Building an Entrepreneurial Company Culture Through Technology

Henry Lopez – Managing Partner of Levante Business Group

Episode 66- Henry Lopez - Building an Entrepreneurial Company Culture Through Technology

In this episode, Chris Matthews, President and Principal for GCI Consultants, talks with Henry Lopez, managing partner at Levante Business Group, about how GCI has built a company culture through the values of entrepreneurship. Listen in as the two experts discuss how technology has played a part in building a sustainable company culture in the current climate of the building envelope industry 

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, President and Principal for GCI Consultants, and I’m your host today. I’m really excited today to have as our guest, Henry Lopez, who is the managing partner of Levante Business Group. And we work a lot with Henry. He assists us in our business as a third-party consultant in lots of different areas and we’ve worked with him for several years with coaching and other input from Henry on the day-to-day operation of GCI. So, I’m interested to talk to Henry today. Welcome, Henry. And you wanna tell our audience a little bit about your background and how you and GCI came together?

Henry: Yeah, absolutely, Chris. Thanks so much for having me on this show. I’m a listener of the podcast. But yeah, I actually came to know GCI through your partner and one of the founders of GCI, which is Paul Beers. Paul was actually the second guest I ever had on my podcast, whew, about three or four years ago now. So as to what I do, I’m a serial business owner. I’m also a business coach and a consultant, which is, as you said, how I’ve been working with GCI as a third-party consultant on various projects over the years. So I’ve owned about 11 or 12 different businesses, have bought, sold, and built, had successes, had some failures in the business world. I started my career, though, back in the ’80s as a computer programmer, went into software sales and marketing for most of the ’90s, and then was able to segue into full-time business ownership in the early 2000s.

Chris: And I know you call yourself a serial entrepreneur, and I think that’s one of the things that really attracts us and makes our working relationship well because many of us at GCI, you know, we kind of look at ourselves as good or bad, rugged individualist and kind of having that entrepreneurial spirit. So I think we kind of mesh really well, as you said. Owning all the businesses you have, that’s a big part of your makeup, I’m sure.

Henry: Yeah, yeah. That’s definitely one of the reasons I enjoy working with GCI is you guys are very entrepreneurial, very lean organization, very productive, very entrepreneurial. That’s what I like working with. Those are the types of organizations I like working with. And so, yeah, that definitely is a match in the way that you guys think about things, the way that you’re always looking for new opportunities, never afraid to try something new, never even afraid to pivot different product lines or service offerings. And so that is definitely a fit between the way I’ve gone about business and the way that you guys operate.

Chris: And that kind of leads into a good discussion topic of just the culture fit between you and us, some of your experience with culture in other organizations you’ve worked with. What do you see in GCI and some of the companies you’ve worked with, in your business as well as far as culture, and the challenges, and successes there?

Henry: Yeah, yeah, it’s a good question. And, of course, this is a topic that people talk about a lot. I think it gets a lot of lip service, you know, culture, and it sounds good. And I think what you guys have done very well is at the top, at the leadership level, you, and Paul, and Alfonso, I believe it starts at the top. I think you guys really believe in what you put forth as a culture. It’s not just a plaque on the wall. You know, I call it lipstick on a pig, or when you go into that not so good fast food restaurant and they have the employee of the month plaque on the wall, you know, you see through that. It’s transparent. It’s somebody at corporate who decided, “Hey, we’ll do this and that’ll be culture.” You know, culture is what you guys believe in truly, in how you treat people, in how you treat each other, in how you treat your clients. It’s who you are because it’s an extension. The work that you guys do represents you. It represents Paul, it represents Alfonso and the other team members. And so I think that’s where it starts. You know, your challenge, of course, is you are a very distributed organization. You’re very virtual. You’re not all in one office. And so what I have found in a lot of organizations, it’s just hard to build a culture when you’re not all together because if for no other reason, then you can’t have those pep rallies, right? You can’t gather the forces together and give them that big speech for the week. But you guys are doing it because the culture, you guys set it at the top. It’s been consistent for all of these years that you guys have been in business. What is it? Thirty years almost now? Is that right?

Chris: Right. Right.

Henry: Yeah. And then what happens is it gets applied to what you look for in part in the people that you bring on to the team. So, that’s what I think you guys have done very well. And I think that you guys don’t even necessarily do it all that consciously. It’s who you are. And that’s why I think you have such a productive culture at GCI.

Chris: Well, and we’ve probably not done as good a job at some point in the past, mostly because, as you said, we’re a distributed company. We’re doing everything virtually, as most companies now are quite familiar with, the virus situation. But we’ve been doing it like that for over 10 years. So, you know, there’s definitely a learning curve there. And some of the business practices that we have learned about and implemented in GCI have helped us a lot there, regular communication, actually identifying and promulgating our core values, reinforcing those to all of our team on a regular basis, those kinds of things. As you said, some of it’s just intrinsic that you do, hopefully, by the way you present yourself to your clients and your team, but some of the processes we have now have kind of more formalized that for us. And, you know, I think a big thing that we’ve learned is, as you said, you might not have that weekly face to face pep rally, but you need to have a meeting cadence. You need to have a regular commitment to some gatherings, even though they’re remotely, even though they’re Zoom or Teams or something like that, to keep the team engaged.

Henry: Absolutely, yeah. And no, and we’ll get into more of that here as we talk about systems because systems is interrelated to culture, and that you’re exactly right. But most small organizations, Chris, in my experience, they’re challenged, especially, again, as we’ve added this component of being distributed, and as you said, we all have been because of COVID. You know, if you’re a small engineering firm or a small general contractor, which most of these firms are, when I say small, you’re not big corporations that have an HR department or somebody that can own the culture, right, or a small law firm that might be listening, it really then…what will happen is, despite the fact that you may not have or you’ve just started over the last few years to kind of make it a process, that’s why it’s so important that it starts at the top and that it’s really who you guys are because it would quickly fall apart, otherwise. The best program or process or the best, you know, articulation of it throughout the organization falls apart because in a small organization, people see through that very quickly. They see through that very quickly as to how you behave, or Paul behaves, or Alfonso behaves because in a larger organization, the people at the top can, kind of, hide behind layers of people. But in a small organization like yours or a small engineering firm, people see you, they interact with you, they might be on a job site with you, so your values and that culture gets represented to them on a daily basis, regardless of what the poster of the flying eagle on the wall may or may not say.

Chris: Exactly, right. Right. So you were mentioning some, too, as far as technology and how that folds into the whole culture and I guess regularly reinforcing that to people. So, what do you see in that regard?

Henry: Yeah, you know, I think it’s the systems and the technology. Let’s start with the systems first. You know, you guys are ahead of the curve for an organization of your size with implementing systems. We’re talking about all types of systems, most importantly, EOS, right, the entrepreneur operating system. So, you all took on that challenge of implementing that system so that you do have this process that becomes more repeatable, but also, that allows your rugged individualists to be more productive individually and as a team. And that’s the thing that’s hard because you all are a classic example where you as leaders are also delivering, working with clients, interacting with clients, working on projects. And often what I see happen at similar organizations is you just don’t find the time to implement systems. And so it’s this ongoing chaos that results. What you all have done very well is understood the value and the importance of implementing systems. And just to define systems, systems can be something as encompassing as EOS, which is, again, based on Traction from Gino Wickman, the entrepreneur operating system, which is very comprehensive, or it could be something as simple as a checklist that people I think in small organizations get hung up on what is a system. A system is anything that gives us structure, in particular, in those areas where something gets performed the same way on somewhat of a repeated basis. But it’s also as you spoke too, Chris, it’s how we’re going to communicate. That’s a system as well. How are we gonna come together on a periodic basis, on a regular cadence to communicate and collaborate? That’s a system also. Implementing a CRM tool is a technology that supports a system.

This is how we’re going to interact with prospective new clients. This is how we’re gonna walk them through the process of becoming a client. This is how we’re gonna deliver our service to them. All of those things GCI I think is ahead of the curve compared to other similar sized organizations in implementing those systems, with the end result being that the individuals are more productive, the team collaborates better. And the end result for the client is higher quality. That’s what I’ve observed.

Chris: Yeah, higher quality work, better coordination among our team members. A lot of our projects in the litigation end of things that we work on, there’s more than one of our team members involved. And one of the benefits of the systems, as you described, some of them can be pretty detailed and some of them can be more of an outline or a checklist, but we’ve worked hard to have a lot better consistency, regardless of who our technical team members are. And in an assignment for a client, everybody’s educated about the right way to go about it. Whatever the technical task we’re doing is done in a repeatable way. Our reports, we’ve worked on making them more user friendly, more informative, better looking visually, all those things, and then making all that consistent. And all those, as you said, are different examples of systems that ultimately, hopefully, make us do a better job for our clients.

Henry: Yeah, they absolutely do. I mean, I think that’s why GCI is the leader in that respect. When you compare the work product that GCI delivers, I think that’s one of the reasons it’s superior. Certainly, it’s to a big extent that you have extreme talent at GCI, right, very talented people doing the work, but the system allows them to produce that work on a consistent basis at that high level of quality. And that’s a key component, Chris, is that consistency. Systems allow us to deliver on a consistent basis so that every one of GCI’s clients receives the same level of service, the same level of quality, whether it’s a report, or an inspection, or appearing as an expert witness, whatever it is, those underlying systems ensure that you show up with the best that GCI has to offer for every client.

Chris: And that goes into the technology end of it as well, you know, and how we…everything from collecting data to presenting that report and everything in between.

Henry: Yeah. And so what I have seen is that, you know, Paul, in particular, and you as well, you guys are not afraid to try technology. And that doesn’t always work out, right? Sometimes it fails. And that’s okay because if you’re not failing, sometimes that means you’re not trying hard enough. So you guys are never afraid… I have never heard from the leadership of GCI, oh, that’s just the way we’ve always done it. That’s never something I have heard at GCI. Instead, it’s always, how can we do it better? How can we do it more effectively? How can we deliver more for the client? Can we apply this tool or that tool? And sometimes that ends up with a bunch of different tools, which is a challenge. But what it shows is that you’re not afraid to apply technology to facilitate productivity and to improve the quality of what you’re delivering to the client.

Chris: Yeah, and I think we have actually been ahead of the curve in a lot of areas. You know, an example that I think of is, I don’t know, 10, 12 years ago, everybody was talking about, you know, kind of, a paperless office type thing, paperless…

Henry: Right. Right.

