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.

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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, 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 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,, 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 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.

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


Paul: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. This is Paul Beers, 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 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, You can also reach us at 877-740-9990 if you have any need for our services, which are related obviously to the building envelope. Thank you once again, and I look forward to talking with you next time on the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. So long, everyone.

What Every Building Owner Needs To Know About Doors & Windows

Paul Del Vecchio – Owner TJDCCI  Construction Consultants

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

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

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

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

Paul: Thank you, Derek.

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

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

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

Paul: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek: It helps everyone. Yeah.

Paul: Absolutely. Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek: Early on.

Paul: Right. Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek: Got it.

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

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

Derek: In trouble…

Paul: …paying for reroofing on your own.

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

Paul: Correct.

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

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

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

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

Paul: And more frequent.

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

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

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

Paul: Exactly.

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

Paul: Thank you, Derek.

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

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

Derek: Great. And folks, to our listeners, we also invite you to take a further look at our GCI Consultants services on our website at You can also reach us directly at 877-740-9990, that’s 9990, to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thanks once again for listening and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. Take care, everyone.

Is Your Expert Really An Expert?

Will Smith – President of GCI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris: Right, right.

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

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

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

Will: Exactly. And vice versa.

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

Will: Exactly. Very true. Exactly right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris: We’re done here.

Will: “…what did I tell you?”

Chris: Yeah, exactly. Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will: Right.

Chris: And hopefully, keep them interested as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will: You don’t have to.

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

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Field Chat – Text Messaging for Construction Projects

Stephen Smith – FieldChat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drainage vs. Barrier Wall Systems

Chris Matthews, Jason Bondurant & Bret Taylor – GCI Consultants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bret: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facade Investigations

Chris Matthews, Jason Bondurant & Shuana Serafini – GCI Consultants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shauna: Yes. That’s right. Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Litigation Consulting and Expert Witness Services

Will Smith & Bret Taylor – GCI Consultants

Podcast about Litigation Consulting and Expert Witness Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bret: Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bret: Correct, correct. That’s right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will: The six months is…

Bret: Yeah, cutoff date.

Will: The cutoff date. Okay. All right.

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

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

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

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

Bret: Correct.

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

Bret: Or a combination of all those.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hurricane Information and Recovery Procedures

Paul Beers – GCI Consultants

Podcast - Hurricane Information and Recovery Procedures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Inspections, Cleaning and Restoration

Derek Segal & Ken Larsen – International Dry Standard Organization

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

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

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

Ken: Thanks for having me on the show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek: Scope of work.

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

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

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

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

Derek: Right.

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

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

Derek: Yes, go ahead.

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

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

Derek: That’s terrible.

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

Derek: And that can hurt them actually.

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

Derek: That’s out there.

Ken: They’re all over the place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek: Inflate them.

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

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

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

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

Derek: Got it.

Ken: So I’m encouraged by that.

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

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

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

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

Ken: My pleasure.