Catastrophe Insurance Claims

Tara Stone – President, Stone Claims Group

Listen to Paul Beers, GCI Consultants CEO & Founder talk with Tara Stone, president of Stone Claims Group, about catastrophe insurance claims, wind storms, and hurricanes amidst this year’s current hurricane season. The two experts discuss the in and outs of the insurance claim process and how building envelope experts work together with insurance adjusters to identify damage.

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.

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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

Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Paul Beers, CEO and managing member of GCI Consultants, and I’ll be the host today. I’m really excited today to have our guest, Tara Stone. Tara is the president of Stone Claims Group. Tara, welcome.

Tara: Hello, Mr. Beers. Pleasure to be here.

Paul: So we’ve got a really interesting thing to talk about today. We’re basically gonna be talking about insurance claims, and hurricanes, and wind storms, and what to do around all that. As we’re recording this, we’re right in the middle of hurricane season. And I know it’s on the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. So, Tara, you and I have known each other for a while, we’ve worked together, and I was thinking about before we did this podcast that we’ve been there, done that before because you actually had a radio show you were hosting a few years back in Panama City, and I was one of your guests. So now we have a role reversal, don’t we?

Tara: You’re the boss today.

Paul: Yeah, I like being the boss. So anyway, why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your business, and then we’ll get into the topic?

Tara: Well, thank you. I have the best job in the world because I take money that’s well-deserved for my clients from conglomerates that they pay policy premiums for. And I’m very good at it, and I love it. Extremely passionate. My background is I’ve been in the industry since 2000. I worked for the carriers for the big names that everyone knows, and I spent 15 years doing that. I was one of the top adjusters all over the country. I personally settled over 10,000 to 12,000 wind and hail claims over the course of my career working for the carriers. I worked in every state except 11 that I lived over a month.

And I saw the industry change from 2000 to 2014 when I left working for the carriers. And then in 2014, and I worked to start to represent policyholders. And since then, I merged with a gentleman by the name of Blaine Vermaelen, who had his public adjusting firm since the early ’90s. We started Your Private Adjuster, and that merged into Stone Claims Group. We’re now over 18 states, and we have, again, the best job in the entire world because we help policyholders nationwide.

Paul: Bravo, bravo. So let me ask you, Tara, what was your perspective working with the carriers as opposed to what it is now working for the policyholders?

Tara: Well, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it kind of deal. So I really felt like I was doing the right thing when I was working for the carriers. I went to all of their claims training, I went above and beyond to deliver good customer service. I felt like I wanted to pay everything for my insurers and did the best job that I knew how with the tools that I was given. I must say, though, that it wasn’t a matter of what I wanted to do. And things were different back then. We actually had checkbooks with us and wrote checks, and wrote the letters, and had a policy, and looked at it, reviewed it.

I remember sitting around with management when we first started in the early 2000s, looking at policies, trying to figure out ways that we could pay claims. By the time I left in 2014, the culture was very different. It was inside adjusters versus outside adjusters. The outside adjusters had no settlement authority. They did not write checks, they did not write letters, and now I find many of them don’t even know what’s in their own policy that they’re there to do an inspection for.

So as an adjuster working for the insurance company, no matter what I saw, I was bound by what was called operational guidelines. When we would go to every storm, for example, they’d have an induction center and they’d say, “Okay, these are the things that we’re paying on the storm. If you pay for a roof, you can pay for a roof, but don’t pay for drip edge.” Even though the drip edge is 20 years old and installed the same time the roof was and no one in their right mind would not do that, it was whatever the company’s operational guideline was based on state specifics.

So I did my best to do a thorough inspection of the property, include everything I could within the operational guidelines. But what I also realized now that I didn’t know then was I was not trained as an adjuster to truly identify damage. We were told in a hailstorm, for example, there’s no way that hail can damage windows. We were told on hurricanes, well, if it’s broken, of course, include it. If it’s blown out, include it. Other than that, the wind shouldn’t cause damage to the windows. They never gave us training on what to look for or how to look for them.

So all of those claims, the 10,000 to 12,000 claims that I paid for over the course of 14 years working for the insurance companies, even though I probably had one of the records of paying the highest adjuster, I probably paid for, I don’t know, less than 100 windows, maybe less than 50 windows, only the ones that were broken. If you walked up and could see that there’s no glass in it, then they would let me pay for it or let me include it in the estimate. Other than that, we were not trained in identification of damage and we were not trained in what could happen to the openings, which completely makes sense.

Now, in this use, with all of the education that I’ve done, and really working with industry professionals, and attending seminars, and seeing these things firsthand when you actually know to look for them, it makes sense if you have a concrete building and wind is blowing up against it, what’s gonna get damaged? The concrete or the piece of glass and the metal frame around it? So I think that’s the biggest difference that I had in this position is understanding with an open mind of clarity where the damages should be when you look at a building and as it relates to wind damage, and how to prove and document those damages to the carrier.

Paul: So you just pushed one of my hot buttons, as you probably can imagine. What is damage to a window? So, you know, you said that the insurers said, you know, if it’s got broken glass or it’s blown out of the opening, how could it possibly be damaged? My question for you is, is that what it says in the policies?

Tara: The policy doesn’t say anything about windows. The policy simply says they pay for sudden, accidental, direct, physical loss. If it is a covered peril, and it is a physical loss to property, that’s all the policy says. It doesn’t say it pays for windows, or the windows have to be a certain movement or structure. It doesn’t say any specifics about roof. It doesn’t say any specifics about having to get bids from contractors. Everyone thinks that in their mind like, “Oh, well, this is just what insurance pays for.”

The policy, that’s the Bible of the insurance claims process, because they wrote it. It’s a contract of adhesion. The insurance company wrote it, you had to accept it. So that means every semicolon, and comma, and period and where it is, and how words are written are so important. But with all those words and all those pages, it doesn’t say one thing about window. It says sudden and accidental direct physical damage. So our job is to actually look at it, identify the damage, and then bring in experts to prove that that damage does exist and it’s related to the wind or hail storm.

Paul: Yeah, so that leads into my next question, which I think maybe partially you already answered is, what is your process for evaluating a potential loss or a potential claim for damage following a windstorm or a hurricane?

Tara: So we work a lot…our firm does commercial claims. We do a lot of high rises, a lot of warehouses, a lot of multifamily housing. And each building is different depending on the structure and how it’s built. But yet again, when I say each building is different, wind, after you’ve we’ve worked tens of thousands of cases, makes very similar damage. So we evaluate all the different systems of a building, whether it be roofing, whether it be fenestrations, whether it be plumbing or air conditioning, we initially…our inspector claim each and every inch of it and take a look.

So we’re looking for indicators that there could possibly be damage, whether it be indicators from our personal experience, or a lot of what we do is talk to the residents or owners of the building, and see if there has been any change. So once we see damage to the roof or in this case, we’re talking about windows, damage to the windows, we would rely on outside experts to come in to verify if what we’re seeing is true and correct.

Now, I can tell you after doing it for this long, I think that my eye is trained very, very well to know that that damage is there, but at the same time, my job is to negotiate the claims process. It’s not to be an expert in anything. And when you’re dealing with complex commercial claims and large losses and high rise, my job as an advocate for the insured is to bring the best experts in the industry to look to tell me if what we’re seeing is correct, to fully investigate every inch of the building and then to be able to report back to my client what is truly damaged. My job is to make sure that they are indemnified properly for this loss.

Paul: So when a property owner does have a loss, and a loss is basically that they’ve been damaged, and that’s an insurance term, isn’t it, within the policy, loss?

Tara: Correct. That is an accidental direct physical loss.

Paul: Yeah. So when a property owner does have a loss, they can file a claim by themselves and the insurance company will send people out to look at it, and ultimately, tell them yes, no, maybe, whatever. So why do that as opposed to hiring a company like yours?

Tara: So I get asked that a lot, because of course, we all charge fees for what we do, and I charge fees for my services. And they say, “Well, but the insurance company is supposed to pay me what’s fair. You know, I’m just going to call them and see what happens.” And I think there was a time in my lifetime where there was a possibility that I think that you’d get a fair shake. And the reality of the situation is that the people that come to your house are not bad people. But when I talk to the adjusters that are out in the field now, the level of training isn’t even close to what we got 20 years ago. And reality that they’re going to actually look at all the damages and report them back, and that someone on the inside sitting 600 miles away that looks at a report that’s never probably been on a roof or look damage is going to be able to package that in a way that’s fair and correct, it’s comical, and it’s a shame that it is that way.

But it’s just like walking into the courtroom and if you have a traffic ticket, you think, “Oh, well, I can bring my layout and we can show what happened, and they’re going to get rid of the ticket.” Of course not. Unless you have an advocate, unless you have an attorney, you’re not gonna get out of the traffic ticket. Unless you have representation for a complex claim, in my experience, I don’t believe you can ever get truly what you’re owed.

Paul: So you said that the people that come out to evaluate claim are inexperienced, often aren’t properly trained. Aren’t those often engineering firms?

Tara: Well, there’s two different levels. Many times, especially if windows are involved or in complex claims, they’ll send the adjuster, they’ll come and just do an initial walkthrough. Then they will send engineers. And they show up on time, they’re extremely polite, they wear very nice polos, and they give you a card, and they walk around all of the building and go into all the units, and they might bring little sticks and hold them up against the windows, and rulers, and take a whole bunch of pictures.

And it makes the insured, the property owner feel like, “Wow, the insurance company really cares about me. Look, they’re sending someone to fully inspect all these damages.” But unfortunately, what I see in my position now is they don’t actually have to come to do that inspection. Because the report, in my experience, 99% of the time, says mostly the same thing, that this is just installed wrong, it’s maintenance, it’s wear and tear, and it’s not related to storm damage. Now, if the window is broken, or if it’s missing, then they might consider putting that in. But other than that, they’re doing an inspection like I was doing 20 years ago when I was untrained by the insurance company to come out and do that inspection.

And, in my experience, have been blinder than I was as an adjuster who was untrained, evaluating losses. And I don’t know if there’s an alternative agenda. I don’t know if that’s truly what they believe. What I do know is that there is a ton of expertise that’s found out in the field by looking at wind damage and how it affects buildings time after time after time. And it appears that a lot of the individuals, I won’t say all, but a lot of individuals that they sent out, they might have been a great engineer designing roadways, and they might have taken a class on windows, but I don’t see them having a long-term field expertise to be able to properly identify wind damage to building materials such as windows and roofing.

Paul: So when they do send the adjuster out, let’s say you’ve got water damage, and you’ve got roof damage, and you’ve got window and doors, and maybe elevators, mechanical system, things like that, do they have specialists for each thing, or does the same guy look at everything? How does that work, typically from what you see?

Tara: Well, typically, the engineering firm look at the exterior envelope, whether it be the roof and the windows and the interior damages. If elevators are the one thing, they tend to send out specialists to look at. They typically assign a firm, and then that firm is supposed to have the different areas of expertise within that firm. However, it’s interesting because I pulled a lot of resumes. And that’s the beautiful thing about LinkedIn. It’s all right there. So anytime an engineer comes out to one of my clients, I’m certainly pulling their resume off of LinkedIn to see what their background is. And it is extremely interesting to me that the majority of the time, their background has almost nothing to do with storm damage to building envelopes. And if it does, it becomes one-sided where they work for the same type carrier companies over and over again.

So it appears that the deck is a little bit stacked. I mean, I don’t know that as a whole. I can tell you my experience in dealing with some of these carrier engineer firms over the last 20 years. I can tell you when I went and I hired an engineer when I worked for the insurance company, never once did that engineer report have damage. And I can tell you that as a fact. And I was the one that was requesting the engineer on behalf of the carrier.

Paul: So do you typically see the same folks over and over again on your claims?

Tara: I do. It’s a small industry, even though as large as it is and it’s nationwide. Once you get up to this level of claim handling, there is a select group of people that is utilized by the large carriers nationwide. And just like I fly in to help my clients, you know, I just got back from San Antonio, working a large fire on a strip mall right there, and I ran into an adjuster that I know from working claims in Louisiana, you know, four or five years ago. So it’s the same people, it’s the same experts. Not all the time, but the majority of the time.

But, you know, that goes to show, and this is a little bit off-topic, but how important it is to be an expert and to do things with diplomacy. Like you can yell, and scream, and jump up and down, and say, “Insurance company, you owe me this,” and try to pressure and fight, but the only way to really win the battle is through documentation. And that’s really where I think that our firm does things differently. We try to do things in a very diplomatic way. But we always beat them with the facts, and the facts are there are legitimate damages of my client that we back up with top industry experts, and then enforce the policy provisions that were written by them.

Paul: So you and I have worked together on some large projects, quite a few actually, over the last X number of years starting with, I think, Matthew, and through Irma, and Michael. And I’ve seen you and your firm negotiate some pretty comprehensive and, in my view, called good settlements with insurers as opposed to the alternative, which is go to an appraisal hearing or turn it over to the lawyers and go to court and things like that. And I think you were just telling us some of your methods. But so how do you succeed where others often don’t in actually getting to a good settlement with an insurance company?

Tara: I think the first thing that we do is we’re very, very choosy as a firm about who we will represent. We do a complete analysis of the building, of the damage. We also do an analysis of past claims history, we do analysis of financial, we do analysis of if they had any construction defects or past litigation. Because when we take on a claim, no matter how long it takes, if it takes two months or two years, we’re with them until the last nail is driven. We want to make sure that our policyholder’s made whole. So that’s the first thing we do.

The second thing we do is that I think we truly care about our clients. Anybody can throw things against the wall and see what sticks. But when you have a large building, whether it be a high rise, or a condominium, or office building, or even we’ve done government and schools, those insurance policies are very, very difficult to get and they’re hard to maintain. So filing a claim is very serious. And you should only file a claim and go after things that are 100% legitimate.

So coming from a place of integrity in the very beginning, I think, is the most important thing and the reason why we have a higher settlement rate without litigation because we truly believe in the loss. And we truly believe in our client, like I’m always thinking, “Well, what if this was my building, or this was my mom’s building?” And I treat every loss that way, and I can tell you how many nights I go to bed thinking about these things and just churning them over in my head and thinking how new case law and how different developments of new technology can possibly help my client.

The third is that our job is, yes, to document the damage and to find it, but it’s also to create leverage. Some of the time, the insurance companies pay for things because they believe that they’re damaged. And sometimes they pay for things because they realize it’s going to be more expensive if they don’t. So we document not only the damages, but we also document the actions of the insurance companies to make sure they’re practicing fair claims handling practices.

And then lastly, we bring in the industry experts because at a certain point, the insurance company can say, “Hey, look, you’re a public adjuster, there is some incentive for you to find damage,” even though that is 100% not true. It doesn’t make sense for me to claim something that’s not damaged, and I would never do that. But ultimately, I can see that argument can be made. So my job is not to be an expert in everything. My job is to know the top leading industry experts and to bring them to the table. And I think really one of the interesting things and one of the reasons that we use GCI so much, and we use other window fenestration experts as well, but, you know, the ability to find the damage, and write the reports, and make it work for the client. But I’ve seen you specifically, Paul, have the ability to be able to articulate that report.

And that’s the big difference because anyone can write a report, but you have to get the report and the information paid for. It’s like you can write an estimate but getting the estimate paid. And when it comes into the heat of battle for our clients, that’s really where GCI has shined that they’ve been able to explain whether it be through expert testimony or litigation, or an umpire and appraisal hearing that this is damaged, why it’s damaged, and how it’s related to the windstorm itself.

Paul: Yeah. So what I think I hear you saying is that, and to give the insurance companies credit, you know, that if you present the presentation and documentation of the evidence to them and as you say, articulate it in a good way, and they recognize that you’ve done a good job with it, and there is a chance that you can get them to agree to up to a fair and reasonable settlement.

Tara: Yeah, I mean, less than 20% of our cases go to litigation, it’s because we’re gonna go the extra mile. I kind of got off on a tangent there, you’re right. The difference is, it’s always as soon as they volley to you, you have to volley back. And you have to give them more information. You have to keep putting the ball in their court. And sometimes, you come to a dead-end, and they just refuse to do the right thing, and you have no choice but to go to alternative dispute resolution.

But a lot of times, you’ll keep going, and they’ll say “No, no, no,” and all of a sudden, it will get transferred to a different adjuster, or it will get moved to a different team manager. And I think about the differences staying with it and always hitting them with new information, and just being relentless about not giving up. And a lot of these firms say, “Oh, it’s Tara, yeah, we know you’re not gonna go away. Stone Claims Group, here we go.” And I say, “Listen, we don’t wanna sue you. We just want what’s there and what’s owed for the policyholder under the policy.” And that’s really where I think the difference is and the ability…

I know one of the cases that we talked about, it came to a point where I was having a really hard time getting anyone at the insurance company to listen to what was right. And it was a matter of getting on LinkedIn, finding out who the top executives were, writing personal letters to all of them, and getting and just dialing on the phone until I could get someone to actually listen and go out there and actually have a heart-to-heart conversation. Because at the end of the day, I think people do business with people.

And we have to remember insurance, it is about buildings, and it is about indemnification, but ultimately, it’s about people’s homes, and people’s livelihoods, and people’s business. So keeping that at the forefront and reminding the insurance company of that, as you go through the process with all the documentation of experts is, I think how we’re able to come to resolution of claims without litigation.

Paul: You have to do the work.

Tara: It is work. Good thing we love it.

Paul: Yeah. So here we are. We’re basically…Matthew was four years ago. Irma was three years ago. Michael was two years ago. It’s been very busy in the insurance claim space of late. Do you have any insights that you can share with the listeners about all this activity, anything striking?

Tara: Yeah, I think the biggest insight and you have to remember insurance companies spend millions of dollars and, you know, I’m not picking on anyone in particular but good neighbors in good hands, and we can just go on and on with the logos. It’s not the one-person insurance company, it’s, remember, we’re in a culture of marketing. And I think the biggest insight is understanding that because of my background working on those sides that you’re a number, you’re a risk, and that an insurance claim is a very big deal. And that going into it without representation is the biggest single-handed mistake.

Whether you hire my firm or another professional public adjuster, or an attorney, I would certainly encourage people to seek out expert opinions. Because you don’t know what you don’t know. And just like I didn’t know what I didn’t know when I worked for the insurance companies, you could be making hundreds of thousands of dollars or a million-dollar mistake. And if I told you numbers on some of my claims going from $200,000 to $20 million, it sounds almost unreal. But unless you have your building thoroughly inspected by an advocate on your side, I think that you’re missing the boat for the policy that you paid for.

Paul: So here we are, as we’re recording this, Hurricane Laura is in the gulf and it looks really bad, it’s gonna hit somewhere, Texas-Louisiana coastline like tomorrow, I think, as a major hurricane. And you don’t want anybody to have to go through that, but it does happen, and there’s going to be some folks that are gonna be affected by it and have damage to their properties. So what should they do? What should they do once they, you know, get over the shock of what happened and try to get into the recovery mode?

Tara: Well, the first thing I would say is to start a spreadsheet of every single thing that you do, every action, every temporary repair, every phone, every attempt to call the contractor, every attempt, every tenant complaint, like if you have unit owners or tenants that are making complaints. Because you go years down the line or months down the line and you remember it so bad while it’s happening, but you can’t remember later. And documentation is everything. That’s a key of what we do.

And just like documenting all the trees down and, you know, all the things blown around, all those little details, when we’re two years later and everything’s cleaned up and grown back and the sun is shining, it’s hard to remember those days when the storm was blowing through. And the carriers will make it even difficult to say, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad, you know, you didn’t really have the damage.”

So any kind of documentation, especially documenting your actions on how you’re complying with the policy conditions to protect the property from further damage, to document all of the residents’ complaints, all the tenants’ complaints. That is the biggest way you can help me, your advocate, because I’m not gonna be there the first few days, you know, it’s going to take some time for people to get on the ground, it’s going to take some time for you to find the right advocate and hire them and go through that process. And you as the building owner are the only person that’s gonna be there as the property manager. So documentation of all actions are critical.

And make sure that if you do hire people to represent you, that these are regarded in the industry, like as a minimum, make sure that they’re part of industry associations, whether it be NAPIA, the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. In Florida, we have FAPIA, the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Because these are the associations that advocate for policyholders for legislation nationwide or statewide. They are the people putting the money where their mouth is to make sure policyholders have the rights and they’re not being taken by lobbyists. So I think that’s one of the first keys, documentation and proper backing check of experts or advocates when they come to represent you.

Paul: Tara, you do a great job. We got to get to you like a Fox News or CNN gig as a spokesman after the storm.

Tara: I can talk for a long time. Like, “Okay, that’s what the answer is. Back to Paul.”

Paul: You’re on point though, really good. So thank you for being our guest today on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. And I know that you do a great job with social and getting the word out. So can you tell the listeners if they want to find out more about you how they can track you down and see what’s going on?

Tara: Yeah, you can always call us at 1-800-892-1116. That’s 1-800-892-1116. Or reach us at stoneclaims.com. That’s stoneclaims.com.

Paul: And the social? I know you’re good with that too.

Tara: Yes, we’re on Instagram and Facebook. You can find us under Stone Claims. You also might know us as Your Private Adjuster. We operated under that umbrella for a long time. So if you hear of YPA, Your Private Adjuster, or Stone Claims Group, that’s me and my team, we’re all over.

Paul: Great. Well, thanks again.

Tara: Thanks for having me, Paul.

Paul: You got it. So, we invite you also to take a look at GCI Consultants’ website if you want to find out anything else about us, www.gciconsultants.com. Our phone number is 877-740-9990. Again, 877-740-9990. We’re on the various social media channels as well, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn. So I want to thank everybody once again for listening and I look forward to the next episode of “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. Until then, this is Paul Beers saying so long.

Deck Waterproofing

Alfonzo Alzamora & Jason Bondurant – Consultant, GCI Consultants

Listen to GCI Consultant team members and industry experts, Alfonso Alzamora and Jason Bondurant discuss plaza deck and pool deck waterproofing. Learn about the typical components that we find in these types of systems and how they are installed.

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.

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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

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 engineers that I work with here at GCI Consultants and the guest, Jason Bondurant. We have got a really interesting topic to share with you today, which is all about pool decks and plaza decks waterproofing. So Jason, since you are a repeat guest, let’s just jump right into talking about plaza decks and pool decks waterproofing. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the typical components that we find in these types of systems?

Jason: So when we talk about plaza deck waterproofing system, typically what we’re referring to is a waterproofing membrane that’s installed on the structural deck, typically a concrete deck, and typically these types of systems are installed over occupied space where it’s essentially functioning as a roof or occasionally we’ll see them installed over parking garages or other types of spaces.

And usually, these types of membranes will be covered by some type of overburden. So, it’ll be concealed in the finished assembly. You won’t actually see the waterproofing membrane. These areas are somewhat different than roofing systems in that they’re also intended for vehicular or pedestrian traffic or used as greenscape or planter areas. And because of that, these types of systems are exposed to some of the harshest conditions. And one of the things that really makes these systems challenging is that they do require a high level of coordination between the waterproofing and the adjacent envelope systems.

