve got the facts and you’ve got it right, then obviously, you know, that’s gonna present a clear picture and credible picture of what you’re trying to present.

Howard: Even if you’re called to be deposed and right from the get-go, you’re relying on solid data and solid methodology, you’ll be fine. And usually, the person deposing you is going to see that you know what you’re talking about and oftentimes, you know, some decisions are made about, you know, cases after those depositions. So it’s important to know what you’re talking about and have, you know, reliable foundation as they say.

Paul: And conversely, if you don’t have it, you can get burned.

Howard: You can get burned or thrown out of a case. And yeah, that wouldn’t be so good for your credibility.

Paul: Let’s put your expert hat on for a second here, and I know you’ve mentioned, you know, doing the site work and reports and depos. So what does a full-scale expert witness assignment typically look like for you as far as what you need to do and what are the things that happen along the way?

Howard: Well, we often get retained either by a public adjuster or an engineer or an attorney and, you know, they have a date of loss and they need to know what the hail size was on that date of loss at this property. And, you know, we start off by getting lots and lots of different types of weather data, surface observations, airport observations, Mesonet winds readings, then we get Doppler radar images, and incidentally, Paul, we plot each incident location that we’re retained on. We plot it on top of the Doppler radar images that are, you know, taken or processed every one to five minutes or so. And so we’re able to see exactly where the storms moved, if they went over the property, how strong they were.

And not only just, you know, looking at the normal radar, like what you see on TV during the weather, but we have many different radar products like base velocity, which shows us winds. We have differential reflectivity that shows us shapes and hail in a thunderstorm. We have correlation coefficient that those radar images are color coded, and, you know, they show us what’s up in the atmosphere. Is it all correlated together like rain and just rain, or if it shows us a different value within a certain threshold, it may be showing that there’s an area of hail or debris in a tornado that shows up on correlation coefficient. So all of this information and then looking at the structure of the thunderstorm, you know, from the ground up to 50,000 feet, using that with all the research we’ve learned and, you know, established papers and etc., as well as storm reports at the grounds, we’ll give an opinion about what the hail size was.

Now, there’s also a lot of research that shows the majority of storm reports, whether they’re hail or winds, don’t get reported to the national weather service, right? Not everybody, or i’d say the majority of people don’t go out, measure the hail, and then call the National Weather Service, or if they do, they wait for the storm to end so they don’t get, you know, clobbered on the head with hail. And by the time they get out there, it already started melting a lot of times. And that has implications because the hail still may have hit the roof at 1.75 inch. But by the time someone maybe got out and measured it, either it wasn’t reported to the National Weather Service or the closest report was, you know, 2 miles away, like that example I used earlier, or maybe it started melting and, you know, they estimated the hail size.

So we’ll go and do the research and then answer those questions about, “All right, how large was the hail at the property?” And it’s based on, you know, science and evidence and meteorology, and that’s crucial for those types of cases. Once we report back to you or our client with our findings, in addition to, you know, what the windspeeds were in that same thunderstorm, was the hail coming from different angles, a lot of times we’re asked to prepare what we call a federal rule 26 type report, which basically follows the guidelines of federal court. So our expert reports are in admissible format and everything’s relied upon and lined up the way it should be for use in those types of cases, and then those reports are usually given to engineers, or the other side, or exchanged to whatever party it may be. And that’s kind of the way we do these analyses for each case. And that could be applied to hurricane cases, wind cases, rainfall cases, flooding cases, you know, wildfires, all kinds of different things.

Paul: Have you ever been subjected to a Daubert challenge?

Howard: I have, a few times, I think three out of…get this, I think 3 times out of 7,000 cases that I’ve worked on, and never successful. You know, I found that a lot of the times, you know, unfortunately, it was an attorney’s last ditch effort to try and get me removed from the case because they knew their, you know, case was in trouble. And you know, when the judge denied the motion, the case is settled almost within a couple days for a very, very, very large sum.

Paul: Yeah. So Daubert is now the standard for experts in Florida on all cases, not just federal court. So Daubert challenges are flying all over the place now and…

Howard: Yeah, some engineers, unfortunately, you know, there’s some, you know, reputable ones that are well-known, they’ve gotten, you know, thrown out just recently on Daubert challenge. And I know that because, you know, we were involved in that case and, you know, there was an engineer playing meteorologist and they had their facts all messed up. One said a tornado affected a property, except the tornado was like 3 miles away from the house. And the tornado itself was only, you know, 100 yards wide. So it would have to be a 3-mile wide tornado for it to affect the house. And this was in the engineer’s own report talking about radar and all these things. So that, unfortunately, didn’t end up well for him.

Paul: Well, probably deserved it if you’re putting incorrect information in. Yeah, I’ve had the Daubert thing myself and it’s actually a feather in your cap when you go through it successfully. It’s kind of like a, you know, validation that you did things right. I had a competitor recently bragging that his company had never been Daubert challenged thinking that was good and it’s really not. You know, you wanna be battle-tested and it’s just part of the process. Nothing to be ashamed of if you get Daubert challenged, not if you get kicked out, there’s some shame involved there I think.

Howard: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, there is. But yeah, to be Daubert challenged, yeah, like you said, it’s a feather in the cap, and it means that the judges agree that you did the right kind of job and the right kind of methodology and that a jury should be hearing what you have to say. That’s really what it comes down to. You know, the judges, they call it the gatekeeper. And as long as we, as experts, can explain what was going on and we’re qualified to explain what was going on, we used the right methodology and the right types of data, then we’re deemed qualified to tell a jury or the court what our opinions are, and then they can make a decision about whether if there’s coverage or not coverage, whatever they do in the jury box for civil cases.

Paul: Yeah, so, I mean, you’ve gotta basically dot all your Is and cross all your Ts. And if you’re working on a weather event, that’s the reason you would want to get obviously a site-specific meteorological report by somebody who’s qualified so that, you know, you do get that correct.

Howard: Yeah, it’s so important. You could have a $1.5 million hail claim just to fall apart. Even if there was hail, it would fall apart if you don’t have the right experts or the right information. And that $800,000 hail claim I spoke with you about earlier, that’s just one of many cases that we’ve had where, you know, we’ve proven that there wasn’t any hail. And it happens in the Southern Mississippi Valley as well, where there’ll be a date of loss for, you know, a government complex of buildings and the date of loss, there was no hail. So then in a case we’re working on then, they submitted a new date of loss, and we were asked to go research that, no hail. Then they did it again, different date of loss. There were showers and thunderstorms but, you know, quarter-sized hail, 0.25 inch. You know, according to the engineers, not enough to do damage to those government buildings. I don’t know where that case is now, but, you know, it just shows you the value. You know, we were told that we saved them, so far, $8 million.

Paul: Wow. Yeah, if you’re gonna have a hail claim, you probably need to have hail, right?

Howard: You need to have hail, yeah. And I can’t stress how important it is not to just rely on a storm report, you know, from NOAA, you know, 3 miles away, or the Severe Weather Database Inventory, which a lot of people get confused with. They see these hail algorithms and markers that say, you know, “1.75-inch hail, you know, 2 miles from the property,” and they don’t realize that that’s just an algorithm for what’s being measured aloft and it could have false alarms. It often does have false alarms. But they use that as evidence to show that there was hail, and a lot of times they’re dead wrong.

Paul: Yeah, really interesting. Well, Howard, thank you so much for coming on today. Really interesting to catch up and talk about how important it is to get good information around weather events.

Howard: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. And, you know, I guess in closing, every good expert should work for either, both sides, the plaintiffs and defense. And that’s what we do. We often get called by both sides of the same case. So I think that’s a feather in our cap as well, that’s something all professionals should hang their hat on and be happy about. So we’re happy to provide this service and just tell what the weather was, as I say.

Paul: So if somebody wants to get a hold of you or hire you or your company, how would they go about doing that?

Howard: Give us a call. Our office number is 518-862-1800. Again, 518-862-1800, or send us an email, admin@weatherconsultants.com, or just go to our webpage and it has all the information right there, or they could call you, Paul, and you could give them our information.

Paul: They could.

Howard: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. Yeah, we always enjoy working with you. You know, it’s nice to have different professionals working on the same case. You know, it always works out good and you’re always a great person to work with. So we appreciate…

Paul: Likewise, likewise.

Howard: We appreciate the work. Yeah, thank you.

Paul: Yeah, thanks again for coming on. And I’d also like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast today. And if you want more information about our company, GCI Consultants, you can find it on our website at www.gciconsultants.com, or you can give us a call at 877-740-9990. Thank you once again. I look forward to talking with everyone next time on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. And this is Paul Beers saying so long.



