Water Leakage Investigations

Paul Beers & Jason Bondurant – GCI Consultants

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

– Evaluating water leakage in building walls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how does that work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Yeah.

– We do see that all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– It was fun. Thanks for having me.

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

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

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

Infrared Testing in the Construction Industry and Beyond

Terry Malagoli & Ilsa McIntyre – Infrared Testing, Inc.

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

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


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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Great, thanks for having us.

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Matthews: Nice, yeah.

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Oh definitely.

Chris Matthews: – over the long term.

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

Chris Matthews: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Right, yes, humid.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly, right.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Right.

Chris Matthews: Yeah.

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

Chris Matthews: Mm hmm.

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

Chris Matthews: Mm hmm.

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Yes, exactly.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly –

Chris Matthews: Um –

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Malagoli: Two years.

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Exactly.

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

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

Chris Matthews: Right.

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

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

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

Chris Matthews: Great, thank you.

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

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

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

Ilsa McIntyre: Thanks, Chris.

Terry Malagoli: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

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

Rocco Calaci – LRC Services

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

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


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

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

Rocco: Well, thank you very much, Derek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocco: That’s correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wind Damage to Windows, Investigation & Claims

Paul Beers – GCI Consultants

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

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


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

Windstorm Insurance Claims, Coverage, Experts & Litigation

Gina Lozier – Berger Singerman

  • About Gina Lozier
  • 2017 Hurricane Season Damages & Costs
  • Insurance Company Claim Mitigation Tactics
  • Why policy owners should have an expert on their side
  • When claims go to trial, 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.


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

Derek: I’d like to welcome our listeners to the ”Everything Building Envelope” podcast today. My name is Derek Segal and I’m a building envelope consultant with GCI Consultants, a podcast to bring you great information about our industry today and I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of this. Today’s guest that we’re fortunate to have is Gina Clausen Lozier of the law from Berger Singerman. Welcome, Gina.

Gina: Hi, Derek, I thank you for having me here today.

Derek: Gina, great. Can you tell us a little bit about and the listeners about yourself and how your journey came to put you where you are today with Berger Singerman?

Gina: Oh, absolutely. I am an attorney who represents policyholders against insurance companies. I have been with Berger Singerman for almost five years now. I’m a partner there with the firm. Prior to being with Berger Singerman, I was a partner at a large statewide insurance defense firm, so I learned a lot about the industry from representing the insurance companies and all of the different coverage obligations and compliance issues, you know, the policyholders face every day. So now I’m able to use that information and my experience on this side to represent the policyholders against the insurance company. So I’ve been practicing for almost 12 years, very involved in the industry with the Wind Storm Insurance Network and FAPIA and different other organizations. So use all that experience as well and in my everyday work. And I’m excited to be here and talk about how the industry has changed over the past 12 years since I’ve been practicing.

Derek: Great. That’s all fantastic information, especially the fact that you’ve kind of, you see the picture and the challenges from both sides. And, you know, with that said, it leads into a very good question and I did a little bit of research before our podcast today. I don’t know if you knew this or if our listeners knew any of this, but 2017 was the costliest hurricane season ever accounting for an estimated $320 billion in damages, a total of 17 main storms and the 7 most active ever since record-keeping began in 1851. I mean, that’s dramatic. Conversely, 2018, we had not necessarily the most storms, but we had four category four between 2017 and 2018, excuse me, four category four storms to hit the continental U.S. as well as Puerto Rico. And you know, that’s, I think why, you know, this podcast today, it’s so important is because, you know, property owners out there are facing some of the biggest challenges ever. And insurance companies strictly are not making life easier and it’s important to know what you’re doing and have an experienced team in place to help you through the process. So, you know, with that said, you know, what can listeners expect when they report a claim? What do they have to be ready for? What should they have document wise? What are some of the challenges they’re gonna face out there?

Gina: Yeah, you know, Derek, those points that you made are really interesting, especially because I don’t think we even can realize the impact of the 2018 season yet given that Michael was in the not so recent past. So I can expect those numbers to significantly increase. And, you know, one of the other things that you had mentioned is, you know, people, the policyholders, insureds are making comments about how difficult it is to get the insurance companies to pay. And I hear that every day, unfortunately. I hear it from the residential clients that I have who are just trying to restore their home, so they can move on with our lives. And I hear it from the commercial developers who are dealing with multiple properties well into the eight million, you know, I’m sorry, the eight-figure claims that they’re also not getting paid.

So there’s really, you know, the carriers are doing this across the board. It’s not specific to any type of claim, you know, residential versus commercial or high end. It’s kind of a general consensus that things have gotten more difficult to get the carriers to pay for various reasons, which I think, of course, we’ll talk about today. But to focus back around to your point about what you can expect when you report a claim, one of the first things that we’re seeing now that may not have generally been a consensus of the past is that the insurance companies are hiring experts right out the gate. And there’s a lot of reasons for that that have evolved over the years since the 2004-2005 hurricane season. A lot of which has to do with the different policy language that has been approved by OIR.

But one of the first things we’re seeing is that the insurance companies are asking to send out an engineer. They’re sending out building consultants who may not necessarily be licensed, independent adjusters. They may not necessarily be licensed contractors. They are consultants who are sent out there to assist the insurance company in scoping and pricing the loss, you know, in conjunction with an independent adjuster or seeing a team converge on these properties and these inspections taking days and potentially then weeks, which unfortunately is kind of working almost sometimes to delay the claim as well.

Derek: Right. Yeah. I mean, yet you’ve got a homeowner or a property owner that’s stressed out, they’ve just gone through a life-changing event and they’re being confronted with this team defending on them. I mean, what I’m seeing out there as well is that some of these experts are coming from out of state California, Texas. Florida is a pretty interesting area because the code is very specific here and there are types of construction that are not the same as they are in a non-dream wind prone zone like Florida.

I mean, some of these people don’t really know what they’re looking at and they don’t know how to accurately evaluate this. Does this make it even more vital for homeowners and property owners to have someone like yourself and someone on their side to handle this process and make sure that the property’s full damage is accurately evaluated not only for the claim but for a property owner to make sure that they know exactly what happened to their property.

Gina: No, absolutely. It used to be, as I mentioned in the past, the insurance company would investigate a loss and issue a coverage decision and pay undisputed or then you would just fight over the difference in the amount or the coverage. It’s not happening like that anymore. So absolutely it’s vital, especially in certain circumstances to have a team of experts to counteract what the insurance company’s team of experts is doing. It’s funny you mentioned that having all these experts and consultants come from out of state. I was on an inspection last year following Irma and the building roofing consultants were from Iowa. And it was in December and it’s not too hot in Florida in December. But they were only able to stay on the roof for two hours because they said it was too hot outside.

So it’s little things like that that absolutely do make a difference because when the insured is opening up their property for an all-day inspection and you have the insurance company’s consultants not able to move forward with that inspection, it just delays things and it’s an inconvenience to the insurer and the property owners. But you know, with respect to having that team of experts, it’s absolutely important. And there’s a few reasons why, which I’m happy to go into detail why experts and consultants should be retained, and in most cases, should be retained early on in the claim.

Derek: Is this something, yeah. Gina, is this something that’s paid for? Like, you know, again, cost is an issue. These people have just incurred a loss. They’ve got to spend money to fix their property. How are they gonna be able to afford cost? Is the insurance company gonna stroke them a check out of the gate to pay for someone to fight them? I don’t think so.

Gina: No, I haven’t seen that. I would love that. I haven’t seen it yet, but you know, crazier things are possible. Typically, under a standard homeowners or residential policy, there aren’t many provisions that allow an insurer to recover those costs under the policy. If you get into litigation and you ultimately go to trial or you potentially have an extra-contractual claim, otherwise known as a bad faith claim, there are avenues to recover the costs of your experts and engineers and professionals. It’s a little different in a lot of the commercial policies, especially the ones that are issued by the London syndicate. A lot of times there are provisions in the commercial policies that allow for professional fees. And the professional fees are typically tied to costs that are necessary to investigate the cause of the loss or to quantify the scope of the amount and the damage, which it’s a great thing to have in policies especially when you’re dealing with, you know, a claim that’s well into the millions, these fees add up pretty quickly.