Chris: Everything was gonna go digital. And again, we were ahead on that. And our biggest challenge was that, you know, we could do a lot of that digitally internally, but externally, everybody was still in a paper mode. And it’s not been that long ago that in a big litigation case, we would get boxes and boxes full of documents.

Henry: I can imagine.

Chris: And, you know, back in the day, we would then, you know, store those in a file cabinet. And as experts, when we’re involved in a case, we’re just thumbing through all that paperwork. And then when we got to the point where internally we saw all the efficiency and advantages to digitizing all that, we would get all those documents in and then we’d send them off to all be scanned into a system. And then the next thing was, we would encourage our clients, don’t send us the paper products. Send them to us where you’ve already scanned them in. And so then it would be we’d get CDs and thumb drives. And now, we’ve got gotten to the point where most everyone now is comfortable with the digitized format and it’s just sharing links. And even in our system and in our emails, now, we have a link where our clients can click right on that in our signature and upload directly to our system all the documents that they need to send. So, you know, it’s just one little example. But as you said, we’re not afraid to try new things. And some don’t work, some you revise and go another direction, but all of them I think, eventually lead to a big improvement in efficiency, quality, everything else that we were talking about before.

Henry: Yeah. And I think it comes also…this point comes back to culture from this perspective, Chris, as a small organization, it’s not like you have a large IT department. In fact, that’s virtual for you as well, where you’ve got people coming up with or testing these technologies. And what about this? Why don’t we do a test project like this? That you just don’t have those resources? Right? You’re a very lean organization. So what you’ve created culture-wise, is that you empower, and encourage, and almost require people at all levels to come up with ideas. Right? Whether it’s somebody like Eric, who’s out in the field, constantly leading teams of people doing inspections, coming up with how do we use a tablet better, to how do we photograph more effectively, you guys, you and Paul, and Alfonso, are very open to those ideas coming from all levels of the organization. What I have found can happen, and especially in smaller organizations, is you’ve got these people at the top whose egos would be bruised if the idea wasn’t theirs. And that’s, I think, also a subtle but very important part of culture, is that the way that GCI works is if somebody comes up with an idea, it doesn’t matter whose idea it is, if it’s a good idea, it’s a good idea.

Chris: Yep. And that EOS operating system that you talked about encourages that in that you’ve got, they don’t call it an organizational chart, you’ve got this accountability chart, you’ve got regular communication going on at the different levels of accountability. Everyone understands what they’re accountable for. And those ideas then can move right up to wherever they need to get implemented. And then as you know, we’re big believers, followers of the whole extreme ownership, Navy SEALs concept, and they’re 100%…that’s their whole structure is the decentralized command, have the commander’s intent, but then have the individuals in their different areas empowered to make decisions to get things done. And then when a mission is complete, debrief about that and get that information shared throughout the organization. So, we’re always learning. We’re always improving. Every time we do something, hopefully, we come back with a better way that can be shared throughout and, again, do a better job for our clients the next time.

Henry: Yeah, and then, in my observation, that’s one of the reasons you’ve been around in the position of leadership for 30 years is you’ve been able to evolve, pivot when you need to, and continuously improve. You’ve had to do that and you’ve done that. And I think that’s why you’ve been in the position of leadership that you have for so long.

Chris: What do you think about other tools and resources for the team, maybe still involving technology or in some other areas, that you see with GCI or some of your other clients that you work with?

Henry: Well, I mean, most recently, the CRM implementation, I think is a good example of another application of a tool. And I think one of the key…happen in an organization to be positioning to adopt new technology is you have to have a culture that doesn’t say, “That’s different. That makes it more difficult.” Let’s just talk about CRM for a second. The classic pushback I always hear from organizations that implement a CRM is that everybody says, “No,” or, “Now it takes me longer to do my job,” or, “It slows me down.” It’s a typical, classic excuse. And so, the culture has to be strong enough to say, “Well, we’re gonna try this to make us more efficient, even though there is a learning curve,” right? So, that approach to implementing technology, I think is what you have to see, whether it…if we look at it from an inspector in the field, trying different technologies, even though initially it might slow them down, I think has been part of how you guys have done a good job of implementing tools and new tools. Am I answering the question you were asking?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Yeah. You know, we’ve talked a lot about people, and one of the areas that you’ve helped us in, and you’re continuing to work with us in, is recruiting and identifying new people. You know, we continue to grow and we need more team members so…and helping us look for the right fit, the people that hopefully will fit our culture, be productive members of our team. And we’ve always found that to be a big challenge in that we’re in kind of a niche industry, even within the engineering or architecture field, that we specialize in the building envelope. So it’s not even a general engineering firm. So that’s always been a challenge as to finding the right people to add to the team. And now that you’ve been working with us in that regard, I wondered if you had any insights on that, that we might share?

Henry: Yeah, yeah, you know, as you were saying that, the top word that comes to my mind is “resourcefulness.” I think that to be successful in an environment like GCI and other…you know, a small engineering firm, like I said, a small contractor or subcontractor, a typical law firm, I think that resourcefulness is key. In other words, in small environments like this, entrepreneurial environments, you’re not gonna have a lot of support staff. You’re not gonna have…I can’t pop down three cubicles and ask a question. The support is there but you have to be resourceful to do well in this environment. You have to be the kind of person that’s gonna try to figure it out first with the resources that you do have, and then raise your hand when you get stuck. It’s funny because I was just putting together a list…I had put together a list when my daughter graduated from high school, getting ready…actually, from college, rather, getting ready to start her first job, I sat her and her boyfriend down and said, “Here’s my list of things that you need to know.” And one of them was this concept of resourcefulness. In other words, to be able to go and try to figure things out before you say, “Well, I don’t know.” Right? “I don’t know where to find that.” I think that that’s what I…one of the key things that I’ve been looking for in people that are gonna be a good fit at GCI is do they have that resourcefulness? Do they have that about them that they can go try to get the answer as best they can? But then there’s this tricky thing of when do you stop spinning your wheels and raise your hand? Right? But that’s a key component, I think, Chris, is being resourceful.

Chris: Yeah. And I think that fits, you know… You could also, I guess, define that, as I was talking about earlier, as the whole extreme ownership concept is that whatever position you’re in, your field of responsibility is everything. And so, you have to be resourceful. You have to force yourself to be resourceful. If you’re taking the attitude that the answer is not gonna come from above, magically, or somebody down the chain of command, I’m not gonna slough this off on them and assume they’re gonna take care of it, I’m gonna take responsibility for everything in my field, in my area. And I think that’s exactly…it’s just another way of saying what you’re saying and defining as resourcefulness.

Henry: Yeah, I agree. I see this as a challenge, for example, when I coach people that are transitioning from the corporate world to starting their first business, or you’re from the corporate world to working for a smaller organization, the thing you have to think about is how dependent are you and how much do you need those resources that a large corporation gives you? And we don’t even think about it sometimes. So, to make that transition, either to an entrepreneurial organization like GCI or to become your own boss, you have to be ready to not have those resources at your disposal. And it’s a different way of thinking, right? It’s a different way of thinking. And so, you have to be much more creative and have to really try to get the answers yourself and be accountable and resourceful on your own within this smaller, more virtual organization.

Chris: Yeah, for me, it all goes to personality and your makeup. But for me, it’s so much more interesting. It’s so much more exciting. But when you were saying that, it made me think of sometimes when trying to fill a relatively high-level position in the expert or senior consultant end of things, and had some very good candidates, and really felt we were establishing a good relationship with somebody who could really come in and be a productive member of our team. But there have been some times when they were coming from that much bigger corporate world. And even as you said, it’s not like they’re stepping off the edge and starting their own business. But even making the jump for them to a more lean organization like ours, it was too much of a change for them to contemplate.

Henry: Yeah, exactly. But listen, I think maybe at the end of the day, that was for both sides’ benefits that it didn’t work out. And then you touched on it, it was so key, is the flip side of this is the flexibility and the opportunity that presents for the right person. If you look at it from the perspective, okay, yeah, I’m not gonna have all of these resources at my disposal but boy, am I gonna have an opportunity to learn, to explore, to make decisions, to make an impact. I mean, for any of us who want this, one of the things that…having been in the corporate world that was most frustrating to me, is that on the flip side, in this large organization, I was this little cog in the wheel at best, right? But in an entrepreneurial organization like GCI, each individual can have a huge impact. And I don’t know how much more rewarding that can be, right? I mean, that’s what the right type of fit for GCI is looking for, is the opportunity to make a larger impact than they might have been able to make in a large organization, as far as this particular topic that we’re talking about here. [crosstalk 00:27:10]

Chris: Exactly. Yep. yep. And I think that does, then, that resourcefulness does transfer over to our relationship with our clients. When you have that culture, when you have that resourcefulness that’s just such a big part of the way we operate, that’s needed and valuable when we’re working with our clients, especially on these high-end expert assignments, litigation assignments, forensic investigations that may be very difficult, complex situations to determine all the problems and solutions there. That requires resourcefulness as well. So when that’s part of your everyday world, in everything you do, I think it makes it better for our clients in that we’re not corporate drones, we just know how to connect A to B, and spit out something for them.

Henry: Yeah, well said. I think that’s such a huge point, Chris, is that resourcefulness and that creativity. You’re never gonna hear from a GCI person, certainly who’s facing the customer and expert, “Oh, I don’t know. We don’t do that,” or, “We’ve never done it that way.” Right? You’re never gonna hear that. That’s just not the way it operates. That’s not the way we operate. And so you’re absolutely right, that that’s the opportunity then for people who do, going back to the question you asked about, what do we look for when we’re looking for somebody to join the team, that’s the magic part of it and that’s the opportunity. And that is, again, why GCI has done so well in how it delivers for its clients because the approach, your approach, Paul’s approach, Alfonso, it was never, “Well, this is what we have to offer you and we’re not varying from that,” it’s, “How can we help you solve your problem?”

Chris: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. If anything, I think, you know, we try to figure out a way to solve any problem to do anything. And sometimes that can be a little overwhelming. But…

Henry: That can be a challenge. Yeah, and that comes back to the systems and the structure. And a lot of what EOS has done for you is probably… There has to be some guidance. Exactly. Because you can’t be everything to everybody as a smaller organization, certainly not effectively. So I think that’s, going back to what the systems have done for you, is giving you that structure, those quarterly cadence of having these discussions about where we go next, what type of business makes sense for us now, how do we deliver better for our clients? As a small organization, that’s what they need to do is that methodology to adjust on a regular basis is what that’s done for you.