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The State of Stucco

The State of Stucco – Bret Taylor and Robert Koning

GCI Everything Builders Podcast: Episode 70: State of Stucco

In this episode, Bret Taylor, Professional Engineer, and Sr. Consultant for GCI Consultants talks Robert Koning Director of Contractors Institute, Stucco Institute, Building Officials Institute, and he’s also the developer of the Sealed Cladding System. They’ll discuss the state of stucco, the history of the Stucco industry, and the future that lies ahead for stucco.

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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Bret: Welcome everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Bret Taylor, professional engineer, senior consultant, too, for GCI Consultants. I’ll be your host today, and I’m excited to have with us Robert Koning who is the director of the Contractors Institute, Stucco Institute, Building Officials Institute, and he’s also the developer of the Sealed Cladding System. And he’s a consultant in the construction defect industry as well.

Today, our topic is going to be the state of stucco. So, Bob, start off. And I’d like you to tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and then we can jump right into the state of stucco.

Robert: Well, Bret, I want to thank you for this opportunity to join in this podcast and be part of it. My history throughout my entire adult life in construction, I’ve really done nothing but that, has been involved in the roofing, waterproof, stucco, and plastering industry. That’s been my main forte. Today, my practice is pretty much limited to education and training at the Contractors Institute, and, as you said, the Stucco Institute, and the Building Officials Institute. We provide examination preparation and continuing education courses for the construction industry.

Historically, the stucco industry, as I was part of, that’s how I got into construction back when I was, after school, 16 years old, at a plaster mixer, and have never really gotten out of the stucco and cement-plastering trade. Still in it today, to a limited degree. But historically, we plastered these houses, we stuccoed these houses. It was a different process then, and we had no problems. Then, [inaudible 00:01:59] 2000, through some changes in the industry, or, should I say, some application of interpretations in the industry, we changed things, and then problems began, and are abundant today, for a myriad of reasons, some of them related to stucco, but most often, they are not.

Bret: Okay, excellent. Well, that’s an amazing life accomplishment you’ve got there with all the different institutes and your experience. I’m sure everybody is looking forward to hearing from you today. So, let’s get right into it. Let’s start with a brief history of stucco, just like you were mentioning earlier. About what year did you start, Bob, in stuccoing?

Robert: I started in stuccoing back in the late ’60s, when I began. And as I said, still in it today.

Bret: Well, that’s a good long time. And I’m going to take this opportunity to point out, too, that you were stuccoing in the ’60s. It was occurring before then as well. Stucco has been a viable cladding system in Florida, but…Florida since then, and before then, and continues to be so. And I think what we’re going to get into today is some of the items that we’ll cover. Some of the problems that have come up, like you said. Those don’t necessarily mean that stucco is a bad thing. It is viable. And if done properly, it can continue to be viable.

Robert: That’s absolutely true. When I started in this, I had the honor of being trained by a lot of old-time workers that were in the field. Today, we have the blessing of a lot of men and women working in the field. When I began my career, as you can imagine, it was largely men. There were a few women, but our workforce has expanded, thank God, and we have a lot of new talent.

But the old guard, so, I’ll just simply refer to them as “the old guard,” that trained me, all of their lessons were from trial and error what did and did not work. And the stucco or cement-plastering industry evolved to form a viable cladding that just performed flawlessly. Things were somewhat different then, when we started this originally. The houses inside were rock lath. I began my practice at the era of rock lath. Before that, it was wooden lath strips. But when I got in, it was three-eighths rock lath. And then we would come in and we would brown coat, which is a gypsum plaster. And we would take rods and straighten the wall out. And then we would go outside. The brown coat had to dry, so we moved outside. And we would scratch any of the wire around the house with metal lath. Then, that metal lath was not galvanized. It was plain black, with an asphalt coating sprayed on it, which, what we today refer to as interior lath. So, it was black lath. There was no rib lath then. It had been nailed on the wall by the plasterers, us. And we used interior nails, which were not galvanized, blue lath nails. And the pattern then was you spread your hand out, and you had to have a nail. If you put a nail on your thumb, then you had to touch it with the top of your pinky. That was about the spacing each way, on center. Of course, the back sheathing was either diagonal re-sawn 1 by 10, or plywood. And then it was covered with felt.

We hand-nailed that on, and then we scratched it, the plasters, then. I can remember my uncle telling me when I first learned to use a Hawken trowel, they would put the mud, the cement, on the board, so, mud boards. And we’d make a ring in the middle of it, put a little water in, and mix it with your Hawken trowel on the board, so that it was a looser consistency or viscosity. My uncle wanted it…all the old plasterers wanted it that way, because when you scratched it, you took that cement, and you used an up-down-up motion with your trowel. And he wanted to see that that cement was so fluid that it would push in through the lath and, to the degree it could, behind the lath. And you would form, like, a little river on the toe of your trowel, the toe being the front end, the heel being the back end. That way, he knew that it was completely fluid, and you were putting a coat on the wall that completely enveloped the lath.

His reasoning, I asked him why we had to loosen that mud up, was very simple. He said, I’ll never forget it, “Boy, you can’t have any pockets behind this. If you have pockets behind this, you’re going to have air. And when you get air behind it, in Florida, it’s got salts in it, and it’s gonna corrode the lath. So there can be no space behind that plaster and that lath.” And as for the nailing patterns, I asked him, “Why are we nailing it with this pattern?” Even back then, they knew. He knew. Because in storms, that suction pressure will pop that stucco. It’ll crack it if you don’t nail it at that frequency. So, that was the extent that was told to me.

Then we scratched that. And then we would leave the job, and we would come back a week or so later. And now, it was time to put the white coat inside of the house, which was simply lime and sand. So, you’d scrap the brown coat down, and now, you put a thin coat of lime and sand in over the gypsum plaster. And then you moved outside and put your second coat on the wall, and densified it. Then, we always densified the second coat of plaster. And that’s just with a float with a open cell, like a green…today, they’re green, but it’s an open cell. And you dipped it in the water and you rubbed it. Most of them were then sand-finished. You used a white float and you would sand finish it like you did on the inside.

Then, all of the corners were rodded. In other words, we didn’t use any beads. You’d hold a straight edge, and you rodded that. People who don’t know what that is today can go to the Stucco Institute. We have all the photos and the materials there.

And then, all consideration was given to the painting contractor. We had V tools, and we cut a little V around all of the openings. And you used a paintbrush, like a chip brush today, a cheap throwaway. And you would wet it. And you would go down that V cut, to soften the edge, so that the painter could use a spatula. And you cleaned the shoulder of whatever it was touching, so that when the painting contractor got there, he simply had to just rub a brush up and down it, or a rag. And he had a good bite, or a good shoulder, to seal on from whatever the penetration was, pipe, or a brick molding, or whatever. And the other side of the V, which was in the plaster body, had a soft edge so that his spatula would go down.

And the painters then would seal and apply the coating, by roller, to the proper mil thickness. They would brush all of these V tools, then put their sealant in. And then they would roll the first prime coat. And they would roll the second coat, at 2 mil thicknesses of about a minimum of 12, even back then. And they gauged that by the amount of coverage of the paint. And we ended up with a face barrier system that performed absolutely perfectly. The goal of that system then was to ensure that no bulk water, of course, and no vapor penetrated through that, that would get in behind your system, where the felt might wrinkle when the cement touched it.

And that system failed. I mean, that system never failed. It was flawless. And it was the one in the Miami code since I’ve been following the code. Someone told me it went in in 1932, but it certainly was in in the ’50s, all the way up until 2010, when it got removed by the Florida Building Commission, with the simple premise they’re trying to minimize the codes. And our reference codes today, which are the 926 and the 1063, have provisions “unless otherwise specified.” So it would allow people to continue following that protocol because of the “otherwise specified” provision in the referenced ASTM documents.

But that got lost along the way, and we started putting systems on for drain plane systems. And as my mother used to say, “You can’t be a little bit pregnant. You either are or you aren’t.” The same is true here. Either you have a functional drain plane system or you have a face barrier system. You can’t have a little bit of both. It doesn’t work that way. And so, we’ve got into some problems in the industry in that respect, along with some diminishing of other aspects, such as roofing, and painting, and sealants, and soffit, and fascia, which we’ll talk about later.

So, I guess, what I would say is that there was a complete lack of understanding [inaudible 00:12:04] 2000 and a transition after hurricane Andrew, when the engineers, rightfully so, became involved in designing load pass. There were people that looked at this then standard, the ASTM 926 and 1063, which are an application standard written by plasterers, out in the Midwest, for plasterers in the Midwest when you’re using three-coat stucco with a colored application finish over open frame. And they read that, and a lot of people just didn’t understand the difference, so they just said, “Well, hey, this is the way it should be put on. Let’s adapt to this.” And failures started. And they still are abundant today.