So the typical components kind of from top to bottom would be at the top you’d have some type of wearing surface which could be bricks, it could be pavers, precast flab or exposed aggregate. And then beneath that, you’ll have some type of fill where it may be a topping slab, it may be sand, or it may be a mortar setting bed. And then beneath that, you would have some type of drainage layer. Typically, these days we would see a prefabricated drainage mat, but it could also be a layer of gravel or some kind of drainage medium that’ll allow the water to flow easily. And then beneath that, we would have the waterproofing membrane and the protection, of course, which is on the structural deck.

Alfonso: Right. And I’m sure you agree that, you know, as with any waterproofing system that drainage is a critical part of the assembly. So why don’t you tell us a little bit more about the drainage layer?

Jason: Yeah. So the drainage, like you said, with any waterproofing or roofing system, it’s the most critical aspect. And for these types of protective membrane waterproofing systems, there are some unique aspects to the drainage that we don’t have to be concerned about with a typical roofing system. So, with these protected membrane systems, they need to be designed so that you have the expectation that water is going to get all the way down to the waterproof membrane level, which is beneath the overburden. So, the deck needs to have a bi-level drainage system that’ll allow water to enter the drain from the waterproof level which is beneath all the overburden and also from the wearing surface level.

And it requires special detailing and typically what ends up happening is they’ll wrap the drain with some type of filter fabric and they’ll install gravel around the drain to avoid blocking the drain bowl at the membrane level and ensuring that water can get into the drain there.

It’s worth noting that water that does collect on the membrane and pond on the membrane can cause problems over the long-term, including de-bonding of the waterproofing membrane, cracking of topping slab, deterioration of insulation, leaks to the interior. So, drainage is something that should not be overlooked and it’s critical that the drainage is provided at both the wearing surface and the waterproofing membrane level.

Florida building code does require that the deck has a quarter inch per foot slope. Sometimes with these types of decks, we see that they’re not quite getting that and we’ve dealt with some manufacturers that will warranty the waterproofing system even on a flat deck with the understanding that there will be some ponding water there but the building code does require that the deck does slope to drain.

Alfonso: So how does that slope requirement converts, you know, to a typical roofing system requirement?

Jason: Well, the quarter inch per foot would be the same for roofing. So I guess the main difference is that a plaza deck waterproofing system like this is typically designed to withstand some amount of hydrostatic pressure, unlike a roof. So, with these types of systems, even if the drainage is not ideal, let’s say, they can oftentimes still perform. But, you know, and that’s why I think some of the manufacturers will allow less than the minimum code required slope, but it is required in the building code. So, we do have to make sure of that.

Alfonso: Right. And I guess Jason also, like you were saying since, you know, typically this type of application would be, you know, like an amenity deck or a pool deck or in a garage, sometimes, you know, particularly with amenity like some pool decks, you want to have that kind of level or flat surface versus a roof area where you have other means of obtaining the required slope. Typically, we see them use, you know, tapered insulation or you have, you know, lightweight insulated concrete that will help you have that required slope at that roofing membrane. But with this type of assembly, you were saying that, you know, we don’t see that that often. Right?

Jason: Yeah. That’s right. And it’s possible to have insulation either on top of or beneath the membrane, but typically in South Florida here, it’s not very common.

Alfonso: Right. And you mentioned particularly in South Florida, if they’re using insulation as far as their assembly that is gonna need to be incorporated into their [inaudible 00:07:34] approval documents, NOAs, and all their certification testing. So Jason, how do we go about specifying, you know, a particular waterproofing system for these types of application, and what would be the common types of waterproofing systems that you see for these types of applications?

Jason: Well, there’s a lot of different considerations that we need to keep in mind, and every project is going to be unique. I would say that the most common type of system that we see and the one that we most often recommend is a hot rubberized asphalt reinforced waterproofing membrane. And typically, it’ll have a modified bitumen cap sheet or a protection layer on top of it. So that’s the most common.

Another one that we’ll see often is a torch-applied modified bitumen membrane two or three-ply system. This type of a system, just to give you an example of the different considerations that go into mind, we might want to use a torch-applied system on a project because maybe getting a melter to melt the hot asphalt onto the roof of, you know, a 50 story building is not realistic with this particular project. So we may want to use like a torch applied type of a system.

The reason why the torch applied is modified bitumen system, is sometimes used as the next best option, is because it does still have some redundancy being that it’s multiple different layers. Another common one that we’re seeing more of recently is a cold liquid-applied reinforced membrane like a PMMA waterproofing membrane. These have some advantages in that being that they’re cold-applied they’re safer. There’s no open flame or hot asphalt that you’re dealing with. Typically they’ll cure very quickly. And then another one that we do see occasionally is a single-ply waterproofing membrane, like a TPO or a PVC membrane.

Alfonso: Okay. So that’s very interesting what you just said because… So, in addition to the considerations as far as the actual performance of the different type of systems and, you know, different types of waterproofing membranes, the other thing that comes into play with all of this is the actual job site conditions and site logistics. As far as, you know, like you were saying, maybe it is not possible to carry the melter to, you know, whatever this pool deck is, so many, feet high on the building. So that’s obviously something important to consider as well, putting that theory along with how you can actually achieve this in a productive way. So that’s interesting, Jason.

And then you mentioned also, you know, these cold liquid-applied systems. Sounds like it’s, you know, more of an easier installation as far as, you know, the labor goes. So, is that your experience as well? Is that typically that type of installation would be completed maybe faster and, you know, with less labor than you would see when you have like a torch apply mud bit system?

Jason: Yeah, I think so. I think probably it can be applied faster and it cures faster.

Alfonso: Okay. So, are there any special considerations with the planter areas?

Jason: Yeah. So, like we were talking about with just the system in general, with the planter, a drainage is the most important aspect. So typically, the drains in a planter what we want to do is we want to design the drain so that water can get into the drain the full height of the planter.

So typically, what we like to see is we have our drain bowl that’s set in the structural deck at the bottom of the planter. And then, attached to the grate over the dream bowl, we would have some type of perforated pipe. Usually, it would be a PVC pipe that has holes drilled into it and that pipe would extend up to the top finished surface of the planter basically at grade in the planter. And then there would be another drain inlet at the top of that PVC pipe.

And then this whole assembly would get wrapped in a filter fabric and surrounded by gravel so that the planter has good drainage from the top at grade level all the way down to the waterproofing membrane level. And then obviously, like we mentioned before, it would need to have a drainage mat which gets installed above the waterproofing membrane, which would carry any water that gets down to the waterproof level to the drain and prevent any water from standing on top of the waterproofing.

And then, one thing that is unique to the planter areas is they would typically require some type of root barrier. And, you know, we’ve seen many projects where we’ve dug up planters that are leaking and we find that the roots inside the planter have just born holes all through the waterproof membrane. So the root barrier is something that’s really critical inside the planter as well.

Alfonso: Exactly. And so Jason, so after you have all these components installed and, you know, the assembly before you put all the overburden materials, I mean, is there any way to check or verify the integrity of the membrane before moving forward to basically cover [inaudible 00:13:46]?

Jason: Yes. And actually, it’s required to check it before it gets covered by anything. The building code requires that you do some type of integrity testing to check that there are no leaks in the finished waterproofing.

Most commonly what we’ll see is just the standard flood test. There’s an ASTM standard for flood testing horizontal waterproofing installations. And basically, what they do is they’ll plug the drain bowl and they’ll fill up the deck with about two inches of water or so on the waterproofing. This is before any overburden gets installed. And then they’ll leave that water on the waterproofing for 24 to 48 hours. And then after the test, they’ll check the underside to see if it’s leaking anywhere. And if it’s leaking, then, you know, obviously repairs will need to be made and then it will need to be tested again to confirm that it’s not leaking.

One of the other newer ways that we’re seeing people testing waterproofing installations is the electronic leak detection which is basically they will install wires around the perimeter of the deck and mist the deck with water and then they’ll walk every square foot of the deck with the testing company. And essentially, they have these probes that they’ll stick into the water onto the membrane and if there’s any breach in the membrane, they’ll be able to tell. And it’s actually quite impressive to see them do. They can really pinpoint the exact locations of breaches using this kind of a method.

There are some limitations in that they typically don’t test the drain bowl flashing because the metal of the drain will interfere with the test. So actually on some jobs, we see them do both the flood testing and the electronic vector mapping just because you can never do too much testing with these types of systems because the fact is that once the deck is done and it’s signed off and the waterproofing is okay, then they’re gonna cover this with sometimes a topping slab, sometimes pavers, planting soil. And in the event of a problem in the future, all these things would have to come off the deck in order to fix the problem. And so, you know, that’s why this type of testing is required and that’s why we definitely don’t want to ever cut any corners when it comes to testing these.

Alfonso: Right. Right. So that’s very interesting because construction, you know, we don’t really associate a lot of technology in that way with construction job sites. So, you know, the first test you were describing the standard flood test, you know, it’s a very simple, basic test, something that you would definitely think about when you’re thinking about a construction job and very effective from what you were describing. But it’s very interesting to see that there’s other technologies that incorporate different elements that can also allow us to verify, you know, the integrity of these types of membranes in a different way. And like you were saying, this is critical since this thing is pretty much gonna get buried with all these different overburdened materials and components that you have been talking about.

So, up to now, I guess we have been describing how you should go about designing or installing waterproofing system in a plaza deck or amenity deck application starting with a new construction approach and trying to make sure that everything is done in a right way and then properly [inaudible 00:17:52] as you were describing just now. But what about those existing buildings that you get called on where they have actually problems with these plaza deck installations or pool deck installations and like you were saying everything is already covered up by all the overburden materials. So, what are some of the typical problems you see there on those existing buildings and how do you go about investigating the source of the problem?

Jason: Well, when it comes to investigating any type of a leak whether that be with these types of waterproofing systems or glazing systems or roofing systems, we typically want to do some type of water testing. And I think that that’s a good starting point with these types of decks because the fact is that when they’re complete, we can’t actually see the waterproofing. We’re typically looking at pavers or we’re looking at a planter.

And so, what I typically like to do is start with some amount of water testing in the general area above where the leak is reported. And then ideally you would test a certain area at a time. So, you try to isolate one thing at a time with your test, keeping in mind that it might take hours for water to actually make its way all the way to the interior of the building. And so, you just kind of have to have a methodical approach with your testing.

And usually, once I’m able to recreate the leak and we have a general idea of where the leak is coming from, at least looking at a plan of the deck, then it’s almost always you’ll require some amount of intrusive or destructive testing to investigate the leak. So that might mean chipping up a topping slab. It might mean digging up a planter, but because the waterproofing is concealed under these overburdens, it usually is required to do some amount of destructive or intrusive testing.

And then usually what we do is once we’re able to pinpoint the exact source and we’re able to see the membrane and find out what’s going on, we’ll have the contractor do whatever repair is necessary. And then we’ll test it again before we cover everything back up just to ensure that we found the source of the problem.

So, some of the typical issues that we see when we’re investigating these types of systems, I would say probably the most common one is failure to tie the waterproofing system on the deck into the other envelope system. So usually that means tying into the flashing at the base of the wall tying into the weather barrier on the exterior wall or in, you know, most commonly in South Florida where we don’t have a weather barrier tying into the stucco.

So, one of the most common issues that I see, as an example is, it may be a renovation. Maybe it’s an older building and they’ve replaced the waterproofing system on a pool deck and the contractor doesn’t bring the waterproofing up high enough on the wall, the flashing to where now you’re left with a void between the top of the waterproof flashing and the stucco on the exterior wall. Typically, we like to have some kind of overlap there to make sure that the envelope is continuous.

And we see similar problems at door thresholds, the window openings where the waterproofing might stop just in front of a door or window opening and it’s not fully integrated with the perimeter sealant on the window or door. That’s another really common one.

I would say another common problem is with any of these systems that are coatings and with any coating in general, the most critical aspect of that coating is ensuring that it’s the proper thickness. So, we’ve been involved in some projects where we’ve seen that the coating was far too thin. And then we’ve also been involved in projects where the coating has actually been too thick. I think a lot of people wouldn’t expect that the coating could be too thick, but actually coating becomes too thick it can cause problems with the exterior part of the coating may skin over and cure faster than the interior part of it. And what we’ve seen happen before is that exterior side of the coating will skin over and that interior side will continue to cure and let-off gases and that can cause blistering in the coating if it’s installed too thick.

Another really common one just to mention one more thing, if I have to pick a third one, is penetrations in the waterproofing. And a really common problem that we see is after these waterproofing systems are installed and they’re tested, we have other trades coming in, electricians, one of the most guilty parties in this, and they’ll put holes through the deck or through the waterproofing and won’t seal them properly. And so that’s a common place that we find leaks.

And then also another common problem with penetrations is the penetrations being clustered too closely together, which prevents the waterproofing contractor from properly detailing the waterproofing around each individual penetration. So, I would say those are some of the more common things that I’ve seen.

Alfonso: Right. And I think those are all great examples of the kind of problems we see when some of these buildings that we’re called upon to investigate because they have issues. And like you were saying earlier coordination here among the different trades is critical because like you mentioned penetrations and also the interface between, you know, different conditions which are typically being worked by different trades. And we see a lot of problems there just like you described, you know, if there is no proper coordination and the electrician is just walking through the waterproofing and putting holes on it, that’s obviously gonna result in a problem.

And in the same way, in all of these transitions, one that I can think of that we see often is the connection or the transition between your pool deck waterproofing where it ties in into the actual pool structure or, you know, typically you have a gutter at the perimeter of the pool and maybe your waterproofing contractors that are doing the deck is different from the guy that is actually doing the waterproofing at the pool structure. So, there’s right there a point which, you know, they may not be talking to each other and then you have a gap on your waterproofing. Have you seen anything like that as well, Jason?

Jason: Well, yeah. Absolutely. And something else that you just reminded me of too, which we didn’t get the chance to talk about, but expansion joints are, you know…I’m sure anybody that has dealt with any of these types of systems before knows that these are one of the most common areas that are gonna leak. And each manufacturer will have a slightly different way of treating expansion joints. I think you could probably do a whole podcast in itself on expansion joints.

One of the things that I’ll just say about that is this, and I guess this is more to the architects out there, but use common sense when it comes to expansion joints. You know, try not to put a fountain over top of an expansion joint. If you can, get the expansion joint off the deck a little bit so that it can shed water and you don’t have any chance of any ponding water on top of it.

So, I think, you know, just some of these basic kinds of principles could go a long way when dealing with expansion joints. But like I said, we could do a whole other podcast just on that alone.

Alfonso: Exactly. I think we’re actually running out of time here. So, I guess we have to come to a stopping point. I would like to thank all our listeners for growing our podcast and tuning in. Thank you again for listening today. We also invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultants services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com or you can 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.

Wall Systems

David Hansen – Consultant, GCI Consultants


Today’s podcast will focus our conversation with David Hansen on his extensive knowledge of products and wall systems, especially exterior glazing systems and how they are intended to function, how to get them installed correctly, and how to keep them functioning right. David is gonna talk to you about some of the things he’s learned in his 30 years in the industry, problems, and recommendations he can offer to you.

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, VP, and Principal Consultant for GCI Consultants. And I’ll be your host today. I’m excited today to have as my guest, David Hansen, one of our GCI consultants and project managers that I’ve worked with here at GCI for a number of years. And David and I have known each other a lot longer and worked with each other many years in the past.

We’ve got an interesting topic today, and David is gonna talk to you about some of the things he’s learned in his 30 years in the industry, problems, and recommendations he can offer to you. So, David, since this is your first time as a podcast guest, please tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll jump right into our topics.

David: Hello. Once again, my name is David Hansen. And I’ve been in the glazing industry for approximately 30 years. I started in the mid-’80s, basically coming in and fabricating, cutting the aluminum stock lengths for curtain wall, window walls, actually screwing the panels together, building the framework. And that’s where I also learned about structural glazing, because most of the systems that we did were actually structurally pumped with sealant. So that’s where I started.

And from there, we did curtain walls, storefronts, window walls. So, I actually began at the ground level, fabricating, installing, building all these frames and units in the shop, and then going out and installing them in the field. From there, I also had the opportunity to work with a lot of really good mechanics, doing custom glasswork, such as mirrors, glass enclosures for very wealthy people, their showers and bathrooms, anything you could think of, custom anything. And that’s really where I got my start.

And then from there, I was promoted, and I became a project manager, actually ordering and overseeing entire projects as far as curtain wall, window wall, anything you could think of with glass and glazing. But the company I was with, they were predominantly in curtain wall and that was their forte. And from there, years later, I actually did get into designing systems along with our structural engineer, being that our structural engineer was very good with making a structurally sound system but had little experience in the field. That was where I came in, because he would come up with a design for a system and I kind of poo-pooed it because I said, no, this is gonna be too hard to install, it’s tough, I mean, you can’t do that.

So, we definitely went back and forth and designed quite a few systems. A lot of them were completely custom systems, curtain wall systems, for buildings. Some were even already standing. I remember one job in particular, the customer had a need where they wanted to redo their whole building, a 15-story building, but they wanted to leave everything they had intact. They wanted to be removed from the interior and they wanted to completely clad from the exterior, which we did. We designed a complete system that just, it’s a curtain wall system that went on the exterior of the building, and after it was all finished, we removed the windows that were 50-plus years old from the inside, and then designed applique on the interior to finish it off.

And from there, I went on to actually going into sales, and then oversight of an entire department, a wing of the company that I was with. So, I guess you could say I’ve pretty much done it all with glass and glazing from the ground up. On my first day I remember pushing a broom. I mean, so yes, I’ve pretty much done it all, anything you could really think of.

Chris: And that’s kind of, we’ve got a mix of people at GCI with different types of experience, but we’ve got some people like David that have done it all and seen it all from the ground up, like he described. And then we’ve got some engineers and architects that their background started from the formal education standpoint.

So it’s a great mix of people that we have here, but you can’t substitute for that experience of being out there, having your hands on it, knowing how it’s put together, knowing how it’s installed, that knowledge, you have to see it and experience it to be able to pass that on to our clients. And so, you talked some, David, about both of the main parts of a glazing system, the aluminum framing components and the glass itself. What’s some of the biggest problems you see with safety glazing, the glass itself, and some of the stuff you’ve worked with?

David: Well, with safety glazing, particularly, say, tempered glass, I know a lot of architects will instantly they’ll put tempered glass on the exterior of the building, and that’s something you want to hold back and not do. You only want to do tempered glass where it’s required by code, because there’s inherent flaws with tempered glass, such as the big elephant in the room always is nickel sulfide. You don’t see too much of it, but that possibility can exist. And it only exists with tempered glazing. It’s a little inclusion, a little flaw, a contaminant in the tempered glass. It’s microscopic. You can’t see it. But if it is there, that piece of tempered glass can be a ticking time bomb. It can blow down the road.

And the only way you can really detect that that really helps with that issue is heat soaking. It’s not a foolproof system, but it does help, but it is costly. So, I mean, whether you decide to do that or not, it’s really what your budget would allow. But that’s really exterior glass as far as tempering. Another problem with exterior tempering, usually, the roll distortion, the tempering roll distortion of tempered glass is usually more predominant than heat strengthened.

And you also want to make sure that your roll distortion is parallel with your horizontal dimension, meaning that when you’re driving by the building, the glass, the tempering wave distortion flows with you, it doesn’t look like you’re in a carnival if, which means your roll distortion is horizontal. If you have it going the opposite way, that roll distortion is vertical, and then when you drive by the building, it will look like a carnival, it looks bad.

But the other thing aside from exterior glazing that you want to be careful of that I have been called out quite a few times here is, say, I have had architects where they’ve designed elegant bathrooms, and they have tempered glass in their showers and bath enclosures. And I know architects, they’re going for the beauty. They want to have a beautiful installation, which means they’d like to have that glass all the way up against their perimeter substrate, whether it’s marble or drywall or whatever it may be. You’ve got to be careful and have the right, you gotta have the right gap there between.

I know a lot of people, they don’t like the look of silicone between the glass and say their marble countertop, but you’ve got to have it there, because when you have expansion and contraction in the glass or in your perimeter substrate, that can actually put too much tension on the glass, and it can actually blow a piece of glass. Another big problem with tempered glass in these same type bath enclosures that people don’t know about is they look at the piece of tempered glass, and usually it have like flat polished edges on the glass, but you’ve got to be very careful that none of these flat polished edges, you’ll see a chip at the corner or the edge of the piece of glass, and that’s a ticking time bomb, because you don’t know whether that chip happened before or after tempering.

If it happened after tempering and it didn’t blow the piece of glass into a thousand little pieces, it can, at any time, explode, and that’s something you really need to be careful of. You’ve got to inspect that piece of glass and make sure that when that’s installed in your bathroom enclosure, there is no damage to any surface, any of the corner areas especially, or along the polished edges, because your glass can blow at any time. It’s a ticking time bomb. And that’s pretty much it that I see for interior glass. You’ve just gotta be careful that you have no flaws in that piece of glass.

Chris: Well, and you covered a lot of ground there and I think that the big takeaway from that is that there are appropriate types of glass for different situations. Like you described, on the exterior of a building, tempered glass is stronger than heat strengthened or annealed glass, but there may be situations where it’s not the best option. And then, as you talked about it in the bathroom, it’s not just the having the right type of glass, but having it installed in a safe manner, so it’s not going to cause problems later on. And I know recently, like you said, we’ve had quite a few projects that you’ve been involved with where these fancy bathroom enclosures, shower enclosures, have some problems because they’ve got the right type of glass, but maybe not the expertise to get it designed and installed in a safe way, which is a way that we can help people.

David: You’re exactly right with that, Chris. You’re exactly right. And another issue that I have noticed is if you have an elegant bathroom enclosure, say a rolling door, they purchase a kit from a manufacturer, and they install it. And if you don’t have good installers, where they really know what they’re doing, they may not adjust that hardware properly, and you’ve got to be careful. I just recently came from a job where they installed it, but they didn’t have all the glass stops set properly, so this glass, this half-inch tempered glass, was actually hitting the wall. And you know as well as I do, when you bang into any kind of hard surface with the edge of a piece of tempered glass, it’s gonna blow. It’s just a matter of time. So, you’ve got to really be careful and install it properly.

Chris: Right. And the tempered glass is obviously much safer than non-heat treated glass, and that’s why the code’s required in these dangerous locations, but people can still be hurt…

David: Oh, definitely.

Chris: …and you want to not only have the right product, but have a good design overall, good functional design, where you’re not gonna have problems. And that’s kind of what we do at GCI, in general, is people usually have pretty good products selected, but we help them get it put in in the right way, so it’s gonna function, so it’s gonna do the job that they hoped it would do, but they might not have the knowledge sometimes to make that happen. So, kind of moving on over into the glazing systems themselves, when you get involved with a new project, what are some of your first steps in reviewing the system, getting familiar with it, helping our customers to get their glazing systems installed and functioning right?

David: Well, the first thing I like to do is pull up all the documents on the system, actually pull up the glazing system shop drawings to see what they drew, and then pull up the product approval for that system to see structurally what it makes, the tolerances that are built into the system, meaning, what is that caulk joint? Say, like if it’s a structural glaze system, a lot of times they’re built-in, say, where you’re able to have as much as a half-inch or five-eighths caulk joint. Anything more than that may not be approved. If it is larger than that, a lot of times you’ll need larger anchors, longer anchors, anchors, more of them. You’ve just got to really look at all of your information before you go out and look at a glazing system.