Chris: Yeah, very well said. Well, as I was saying to you and Janice, before we started, I could talk to you about this for hours because, you know, it’s all very interesting stuff. But we should probably close on that note. And I really appreciate your time today, Henry, and all the work you do for us regularly for GCI. Do you wanna tell any of our listeners how they could reach you at Levante and the information about your very successful podcast?

Henry: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. Appreciate the opportunity. thehowofbusiness.com is where you’ll find everything about me, as well as the podcast, which is called “The How of Business.”

Chris: Great. And it’s a really interesting and informative podcast with lots of interesting guests that Henry has. So, if any of our listeners are interested in entrepreneurial operations, and growing businesses, and running businesses, I highly recommend it. Also I wanted to mention to our listeners that we’re always looking for interesting guests on our podcast, and if you are interested or know someone who may be an interesting guest, please reach out to Janice Hoffman at GCI. You can reach her through our website or her email addresses at jhoffman@gciconsultants.com, and we’d like to talk to you about being a future guest. So, I want to thank Henry Lopez, again, for joining us 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 phone number, 877-740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you to our listeners once again, and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

 

 

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Comparing Building Envelope Industry Perspectives and Trends – Skyline Windows

Adrian LowensteinNational Business Development Manager for Skyline Windows

GCI Podcast - Episode 65 - Chris Mathews and Adrian Lowenstein

In this episode, Chris Matthews, President, and Principal for GCI Consultants talks with Adrian Lowenstein, National Business Development Manager for Skyline Windows, about the building envelope industry’s hot topics. Listen in as the two experts discuss energy code requirements, sustainability trends, and technology trends that Adrian is seeing in the Northeast where Skyline Windows is based.  

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!

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Chris: Welcome, everyone to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, president and principal for GCI Consultants, and I’m your host today. I’m really excited to have as our guest, Adrian Lowenstein, who is the national business development manager for Skyline Windows, based in the Bronx, New York. We’ve got some interesting topics to cover today, which include energy codes, current requirements, sustainability trends in the industry, and some of the differences we see in the northeast where Skyline is based versus the southeast where GCI does a lot of our work. We’ll discuss those and some of the different technology trends we see in the building envelope today. So, Adrian, welcome. Let’s start off by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and then we can jump right into our subject matter.

Adrian: Sure. Thanks, Chris. So hey, my name is Adrian. I’m a licensed professional engineer here based out of New York City. My background is on the facade consulting side. I have a lot of experience in the high-rise curtain wall and window wall sector. And now, I’ve found myself coming over to the dark side on the manufacturing side with an aluminum manufacturer, aluminum fenestration manufacturer named Skyline Windows. We’ve recently celebrated 100 years in business. So, we’re very excited to be sharing and discussing some of the current challenges we’re facing with the new energy codes, and how we’re going to be addressing some of our new builds when it comes to new construction and existing buildings. So, I’m very interested to hear how that’s affected your business and the market in the southeast, and maybe how we might end up meeting somewhere in the middle.

Chris: Sure. Great. So, we were talking a little bit before we started recording and talked a little bit about the work that you do, the energy code, things that you’re seeing currently in the market. So why don’t you just talk to us a little bit about how you see the new energy code affecting design decisions. What you guys are experiencing from the window manufacturer in the work?

Adrian: Sure. So, I think recently sustainability and energy codes have gained a lot of attention. I think in the past, we always were striving to build high performance, but there were no real, true ramifications. And now that we have more outcome-based energy codes, where the energy usage intensity of existing buildings is being measured, meaning we’re sitting here and reading energy bills, and applying thresholds as to how buildings are supposed to perform, all of a sudden topics are being taken much more seriously. And we’re reassessing how we’re building our buildings, how we’re looking at the building as a whole in terms of how the enclosure and how the mechanical systems are interplaying with one another. And it’s definitely gotten the attention now that it deserves. We’re seeing questions like, how much glazed area do we want to have on our facade? Should we look at technologies like triple-glazed instead of double glazing? It definitely feels like there’s a paradigm shift going on in the industry. And it’s sparking a lot of interesting conversations.

Chris: And we’re seeing that in Florida as well. Probably over the last three to four years, I would say is when we’ve really been seeing that shift, as you said, that paradigm shift more toward a focus on the energy performance. As we were talking about before the podcast, we’ve got the additional layer in Florida and the other hurricane-prone regions of the impact on glazing requirements but five, six years ago, everything in the southern part of Florida was laminated glass, 9/16-inch laminated glass, no insulating values at all. But as the energy codes came into play, now we’ve got…not triple glazing yet in Florida but now we’re seeing insulated laminated glass requirements to meet the energy requirement as well. So…and of course, in Florida, our big thing is keeping the cool in where in the northeast where you are, it’s usually more a concern about keeping the cold out. So…

Adrian: Of course, I think that main difference is that, you know, we’re a heating-dominated climate versus a cooling-dominated climate like you said and…but I think there’s this misconception in the industry that U-value of the system isn’t as important in Florida. But if you think about it in the summer, all of that solar gain that you’re getting, it’s going to be very hard to maintain a comfortable interior environment. And it’s just going to require a tremendous amount of cooling load on the building. So I think that’s more of the challenge that you’ve faced down there.

Chris: Sure. And that’s…as you were saying, that gets into more than just the glazing system itself, but how much glazing is there going to be on the exterior building? How does that affect the HVAC system and design? You know, I can remember over the years, the different projects we’ve been involved with, where, you know, these people sitting in these offices and, you know, they just can’t get comfortable because of the type of glass and the limited insulating value. And no matter what they’ve got the AC set on, people who are near the windows or curtain wall, or whatever it may be in an office building are just…you know, it’s just uncomfortable because of there was no concern at that time about, you know, the U-value, the energy performance of these systems.

Adrian: So interestingly in California with…they had their Title 24, where there was a mandate. I believe it was in the early 2000s, maybe in the late ’90s, where all of a sudden, you couldn’t put a new piece of glass in that was monolithic. Every new piece of glass has to be an insulated unit. I guess when did you see that shift in Florida? And do you still see monolithic units going in and things like non-thermally broken framing?

Chris: Yes. In fact, in South Florida, still, primarily, most of the stuff is not thermally broken, most of the systems are not thermally broken. They’re just starting to look at that as one of the ways to meet the energy requirements. And even the glass itself, I don’t remember exactly when, but I’m going to say it’s been only in the last four or five years that it’s gone to the insulating glass in South Florida. So it’s definitely behind…we’re definitely behind some of the other areas as far as the energy constraints. And some of that was because the hurricane wind-borne debris impact codes came into play in the mid to late ’90s. And there was so little product availability that the main thing was just to get manufacturers who had tested products that could meet the impact requirements. And then, it’s only been recently that, you know, they’ve added that additional layer now to start to address some of the energy stuff.

Adrian: So let me ask you, Chris, with some of the aggressive structural and design pressure requirements on these fenestration systems here in…especially in Canada, and in the colder climate regions, we’ve seen some nonmetal manufacturers come out like UPVC, and perhaps fiberglass, just as a way to meet the thermal requirements and to perform at these aggressive energy targets. So one of the constraints that we’ve seen, especially in mid to highrise applications is that they don’t perform in a similar fashion or similarly to that of aluminum. And you don’t get that same strength to weight ratio and some of those structural characteristics that you would look for in aluminum. So have you seen any of those materials, I guess, explored in the market? Or have you, you know, experimented with any of that in commercial applications?

Chris: [crosstalk 00:08:24]. Yeah. I’ve seen it. Well, not so much commercial applications, because I think of the structural issues that you were mentioning. But I have seen in some…maybe say like kind of mid-rise type projects, where there are some manufacturers now, some…maybe some kind of local Florida manufacturers that are doing some stuff with fiberglass, PVC, those kinds of products, mostly I’ve seen in, like operable windows for…and as I said, mid-rise, apartments, those kinds of things. We’re seeing a lot more of that where they can meet the structural and impact requirements, because they’re relatively low loads, as opposed to a high-rise building but then get the energy efficiency. So we’re seeing some of that, but in all of the commercial, you know, high-rise, any of those types of projects, it’s still all-aluminum stuff here. Are you guys seeing that up in the northeast as far as, is it still predominantly aluminum when you’re talking, you know, high-rise, more substantial systems or there’s some other products as well coming into play there?

Adrian: Well, the limiting factor at the moment with aluminum systems is the thermal performance. Obviously, the long-term durability and structural performance is there, and it’s proven out. In all I’d say 99%…particularly, it’s all-aluminum and curtain wall and window wall. In some punched window applications, we’re starting to see some nonmetal applications. You know, for decades now, just because of the energy requirements, we’ve been putting in thermally broken systems. Every new project has at least a double insulated glass package with one Low-E coating. Now we’re seeing ultra-warm edge spacers. I mean, the technology is really ramping up just to meet the energy requirement. And every project we look at now, essentially, from the design team, they’re looking at a cost performance, you know, analysis on what a double versus triple insulated unit will look like. Can we even achieve our performance requirements with an aluminum system? So we are reaching we’re close to reaching a threshold with aluminum at the moment just to meet the new U-factor requirements. And that’s why we have to look at upgrading our glass technology and glass package if they want to design a highly glazed facade per coat.

Chris: Sure. And what are some of the trends you’re seeing? We’ve talked some about the aluminum and the structural components of these glazing systems. But what are you seeing as far as trends with the glass product and coatings? What are you seeing in your area as far as those?

Adrian: So, something that’s been introduced recently is, I’ve seen a soft Low-E coating now put on the interior surface. So on the number four surface of the IGU. So, having that second coating on the glass is giving better solar heat gain as well as U-value performance. I think that would be potentially a concern in the southeast environment. Just from some consultants I’ve spoken to, there might be risk of condensation, just if you’re in a residential application and you have an interior environment that’s a little more humid, you might run a risk of having that interior surface of the glass be, I guess, running close to the dew point. So again, you would run risk of condensation. So, I think in the past, we’ve seen hard coats on the interior surface and design teams would stray away from that. But now, especially with double insulated units, we’re seeing a second coating being introduced. And then when we’re looking at triple it could be one, two, or three coatings. I mean, it sounds…it sounds almost out of this world that we’re having this conversation, and I can’t even imagine a monolithic glass unit going into a system here today. And it’s crazy that that’s still going on in Florida. And the truth is, it’s just…it shows how much the climate has influence on the performance requirements of the building.