Bret: Yeah. That was a great description of how stucco is installed. And I was visualizing it the entire way. And as I was visualizing that, I was thinking about the different areas that could be done improperly, that would allow that, you know, face sealed system to not perform, as you mentioned. And then, can’t be a little bit pregnant. Once you in some way compromise your failed sealed system, and you’re going to have water coming behind the system and you’re going to compromise your overall integrity. Let’s talk about some of the areas that could fail. So, you were talking about scoring around the openings. Let’s talk about some of the areas that, if done improperly, could let water behind the system.

Robert: Well, I’m just going to call it the big three. That is, of course, the thickness of the coating itself that we put on the outside and the accessories. The two biggest failure points in accessories are plastic, or vinyl, or metal, corner beads on the outside corners, and control joints. Those are the big-ticket items. Remember, what we’re trying to do here… If you think of this, and we have data loggers, and tests, and data at the Stucco Institute, voluminous materials you can download free, but the concept is relatively simple, Bret. The ASTM documents are very, very good documents. And they were written for an arid region and a lower wind speed. So, if you take, first off, the first component in that is metal lath over a wood-frame wall. We’ll talk about over block later, but it’s a lot simpler over the block. But over a wood-framed wall, and you’re in an arid region, why… It’s open framing first, of all? And in some of our training materials, we show the National Weather Service data. So, you’re in, let’s say, Las Vegas or Nevada. And it’s 102 degrees average in August, you know? And the outside relative humidity is about 28%, and the rainfall for the month of August is 0.60 inches, less than an inch. And the inside relative humidity in the house is tried to be maintained up around 50% and about 75%.

So, if you just take simple diffusion pressure and you do this concept, you have this wall. And this wall gets wet. It’s three-coat stucco, and then the final coat is colored cement. That wall gets wet. First of all, the wall itself in a rain shower in Nevada is going to shield, I mean, just simply resist the bulk of the water. It’s going to run down the wall. A minuscule fraction of that amount of water is going to get through cracks and separations. And it’s going to migrate down behind the system, and it comes out the bottom weep screed at the crack. People don’t always understand that that weep screed has holes in it. They think those are for water drainage. They are not. Those holes lock the plaster in. It simply weeps. Remember, it’s a weep screed, not a drain screed. It weeps the minuscule amount of water that got through at the crack along the bottom. Before, we had vinyl, plastic as most people call them. They’re a plastic-based material. Before we had that, and we had metal, we had to wax the top of those flanges so that the lime wouldn’t bind into that and block that ability to drain at that crack.

So, this standard was written, again, with using lime, and sand, and cement. There was no pre-mixed type X then. So, the water would be shielded by the wall, and some would get through. The vapor never really wants to permeate through. And the reason of that is the relative humidity is lower outside than it is inside. So, when the rainstorm stops, immediately, you go back to 102 degrees. You’re back to 30% relative humidity, and the wall dries to the outside very, very rapidly. So it’s really hard to get any long-term or chronic moisture problems in a wall out there. It gets wet, it’s very incidental. Everything is trying to dry to the outside, and drying to the outside.

Now, if you move that scenario to Orlando, Florida, where the average August temperature is 94 degrees, the relative humidity is 86%, and the average rainfall is 7.5 inches, as opposed to a half an inch, now, you are just simply flooding that wall with water on a fairly constant basis. The outside humidity, of course, is above 90%, and it was 100% when it rains. The inside is being maintained about 55%, so all of the water and all of the vapor have a diffusion pressure to move inward.

So, let’s assume that the rain stops, and the relative humidity stays in the 90s for a while. It might get back down to the 80s. But it stays high. And now, all that vapor does not dry to the outside. It is pushing to the interior. There was a time when we used felt, and we had laps on the felt. And that vapor could migrate through, and then it would encumber either wood planking or it would it would hit a plywood sheathing with a perm of about 12 grams, perm rating is about 12 grams, and could pass through and be dehumidified into the system. Before air conditioning, the inside and outside were stable, so you didn’t have any difference in diffusion pressure.

So, now we’re moving. Well, with the advent of OSB and house wrap. The house wrap, at least, Tyvek, normal house wrap, the perm rating is in it’s 50 grams. Even stucco wrap is around 20 grams. That vapor moves through the house wrap, and now it encounters the OSB in its movement inward. Well, the OSB perm rating is 0 grams to 1 gram and has a silicone coating on it. And so, it stops there. And it just remains there behind the stucco system in mass. And then at nighttime, when we have the radiant loss to the nighttime black sky, the wall cools below the condensing temperature by about 10:00 at night and that vapor condenses behind our system. And then, we keep that cyclical.

We painted the house with the outside, with paints. We measured 74 houses in a recent study. The average mil thickness was 3 mil. Remember, and it should be 12 mil. So, the vapor passes right through, but now there’s no returning force. There’s no difference in diffusion that’s trying to get it to dry out. It’s still wanting to go to the interior of the house. And to make matters worse, we have a weep screed down at the bottom, and we’ve painted the crack. I mean, you can’t let the water out now, because this stucco system, as it’s contemplated in 926, well, everybody understands, was never meant to be painted. You have to do other accommodations with your termination point. So, now, we have the wetting, continual elevated relative humidity, behind the stucco system, behind the Tyvek, the Typar, and now we get fungal growth. And once we initiate that, we have problems. So, that’s a first, huge problem.

Second problem we have is the attachment of the lath. The standard was written in a low wind speed region, where straight-line winds then were 90 mph. And they said in the standard, to put the studs, excuse me, to put the fasteners of the metal lath 7 inches vertically up the studs, which are spaced 16 inches horizontally on center. And that’s fine. That works well. We don’t fail in withdrawal. But what happens in a higher-wind region, where the wind speed is over 115 mph Vult, or the wall pressure is in excess of about 28 pounds? Then, what happens is the fasteners don’t fail and withdraw. The stucco literally, in between that 16-inch space, bows outward from suction forces, and cracks.

If you think about it, if you, in a high-wind region, and you space 16 inches horizontally on a 8-foot-high wall, that’s, all of that area, I think it’s over 10 square feet, all of that area is now with no fasteners. It’s unrestrained. And so, you can see the flexure of the stucco is great, and that’s why we get a lot of cracking. We didn’t have that in Miami-Dade, and the reason is Miami-Dade always required two fasteners per square foot. Which means you have to put a row in between the vertical framing members.

One of the misunderstandings, fundamentally, of the text is why is it on the vertical studs? And why is that important? Because the standard was written for open framing. Where else are you going to put the fasteners, in open air? There’s no other choice. Even when the standard talks about sheathing, it’s talking about non-structural sheathing, such as Styrofoam, or Homasote, or asphalt-impregnated sheathing, or thermal ply. Any of those, that is done everywhere in the United States, except here in this high-wind region area.

So, now you understand, if you take those two precepts, you understand, over open framing, why the standard says, “In between the studs, you have to tie the lath of the wire with tie wire. You have to tie the lath, so, the metal lath, with wire, 9 inches in between the studs.” But, one sheet to another of metal lath, and it’s not over a vertical framing member, like in between the two, you have to lace wire in between the two sheets. Well, of course, if you didn’t do that, when you ran your trowel of mud up the wall to scratch it, your hand would simply go into the middle of the wall cavity. It makes perfect sense when you understand why those things were written. For instance, the increase in nail length to accommodate the sheathing thickness. Well, of course, let’s assume that we’re in Arizona. I show one in class that was actually done just a year or so ago in Arizona. And there’s three-quarter inch Styrofoam put on the outside of the studs. Well, if you didn’t…and there is nothing else, so you had to nail the lath through the Styrofoam and into the stud. If you didn’t allow for this, add the thickness of that Styrofoam to the required length of the fastener, well, the stucco wall would fall off. Of course, you have to do that.

But here in our high-wind region, and around the Gulf Coast, and in Texas, and, you know, up the East Coast to a degree, we require structural sheathing on the outside of the wall. Literally, a structural sheathing, a rated, with a stamp, for structural capability. And meaning, it has withdrawal value. When you cover the wall with a structural panel, the whole wall is the framing member. So you don’t have to go find those studs. For instance, the roofer doesn’t lay his shingle down and then say, “Okay, I’m going to increase my nails. And I’m only going to put the nails through the sheathing and into the top of the trusses, and I’m not going to nail in between the two.” You see the fallacy of that. So, those things, that cracking, has led to a problem because of the weakness in our fastening patterns.