Because unlike a, so like an aluminum system or a louver, that’s one item, that’s one item that goes into that clad system. With a glazing system, I guess you could compare it to like buying a boat. Yes, you’re buying this glazing system, but there may be 50 different itemized products that go into that system, and you want to make sure that they’re installing that exactly as it’s supposed to be installed per the engineering and per the product NOA. Because I have witnessed recently where the shop drawings and the NOA say one thing, but you go out to the field and you see what they’re doing, and they will sometimes substitute materials for that glazing system. And that’s not right, because that can lead to problems down the road.

Chris: Sure. And we see that on the litigation end of what we do quite often, in that what was shown in the drawings on a project might not be, on a quick look, it looks like what’s shown in the drawings, but when you start digging in, there’s parts and pieces that have been substituted, the wrong thing used, and then you’ve got performance issues down the road because, like you said, with a boat or a car or anything else, it’s designed to operate properly with these exact parts. And when you start substituting things, maybe not even to save money, just because this was on hand and this wasn’t or whatever, people are rushed during construction, trying to get it done quickly, you know, things get overlooked or put in there that shouldn’t be, and then we end up seeing it later on that, you know, those kind of things result in a lot of problems for people.

David: Oh, sure. Yeah, you see that all the time. You see it all the time, whether it’s products, pieces, parts that get substituted, but, and also a big thing is when, say, like, a gasket is supposed to be installed a certain way and it doesn’t, it’s backwards. I mean, there’s always installer error, and you see it all the time. It’s just, you know, they’re people, people installing these systems, and you need systems that are very user-friendly, where somebody can come to work and he’s in a bad mood or in a hurry to get home. It doesn’t take a huge amount of knowledge to install a simple system the right way. But if you have a labor-intensive system, you’ve really gotta be careful. You’ve got to have top-notch installers, along with supervision for these installers, and if you don’t have it, mistakes are made. It happens all the time.

Chris: Sure, sure. So, I think I know your answer to this one, but what’s your opinion on wood bucks in glazing systems, wood bucks at the perimeters of window openings, how those get sealed properly, integrated with the system, everything related to that?

David: You know, that’s a really good question. I’m glad you thought of that. You know, I remember 30 years ago, 20 years ago, installing systems where I thought it was a great idea to install, you know, a lot of times you have a, say, a square perimeter opening with cast-in-place concrete or even block to put polyurethane, Volcom with wood bucks right up against the perimeter of the opening, and install your glazing system into that.

I’ve heard it so many times when I see details like this, where GCI does not recommend wood bucking or any organic materials at the opening, but I remember, 20, 30 years ago, this is common. It was very common in the field to just take a pressure-treated wood buck, polyurethane seal it right to the perimeter of the opening, nail it in, and then install your glazing system. And I thought that was okay, but then, when I came to GCI and I did see that it was not part of our recommendations, and we recommended a fluid-applied waterproofing at the perimeter, I thought, wow, do you really need that? I mean, I don’t know, I’ve just been, I know that it’s been done this way for so long. What do you really need?

And then I remember when I first started at GCI, doing a few water tests with our testing techs, and actually seeing a system that was installed without waterproofing at the perimeter. And yes, that glazing system, whether it’s a single square frame and a cast in place or a block opening, you think, okay, it’s sealed in, you’re good. No, but you’re not good. I mean, it was kind of a big eye-opener for me when I actually saw the concrete leaking. It was pulling water in.

The glazing system itself worked fine, but the concrete was leaking water, it was actually flooding to the inside. So, I mean, unless you have that weather barrier on the exterior, the water will come in. I mean, I was amazed when I saw that. I really was. So that was a good eye-opener for me here at GCI. So now, what we do, we recommend a fluid applied waterproofing at the exterior of the opening, the whole perimeter opening, and extending onto the vertical face, approximately an inch or two, depending upon what type of cladding system’s out there. That will keep the water out of the system. So, it’s very important, which was a big eye-opener.

Chris: Sure, yeah. And, you know, you’ve got a tested product, if we’re talking about a window that comes from the factory, fully manufactured, you’ve got a tested product that most likely is gonna perform well. But then, as you say, if you install it and seal it to something around it that’s not gonna keep the water out, it doesn’t really matter how good that window is. And, you know, I’ve had that same experience as you. Once you see that water test done, with that negative pressure on the inside, pulling that water in right around that window, through those wood bucks, you understand right away that, you know, something better has gotta be done.

And this old, you know, they call it, like, the “Florida flange,” we see it still a lot in South Florida, with the wood buck block wall, with direct-applied stucco, wood bucks around it, and then that Florida flange back-bedded up against those bucks, and if you don’t have those bucks waterproofed, you’re gonna have a problem, and it’s just one of those things that who knows how it ever even started. Like, just like you said, they’ve been doing it that way for probably longer than you and I have been doing this, 50 years, they’ve probably been doing that, or more, but nobody can remember who was the genius who thought this was a great idea in the beginning.

David: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I mean, I’ve heard it so many times, it’s actually kind of funny. It’s like, “I’ve been doing it this way 30 years,” and I’m sitting here thinking, well, you know what? Up until probably about five, six years ago, I might’ve kind of agreed with you, but now that I see what a water test, and whenever water’s pulled through that building, just to see what it does, it’s not the right way to do it. It’s definitely not. And I’ve even had guys come up to me and say, “You know what? I sealed those wood bucks to the block with Volcom and I also ran an exterior polyurethane bead, and that’s how we ran, and we ran our stucco right up to the face of those bucks. And that’s the way I’ve been doing it 30 years, and by cracky, that’s the best way to do it.” And I remember, well, you know what? Yeah, I thought that too, but it’s not. It’s definitely not.

Chris: Well, and even though some of us here at GCI are old guys, we try to keep learning, right? You don’t just say, “Okay, well, we’ve been doing it this way for 30 years and, you know, there’s nothing new out there, there’s no better way.” We try not to make our clients a guinea pig either, so it’s a little bit of a balancing act, you know. There’s new stuff, new products, new ideas all the time. We try to give them things that are proven, that we’ve got experience with and we know will work, but we also try to take advantage of advancements, right? You don’t just, you know, we’re not still living in caves either. So, you try to balance that out as far as “the way we’ve always done things” with “there might be some better ways to do it too.”

Well, and you touched some on the sealants. You were talking about the polyurethane sealants that are installed around those wood bucks, but kind of talk to us some about the different types of sealants that you see used, and what you recommend for different applications, and why people can’t just go down to the Home Depot or the hardware store and buy whatever they see in a tube there?

David: Well, I have seen people go down to the local hardware store and use that, and then two weeks later you wonder why it’s pulling away from your aluminum framing. I mean, there’s a reason why that these sealants are a little more expensive. You have manufacturer support, and you’ve got that proven track record that we were just speaking of. I mean, they’re always trying to improve their sealants. I mean, so, basically, the biggest sealant differences that I see or being used out in the field are polyurethane and silicones. And polyurethanes are good for their chosen application. Whenever the sun, if you have any application where the sun’s not gonna kill it, because polyurethane will degrade pretty quick in the sun.

Now, I know there’s a lot of installers where building owners, they don’t want to fork out the money, because it is, silicones are a little more expensive. They don’t want to fork out the money with the silicone at the exterior of their glazing system, so they’ll want to use a polyurethane. Well, I always say, yes, of course, you can use the polyurethane, but if it’s gonna be exposed to the sun, you realize that you’re only gonna get a few years use out of this sealant. I mean, it is better if you, say, paint the polyurethane, which, that’s another good application of the polyurethane. You can paint it, and the paint will stick to it, and you will get probably a few more years out of that. But most polyurethane manufacturers, at best you’re ever gonna see is a five-year warranty.

With silicone, if you actually have a good, properly formed silicone sealant joint in the field, you can get a 20-year warranty. You can get a 20-year warranty, which is great. I mean, there’s a big, huge difference between silicones and polyurethane. Like I said, 30 years ago when I was installing glazing systems using silicones, that’s mainly all that we used with the exterior, storefronts, curtain walls. I’ve gone back 30 years later, even though they gave, the manufacturer would provide a 20-year warranty, I’ve gone back 30 years after installing this building, and you look at the sealants, and you start poking at the silicone bead. It looks like it was just installed yesterday. It’s amazing. I mean, the ultraviolet does not bother the silicone. It’s amazing what I’ve seen. But, the polyurethane, on the other hand, it will degrade with the sun. But once again, if it’s the right application, where it’s not in the sun, or it’s in a wet condition, the polyurethane is better, where you’ve got to keep most all silicones out of any kind of standing water, because it will degrade it within a very short time.

So, basically the bottom line is, yes, there’s a cost difference between the polyurethane and silicone, but, I mean, as far as a maintenance problem, maintenance down the road, silicone, you can put it on, and if it’s put down properly, your substrates are tested before they’re put down so you know exactly what cleaners to use, what primers to use. And once they’re installed in their proper hourglass shape, they’ll be there forever. They’ll just last. I mean, I’ve seen them. Thirty years, and they look still brand new. Silicone is, it’s a beautiful thing. But once again, it depends upon your installation. It depends upon where you’re installing these materials.

Chris: And like the glass, we talked about in the beginning, and a appropriate product for the application that you have, we’re big believers in silicone anywhere that it’s exposed to the UV. And what we try to explain to our clients is, you know, kind of looking at it with a little longer range view, in that the polyurethanes may be a little less expensive up front, but how much are you really saving if you’re gonna own this building for any extended period of time? You know, the silicone could still be there 30 years from now, and you might have had to replace that polyurethane sealant five or six times in that 30 years, so, you know.

David: I’ve seen it, going out to the job site where polyurethanes were put down, and say, six, seven years later, where they’re starting to crack up and pull away, and actually, building maintenance people will go out there and they will, they’ll go to the local store and buy whatever they can on the shelf and just go out there and just start adding to it. You always see that, where they’re just dabbing more sealant into the opening. It’s a maintenance deal. It’s a maintenance problem, and it depends upon how long you want to have a maintenance-free building.

Chris: Exactly. Right, right. Well, you can see from our conversation today that David’s got a lot of knowledge about a lot of products and systems, especially exterior glazing systems and how they are intended to function and how to keep them functioning right, get them installed in the beginning so they function right. And we would always be willing to talk to you about any projects and concerns that you may have. And he’s a great resource, and I thank him for joining us on our podcast today. And thank you to our audience for listening. We invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultants services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com. And you can also reach out to 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.

 

Due Diligence of the Exterior Building Envelope

Jason Bondurant – Senior Consultant, GCI Consultants

Jason Bondurant deals with forensic investigations, problems with existing buildings. The main purpose of Due Diligence of the Building Envelope is to assess the condition of the building envelope at a property, to identify any deficiencies which might require repair or replacement. The building envelope refers to the exterior skin of the building, the exterior wall systems which might be brick or stucco glazing systems like storefronts, curtain walls, sliding glass doors, waterproofing systems on balconies or plaza decks, and the roofing systems on the roof of the building.

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.

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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Paul: Hello, everyone, welcome back to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Paul Beers managing member and principal with GCI Consultants. I’ll be your host today. I’m really excited to welcome back a repeat guest. One of our consultants who’s been on before obviously, Jason Bondurant. Jason, really glad to have you back. Welcome.

Jason: Thanks, Paul. Thanks for having me again.

Paul: We’ve got an interesting topic that we’re gonna talk about today, which is due diligence, and then we’re gonna talk specifically about Due Diligence of the Exterior Building Envelope. So, Jason you’re a repeat guest, but why don’t you tell everybody just a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll jump into the topic.

Jason: So, I’m a senior consultant with GCI. I’ve worked for GCI for about 7 years and mainly I deal with forensic investigations, problems with existing buildings.

Paul: So due diligence is something that’s right up your alley?

Jason: Yeah.

Paul: So, let’s define due diligence and then specifically Due Diligence of the Building Envelope. So, Jason, can you just tell us a little bit about what due diligence is and maybe some context about when it’s done.

Jason: So, the main purpose of a due diligence, do building envelope inspection is to assess the condition of the building envelope at a property. And the main thing that we’re looking for is to identify any deficiencies which might require repair or replacement. And when we say building envelope, we’re basically referring to the exterior skin of the building. So, the exterior wall systems which might be brick or stucco glazing systems like storefronts, curtain walls, sliding glass doors, waterproofing systems on balconies or plaza decks, and the roofing systems on the roof of the building.

So basically, any issues with the exterior skin of the building is what we’re looking for. And I think it’s important to point out that it’s not the same thing as an inspection for code compliance or construction defect inspection. We’re basically just looking for any issues with the condition of the building, which are not necessarily the same as code issues. And the last, probably most important part and most important reason for doing this inspection is to determine, “What’s an approximate order of magnitude cost for the issues that we’ve identified?” The cost of any repair or placement to address those issues.

Paul: So, this is obviously, done when a building is…typically done maybe when a building is changing hands. And when you were describing the process, I was thinking, home inspection on steroids. And what I mean by that is obviously, it’s a much bigger building, but it’s kind of the same concept, isn’t it? Where the property transaction is occurring, it’s kind of like, “Buyer beware, they need to really understand what they’re getting.” Does that seem like it’s kind of the way this is set up?

Jason: Yeah, so it’s pretty much exactly the same as a home inspection that you would get in connection with the sale of a home. And it includes other types of structures, such as multifamily residential buildings, commercial buildings, like hotels, office buildings. I would say that, like you said, it’s just on a greater scale for the most part. Typically, home inspectors that they will just deal with residential single-family homes. And at this level, we’ll deal with all different types of structures.

And the purpose of having this done in either case, is, again to identify any of these issues, but really for the purpose of negotiating a lower price, or requesting a credit, or requesting that the seller address any of these issues prior to closing. And, of course, some instances the findings of this type of assessment could lead to one party backing out of the deal.

Paul: Yeah, I remember years ago looking at a building for one of our bigger clients, and he was actually…had sold a portfolio of buildings in New York and was transferring some of those assets to Florida. And one of the buildings that we looked at was a barrier EIFS system, EIFS, E-I-F-S, Exterior Insulation, and Finish System, which have been known to have problems. And we went and looked at this building and it was over in the Tampa Bay area. It was a two, three-story office building. And there was obvious some pretty severe problems with water intrusion and water damage inside the walls. And were actually gonna talk about this a little bit. We went to a higher level of scrutiny and we determined that the problems were pretty severe, and they ended up, because of that, not buying the building. And obviously, they wanted to buy the building and the seller wanted to sell it, but they were really grateful that we helped them avoid making a big mistake. So, you’re not there to blow up the sale. But sometimes that happens, as you mentioned.

So, let’s just talk a little bit about the first initial survey and the deliverable. So, and also the timeframe. This is always happening quickly. So, what do we do, Say we get contacted to go look at a 200 room hotel? What would we do?

Jason: Well, so, and before we get into the details of the methodology, I think it is important to point out that the methodology that we use is based upon industry standards. There is, in ASTM standard, it’s called ASTM E2018, which is called the Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessment. And it kind of lays out this whole process for a due diligence inspection. I think it’s important to note, however, that typically these inspections do include other things besides the building envelope such as sight drainage, landscaping, air conditioning, electrical systems, structural systems, life safety, fire protection. So, here at GCI, we’re only dealing with the envelope of the building and we don’t look at those other items.

There are some firms that will cover everything. And occasionally GCI will assist those firms as only investigating the building envelope. So, I think it’s just important to note that the inspection does typically include other factors. So, for the building envelope portion, the procedure typically follows another standard. It’s by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s called The Guideline for Condition Assessment of The Building Envelope. And these types of assessments will typically fall under the preliminary category, which is essentially a visual inspection only. And the general methodology that it lays out includes reviewing any documents that we can receive prior to the inspection, performing an inspection of the property, and interviewing any representatives of the properties, such as managers or maintenance personnel, and preparing a report with our recommendations and cost estimate.

So, if we get a call, I’m getting back to your question, to assess a property, typically the first thing that we wanna do… And like you mentioned, it’s usually a very tight timeline. They have a hard date when they need to have this information by so they can make their decision. So, the first thing that we wanna do is gather as much information as we can prior to doing the inspection, which is this initial document review phase. So, we would ask them if they have construction documents, or maintenance records or leak logs of the building.

And I’ll say that the amount of information that we get varies widely from project to project and typically will receive very little. Which is why I always encourage any managers or maintenance personnel that we deal with, to keep as detailed records as they can, because it just helps us down the road when we’re trying to get an idea of the history of the building. So that’s kind of the first step, and obviously, schedule the site inspection as soon as possible.

Paul: And then when we’re out there, we look at all the various elements and produce the report and the cost estimate. So, can that lead to additional services?

Jason: Yeah, absolutely. It just depends on what we’re able to find during the inspection. So, during the inspection, it’s typically visual-only. So, the scope of the visual inspection is typically limited by the amount of time that we have. So, for many properties, it might just be a one-day inspection. For some larger properties, it might be several days. But we’re limited by the amount of time that we have. So we will walk around a representative sample of exterior and interior areas and just look for any obvious deficiencies that we can see with the building envelope, but also look for any evidence of distress that could be concealed. Things like cracks, or evidence of water intrusion and some interior areas.

And occasionally, depending on the type of systems that we’re looking at, we may not be able to see everything on that first day at the site. And we may recommend, as part of our preliminary report, to do some additional digging. And that can mean quite literally digging into decks or walls to see concealed weather barriers or waterproofing systems. Or that might also mean performing water testing, or even gathering samples and sending them to labs to do additional analysis there. There have been some instances where these additional steps, while they do take additional time and money, they are warranted because there was a real concern that there was concealed issues there that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Paul: Yeah, they wanna go into these transactions with their eyes wide open. I remember you and I had worked on a project within the last six or nine months where the buyer was buying a building, and he knew there were issues with the facade, and he knew that there was gonna be significant repairs needed. And that was all part of his plan was, you know, “Do the repairs need to be done now or can they be done in five years from now? How much is it gonna cost? What’s the magnitude?” And I was really surprised. I thought he wasn’t going to buy the building, but he did because he liked the property so much. And he had more… I don’t know what the financial terms were, but he was more interested in having a plan going forward once he acquired the property. And doing the assessment upfront, allowed him to do that and gave him the information he needed to proceed. So, Jason, we do get into situations I think a lot as from the building envelope situation where maybe somebody else identifies issues and then we get brought in a hurry to try and figure out what’s going on, is that right?

Jason: Yeah. And I think you kind of highlighted why the last part of this with the report is getting this order of magnitude cost estimate. And I think you highlighted why that’s so important because a lot of people will approach these types of transactions, as this is an investment for them. And they need to be aware of all the issues and what it might cost to address those issues. And they’ll have to decide based on that information, whether or not it’s worth the investment, so it is important to be able to have that.

And our recommendations for repair or replacement might include regular maintenance type issues, or it might include actual replacement, like let’s say, you know, we inspect a property and in our opinion that the roof has exhausted its useful life and it’s leaking and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. And usually, for these kinds of things, there’s some type of term period that we’re looking at. So, they want to know, within the next five years, and within the next 10 years, what are the big-ticket items that they’re gonna need to address these issues?

Paul: So, Jason, Building Envelope Assessments are not always part of Property Condition Assessments, are they?

Jason: Well, I think they should be, and I think they usually are, but I think they’re not always approached with the same level of detail and the same expertise that we typically would bring to them. So, like when you, just going back to like the home inspector example for a single-family home purchase, you’re gonna have someone that’s gonna come out and inspect the house. And typically you’ll just have one guy that’s gonna look at everything, and he’s more of a generalist, so he might not be a stucco expert or a roof expert, but maybe he knows enough about stucco to know if there’s a lot of cracks in the stucco, that’s a problem. Or, if there’s issues with the drip edge on the roof, or maybe he can identify some of these obvious issues, but maybe as less equipped to look at some of these if there are any potential concealed issues or are just not able to look at it through the same lens that we are. So, I think they all are normally included, just not to the same extent that we would look at them.

Paul: Yeah, sometimes, there’s unanticipated issues that you really would have been better off to uncover ahead of time. I remember a hotel project we worked at in the Caribbean a few years back that had a due diligence survey, and I think they even had somebody look at the envelope. And they came out of it, saying they needed to replace a bunch of windows that they were wood frame and they were rotting. And we came in after the fact, we were hired to help them with the actual doing quality control and whatnot on the roof and selecting replacement windows.

We went down there we took a window out just as a kind of the get started part, and the walls that the window…the exterior walls were a disaster. The whole place smelled like mold. The walls had all kinds of water intrusion. And it really messed them up. They had big plans for renovating this property and they were gonna add an extra story to the building and they were gonna do all this stuff. And they missed going in all these issues. And they had to address them once they figured out what was on and they ended up not being able to do the renovations and the upgrades that they wanted to and they ended up selling the property once they got it in decent condition. So that was a example of where better due diligence with respect to the envelope, building envelope, would have really helped them.

Jason: Yeah, I’ve also gotten involved in other situations where the buyer may have gotten their own firm to do their own assessment and seller brought us in or got someone else to do an assessment. And sometimes maybe one party feels like the other is not being reasonable about certain things like maybe their firm is telling them that all the balconies need to be demolished and rebuilt or something like that. And maybe the other side comes in and says, “Well, that’s not very reasonable. We feel like there’s a repair that could address some of the issues here. That’s not gonna be as costly.” And so, we do run into that sometimes where there are differing opinions about something.

Paul: Yeah. And then another thing that comes to mind is we’ve also done property condition assessments for properties being sold after weather events. And I think of a project in Houston that we looked at that had all kinds of water intrusion issues where the seller was saying they had addressed it and was saying it wasn’t that bad. The buyer who retained us thought, maybe otherwise. And we went in and actually did, you know, it was a big building at swing stages and we did feel that water infiltration, testing, and whatnot, we confirmed that the problem was worse than advertised. And that was another one where the sale didn’t go through. So sometimes you’ve gotta be more thorough and you spend a lot of money, but that’s kind of what you need to do to get credible information.

Jason: Well, and I think you bring up… you remind me of another thing that we see sometimes too is before we go in and do our assessment. We do our information gathering maybe we don’t get much, we go interview the people at the site and we get the feeling like maybe they’ve been coached a little bit on what to tell us. And you find out later or the day before they replaced all the ceiling tiles on the top floor of the building to try to hide evidence of roof leak, and or maybe other cosmetic repairs were done, replace interior paint in some areas or stuff like that, just to try to hide some of these issues, which will eventually evidence themselves again in the future. So, you really do have to have somebody that knows what they’re looking at when it comes to this stuff.

Paul: And that’s another thing you’ve mentioned the standards that we use the ASTM E2018 and the AFC E3014 for condition assessments and those for us or anybody else, I don’t see them used frequently, but those are really good because it gives you a systematic way of going through and looking at everything. It’s almost like a really high-end checklist. Now you’ve got to be knowledgeable and whatnot. But how important is it to have something like that, Jason instead of just going out there with a camera and a pad of paper and walk around and see what you see?