Now the caveat to that is a lot of those provisions will only kick in if you get expressed written authority from the insurance company to incur those fees. So it’s important to understand what that provision says in conjunction with your post-loss obligations because sometimes if you have a duty to give the insurance company itemized quantification of the loss and support for the causes of loss, you have to incur certain expert fees to be able to provide that information to the carrier that they’re actually requesting. So, you know, there’s really not a black and white issue on that, but you always wanna look at the policy to see if those types of fees are recoverable. And make the best argument that you can and preserve your right to seek those costs in the long run.

Derek: Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ve spoken with…in fact, there’s one situation, one story that comes to mind. It’s a loss that we inspected down in Candor where the insurance company sent out their engineer, their engineer basically came out to this condominium complex. He said one of the units actually a huge three fell on this person’s home. And they eventually, six months after Irma made it out, they sent an engineer. The engineer basically said there’s like $15,000 damages, nothing wrong with the home. Well, the homeowner decided to get a second opinion from an independent engineer and basically the home was condemned. You know, they went and they wrote a letter to Dade county basically saying that this home is unsafe for occupation. And I mean, that’s a scary thought because I think a lot of folks out there are under the impression that when insurance companies sends out an expert and quotation marks, this expert has a fiduciary obligation to tell the truth no matter if it’s black or white or gray. And I mean, that’s a scary thought when, you know, these people come out and to a normal homeowner and these people are not getting the right advice and basically, you know, they’re under a huge risk because their home could collapse. I mean, these engineers don’t they have any type of, and maybe you don’t know this out, sort of under some type of oath or don’t they have a fiduciary obligation to do the right thing, so to speak?

Gina: I mean, it’s kind of a difficult question just because it involves so many different aspects. But generally speaking, when the insurance company sends out the engineers, they’re doing so to determine the cause of the loss. And if you look at most of the engineering and consulting reports from insurance company’s experts, it will specifically outline if that is the limited scope of their involvement. And they’re not providing an opinion, most of the time, it’s to the proper method of repair or code compliance issues. So really, it’s such a limited view of the loss that is the homeowner property owners in the position that there is significant damage, especially if it’s structural, they do need to get a second opinion, an independent, you know, engineer, someone who can draw up the plans, someone who can submit the permit, someone who can supervise the work. You know, especially when you’re dealing with, like you mentioned, the code issues in the tri-county area here, there are a lot different than they are across the state of Florida even.

And I have found especially recently given the 2017 and 2018 storms with these higher end commercial apartment complexes and office buildings, a lot of times they were built in the ’60s and the ’70s, and they comply with the code in the ’60s and ’70s but now once you reach a certain threshold of repairs, the building departments are requiring them to upgrade all the life safety issues. And some of these are coming up to such a high level of repair that the ordinance and law on code issues are trumping the actual direct damages from the storm. And that can get really expensive and really technical. And so, you know, if you’re faced with that situation, you absolutely want to get a second opinion. And it’s a good thing that the homeowner, you mentioned with the tree went out and did that. Unfortunately, the property was condemned but it’s not something they…

Derek: Right. But then they actually had to move out.

Gina: Right. You know, it’s unfortunate.

Derek: Tragic. Yeah, good. Let’s move on. That’s some good information about experts and how they fit in. As far as policies today, I mean, my history goes back, I’ve been through several storm seasons. I remember 2004, 2005 used to be a lot simpler. Correct me if I’m wrong, policies were different. They were less stringent on what constituted direct storm damage. I think verbiage has gotten very much more difficult to actually prove. That’s one of the things is that your experience between ’04, ’05 versus, you know, now, are there any other trap doors or any other loopholes that, you know, homeowners need to be aware of that may come back to hurt them later on?

Gina: Absolutely. In my prior life as a defense attorney, you know, I grew up with the litigation following Frances Jean and Wilma back in 2004 to about 2010 and I handled hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits. And that time on behalf of insurance companies and the policies were absolutely different then. So you’re seeing a little bit of a trend in some of the language that has been approved for a few different reasons. One of the biggest changes that has come about recently, and it’s more prevalent in policies now, even though it has been lingering around for a while, is what’s called this Wind Created Opening Provision or Apparel Created Opening. And what happens under that provision is it typically says we do not cover interior damage resulting from rain or wind-driven rain unless there is an opening in the building and the building could mean windows or roofs or building envelope, but just, it depends on the policy language. But they won’t cover the interior damage unless there’s first an opening that’s created. I’ve seen policies that actually say the opening has to be permanent.

So there’s all these little tricks that are in these provisions and they’re really important for one major reason. The major reason is, switches the burden to the insured to prove certain things. Under a standard, you know, most standard exclusions, the insurance company has the burden to show that this loss was excluded. But when you have exceptions to exclusions, meaning we won’t pay for this and unless X, Y, and Z happens, that language shifts the burden to the insured to prove something. Right. So if you get a claim in and it’s a hurricane claim and there is a provision that says, “We don’t cover the interior unless there’s a wind created opening,” you better have some evidence of a wind created opening. And that really starts with the consultants and the experts because if the condition of the property changes or the insured makes repairs and there’s no photographs or videos, that can really prejudice the ability to recover. And you know, unfortunately, insurance companies have and continue to win in court on this issue. And you know, they’re winning dispositive motions, they’re winning trials. And if that happens, there’s the insured will have no ability to recover. So these provisions are scattered and you know, the residential and the commercial and all the policies. So it’s very important to recognize those and identify them very quickly because if you don’t, it may be too late.

Derek: But now okay, so I’m a homeowner. I have water coming into my home. I can’t see the sky through my roof, so there’s no massive opening. But how did the water get in? I mean, isn’t a common sense, I mean, how could this water travel through a building by osmosis? Isn’t that enough that I had a leak inside to say this, the insurance company, how could the water get in? Obviously, there’s an opening somewhere. I mean, I don’t know where it is, but there’s an opening and I’m covered, right? Is this not the case? Is it not enough?

Gina: It’s magic. It just comes in through magic. You know?

Derek: It doesn’t make sense to me.

Gina: Unfortunately, that’s not enough. And the reason being when you have that more limiting language is, as I said, you have to show that there was some type of opening. It may not have to be permanent. It could be a temporary opening that occurred during a wind event or a wind storm. Whereas typically if you do have water coming into your house and it’s coming through because maybe your window is old and, you know, it’s kind of subject to deterioration and water came in, that may be covered under certain provisions as an ensuing law to the wear and tear. But if you have this more limiting provision, it’s not gonna be enough. And I agreed, it is common sense, the water had to come from somewhere. I had a hurricane, there was wind, water came in. But what you’re seeing is the insurance companies raising, you know, the failure to maintain the wear and tear, the old age, as the reason the water came in, not the wind allowing the water to come in. So that’s the difference.

Derek: Even more reason for a homeowner, let’s say, or a building owner, you know, before something happens on an annual basis to have an independent company inspect the property, document the condition so that they set a baseline. For example, doing a moisture scan on a roof so that you know, God forbid you have a hurricane, you have water get into the roof, the insurance company could say, “Well, you didn’t maintain it. How do we know the water wasn’t there a year ago?” And if you’ve got that proof, then I would think that’s something that would be very valuable to you as a property owner.

Gina: Oh, absolutely. I mean, normally you don’t have that type of proof. A lot of the buildings you see will have their 40-year certifications and those are often very helpful because of the process that the buildings have to go through and to document its condition. But if you own a lot of property and you have a huge risk to hurricane damage, you know, as part of your risk management program, it’s not that expensive to have a drone photo taken of the roof or that. And you know, most of the drones now can do the infrared right from the drone. So it’s saving the man-hour time of actually someone climbing up on the roof with an infrared camera. It’s an easy thing to do.