Then, the accessories are a problem. The plastic corner beads were originally made for block. They weren’t made to go on stucco. You have to fully encapsulate them with plaster. And it’s hard to do that. On a block wall, it’s not as hard because it’s right tight against the block corner. In other words, the thickness of the bead itself, if it’s pushed tight against the wall, forms the ground for the thickness of the stucco. But when you move those up on a framed wall, and you’re trying to bump those out seven eighths of an inch, which people do, not interpreting the standard correctly, and that is three quarters, and the standards say that, now you have huge pockets behind that. You can’t get them full. And then the beads crack at the corners. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Sacrificial. And the water gets in that cavity and fills up and just, it’s caused billions of dollars of damage.

The control joints, likewise, have to be integrated properly. And it would take more time than we have to discuss the different ways to accomplish that. But, sufficient to say that recent tests by two agencies tested the corner bead every way, excuse me, the control joints every way you could install them, attached, not attached, tied, attached one side and tied on the other, behind the metal lath, on top of the metal lath. Every way. And there was no meaningful or measurable difference in the crack patterns, regardless of how they were put on, including the panels that had no control joints at all. So, people don’t have, a lost a concept of what these control joints meant to us in the industries, and why they were used. Especially over concrete block.

We’ll shift now to a block wall. Remember, the standard is for colored cement. And that’s always an eighth of an inch, the final coat. It’s not part of the system, it’s the color coat. The standard says so. So, if you were to put an eighth of an inch color coat directly over block, when it dried, you would see every horizontal block joint, and every lenle [SP], and every downpour. Because, unless that colored stucco dries at the same identical rate by suction, then the…what dries quicker dries lighter. So, we have to put a base coat over a block wall. And that base coat has to provide a uniform suction for the color coat. So we require, over block, a three-eighths basecoat, leveled out, densified. And we let that cure, so that when we put the color coat over it, all the suction is uniform into that three-eighths base coat, and you’ll have a nice pleasing color all down the wall.

Now, we can’t do that without that base coat. Now, if you think of the second problem with the base coat, and go back in time. We were actually using cement and lime. And then…we would use white cement and lime, and use buff if you wanted a light cream color. If you wanted darker, we would use a half a bag of white cement and a half a bag of gray cement. You could mix that. So, you could change your base. You could change your color coat to whatever you wanted.

So, now, think of this. Go back to the base coat. And we’re applying gray cement, and sand, and lime. And I’m in the middle of the wall, and I’m what we call “running tops.” I am up on sawhorses at the top of the 8-foot wall, bringing it down to 4 foot. And my key mud runner is working beside me, and he’s running the bottoms. But he has to be over to the left, because I’m standing on sawhorse or scaffold here. So, there’s a zigzag in the wall. We run out a base coat. The labor brings a new batch from a new mixer load and then mixes it. And we start running it on. And we don’t see any difference with our eyes, but the mix had been mixed five minutes longer, and the lime began to air and train and he used a few shovels more sand. What we don’t see is the fact that we’ve changed the suction properties of the base, by that air and training of the lime in that change of the sand. It’s minuscule. You don’t see it at this point. But when you run the color coat over it, you’ll see that Z type change in color in the wall.

So, to alleviate that, we put these control joints right down the wall. They control the thickness, and they control the density for the color coat curing. And we fill those in. And the reason of their 144-square-foot placement is because if you take 144, the beads were originally half-inch thick, and you multiply 144 square feet times a half divided by 12, the answer is 6 cubic feet. That’s the size of a standard stucco mixer. So, that one mixer load would fill the area of 144 square feet. And the next mixer load would go into the adjacent one. And when there’s a vertical break, you won’t see if there’s a slight minuscule change in color. You only see that if they’re blended.

So, by then extending those up into the frame wall, which serves the same purpose for controlling those areas, if they’re not integrated properly, hence, the paper is put over their flanges, and the flange and the metal lath do not become one by pushing the mud through them, then the water that gets in along their vertical crack line will go right behind the paper, and that’s the worst place to have it.

So, those are the big three right there. First of all, the lack of the required face barrier. If you’re going to paint it, you have to coat it. You don’t get to just spritz some things on and change the color. Number two, you have to anchor the sheet correctly. And that requires at least two fasteners per square foot. It always has. And then, accessories should be considered on residential homes with 8-foot-high wall. The vertical ones should be eliminated. Most consultants agree on that. If you don’t, you can put them in. But you have to make sure they are put in carefully and correctly. And corner beads should not be used. You should rod the corners with a, we call it a stick. It’s a magnesium L-shaped piece of metal. It’s just a straight edge. And one person holds it, and the other builds the corner so that the corner is solid cement. If you do those things, you eliminate, you know, a lot of the problems we’re having.

To just expand quickly on that, the stucco contractor is faced with a dilemma. We have a lot of problems where the soffits are being run and they’re not pitched back uphill. You know, when I started in the trade, all of the overhangs were 2 feet. Now, we’ve moved them back, you know, to a foot, 6 inches. The wall gets a lot more water that way. But what also happens is that the soffit, when we change from a square cut fascia to a plumb cut fascia, meaning it’s vertical up and down for the ease of putting gutters. The water runs down that face, comes off the roof in mask, runs down the face, turns, because the old fascia we used in wood, we made sure that stuck down at least three-quarters of an inch. The new fascia is just an L shape, and it wraps around. The water will run literally back the soffit, if the soffit is not tilted upwards towards the wall, and get behind the stucco.

Additionally, the edge metal, if it’s not bent by the roofer when he’s put on, in a sheet metal break… Remember, that when you go to the store, any roofing supply or big-box store, and you buy it, it’s at 90 degrees. It’s meant to go onto a square-cut fascia, not a plumb cut. If you put that metal on a plumb cut, you have to put it in a break and change the flange angle. If you don’t do that, the metal creeps back up, forms a flat spot on the shingles, and this is ubiquitous. There are class action lawsuits all over this. The water then gets on the shingle and travels laterally instead of continuing off the roof, leaks, goes in behind the subfascia, to the bottom of the soffit, runs back to the wall, goes behind the stucco. So, those problems abound. And they are probably at least a third of all problems we see are related to the soffit or the roof. And we’ll include in that the 4 by 6, what we normally say is a kickout flashing. That intersection of a horizontal soffit and fascia into a vertical wall that’s higher, builders have said, in desperate futility, to say, “I’m going to slide a piece of waterproofing membrane in between where that fascia hits that wall.” All’s you’re doing is moving the rot area down 18 inches. You solve nothing in doing that. That interface has to be water tight.

And the problems almost exclusively are in the 4 by 6. To the point that we’re developing a newsletter now to just remind roofers, “This is how you’re supposed to make a transition…” Let’s call it a kick out. Most people will recognize that. “…with tongs that hooks on, that will be water tight.” If you don’t do that, if you just use the metal over the top, it’s going to leak and it’s going to rot the wood behind it. And we know that. We’ve known that in the roofing industry for decades. And yet it still is not done. And when you see it done… Literally a six grader could do it. It’s not difficult. But if it’s not shown, you don’t know. And that’s, of course, probably the biggest, is a lack of vocational training in our industry.

Bret: Absolutely, Bob. And I could listen to you talk about this for hours. There’s so much in what you said. There’s a lot of detail. And, of course, the devil is in detail. And you were covering this at, kind of a… Some locations are very specific descriptions, some areas were the 30,000-foot view. Which I find, you know, very interesting. Hopefully, people are following along with some of that. We could kind of break this whole conversation into probably several different podcasts.

Robert: Right.

Bret: But you’re right. I mean, it comes down to some of the basics, which are attention to detail, proper installation, and some of the key points you focused on were the paint, the proper attachment of lath, and the proper installation and use of accessories. In other words, just because they exist doesn’t mean you should be using them in certain locations.

Robert: And we did, Bret. We put all these details, non-proprietary, in CAD files that you can download at the Stucco Institute, free. Now, the Sealed Cladding System. We went in to the laboratory, the accredited laboratory, and got all the ASTM 330, 331, and the E74 test done on the models, and got a Florida product approval. And people say to me, when they use it, they love it, “Well, thank you for inventing this.” I didn’t invent that. That system is identical…it is the Miami-Dade protocol that was in the Miami-Dade code, that was, let’s just say erroneously, for not valid reasons, taken out. So I just redid the Miami-Dade code, which I had plastered under all my life, and took it into a laboratory and got it.