Jason: well, you have to follow the process. And I think…I’ll say that the process is very logical. And if you sat down and really planned it out yourself not even knowing that those documents existed, you would probably come up with a process that was very similar. But it is important to follow that process and to go step-by-step, and to do each step before moving on to the next one. Because just as an example I mentioned for the site inspection, we were typically limited by the amount of time that we have on the site. So, let’s say we have a day to inspect a building, maybe it’s a 20-story building, it’s a big building, and there’s no way that we could inspect everything in a day. So obviously, some things are going to be left out.

Now try to look at areas that are representative of all the different conditions on the building. But, again, we’re limited by the amount of time. If you have followed the process, before even going to the site, you’ve done some initial information gathering and maybe you would’ve learned based on a report from an engineer 10 years ago, that there was a major issue with the pool deck 10 years ago, and they did some repairs. Or maybe you find there was an issue with the pool deck 10 years ago, and there’s no evidence that any repairs were done in the document or in your conversations with people leading up to the inspection. Well, now you know when you go to the inspection, this is something you have to look at really closely, maybe this is something that you wanna devote more time to. So, by following that process, it’s laid out in a way it is for a reason. And it is important to follow that methodology.

Paul: Well, Jason, this is a really interesting topic. And I think it’s gonna resonate with some of our listeners, because it’s important that if you are going into transaction, you know, what you’re buying. And, of course, one of the biggest problems buildings can have is to have problems with the exterior building envelope, like water coming in, and all the nasty things that accompany that. So, thank you, for sharing your wisdom with us. And I look forward to having you back to the next podcast. I know it’ll be a different topic but thank you so much for coming on today.

Jason: Thanks for having me. It was fun.

Paul: So, in closing, I’d like to thank everybody for listening to our podcast today. If you’d like to get more information about GCI Consultants or our services. Our website is www.gciconsultants.com, and we’re on all the social media channels. If you’d like to call us about a specific item or you can reach us at 877-740-9990 for any of your building envelope related needs. Thank you once again for listening. I look forward to the next time on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is Paul Beers saying so long.

 

Is Your Building Prepared For Hurricane Season

Jesmany Jomarron – Founding Partner, FPJL Trial Attorneys

As hurricane season unfolds, we’re preparing for the possibility of tornadoes and thunderstorms that can cause storm damage to commercial properties and homes. Learn more about preparing your building for hurricane season from two industry experts; Jesmany Jomarron, the founding Partner at FPJL Trial Attorneys; and Paul Beers, a leading expert witness on hurricane damage and protection.

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.

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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

 

Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Paul Beers, the CEO and managing member of GCI Consultants. And I’m going to be the host today. I’m really excited today to have, as my guest Jesmany Jomarron who’s a senior partner at the law firm of Farrell, Patel, Jomarron & Lopez with offices in Miami, Tampa, and Puerto Rico. Jesmany, welcome.

Jesmany: Thank you, Paul. Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

Paul: So, Jesmany, can you please tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your firm, and then we’ll jump right into the topic.

Jesmany: Sure. Thanks for having me. My name is Jesmany Jomarron. I’m the managing partner at Farrell, Patel, Jomarron & Lopez. We’ve been in this business for over 10 years in, exclusively in the insurance industry business handling all kinds of claims, whether it’s a residential homeowner claims, commercial claims, community association claims like condos and HOAs. We work with many experts in the field. We have a network of individuals that we can address most of the concerns raised by insurance policyholders. We’re also a big player in the BP Oil spill crisis. We handled over 4,000 hotel claims at the time. So, we have a lot of resources in this industry and we’re available to help you guys with anything insurance related that you might need.

Paul: Yeah. So, I’m really excited because, you know…so listeners, we’re going to tell them a little bit about it, they don’t know this yet, but you and I have worked together now on a bunch of hurricane claims in Puerto Rico and in Florida. It’s been, you know, a good experience. So, we’d like to share that today with our listeners and hopefully offer them some insight because we’ve got that…what’s that date that’s coming up any day now?

Jesmany: The start of the hurricane season.

Paul: Yeah. So, it’s another year. Hopefully, nothing happens, but sometimes it does and we wanna be prepared…

Jesmany: Well, we’ve got enough to deal with right now with this pandemic, but we always got to be prepared just in case.

Paul: Yeah. You know, I mean, it almost stands to reason that, it’s a terrible thing to say, but you know, we have a pandemic, so probably we’ll get hassled by hurricanes this year to freak everybody out. So, you know, we’re talking that we’ve worked together, we’ve worked on some of the recent storms and thought maybe we just kind of talk a little bit about that, Irma, Maria, Michael, and then Dorian, which we haven’t done much work on yet. But that was the one that really scared everybody last year, a superstorm. And we started on Maria, do you want to maybe share some insights because I know that you’ve got deep connections with Puerto Rico as far as how that’s all going.

Jesmany: Sure. Our main connection with Hurricane Maria are the claims that we’re doing in Puerto Rico. There what we did is we mainly focused on how we could help the community the most. And we decided to focus on municipal claims and, you know, the bigger condominium claims and commercial claims in Puerto Rico. And one thing that we ran into there was the fact that they didn’t have the insurance laws in place like Florida does to really be able to stand a chance against some of the insurance companies’ defenses. For example, they didn’t have statutory fees. They didn’t have statutory bad faith. They didn’t have civil remedy notices.

And they had a very significant problem with the statute of limitations and some of the tactics being employed by the major insurance companies on the island, for example, including according to satisfaction language on the back of these checks so that if you tried to cash a partial payment, you know, it would immediately settle your claim. So, those are some of the things that we dealt with when we first entered the market and what we did is we spent most of 2018 lobbying to change those laws. And we were successful. So, we were able to have basically the verbatim version of the Florida insurance codes’ civil remedy notice, and their statutory bad faith and their statutory fees. We were able to translate it to Spanish and get it passed in Puerto Rico, so now Puerto Rico has that for future claims. And we’re still working on that. There’s significant litigation. Things are moving very slowly, unfortunately, in Puerto Rico but we feel confident that this is going to come to an end.

Paul: So, in my non-lawyer amateur view, when I first went in there, it was kind of like the wild wild West. Nobody really seemed to know what was going on and people were afraid to even put claims in. And it was a big mess. I know that you guys have done a lot of work on that and kudos to you for, you know, taking on a really big challenge and trying to help people out and get everything straightened out.

Jesmany: Well, we always try to do our best as a firm. That is definitely one of the things that we focus on. And then Hurricane Dorian, for example, we weren’t too involved as far as claims are concerned, but we tried to do our best to help The Bahamas. And through our firm mainly led by our partner, Ricky Patel, we were able to use our online presence and social media presence to be able to, you know, reach out to our followers and ask them to donate materials and supplies to The Bahamas.

And we got a huge response. We had no idea of the type of response that we were going to receive. We set out to have 500 pounds of merchandise sent over to The Bahamas and what ended up happening is we received, between everyone, once we did the tally, it was 130,000 pounds. It sounds like an exaggerated number, but it’s true. And it ended up making the news because we ended up having…so many people were mailing things for our office that we had Amazon trucks, UPS trucks, you know, FedEx trucks, you know, you name it, lined up down the street, down Biscayne Boulevard. The police showed up, code enforcement showed up. The fire department showed up all trying to figure out what the heck was going on in our office. And when they figured out what was happening, they put their stuff down and they started helping us, carrying things. And, you know, we were able to use some of our connections to get the things delivered over there. We got our stuff out there before even some of the biggest contributors like the Red Cross. And a lot of the merchandise that was distributed in The Bahamas at the beginning was as a result of this effort. And we got that stuff out. So that’s how we were involved in Dorian, not in the claims process, but at least in helping the community.

Paul: And boy, they really needed it too. I mean, that was just unimaginable, the intensity of that storm and then how long it just sat there pounding on them.

Jesmany: Absolutely. That was something that we were very happy we were able to do.

Paul: Yeah. Great job. And then, you know, the other storms, the Florida storms, Irma, which, you know, basically that was 2017. So, we’re getting…you know, we’re two and a half…over two and a half years from that now. And that was a really big storm that got a good swath of the main part of the State of Florida, right on up through the middle. You know, it started in Southwest Florida, hit Miami hard and then went right up through the middle of the state. And then Michael in the Panhandle was another one of these really intense storms. I was blown away by how severe the damage was. It was like a 40-mile wide tornado went through there and just crushed everything.

Jesmany: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Irma was one of the stronger storms we’ve seen that caused one of the highest amount of property damages, and we’re still dealing with, you know, very large amount of claims for Hurricane Irma, whether it be residential, commercial, condominium, community associations, you name it. There’s a lot to debate about Irma because although it was a very, very strong storm, the insurance company’s position in and a lot of these claims has been that the storm didn’t create these damages. This was wear and tear, or these are, you know, preexisting items, or faulty construction, or whatever it is, and they’re doing their best to avoid paying on a lot of these. So, unless you meet, you know, very technical requirements like, you know, people in the industry are very familiar with it, but, you know, homeowners and condominium associations are not as familiar. For example, you know, being able to photograph the opening from where the water intruded in your roof is not enough to just say, “Hey, water is intruding.” The insurance company is going to insist that you take a picture of the hole and it’s become almost like…we almost say jokingly at this point, but that is what it is, you have to have a picture of that hole.

And as far as, you know, for what our work is with the community associations, it gets way more complicated than that. And if they start doing research about, you know, your maintenance and your village and if you’ve had multiple boards, and then it becomes a situation where if you don’t have certain records, you might…you know, you can get accused of spoliating the evidence. And, you know, those become a little bit more complicated unless it’s a very clear, open and shut case of damage. For example, window being blown completely through, you know, that’s something that insurance will say, “All right, we’ll pay for that.” You know, but, you know, some of the work that you and I do together, Paul, on being able to explain where a window was not completely blown through, but it’s still damaged by the hurricane, usually there’s a lot of…that’s met with a lot of resistance.

Paul: Yeah. So, you know, it’s funny, that’s been my experience is that, that the insurance companies that they basically, with windows and doors, if the window’s on the ground, then, you know, sometimes they say put it back in, which is a little really extreme, but normally they’ll pay for that. And broken glass is another thing, but they seem to limit what they’re willing to pay for to those two events when, and I’m not an insurance expert…policy expert, but the policies, you know, basically said they’ll pay for damage. So, they’re defining damage in a very extreme way, where a window or door that may still be in the opening and say it’s bent or twisted or, you know, not…it has lost some of its integrity or leaking water, they almost never agree to that.

Jesmany: Yeah. That’s definitely our experience. And that’s why you and I got so much work together, getting those claims together and backing it up by the science.

Paul: Yeah. I think we both have found is that, you know, as time has gone on, people have come to realize that their windows were compromised by the storm, even if, again, if it’s not broken or blown out of the opening, they’re having issues with more noise coming through them. They’re having water intrusion occurring in normal weather patterns as opposed to, you know, just during the storm and things like that. So, you know, sometimes it’s not really readily apparent right after the storm, everything seems intact, but there’s underlying and sometimes hidden damage that’s coming up later.

Jesmany: Definitely. Don’t worry. We were talking about preparing for this hurricane season, but one thing I think is important to mention specifically about Irma is the fact that a lot of these policies are going to be expiring as far as the time frame allowed to file suit or to make a claim. Many of these commercial policies it’s three years. So, this September 2020, September 10, 2020, there’s going to be a lot of policies out there that if you didn’t make your claim, you might be out of luck at this point.

Paul: If someone’s got, let’s say if someone’s got, you know, in the path of Irma and are having these problems, maybe they submitted a claim and it was denied or they paid for the three broken windows and nothing else for the broken glass, or maybe they never even submitted a claim, but they’re having all these problems, at this point is there anything that they can do, or what should they do, I guess, may be a better question?

Jesmany: Oh, definitely. For sure, I mean, [inaudible 00:12:46] the lease they may have property damage, they should definitely take a look, especially if you’re a condo association or, you know, and you also do share responsibility with the other homeowners or you own a commercial property and, you know, you have responsibility maybe to your business partners to have these properties checked, especially when there’s firms out there like ours that is available to go and do this inspection for you for free. And that’s something that we do on a regular basis for our commercial clients and our condominium clients, where there’s a question we’ll go out there and take a look at the whole property. Many times we’ll even invite you to pause, you know, and, you know, you’ll take a look at the building envelope and a lot of times we’ll do a pre-inspection and let you know if we believe you might have a claim from Hurricane Irma or, you know, at least give you a health check on your property, especially going into hurricane season, which is, you know, what we’re here to talk about today, right?

So, what can we do to prepare for hurricane season? Definitely have an inspection by somebody, you know, like us, that’s qualified to do it and willing to do it for you so that you can have pictures. You can have documented proof of the condition of the property before you go into the storm season. So, in the event you do have damages, it’s going to be really easy to prove to the insurance company, during the claims and adjusting process that these damages didn’t exist before the storm and that now they exist and here’s the before and after pictures taken by, you know, other licensed public adjusters and experts like yourself and engineers, depending on what’s necessary. Many times we go ahead and we hire the right expert to go out there and take a look at these items. And for those insureds who believe they might have Irma damages, this is your chance. You’ve got very little…limited time from now to September. If you’re one of those policyholders where the policy says three years versus the standard Florida law, which is five years on breach of a written contract, you know, some of these policies are going to reduce that time to three years, so, this is really kind of like your chance to go in there and double-check, you know.

And this is important because the insurance company’s definitely going to take that position… Let’s say, now you do have another claim or you have a new loss. If there’s aspects of your building and your property that were actually damaged before by Hurricane Irma, they might take the position that, “Well, we’ll pay you for the new damages, but the old stuff you should’ve made a claim under Irma, under whatever policy you had at the time but now you can’t do it anymore.”

Paul: That’s a really good point. So, you know, we hear that all the time, you know, that they’re looking to see if there was a prior event that they could basically say, that’s the reason it’s damaged, not because of Irma. So, and then I really like the whole thing you were just talking about with getting it looked at beforehand. I’ve been involved in a lot of claims at this point, you know, from the experts’ perspective, and if I have a report or really credible documentation of what the condition was before the storm, it makes it much, much, much, much easier to present, you know, present the condition of the property to be able to show, yes, this was caused by Irma or by, you know, whatever the storm was.

Jesmany: Absolutely. Or at a minimum showing that the property is in great condition. And now when there are damages, the only cost has to be whatever this new storm is or whatever the new cause of loss is.

Paul: Right. You can’t do it after the event, right?

Jesmany: Exactly.

Paul: I mean, we try to piece things together, forensically, you know, and we can do a nice job with that, but it makes it so much easier to have some sort of history from before the event. So, thinking about the damage, you know, running out of time and whatnot, just so that the listeners really get a good understanding of what’s in play here, what are some of the common damage types that your firm is running across? We talked…I know we talked about windows and doors being one thing, but what are some of the other things that they should really be paying attention to at this point for issues that have arisen because of a prior storm?

Jesmany: Well, the issues from a prior storm, I mean…and it could be not even limited to a prior storm. Like we have a condo claim now where it’s a prior construction defect case, you know, and the insurance companies, that’s one of the biggest things they’re looking for, I feel, when you make your claim, they’re trying to make sure that the cause of loss that you’re suggesting it is, and you’re claiming it is, is actually what it was. And that’s where, like in a big combo claim, they’re going to ask you, “Well, we want to see all your maintenance records. We want to see what’s been going on with the windows. How often have you been fixing them? Have you had any other reports about these windows being damaged? Or the roof, what’s been the condition of the roof? How old is it? And have you had other leaks? You know, have you had other unit owners complaining? Have you been planning on replacing it anyways?”

These are items that they’re going to be looking for and they’re going to be trying definitely to shift responsibility in the direction where it may be a policy exclusion or some kind of a limitation would apply so that the…you know, it could be avoided, you know, to be paid based on the policy. And one of the things that you could do to avoid that is definitely knowledge is power. And now you know about it, you know, this is where they’re going to be coming from, so, definitely a health check before any storm is very important. It’s something that could be done on a yearly basis. And I know both of our firms are actually available for things like that. And definitely a free service that everybody should take advantage of this, listening to this. And then keeping good records, you know, because there will be a record request at some point and you want to have a clear chronology of what’s been going on with your property.

If you’re a residential homeowner, something I always recommend is, you know, do an inventory of your personal property, take a video with your phone. Now everybody has a cell phone, HD quality camera, right? So, you can take a video of your whole house of what your inventory is before the storm comes. You know, store important documents in a waterproof place. You know, this applies to commercial claimants and condo claimants as well, who have all these records. And, you know, in the event of a storm, you don’t know what’s going to happen and you don’t know if some of these things can be lost so, you know, digital copies also are very important too. Now some of the things that we’re running into for example will be…

And like I said, like, you know, we’ll have a roof claim on a residential property. The insurance company will say, “Well, that’s wind-driven rain. You know, we don’t see what’s called direct physical loss, right? We don’t see that a branch came in and, you know, the wind blew the branch and hit the top of your property of your home and made a hole in the roof that caused the water.” That’s like a very clear case from an insurance company’s point of view of a claim that they would pay because it’s showing direct physical loss. But if you’re in the middle of a storm and you’ve never had leaks in your home, and now you’re having leaks from different places in your roof and your ceiling, you’re not exactly sure where it’s coming from, the insurance company will say, “Well, that’s just, you know, wind-driven rain. That’s just, you know, you have an old roof, so we’re not going to pay for that unless, you know, you could show how exactly the storm caused these damages.”

And that’s where, you know, we’ll get experts to do [inaudible 00:20:02] tasks, we’ll do all kinds of stuff and like you said, kind of do a forensic analysis of the claim from that point of view. That’s one thing we definitely run into on a very, very regular basis. Another thing we’re running into is a lot of homeowners are buying policies that have water damage exclusions or very significant limitations. So, like only $10,000 because these policies are, I guess, less expensive and they’re more widely available on the market. And they’re just becoming more and more popular, which makes it difficult to make, you know, water claims on residential properties when you have that.

Paul: Yeah. You mentioned old roofs and, you know, and I guess the same thing would apply to older windows and doors. Would that preclude somebody filing a claim or from having damage if they have an old roof or old windows and doors?

Jesmany: No, no, not at all. I mean, there’s definitely policy exclusions that talk about wear and tear, talk about, you know, faulty workmanship or defects that are not going to be covered. And with the insurance companies always going to be pointing out, and what we have insurance professionals do, is we’re always looking for the direct physical loss. But I always like to say the insurance company insured it in that condition. It’s an old roof. They give you a brand new policy every year, it gets renewed. And they’re saying, we’re insuring this old roof against direct physical loss, so just because you have an old roof doesn’t mean it’s automatically excluded. You just got to have a good insurance professional, be able to explain to the insurance company how your old roof suffered new damages as a result of this cause of loss as to a storm. And then you’re…you know we get old roofs paid all the time.

And then, you know, you have a further analysis as to what kind of a policy that you have, you know, replacement cost policy versus an actual cash value policy. And so the difference is if it costs, you know, let’s say $30,000 to replace your roof, but you have an actual cash value policy, they’re going to say, “Well, your roof is a little old. We’re going to depreciate it by X percentage and pay you what’s called the actual cash value.” If you have a replacement cost policy and you go ahead and you do replace the roof and your invoices are higher than yes, [inaudible 00:22:13] paid by the insurance company then you are entitled to make a supplemental payment and get that depreciation that was withheld paid to you, or even supplement the claim to be higher because you went ahead and you replaced the entirety of the roof and it was higher than whatever the insurance company estimated.

So, that’s definitely for purposes of residential. For condo claims it’s very similar. You know, it works similar in that sense to a residential claim where just because you have an old roof doesn’t mean that it’s not going to get paid. We get them paid all the time. You just got to, you know, customize a strategy for every single claim and make sure that, you know, you provide the insurance company with the information that they need so that they can pay it pursuant to your policy.

Paul: Because the insurance company does have an obligation or opportunity, I don’t know what the word is, to actually confirm the condition of what they’re issuing the insurance policy for. In other words, if it’s an old roof, they should know that and if they say they want to exclude it from the policy, then they’ve kind of got their eyes wide open going into the field, don’t they?

Jesmany: Absolutely. And especially for the bigger commercial policies or the condo policies, most of these insurance companies will go out there and do an inspection themselves. So, it makes it even more difficult for them to take the position that they weren’t aware of something with your roof, you know? But definitely the key is, you know, direct physical loss is always going to be a little bit more difficult. And you and I run into this situation all the time when the insurance company doesn’t see the window on the ground, they’re going to say, “Well, we don’t really know.” You know, I read an opinion yesterday that was saying that, you know, everybody first stands on the top of a pin, you know, because, you know, you’re trying to like reread the policy exclusions in a way to avoid coverage as possible. But that’s why, you know, people like us are in business because we need to now get in there and at an expert level, at a scientific, technical level, be able to explain how these things are happening and how they’re real. Even if you can’t exactly see them, you could still through science prove for example, that these windows and these doors have been compromised by these very, very strong winds, you know, and, you know, putting… As an insurance lawyer, you know, it’s really important for us to have a big network of experts and qualified individuals that are going to be available to give us these opinions so that we can prove these cases for our clients.

So, in a window and door situation and building envelope situation, you know, you’re definitely one of the guys out there that’s going to help us, you know, put this together. You know, we might need, after that an engineer, you know, to put together a roof claim, or we just recently handled an elevator claim for a condominium association where the insurance company took the position that it can be repaired even though it was flooded completely in water. So, we had to hire an elevator expert to give us the opinion that no one wants these electrical components when the elevator has been submerged in water. Even though the elevator might be working right now because it dried out, it’s definitely decreased the life expectancy of those electrical components significantly to the point that, you know, the extra recommended, you know, replacement of all of those components. And with that expert’s report, we were able to convince the insurance company to agree with us. So, that’s what we do. That’s what we all do in this space.

Paul: So, the elevator story’s an interesting one because what is the insurance company’s…I know policies are different, but just in general, what is the insurance company’s obligation? Is it to get it working again? Does that meet the requirement of what they’re supposed to do or do they have to have it in a certain condition to basically meet the requirements of…or the obligations of the insurance policy?

Jesmany: Well, I mean, it largely depends on the type of policy you have. And especially when we’re talking about elevators, it means we’re going to be in a commercial policy or a condo policy. Commercial policies are going to be 100% custom. I mean, they’re going to be custom made usually together with the insured and the agent, depending on what kind of coverages you need. And for a condo claim, it makes it a little bit easier because there’s actually a Florida statute on point that dictates what needs to be covered by these policies.

So, taking a condo claim, for example, definitely, an elevator would be considered a common element of the condominium association, which has to be on the insurance policy. The statute even states if it’s not on the policy…well, as a matter of law, it’s going to be on there because Florida law dictates it when it comes to condominium policy, and the condominium policies are replacement cost policy. So, if the elevator is damaged, definitely, if an expert explains that it needs to be replaced, then that’s what the, you know, that’s what the insurance company needs to pay for, albeit they’ll pay you ACV at first, like we discussed earlier, an actual cash value. That means that there’ll be a depreciation hold back. And you won’t get that depreciation hold back until you show proof of invoices where you actually incurred the cost to go ahead and replace that elevator. But yes, that is exactly what you’re going to be entitled to under your policy, you know, at least in a condo claim. And, you know, I would anticipate for most commercial policies, there’s going to be the similar situation too, except the difference between maybe you won’t get the full replacement cost value.