Chris: And I think now we’re to the point where there probably are no new monolithic projects. There were some prescriptive ways around the energy requirements in the beginning, where they could do some things and maybe comply with a monolithic situation. But I don’t…I don’t think they can anymore. I haven’t seen any in the last probably three years, something like that. But it kind of, like you said, it just kind of blows me away that you guys are, in your area, looking at triple glazing and actually three different layers of Low-E if you’ve got a triple glazing situation.

Adrian: I mean, yeah. It’s a…and what I talked about; I think we’re a step back from where Canada is at the moment. I think Toronto and Vancouver kind of led the way here with going for the overarching goal of being carbon net-neutral. They’re looking to hit it by 2030. I know a bunch of the lower states are looking at 2050, particularly cities like New York, DC, Boston. So, we’re following a lot of trends, especially facade trends that we’ve seen in Canada. And I just wonder how quickly the rest of the country is going to be…to adapt it. But I mean, we’re looking at double-skin curtain walls up in Canada. Triple glazing becoming almost the norm, and a strong, strong focus on the facade first. Getting the facade right so that you don’t have such a heavy requirement on your mechanical systems. And, you know, if you’re looking at the design of a new construction building, the design team can have a heavy influence on those decisions. The challenge becomes when you’re looking at retrofitting an existing building. And I think you look at individual components like the lighting or the mechanical system, or the roof and you just want to optimize. But the challenge is, all these systems work in unison and if you don’t have the right facade in place, it doesn’t matter how much you optimize the mechanical system, you’re just going to be bleeding energy out of the building.

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Chris: Right. And you were talking to me some about there are new requirements in New York and some of the other big cities in the northeast, actually looking at the existing buildings and the energy performance of those as well, right?

Adrian: Sure. So, we have something that was enacted in 2019, called Local Law 97, or the Climate Mobilization Act. And it essentially…it puts in a carbon emissions limit on buildings over 25,000 square feet. So they basically, depending on the type of occupancy, whether it’s a commercial office, residential building, hospitality, they’ll say, “This is your carbon emission limit,” or they call it in metric tons per square feet, “So this is your energy usage intensity. And anything that you are over that threshold, we’re going to elicit a fine, or in other words, a carbon tax on that building. So specifically, it’s $268 per metric ton, you are over the threshold.” So it’s aI was describing earlier, it’s become a paradigm shift because we’re looking at performance now more so than conformance. It’s not just, “Hey, you know, did you hit these LEED requirements?” or, “Did you build per the…per the energy codes?” We’re looking at how the building is performing. So, we’re looking at the Con Edison bills or your utility bills, and we’re saying, “Okay. What’s the energy usage intensity? And are you over the threshold? And if you are, then we’re going to fine you.” So it’s stringent. It’s a big deal. But it’s being adopted in other cities. And I think it’s really redirecting the attention to existing buildings. And all of those post-war buildings that were lapped up, you know, in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, now, there’s real ramification if they don’t comply. And they’ve given building owners a little bit of time. This law doesn’t go into effect until 2024. But it’s opening up the conversation to how to properly and effectively address these buildings.

Chris: And that’s something that we’ve not seen in Florida yet. But I’m sure as you said, it’s going to spread throughout the country. And it only makes sense if we’re concerned about energy performance, efficiency, consumption, all those things. You know, your existing building stock is…you know, there’s hundreds of years, or over 100 years worth of buildings versus what we build new each year. It’s just so many more out there affecting energy consumption. So, it makes sense that eventually, this is where it’s going to go. Have you been involved in actually any projects yet, where they’re looking at replacing exterior fenestration to try to come into compliance when this comes into play in a few years?

Adrian: That’s been the majority of our projects at the moment. When we sit here and look at doing either a window replacement or some type of curtain wall retrofit job, or they’re looking to over clad or maybe install some type of new rain screen, part of that design decision is going to be, “Okay. Are you going to conform with Local Law 97? And if not, how do we need to address or change this design?” I mean, everybody thinks about…we were talking earlier about all the new condo buildings that are being built in Florida. Now, the truth is, the minute that building gets their TCO, that becomes an existing building. So all the rows and rows of new high-rise buildings we see in South Florida along the water, those are all existing buildings. And if Florida has listed some type of local law where they put a threshold on how the building has to perform, you know, maybe there’s going to be ramification to, again, building with those monolithic glass units or installing the non-thermally broken frames. So yeah. I mean, that’s…all these projects in terms of retrofit and repositioning, that’s been an added component. Sure, we say, “Okay. If you put in all new windows, you’ll reduce your energy bills by this.” But there’s that added component, now we eliminate that fine component where you weren’t in compliance with this local law.

Chris: And very interesting, very interesting stuff. And with all of the focus on building performance now that there wasn’t 20, 25 years ago, it’s interesting to see that it’s going to evolve into how it affects all these existing buildings. Because we’re building them so much better now, right? I mean, the things…the new things being built now are so much better performing than what they were, as you said, in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. They weren’t even thinking about this stuff then. So…

Adrian: Yeah. I mean, I think the interesting or nice thing is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. We have the technologies. And we…it’s still the same types of systems being specced, and designed, and installed now. It’s just now there’s a, I guess, a reason to purchase. There’s more of a reason to consider them, I’d say. And it feels like we’re headed in the right direction. I mean, in 10 years from right now, I don’t know what we’re going to look back at and say, “Why were we doing that?” but I think we’re continuously progressing in terms of envelope and just building performance as a whole. I’m curious, have you had any clients or requests on projects to do any type of lifecycle assessment or energy modeling, or energy performance assessment?

Chris: Yes. That comes into play now a lot more, again, a lot more than it did 10 years ago. But people are looking at the whole building performance now here, and I’m sure they are there as well. And doing those analysis from the beginning and looking at how all those systems work together. Yes. So, we’re seeing that here as well.

Adrian: Sure. I mean, I know it’s very popular, you go on the water and you want that all glass. I saw you guys did a number of high-rise condominiums there, whether it’s window wall with terraces and balconies, or if it’s a curtain wall. Do you think we’re going to head in a direction where we can’t have facades that are so, you know, 70% glazed systems, and we’re going to look at more opaque areas? Or do you think people are just going to start spending and they’re just going to start specifying higher-performing systems just to meet the energy codes?

Chris: Well, I think…I mean, and that’s an interesting question. And it’s kind of a dichotomy in that previously…the technology for the impact-resistant stuff, just like energy performance, has been getting better, and better, and better. The manufacturers can make bigger pieces of insulated laminated glass. There’s much more knowledge now about what’s needed to pass the impact…the missile impact testing, and cyclic wind load testing requirements. So, from the standpoint of somebody who’s buying a high-end unit on the beach, these people want the biggest expanse of glass, the biggest openings, the most beautiful view they can have. But then, on the other side of that, there’s all these energy performance issues as well. So, you kind of have a push in both directions here in that the manufacturing capabilities are better from the building owner, unit owner standpoint. They want the most big, beautiful view they can have. And the architects want to give them that. But then also, there’s these limits on how much glass can you have and still meet the energy requirements. So we kind of have a push and pull going on here right now. And I would think too, you know, kind of the same thing, if somebody is buying…building something, you know, a ski lodge on the…on the slopes of some beautiful mountain somewhere, same thing, you know, you want these big, beautiful expanses. But then, how’s that affecting your energy performance?

Adrian: Everything’s a push and pull at the moment. I mean, we get calls that we wanted to do a curtain wall building, but we’re considering a passivhaus project. And can we make that work? We don’t have the budget for curtain wall. Maybe can we make it work with window wall? Well, do we need to go triple glazing? And the whole, it’s just the back and forth of a trade-off at the moment and every project seems to come down to compromise. I’m curious if you’ve had an experience with any of the dynamic glass suppliers. I know you previously had View Glass, a podcast episode. I believe it might have been with Paul. We’ve done a bunch of projects with them up here in New York. I’m curious about the implications of a system like that in Florida, especially where solar radiant heat is a much bigger concern. So, if you’ve seen any traction, and if you think there’s a future for that type of technology.

Chris: I think personally, I think there’s a future but as far as…we’ve been interested in that and definitely, as you said, I had them as a podcast guest and I’ve seen some presentations and things about that. But so far, I have not seen yet a lot of traction in big projects including that. It seems to me that it’s going to happen. But we haven’t seen a lot yet. And I’m interested. So, you guys have actually had some projects that included the dynamic glazing?

Adrian: We’ve done maybe three or four high-rise buildings. No new construction, all retrofit buildings. But yes, either curtain wall retrofit, or very large, large-scale operable that…I mean, I’m talking 10 feet wide by 5 feet tall with dynamic glass. A lot of it was with the same building owner and developer up here. But I think the technology is intriguing. And I asked about it just because again, of the solar requirements and demands in Florida, I would think it would make for an appealing product even more so down there. But I see it as maybe being, you know, innovative, trendy play, and people have bought into it. And I think it’s awesome when you see it in person, it’s quite neat. I call it like a “Shark Tank” product where the type of thing that you have to see in person, and then you’re sold. But I’m seeing more and more of it. I mean, I’m not saying it’s on 25% of projects right now. But they’ve done some substantial projects up here in the northeast. And I know you guys had them on as a guest, so I’m just wondering. That’s one of the glazing technologies I wanted to talk about. I think something we can see in the future is a lot more of, A, dynamic glass. And then, the other one is vacuum insulated glass. I’m hearing a lot about it right now. A lot of glass manufacturers are, I guess, going pedal to the metal trying to be one of the first to market. But I think that could be a driver in helping us still design and build highly glazed facades while still meeting the energy code requirements.