And although that does mention materials, I don’t want to mention any materials by brand name, you’re free to substitute. You can use any… For instance, your waterproofing coating. You could use Behr, you could use Color Wheel, you could use Sherwin-Williams, you could use Drylok. You can use whatever you want, as long as the properties of the waterproofing are met and they’re online. You know, you do, as an engineer and architect does, approve equals. Just substitute whatever you want. And it’s any brand of type S mortar. So, the CAD details are there, including the roofing and the flashing details, so that you don’t get lost. There is a place you can go, at least in our estimation, “These are the old details at work. Here they are. They’re free.”

Bret: That’s good to know. And like you said, these are time-tested. And for whatever reason, we went astray for a while. And it looks like we’re going to try to pull people back towards what’s going to work. And we also have to focus in on the fact that, you know, proper application of your coating, which is what we’re talking about here, face sealed system, is key. You know, you can’t put down 3 mils and expect it to work over the long term.

Robert: Right.

Bret: And then the other piece of that is the maintenance. I mean, yeah, we have coatings on there specified at 12 mils. That should get you a pretty decent life. But in Florida, after several years of the heat and the intensity of the sun, you know, you still need to recoat your system after five, seven, you know, or so years, depending on the product that you used.

Robert: That is correct. It’s very important that you realize that in Florida, with a face barrier system, any crack over a hairline needs to be addressed, you know? It’s not like where we see all these crack gauges and comparisons that were written for colored stucco, what is and what is not acceptable in the width of a crack and the number of cracks on a system that’s going to be subject to rainfall amounts of six tenths of an inch a month, and has an outside relative humidity of 30%. You cannot apply that same thought process to Florida, with a rainfall of 7.5 inches in that same month, and an average outside relative humidity of 85% and inside of 55%. Those cracks will let more water in than the system can manage, and the results could be disastrous.

So I tell my homeowners, “Look, after every high-wind event, walk around your house, use a binoculars, or a monocular, or anything, and look carefully. If you have any cracks, or you see a crack, get your painter up, or you get up on a ladder, and simply brush some replenishing coating in there to bridge that. Hairline’s okay, because they’ll close up. But you can’t allow eighth-inch cracks in the stucco system and survive in Florida.

Bret: Even a minor amount of water intrusion can add up over time, and then… Kind of pulling this back a little bit and help people understand better, the concept of vapor drive is it’s going to go from hot to cold, high humidity, to low humidity. So, the water in the air will drive through a wall. Then, depending on the perm rating of that wall construction, it will drive it into your home. That’s why you have to continually provide dehumidification of the interior of your house. If you don’t, the humidity will build up on the inside, and you’ll have mold and mildew issues, so…

Robert: That’s correct.

Bret: That’s why if you go outside and look at your HVAC condenser, typically, there’ll be a pipe near there that will be dripping water constantly. That’s the water being pulled out of your home. And that water comes in through opening doors and windows, but also through vapor drive. So, if you do have that hairline crack in your stucco and/or your paint, that vapor drive will occur. And if you allow it to continue over a long enough period of time, you’re going to degrade your cladding. So, another kind of analogy to put out there for people is, if you’ve ever seen petrified wood that was pulled out of a lake or a river, if the wood is underwater and has no access to oxygen, it can’t rot. Similar sort of concept. If you don’t let water affect your stucco, and the lath that’s embedded into your stucco, then you shouldn’t have any corrosion issues, as long as it was installed properly. So it’s really key to maintain that coating over time, and/or, you know, the cladding and coating in general.

Robert: That’s so true. Every word is true. We took a building. I had a request from several engineers, friends of mine. And they were across the nation. And they just were confused, dumbfounded of this old methodology. “What do you mean you didn’t put control joints in, and what do you mean you didn’t put weep screeds in, and you went from block…” excuse me, “wooden frame, and brought the metal lath right down over the block, and stub nailed it in and had one continuous coat? Why, that’ll crack, and you have no crack relief.” So, finally, I said, “Well, you know what? I’ve got a building I did 35 years ago. It’s in a coastal region. I have photographs here of it being stuccoed 35 years ago. It’s with black ungalvanized metal lath, was attached with standard staples. There are no control joints in it. There is no horizontal weep screeds in it. It’s one continuous coat of stucco from top to bottom. And, just like the Miami-Dade protocol, the thickness over wood is a half an inch. It’s not three quarters, it’s not seven-eighths, it’s a half an inch. And I did it 35 years ago. And it has been painted, in that 35 years, twice. So, let’s go cut it open.”

And we did. And I put it all online, 35-year-old stucco system, performing perfectly, with no control joints, no weep screeds, and only a half an inch thick with ungalvanized metal lath. So, we cut it, and all the photos are online. I told the guys, “You tell me where you want it cut.” And we’d cut it and look at it. And, Bret, it looked like the day that I put it on 35 years ago. We took the photos and said, “It looks identical. There’s no rust, there’s no nothing.” But, the first time when we coated it after we stuccoed it, we properly sealed around all of the penetrations, and we rolled. Nothing special. We just followed the instructions on the can, to the required coverage per square foot. Which is generally, you’re going to get about 100 square foot, 90 square foot, out of a gallon. And you do that two times. And that’s what we did. And it’s remained flawless.

So, as you know, as an engineer, more so than I, you know, things are predictable. Stucco, plaster, and cement behaves the same way if it’s done the same way. So why would it behave this way on this building and a different way on a different building? And that’s because of the coating and the details that were not done on the other building. Moisture passing through the system and condensing behind it is not good, as you just pointed out.

Bret: Right. Yeah, maintenance, design. Installation is obviously potentially an issue in any construction. But certainly, proper integration is key. Maintenance is key. It all works together. There is no one thing that’s the problem. And I think that’s a pretty good segue right now. I wanted to talk a little bit about, in the last five or so years, there has been some stucco litigation that has occurred. And I wanted you to touch on that a little bit. Because, in my mind, I think it may be the easiest thing to see as an issue, was the stucco being the problem. And I know that’s not the case. I think it’s a combination of all the things we’ve mentioned that, for whatever reason, just weren’t working, and someone wanted to point the blame towards stucco. Can you address that?

Robert: Sure. And you hit the nail right on the head. Somebody had to point their finger. Now, if you look at the reasoning behind that, 40 years ago, 30 years ago, if you called an engineer out and you said, “I have this problem,” the engineer would set up diagnostic protocols and say, “Okay, we think this is it. This is our hypothesis. We think this window is leaking.” They would set up protocols to test the window. They would find a leak. Then they would install a repair protocol, do that, and then retest it, and validate it, and say, “Okay, look. Although, it may not be happening, we’re going to extrapolate that to these other windows or this other condition, and let’s just get it fixed.” The goal was to get it fixed.

In today’s litigious societies, there are evaluations that are being done, not to analyze or determine what is the problem and what is the solution to fix it. It is strictly, “How do we document the largest potential violation, whether or not those violations are in any way related to what the alleged harm is, so that we can proffer the greatest amount of damages?” From the legal side, there is a percentage that goes to the legal team, so the higher the recovery, or damages, the more they make. And the ease for the person doing the evaluation is cut and paste, cut and paste, and charging the fee. Then they get money on the, what we call a back end of that, when there’s expert witness. When the defense, the contractor, and the stucco contractor’s attorney has to depose them, they charge huge fees for that. And that’s just part of the process.

But the people that involved is sometimes concerning. A lot of these lawsuits are born from a violation of Florida statute 553, that says, “If anybody violates the building code, then you have, any person injured by that basically has a right to sue that person in court, whether there’s privity or not.” The old way, the owner couldn’t sue the stucco contractor, because he had no privity. He had to sue the contractor, and the contractor would then enjoin. And that’s still done today. But this gives an owner a direct route at anybody if they violated the code. That’s only done, to my knowledge, in Florida. None of the other states do that.

So, here’s what happens. Well, if we can say the stucco is installed improperly, according to a reference standard, even though that reference standard may be interpreted different ways by different people, and even though it may allow that by its provisions of “unless otherwise specified,” I’ll go ahead and state it as a violation, and it has to come off. Well, wait a minute. What about the paint? Okay, why don’t we sue, and the painter? Well, remember, they’re suing under 553, a violation of the code. Guess what word doesn’t exist in the code? “Paint.” There is no requirements. You can get a CO on a block wall with no paint. You can just get a CO on bare blocks.

So, they can’t bring that person in. And if you think of the stucco over the frame, most insurance companies, well, all insurance companies say, to contractors, “We’re not going to pay for work you did incorrectly.” So, one would think, “Well, if the stucco man put the stucco on incorrectly, the insurance isn’t going to provide any money.” But there’s what’s called a rip and tear doctrine. If we can say that the stucco damaged something else, and we have to now remove the stucco to fix what was damaged, then the insurance company has to cover it. It’s called a rip and tear doctrine. So, now, we’ll challenge the spacing on the sheathing, we’ll challenge the ability of the staples to hold, now that the water has been in there, so that we invoke the insurance coverage.