Paul: Okay. So, like roofs. So, is this similar, let’s say roofs, they would have damage to some of the roof tiles, can they just replace the broken tiles or they have an obligation…? I mean, is that considered good enough for the insurance remedy or do they have to sometimes go beyond that?

Jesmany: So, that’s an issue that comes up every day, right, the roof, and how much of the roof requires full replacement versus a repair, right? In the residential context, you know, if you have a few broken tiles, the insurance company will normally say, “Well, we’ll just pay you to replace the three tiles. Then there’s the argument, well, those tiles are no longer available, so we need it to match, right? So, where are we going to find these tiles?” Then you get in… you know, there is a matching statute in Florida, but that only applies to residential claims. So, then you start with that back and forth. Can you find these tiles? Can you not? Are they still approved by the city, by the county to be on roofs in Florida or in your particular part of town? And many times, what kind of the rule of thumb we look for is if more than 25% of a residential roof was compromised, and then at that point is where we start talking about a full roof replacement based on the matching statute.

But when you talk about a commercial claim or a condo claim, it becomes more complicated, right? So in a condo claim, we’re talking commercial now so, there isn’t a matching statute for this, right, or for anything else, frankly, because this could apply to paint. It could apply to spackle. It could apply to a number of items that could be damaged during a storm. Right? So specifically on the issue of the roof, it’s going to be more a situation of is the city or the county or whoever the inspectors that are going to be, you know, supervising this job, are they going to require you to do a full roof replacement? And if we’re talking about a condo policy that has a replacement cost policy, no matching statute, you have proof of direct physical loss to a portion of the roof, if the inspector says, no, a repair is fine, I mean, that’s what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repair. If the inspection requires a full roof replacement, well, then you’re going to argue to the insurance company, I’m going to need a full roof replacement at that point.

But then the debate becomes whether or not this is what’s called ordinance and law coverage, which typically is further limited, you know, usually about 25% of whatever your full policy limits are. So, then in that case, you’re going to actually have to show as a policyholder that you did in fact replace your roof because under ordinance and law per statute is only going to be paid when you show you actually incurred this cost. And that’s when you’re going to be able to under an ordinance and law portion of the policy, get the full roof replaced in that situation. It’s a little bit complicated, but I hope that officially answered…

Paul: No, it’s good. You know, it is complicated, I guess that begs the question, why is all this necessary? I mean, why do people need to go through all this? Why don’t they just, you know, submit their claims and get them paid?

Jesmany: Well, I mean, that is totally a question I get all the time. Why do we need you? Why do we need a law firm? Why do we need to sue the insurance company? Why do we need all these experts? You know, isn’t that what I’m paying for on my policy already? And you are paying for that. The whole point of these insurance policies, when you have a claim, you should be in good hands, right? You should be able to just call your insurance company who already has a contractual fiduciary obligation to adjust your claims. And adjusting means that they’re going to come out there, do an inspection and tell you what your damages are.

Many of these policies are all-risk policies, which means everything’s covered unless there’s a specific exclusion. And then in a situation like that, you can say, “Hey look, my roof is leaking now, everything is covered. So, you insurance company, show me how this is not covered. Why do I got to show you the hole?” I refer to that because that’s kind of been the debate, but they’re saying, well, it’s excluded because it’s wear and tear. It must be an old roof that’s failing because that’s why it’s leaking. You see? So, the reason we have to do this is because insurance companies at the same time, I mean, it’s not all bad, right? I mean, they’re also trying to make sure that they’re only paying for legitimate claims, you know, and definitely, you know, the industry needs insurance companies only to be paying for legitimate claims. And then sometimes, you know, these claims, it becomes a matter of debate, you know, whether or not the claim is as a result of direct physical loss.

And it’s because what we were discussing earlier, you’re going after the fact. So, you have a storm, you have damages, you speak to the client. And 90% of the time I tell the client, “Okay, show me your records of the maintenance of your house.” They’re looking at me like what? I don’t keep records of the maintenance of my house, you know. Well, when was the last time you replaced the roof or do you have a, you know, one of those wind mitigation reports and one of those home inspections when you buy your property. Sometimes we’re closing off some of the property purchase that we have that and it does give us a pretty accurate idea of what the condition of the property was before the storm happened. But many times you don’t have that. So, you come in there and for example, with the windows and doors, I mean, you know, better than anybody, you know, a lot of times the windows and doors look fine just superficially when you’re looking at it, but you know at a scientific level, these windows are not going to be able to withstand hurricane-force winds the next hurricane season. And if these windows and doors don’t get replaced or significantly, you know, repaired or reinforced, somehow, they’re going to blow in. And then now we have lives at risk, right? It becomes a human safety issue, especially when we’re talking about powers.

And that’s one of the biggest arguments that we make all the time, is insurance company, you know, you cannot let this risk linger because if you don’t do something about these windows and doors, people could get hurt. And that’s what they have a policy for, you know, but we’re required to put that together because many times the insurance company doesn’t hire experts like yourself to go and look at it at a forensic level like that. They just do a visual inspection.

Paul: They do. You know, I guess the bottom line is it’s complicated. There’s really so many nuances. It’s not just trying to read the policy, which has the best [crosstalk 00:33:18.922].

Jesmany: That’s complicated as well.

Paul: Yeah, of course. And then it’s interpreting it and, you know, and then trying to get treated fairly and, you know, you make a good point. Insurance companies need to, of course be careful that they’re being treated fairly as well. So, the whole thing, I think is just complicated.

Jesmany: I did want to add one more thing. I mean, it is complicated, but it’s not like policyholders out there don’t have some recourse. You know, there are a lot of public insurance adjusters in the State of Florida, there’s a lot of insurance lawyers, you know. And for example, at least our firm, I’m speaking for myself and for your firm, I mean, whoever’s listening to this, if you want a free health check of your property, I mean, call us. If you want us to review your policy and let you know what coverages you have or what coverages you could add, you know, that are common things we’re running into that if you can change this one little thing in your policy, it can make a really big impact for you in the event of a storm, I mean, that’s what we’re here for. So it is complicated. It is going to be sometimes an uphill battle, especially with the bigger claims to get them paid because you have the burden of demonstrating a lot of things. Okay? But there are insurance professionals out there like yourself, Paul, and like myself that are ready to help you with all of these issues and make sure that you’re ready to go in the event we do have a storm and you need to make this claim.

Paul: Yeah, really good information, Jesmany. And hopefully, nobody’s going to need it this year, but you should be prepared regardless because the thing about these storms is once you know it’s coming, you know, there’s things you can do. You can take pictures and make sure you have your insurance policy and all that, but getting an inspection organized, you know, when there’s a week or less before the event’s going to hit, probably not going to happen.

Jesmany: Absolutely. We can even coordinate it…sometimes with a big storm or if we feel like a particular area of, you know, the state is going to be hit harder than other areas, those are the clients that we usually reach out to first. And we say, “Hey, look, it seems like your area is going to be targeted. You may have a lot of water loss. You know, you want us to go out there and have a team of people drop off air dehumidifiers. And we have a situation where we can, you know, have all of these things are already left in your property, so that if you do have a big water loss, we just go in there and plug it all in. You know, we already left, you know, the stuff to prevent mold, you know, the things to be able to dry out the water, for example.”

And that’s in addition to having your property inspected, which we recommend, you know, have us go out there every year. We’ll take a look at it every year and make sure that you’re ready to go and that there’s nothing missing on your policy or, you know, you’re ready for hurricane season, at least from the perspective of being ready to make a claim, you know. And then from the perspective of just making sure that your unit owners are safe, making sure that your property is safe, there’s sometimes things that you can…like, you know, if you have hurricane shutters putting them on or boarding up window. And every building and property is going to be different, but those are things that, you know, we can offer at the time. It’s like, okay, you’re getting ready. If you think a storm’s coming this is what we recommend to minimize the potential damages to your property. And, you know, we’ll explain that to you at the time.

Paul: Yeah. Really great information. So, Jesmany, thanks so much for being a guest today on the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

Jesmany: Yeah. You’re welcome. Thank you very much for having me. I really enjoyed having this conversation with you and being able to help, you know, anybody that’s listening out there.

Paul: So, Jesmany, do you want to tell our audience how they can get ahold of you and your firm if they have a need?

Jesmany: Absolutely. Anybody that needs anything insurance-related or wants to talk to our firm about the issues that we discuss here or other custom issues for you, just email us at insurance@justice360.com. My entire insurance team from my firm is going to be able to receive that email and someone is going to respond to you if not myself. And you could also give us a call at 305-300-3000.

Paul: And your website is?

Jesmany: Oh, our website is justice360.com. There you can go and take a look at our website. You can read a little bit more about me and the other attorneys in the office. We have some resources available for you to take a look at for things like hurricane preparedness. And you can see some of our former case settlements, some of our former work, some of our work with charities, how we give back to the community when possible.

Paul: Wow, lots of resources, really great. And I hope people in need can take advantage of that. So, thanks again, Jesmany, really good stuff.

Jesmany: All right. Thank you, Paul.

Paul: Thank you, everybody. If you want more information about my company, GCI Consultants, our website is www.gciconsultants.com. You can also reach us at 877-740-9990 or you can send an email to info@gciconsultants.com. Thank you once again for listening. I look forward to talking with you next time on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. And this is Paul Beers, and signing off saying so long.

 

Systems Processes and Working Remotely

Dan McCoy – Micro Enterprises LLC.

Episode 58 with Paul Beers and Dan McCoy

One of the best things any company can do is set up technology systems and processes that help prepare them to work under any circumstances. GCI was prepared for the current crisis and hasn’t had to make many (if any at all) adjustments to work remotely. We continue to deliver a rapid response to our clients now, and in the future beyond the current crisis. Here’s a look at some of the technologies and strategies we’ve been using with great success for the past decade.

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

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Paul: Hello, everyone. This is Paul Beers, CEO and managing member of GCI Consultants, and I am going to be your host today. Welcome back to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I am really excited about today’s guest and today’s topic. The guest is a guy that I’ve known for a while now and work with a lot. He’s actually our IT consultant. Dan McCoy is the CEO of Micro Enterprises. And we’re gonna be talking about the new situation a lot of people are finding themselves in. We’re recording this from home, of course, in the middle of the corona virus crisis. And a lot of companies are making a big switch right now from being in the office or being at work locations. And now, everybody has to work from home.

And there’s a lot of technology and infrastructure, and things like that, that goes behind it. For GCI Consultants, we’ve been working remotely for 10 years. Our change was zero. We do it really well. We’ve got a lot of experience. And I thought it would be interesting for everybody to just kind of hear about how we do it and what we do. And Dan, welcome.

Dan: Thanks, Paul. I appreciate it. And I’m excited for the conversation today.

Paul: Yeah. So, Dan is a big part of all this, obviously. His company, Micro Enterprises, provides the outsource support for all of our processes, and systems, and maintenance, and troubleshooting, and lots of other stuff. So, we thought maybe we’d talk about that Dan. And maybe you can start out telling everybody a little bit about yourself and your company. And then, we can jump into the topic.

Dan: Absolutely. So, I have run Micro Enterprises for, goodness gracious, now it’s…let’s see. I worked full time for another company for a long time while I started this company, but it’s almost 10 years now that we have been out on my own, if you will. But it’s not just us. In fact, most of the day-to-day support is handled by our great team. We’ve got six employees and it’s definitely a team effort. And Paul, you know, I think…and this is true for you guys. One of the strongest things that any company can do is set up great systems and processes. And a lot of IT companies, I think, are very reactionary where, you know, they wait until the IT…or until the client has a problem and the client has to call in. We call that break-fix or, you know, reacting. If you think about it, it’s really a problem from that standpoint because if I’m only billing you by the hour, then I’m making money when you’re down and you’re not making money when you’re down. And it’s a broken mentality.

So instead we choose to work with our clients, just like you, where we can charge a flat fee per month. But more importantly, what happens is it aligns our goals with yours. Because when you’re down, then I’m having to react. So, creating systems and processes together as a team with you to make sure that the things that are most important to you are taken care of, is the approach that we take. And now, we have a model called 3P. It’s protection, productivity, and profitability. And it’s a great model for any company to follow. And that is where you look at stabilizing the environment first, protecting them, and then helping them become more protected or productive and profitable, using strategy and technology. So, we’re gonna get into that a little bit.

Paul: Yeah. You know, I mean, there’s nothing worse than being down with your IT systems. And it’s complicated. I mean, you’ve got devices. And you’ve got internet providers, and users, user errors, all these kind of things that can come in, the whole security thing, and hackers. And there’s so many things. So, you know, we had worked with a few IT firms over the years, and Dan’s been with us for a long time now. And there’s a reason for that because everything he’s just…he’s begun telling you about, he’ll continue to tell you about, has really worked. And it hasn’t been, you know, “Call us when it’s broken,” which is really a horrible way to do things. It’s not that we don’t have things break, and they have really good IT support when that happens, but…Dan, maybe just talk a little bit about the big picture, what’s really important with working remotely, with regards to systems processes, security, those sorts of things.

Dan: Got it. So, the most important thing is that…And too many people start with the tactics. Basically, you know, they go, “Oh. Well, what internet speed do we have? Or what computer should we have?” Or things of that nature. And I think that’s kind of a broken way to think about it. The first question has to be is, “What are the company’s goals? What are we trying to accomplish? Is it, not have the overhead of an office? Is it to allow people to be at home with their family? You know, what is the strategy?” Right? Too many people start with the tactic. The question needs to be asked is, “What are we trying to accomplish?”

For example, with GCI, you have people who work out of their homes, employees, all over the state. So that helps serve your clients better because if we have somebody in the southeast section of Florida, say Miami, then you can dispatch somebody from Miami to go on-site. Whereas if they’re on the southwest coast, Naples, for example, then you can dispatch somebody from there. So, I think that makes a lot of smart sense when you’re trying to cover a broad area to not have to have people drive. Because it’s a waste of time if people are having to drive back and forth. So, I think that’s a perfect example actually of the strategy. Hey, we wanna have rapid response to be able to help our clients in various areas of the state, so how do we now accomplish it?

Right? That’s the strategy. And then, the tactic is, “Oh. Well, let’s see if we can have people work remote.” Okay. This is obviously…We’re not even talking COVID. We’re talking just general strategy and tactics. So, I think that’s probably a really smart way to think about it from a standpoint. And then, take each and every piece of that, Paul, going in and making sure that, “Okay. Now, what technology do we need to have in place to be able to accomplish that?” “Oh. Well, we need to be able to communicate effectively.” What does that mean? Then we start breaking that down. And, you know, a lot of this comes from your core values too. You’re a traction…you use the EOS traction system in your company before making sure you have great systems and processes. And I think the technology implementation of that is just an extension of that. I mean, how has that helped you when you move to that? Because you did that, you know, while we were working with you.

Paul: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s very critical. And I was just thinking when you were talking about this. The benefits, you know, some of them are kind of obvious. You don’t drive to the office every day. You save a lot of time just on travel time. Your infrastructure costs, as far as buildings and all that kind of stuff, are less. You can be more productive working at home. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that, that have suddenly been thrust into this during the coronavirus crisis. But then what are the challenges? So, the challenges are…well, the first thing everybody thinks about is…well, not everybody, but some people do. How do we know our people are working? And I can tell you, you know. So, you got to go from the time clock mentality to the get things done mentality. Now they need to always be available and be on call during certain hours of the day, likely, with a lot of positions. But you just know if they’re productive or not.

The second really big challenge is the whole communication, comradery, teamwork, those sorts of things. So, when you work from home, you can feel isolated, like we all do now on this stay at home order. But, you know, that can be a regular feeling even in normal times. And that’s something that you’ve really gotta come up with good systems and processes. And Dan, you mentioned the EO system, which is the Entrepreneurial Operating system that some companies use. And it brings a lot of structure to how you do things. And it includes daily check-in calls. It includes weekly meetings and things like that. And instead of, you know, driving to the office and trying to get everybody there, we do it via video conference. And we can turn on the cameras and see everybody. And, you know, maybe a couple of them are together for whatever. But everybody can check-in at the same time each week and go over everything. So, the process part of that is really important.

Dan: Agreed. And you mentioned the strategy. Right? That daily check-in. And we’re gonna talk about the tactic and how we actually accomplish that at GCI. But the one other thing I wanna bring up is the fact that you have people…this is really a personality-driven thing too. You gotta hire the right people. Right? So, you have to hire people, you know, who are a fit for your core values and for the way you operate. But…Because there’s some people who, you know, come from a 9 to 5 job, if you will, with a bunch of people. And now, they start working at home. And that’s a tough adjustment for some folks. Others excel at that. So that is an individual thing with a person.

However, whether it’s this situation or just working at home in general, a great solution or tactic to solve that problem is the Microsoft Office 365 suite of products. It contains many different pieces which are useful in working remotely, but one of those is Microsoft Teams. So, there’s other products that allow this capability too, but Teams does it very well. And it’s included in the suite of products. Microsoft Teams gives you the ability to not just do things like video conference calls. Many of you are familiar with Zoom. They’ve risen, or zoomed, pun intended, to great heights. I mean, I think I heard that they went from like 10 million users to 2 million users in like 3 days. It was insane. And they had some security and infrastructure problems in doing that, but they’ve handled it fairly nicely.

But Teams gives you the ability to all get on a call and see each other. We use the same thing. In fact, we run our company on EOS and traction also. In fact, I think we may have even been doing it prior to you guys. And so, that level 10 meeting, that once a week, hour-and-a-half-long meeting that we have that allows our team to really get together and identify, discuss, and solve the problems that we have is done once a week via Teams. Because I am also a virtual company. I actually own two companies. But one of our companies is virtual, Micro Enterprises. And our IT support, since we support people all over the company, our employees work out of their house.

And you hit the nail on the head, and I love this, Paul. That is, you switched this mentality from putting time in, trading time for dollars, time in, to a productivity model. We know what needs to be accomplished. Well, are these things getting accomplished? For example, in our company, we have a ticketing system. We know what needs to be accomplished because it’s all done in the system. And so, are the tickets getting closed? Are the project getting completed? How far into the project are we? That’s all documented. So, you know the performers and the underperformers.

Paul: You do. You do. And it becomes really obvious. You know, the best part about the whole work from home thing, once you really get in the groove, is it suits people’s…The lack of rigidity is actually an asset. You know? So, if you have to go pick up your kid at school, or you have…like this morning, I got my hair cut at 9:00, it’s not a disruption. It’s just, you know, “Okay. From 9:00 to 9:30, I’m getting my hair cut.” And even better, I had somebody come to my house today and I had it done in the garage, which was great. That’s somebody else now that…the haircutter that came over that’s now basically providing a different variation of the service. But I think we’re seeing a big shift, you know. As we get through this, maybe we’ll talk about that a little bit more.

Dan: I think few people leave a company just for money reasons. I think…In fact, I know better because there’s been data to prove this, that people leave companies because they don’t feel appreciated, or they don’t feel that they have been heard, or they don’t see a room for advancement. Money is usually pretty low on the list of things that people leave companies for. So, if you step back a minute and look at, why do people leave, and how do you avoid that and create a work environment? If they have the freedom…and you mentioned it a minute ago. If they have the freedom to know that, if they need to step out and take care of their kid for a second, that they can do that and, “Oh, I haven’t stolen company time that I can…I still have a job I’ve gotta get done. So that maybe means I work a little bit later to get the job done.” At the end of the day, if the job is getting done, isn’t that what we as business owners want?

Paul: For sure. And you know, and this speaks to quality of life. So, quality of life is that it doesn’t have to be all about work. You know, you’ve got personal relationships, and families, and other interests, and things like that. And working from home, you’ve gotta be careful that some of the things don’t take away from your productivity. But it can be a really good blend that works better, and the staff is happier, the team is happier. When it works well, it works really well. And for most people, it can work well and it does work well.

Dan: It does. And you bring it back to our whole core value mindset. The core value…Like in our case, we have a core value. Our number five core value is enjoy life and balance the journey. That’s designed for our team. It’s not all about work. It’s about quality of life. We gotta be productive, but we also need to enjoy life because if we can’t take care of ourselves, then we can’t take care of our clients. So, you know, hiring somebody who gets that concept is wonderful. But, you know, I wanna take this back for a second because we talked about Microsoft Teams. Let’s talk about a little bit more about the rest of the Microsoft suite. Maybe you can talk about some of the ways that you have used that.

But in Teams, you can collaborate. And this is the key piece. It’s not just video conferencing anymore. It’s now the ability to allow you to dial in. For example, if you have to join a meeting, or you wanna join a meeting but you don’t have your computer in front of you, there’s an app on your phone. So, the other day, we have our daily check-in. Right? It’s at 9:15 every morning. And from 9:15 to 9:30, we try to keep it as tight as possible, just a daily check-in, “Hey, what’s going on?” Get everybody on the same page. We actually call it our Same Page meeting. I think that might be some EOS terminology.

We actually…One day, I was out running, and I lost track of time. And I was out exercising snd I’m like, “Shoot, it’s 9:15.” So, I grab my phone, stopped in the park, it was a beautiful day, and brought the Teams app up on phone and joined our Same Page meeting, and stood there for 15 minutes, and had my Same Page meeting out at the park. So, you don’t actually…And that’s the beauty, technology gives you freedom to do what you need to do from wherever. I could be on a beach in Tahiti. If I’ve got an internet connection, I can make the call. I can still get business done. It creates flexibility and allows you to be productive wherever you’re at.

Paul: Yeah. So, you know, one thing that comes to mind with all that is that the way that we’re set up is, you know, in the flexible collaborative type of environment. So, everything that we’ve got comes from the cloud. We don’t have any servers or, you know, machines, or anything like that. I think I might have one back-up device or something like that. But we don’t have any…everything’s cloud-based. So, it’s an application. You know, if your computer crashes, you need a new one, you can just bring all that stuff back in from the cloud. You’ve really lost nothing. So, the security concerns we used to have with server room, you know, what if there’s air conditioner breaks? What if a key piece of equipment breaks? Or what if there’s a hurricane and the roof blows off? That’s totally not a concern anymore, zero concern.

And the other thing that you were just touching on that’s really important, I think, is that everything that we do, there’s a mobile version of it. Every single application that we have, there’s a mobile version. So, like you, you could be…not today, because of the coronavirus, stay at home and whatnot. But you can be sitting in an airport, you can be at a job site, you can be exercising, you could be sitting out in front of the supermarket, whatever, and you communicate, you collaborate. We use a file storage application called Egnyte. And we have all of our files on Egnyte. Egnyte is a really great system. But anything that’s on the server, I can look it up on my phone. So, if I’m at, say, a job site, and somebody says, you know, “Does your proposal include such and such?” I can say, “Well, let’s see.” And in about 10 seconds, or maybe if I’m booting up, whatever, 30 seconds, I can have that document on my phone and looking at it. And that’s super powerful, something that…it’s a capability that is far beyond anything that we had in the past.