Chris: Right, right. Yeah. And our thoughts were the same as yours as far as it seems that with the dynamic glazing, it’s a perfect fit for Florida, and any kind of a hot, sunny area. But you know, like we were talking about with the push and pull, it’s a…it’s a money thing as well, that right now, if they can meet their energy requirements in some other way, and our glazing systems are so expensive because of the impact requirements on them, I think a lot of people just haven’t seen the cost-benefit there to go with the…with the dynamic stuff. But, you know, like everything else, if some developer start using it, as you said, it’s really neat. And then, it’s going to be a thing of…the next developer is going to say, “Well, you know, I can’t compete if I don’t have it.” So if, you know [crosstalk 00:28:02]…

Adrian: Of course. I mean, someone recently told me that projects sell projects. So I think, you know, they got their first big win here. And I think that, you know, built up the momentum. And once you have a portfolio of projects to display, all of a sudden…you know, there’s some consultants and design teams that are reluctant to specify or try somebody…try somebody out unless they have a track record or a history of [crosstalk 00:28:27] performance. I think that’s the component. But I mean, between all of these…considering triple glazing, considering dynamic glazing, something we’re seeing now here in the northeast is bird-friendly glass. I don’t know if that’s something you’ve seen yet. But another local law we have, Local Law 15 here is that every new piece of glass that goes into a building has to be considered bird-friendly, which I’m not a glass expert, I don’t want to speak to the specifics, but in essence, to my understanding, the glass has to have a certain threat on it, so that the birds can see it so that they can limit the amount of incidents they have. At the moment, I think there’s been…I didn’t mean to laugh. It’s not a funny matter. They’ve had a lot of incidents, I guess, all over the country where birds have collided with glass. So that’s…we’re seeing that trend.

So again, I mean, all these discussions, everybody wants the highly glazed facade. Everybody wants views, and the big windows, and the big fixed light. And all these new glass technologies having to be bird-friendly, having to possibly be dynamic, possibly going triple glazing, all of a sudden, your glass cost per square foot becomes pretty astronomical. And it makes it challenging to push for other things in the building. I mean, again, like we spoke about everything is a trade-off. So just for highly glazed facades, as I was saying to me energy codes, I think we’re going to have to see…I don’t want to say a little bit more competitive pricing, I think as these things become more commonplace, possibly the price per square foot of some of these technologies will come down a bit.

Chris: Yeah. Right. And that’s what we saw. It’s very similar to when we saw the impact resistance requirements come into play in Florida. At the time, you know, there was all this almost hysteria about, you know, “We’ll never be able to build another house or building. It’s going to be too expensive. No one can ever afford it.” And of course, yes. There’s lots of research. There’s lots of development. But people learn and people find more efficient ways to do things. People see what’s working and what’s not. And, yeah, sure. It adds cost. But if the requirement is there, you know, the market will figure out a way. And that’s what…

Adrian: Of course, of course.

Chris: …you know, eventually.

Adrian: And that’s what I think some of these energy…I think some of these local jurisdictions, and what, like I said, Toronto, and Vancouver have done. And now we’re seeing it in Seattle, where you have, you know, envelope backstops related to the energy performance requirements. So, I think as we’re seeing more and more adoption like you were saying, everybody’s…it came as a bit of a shock, but everybody’s starting to adapt and figure it out. And that’s sort of what we do in this industry. So, I mean, you have…in the southeast, a whole set of other challenges, as you were saying, with the impact’s requirements. Have you seen a spike in consideration of…new consideration of natural ventilation or maybe more operable windows on buildings, particularly with…I don’t mean to go on a completely different tangent, but with COVID? And I think, people, desiring maybe natural ventilation through operable windows or maybe access to outdoor space, like balconies, or terrace? Have you seen any of those influences coming in on design decisions?

Chris: Well, I read about that kind of thing. But knowing our market and the way it works, I mean, there’s always been a big interest in the outdoor space, the balconies, the patios, those kinds of things. But in Florida, basically, the majority of people use their air conditioning almost all the time. So, you know, we have all the operable windows in our houses, and even the high-rises, you know, there’s operable windows, and of course, sliding glass doors, on all the balconies, those kinds of things. But as far as the natural ventilation thing, like I said, I read about it, but I just don’t think it’s very practical here. Because, you know, it’s just too uncomfortable from a temperature standpoint, the majority of the year in Florida.

Adrian: Yeah, I mean, I think once we get up here in the spring and fall, obviously, you have your windows open, 24/7. And even in commercial applications, it gets so hot on the interior from some of the solar gain, and just all the interior heating loads that sometimes you see it in office buildings, the windows are open in the middle of winter, which I guess is normal to you because in the middle of winter down there, it’s 50 degrees and comfortable. Interesting to hear where it’s going. And I’m glad to hear some of those trends are being picked up over time in Florida. I don’t know how soon we’ll see triple glazing down there, as you were saying, but it sounds like we’re sort of headed in the same direction.

Chris: Could be someday. Yeah. Well, thank you for joining me today, Adrian. You’ve been a great guest. Lots of interesting stuff that we talked about. I always enjoy…you know, as you said, we do work all over the country so…but I always enjoy talking to people in different climates, you know, big cities in the northeast. Those kinds of things are interesting because there’s a lot that we can learn from each other, as you and I have kind of been doing on this podcast today. So, I want to thank you again for joining me. Hopefully, this has been as interesting for our listeners as it has been for you and me. If any of our listeners want to reach out to you, why don’t you share your website address and the best way to contact you?

Adrian: Sure, I appreciate that. It’ll be easy to reach out to me personally. My LinkedIn, @adrianlowenstein. You can find us at Skyline Windows at skylinewindows.com. And if anybody wants to email me it’s alowenstein@skylinewindows.com. I thought this was a great conversation too, Chris. And it’s always good to hear a different perspective and something that you’re not used to. So, I really appreciate you having me on and I hope your guests enjoyed it too.

Chris: Great. Well, thank you. We also invite our listeners to take a further look at our GCI Consultant Services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com. And you can reach us at phone number 877-740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you, Adrian and thanks to our audience once again. And I look forward to talking with you next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.

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Tremco Products and Applications for Building Envelopes

JB Snyder – Senior Technical Representative, Tremco Sealants

Everything Building Envelope Podcast Episode 64

Listen to Chris Matthews, GCI Consultants CEO & Founder talk with JB Snyder, Senior Technical Representative of Tremco Sealants, about the COVID-19, common waterproofing building envelope issues, and technology in the field. Listen in as the two experts discuss the in and outs of the current state of the Building Envelope landscape.

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 for GCI Consultants, and I’m your host today. I’m excited today to have as my guest, JB Snyder, who is a senior technical representative for Tremco Sealants. Welcome, JB.

JB: Good morning.

Chris: Great to have you here. JB and I have worked together on a lot of different technical projects through the years, as have a lot of our consultants here at GCI. And I think we’ll have a lot of interesting topics that we can discuss today. So JB, since this is your first time as our guest, why don’t you tell our audience a little bit about yourself and what you do at Tremco?

JB: All right, I’m Jeff Snyder. A lot of people in the industry know Jeff Snyder Jr. A lot of people know me as JB. Started in this industry in 2001, which dates me a little bit, but I’m kind of a second-generation waterproofing guy. My father started a couple years before I was born. I’m 42 now and he started back in the ’70s doing what I started as my first job being an estimator and project manager and working for a local waterproofing applicator here in Florida Metro Caulking and Waterproofing. So I started with him as an estimator and project manager in 2001, as I said. I worked there for about…I think it was about 10/11 years, working on a lot of projects in the field with GCI team and some of your former team members where I spent quite a bit of time in meetings and on the phone with some of your guys talking about the projects as an applicator.

And then in 2012, I changed teams and shirts and became a technical rep for Tremco. Tremco brought me on as a field technical rep. And then a couple of years ago, I got I guess you’d call it promoted in titles, so much to do a senior technical rep for all of Florida. So I work on everything building envelope like the podcast basically for Tremco products for all of Florida. The Florida team consists of a number of people kind of in different parts of the state. We have a couple of technical reps in the state. And I guess my title is Senior Technical Rep of the entire state for everything building envelope so ceilings, basements, patio decks, closet decks. Everything around a building is Tremco’s focus and my focus in dealing with discussions like this with you.

Chris: And what we like at GCI is we deal with different manufacturers in the industry. And what we like about dealing with JB and Tremco is just as he described that he’s got a real background in the industry. Some technical rep are really just salespeople, but JB has done it for a long time. And it really helps the project, the issues that we’re dealing with to have somebody from the manufacturer who really understands the products, the applications, and how to make it all go together out in the field and make it work. So great to have you here today. Let’s talk about what’s happening in our industry right now. I guess the first thing that we probably need to check off, because everybody is thinking about it and dealing with it is what you’re seeing as far as the industry and how it’s dealing with the COVID situation and specifically how Tremco is dealing with it.

JB: Well, that’s obviously the conversation that we’re having quite a bit, right? The Rolodex of people that we’re hearing and being in what they’re now calling the epicenter in South Florida at this point is a huge conversation point with just about everybody I talked to today and yesterday and every day right now. I think there’s a few things that are the normal talking points, which is the effect of COVID having a slowdown was pretty much inevitable. We’ve had a great run for a long, long time and seeing a little bit of a slowdown, whether it be the permit offices being restricted with allowing permits to come out and slowing some of the progress of our projects or just the idea that overall in general, you’re going to have a slowdown in business when something like this affects the economic interests of the country. But we saw a slowdown with or without it happening.

The main issue that I think on the day-to-day how that’s affecting us is the manpower situation, right, where that was already an issue trying to get qualified guys in the field to be able to put down our products or other people’s products or get areas ready for our folks to put down the product. And with manpower already being an issue and then hearing that due to the virus and what’s happening that crews are having to stay at home or quarantine for a little bit because one guy might have been tested or exposed. That’s become a little bit of a challenge. I talked to one of our applicator, one of our bigger applicators actually, who’s got somewhere around 200 guys in the field and they had 35 guys at one point that were not just sick, but had then exposed to some of the folks.

And to take 35 guys out in the field when you’re running a crew of 200, that’s a pretty big thing, right? And so we’re seeing the effects not just a, people getting sick and what’s happening, but we’re seeing the effects of the idea of, “Man, these guys are already struggling to find people to do the work. Now they’re having to keep a good portion of their crews at home for a prolonged period of time and not being able to do what they need to do. From a Tremco standpoint, I think the frequency of the in-person meetings we’re losing that. We’re doing a hell…I know you guys are in the same position. We’re doing a heck of a lot more of these conference call type things where we’re able to utilize technologies now that everybody has whether it’s Teams or Zoom or whatever it is, we’re doing a lot more of that.