Now, ironically, if you think of this… And I want to say this so that… I don’t want to mention anything specific. But let’s say that I am a builder and I am sued by somebody who said my stucco was bad, my weather wrap was bad, my flashing is bad, my windows were installed incorrectly, so on and so forth. And so, I’m sued for that. Well, what my attorney will do, my insurance company, will simply enjoin those other subs. And so, let’s say we have five subs. Each one of those attorneys for those five subs knows that even if they had a crystal ball, and could guarantee that they would win on a jury verdict, even if that were true, they’re going to go out of pocket probably at least $15,000. The insurance company is going to have to pay the lawyer, they’re going to have to attend the depositions, they’re going to have to pay for the transcription of the depositions. Then they’re going to have to go to court and be part of the process and get the verdict. So, even if that verdict was guaranteed to come back “not guilty” for the stucco guy, the out-of-pocket expenses to the insurance is at least $15,000. So, and that’s true for every sub.

So now, as a builder, I have five subs. I’m looking at the owner, who says this is $60,000 in damages. So, I go to my five subs and I said, “Look, it is going to cost you $15,000 to get out of this. I mean, it’s going to take you $15,000 to defend this, even if you get out ‘not guilty.’ So, look. Why don’t I take the risk out of it? You give me $10,000 and I’ll let you out.” So, I go gather up $50,000 from my subs. And now I go back to the plaintiff’s lawyer and I say, “Listen, you say it’s $60,000. Our experts say, ‘No, no, no. It’s not $5,000 worth of damage.'” And we banter back and forth. Then I say, “Look, I’ll give you $40,000 and you walk today.” So, they take the $40,000, and I just collected $50,000, and sometimes, $60,000 and $70,000. I make $10,000 or $15,000 off of the deal. So, it’s not really a big heartburn to me as the builder.

So, that has been happening. And the problem is the insurance companies now have started raising the rates, and the cost of construction is going higher because of it. Some of them aren’t even going to ensure the stucco contractors and the house wrap contractors. So it’s, the mess that that created, we’re now dealing with in a higher construction cost. So people now are saying, “Hey, let’s stop playing this game. Let’s find out what’s really wrong, and let’s get it corrected.” And many builders now are sitting up and taking heed and taking a proactive stance, to say, “Look, we don’t care what your expert says. This is what we’ll do to your house, and we’ll do it free of charge.” And most people will take that, because it really will correct their problems in most all cases, if they just properly clean, prep, and coat the building, and seal it up again. It’s really a “no harm, no foul,” in many cases.

Bret: Well, Bob, that’s a great segue into the last question, which is, what do you recommend we do as an industry to help improve the conditions on the ground for everybody? But, obviously, to promote stucco, which is, you know, it’s kind of a icon of Florida, I think. I love the material. I like the way it looks. It feels good, you know, it provides soundproofing, looks good. So what can we do as an industry to help get us past this time, and improve the quality of stucco?

Robert: Well, if you would’ve talked to me three months ago, I’d have probably given you a different answer. And the reason is simple, that our legislature just passed a law repealing all of the local competency card categories, in 2023. That’s the final date. So that means that we are heading to a date when there will be no requirement for a stucco contractor to be licensed, or a tile setter, or a framer, or a trim carpenter, or any of those trades. They will be able to work without licensure. And that’s going to present another level of problems that are going to be coming at us because of that.

So, the answer would be to, “Look, let’s get better training to the workforce.” Let’s do that. Let’s work with vocational education, which I think everybody’s on board now, “Hey, we need to reinstate this in our schools.” But, you know, you can go to almost any school and find a plumbing, an electrical, or a mechanical course. Those are what we call easy-peasy there. But where do you go to learn to be a block mason? Where do you go to learn to be a stucco contractor? So, we need to figure out a way to get these in the vocational schools, number one. Number two, we have to increase the licensure requirements. Let’s increase the requirements to get a stucco contractor’s license. Let’s develop a real and accurate competency test, so that they know how to put these systems on, and understand weatherproofing and waterproofing as a whole, rather than just their little segment. So, we need to increase that.

So, that’s all we can really do, unless there was some major change to where insurance, let’s say, were no longer, they’ve talked about this, no longer to become a requirement for subcontracting trades. Well, now a builder is going to say… Not all builders do this, so don’t I want this card blank, but some builders only look at the bottom-line price they get. And whatever is the best price is what they’re going to take. They rely on the fact that that subcontractor has insurance, and they make them sign an indemnity agreement in their contract, to indemnify them, so they really have no exposure. If that were removed, and subcontractors were not required to be insured by law, then the contractor might say, “Listen, it’s not a matter of money. I want to know that you do your job right, and when you leave my job, I don’t have to worry about suits.” So, from my classroom teaching, those are the three variables that we get. Increase the training in vo-tech, increase the minimum criteria to get the license, and thirdly, eliminate the requirement for subcontractors to be protecting or indemnifying the general contractor. Let the general contractor carry his or her own insurance, and let them negotiate and find the best subs. I don’t know if that’s the answer, Bret, but that’s what I hear from the people in class the most.

Bret: Sounds like a good start to me. And I want to kind of go back and circle back to what you said earlier as well. You know, the recommendation would be, I think, what we can do today on the ground is make sure you pay attention to the devil’s in the details, because it is. Make sure you detail around your penetrations through your wall properly, so that you can apply a proper sealant bead. Apply the proper mil thickness of your coating. Make sure your accessories are installed properly as well. But, basically, just focus on quality workmanship. But key in Florida is, ultimately, for Sealed Cladding System, you have to do the sealant and paint properly, otherwise you’re going to have areas that are going to be compromised because cracks open up in different areas, whether it’s accessories or in the stucco itself, and that’s going to allow bulk water to come behind your system.

Robert: Very well said.

Bret: So, Bob, wow, this has been really a great talk today. I appreciate you being here. In closing, I want to thank everybody else for listening today to our podcast. Bob, if the listeners want to reach out to you and your team, what’s your website address, and what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Robert: You can reach me at the contractorsinstitute.com. Just click “Instructors,” and my picture and email is there. Or stuccoinstitute.com is the same. Or I have a direct email. It’s robertk@koning.com. That’ll come directly to me.

Bret: Okay. Thank you, Bob. We’d also like to invite the listeners to take a further look at GCI Consultant Services at our website, which is GCIconsultants.com. You can also reach us at 877-740-9990, and we can discuss any of your building envelope needs. Want to thank everybody else again. Look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.


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FIU Wall of Wind Research Facility: Environmental Effects on Buildings

Professors FIU – Amal Elawady, Ioannis Zisis, Seung-Jae-Lee

GCI Podcast Episode 69 Exterior Building Performance During Hurricanes

In this episode, Chris Matthews, President and Principal for GCI Consultants talks with staff members from FIU , starting with, Ioannis Zisis from FIU who is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil & Environ. Engineering. They’ll discuss the Wall of Wind and research on curtain walls, and simulation of damage from water-ingress.

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: Welcome, everyone, to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, president and principal for GCI Consultants, and I’m your host today. I’m really excited about our guests today. We have multiple guests from FIU, professors who will be talking to us about the Wall of Wind and other research projects that they do there on exterior building performance during hurricanes. So we’ve got Ioannis, Amal, and SJ, and I’ll let you guys introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what you do at FIU, and looking forward to our conversation.

Ioannis: Great. Thank you. It’s Ioannis. This is from FIU. I’m an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and I’m also the co-director of the Laboratory for Wind Engineering Research, which is part of the Extreme Events Institute, also at FIU. Amal?

Amal: Hi. This is Amal Elawady. Thank you again for the invitation. I am assistant professor of Civil Engineering Department at FIU. I’m also a member of the Wall of Wind team and Extreme Events Institute. And my area of research and teaching is related to wind and structure interactions in general. SJ? Thank you.

SJ: Yeah. This is Seung Jae Lee. Typically go by SJ. First of all, thank you for your invitation. So I’m currently associate professor in the same department, Civil and Environmental Engineering at FIU, and I researcher at the Wall of Wind testing facility at FIU, and also NSF with IUCRC center with Ioannis and Amal. I studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and moved to Miami in 2014. And I mostly work on the [inaudible 00:02:05] in various areas, in civil engineering, including structural engineering and geo-mechanics.