Dan: Agreed, Paul. And I will just take that a little bit further and go a little bit deeper. The strategy is, how do I make sure that my stuff is backed up, that it is secured? And we’ll break down what security means at a different level. I highly recommend that…You know what? I’m not gonna get into that just yet. Let me just…that it’s secured, that it’s available. And this is the key. So, the old model, when you had a server, is you gotta log on. So, you’re in your house…or sorry, in your office. You can get to…you map a drive. We’ll call it the X drive or the Z drive. Right? You map a drive to the server. And then, everything is stored at that central location. Well, we need to make sure that it is stored at the central location because we wanna make sure that it can be backed up. Right? That’s the concept of storing it centrally so that we don’t have files on people’s computers, and if their computer crashes, then company data is lost.

But what Egnyte has done is just taken that concept and pushed it up into the cloud. So just to be clear, right, the cloud is just servers that are in a data center somewhere else. At the end of the day, I’ve seen jokes about this, but they call it the cloud. You can’t see this thing. And they have this picture of this guy with a bunch of servers in his living room. That’s definitely not what Egnyte is. But Egnyte gives you the ability to have the data stored elsewhere and have it accessible from any device. So, whether you’re on an iPad or a Mac, a PC, a laptop, a mobile phone, Android or Apple, we don’t care, whether you’re on your actual computer, maybe you just need to log on via the web, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of where you’re at or how you’re trying to access it, the data’s available.

And from a security standpoint, Paul, this is really important, especially in a medical environment or something of that nature where HIPAA and things like that are important, everything is logged. So, every time somebody accesses a file…heck, I can have it email me, if I want to, every time someone adds a file or deletes a file. I mean, it’s very very powerful. And so, it gives us visibility. So, if you have a rogue employee…because this never happens, right? If you have a rogue employee who leaves the company and takes the data with them, and decides they wanna download 10,000 files, then boom, you can see that. You can see so and so downloaded 10,000 files. And then, you got some questions to start asking, why so and so just downloaded 10,000 files.

But you can go back and see who has permissions to this, permissions to that. You can give permissions to people. So, if you have an employee that just has a need-to-know situation where maybe they only need to access two or three directories, you can give them permissions to only access those two or three directories regardless of what device that they’re on. You can tell them they can’t even…You can turn off the capability of accessing it even from a mobile device if you don’t want to. And there’s one more piece that I want to add to this, and it’s super important. And we rolled this out with you guys. And we roll it out with all of our clients. And that is two-factor authentication. Let’s face it. It’s a big pain in the neck because it’s extra security, it’s extra steps and hoops you gotta jump through to be able to log in the first time you do it. However, two-factor authentication is something you know, your password, and then something you have.

So, there’s an app that runs on your phone that, when you go to log in, you put your username and your password in. But then, it sends a…we call it a push, to your phone. And you have to go approve it on your phone to be able to log in. So, if somebody got ahold of your username and password, but they didn’t kidnap you and have you held hostage and got your phone in front of you, then they’re not getting into this thing. So, from a security standpoint, we recommend, regardless of what technology it is, whether it’s Office 365, whether it’s Egnyte, whether it’s your bank, whether it’s Facebook, all those things, that you enable two-factor authentication. It’s one of the best ways that you can remain secure.

Paul: Well look, it’s a pain, but you get used to it. It’s a very, very, very minor inconvenience at this point. So, you’ve got the security, you’ve got the access, you’ve got all that stuff. But another thing that you have with an app such as Egnyte is it’s a very collaborative environment too. So, we can open documents in Office 365. Say we’re working on a big report and there’s two or three of us working on it, we can open it, right from Egnyte, on Word Online let’s say. And all three of us can work on the same document at the same time, maybe in different pages or whatever. Everything’s saved real-time. And it’s super cool and super powerful to be able to do that. In addition to that, if we were just, you know, putting it…say we put a new document in on a project. There’s a feature called comments. And you can actually go to the Egnyte screen where the document is, select comments. And you can write in there, @danmccoy, “Dan, please review this and let me know what you think and if there’s any changes.”

Then, you can take that document, go through it, maybe make some changes, and then go back to the comments and say, “I reviewed it. I changed section five, line three. And I want you to take a last look at it and see if we’re good to go.” And you can just go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And there’s kind of like a transcript of who’s doing what along the way. So, there’s so much stuff just with the file storage that you can do. And it’s so collaborative because not only does it have its own collaboration features, but it brings you, you know, into Office 365, which has a whole nother suite of collaboration features. And I mean, let’s face it, collaboration’s what it’s all about these days, especially in the teamwork environment.

Dan: Collaboration and integration. And we don’t wanna forget that part, because you kind of touched on it without completely saying it. But you can open things right from Egnyte in Microsoft Word and save them right back to Egnyte from Microsoft Word without ever having to save it first on your computer and things of that nature. So, what’s really powerful about that is, for example, every email that I send out has part of our system is attached to it. So, every email that goes out has two things. One, it has at the bottom…And this is me. I don’t do this with everybody, but we have the capability. And that is, if you get an email from me, at the bottom, it says, “Click here to send me files securely.” And if you click that link, it gives you the ability to upload a file that is large and it does it securely.

So, once you do that, it actually drops it right into Egnyte. And as soon as somebody does that, I get an email saying, “So and so, Paul Beers, just sent me a file.” And then, I can just go right into my folder, right on my Explorer window, just like I would browse any other folder on my computer. And I’ve got access to that file that you just uploaded to me. It puts it right in a folder with your name and email address on it. So, it’s super powerful. And you can go the other direction too. I can send you files securely that are password encoded, that automatically expire, you know, a week from now, two weeks from now, whatever, it’s settable.

And so, if I have a sensitive file that I’m sending my banker or whatever, I can say it’s gonna expire in two days. And I can separately send him the password snd he can access that file. And then, I don’t have to worry about it being available after two days. It just auto disappears. So, there’s a lot of collaboration capability, but there’s also a lot of integration. So, it ties in with just about every major platform out there, HubSpot. It ties in with Docusign or WriteSign, or any of those document signature platforms. So, for example, I used Adobe EchoSign. And I can right-click on a document and say, “Send with EchoSign.” It will send the file to you for you to sign electronically. Then, you sign it. And as soon as you sign it, it puts the signed copy automatically right back in my folder snd I don’t have to do anything. So, it’s very powerful.

Paul: It really is. And by the way, I was just taking notes about the click here notes with email. So that’s a great idea. And I’ll be putting a ticket in when we’re done for that.

Dan: I actually purposely did that because I know that many of you are not using that capability in there. But it is, it’s very powerful. And then, couple that in with our microdefender systems, which are our spam filtering and virus filtering systems that keep the junk from getting into your email, or at least minimize the junk from getting into your email. Also, using that system, we don’t even have to add…like when we send emails…And I’ll just mention this now because this is something we implemented with you guys. You had a challenge. When I came onboard, one of your challenges was that everybody was setting up their signatures via the device. So, one guy had one signature that looked one way. Another guy had another signature and it looked the other way. If he sent it from his iPad, it looked different than if he sent it from his mobile phone than if he sent it from the Outlook on his computer or the web. It always looked different. So, you didn’t have a continuous look.

And this is something…again, we’re taking it back up to strategy. As a company, one of the important things is to have a common branding, and a feel and a look to the way you do things and what you do. So, why would you want to have different looking signatures? So, we implemented a system called Exclaimer that automatically…We set up a template as to what the signatures look like. And then, it pulls the content for your name, your phone number, your fax number, your address, whatever, right from Office365. So, I have one template that when Paul sends an email to me, has his name, and his title, and his phone number populated into that.

And then, if one of the other employees send something to me, say, Chris, then his information is populated. But it’s all being generated by the same system. Now, the powerful thing about that is no matter what device I send it to because we’re using cloud-based systems, no matter what device I send it from, whether it’s the iPad, the phone, or the computer, it automatically puts that same signature on there so it has a uniform look. And that just tightens up the visuals and the branding of what a company has.

Paul: Yeah, really good. And, you know, the other thing I was just thinking about when you were saying that about talking about emails is the worse way to send documents around is email. And that’s what we used to do, you know. We’d review something, email it. Then you’d review it, email it back. We had all these versions floating around. And it was a disaster. So that’s been overcome. And the document transmittal with downloading and uploading directly from the server is a really great thing. And it works so much better than the old ways of doing things. Real quick, the last tactic I wanna cover, Dan, and then we’re gonna wrap things up is tell about when you’re in the cloud, you end up with enumerable usernames and passwords. Now, you know, I used to have like the same password for everything. And I know you’re gonna…And I know that that’s really really bad. And so, you helped us put in some systems to overcome that. And if you could quickly maybe just run through that, the final tactic piece that we’ll talk about today?

Dan: Yeah, absolutely, Paul. And before I mentioned that but let me just talk about why real quickly. Cybersecurity, and there’s a lot of stuff behind the curtain that Paul doesn’t even get to see that we do on a daily basis. We have systems being watched 24 by 7 from a standpoint of cybersecurity. So, if for some reason, a virus gets on his computer and it attempts to call home to, you know, mother Russia or whatever, we get notified of that right away. And so, we talk about the why. Paul, I was looking at this the other day. There’s a website out there called av-test.org, av-test.org. And if you go there, it keeps track of all the known new threats that it sees. And I don’t have time to pull it up right now. But when I looked at the other day, we were averaging, in April, 350,000 new, never seen before threats. We’re talking viruses, malware, malicious software, things of that nature, 350,000 new threats per day. Let that sink in for just a second, 350,000 new threats a day.

Now, the reality is your antivirus and the software that you have on your computer simply cannot keep up with that. So, if you’re going and buying the old traditional Norton McAfee antiviruses from Best Buy, things like that, and putting them on your computer. it’s 30-year-old technology that has a database. And they have to put that virus in the database before the system recognizes it. And on average, it’s 30 to 60 days before that gets added to that database. We actually track all that information. So that’s actual factual data based upon what we’re tracking. Think about that. If there’s 350,000 new threats today, do the math. In 30 days, you’re toast if you click on the wrong thing. If you click on an email from someone that’s been hacked, you’re toast. So, there’s gotta be…there’s newer technology out there. And I won’t get into the details now for time. But there’s newer technology, we call it next-generation threat management, that looks at behaviors and what’s happening.

So, when you understand that this behavior, if it occurs, is potentially bad, then I can flag when that behavior occurs, as opposed to just having a database that says that this program is bad. So, the concepts and the way we look at cybersecurity is important. And you gotta think about this. I mean, this is also a big problem with everybody working at home. And we can cover this, if we have time, maybe in another broadcast. But I wanted to preface what I was about to say with all of that. if you understand that their goal, okay, their goal in doing this is to capture a username and password. If you’re going to have a password…That’s one of their goals. If you’re going to have a bunch of different passwords, or even one password…If there’s one password that you make different than every other one, could you hazard a guess which one that would be Paul? But if there’s one password that should be different than every other password that you have…I recommend they all be different. But if there’s one, which one do you think that would be?

Paul: My bank account.

Dan: Okay. That’s a really good guess. The answer is the email because, think about it, the email is a central place for them to reset every password that you have. Because what do they do when you send a password reset? It sends an email to your email account. So, if I can compromise your email, then I can get to just about anything. And I’d bet you, if I go through your email, I can figure out who you bank with. I can figure out all of the accounts you have. Because our emails are bread crumb trails for lots of cybersecurity attacks. So now, that one password should be different. If you don’t use a system like I’m gonna recommend, your email password should be the one that’s different than everyone else. However, what if you could have your every password be different and completely random and 16 characters long so that you never have to remember it again, and it’s near impossible for anybody to guess because it’s completely randomized?

That’s where a password manager comes in handy. There are enterprise accounts that you can get like we use. And those accounts allow the administrator to control all that. So, for example, if you need to terminate somebody or somebody leaves the company, whether they leave under good terms or not, standard process dictates that we have a process that locks them out of all accounts immediately. So, you don’t get into this, “Well, they’re good people. We can be a little slower at it.” No. Standard process, and from a security standpoint, is that you shut them down right away. Well, how do you do that? Well, when you have systems, you can flick a switch. And you have processes that tell you all the switches you need to go flick. So all of your passwords, in one location, they’re encrypted, and you just have to remember one password. And that’s the one to get into your LastPass. And oh, by the way, set up two-factor authentication on that like we talked about before.

But if all of them are random passwords, then when you go to a website…This is also a productivity tip. You go to a website to log in, boom, it populates automatically because you’ve already authenticated and logged in. So, it’s faster. You don’t have to remember the password. Oh, you have to pull your notebook out, which is highly secure. Right? I saw a guy the other day, Paul, he had his passwords taped to the back of his phone, his mobile phone. Because nobody ever loses their mobile phone, right?

Paul: Yeah. It’s a big problem. And I can tell you, I have different passwords for everything now. It even has my credit card information and it can auto-fill in. So I don’t store credit card information anywhere anymore. Like the airlines, hotels, they all get breached. I don’t do that. I just don’t.

Dan: If there’s one thing you hear me say though, Paul, if there’s one thing you hear me say in all of this is, we’ve talked about a number of pieces of technology, but we cannot just simply go, “Oh. Well, I like this and I’m gonna go implement it and I’m just gonna throw it in.” There has to be some strategy. And if you don’t have the ability, whoever you is that’s listening to this, if you don’t have the ability to think strategically or understand what you don’t know because the things you don’t know are the things that will bite you, then you need to definitely reach out to…hopefully, you have an IT company that can think strategically for you and help you along with this. At the end of the day, you gotta think and implement these things strategically, and not just grab a piece here, grab a piece there, and toss it in a big pile.

Paul: Ad hoc doesn’t work, you know, I wanna get this, I wanna get that. Everything’s gotta work together. And having a plan is really key. So, you know, I think the thing that, you know, that we’ve learned with all this over time, and it’s really helped us…And I hope that we’ve shared some information that’s really gonna help the listeners. But the big benefit here…you know, I’ve talked about how it’s benefited us. But the really big benefit is how much it’s benefited our clients, you know. So, we’re able to deliver a higher, better level of service to them in a secure professional, and an easy way, I mean, just moving the documents back and forth, and the look and feel of the documents, and the teamwork and the effort that goes into everything, and the availability of information, you know, at short notice. So, the benefit here, which is what we really strive for, is to really help our clients get the best possible service and result. And, you know, that’s what it’s all about. So, all this stuff, as you say, it’s strategy, tactics, all that, it’s all great. But ultimately, it’s what’s delivered to the clients. And it’s all that helps make us great and helps make them great as well.

Dan: It’s all part of the sales process. And this is the key piece. We didn’t talk about this. But from a sales strategy standpoint, I’m gonna tell you, Paul, when I sell, my entire sales process is all focused on helping me understand what our clients’ needs are and solving them. I’ve often said, and I’m sure you’ve heard it said too before, if you focus on and give other people what they need, you’ll never go hungry a day in your life. And, you know, your valid mission and purpose in a sales process has to be helping your client get what they need and serving them at the highest level. That means focus 100% on them. Our number two core value is serve others. So, if you do that, then technology becomes a strategy for sales. And it all ties together. So, if you’re pulling it up a level…we didn’t really talk about this. But now, sales and technology and the strategy behind that become one. And that’s really important, I think.

Paul: Yeah. So, you know, I think about our core values. And, you know, they’re all basically trying to do just that, to really give the best possible outcome for our clients and have the team grow along the way. And number four, we hold ourselves to the highest professional standards. And you’ve gotta have a good foundation to be able to do that. Everybody’s gotta be on the same page. Everybody’s gotta be working together. And things have gotta be done in a really good, efficient, and quality way to achieve the highest professional standards.

Dan: Totally agree.

Paul: Yeah. So here we are. We’re in the coronavirus. We’re working from home. That’s what we do anyway. That’s no big deal for either one of us. What’s this thing gonna look like come out the other side? What’s the new normal gonna be, do you think, as far as with regards to today’s topic in general?

Dan: Well, I think that’s still probably taking shape. And it will become clearer what the new normal is. But I think you’re getting a lot of differences. So, I’ll give you a perfect example. In addition to owning this company, I also own an electronics store. It’s actually a Radio Shack dealership here in Pennsville, New Jersey. And one of the things that I threw out there is, “Hey. Is anybody sitting here at home wondering whether trying my hand at entrepreneurship is something that I wanna do?” I mean, I think you’re gonna see a shift. People are rethinking what is important to them. As they’re sitting home with their families and getting to know the people that they haven’t seen in a while because they been working so much, I think the whole economy…not just economy, but the whole world has gotten a reset button. You know, it’s easy to look at this thing as being a problem and it’s a bad thing. But I think there’s a lot of good that has come out of it.

So the reset button has been pushed. And because that reset button has been pushed, we now have the ability to look at things with a different set of lenses. So, what does the future look like? I have people who…I have 10 people signed up for an entrepreneurship class that I’m going to be teaching to talk about some of these types of things. And what is the mindset of an entrepreneur? Some people are saying, “Hey. Maybe I wanna try my hand at doing something different. I’ve always had a passion for this. And now, I wanna go see how I can implement it.” So, I think you’ve got some people who are going to be doing that.

I think you’re gonna see some people who are gonna wanna homeschool their kids. They’re like, “Man. I’ve gotten used to this thing, and I’ve gotten to know my kid a little bit better. And they’ve gotten to know me a little bit better. And heck, I’m gonna wanna do that.” In fact, I think there’s probably some parents that are saying exactly the opposite. “I can’t wait for my kids to go back. I’m not cut out for this.” But, you know, there’s…

Paul: Well, you know, I mean, the educational system…who knows? May have to go a fundamental change, where maybe there is some more from home type of learning. It’s not all sit in a classroom all day. Things like that are gonna play out.

Dan: You’re spot on.

Paul: Yeah, exactly. And like you say, we don’t know exactly where that ends up. Things that I’ve noticed just so far, the explosion in the use of Zoom is just staggering. I mean, like you said, it was 10 million. I read just today or yesterday in an article; it went from 10 million a day to 300 million a day.

Dan: Yep, that’s true.

Paul: And that’s gonna become a mainstream part. I mean, they sort of grabbed…I don’t think they had a plan or anything. It just sort of happened, I think, because their technology was good. But they’ve grabbed a big chunk of the market, and that’s not going to go away. And, you know, the work from home thing, I think is gonna be the same. I mean, it’s gonna be…not look the same. It’s gonna change and it’s gonna be a lot different. A lot more people are gonna do it. It’s gonna hurt the commercial real estate market, there’s not gonna be as much of a demand for real estate, and just on and on and on and on.

Dan: As I sit there, right now, with an empty spot in my commercial building, waiting to get rented, that we were very close to closing right as all this crap hit and now is on hold, hearing what you’re saying, you’re right. You’re right. And now, you know what? I wanna say this too. Video collaboration is good, and it works. But there still are times when getting in the same room and hashing something out is more efficient. And so, having a space, one of those coworking spaces that you have a share in, if you will, something like that…A lot of downtown spaces have these, I forget what they exactly call them but coworking spaces. That’s, I think…

Paul: They’re great. That’s what they call them. That’s what they call them and they’re great. I’ve worked in them on occasion. They’re great. They’re really great.

Dan: They are. But back to my store. Because I had this store, I’d get to see a lot of people coming in and purchasing products that were helping them do this at this time, exactly what you’re talking about. So for example, Bank of America, I had bunches of people who work at Bank of America, different departments, the fraud department, all kinds of different departments, coming in to buy adapters to be able to adapt their headphones to their mobile phones because that’s what they’re doing now. Their fraud department is talking to you on a mobile phone, out of their house, because it’s being forwarded from their phone system. And you know, Paul, we didn’t talk about this, but phone systems is another key important piece.

Those companies, right now, that have traditional phone systems, what we call the old POTS, or Plain Old Telephone Service systems, they’re in a world of hurt. And I can tell you that our company has sold 12 phone systems in the last 3 weeks, I say sold, has implemented 12 phone systems. And it’s the same systems that you guys are using because our engineers worked overnight for two straight nights when this happened to create a softphone that you probably don’t even know about yet because we just launched it. But we now have the ability to not even have a physical phone, and either have an app on your mobile phone, which we have had, but now there’s app on the desktop. And it’s done right from the web. And we now have the ability for you to log in to that app and put a cordless phone on your…like a Bluetooth phone on your headset, link it to your computer, and make and receive calls right from your computer. You don’t even need a physical phone. And that’s all implemented.

So the same integrations and collaborations that you’re talking about where you can make calls from your mobile phone, but not come from your cell phone, it comes from the office line if you don’t want people to see your cell phone number, that’s the technology, another piece of key technology, that has to be implemented. And those folks who had the old telephone services, when their business is closed, they’re kind of stuck. They can’t do business from home if they could have done business from home.

Paul: Technology is a wonderful thing. I thought about that, and we’re gonna end on this. I thought about that. What if this would have happened 10 years ago? You know, the whole world probably would have shut down. Because the technology, that’s probably 100 times better than it was 10 years ago, is a huge, huge help with this.

Dan: It is. It is. And I hate the term “social distancing.” It’s not social distancing. If anything, we’re becoming socially closer. It’s physical distancing. And without the advent of Facebook and things like that, I mean, I don’t know how people would survive. And, you know, they need…we as humans desire to be around other people, whether it’s feeling loved through your work or whatever it is, people desire to be around people, and they have to be able to communicate and collaborate. So yeah, I don’t know what it would have looked like. It would have been a whole different world, you know. That’s for sure.

Paul: Yeah. Well look, we’re a social species. So anyway. Dan, thanks so much. Really good stuff. Interesting. I hope it’s of interest to our readers. I know it’s a little off-topic from our normal technical type of things. But I also know there’s a lot of interest in this. Do you wanna tell people how they could get ahold of you if they’re so inclined?

Dan: Yeah, absolutely. If you go to our website, you can go to www.microent, that’s microent.net. You can fill out a form and reach out if you have some questions. You can also…I’ll give you my personal email address. You can reach out to me, to dan.podcast@microent.net, microent.net, dan.pocast@microent.net. So, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out, happy to answer them. And thanks, Paul, for the opportunity to share the cool stuff that we get to implement for you.

Paul: Yeah, good. Great stuff. So, closing, I’d like to thank everybody for listening to our podcast today, “Everything Building Envelope.” And I invite you to take a further look at our company, GCI Consultants, and the services that we provide on our website at www.gciconsultants.com. You can also reach us at 877-740-9990 toll-free if you have any Building Envelope related needs you’d like to discuss. Thank you once again. I look forward to talking with you next time on “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. So long.

COVID-19 Protocols for Building Envelope Inspections

Paul Beers and Janice Hoffman – GCI Consultants

Episode 57 with Paul Beers and Janice Hoffman from GCI Consultants talking about COVID-19 Protocols

The new normal for the construction industry is being defined right now. Keeping people safe is the name of the game. What has changed is that we’re implementing new COVID-19 safety protocols and training for all GCI personnel – this includes our inspectors who come onsite at your property. What hasn’t changed is our dedication to providing our expert opinions and experience to assess and interpret the damage to your property.