Derek: I often assimilate, you know, somebody maintain their property or their roofs to go into the dentist. We hate doing it, you don’t wanna go until there’s pain, right? And the pain is severe. So do you want a little bit of pain, clean your teeth now, or do you want a whole lot of heartache and pain later on where, you know, this affects your business and your life, especially with the way policies are written now? I mean, I think, you know, if property owners that own multiple buildings have a relationship with someone like you or GCI that’s already in the corner and checking out the building every two years, I mean it seems like after a storm you’d just be able to flip a switch. And any piece of paper they ask you for, you can provide very quickly and very accurately. And you know, what a lot of people don’t understand is that an insurance policy that they simply buy and throw in the bottom drawer is a contract that says it’s an insurance contract and you have obligations.

And I think there’s a misunderstanding or a discounting of what that actually means, a contract that they will enforce is, you know, it’s something that one needs to be aware of and be able to comply with very quickly. So with that said, I wanted to ask you something else that I’ve run across. And that’s the matching statute in policies which, for our listeners, matching statute means if my roof is damaged or my floor is damaged and that product is no longer available in certain policies, the insurance company is liable to pay for the replacement of the entire home or what have you because it cannot be matched and it’ll look like a checkerboard. Is that something that, you know, folks still can expect to happen or insurance companies both on commercial and residential claims is gonna be fighting these as well? I mean, what are you seeing out there?

Gina: As far as the residential, there is a statute that is commonly referred to as the matching statute. And as far as the residential, typically, you know, they might fight it because there’s other things that come into play as well because they’re gonna be arguing what percentage of the roof and one of the tiles can be painted, whether they can be found in the boneyard, whether they’re operating under an approved NOAA weather code comes involved, so it’s not ever gonna be very clean cut and then you have issues. Maybe not even the roof, but interior flooring, whether there’s a threshold, whether it’s aesthetic. I mean, there are certain policies now where for a while there, there was a lot of litigation overmatching of the interior tile floor. And a lot of policies have inserted limitations now saying that if the damage to the floor is purely aesthetic, we’re only gonna pay $10,000. So if it’s an aesthetic issue versus an actual functionality of the flooring system, there’s gonna be a huge debate over that, which again is where the experts and consultants come into play. Because if the usefulness and the purpose of the floor is somehow impacted by the loss, that’s not just aesthetic. So those are permissions that you need to look for in the policy. I mean, for the most part, I’ve seen those aesthetic provisions linked to flooring, but I can’t tell you whether there’s not ones out there that are also linked to roofing systems. So it definitely has something…

Derek: I know there are. I know there are. I had a situation in Texas which, you know, because in Texas we know hail is pretty prevalent everywhere, and in the San Antonio, Dallas area there’s a tremendous amount of hail and insurance companies got beat up pretty bad. And what happened was with all these metal roofing systems and what a lot of these property owners were unaware of is that there was a cosmetic exclusion in there which basically said if baseball hit your roof, baseball size hail hit your roof and it’s dented everywhere but the damage is only cosmetic, then we’re not gonna pay for the replacement. So I mean, your roof probably look terrible now. And if somebody was gonna come and buy your building or buy your home, they’re gonna ask for a huge discount because your home looks terrible and yet insurance companies are standing on the fact that a lot of these folks that were unaware of these cosmetic writers or exclusions in the policy were now basically left out in the field. And that’s very scary. I mean, metal roofs are very expensive. So I certainly think having evaluated hundreds of rooms that a metal roof that’s dented now is gonna hold residue after a storm because now all the water’s not gonna be able to drain off of that. Yes, it may not be directly damaged right now, but five years from now, you know, the corrosion, the surfacing of that roof may have been impacted and it may start rusting and now I have to pay out-of-pocket to have it replaced. So I know that’s a tough one for Texans to swallow, but it’s all about, you know, knowledge is power and it’s being aware of what’s in your policy.

Gina: No, absolutely. You know, I was looking at a client’s policy the other day for a specific issue, but as I was looking at it, it was a new renewal policy. I see in like, you know, this little corner of the policy that they exclude wind-driven rain. And you know, it boggles my mind, you think you’re buying a policy for hurricane coverage and, you know, interior water damage. And it may cover it, but to have those little exclusions hidden throughout the policy, you know, one of the things I always say is what you don’t know can hurt you because it is unbelievable the things that are in the policy and I bet everyone listening, most people don’t have any idea what their policy says. They don’t read it.

Derek: And also what happens is you get…like if you, for example, if you would farmers or all state or state farm or what have you, the year that you buy the policy, you get a full copy of the policy. Each, and correct me if I’m wrong because you may be the expert on this, each year I renew it, all I get are some basic pages and I don’t even know what’s being taken out or put in that policy. I mean, what kind of a deal is that? I don’t even know what it’s in my policy, yet I think it’s the same as the one I have in my drawer and it might be completely different. Is that the case?

Gina: Well, typically you’re gonna have the standard form and then once a year you’ll get whatever applicable endorsements or changes to the policies. On my last renewal, I got an endorsement to make sure the carrier knew that marsupial damage was no longer covered under my policy, which you know, just made me laugh because of the detail that they go into on these exclusions. But you can always ask for ask your agent or you can ask the insurance company for, you know, you prefer to get a certified copy. That way you know that it’s a full and complete version. Citizen is very good about giving certified copies. Other carriers, you know, kind of argue whether it has to be certified or not. But you know, it’s always a good idea before hurricane season hits to make sure you have a full copy of your policy and do it soon because if there’s any issues that you didn’t have time to address them with your agent.

Derek: So, yeah. You, so you got a note saying Marsupials were no longer covered, so you know that if a kangaroo jumps onto your roof, you don’t have coverage, right?

Gina: There’s no coverage for kangaroos. Yeah. Yeah.

Derek: Shoot, I mean that’s an important one to have I guess in Australia but maybe not here.

Gina: Yeah. I’m really glad they clarify that for me, so

Derek: Any other points you want to make? I mean, I think we’ve covered a lot. I think, you know, we’ve some real valid points for the listeners out there, how important it is to have, you know, a plan ahead of time so that you limit the stress and the anxiety later on. I know one other thing that has changed and I think maybe you can expand on this a little bit before we wrap it up, but appraisal is there. So I’m having a struggle with my insurance company. What are my options? Like what’s option A, B, and C and how has that changed over the past few years in your experience?

Gina: Yeah, and for those who are listening who don’t know what appraisal is, appraisal is an alternative dispute resolution process that is kind of specific to property insurance policies. And in the event that the insurance company and the insured don’t agree on the amount or the scope of the loss, each party selects an appraiser. They tried to agree on the amount of the loss. If they can’t, they appoint a third person called the umpire. And the decision of any two is binding. I mean, there’s a lot more to that, you know, depending on the facts of the case and what jurisdiction you’re in and everything. But essentially, that’s how it works, kind of an alternative dispute resolution process. Appraisal used to be pretty big and for a while a lot of carriers were getting hit what they believed to be pretty hard in the appraisal process, so they backed away from it a little bit.

Now, it’s back. It’s coming back now. You know, I just saw an article and I don’t know if it was a Sun-Sentinel or The Palm Beach Post talking about how Citizens is offering to cover certain costs of the appraisal to get claims resolved, where typically the insured has the obligation to pay their appraiser and half of the umpire. So it could be an option depending on the case. It’s typically a lot faster than litigation. It’s a little bit less of a headache because you don’t have to be involved with depositions and discovery in court, but the decision of two people is binding unless there’s some type of extraordinary circumstances, which normally are fraud or, you know, some type of misrepresentation, it’s hard to overturn an appraisal award.