So, before coming to U.S., I briefly worked at LG Chemical in Korea, I’m not sure if you know about that company, as a professor and research engineer. Now I think they changed the name to LG Houses. So then I learned a lot about the details, how the facade is designed, tested, manufactured, and installed. So, here at FIU, I’m currently working on a facade project with Amal and Dr. Chowdhury. He is not present here today, but he’s the director of the Wall of Wind engine, the testing facility. So I look forward to talking about those projects more in this podcast, and so I hope this is not much introduction.

Chris: Great. Well, thank you, all, for agreeing to talk to us today. I think if you know a little bit about what we do, we at GCI are out inspecting buildings all the time for the effects of actual hurricanes on those buildings. So I’m super excited to talk to you guys today and learn more about the research work you’re doing. So, can you just give us a little general background on the Wall of Wind, some of the work you guys do there, and why it’s important to the industry?

Ioannis: Absolutely. So, our program, the Wind Engineering program, I think is a legacy of Hurricane Andrew. At FIU, we started with International Hurricane Research Center, IHRC, following that tragic event 20 plus years ago. So, one of the laboratories under the National Hurricane Research Center is the Wind Engineering group.

We went through different iterations of the facility. At the very beginning, there were, like, two portable system with two fans back in 2005, if I’m not mistaken. That was very challenging, but very interesting. Also, we carried out some research using that portable system, dazzling engines and very loud, very useful, also. And then that got us excited. We also managed to secure some more funding, and we upgraded the system to the six-fan system, which was much more capable, obviously. We could test larger specimens and go higher wind speed.

Finally, precisely 20 years from 1992 when Hurricane Andrew happened, we inaugurated the current version of the Wall of Wind, the 12-fan system. Major upgrade there. We have 12 fans, electric systems of 700 horsepower each, were capable to generate up to 157 miles per hour wind speed, which is approximately equivalent to a hurricane 5 category. We have a flow management system to, kind of, like, treat the flow before it reaches the turntable, the specimens, the model that we test. So we try to scientifically simulate the flow field, what we call the atmospheric boundary layer.

The unique advantage of the Wall of Wind is obviously the size. It’s the largest academic-based facility, like large wind tunnel, you may call it. And we can do testing at different scales, starting from a small scale that you see in a typical wind tunnel, 1 to 200, 1 to 100, but we can go up to full scale, 1 to 1. We can test smaller structures or building components at full scale, and we can also do that as high Reynolds number. This is another scientific term, but it’s very important. So we can go up to, as I said, 157 miles per hour at full scale, which is very important.

On top of that, we can introduce wind-driven rain into the flow. We have some sprinklers on the front of the fans, and we can scientifically do that and study the rain impact on the models that we test. So, again, we have the 12 fans. There is a building that houses the Wall of Wind. We have a staging area where we can prepare for the test. That’s where we use, you know, the instrument, the models, and then we move them to the turntable to test them.

We can do also destructive testing. That’s another major advantage. It’s an open-jet facility. We remove all the instrumentation, obviously. We don’t want to damage the instruments. And we can go up to maximum wind speed and see how the different models perform at full scale, as I said, like structure, and see what is the impact of this extreme wind on different buildings or different building components.

At the moment, we have projects that are funded by federal grants, by state agencies, and also private industry. And let’s not forget that this is FIU, Florida International University, so our focus is also educating our students. And Wall of Wind plays a major role in that. We have different courses in wind engineering, and both our undergraduate and graduate students are exposed to this research. We bring them to the lab and show them the type of work that we do.

We’re always, like, you know, current with, you know, what is happening, and they know, not only from a research perspective, but also practical perspective, what wind engineering is about, how the work that we do in the lab ends up in the building code, or wind standard, ASCE standard. So this is very beneficial for our students as well.

And so, I guess, as a closing statement, you know, in your question, with the research we do at the Wall of Wind, we try to quantify and communicate the hurricane risks and losses, and at the same time, we want also to mitigate the impact. So we do a lot of, like, research related to mitigation. And, obviously, sustainability is another big word, or research [inaudible 00:08:18] in our research agenda, and all these different things apply on different types of, like, residential buildings, commercial buildings, infrastructure, power lines, all different kind of things.

Chris: So, a lot of what we do involves water leakage and wind damage, kind of, the combination of that as you guys are doing when you’re introducing water into your testing. I was curious, can you give us another example that someone who’s not a professor like me could understand? Are you introducing the water before there’s damage from the wind, as the wind is damage…how does the water play into some of your investigations of the wind effect?

Ioannis: Yeah. That’s a very good question. We do both, actually. So, wind comes with rain, obviously, and that’s what we do in the lab. That’s what we try to simulate. So, when we turn on the fans, and if it is a wind-driven rain type of project, we’re gonna introduce also the rain component to the flow.

Now, how do we carry out the test? Depends on the application. So, I can talk about one of my projects, and I guess Amal and SJ will talk a lot more about the facade project that they did recently. But I think I completed that project about, like, two years ago. It was collaboration between FIU and Florida Tech colleague that we have there, Jean-Paul Pinelli, Prof. Pinelli. And our focus was interior damage.

So, specific to your question, in this case, we simulated the damage ahead of time, or different damage scenarios on low-rise buildings, the typical low-rise residential structures, and we assume that we have a broken window, or a portion of the roof is missing. And then we introduce the rain component and we wanted to see how the water is distributed on the interior compartments of our model. We had different rooms. So, depending on the damage scenario or the damage level, we could quantify the level of damage on the interior of the building due to water intrusion. So that was one example.

In other cases, we do like the model is intact, but we have a strong wind. Damage might happen. We add the water component and see what happens, you know. And it could be related to, I don’t know, like, shutters, or it could be, like, sliding doors. We have done some projects. Or a roofing element, and we want to see how much water goes inside this house during strong wind event and after the damage is initiated.

Chris: Okay. Interesting. Yeah. So, we’re, kind of, doing that on a very rudimentary scale in the field when we’re investigating some of these buildings that have been affected by wind, and we’re water-testing afterward because lots of times, we get reports from the building occupants that something that wasn’t leaking prior to the storm and doesn’t exhibit a lot of visible evidence of damage is now leaking during regular thunderstorms, that kind of thing.

Ioannis: Yeah. We got similar feedback from different partners, industry partners, I would say, and that is basically the reason we started doing research in that field. And Amal and SJ, they did that project, and they’re gonna have a lot more to share, I guess.

Chris: Okay. All right. Well, and maybe that leads us into the project that you guys worked on, Amal and SJ. Can you tell us something about that?

Amal: Yeah. Thank you for the great introduction. I think it will make my talk easier. So, basically, this project was funded by WHIP Center, IGSU WHIP Center, which is a collaboration between industry, NSF, National Science Foundation, and academic institutions. FIU, and Texas Tech, and FIT are part of the center. So we have a site at FIU basically. So the industry partners were interested to see how the facade, like certain types of curtain wall systems are behaving against wind and wind-driven rain.

The interests are coming from industry like manufacturer, like Permasteelisa, and also insurance companies because they wanted to see, like, the projections of, like, insurance change, for example, after a hurricane or water intrusion. Sometimes it’s all about water intrusion, not the damage of the facade itself. So there was, like, a high interest in that project from our industry partners.

And we worked with the manufacturer in the group, which is Permasteelisa, to design, like, a full-scale specimen representing two types of facade. They provide us with a single-sin facade and a double-skin facade. Thanks to the large section of the wall point, we were able to test full-scale model. So we didn’t reduce the specimen or scale it down at any point. We used, like, a full-scale model of our specimen. We created, like, a small room from that facade system. The dimensions…SJ, you can correct me if I’m wrong, it was, like, around 16 by 18 length and width, was about, like, 12 sheets high?

SJ: Yeah. So 12 and 6.

Amal: Okay. And with the single-skin facade, we tested two different configurations, one representing a small facade with no protrusion element, and the other one we wanted to mimic the case where we have shading devices which the industry use or for architectural reasons.

Chris: Sun shade on the exterior of the curtain wall?

Amal: No. We were collaborating. Like, I was taking care of the experimental part, and SJ was taking care of the numerical simulation. So, basically, there was two methods used in that project. We wanted to assess the specimen experimentally and then try to simulate the same experiment in, like, using numerical simulation, and then we can extend that to, like, a perimeter study. I will let SJ talk more about the numerical part. So, I was just trying to give an overview of the experiment.

So, for the single-skin facade, as I said, we likely tested a small surface, and another surface was vertical [inaudible 00:14:46] or vertical shading device to see how…the main objective basically was how the additional testing is important from a [inaudible 00:14:55] point of view and architectural point of view, but how it would impact the performance of the structure, how the vibration would be different. And is there any correlation between wind-induced vibrations and water intrusion?