And I think we’re getting better at it, but the truth is that face-to-face and sitting down and looking at layout of a project or where it is and being able to hammer that out is lost in the sense that we’re just less people are comfortable with it. Obviously, it’s more appropriate to go over teams. And in a way, start of it in March and April and what was happening, I think there was a layer of, let’s just say getting used to it. Everybody had to get used to doing that a little bit more. And so I see it getting better, but the loss of the frequency of those in-person meetings, I think in a way is…it’s kind of…I don’t know. You can’t quite get there and see and touch and feel everything and then have a full understanding right away of what we’re looking at when we’re trying to whether it’s designed something from the front end or maybe pick apart something that wasn’t quite done right on the back end.

Losing that, I think, will cause an issue in the sense that the value of having those experts there to go over that, whether it be you and our team or everybody together, is lost. And I’m hoping that the sooner the better we can get back to some of the normalcy in that sense. That value of seeing these types of things in person, you can’t quantify it when it comes to walking by and seeing something that is messed up and we’re going to look at something else and how that might affect it. But if I’m just looking at a screen and somebody’s dragging a cursor and, “Look at this and let’s go to this page,” you lose that, I believe.

Chris: Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, it’s better than nothing for sure, and we would certainly be completely shut down if we didn’t have that. But I don’t know if you put a percentage on it or what. But I’m with you, it’s maybe 80% as good as getting everybody together. And being if you’re on the site, you can go out and look at the problem and everybody is looking at the same thing at the same time. But you can get it done remotely like we have to do right now. But I’m with you, I think we’re losing a little something there. I mean, it’ll be good when we can get back to 100% effectiveness, I guess.

JB: I’m glad we’re in the day and age we’re in now because I mentioned starting in 2001, when we would fax stuff, and I can’t imagine us faxing markups back and forth right now like, “Hey, what do you think of this?” “Hold on and I’ll fax you or whatever.” So I’m glad the technology exists to be able to do it instantaneously, and I’m glad we’re kind of getting caught up to speed on it with a number of people figuring out what to click on and how to click and share screens and back and forth and creating… Our industry is…I know in a way I feel like we’ve lagged in technology over the years. It’s getting a lot better with Procore. It’s getting a lot better with the Zoom meetings and Teams meetings. And I think maybe it just took this to get us to jump up faster. And then now that we’re equalizing in the sense that everybody knows how to do it and what to do and the etiquette on how to do it, it’s gonna make us better, but it’s not gonna replace what we can do in the field.

Chris: Exactly. It makes us better technologically. We’ve got an opportunity, hopefully, in the future you’ve got a kind of a mix. And you see, well, for this situation, we don’t really need to get everybody together. There’s obviously efficiency, it’s easier to schedule everything else, if it is something we can use the technology for. But then when we do all need to be there in one room or on one site or whatever, we need to get back to being able to do that as well. So when you’re out there on those sites, what are you seeing right now? What are some issues that…like you, we get involved in new projects, trying to avoid problems. And then lots of our work is going out there and trying to solve problems, whether it be product problems, application problems just age and deterioration, whatever it may be. What are some things you see in your end of things happening over and over?

JB: All I see is sunshine and rainbows every day. That’s how it goes, right? Nobody does anything wrong. But truthfully, there’s always gonna be consistency in the problems that we see. There’s outliers that make our jobs, I think, more, more fun, because if you kept seeing the same dumb things all the time, it just becomes a stamp kind of, “Okay, this is what we do. This is what we do.” So it’s cool to have the new problems. But the stuff that we see all the time that that bogs us down and kind of drags a little bit of the life out of you like, “Man, why didn’t we talk about that?” Those are going to be consistent I think forever because they are consistent problems. For me, it’s gonna be traditionally, you’re gonna see connections. That’s where I see the problems where one unique thing may come in to a standard thing or two standard things come together and we see a problem.

I know that pool connections on pool decks will always be a challenge, because it seems that every single time there’s a little nuance difference to a pool, they’re not consistent, and they always do something that’s typically worse in the design than better when it comes for our waterproofing purpose. I know that the best jobs that we had back in the day were the ones where they created a big pool shell that we were able to waterproof. And then when that pool did whatever it was gonna do, we had waterproofing in that pool shell. So you hope that we had learned and we see a lot more of those now where we got a big pool shell and we can waterproof into that shell which is fantastic. So in a way that connection issue has somewhat gone away. We don’t see it on every job but we’re seeing it a lot more.

But what we see now more often that’s become a challenge for that, just dialing down on connection at pools, what now I’m seeing is “Okay. Well, we’re gonna have a pool gutter that wraps around it. Or we’re gonna have a stainless steel pool that tries to tie in. Or this one’s got a PVC liner that you have to figure out how to detail up against it.” And that connection has just been a challenge for us in the sense that we can waterproof the deck, we can waterproof the shell and figure out how to do that. But connecting to a pool has been a challenge for us in the sense of, “Can we add a curve? Can we do this? Or how is that gonna work?” And the metal pool shows up and it’s too small. So now what do we do? Because the opening is yay big and the pool is this big? And what are we gonna do? It’s your responsibility to go from that to this type of thing.” Pool connections have been a challenge for me most recently, including this morning. I had a conversation this morning before we started this. I don’t know if you’re seeing the same.

Drains are the other thing. We can design every waterproofing system to be the best it’s gonna be, but if we don’t have proper drainage, whether it be…a lack of slopes seem to be a big part, obviously, with the way we build in Florida. But the drain locations or drain existence or types of drains has been a problem for my near 20 years in this business, and that just seems to continue. I know that there’s a project we’re working on right now in Florida with your team where there’s, I don’t wanna exaggerate so I’d say somewhere around 25,000 square feet of hot applied waterproofing in this area. And with that amount of square footage, you’d think there’d be, I don’t know, a drain every 2,000 feet. I’m not a drain engineer or a plumbing engineer, whatever you wanna call it. But I’d say there needs to be a significant number of drains.

In this project 20,000 to 25,000 square feet of waterproofing, we have to drain two drains on the entire deck, and those were the only two drains. It’s is an open area. Somewhat partially open area, and water is gonna to find its way 100 feet across and around and down elevators and the whole thing, or shear walls, etc. to try and make it into one of these two drains that just so happen to be right near each other. They’re probably 10-feet away from each other in the center with 20,000 square feet surrounding them. That’s a problem. Now, hopefully, we don’t have a bunch of issues, but not having enough drains or not having the right type of drain, all that stuff.

You can put the best waterproof in there you can. We have hot applied, we know that could sit underwater. But how does that affect everything else is my question. How does that affect the overburden or the pavers or the efflorescence issues or just the headache of that drain getting build up the wrong way or clogged or whatever. And now we have water building up and going where it’s not supposed to go. If we have a significant number of drains, then we eliminate that. But that’s not something we really get to talk to being waterproofing guys. And I don’t know how much that you get into it from GCI’s standpoint of, “How can we fix this problem? Or I don’t know that you’re really analyzing how many drains there are.”

I had a conversation today and there’s a planter and there is no drain. There’s no drain in the planter. It’s just the box and they have no drain. And they say, “Well, what can we do?” Well, add a drain, you know? Put a drain in there.” It’s one of those types of things that I think will forever be part of our industry.

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Chris: They’re kind of similar issues too. And we kind of try to step back and look at the big picture, how are you gonna make…that’s kind of our role as a consultant, how are you going to make this all work together? And it’s just as you said, connections. And connections, I mean, you mentioned the pool to deck connection. We probably got five of those right now. Existing buildings with problems at that very detail that you’re describing. It’s a little different every time, but it didn’t get done right on five different jobs that I can think of right now. And it’s connections and everything. And I know Tremco gets into, you guys are addressing the whole envelope now. And it’s the same thing in walls. You can have the greatest curtain wall guy in the world, but he knows curtain walls. When he gets to how his curtain wall interfaces with waterproofing or a weather barrier around it or what have you, that’s a connection that can get overlooked. And it’s not his curtain wall that’s going to leak. It’s going to be where those two systems come together.

And the same thing with the drains. As you mentioned, we’re not plumbing experts either, but we try to look at all of that in the beginning because, as you said, no matter how good the products are, if you don’t have slope, if you don’t have drains, if you don’t think about where is this water going to be draining and what’s it gonna look like when this water with asphaltic waterproofing in it runs down the side of these buildings? All these kinds of things, you try to look at the whole picture and put it all together in a way that functions. Or in the example the pool decks, resolves these problems, which ends up I’m sure as you see a lot, it would have been a lot simpler to put that drain in that planter in the beginning and a lot cheaper than after the fact.

JB: Yeah, the other thing, and you’ve kind of touched on it, right, is sort of the uncertainty from I’ll exclude GCI because you guys are great at it. But some of these folks, their uncertainty in product recommendations. There’s a lot of people out there that are “waterproofing consultants,” or whatever you want to call. There’s a lot of people out there making recommendations that I think are maybe not the best choice for what we should do where we’re doing it. And I know that that’s part my job is to educate or be a resource to all these folks. We communicate a lot with your team and architects in the industry about, “Hey, I got this. What can we use?” Because just because you did it on the last job or another job or because another manufacturer rep might have talked to you about it yesterday doesn’t mean that it quite fits the thought process for what you’re doing here.

I had a phone call this morning with an architect, who was recommending a pedestrian deck coating system in an interstitial space on over a penthouse on a roof deck pool with a metal pool installed in that area so kind of a Triple Decker Whopper situation where we have too many headaches. And the uncertainty from his eyes was, “Hey, I got your [inaudible 00:18:46] one going in there, but I’m gonna have the [inaudible 00:18:48] applied up on the top deck. And we might have a little condensation in there. I’m like, “Man, you’re not gonna have condensation in there. This is gonna be a real problem here.”

And had already kind of half moved forward with this, but was double-checking with me thankfully, that we had the conversation. Otherwise, we would have been in a situation where it’s priced dumb gone, and somebody’s doing something that maybe we could have had a better product with a better system in that area. So when we know that pool is gonna sweat, we know there’s gonna be a ton of water in there, we have something like our Puma system in the interstitial space or 250, or 61. Whatever it is, we have a longer 20-year basically permanent waterproofing system going in underneath there so that we’re not coming back in 10 years trying to find out what’s going on or trying to make remedies to the situation.