You know, when I’m seeing a lot of in the larger-layered policy, which are typically, you know, people who have Lloyd policy developers who have master policies in many properties under it, there’s a lot of arbitration provisions. A lot of times, those arbitration provisions could potentially preclude your ability to file a lawsuit. It just obviously depends on the policy language, how it’s written. But if you don’t know that and you think you have the ability to file suit and maybe there’s an argument that you don’t, that’s quite a huge surprise to any property owner.

Derek: Well, that tells me that they need someone like you to make sure they know what their options are and what the consequences of each are before they make that decision. I mean, making an educated decision versus a knee-jerk decision sounds like a pretty vital thing to be able to do. And having you in their corner would make a difference real quick. So after appraisal, I got a good settlement. I mean, and you know, we spoke a little bit about ordinance and law. Do I just expect the check for all these different coverages immediately? Can the carrier hold back any depreciation for any part of this or do I get, for example, if the payment is split between, you know, coverage A and then ordinance and law, can they hold anything back? Am I gonna be required to have completed the work as it would be, you know, in a normal claim recovery or how does that process work?

Gina: For the appraisal award, payment of the appraisal award, the timing is gonna be governed by the policy. The policy has a lost payment provision which says, “We’ll issue payment within so many days after the filing of an appraisal award with us.” It’s normally somewhere between 30 and 90 days. Depending on the policy, as far as the ordinance and law coverage, most policies do require that that be incurred or that the repairs are being made. So, you know, often, and I can’t say that this is all the time or all carriers do it, but sometimes an insurance company will just pay the whole appraisal award to be done with the claim or to try to get a release to give some consideration for the insurer to release the entire claim. Other time, they want the documentation of incurred expenses or they wanna see that the repairs have been made. It really is gonna depend on the policy. It’s gonna depend on the carrier.

What is interesting that the law did clarify in the recent years is that an appraisal award is sufficient evidence of the amount of loss to allow an insurer to file a bad faith lawsuit, which you know, the bad faith lawsuit is for extra-contractual damages that may not be covered under the policy. So it used to be that the theories were you had to go to trial and get essentially a judgment or you had to get a judgment through the court system. But the case law has clarified that significantly to say that an appraisal award is enough. So carriers are often hesitant to go to appraisal because of the threat of bad faith. So in the event that there are damages such as, you know, law and ordinance damages that could potentially be outstanding, sometimes carriers may be motivated to resolve it so they can wrap up everything and know that there’s not a bad faith lawsuit coming.

Derek: So the property owner can file suit even after appraisal for bad faith if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly.

Gina: Yes, as long as they…I mean, a prerequisite to any extra-contractual lawsuit is the filing of a civil remedy notice which a civil remedy notice is a statutorily created document. It essentially puts the carrier on notice of what they did to act in bad faith. And there’s categories of statute sets out. And then the insurance company has a certain amount of time to cure those allegations. If you don’t file the CRN, you absolutely do not have a right to the bad faith lawsuit. It’s a statutory prerequisite that you wanna make sure it’s done. But generally speaking, yes, the appraisal award is gonna be a sufficient award, sufficient document to allow you to proceed further if necessary.

Derek: Yeah. Right. Is there anything else you wanna bring up before we wrap up or I think, I mean we’ve discussed quite a bit. That’s been some great information for the listeners. Anything else you feel we need to know and that, you know, would help us down the road? And you know, a lot of people, I know of tons and tons of homeowners and property owners that are still waiting for their first dollar after Irma. Can they still call you? I mean, are they done? Can they hire you now or how does that process work and how do they get in touch with you?

Gina: No, absolutely. The time’s not out to file the hurricane claims at this point. You do have certain notice provisions under your policy. So if you have not filed a claim for whatever reason, it’s really important to figure out what your damages are and get that filed as soon as possible. Generally speaking, you know, you have to give notice promptly, but the statute of limitations does not run out on the hurricane claims. And there’s a lot. And I have a lot of claims, especially the larger commercial ones that are still being adjusted by the insurance company. And I think a lot of that has to do with the volume of claims and the amount of hurricanes we’ve had over the last couple of years. It’s been a stress on the industry for sure. But depending on your policy, you likely can file a lawsuit or demand appraisal or arbitration or mediation.

There’s a lot of different ways to resolve a claim. It’s just, you know, it may not always be a rush to litigation or to file suit. It really depends on the insured and what they need to get their life or their business back in order. For some people it’s, let me just get paid and move on. Some people wanna go all the way and have their day at trial. But there are a lot of options to get things resolved. But if you think that you know what you’re getting from the insurance company isn’t sufficient, I absolutely recommend talking to a professional to see if there’s anything that can be done.

Derek: Yeah. Then they should just give you a call. How do they, should they email you? What number or how do they reach Berger Singerman and how do they get to you?

Gina: Well, my direct line is 561-893-8711, that’s 561-893-8711. You know, we have offices in Boca, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Tallahassee.

Derek: Fantastic. Yeah. And I know I think you may be presenting again at the Windstorm Conference coming up in Orlando at the end of January, which I’m looking forward to. I know there’s gonna be a lot of good information and experts on hand there, you know, in our industry. So with that said, you know, thanks so much for being with us today and sharing your experience and vital information with our listeners. For you folks out there, thanks so much for joining Gina and myself today. Please visit us on the web at www.gciconsultants.com and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and be sure to check out some of our cool videos and where you’ll actually see us in action doing some forensic testing on windows, doors, and roofing. And we’ll definitely bring you, you know, valuable information in the future. Just stay tuned and thanks so much for joining us today and thank you, Gina, for being a part of “Everything Building Envelope” podcast today.

Gina: You’re welcome. Thanks again for having me.

Roofing and the Wet Suit Waterproofing Membrane System

Matt Leslie – Poseidon Sales

  • About Matt Leslie & the Roofing Industry
  • Wet Suit Membrane & its many uses
  • About Neptune Coatings
  • Wet Suit Durability
  • Building Envelope Applications

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 to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Derek Segal, and I’m a building envelope consultant with GCI. We’ve got a very special guest today. Matt Leslie is joining us. Welcome, Matt.

Matt: Thank you, Derek. It’s good to be here.

Derek: Excellent. I think you’re gonna get a lot out of today’s podcast. It’s gonna be exciting. Matt’s got an innovative, excellent product to talk about. And before we get started with that, Matt, would you tell us a little bit about how you came to be where you’re at today in the industry and your journey, you know, to get to this point.

Matt: Sure. Sure. Of course, that’s a 40-year journey, which I’ll do my best to cut down into a few seconds. But it started long ago in the mid-’50s when my father was in the business. And so I grew up in the family, in the industry. And then in the early days, I was in the supply end of the roofing industry. Was in that for several years, 15, 16 years and then transitioned into the contracting end and I’ve been doing that for as many years since. A couple of years ago, I became aware and familiar with this product we’re gonna talk about today by the name of WetSuit that has led my partner and I to opening up Poseidon Sales and we’ve kind of carried the torch of WetSuit in promoting its benefits and uses around the country.

Derek: That sounds really good. I must say, for those of you that don’t know my background, having been in the roofing end of the industry since 1992, you know, new products and new technologies is always an exciting attribute. And we’re always looking for, you know, something just a little bit better, especially given the way the weather has been over the last few years and the intensity of storms. So with that said, and I am holding a sample of the product, WetSuit, real interesting name. It brings to mind scuba diving, swimming in the ocean. Any info on how the name came about? Was the guy in the diving industry or how did the name come to be WetSuit?

Matt: Yeah. That’s a good question. I don’t have an answer for that particular origination of the name. But it’s an interesting story in that the gentleman and creator and founder of this product and company, Neptune Coatings, the manufacturer of WetSuit, he was already retired, chemist by profession and had already retired, and was continually hearing from his friends during his weekly golf outings that they were having trouble keeping their balconies watertight over the long term. And he finally got tired of, you know, hearing their complaints. He said, “Guys, give me a few weeks. Let me see if we can create something for you.” And frankly, out of his garage, was born the product WetSuit. So not so much aware of where the name came from, but the story behind the product is amazing. And he literally produced the product for several years out of his garage for his buddies.