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

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Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is Paul Beers, CEO and managing member for GCI Consultants, and I’ll be your host today. We have a really special guest today, Janice Hoffman. Hi, Janice.

Janice: Hey, Paul. How are you today?

Paul: Good. So, Janice works for GCI and she wears many hats. And one of the hats you wear, Janice, is that you’re the producer of the podcast. Are you not?

Janice: Yes, I am. And it’s a pleasure to do so.

Paul: And how many podcasts are we up to now?

Janice: Sixty-five.

Paul: Sixty-five, wow. And, Janice, you’ve done every single one of them, haven’t you?

Janice: I have indeed.

Paul: Yeah. So, one of the other hats that you’ve been wearing recently is related to today’s topic. And what we’re going to talk about is how we’re doing business during and then after the COVID-19 crisis and kind of how we’re going to operate in what I’m calling and others are calling the new normal. So, I know that you’ve been tasked with gathering supplies and whatnot, haven’t you?

Janice: Yes, I have. We’ve been working diligently day after day to look for sources that could provide us with all of the items that we need to keep our technicians and our clients safe on every project that we take on.

Paul: Yeah. So, we’re an engineering firm in the state of Florida and you know, when they had the stay-at-home order and the lockdown and all that, we were actually exempted, one of the types of businesses that were exempted. So, a lot of our construction projects, we kept working. A lot of other things have been postponed or delayed for obvious reasons. We have, however, been inspecting buildings for hurricane damage in Panama City and they actually worked out well up there because…not well for them, but well for us because you know, all these rentals, it was spring break actually, all the rentals ceased to exist and the buildings are basically empty. But we really wanted to protect, make sure it was safe, not only for our employees but also for the people at the properties that we were inspecting and also for everybody to feel comfortable. So, Janice, we actually prepared a document or a protocol for that.

Janice: Yes. Yes, we did.

Paul: The protocol is called COVID-19 Safety Protocol for GCI Inspections and Testing. And we put a lot of thought into this and how we were going to do it. And again, it’s around the safety and well-being of our employees, our clients, occupants of the properties, whatnot. And that’s obviously the top priority with this. And so, the protocol basically follows what the CDC requirements are. We have thermometers and can you tell about what we do as far as making sure everybody’s healthy to start the day, every day?

Janice: When we arrive, the first thing we do is we check with our employees and make sure that if they have any designated symptoms whatsoever, whether they have a fever or cough or shortness of breath, they’re not going to perform inspections until they’re medically cleared. And so, each day they have to go there, they have to take their temperatures and they have to record it on our company Excel sheet that we have in our safety log on our server. So, we are tracking each employee’s designated symptoms on a day in and day out basis in order to keep them and our clients safe.

Paul: Yep. And then we’ve got a specific protocol. Now, this particular application here is for doing inspections in occupied units. And we do that a lot. You know, on hurricane damage, we go in every single unit in the building. If it’s a big condominium with 100 units, our goal is to go into all 100. When we get into expert witness litigation assignments, you know, frequently you end up in occupied units again. So, that’s basically what this is designed for. And so, what the protocol is that we’ve developed a protocol and we’ve done a lot of training with our staff too. In fact, we had training yesterday, didn’t we, Janice? Again.

Janice: Yes. We sure did. We have monthly safety trainings and yesterday was devoted entirely to our safety protocol based on COVID-19 to make sure that…well, it was really a follow-up training and to make sure that everybody is in full compliance across the company.

Paul: And we’re going to keep doing the training over and over just to make sure that everybody’s really focused on safety and doing things the right way. So, the protocol includes maintaining proper distance of six-feet or separation with other employees and anybody else they come into contact with, clients, property occupants, things like that. You can’t have a bunch of people riding together in the elevators. When we go into a unit, our goal is now, this isn’t hard fast, but it’s the general rule of thumb, is that we’re only going to send one inspector into the unit, so you know, reduce the number of people that are in there. And what are they going to be equipped with when they go in, Janice?

Janice: Well, we have assembled kits for all of our inspectors. They’re going to have everything from, well, their thermometers, to their boot covers, to their alcohol wipes. We’ve given them face shields and gloves and hand sanitizers and sealable bags that once they leave the unit, they can put their booties and their gloves inside that sealable plastic bag and put on new before they enter the next unit. And then they have their paper towels and their surface cleaners, and they have a full complete kit of supplies that they take to every location and unit that they’re going to inspect.

Paul: Yes. Well, first of all, they wash their hands coming in and out of every unit. They put the protective gear on. As you said, it was the booties, the face covers, disposable gloves, and then they go in and you know, there’s guidelines for what they do when they go in, they’re not touching their face, they’re not doing things like that. We try to pre-educate the people where we are coming into the units or the property managers and have them open window treatments, move furniture, things like that ahead of time. So, the less that we have to touch, the better when we do our inspection. And another thing that we do before we do the inspection is we clean all of our equipment. We typically use iPads and we may have flashlights, ladders. Those get cleaned going in and coming out of every single unit.

And then when they come out of the unit, they remove and dispose of the shoe covers. Then they remove and they dispose of the gloves and our protocol has an illustration straight from CDC on how to remove and dispose of the gloves. We then wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use the sanitizers if the soap and water is not available. So, it’s a very rigorous and thorough procedure, well, first of all, to facilitate being able to do this because you know, a lot of this stuff is very important. Insurance claims, they’ve got deadlines approaching and things like that and you know, maybe they’re having, say, water intrusion issues. Well, that can’t wait necessarily because there’s other underlying problems that come with that. So, they’ve got to get in and they’ve got to get out in a reasonable amount of time.

Janice: They are also practicing physical distancing, when in these units, if there just so happens to be another person within the unit, but we’ve got that down pat. By now, this is second nature to our technicians at this point, which is really great.

Paul: Yeah. Now, we’ve been doing these inspections all along without incident. We haven’t had any problems with anybody being sick or getting sick. And I think the comfort level has been pretty good. Another thing that we have on our protocol is a hotline number. So, if there’s any questions or concerns, there’s…and Janice, you’re one of the hotline people, one of your many hats.

Janice: I am.

Paul: Yeah. And that there’s an 800 number, a toll-free number that they can call if there’s any concerns or any issues with that where they can basically, you know, get answers or let us know if there is a concern that needs to be addressed. So, our goal is to, you know, continue to be able to provide great service to our clients safely, keep things moving and you know, that kind of comes to the subject of the new normal as we call it. What’s this going to look like going forward? And I think nobody knows. Do you know, Janice?

Janice: No. I really don’t know. But I’m anxious to hear from your conversations you’ve had with people in the industry, what some of the things you might be anticipating.

Paul: Well, you know, there’s certain things are going to be done differently I think forevermore. One thing that’s happened real quickly was everybody’s using Zoom for virtual meetings. So, you know, even when we’re setting up to go into a building, we have a Zoom call and we go over everything and we show them what we’re doing. And I think things like that are probably not going to change for sure. It’s going to be a long time or maybe never that we do away with some of these steps that we’re doing. I mean, it’s just common sense. The washing the hands and cleaning the equipment and you know, I don’t know if we’ll have to use gloves forever, but you know, if we do, we will. We’ve always worn the booties anyway just to keep from tracking dirt. I don’t know about face covers if that lives on, but you know, clearly some of this stuff I think is gonna ultimately make things better for everybody in the long-run just because it’s good practice. We never had to do it before, but you know, maybe it would have been a good idea I guess.

Janice: And now that it becomes second nature, it’s just so much easier just to keep it going and it is just good hygiene and good protection for everyone involved.

Paul: Yeah. So, you know, we’re happy to be able to continue on and do it in a responsible way. If any of the listeners want to…what our safety protocol looks like, Janice, can they get a copy?

Janice: Yeah. They sure can. They can either send an email request to info@gciconsultants.com or I’ll even share my direct line with them, that’s 561-228-4262 and I’d be happy to answer any questions and to email them our protocol as well.

Paul: Great. So, as we continue through the crisis, the next thing that we’re going to do as a company, and we’re not ready to do it yet because there’s not even any CDC guidelines on it, is figure out how we can travel to remote job sites. How we’ve been getting to Panama City by the way, which is 8 to 10 hours away in the car is exactly that way, we’ve been driving up there and we’ve been staying in rental units at the properties that we’re inspecting, so we’re not having to leave and get exposed as few people as possible I guess is the way we would say it. So, you know, as the restrictions continue to be lifted, we’re going to continue to incorporate them into our policies. So, for instance, you know, being able to get on an airplane again, obviously that was something we used to do a lot of and there’s some places like, for instance, Puerto Rico where we’ve got work that’s ready to go but we can’t get there right now, we’re going to need that safety protocol I think is going to be a big part of it going forward. And you know, as I say, the new normal is going to emerge. Sort of see that some of this is going to be part of it and you know, hopefully, sooner rather than later we’ll get through this and be back to the new normal. So, short and sweet. That’s how we’re doing it. Janice, thank you so much for coming on with me today and helping explain what we’re doing and I know that you’ve been very involved in the search for supplies, which is a huge challenge.

Janice: Yes. It’s been a fun endeavor actually because when you think about the safety of our employees and clients and understanding how important it is to all of us going forward, we have had success. So, I’m happy to report that we’ve got backup supplies for all of our inspectors and as their kits run low, we’ll be able to ship them out additional supplies and just keep them running and they’ll keep taking care of our clients. So, we’re in good shape.

Paul: Keeping everybody safe.

Janice: Keeping them all safe. That’s it. That’s the name of the game.

Paul: Yeah. So, I’d like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast today and I invite you to take a further look at GCI Consultants and our services on our website, www.gciconsultants.com. You can also reach us at 877-740-9990 if you have any need for our services, which are related obviously to the building envelope. Thank you once again, and I look forward to talking with you next time on the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. So long, everyone.

What Every Building Owner Needs To Know About Doors & Windows

Paul Del Vecchio – Owner TJDCCI  Construction Consultants

    Understanding the current condition of your doors and windows and their possible vulnerabilities can protect your building from future damage, protect people from harm, and protect your investment for the long haul.

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.

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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

Derek: Welcome to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Derek Segal, and I’m a building envelope consultant with GCI Consultants. And I will be your host today. We’ve got a very special guest today, Paul Del Vecchio, who’s the owner of PJDCCI Construction Consultants, based out of Boca Raton, Florida, who is joining us. And today, we we’re talking about fenestration. Welcome, Paul.

Paul: Thank you, Derek.

Derek: Paul, can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and also, I’d like you to maybe just give us a brief description of what we’re talking about today being fenestration so all of our guests can understand what the topic applies to.

Paul: Okay. I have been a contractor in Florida since 1979. And I’ve worked in Florida in the construction industry since 1970. I sold my construction company about 12 years ago or so, and ended up providing consulting services as I do today. A lot of the consulting services I provide have to do with building envelope and, more specifically, windows and doors, the world of fenestration, if you will.

Derek: Thank you for that. So wow. So you started your career here in 1970, which, obviously, I guess, things were quite a bit different back then, regarding building codes and the construction industry, so I’m sure you’ve seen quite a bit of changes over the last 40-plus years.

Paul: Absolutely.

Derek: Yeah, I mean, things are changing on a rapid pace here. So, maybe just to start out, let’s talk a little bit about, because I think you were pretty active, as you said, in the construction industry licensing board, what is that board? What is it responsible for and how is it structured? And what did you folks do while being a part of that licensing board?

Paul: Well, the Construction Industry Licensing Board is a division or element of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation of Florida. That’s the entity that, basically, as the title would infer, regulates our specific businesses, among them construction as well as architecture, engineering, and building inspectors and building officials. On the CILB, which is an acronym for the Construction Industry Licensing Board, there are 18 members. The vast majority of them are contractors of various disciplines, two of them are building officials, and two are consumer people who have no connection to the construction industry at all. And the CILB is tasked with regulating construction in the state of Florida. So we have a statute, like all disciplines do, and it’s Florida State Statute 489. And it really dictates the requirements of a contractor, since it’s considered a professional license in the state of Florida.

Derek: Got it. So you folks sat on this board, and you managed, if you will, the construction industry, or the licensees in the state of Florida, actually of which I’m one. I’m a state licensed roofing contractor, so I’m very familiar with the board. I got licensed in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew. What type of disciplinary cases would you folks hear and how many involved fenestration, windows and doors, openings, building envelope issues? Do you have any type of percentage or…? And what type of cases did you guys listen to while sitting on the board?

Paul: Well, as you pointed out earlier, the industry changes during my twelve and a half years on the board. We disciplined people for the vast majority of time for financial mismanagement. However, about 15 or so percent of the work has to do with defective work, where contractors had performed the work improperly resulting in damage that was not recovered through the civil proceedings. So complaints would be filed against these contractors. And the vast majority of those issues were breaches in the building envelope, failures in doors and windows. And the last or most important point would be a vast number of them were due to improper installation, failing to follow the NOA as we have today, previously, just following good standard practice, and, you know, following the building code and the provisions within the building code that are conditions precedent to installing a window or door, prepping the opening, properly flashing it. The issue with developing the primary seal between the window and your door and the structure, and understanding what a buck is, what a continuous shim is, tending, if you will, the fasteners beyond their strength, if you will. I have had unfortunately seen all sorts of issues, usually after we have one of our hurricanes, where I’ve seen windows that were attempted to be fastened with drywall screws that were foamed into place with Great Stuff foam, just all sorts of silliness if you will.

Derek: So ultimately, the responsibility of a proper installation sits with the contractor and not with the building official that’s looking at or inspecting the work. Is that what the premise is? It’s ultimately…because I guess when the building official gets there, you know, that opening is covered up and it looks pretty and everything looks fine, but oftentimes they can’t see what went on behind the finish or the drywall. Am I correct in saying that?

Paul: Correct. Building officials or building departments and their delegates, building inspectors are…only come out and do spot inspections of the work as it’s progressing. Responsibility for complying with code is actually placed in the Statute 553 and the responsibility rests with the permit holder, the contractor. So, compliance with code, there’s 9 volumes in over 3800 pages of code material. Obviously, a building department and its staff are not there to do quality control for the contractor. It’s the contractor’s responsibility to comply with the building code, understanding the code or the minimum standards for safe construction in the state of Florida. It’s what it is.

Derek: So would you, for example, on a large commercial building or a commercial building as a whole, even on a on a home, would you recommend or feel that it’s a good idea for a property owner or building community to retain an outside third-party expert to kind of be that quality control inspector to make sure that whomever is doing the work is doing it in a safe and effective manner and in accordance with the NOA and the building code? Is that a recommendation you would make to someone putting up a building or retrofitting a building?

Paul: Absolutely. In the long run, the additional cost to have this additional set of eyes is outweighed by the benefit of having the work done properly and completely. And it’s not only the windows and doors, it’s roofing, it’s the cladding on the exterior of the building structure, all of those elements are what protects the building occupants, their contents and the structure itself.

Derek: Oftentimes, these owners are, “Well, I’m already spending money, why do I need the…?” They’re oftentimes penny-wise and pound foolish and really, I’m in agreement with you. As a roofing consultant, I feel it’s so important especially, when it’s a large project and a lengthy project to have someone as your advocate, your eyes and ears. And also not someone to be adversarial, but someone who understands the challenges that a contractor has, because it’s not an easy job, but someone that can kind of be the middleman and kind of keep this process moving along smoothly and communicating with both parties.

Paul: I would agree. And there’s a side benefit I have found through the years. By going through this exercise as an independent third party, you tend to educate the contractors and the staff that are doing the work. They further understand the nexus, if you will, between the information, in the NOA and the engineer practices that went in to that window and door and understand the minimum requirements by the building code. Ultimately, it makes them better trades people, better contractors. Information is something…

Derek: It helps everyone. Yeah.

Paul: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Derek: So, say the top four or five points what property owners should be cognizant or conscious of when having windows or doors installed. Are there some key factors that one should really keep in the front of their mind when it comes to replacing these, what I believe are critical building components because they form part of the structure? What should they be cognizant of?

Paul: Well, the ones that I have come across both as a consultant and my time on the board is the lack of flashing and sealants beyond what we refer to in the field as the beauty bead or exterior sealant between the cladding and the window. They do not deal well with flashing and the primary seal between the window and door-door assembly and the structure. Most of them are missed and/or when a contract is written, that gray area is omitted from the window or door subcontractors installation. The assumption is well, the general contractor must have that or the waterproofing contractor has that. You have to look at it as a complete assembly. It’s not just the window or not just the door. It’s that connection to the structure, and it being watertight, long before cladding goes up and the beauty bead goes on.

Derek: Well, the intersection or the connection of two building components, in my opinion, is the most critical area of any structure. It’s where two materials comprising different formulations come together because typically, they’re gonna expand and contract and move at different rates. And it’s vital to have that connection perfect.

Paul: Correct. And you know, avoiding three-point adhesion between a third piece between these different materials because everything has a different coefficient of expansion and contraction. Sun rises and sets every day, so we have different thermal, if you will, acts on a material, so it’s going to move. And assuming it’s not just because the screw is very tight against a wood buck doesn’t mean that it’s sealed. That frame is sealed. It isn’t. So you need that primary seal. You usually need the backer rod to avoid the three-point adhesion at shims so you don’t tear your sealant. There is a number of small items that are important to success because, as you pointed out, once the drywall is up, the stucco or the woods siding is on, the trim is on, that’s not the time to find out that you have a failure in the primary seal or the window connection to the structure. Too late.

Derek: Right. And often what you don’t see is really the most dangerous stuff out there. Because you know, we’ve all seen you know, everything looks pretty on the outside. Most owners get a false sense of security thinking that, “Since it looks good, it must be good, and I don’t see any problems. So I’m fine.” I mean, is that a bad approach?

Paul: Absolutely. And I will share with you an assignment I had after Wilma, up in Vero Beach on some low-rise condominiums where they had recently installed impact-resistant windows. And when I went out there, every window was in perfect condition. Unfortunately, none of them were in the rough out. They were on the ground, in the living room, in the hallway, and other places. They just came out of the opening because you buy the window, you would assume that the faster is the proper faster, that it has the right depth, that it is anchored properly into the structure, that the primary seal that we just talked about was actually installed. In this case, they tried to handle that with Great Stuff foam. And the windows certainly didn’t have sufficient connection to the structure. So although the window itself was fine, it didn’t fail, the installation failed and the window blew out of the opening. Same result as though the window had failed itself as far as the consumer is concerned. But as you pointed out, this is all things that a homeowner or consumer doesn’t see till it’s too late.

Derek: So yeah, these windows are tested, presumably for the end of the notice of acceptance, which is the Dade County Protocol. They’re tested, and they’re certified. But, you know, we need to keep in mind that these products are tested in a controlled environment. It’s a beautiful 72 degrees in the area that they’re being tested. And the assumption that once it’s installed, it’s still in a passing, if you will, state is really a false assumption. Because once it’s installed and handled and moved and screwed through, then it’s almost… Is there a type of testing that you can do following the installation to make sure that a window…would you do a sporadic or testing, a random testing of windows once they go into make sure they’re watertight and sound?

Paul: Well, typically, on the high-rise buildings that I constructed and those that I consult on. Typically, on new construction, we do the water tests on random windows of each type in a building in a high rise to determine whether we have a problem long before all the windows are installed. Typically, it’s, as you pointed out, not the window or the window manufacturing, but the issue is with the installation. I’m not suggesting that windows are perfect, but the likelihood of having a defective window is significantly less than a defective or deficient installation. So you perform the ALMA or ASDM test, usually ASDM on new, ALMA on an older window, six months or so, and determine the suitability of the window. And I think everyone also assumes, when they look at the NOA, they look at the rating and the window is rated for 170 miles an hour, and I’m just picking a number. But water intrusion occurs at a much lower rate. You need to read the whole NOA to understand what you’re buying, specifically. And and I think a lot of consumers really make their selections based on price point rather than performance.

Derek: Right. So I’ve read some articles, done some research recently on some of the challenges we face in Florida. I think a couple of the concerns we have is with the quality of workmanship in Florida seems to be under some stress now. We’ve got a couple of the issues. One is we’ve got so many people moving into the area. There’s just more traffic out there. There’s more productivity being affected, commute times are longer, worker productivity is down because, you know, folks are needing to spend more time on the road. And also the availability of affordable housing close to where you work is scarce. And so there’s more commuters on the road as people live further and further away from their place of employment. Would you suggest that it’s becoming even more critical to have this third party kind of overseeing the project given some of these challenges that are coming to the surface on just time on the road and folks commuting for the distances is more fatigued? How do you see the workmanship? In your opinion, it’s getting better? Is it stable, or is it dropping off? What’s your response to that?

Paul: I would tell you as someone who has been in the construction industry a long time and more specifically in Florida, Florida has its own set of challenges. It’s a very transient state. We have people from different parts of the country in different countries coming here with their known skill sets, and many of them trying to adopt to perhaps the most difficult building code in the nation, and they don’t understand it. They have difficulty in following it. I can’t tell you how many times in my career I’ve heard, “But I’ve been doing it that way for 20 years.” That’s not an answer. Having a third party…because remember, buildings are constructed by human beings. High rises are constructed by hundreds of human beings on the project at the same time. I mean, none of us are infallible, and the chances of having an error run much higher. The additional cost for an independent set of eyes to walk through the critical details and elements that eventually get covered up, I cannot stress, is money well spent. In the end…

Derek: When should they hire? When should they…sorry for jumping in. When should they hire a third party? Should it be from development of a set of specifications or should it be right before the project starts? What would you recommend?

Paul: In the perfect world, and we have some clients that hire us to do this, it’s in the develop stage, actually looking at the products, looking at the details on the drawing. I typically stress, because I come from a background of doing a lot of government work, a lot of Army Corps and Navy work of going through the process with each step of the work, having a pre-construction meeting with the foreman or superintendent for that discipline and making sure we understand all of our materials here on time, all of the parts and pieces are here, what codes, what inspections, what level and finish are we anticipating on the following work to the work being installed. Those are all elements that should be gone over by an independent third party.

Again, it assist the general contractor. I think most general contractors in the world do not understand. They believe they have and they do statutorily a one-year warranty period. But beyond that, there’s a 4-year statute of limitations on defects and a 10-year statute of repose for unforeseen site conditions or damages or defective work. So essentially, as a contract, I am on the hook for 10 years for the work I perform. What’s the cost of a third party to just give an objective view of what I am having done? It’s cheap.

Derek: Yeah. And also to cover the owner’s back in case there is an issue. I mean, that sounds like some pretty powerful ammunition that property owner could say, “Look, I had a third party do the due diligence.” You know, obviously, if you don’t have that third party involved, how can you enforce your right under a warranty? I mean, I would imagine it’s much more difficult because you really don’t know what happened. So…

Paul: That’s when they call us and it’s forensic work. Both you and I have done that and unfortunately, that’s not the least expensive way to cure a problem. That’s the most expensive way. The better money spent is at the front end, period.

Derek: Right. So let’s just lead into this. So as the construction consultant now, what are the most common cases that you were involved with? What are you doing out there presently, where’s most of your work coming from or the majority?