So we applied, like, wind-driven rain, like what Ioannis was mentioning, to see at different wind speed, in different wind directions, to see how they are correlated, both wind-induced vibration and wind-driven rain for both cases, the flat surface and the surface with shading device. SJ, do you want to talk a bit about the numerical part?

SJ: Right. Thank you, Amal. So, I’m collaborating with Amal on this project. So, definitely, the framework, we like to develop this kind of integrated, experimental and numerical analysis framework for the facade system. So, definitely, one of the objective would be to inform design standard for curtain wall or facade industry regarding the wind-induced resonant vibration of the facade system. So, ASCE 7 standard says structures with natural frequencies above 1 hertz do not need to be analyzed for wind-induced dynamic effects.

So this criterion was originally developed with a typical building size in mind, but this has been often viewed by some practitioners as also applicable to building facades which are much smaller and steeper. So, it was reported that many facades failed because of the wind-induced resonant vibrations, and definitely their natural frequencies are clearly above 1 hertz because it’s smaller and steeper. So building facades, so the 1 hertz criterion can be misleading.

So, what we are doing is, Amal is responsible for the experiment testing at the Wall of Wind, and we use that experiment data to calibrate the numerical model we developed using finite element methods. So, well, [inaudible 00:17:02] method, every continuous system is discretized into a smaller, so called the finite element, and then we just mathematically model that system into a set of linear equation and solve that in computer. And the beauty of this approach is we can do some parametric studies without any further experiment at the Wall of Wind.

So we calibrate the model based on the acceleration and strain data we obtained at the Wall of Wind, and then we just make the system to be calibrated based on data such that it can perform as observed is at the Wall of Wind experiment facility. And then we just do some kind of parametric studies like different wind direction, different wind speed.

And, also, we just change some properties like change the size of the frames, and also change the thickness of glass, and also change the properties of the silicon glazing, and so on and so forth, and then we can study the wind-induced vibration of the different systems in the computer by changing those parameters. So that is the beauty of this approach.

So, we definitely want to investigate the interrelation between the wind-induced resonant vibration and the water intrusion, because water intrusion is actually the real problem in many cases, so that the damage is interior and utility inside the building. So, definitely with more wind-induced vibration, and it is likely to have more water intrusion inside the building. So we try to better understand the correlation between these two phenomena. So that is definitely one thing.

And, also, I work with Dr. Chowdhury, but this is kind of related project. But we also use the same specimen with focus on the upper part in the facade system. So often, you know, the facade system has the upper part, like window, even for the curtain wall. But the main thing here is often that the upper parts just fail because of fatigue in the hardware.

So that is caused by often different natural frequencies between the upper part and the main facade. So that is affecting the hardware, and that causes the fatigue failure. So we also try to look at failure mechanism through this kind of integrate experimental and numerical analysis framework.

Chris: And you assess that further through your modeling program? Or, did you actually test different hardware in the Wall of Wind, or was that more through the modeling program?

SJ: So, we first need to do the testing. So we already test it, and then we saw the dynamic behavior of the upper part. We put the sensors, accelerometers, and the strain gauges, and then we cut the data, and then we calibrate our numerical model with upper part so it can behave the same as we observed in the experiment facility based on the acceleration and the strain gauge.

And then we can better understand the mechanism of the failure. So we indeed saw some different frequencies between natural frequencies of the upper part and the main facade system, and we believe that is somehow affecting the fatigue failure mechanism of the hardware.

Chris: Interesting. As I had mentioned, you know, we’re out looking at these failures in the real world after the hurricane, and I don’t think that that concept has even been considered at the point in the process that we are. Because all the discussion is buffeting winds, opening joint, those kinds of things, but it’s not this vibration component that you’re investigating.

SJ: Vibration is a big issue. Yeah. Definitely. So we are seeing some limited number of research in this topic, and hopefully we can contribute to the body of knowledge.

Chris: Great. Well, and, as you said, ultimately from the industry standpoint, it’s the mitigation factors. Once you guys understand better how to make these systems perform better, then we in the industry can respond to that and design accordingly.

SJ: Sure. Yeah. Definitely. In academia, we first start with understanding characterization, and then investigation will be followed, for sure, yes. So, Amal, I think you want to say something.

Amal: No. I was [inaudible 00:21:47] and, yeah, having an industry partner in that project, collaborating with us, helping us with the installation and, you know, specimen design, like, it was essential, actually, because we didn’t want to change anything that happens in reality, in the real life there in the site from what we were testing. So we wanted to be, like, very accurate, replicating, like, a real-case scenario and test so we can really form a meaningful result. So it was also very important to have industry experience helping us to advance this knowledge, actually.

Chris: Yeah. Well, and it sounds to me from your description of your test specimens that they were similar to what we would test for certification of windows, doors, curtain walls, etc., for both impact resistance, water resistance, and structural. Go ahead, sorry.

Amal: Sorry for interrupting. Yeah. Well, this is interesting part because we wanted to test, like, in a proper way, but it’s not replicating the certification testing. So, basically we have some questions about, like, how the certification testing is realistic to assess, like, the wind-induced vibration or wind-driven rain, performance of the facade, because, apparently, like, for example, static pressure testing, that is not representing a real dynamic when it’s checked on the facade, right?

Chris: Right.

Amal: Having, like, just one fan focused on one panel is not replicating the case. So we have some certain questions related to the certification testing, and we wanted to assess that in the lab by measuring, or by trying to replicate the real [inaudible 00:23:36] or real scenario, basically, for wind and rain together.

So, for wind, for example, we tested wind speeds from 90 miles per hour, all the way up to 140 mile per hour. For rain, as well, we wanted to simulate a wind-driven rain case scenario that happens during hurricane events, so by matching what real rain events that were reported in the future. So, how is that close to certificate? This is a whole new question, or another question that we are trying to answer in that project as well.

Chris: Right. And I think that could have a big impact as well, moving forward in the industry, if the certification testing was more representative of, you know, real conditions, not just a static pressure test as you mentioned, you know, the specific laboratory tests, which maybe don’t really replicate what these systems are exposed to, at least in the areas we’re talking about, coastal regions where there’s hurricanes, those kinds of things.

And we talk about that a lot when we’re consulting with architects, designers in that, “Here’s what the code requires. Here’s the certification of these systems, what they meet, but you’re building this condominium on the beach where a hurricane will come, it’s just a matter of when. And, do you want to design it to a higher standard so you get better performance?” Which would go all the way back to the certification testing if we were really doing it the right way.

So that would be great feedback. You know, I’m sure it’ll take a long time. But if your research came back all the way to the industry and we looked at it from the certification standpoint, I think we’d get a lot better performance in our buildings moving forward.

Amal: Yeah. We hope to get feedback from our industry partners and interested parties, policymakers. I’m sure that will take time, but I think that was, like, a first step.

Chris: Yeah. And you mentioned Permasteelisa was, kind of, your system provider for your testing, and we’ve worked with them specifically on building real projects in Miami Beach, that kind of thing, big condominium projects with their system. So they’re a great partner and representative of what’s being built right now.

Amal: That’s interesting to know. Yeah. They were a great partner in the project.

Chris: Well, thank you, guys, so much for joining us today. I think I got most of what you were explaining. Some of it is over my head, but it’s super interesting and we really appreciate your joining us in our podcast. I think our listeners are gonna get a lot from the conversation. Any closing remarks that any of you have that you’d like to finish up with?

Ioannis: Thank you for providing us with the opportunity, you know, to discuss and present what we do at the Wall of Wind. Should mention that, you know, again, like, Hall of Wind is part of an academic institution, FIU, so the focus is educating the students, but at the same time, you know, we try to stay close to the industry and to listen to the problems they have.

And I guess the discussion we had today is a great example of how things started, doing research for a real problem, you know. And staying connected to the industry, that always helps us be relevant, you know. The research we do is a practical application, a problem that exists out there, and we try to investigate that in the lab. So, again, thank you for the time you gave us today to discuss all these things.

Chris: Yeah. And I can definitely attest to the fact that it’s a real problem because we’re out looking at buildings every day that could have performed much better even when there’s not catastrophic damage. So I think the work you guys are doing is right on track with what is needed moving forward. So thank you again for joining us today. We invite all of our listeners to investigate our services more on www.gciconsultants.com. I thank our guests from FIU, and I look forward to talking with you again on our next “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

In closing I would like to thank you for listening to our podcast today.

Ioannis, if any listeners want to reach out to you or your team, what is your website address and the best way for them to contact you or FIU?

We also invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultants services on our website at: www.gciconsultants.com

You can also reach us at 877.740.9990 to discuss any 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.

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