Derek: Garage?

Matt: Yeah.

Derek: Wow, that’s amazing.

Matt: Yep.

Derek: So yeah, I spoke a little bit about weather ability and I think, you know, all of us can agree that over the past two years, I mean, we had… I think we started off with Harvey that hit Texas. We went from there to Maria that, you know, impacted Puerto Rico. We then got Irma that pretty much impacted the entire state of Florida. And then Michael, obviously, really created some serious damage up in the panhandle of Florida. And I think we can all agree that, you know, the intensity, the duration of these things, the amount of rainfall has just been astronomical. I mean, we’re looking for a product that can stand up to nature’s fury which seems to be kind of always on the increase. How is this product different to other products and how is this gonna give me more peace of mind and a property owner the peace of mind, you know, during these weather phenomenon that happen, to know that his building is in good shape and he has nothing to worry about?

Matt: Well, it’s interesting because the storms have actually created an opportunity for WetSuit. WetSuit, when it was created in 2001, it was created as a long-term solution for a total building envelope, waterproofing, and roofing solution. The product can be used from below grade to roofing and everything in between, but it was created as a long-term solution. But as a result of the storms and some problems that are inherent with the storms and their damage and then the repair that’s subsequent to that, we’re finding that as an example, high wind event might just pull off a portion of a roof. Maybe just a corner of a couple of hundred square feet, but conventional methods have somebody run out there and drop a blue tarp over the entire roof area, which typically is several thousand square feet and, of course, it’s costly to cover such a long area.

They’re penetrating the good roof with several hundred nails to hold the tarp in place, and then the tarps are not resistant to ultraviolet rays and strong winds and they end up getting blown off, you know, after the initial fix and then they’re back up there doing the same thing again. Where with WetSuit, we’re finding that the contractors can go in and spray just the affected area, which might be a couple of hundred square feet, not a couple thousand, they can get in, get out quick, make the building watertight. The product adhesion properties are above and beyond anything in the business. I mean, the downside to WetSuit is once it gets on something it stays there. But for wind events, that’s a good thing. So they can run in and fix a smaller area, do it much faster and the product is UV stable over the long period of time. In laboratory testing, we’ve shown no degradation from ultraviolet rays over a period of as much as 35 years.

Derek: That’s impressive.

Matt: Yeah, it really is a remarkable material.

Derek: So with storms, you know, obviously you mentioned one type of storm, which is a high wind event. Obviously, the other catastrophic-type events that we’ve been seeing a lot more of, especially out west in Colorado, and usually we see that around Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas. But we’ve been seeing more and more of it. I think Colorado, Denver got hit two or three times over the last year by massive hail. Is this something that will, you know, be able to absorb these large hailstones, these hard structural hailstones? Is this something that WetSuit can stand up to and resist?

Matt: There’s a multitude of physical properties with WetSuit that put it above and beyond anything in the business and, of course, we’ve been through every test requirement by either ASTM or Factory Mutual. Specifically to your question about hail, we’ve passed Factory Mutual’s most severe hail test with no impact at all. It’s an extremely durable, flexible material. And like I said, resistant to, you know, the effects of sun over the long term. These hailstorms create a huge problem in the roofing industry and, frankly, WetSuit is completely unaffected by these things.

Derek: Fantastic. So, okay, now that we found out, you know, some of the positive benefits, I mean, is this thing… I mean, how do we put this down? Does it come in rolls? Do we have to get a crane to lift these rolls up onto the roof? I mean, being that it’s such an innovative product I would think it’s got to be unique in the way that this thing goes on. And it’s got to be, you know, better and easier to install. Is that the case or do I now have to hire, you know, double the labor or how am I going to put this product on the roof?

Matt: Well, they continue to say how amazing the material is or what a phenomenal product it is. It goes so far beyond just the product itself. The process, the logistics required in the application, this material, the crew size and the skill set required have been significantly reduced or minimized or made more efficient. Not necessarily by design, it just evolved that way over the last 18 years. But specifically with your first question about the process of application, it’s a spray application. There’s specialized equipment that’s not very expensive, just specialized because of the pressures that are required, which are very minimal, by the way, which is unusual for a spray application. But it’s a spray application, it’s extremely fast in its application, but your typical roof assembly is going to consist any more of a single-ply membrane that’s approximately 60 mils thick.

Now, they’ll vary by a little bit, by five mils, plus or minus, but basically your 60 mil thickness in a membrane is your most popular solution. WetSuit goes down in a single-pass spray application in a 60 mil application. So we have some continuity there with what the market is accustomed to, but WetSuit, because it’s a spray application, is seamless. And over my years in the business, I have found, you know, roofs will fail and leak at certain conditions, whether it’s a rooftop piece of equipment, or a transition from roof to wall or conditions like that, similar to that. However, what the common denominator in all of those conditions is the seam and it’s the seam that fails, not the membrane itself. And so by virtue of the fact that WetSuit is a seamless membrane at 60 mils, we’ve eliminated the fail point. And so now all of a sudden there is no fail point in the roof.

Derek: Right. That’s very beneficial. I gotta tell you, you know, being that I’ve been on, you know, hundreds and hundreds of roofs, what I’m seeing more of now and that you make a good point is that in a lot of cases, you know, now that the world is so technologically advanced, there is more equipment up on the roof buildings typically, we’re building up more and not out because we’re running out of space. And so really you have only one place to put all your building system equipment and that’s up on top of the roof, and I know I’ve been involved in some roof projects where it’s an absolute nightmare. You’ve got, you know, 300, 400, 500 roof penetrations, you’ve got cellular equipment, internet equipment and…

Matt: Yep, they’re a mess.

Derek: That becomes a real issue because if you’ve got a leak around a pipe that’s coming through the roof and you’ve got, you know, sensitive equipment downstairs, that’s a nightmare you want to try and avoid. I definitely get that.

Matt: Yep, and that brings to mind a project that we recently completed or at least one of our contractors recently completed in Orlando. It was a pedestrian deck. So it was a… Basically, I like to refer to it as party central in an apartment complex. And so they had five different planters and they were full planters. They were false planters that had a steel grate over the top that they put their artificial turf on and some other architectural features, but the support to that steel grade was a two-inch square leg. Well, in five planters we had 300 penetrations in about 1,500 square feet.
Now, that’s just a ridiculous amount of penetrations in any roof system.

And, of course, the fact that it’s, the application of WetSuit was seamless on a square product which, you know, the people that aren’t in the roofing industry don’t understand the difficulty of getting that watertight and keeping it watertight, especially with all the structural movement that’s going to take place in any structure of any height. So not only is it seamless but because of the elasticity and the elongation of the material, which is, by the way, 2,000% elongation, the movement is irrelevant, it’s of no impact to the WetSuit product. But for the construction industry, here’s the single strongest benefit, is those 300 penetrations would take, oh, probably 20 or 30 minutes each penetration and 100 to 125 man hours and those 300 penetrations will complete in five hours.

Derek: Wow, that’s huge, because I don’t really understand that.

Matt: Tremendous efficiency in the application process, it’s seamless so we’ve eliminated the fail point, the elongation, just kind of laughs at any structural movement. And then also, you asked or kind of touched on a moment ago, Derek, about the issues of logistics and machinery. This product, it can be sprayed through up to 500 feet of hose and it can be sprayed vertically up 100 feet. So as long as we’re working on, let’s say, a 10-story building or less, we’ve got one very small staging area down on the ground, we haul one hose up with one spray gun and we get anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of surface area sprayed and waterproofed in a day’s work with just a three-man crew as compared to about a 10-man crew with your conventional methods.

Derek: You’d never get 15,000 square foot done in a day anyway on a normal roof, there’s no way.