Paul: I would say the majority of work that we are involved in are third party, if you will, construction defect cases. We do do some first-party work. They’re basically the same from the technical point of view to failure and their subsequent damage to that failure. Again, unfortunately, a failed building envelope issue doesn’t manifest itself until sometimes years after the work is installed and the damage resulting from that failure becomes catastrophic, it becomes far more than it would have been had we solved the problem at the initial.

Derek: Early on.

Paul: Right. Right.

Derek: And then your building is more susceptible to to impact from these catastrophic events that we have. Is a building weakened by something that has a hidden defect, is there a danger there?

Paul: Of course, if we lose windows or doors and on a windward side of a storm and the eyewall is passing and the negative pressure on the leeward side, you could end up losing a roof on a residence or blowing out additional windows and doors. I just had that on several projects on several high-end residences that were constructed to Dade County’s 180-mile-an-hour program in the Bahamas. And literally, once we lost a door, it took the windows, doors, drywall and almost everything else out. Unfortunately, that storm sat over that particular area for several hours, the eyewall, it did significant damage. But that’s what happens when you lose a window. Once you breach the envelope, you’re now going to experience damage. How much? You know your personal contents, the flooring, drywall. I mean, drywall is gypsum once it’s wet it’s done. You know there’s considerable dollars and cents. And I know everyone likes to spend money in construction on what they can see. But the devil, if you will, is in the details.

Derek: Yeah, I’ve always been a proponent of what you don’t see is what can hurt you most. And, like you, I do building envelope inspections. And really, when I don’t see anything in an area where I know that the structure has been subjected to pressures in excess of its original design, I’m even more concerned and people are like, “What are you talking about? I don’t see anything?” Well, you know what’s going on behind that wall and really, the concern here as well is if you don’t identify those issues, and let’s say you go three years down the road and another storm impacts the area and then you have major damage, the insurance company may be able to tie that damage into an event that happened three years prior. And then you’re in big trouble.

Paul: Agreed, just dislodging fasteners in a window recently. You know, just dislodging the window assembly, if you will, from its original positioning. You know, yeah, it didn’t blow out during the storm and I’m good. And then the next storm comes and now you have a failure because that window is now weakened.

Derek: Right. There’s a couple of questions that I always put out there to property owners regarding windows and doors just to see if I can jog their memory or identify any issues that they’re having. One is do you hear more noise? Do you hear traffic? Do you hear more wind than you heard before? That’s one question. The other is, you know, compared to this time last year, are your utility bills higher? Are you losing air conditioning air because that window or door is no longer sitting flashed or properly aligned? Because really, they don’t understand oftentimes the way these components are installed or what they’re supposed to look like, but they certainly understand well, “You know, I’d never heard this traffic before or my AC bill went through the roof.” Are there any other things that an owner in layman’s terms can think about or that we can bring to their attention to kind of uncover some of these issues?

Paul: Well, I mean, you made some very good points. You can go to a big-box store like Lowe’s or Home Depot and buy one of these smoke cans and you just open it up adjacent to a window or door that you’re hearing more sound through. And you’ll be able to see if there’s a draft.

Derek: Got it.

Paul: That’s the first breach. Okay. It may not have yielded water damage yet, but when we have a storm, it doesn’t rain vertically in Florida, it rains horizontally with, you know, significant force behind it. The other issue that I came across a great deal was abuse of roofs. Not to segue away from kind of [inaudible 00:30:20]

. But I have seen a number of people who are required to pressure clean their roof and they hire someone who has zero knowledge of roofing and will go up on the roof with a 2500 or 3000 PSI pressure washer and subject that roof assembly and its flashings to pressures and water greater than a category five hurricane. And then the next storm that comes, there’s a spot in the ceiling. Why is there a spot in the ceiling? Again, going back to your insurance analysis, if a carrier can determine that that damage was done by you and not by the storm, you may find yourself…

Derek: In trouble…

Paul: …paying for reroofing on your own.

Derek: Right. Well, the other thing that you’re potentially affecting is even if there isn’t another storm, and now I get a leak in my roof, and I call my roofer or the manufacturer, they come out, and they’re like, “You know what? This was done by your pressure cleaner or a maintenance guy. You breached your warranty.” So, here’s a case of a guy that spent $25,000 on a new roof. And he wanted to keep this house pretty. Oftentimes, some of these homeowner associations pressure you to comply with the way you’re home looks. But really, I think it’s all about hiring someone knowledgeable and asking these questions, you know, what is your process? Do you use high pressure? Are you gonna be breaking roof tiles as you’re walking across my roof? You know, these are important, important things to discuss before you just hire somebody off the street that’s a painter who’s looking for some pressure cleaning work and just started in the business.

Paul: Correct.

Derek: So knowledge is power. And I think it’s a responsibility that’s no one else’s, but the owners initially and becoming better educated. So that’s all good stuff. Let’s wrap it up. I just wanted to ask you, after a storm goes through, I mean, we had some strong storms over the last two, three years, what are some of the things that a property owner should do? Should they hire somebody to come and do an independent evaluation? Should they call in? What should I be doing right after the storm? I mean, yes, picking up limbs and whatever. But is there something that I should really think about doing after a storm that perhaps I’m not aware of that I need to make sure that my rights are protected.

Paul: As an owner, the first thing I would do is photograph my condition immediately after the storm. Then I would contact a third party to come out and basically survey the building itself, the structure itself, all the windows, doors, roof, flashings, any of the cladding issues. All these different materials are sealed, if you will, with a sealant that has a serviceable life and the UV light dictates quite candidly how long that serviceable life is based on an exposure.

So you know if you have your house painted three years ago and they didn’t reseal the windows and doors and now we have a catastrophic storm, you may end up with cladding being affected by water intrusion bypassing, if you will, the beauty bead and maybe being stopped by the primary bead. So, now that water is going behind the stucco or right behind the wood cladding or tile cladding or stone whatever, you know, is on the structure and it begins to delaminate it. So you need to have a professional come out, quite candidly in my opinion, and look at this. Not necessarily, if you will, for formulating a claim, there are people that do that, but determining precisely what was affected by the storm, and what is the cost to remediate that. That’s helpful in negotiating with your carrier, and hopefully, will get you to a point where your hole after the storm and the remediation is taken care of.

Derek: Got it? Yeah. And I think what we’ve seen over the last couple years, my gosh, with this, the Dorian was a monster. I mean, we really need to take this seriously. And, I think the trend is that storms seem to be getting stronger, in my opinion.

Paul: And more frequent.

Derek: And bigger. And really, we’ve got to take this seriously. So with that, I just wanted to ask you, because we spoke about this earlier, PJDCCI construction consulting, how did you invent that name? Can you just tell us before we wrap up, just so I understand that for my own?

Paul: It’s just PJDCCI is the name of the company. I originally started the company with my name Paul J. Del Vecchio Construction Consultants, Incorporated. Now it’s just PJDCCI because filling out forms with that title, I ran out of space.

Derek: Yeah. And you ran out of energy maybe as well.

Paul: Exactly.

Derek: If you had to write that 20 times, man, that’s a handful. So thanks for identifying….

Paul: Thank you, Derek.

Derek: …how you came up with the name and I really appreciate having you here today. It was excellent. And I’m sure all of the listeners enjoyed it. So I’d like to thank everyone for listening to today’s podcast. Paul, if any listeners wanna reach out to you directly, how do they get in touch with you? Do you wanna let them know your website or best way for them to contact you?

Paul: Our website is www.pjdcci.com. And if you got a question, just send us an email and we’ll endeavor to give you a prompt and complete answer.

Derek: Great. And folks, to our listeners, 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 directly at 877-740-9990, that’s 9990, to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thanks once again for listening and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. Take care, everyone.

Is Your Expert Really An Expert?

Will Smith – President of GCI

  • Is your construction litigation expert really an expert?
  • Education vs. Experience
  • Proven Methodology
  • Investigation Standards
  • Strategies For Testifying

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.

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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

Chris: Welcome, everyone, to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m your host today Chris Matthews, VP and a principal consultant for GCI Consultants. I’m really excited today to have as our guest, Will Smith, the president of GCI. Will is not one to toot his own horn, but he has been the mentor to a lot of us at GCI through the years. And he’s hosted this podcast a few times in the past, but I’m looking forward to having him in the interviewee’s chair and give us some of his wisdom. We’re going to be talking today about, “Is Your Litigation Expert Really an Expert?” Welcome, Will.

Will: Thank you, Chris. I’m glad to be here.

Chris: All right, so first, let’s get right into this. So, talking about the expert and what he or she brings to the table, what do you think as far as education versus experience, the trade-off there, what are your thoughts on that, Will?

Will: Well, it really depends entirely upon what type of discipline you’re looking at. And I’ve seen many attorneys who seem to be fixated on the degrees, you know. And it is very helpful sometimes to have somebody with a lot of initials behind their name with a Ph.D. and whatever, but sometimes that is not all that valuable. For example, I was in a trial not too terribly long ago, where the opposing expert was a Ph.D. and an engineer. He was a professional engineer, but his education, and his Ph.D., and all, dealt with electrical. And the particular issue involved in this case was water leakage in building walls, so it’s a little bit of a stretch of his expertise. And I think that was received poorly by the jury. When they look at that, and there’s really question on his background and his experience, and it comes out that when it really comes down to the details of this particular case, he does not have the experience. He has the initials behind his name, but not the experience.

I’ve been with some attorneys who have told me, “Look, well, we don’t care about the initials. What we look for is a person who’s got the understanding of the issues that are involved here.” And in fact, I had one attorney tell me a few years ago that he would much prefer to see, for example, a roofer with 30 years of experience doing roofing than some engineer or a doctor who’s textbook educated and has really no practical experience. So, the level of education, I’m not going to dismiss it as saying that it’s not important. It does have some value, but in choosing an expert, you got to really match the expertise, whether it be in education or whether it be in practical experience to the conditions and to the matters that are going to be involved in that particular case.

Chris: And I was telling someone the other day along the same lines too. I think, in addition to that experience versus the letters, it’s also relatability to the jury. Ultimately, if this thing goes to trial, can you talk to them? And in some of these seminars, were Ph.D.s putting on information about the thing that I specialize in the Building Envelope and I’m having a hard time understanding what he’s trying to tell us and imagining if this was a jury, who may know nothing about this, this is just not gonna come across well to them. They’re not going to understand what he’s trying to explain to them.

Will: Yeah, it seems to me that one of the more important things, particularly in testimony, is to be able to make the jury want to hear what you have to say. If you come off very professorial, sometimes that just doesn’t sell. I’m not saying it’s automatically bad, but you need to make the jury understand the issues in the case. And if you talk down to them, if you preach to them, sometimes that just doesn’t go over.

Chris: Sure, sure. Well, and along those lines, similar, it would be the generalist who may have a lot of letters and book learning versus a specialist. Like everything, our industry has so many little specialties within it and within our field, that that’san important distinction, I think, as well when someone’s looking at an expert.

Will: Yes, so true. I’m gonna show my age here, but I remember when I was a kid, when I went to the doctor, that was a dud, you know, it was like Marcus Welby, M.D.

Chris: Right, right.

Will: He handled it all. But now, you just can’t do that anymore. Even if to your main provider of medical care, he sends you off to specialists to analyze individual problems or specific issues. And that’s neither right nor wrong necessarily, but the same thing has happened in the construction industry. It’s one thing, for example, an architect. An architect is a generalist. An architect draws up a set of plans, but when you look at those plans carefully, you’ll see that they have subcontracted certain parts of the design to various specialists in construction, like landscapers, electrical experts, plumbing experts. They have all different specialties that they sub these things out to, and then, the architect puts it all together and makes a plan.

In the forensic world or in litigation, in construction, we’re the same way. We have specific issues that come up. For example, an expert, a professional engineer or a civil engineer with a PE might do very good on a number of different issues, but there are some that require some specialty training and knowledge that they just don’t have. In our particular industry, we do a lot of work, for example, in windows and doors. Well, the typical, not all, but the typical PE, who has got his training, did not have training in windows and doors. That doesn’t mean that they’re incapable. That means they just don’t have a full understanding and grasp of all the issues that can come about, and they may end up having to learn the issues on a job rather than provide answers on a job.

Chris: Right, yep. And your doctor analogy hit home with me. I had an accident recently, and I had to see an orthopedic doctor about a hand and a shoulder. And even within orthopedics, I assumed I’m going to go to the doctor and he or she’s going to take care of me. Well, no, if it’s a hand, you have to go to the hand orthopedic, and if it’s a shoulder, you have to go to the shoulder orthopedic. And it’s kind of the same thing in our industry, in that, you know, someone who may know a lot about below-grade foundation waterproofing, as you said, may not know a whole lot about windows and doors.

Will: Exactly. And vice versa.

Chris: So you gotta have the right person, right? And vice versa, right. But it’s important for someone, an attorney, going out to hire an expert to understand what is in dispute in the case and what expertise they need to bring to that.

Will: Exactly. Very true. Exactly right.

Chris: So, along those lines, once someone is retained, and there is a forensic investigation or a litigation investigation going on, I know you have a lot of experience with this as to employing a proven methodology in the process, having that apply properly to what’s being assessed. Can you talk some about that?

Will: Yeah, and understand that, at GCI, we do work sometimes for plaintiffs and sometimes for defendants. And frankly, sometimes your investigation has to be directed according to whether you are working for a plaintiff or a defendant. And the reason I say that is remember that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. So, let’s take the example that we talked about earlier. Let’s say there’s an allegation that’s been brought forward by a plaintiff, the owner of a building who’s saying they got a water leakage problem, and they’ve hired GCI to go out there and analyze this problem. If it’s in litigation, we need to prove our case. We can’t go out there matter of factly, and say, “Well, we see water, so therefore, it’s leaking. We see water on the inside, therefore, it’s leaking.” Instead, there are certain processes you need to go through, because it’s the investigator’s obligation to determine not just the fact of whether or not it’s leaking, but why is it leaking, the cause of the leaks. For example, if it’s leaking, it could be just something as simple as the owner failed to maintain the building. And for him to then bring a lawsuit against a bunch of defendants would…you know, that’d be something that we would not be able to stand behind and prove his case for him if he’s failed on his side to maintain the building.

Conversely, if we do an analysis and do testing and forensic examinations and invasive examinations and find that the cause of the leak is because of some defect in material installation or defect in material production, it’s up to us to identify which one of those causes or which defect is allowing the leakage to occur so that we can, therefore, stand in front of a jury and say, “It’s not just leaking, but here’s why it’s leaking, and this is the party that has the responsibility.”

On the other hand, the flip side of that is, what if we’re working for a defendant in a case? One of the first things I always tell my clients is that when we go out and we investigate if you’re in defense of a particular client, and if we go out and investigate and find that the leakage is caused by something they did, they may not like to hear what I’m going to say, but they’re going to hear it. We’re not going to hold back, we’re going to tell them. And it’s not unusual for that to occur, and when it does, a lot of times those defendants will say, “Okay, we’re going to settle this thing. We’re going to take care of this,” and it never goes any further, it doesn’t go to trial, it gets settled out.

But on the other hand, there are plenty of times when I’ve been defending a manufacturer or a product installer or a contractor and it’s alleged that they did something. They either put it in wrong or they made it wrong, made a product wrong. But the plaintiff’s allegation is, like I said earlier, very vague and all it tells you is they sprayed water on it, and they got water coming down on the inside. If you even go and press them and say, you know, “Well, what’s the cause?” They really can’t give you an answer. Well, in that case, I’m going to defend my client and say, “If it’s a window or a door, but it could be the sealant around the opening, it could be the waterproofing of the opening, the flashing of the opening.” There’s a myriad of other possible sources of water leakage, and the plaintiff hasn’t proven what the cause is, so why should my client just throw up their hands and say, “Okay, you know, you got me?” They haven’t got you. You know, it’s up to them to do it.

So, what I want to do on a defensive posture is assure that the plaintiff’scase is proven, that the plaintiff has proven their case, that is. And when, you know, I’m working for the plaintiff, I want to be the one that does the proving. The way you do that is you need to do a methodical investigation that includes…it’s a multi-step process that includes a review of the construction documents, inspection of the building, investigation of the history of the project, that is, not just the history of construction, but the history of weather events of the project. Then, you’re going to get into doing actual testing, depending upon what the allegation is. It could be, for example, water testing for a roof. It could be uplift testing. It depends on what type of products you’re looking at. Then, do an analysis to determine the cause of the problem, then compare that causation to the evidence that you found during your inspection. For example, if I found leakage at the bottom of a wall on the interior of the building but during my testing, that leak was not reproduced, it was not coming from the source I thought it was, it was coming from another source, I want to make sure that everything correlates, that the observations of damages correlate with the cause of the damages. And then, of course, we need to write a report that summarizes all of this and brings it all a closure.

Doing it on defense is much the same way. You look at the allegations that have been brought, and then you need to look at their methodology of testing, their methodology of their investigation, and whether or not they were able to properly correlate their observations with the results of the testing, and whether or not they were able to conclusively determine the cause. So, generally, that summary, it’s a little bit different, whether you’re on the defense or whether you’re on the plaintiff side. But in doing a forensic investigation, that’s generally how it’s done, is a methodical process.

Chris: And I’m glad to see in the last five to seven years that it’s become much more widespread in our industry for most of the experts to adhere to some proven methodology. I’m not sure always that I agree with the way they apply them, which is probably a good topic for another podcast. But it does seem to me that most experts now are at least on the same playing field as far as an approach to an investigation, much more so than maybe 10 years ago we used to see.

Will: I agree. Ten years ago, most common thing was to see somebody go out there with a garden hose and a spraying hosepipe. And then, they’d have somebody else stand inside and say, “Yep, we see water leaks and, well…”

Chris: We’re done here.

Will: “…what did I tell you?”

Chris: Yeah, exactly. Right.

Will: But there are standards, and I’m glad you mentioned it. There are standards out there that are published by independent organizations like ASTM International, it used to be American Society of Testing Materials, and ASCE, American Society of Civil Engineers. They also have a standard that really walk you through the process of how to do an investigation properly, and at the same time, tell you that. Unfortunately, too often, even today, we still see that it’s not done properly. We see, for example, testing that’s being done, water testing being done at improper pressures that end up creating leaks that have never happened before. And the standards even say that to create water leakage where there’s never been evidence of leakage before might be nice information, but it doesn’t help analyze the problem. So, just because somebody can go out there and make it leak doesn’t mean that particular item that they’re testing ever leaked before, and that has nothing to do with the problem that the owner is facing. So, following the standards is important. And it’s still, even though it’s gotten a lot better I agree with that, is still something we battle quite frequently.

Chris: Sure, sure, yeah. So, once all that information is gathered, and the report is written, well, the numerous reports of all the experts in the cases are written. At some point, testimony is going to enter in, whether it be deposition and/or trial. Can you talk to us some about strategies for testifying? And we touched on it before, how that should come across to the audience. And I guess also, just because someone can do an investigation and write a report doesn’t mean they’ll be effective in that final, and oftentimes, most important page.

Will: That’s true. And, you know, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve given deposition testimony and trial testimony a number of times. And, frankly, I hate it. I just hate it because it’s pressure. You’re on stage, if you will, I mean, everybody’s watching you, and they’re listening to every word, and so, every word’s got to be right. There is a lot of pressure there. But I always tell everybody, and I try and practice it myself, that your personal presence is so important. You got to be likable. You need to come across as a person who is knowledgeable in the subject matter of their testimony. They’ve got plenty of background in the subject matter of their testimony. They’re able to speak with authority about it, understand that the opposing attorneys will often try to trip you up, or try to elicit testimony out there that is favorable to their case. So, it’s really important for the deponent to listen to the questions very, very carefully.

The questions, just a misplaced word, can be read later to a jury and give an understanding that is completely different from what you’re trying to get across. So, you just got to be very careful in what you get out there. At the same time, you want to communicate with the jury. And when I’m giving a deposition, in my mind, I’m not speaking to attorneys in the room who are deposing me, I’m speaking to a jury, because that record is a matter of public record, and can be read during a trial at some point in the future. So, it’s very possible that my words that I’m saying in the confines of a small meeting room with two or three attorneys or half dozen attorneys will end up in a court of law being read in front of a judge to a group of jurors. So, I need to think to myself at the time that I’m giving testimony to a jury.

And again, I need to make sure they’re able to understand what I’m saying as well. I need to be able to put it in a language that is not too technical, not full of all these fancy construction terms and words, but try and make it practical so that the juror who may have no knowledge of construction whatsoever so that they’re able to fully understand what I’m trying to get across, and that they’re able to look at me and not only as they understand it, but they can get it. They can recognize the value of what I’m telling them.

Chris: Yeah, and I know you’ve told me in the past that our job as the expert is to do just that, is to take things that we know about and provide that information to the people who have to make a decision in the case that don’t have the expertise that we do. And you have to be able to communicate that in a way that they understand.

Will: Right.

Chris: And hopefully, keep them interested as well.

Will: Yeah. And sometimes, that’s difficult. But, again, it’s very important to…I think you have to give testimony with the thought that the people who are going to be reading or listening to your testimony have absolutely no idea of the construction terms and the methodologies that you’re talking about. So you need to put it on in such a way that it’s…you don’t want to talk down to them, but you want to make them understand what you’re saying.

Chris: Exactly. Right, right. So, all that kind of comes together to form the experience and the reputation we have in the industry, and thought it might be good to talk a little bit here about how we get a lot of the expert work that we do. You’ve talked to me before about so many different occasions where maybe someone across the table from you, in one case, wants to bring you on as their expert next time.

Will: Oh, yes. In fact, the same thing happened in a deposition just two weeks ago. And the attorney told me that we’re going to be working together on another case, so, yeah, that happens all the time. And I think it’s important that any expert not only have the credentials to support the work that they’re doing to support their opinions, but they need to be recognized among their peers in the industry.

I think it’s really important that…for example, one of the things we encourage all our employees to do is to write articles, to publish information, to do some research, do some investigation into buildings, and then, maybe write a case study on that. Get that information out there so that people understand that you have the understanding, that you have the background. And then, as time goes on, obviously, those who have done investigations, testing, and testimony for some time, they begin to gain that reputation in the industry, not only just the industry but in the legal community as well. Those people who…attorneys who hire the experts, they start to recognize that this person has abilities.

And, frankly, one of our best sales tools in the past at GCI has simply been word of mouth. I many times get phone calls from somebody I’ve never heard of before and say, they tell me right at the beginning, “I got your name from this guy, this colleague in your industry, or this attorney gave me your name,” or something like that. So, once you get out there and you maintain that integrity that we’ve been talking about, people, I think, recognize it and they want to call you. They need your help, and they’ll be willing to call.

Chris: So true, so true. Well, thank you, Will. I could listen to you forever, but we probably can’t do it.

Will: You don’t have to.

Chris: We’ve probably come to a good stopping point today. I’d like to thank all of our listeners of our growing podcast for tuning in. Thank you for listening today. We also invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultant’s services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com, or you can 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.

Field Chat – Text Messaging for Construction Projects

Stephen Smith – FieldChat

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

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

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris: All right, well, thank you again, Stephen Smith, for joining from FieldChat for joining us today. We also invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultant services on our website at 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.