In those cases, metal pool interstitial area, you know they’re never gonna be able to come back and fix that or recoat it or maintain it. It’s just not gonna happen. Nobody is gonna come with a crane and lift it up so we can remove some waterproofing and re-waterproof. And the guy’s knowledge is great, “Hey, Tremco. But maybe we need to shift it to a product recommendation, that’s a better fit for what you’re trying to do here.” With low-grade walls, we get into that quite a bit where it’s, “Well, what about this, what about that where we got frangible situation?” “Don’t go that route. Go this route.” And having some of that. I know that’s my job and we’re here to tell people make sure you do this provide as many tools of Tremco as you can. But I see that quite regularly, whether it be Tremco’s products or other people’s products it’s just there’s so many different groups out there nowadays.

Like you look back 20 years and there’s a lot less product. Nowadays, the industry is so specialized and boutique. But what’s nice about that is you have a number of tools in your tool belt to be able to fix those problems. But what it also lends itself to, in my opinion, and the problem I see over and over is because there’s so many options, people aren’t really quite sure and they sort of just pick what they’ve used in the past, and that might not have been the best fit for that job. So better communication I think helps that. Like, I mentioned earlier, I spoke to the architect this morning. He was going one route, but we sort of were able to curb that issue by saying, “Hey, you’re better off going this direction.”

Where that communication breakdown happens where it’s already in place on the drawings and the guy is out there getting started, we go, “Wait a minute. We probably should be using something a little different here.” That’s the issue we have. Or we’re down the line three, four or five, however many years later, and I get a call from you guys are some other folks that are saying, “Hey, these guys did this here.” And like you said, I got a bunch of asphalt bleed out on the side of the building because they decided to use a product that had that leaching situation. Or I got [inaudible 00:21:51] all on my pavers because they decided to go with a type of waterproofing that doesn’t drain well with no drainage mat on the bottom of the pavers and now we have problems. Well, maybe we should have used a different product or a different system in that area.”

Those problems aren’t gonna go away just because there’s not an expert on every corner trying to help. And I’m hoping that through further education and through contracting with somebody like GCI, you’re gonna say, “Hey, well, here’s your options. But based on what you have, we recommend this type of system or that type of application for where and what we’re gonna do for the scope area.” Do you follow me?

Chris: Yep. And that goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning. And what we appreciate about you and knowledgeable product reps like you is as you said, there are a great amount of tools out there right now, but a good product rep knows his company’s options better than anybody. And we like to get you and people like you involved early on so that we can make those right selections. And it’s exactly like you said, with so many architects, it’s just cut and paste, “Well, we used this on the last job.” So I’m just gonna say the same thing here again, they may not even know why. And it might work if they’re lucky, but there could be a lot of better options for sure.

JB: I was gonna mention one more thing on that because I think it’s important.

Chris: Yeah, go ahead.

JB: It’s almost like where we’re going type of idea. But the architects are walking away from a lot of this stuff, in a lot of ways. They’re just waterproofing and leaving the liability up to others. That misplaced liability aspect is getting more and more popular in the sense that they’re spending less money on paying for these drawings. They’re utilizing folks like GCI to say, “All right, I’m gonna say waterproofing, but I want GCI to put together a package that says what this is gonna do,” trying to move that liability away from them. And I think having worse plans and then increased liability to the consultants and the manufacturers is sort of an interesting part of our world. If you take your day out and put it into a pie slice of what you spend your time on, getting into the idea of, “Okay, put the liability on me,” is an interesting thing to say.

But you mentioned Tremco. That’s really what we go towards is, “Let us figure out how to handle that for you, and then we keep both of us out of trouble, because you don’t make the bad recommendations and I give you what it’s meant to.” And Tremco does a pretty good job of allowing us to be technical reps rather than sort of, you mentioned it early, but commission compensated type of guy, etc. Sort of crowbar in like, “Well, if you do this, then I get to go to Hawaii next year or whatever.” Like, we’re sort of…I get paid the same amount whether you use Tremco or not that’s the truth.

I’ve got to position Tremco in a winning stance amongst others and promote it and all that, but the truth is I can say, “Well, you got options, Chris. We can do this or we can do this. Or what might be best is if we did the first item, but then we go a little bit better over here and then we’re all protected here. And then we didn’t do something stupid. Or I know that this might work, but what I see us doing in Florida that works a lot better is we use this vapor permeable air barrier versus the peel and stick that not a lot of guys like to use all the time because they just get…they have headaches because it’s raining.”

Whatever it is we’re able to provide the tool, but we’re also able to take the liability away from the design professional who doesn’t know any better and he goes on the website and says, “All right, here’s one that I think works.” We’re better off taking that liability, wrapping it up, and putting it in a nice package and sending it to an email, “Hey, here’s what we would recommend for this job.” And that, I think, is gonna help us all build better buildings. That’s the end goal, right?

Chris: Yep. Exactly. Right. Right. That’s the goal to get it done right. Exactly. So you’re kind of touching on where you guys would like to see things go. And what do you see happening? We talked about what we’re stuck in the middle of right now and some of the problems we’re seeing right now. But what are you and Tremco seeing for, like, the next 5, 10 years, what’s happening down the road from your perspective?

JB: I would absolutely be happy to talk about the future because right now is kind of crappy so let’s move it on. That’s a great question in the sense that what’s happening now I think is gonna keep happening in our industry and from the manufacturer’s side with consolidation. I just spoke on the displaced liability piece where you can take that part away from the architect or the owner and say, “Give it to me and I’ll wrap it up.” So the mergers you’ve seen from Tremco where we grabbed a number of RPM companies and put them together under the new company Tremco is now Tremco Construction Products Group. And that includes your CSMW, the commercial sealants and waterproofing division that you know as the waterproofing portion. But Dryvit is now in the same umbrella as me, Nudura, which is an insulated concrete forms company, Willseal Expansion Joints. We work hand-in-hand with Nuclear Repair Mortar.

So basically you have everything building envelope. And they’re talking about the six sides of the building when you add the Tremco roofing division in as well, six side of the building bottom, four sides, and top you can wrap with Tremco. And I think that’s not just Tremco. That’s sort of where the competitors are going, too. When you see the consolidation where you used to just have one or if you took the sheet of waterproofing or building envelope, you’d have some of the manufacturers just would have sort of polka dots in that area or just have one vertical column but they don’t play here. I see consolidation happening throughout the industry because we’re all driving towards better buildings, like we just mentioned. And the best way to build these buildings is to sort of be able to wrap it all in one package with a tested and warranted system that you and I would be able to provide and an owner should be able to sleep at night, right? I can say, “Hey, we’ve done this on a lot of projects.”

And going back to the very beginning of what we talked about, which is the connections, we’re able to warrant those connections for you. Or here’s a tested, warranted application with the detail for how to do it. And oh, by the way, we have a test roll up in Cleveland that we’ve done this, and we can give you the data to show that this is going to work, not just tell you, “Well, it worked down there at that one job and seems like nobody’s called us. We didn’t have any problems. So let’s just do it again.” We’re taking it from a third-party level, validated situation and putting it in front of you saying, ‘Here’s the best way to go.” So consolidation I’m positive that’s gonna happen down the road and it’s gonna get further and further bigger and better, I would say, for everybody, for all the manufacturers.

Chris: I’m just gonna add that we’ve been, I think back for years, even on a real kind of basic level 15, 20 years ago, we would be on a job where somebody’s got three different sealant manufacturers that they’re using on the job, and maybe all of those different joints are coming together at one location. And even way back then we were saying, “Hey, at least consolidate to one sealant manufacturer so you don’t have three different warranties and three different issues here.” And then we get into the same thing all the time where two or three different products are coming together and we’re saying, “Well, you’ve got to get a letter from every one of those manufacturers to address compatibility. And are there gonna be any other issues where these three different products from three different manufacturers come together?” So what a great thing for the industry and performance, as you said, making a better building, if that’s all covered by one company, one warranty, their products are already all designed to work together and you’ve actually got a connection detail between it. So it makes our job easier and makes the building better from the start, I think.

JB: The warranty piece is interesting from the Tremco standpoint because we’ve been working on our building envelope. I know I remember talking to your team at a lunch and learn, I wanna say, a year and a half, two years ago on the warranty piece. And I’ll give you the fast version of it because I think this is…I was part of this from the beginning, but Buchholz, who’s our division manager. He’s been on the podcast, I think, maybe a year plus ago. He was on a while ago. But he’s been instrumental in getting this to work where we have a new building envelope warranty in the sense that you can take the existing warranty type system that you’ve seen in the past, which essentially is…you get that. Well, that’s just a piece of paper type of excuse a lot of times when you talk about warranties, right, “It’s just a piece of paper. I know it says five years or 20 years, or whatever it is that’s whatever.

What we’re trying to do is change that, make it more than just a piece of paper, which I think is really cool. So previous warranties, I’m gonna simplify it to make it easier for both of us. But if we had maybe a basement waterproofing and a vehicular coating in a garage and it’s about waterproofing, you would get either three separate warranties maybe from three separate manufacturers or maybe you’d get one. Let’s say Tremco is doing waterproofing, what essentially would happened was you’d get three different warranties for each piece of that. Now what we’re doing with the new building envelope warranty is just like you said, and I don’t know if you meant to say it or not, but you will get one warranty for the entire building.

And how it works is literally, when you’d have three separate warranties, you’d essentially have three buckets that would give you the coverage for each area. So had you had, I don’t know, a couple thousand square feet of vehicular coating in the garage, but maybe 100,000 square feet on the balconies, if you ever had an issue with this one area, you were restricted to the dollar value just for that vehicular area. So 1000 square feet, 2000 square feet, you might be restricted to a couple thousand dollars of coverage. Now, typically Tremco is always gonna kind of cover that anyway, if we ever had an issue, which is rare. But if we ever had an issue, we’re gonna cover it. But a lot of times, the owners didn’t like, “Unless it was in writing, it didn’t exist.”

The new warranty, which you said, like, one warranty for the whole system would literally create one big bucket for everything Tremco on the job. So basements, plaza decks, vehicular decks, whatever it is, you’re creating an entire job warranty with one warranty that has each item on it and creates one big bank for all that as well. So one, the more Tremco you put on it, the more coverage you have in your big overall view of the project. But two, there’s also little caveats about, “We’re gonna recommend using a firm like GCI on the project approved third-party consultants knowing end result being a better building. If we have third-party oversight, there’s really only a few of us. But if you’re involved, we’re able to give longer warranty. So if it was five years before we’ll be able to give 7 years. If you have multiple components of Tremco on the job was, we’ll be able to give them longer. If you put two pieces together, we might be able to give connection warranties for those areas with longer terms.”