Matt: If there’s any penetrations at all, absolutely impossible. Maybe a third of that. It’s not really a fun fact, but I’d like you to make it that way. This is a water-based material that’s spray applied and it cures to a rubber membrane in three seconds. So here’s another benefit to the tradesmen. Typically, they’re looking at a weather forecast and early in the morning there might be a forecast, especially in the South Florida market where we know we can almost set our clocks by the afternoon rain. They know that there’s a potential storm coming through and they’re very nervous about whether they send the crews or not, and then what type of work the crews do and how they expose the building to a re-roofing element. Well, frankly, with WetSuit curing in three seconds, this is fact that we can spray WetSuit right up to the moment of rain and have no re-emulsification, have no runoff and what we’ve touched is watertight the instant it’s sprayed. Again, that’s just a fun fact that three-second cure of a water-based material, but man, it provides unbelievable protection.

Derek: Okay, I’m sold. I wanna ask you one real important question for me. We’ve all heard over the last year, two years, global warming, some people think it’s fake, whatever. But I’ll tell you one thing that is a fact and that the oceans are filling up with plastics, single-use plastic, the landfills are filling up. I mean, there’s some stuff we just can’t deny. And for me, you know, the environmental impact is really critical to us and the future generations. Will this product help to protect the Earth and how will me choosing WetSuit help the environment and change the path that we seem to be on, you know, if we continue to use single-use plastic and throw debris and old roofing systems into our landfills? Tell me what benefits they will be to the long-term environmental well being.

Matt: And boy, that’s a huge problem. The amount of debris and tonnage that goes into our landfills from old roofs that have to be torn off and taken to the dump is mind-boggling. It’s billions of pounds every year. And there are occasions when because of the existence of trap moisture in an existing roof system, that there is no option but to remove what’s there, it’s just good roofing practice. However, most cases, the roof does not need to be removed. However, building code throughout the country says that you can only put two roof systems on any building and that’s really more of a weight fact. So if we get into a situation where there’s two existing roofs, the industry nationwide says get rid of everything that’s there and go fill that landfill.

With WetSuit, because it’s a liquid applied product, 6 ounces per square foot at 60 mils, because it’s considered by the building departments as a maintenance item, not a roof system, although it performs better than every other roof system, it’s not considered a roof system. That requirement of tearing two roofs off is not necessary with the application of WetSuit. So we’re going to have a huge impact, reducing the impact on landfills because of the amount of tear off that’s not required. So not only is it a landfill benefit, but this product has zero VOCs. For those listening that maybe don’t know what VOC stands for, that’s volatile organic compound, and that means fumes. There are no fumes coming off of this product. It’s a water-based material.

Derek: Yeah, we’ve both stood around. In fact, I drive down the street and I can smell a roof going on, you know, a mile away.

Matt: Yeah, for sure.

Derek: I mean there’s carcinogenic fumes going into the air, there’s a…

Matt: Here’s a scenario that happens, more often than not is, they’re working on a roof on a hospital and somebody forgets to turn off the intake and the glues that they use for some of the systems have a tremendous amount of a VOCs, volatile organic compounds, and they have a problem inside the entire hospital because of these VOCs. So this happens. Well, that’s a non-factor again, with WetSuit. Now, not only is it healthy from the standpoint of VOCs, this product has been approved as a tank liner for drinkable water. So it is of no consequence to the people working with it. It is of no consequence to the inhabitants of a building that’s getting the product applied to it, has a monster impact on our environment and the people that live in that environment.

Derek: Well, sounds like this is the product of today and the future. I mean, because we really… I must tell you I was recently up in the panhandle and I literally saw buildings and roofing systems that peeled off like a sardine can. The way these storms are going and might I add Irma and Harvey, Harvey was more than 52, 53 inches of rain in Houston. We’ve got to come up with better products and there’s a lot more being thrown at us and we need to be ready to defend ourselves. And I mean, the roof, as far as I’m concerned, is probably the most important building component out there because it protects everything from the top down. You know, most often people are more attuned to putting a fresh coat of paint on a building or putting some new plants and flowers around a building, and a roof is really not something they can see. So it’s out of sight, out of mind.

Matt: That’s so true.

Derek: Having seen Panama City and Panama City Beach, one really grasps the importance of a product that can withstand even a Cat 3, Cat 4 storm, because really everything depends on just how good that product is. So with that said, I mean, I’m gonna go run out right now pick up a bucket myself. I mean, can I just go to Home Depot? I need some of this stuff.

Matt: Well, no. You can’t buy it off the shelf and here’s the reason why. We, Neptune Coatings and Poseidon Sales are committed to high quality, finished, installed assembly. And as a result of that, we are very tough on our contractors in the training process, in the warranty protocol process and just the entire process of applying the material. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s so important to just do things the right way. So we’re pretty dogmatic about what we require as far as training, education, proper quality control. So no, you can’t just buy it off the shelf. So there’s some benefit there, but I did want to address also your comment about, you know, the storms and the wind events.

We have, as I mentioned before, the amount of testing that Neptune Coatings has done through ASTM and Factory Mutual is substantial to say the least. One of those series and batteries of testing has to do with wind resistance performance. And another fun fact about WetSuit, one of those tests was with the WetSuit material applied directly to concrete. Now Factory Mutual’s equipment has a certain capacity, they can measure up to a certain point and then the equipment just can’t measure any more than that. In the testing of WetSuit’s adhesion on concrete, we couldn’t reach failure. In fact, we took the testing up to Factory Mutual’s capacity. Didn’t reach failure. And so FM says, “Hey, you’re good to a 1-990 rating.”

Derek: What does that mean?

Matt: Well, and that’s where I was headed. I don’t really know exactly what it means. But here’s what I do know. Back in the day, when we started measuring things under this, you know, this 1-something standard, we started with a 1-90, and the industry kind of accepted that to mean that that would be good for a Category 1 hurricane of 90 miles an hour. Now, that’s not the exact science behind it. And I like to say this, I’m not really a propeller head so I don’t get into the scientific side of this. I trust those that do know what they’re doing and I trust their conclusions. But we’re now designing systems to about a 1-150, maybe a 1-180.

Derek: But yours is 900?

Matt: Nine ninety.

Derek: That’s crazy.

Matt: And did not reach failure.

Derek: So that’s nine times the design strength.

Matt: Pretty much. Pretty much.

Derek: The industry standard.

Matt: And here’s another thing on that same subject. When it comes to roof failure by wind event, in other words, a blow off…

Derek: Mm-hmm.

Matt: Most of the time it’s not the roof membrane, that’s the problem. It’s the edge of the roof that has a piece of sheet metal and that piece of sheet metal has an edge to it, has a face to it and there’s a gap between the metal and the building. And that little tiny gap when the wind is whipping around there at about 120 miles an hour, that wind grabs that edge of metal and that’s the weak point of the roof and it peels it off from that point.

Derek: How is it different with WetSuit? [inaudible 00:23:44] I was just about to ask.

Matt: WetSuit is a self-flashing, self-terminating material and system. It can, if the architectural and design community will accept it, it can eliminate 100% of the sheet metal requirements in the construction of a roof. Without the sheet metal edge for the wind to grab, the wind will have… Not only does it have unbelievable adhesion to surfaces and substrates, but it allows us to produce a finished product that the wind has nothing to grab.

Derek: Well. it sounds like you guys have thought of everything. That’s kind of the way I started the podcast was just prefacing the podcast by saying that it was gonna be interesting and exciting and really, you know, blow the minds of a lot of people out there that, you know, are used to the same old same-same old, and the same challenges and stresses that come, you know, with roofs. I think at the end of the day… I mean, what we all want and what I want, is I would want as a building owner is one thing, peace of mind.

And that comes with, you know, knowing that storm is coming and knowing that you’ve done everything you need to do and you have the best product possible, especially given the fact that, you know, during Irma and Michael and Maria and Harvey, I mean, we as property owners, we all think we put our insurance policy in our drawer, we’re covered. You know, no matter what happens, I think it’s been painful for a lot of property owners to learn that you really only find out if you’re covered after something happens. I mean, you might think you’re covered, but there are a lot of trap doors in that contract of insurance that’s sitting in your drawer and if there’s anything better.

Yeah, that property owners can do above and beyond, and this system may even save them money because from what you say, I mean, goes on quicker, it doesn’t require as much manpower, you know, I can’t see why, you know, someone wouldn’t want to get some more information to find out about this. But I just wanted to say that this has been one of my best podcasts ever, [inaudible 00:25:50] called WetSuit. I encourage you folks to find out more about it and see if it’s something you’d be interested in finding out for your property.

Well, folks, I think you can all agree that I said at the beginning of the podcast, this was gonna be fantastic and really interesting. And I hope that you got a lot out of this, as much as I did. I’d like to thank Matt for being on with us. Matt, do you have any final thoughts or information you want to give to our listeners?

Matt: In closing, I’d like to tell a quick story. Of course, I’ve introduced this test data and product data around the country to dozens of designers and architects and engineers, consultants. I’ve asked them consistently to dig into the test data and share with me what they think the, if, in fact, there’s weaknesses. We’ve certainly not talked about any weaknesses today, and I’ve asked that they share weaknesses. And so far, they’ve all come back with a denial meaning that they couldn’t find anything.

I did have one humorous response from a consultant. Oh, gosh, about a year ago, he said, “You know, we really couldn’t find any weaknesses or any weak links in this product or its application and so forth.” But he said, and he said, very sincerely said, “But I would give you one piece of advice.” I said, “Well, what’s that advice?” And he said, “Don’t tell everybody the whole story because it’s too good to be true.” And I couldn’t help but chuckle. I said, “Well, I’m sorry, Sean, but I’m going to have to tell the whole story because number one, it’s my nature and number two, we expect to probably change the entire market because of it.”

Derek: Wow, that’s amazing. That sums it all up. And again, you know, I think this was a great podcast. Now, Matt, how do people get in touch with you?

Matt: Well, they should call me personally. My phone number is (561) 870-2259, or they can study some of the product data on our website which, of course, is www.poseidonsales.com.

Derek: Fantastic. Thanks, that sounds great. Thanks to all of you, our valued listeners, our most important resource and please, you know, join us again for these informative podcasts. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and check out our fantastic website and cool videos that you can find on www.gciconsultants.com. And once again, this is Derek Segal with GCI consultants. Thank you so much for joining us and we look forward to bringing you a bunch more fantastic, innovative and interesting podcasts. Thanks.

FAPIA, Hurricanes & Insurance Claims

Jimmy Farach – President of FAPIA

  • About Jimmy Farach of FAPIA
  • What are some of the differences you see between the 0/4 0/5 hurricanes and Irma related to the way the claims process is going?
  • What types of damages are you seeing from Irma vs the storms of the 04 and 05 seasons?
  • Do you feel the involvement of a claim advocate such as yourself makes a difference in the way a claim is handled and the result?
  • How have you changed the way you approach claims, assess damages and investigate the loss for Irma?
  • If there were 3 or 4 critical points you could stress to a property owner now after Irma or for any future storm such as Irma, what would those be?
  • Do you see any differences in changes in weather patterns and storms over the past 10 years or so?

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 GCI’s podcast today with “Everything Building Envelope.” I’ll be your host today. My name is Derek Segal. I’m a building envelope consultant. My special guest today is Jimmy Farach. Jimmy is a public insurance adjuster and also current president of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Welcome, Jimmy.

Jimmy: Thank you so much, Derek. Good afternoon.

Derek: Glad to have you. I think for our guests, Jimmy, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey along the way to becoming who you are today and the president of the association?

Jimmy: Thank you again for having me. Yeah, my career in the insurance plans business started a bit after Hurricane Andrew, back in 1992. I was studying construction management in Florida International University in Miami, Florida. And I got to meet an independent adjuster in one of my courses. And I was introduced to what I do today and been doing for the last 25 years or so, which is negotiating and documenting property claims. So it was a nice foundation to have the construction management background and general contracting background. My father’s an architect so I’ve been around building construction since I was born.

And a little bit later down in my career, in 1999, 2000, I secured my public adjuster’s license here in Florida, and subsequently secured licenses in several other states around the country. And during that time, in 2008, Derek, I got interested in joining a committee for the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, and got more involved, and was asked to serve on the board. And it’s been a great experience in the last 10 years. And I just, as you had mentioned, been elected president. It’s an honor to be president and serve our public adjusters in Florida.

Derek: Excellent. That sounds really good, Jimmy. I got to tell you, I’m really excited about today because there’s a tremendous amount of good, valuable information, the questions that I have that I think will truly help people understand the business and what the challenges are today given, you know, the recent storms we’ve had. So with that said, I’m curious to find out, you know, what you think on the types of damages, you know, from perhaps the storm we had recently, Hurricane Irma, your seeing out there versus the ’04, ’05 seasons, I guess, the strongest storm we had, which was Hurricane Wilma in ’05. What types of damages differences are you seeing out there?

Jimmy: Well, yeah, a good question. So yeah, back in ’04, ’05, there was definitely 4 to 5 storms that hit Florida from different angles. Obviously, one from the West Coast, and then we had Hurricane Irma…I’m sorry, excuse me, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma and Jeanne and Frances. But the one thing that sticks out in my head right now from this storm and the difference is the slow process. Claims, seen and getting consultants down to the properties has been very slow, very sluggish. And I guess one of the reasons is the timing where, you know, just 3 weeks prior to Hurricane Irma on September 10th, as we all know, on August 17th, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and it was a very, very large storm. And as we saw on the news, Houston was flooded. It’s so terrible to hear what…you know, there was rescues and, you know, life and basically humans and pets that were endangered.

And then Irma hit three or four weeks after, followed by Hurricane Maria. So the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast in Florida were impacted. And I think one of the main things that is very relevant is Hurricane Irma affected the entire state of Florida. I mean, it was a massive storm, as we all saw on the news. It had made its path and basically clipped the Lower Keys, and then the west coast of Florida, basically covering the entire state from east to west, and from south to north. And it’s amazing how it went up to the Central, and I-4 corridor, and Orlando, Tampa, even in Jacksonville and Dayton Beach. So I think that’s one of the main points and one of the main differences that I see, the intensity of the storm. So what are you guys seeing as far as the difference at GCI?

Derek: Yeah. Obviously, we’re out there quite a bit, like yourself. I think, you know, one of the things that sticks out in my mind, difference-wise from the ’04, ’05 versus this year, or 2017 as well, which, you know, a lot of storms hit Texas as well, is that Irma was such a slow-moving storm. You know, Wilma and all the others were obviously stronger in intensity, but Irma was very impactful in the sense that it was such a prolonged event, in some periods it lasted up to 18, 19 hours of cyclical winds, torrential rain up to, you know, 15 to 20 inches of rain. And even though the winds weren’t as strong as of Wilma, we’re seeing a tremendous amount of damage out there just because of the duration of the storm and the geographical size of the storm. And so, in my mind, this was a much bigger event for the entire state than simply, you know, an isolated event. And the damage is a little more subtle, but there was definitely a lot of damage to windows, doors, roofing systems, and the entire building envelope that I’m seeing.

Talk a little bit about, you know, some of the way the claims are being handled. I know this is kind of a bias question, but do you feel your role as an advocate for a property owner or a property manager makes a difference in the way these claims are going? Or do you think they’re fine just handling these things on their own?

Jimmy: No, I think absolutely we make a difference. Again, policy holder advocates and protecting the consumer, and more importantly on these emergency claims such as a hurricane. And again, as licensed professionals, we’re there for the policyholder during these difficult times of putting together a very cumbersome claim, whether it’s commercial or residential, as far as other different coverages on their dwelling and then their respective inventories, or loss of use, or even on a commercial policy, you know, putting together the business income loss, or loss of rents. So absolutely, we make a difference and we…because the client or the policyholder, you know, after a difficult time, I mean, they’re taking care of, number one, their families, their businesses, in some cases their clients. And we, you know, as policyholder advocates, come in after to pick up the pieces and make them whole again and put it together, so that way the insurance company would make them whole on a loss that they suffered.