There’s a lot going on there. Labor included for all the warranties as well. So if there’s an issue, we’ll pay for the labor and the material where it used to be labor. So I could see that being a big deal for the industry in that sense when Tremco drives something, they’ve always kind of been innovators. I can see warranties getting better in the next 5, 10 years from amongst our crew, because warranties have always really been a sales tool. And then they kind of lost their speed in the sense that what we would hear when we talk about warranty, “Ah, well, it’s just a sheet of paper.” They weren’t really being utilized as what they could be. So this building envelope system, I’m super excited about it moving forward on a multitude of reasons. We could do two more podcasts just on the warranty program. So I don’t wanna waste too much on it. But the key is driving the industry to perform in terms of where the warranty is gonna be whether it be for an entire project, or proportions of the project, I could see that getting to be a bigger talking point in our industry, for sure for sure, in terms of building envelopes.

Chris: And I think as we’ve been talking about, it ends up being a better building and that’s what it’s all about, right? The party who suffers in all these deals and usually had nothing to do with the problem is the building owner. And as you know, we do a lot of litigation work on buildings with problems. And it always just strikes me as there’s a lot of different people out here pointing fingers at each other about why something went wrong. But the one party out here who didn’t do anything wrong for sure, is the person who put up the money and built this building, whether it’s a commercial building…

JB: And who suffers, yeah that’s correct.

Chris: Or it could just be a single family home owner, whatever it may be, we get involved in all different types and sizes of projects with building envelope issues. But the one party who almost always had no part of the blame is the person who’s got to live with it. And then you’ve got a lot of others out there pointing fingers at each other about why things went wrong. What we’re talking about won’t solve every one of those problems, but it’ll go a long way toward preventing those. Going back to what we talked about before, connections and interfaces, and planning about how all these systems come together, even if the architect didn’t address what he should have, even if the con tractor didn’t address what he should have when you’ve got one manufacturer providing a lot of these products.

And you’re talking mostly about horizontal applications in waterproofing, but it’s weather barriers and walls, it’s sealants, it’s how those systems interface with the waterproofing at a breezeway or a balcony or whatever. The more of that that can be covered by one firm who’s looking at the big picture, I think it’s gonna eliminate a lot of these issues that we see later on.

And then make the warranty mean something. As you said, everybody views it right now as just a piece of paper, but what would be great is if you don’t need it, right, if the building performs right. And I think you would hope that that’s the goal, I know from Tremco’s standpoint, it’s kind of a sales tool still in that, “We cover the whole envelope.” But also on the fact that you’re looking at the whole envelope that you’ve got a vested interest in making sure that not just your stuff works, but the whole envelope works. Maybe that someday it comes to a point where people don’t have as many problems and because the warranty means something, they don’t ever have to rely on it.

JB: I think some of the unintended consequences of having a better warranty system to talk about people with is maybe you start to talk about things that might have fallen through the cracks had we not said, “Hey, we’re talking about the whole building envelope here. So what are we doing here or what are we doing there?” It helps to focus the discussion when you’re building when you’re bolting on these products and systems onto a building, whether it’s restoration or new construction. If we’re in restoration side, we can say, “Hey, we have the balconies we’re doing this or that. But listen, we have Dryvit systems that we can put on the wall. So we’re here kind of building that warranty you’re able to bolt on any system that you might not have known where you can actually grow and provide a tested warranted system for your facade, just like you said. I was thinking flat areas, but I didn’t realize that I’m putting a new skin on my building while I’m at it, I can build an envelope with the facade system and the air barrier and the balconies all together on one package. And you hand me a warranty that says and it’s all covered?”

“Yeah, one finger to point, one throat to choke, whatever you wanna say, we did it. But we designed it the way it’s gonna work.” And you don’t have one guy’s stuff and then how does that go to another guys and what do I do? Who goes first? That’s always been the headache, “Well, I’m gonna go first and let them tie in to me.” “No, no. We gotta go first then they can…” That’s always been one of my headaches. But if I told you, I’m going to go first twice, that’s the best way to do it. I’ll do that and then, I’ll do that right afterwards. Let me handle all of it.

People just like to hear that. The same problem with the connections and we might come back to it a few more in this conversation, but if you can take the connection issue away and say, “Give me the connection, I’ll handle it.” Then they go, “Fine. Great. Love it. Displace liabilities.” It’s fantastic when you’re trying to figure out headaches on a project, you can always finger-point the obvious ones but sometimes, they’re less obvious. But if I’ve already figured them out, then don’t worry about it. That’s a big deal.

In terms of, what else, five to 10 years down the road, I think new technologies. If you go back 10 years, right, with where we are from 10 years ago, you don’t need to go back 20 years. But even if you went back 10 years, you’re gonna see that there’s technologies from all different manufacturers for all types of applications. I think you’re gonna see from a manufacturer’s standpoint, we’re always looking for something that’s easy to do that is not gonna cause us problems. So ease of application is one thing, but we’ll get you off fast. So it’s less of an issue around here unless we’re talking about rain. But I think what we wanna do in construction is elongate the construction season. So if you’re in northern climates, you wanna be able to do stuff in colder temperatures, but also shorten the construction schedule, which means make it go faster so I don’t have to… I’m not waiting for you guys to finish something when we can get off a job quicker.

I think that’s the overall viewpoint, at least from Tremco’s standard, right, how can we take just putting waterproofing or an air barrier system down in eight months out of the year and make it 10 months or 12 months whatever it is. That’s important in the sense that we can come up with a way to make your job go faster by opening up the season. I think in South Florida specific we’ve always seen headaches with damp concrete construction schedule is driven green concrete, but damp conditions where we’re getting rain all the time. Or even in below grade applications. We have our new below grade product Amphibia, which is kind of a pre-applied membrane for slabs that performs very well. Actually, better than a bentonite where it self-heals, self-steel, the overlaps, etc. But if it gets rained on, we’re not the guys telling everybody the guys building on the rebar, etc. We’re not these guys saying, “Well you can’t walk on it for 24 hours anymore. Or you can’t mess up the waterproofing.”

That type of product, I think is gonna be where we’re going into the future because, one, it’s fast for construction, you’re not delaying people. But two, it allows for better technology than what the past technologies of standard bentonites might be, right? It performs a little bit better and doesn’t get disturbed in environments that are typical of being in a pit, 20-feet below grade and a pump fails, or we get a massive rainstorm and we see what happens to those types of systems. But if we had a product like Amphibia where we don’t have to worry about it, you basically hose it off and move forward. Well, now we’re not ripping out $50 grand worth of material and having to replace it with new material that might just get rained on the next day anyway. That’s sort of the headache with that world. Those types of technologies.

Puma, I know we’ve worked on a number of Puma jobs [inaudible 00:42:17]. But Puma is a game changer for waterproofing in my opinion. You can use one type of waterproofing, whether it be on a deck, under a pool, through a planter, back and forth, monolithic the whole way. That technology is moving our industry to better places but getting people done faster so that they can, one, use the manpower somewhere else and two, make more money somewhere else as well, not just use the manpower, which is gonna be short.

Technologies are going to be pretty cool moment for. I’m sure it’s cool when somebody comes and talks to you about a new product and he likes it. Obviously, some of us are skeptics at heart. I’ve always been the guy that’s like, “I’ll believe it when I see it or I wanna see…” I like to see it happen a couple times first. It’s always cool to hear what the next coolest thing is and why that’s going to be better than what we’ve been doing in the past, specifically in technologies in our industry. Because we’ve seen some innovations over the years that are game changers to me game changers. What we used to do is gone now compared to certain applications.

The big one I remember was the 250GC. And I know this is so simple, but our elevator pit. The original green concrete waterproofing was bentonite. You couldn’t put a fluid applied on an elevator pit unless you waited 28 days. Well, when you told somebody, “The architect has a fluid applied here and you gotta wait 28 days.” They would scream at you saying, “I don’t have 28 days to wait for an elevator pit. I gotta build my building.” And so you saw bentonite there. But when 250GC came around, you said, “Oh, I got the fluid applied and I can put it on right after you pull the forms, 24 hours, whatever.” “Fantastic. Do it. Go.” That was the first game changer in terms of the liquid-applied green concrete technology. Well, now every manufacturer has a green concrete product. All of them have moisture tolerance in their systems in one way or another. And that’s a driver. These new technologies, I think, make the industry better. They push people to do better things, come up with better products and better ideas to do what we do.

And I think when we push our technologies that are circling back for the, I don’t know, the third or fourth time in the conversation, we get a better building. When we have products that last longer and perform better and handle the elements better, then you get a better building. Because then hopefully, GCI is not coming around going, “Well, why is this all messed up? Or what did we do here” I mean, “Oh, well, it got trashed. And oh, that was where we had the big rain that day and we thought it was okay.”

Whatever it is, we’re able to provide a technology that can handle some of these worst conditions with worse designs or lack of a design for that area. And we can give you the product that might perform long-term there, not just perform. That’s the idea with newer technologies.

Chris: Yep. And that is exciting and probably a good place for us to end it today on looking forward to those technologies and what’s next improving products and building performance, construction, time, the whole thing. Well, I can talk to you about this stuff whole day, JB, but they’re telling me we gotta wrap it up. So I appreciate you coming in today, lots of good stuff. Why don’t you tell our audience how they can get in touch with you at Tremco if they need your expertise?

JB: Thank you again, Chris. I appreciate it. And I know it’s short notice. I got a nice vacation next week that I’m lining up, so thanks for taking this today. I had a great time. I really appreciate the invite. I’m just Jeff Snyder. You can find me jsnyder@tremcoinc.com is my email, or you can go on the website and find your local rep wherever you are in the country. Everybody will be happy to hear that you listened to this podcast. And hopefully, we can discuss your building’s envelope issues down the road. And thanks, again. I really do appreciate your team and your time as well.

Chris: Okay. Well, thanks for joining us today. I’d like to thank everyone for listening to our podcast, and we invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultants services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com. You can also reach us at 877-740-9990 to discuss any 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.

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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

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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

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Alfonso: Welcome everyone to our Everything Building Envelope podcast. I am Alfonso Alzamora, Vice President and Principal with GCI Consultants and I will be your host today. I am really excited today to have as our guest, one of our 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.

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 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.

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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

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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.

https://www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com

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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.