Derek: It’s obviously a pretty emotional time for all these people as well. I mean, I know I have been through it…

Jimmy: Absolutely.

Derek: [inaudible 00:07:13] myself. I mean, the last thing you’re thinking about is, “How do I evaluate the damage?” You’re happy to be alive, you’ve never been through something this traumatic, your home, which is your castle or your building, is damaged, and you feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under you. And I know from experience that it’s a very emotional and scary time. So to have someone like you or ourselves involved, just takes that pressure off so these people can really concentrate on their families and just recovering, you know, emotionally and physically from this almost, you know, traumatic event that they have. It’s almost as bad as losing a loved one because it’s almost like something has invaded kind of your private space.

Jimmy: Yes, I would totally agree with that statement. I think, furthermore, you know, for the typical policyholder, I mean, most consumers, obviously they have their coverage and it’s required by their mortgage company or their lender. And let’s face it, they’ll shelve the policy. And a lot of these policies, as we all…you know, for the audience out there, the policy is an actual contract between the insured and the insurer. So there’s many conditions and post-loss obligations. And I think that’s where we step in as professionals to assist the policyholder on providing the burden of proof of the damages. And when I say the burden of proof, you know, putting together the respective estimates, and getting experts involved such as causation experts. And again, what do I mean by causation expert? An expert such as your firm, Derek, GCI that could document and show there was a breach in a roof, or as you said earlier, in a window, door opening, building envelope.

And I think additionally, the time constraints, some of these policies have some time constraints that are very sensitive if the carrier requests certain documents or requests certain proofs of loss, documents proving the amount of your loss, what is the insured claiming, what’s the dollar amount. And again, that’s our job to appraise and assist and document the claim from A to Z for a policyholder. So, as I said before, it could be very cumbersome and very difficult to do this. On top of the added pressure of, as you just mentioned, Derek, the emotional stress of securing your property, and obviously sometimes moving from harm’s way and basically leaving the state, as a lot of Floridians did this past fall.

Derek: Right, yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with the way you see it as well, I’m seeing same thing. Is there anything that you do differently now when you’re, say, first coming onto a site where it’s potentially been damaged or affected by a storm, the way you investigate or assess damage today versus 10, 12, 13 years ago? Or have you always done it your way? You know, obviously, since you have the background in construction and your dad’s an architect, have you always done it the same way, or do you do it differently now than you have done it? Or what’s your experience?

Jimmy: So, yeah, as far as changing the ways, we all have our ways of conducting business and approaching a claim. And granted, yeah, I have to say that in 10, 12 years, I mean, the industry’s changed a lot. And again, personally, I’m very humbled to be where I’m at, and I stress to even our membership at FAPIA and they’re proactive, and we learn every day something. These policies are…you know, insurance policies are changing, Derek, constantly. There’s a lot of erosions of coverage, there’s exclusions. And I think it’s very important to stay relevant to the market.

But to answer what you asked me, I think it has changed in a way where now, in 2018 as opposed to 2006, ’07, or after the ’04 and ’05 storms, yeah, we’ve had to rely more on the experts. And again, as I said earlier, we have the burden of proof for the insured that, yeah, there was physical damage as a result of this storm, and proving that physical damage. And what I mean by that? Obviously, on a case like on a roof where, let’s say it’s a commercial building, Derek, and it’s a flat roof, and the insurance company’s inspecting the loss but they don’t see removal of the actual material or a peel back, as we call it in the industry. Now you have to go to step two or option B, which is obviously do some further testing, moisture surveys, some core testing to prove the physical damage.

And again, I think it’s important to rely on experts that could document this. And again, it’s very simple. To me it’s basically if the insurance company is doing it and they’re bringing out their consultants, both building consultants and engineers, it’s prudent for us as policyholder advocates to have our team of folks to do it and present our side of the claim.

Derek: Right. And obviously, you know who the right experts are to bring out since you’ve been in the industry a while, and you can short-circuit that for the insured as well.

Jimmy: Correct.

Derek: So, you know, I think you bring great value to the client and to this person that’s stressed out, full of anxiety, and is looking for peace of mind in someone like yourself. That’s great. Here’s a good question for you. I mean, looking into the crystal ball for the future, or even now,we’re
12 months downwind, so to speak, of Irma. If there were three or four things you could tell or suggest to a property owner or property manager to do now that we’re a year post Irma, or for any future storm, if there were three or four critical things you could tell them or advise them on, what would those be and what would you stress to those owners and those insureds?

Jimmy: I would say, number one, definitely have the property inspected, at least have an overview, again, of the entire envelope, the roof covering, the walls, any thermal imaging to see if there’s any water intrusion to the attic or walls or ceilings. So that’s number one. It’s always, again, a good idea to have it inspected. Let’s say even if it doesn’t merit to put in a claim, but at least the client knows and is rest assured that everything’s okay. And obviously, window openings and doors, garage doors, etc. And number two, I think it’s always important for the insured to have…or policyholder to have a relationship with professionals such as, you know, a public adjuster, their general contractor, and even a restoration contractor should be on call [SP] as a team in case of an issue, you know, whether it’s the…

Derek: You mean before the storm? Before the storm [crosstalk 00:14:15]

Jimmy: Oh, absolutely, yes, before the storm, right. Yes, to have a plan in place where, you know, they would be able to mobilize in case that they have to tarp a roof, board up some windows, or obviously the actual contractor would be already well aware of the property. And the insured would feel a lot better knowing that they’d already vetted that company correct, and they had the references and had a relationship for future business.

And I think number three would be document, document before the storm. What I mean by document? Obviously, have photographs, have video specifically of personal property, of inventories, of any valuable items such as furs or any collectables, furniture, electronics, etc. And then, obviously, and the property as well, the roof, and showing the condition of the home or the business or the commercial building prior to the loss. And even a step further, Derek, have an inspection showing that, you know, like a moisture survey showing the roof is in great shape. Now, after a storm is where you show that there was a difference, and there was direct physical damage to the property. So I think that’s number three, documentation.

And number four, I would say have a yearly or every two…twice a year, excuse me, speak to your insurance broker or agent to go over the coverages, and make sure that you’re up to date on replacement costs to what the current market price is, and that you specifically look at the exclusions, specifically wind storm exclusions for hurricanes and name storms, and deductibles, and make sure that the agent is giving you all those options. So I think those are four critical points for any consumer or policyholder to do.

Derek: You mentioned the term “replacement cost.” If a property owner has a claim, he is going to get compensated by the insurance company. Does the insurance company… What is replacement cost? I’ve heard that term, I’ve heard of actual cash value, I’ve heard of replacement cost. What is the fee gonna be, what check is he gonna get, and what are his obligations are gonna be? Like, what’s that process look like?

Jimmy: And a good point, again, that you’re mentioning, Derek, because, as I stated a few moments ago on differences between ’04, ’05 to now, specifically for residential losses. Replacement cost, back in ’04, ’05, the insurance companies were paying replacement costs. And obviously, replacement cost is today’s cost of replacing that particular item, so like a roof of…you know, it’s not what you paid for it when it was installed, it’s today’s replacement market price. As opposed to now, fast forward to 2018, insurance companies, that’s been removed off the policies for them to have to pay replacement cost upfront to the insured, rather they only own the ACV. And when I say ACV, it’s the actual cash value.

And simple arithmetic there is you have a replacement cost and then you have what we call depreciation. Over the years, obviously roofs deteriorate or they have a useful life. Right? Windows and cabinetry. So they would remove the depreciation. Usually, it’s based on a percentage, like 20%, 30%. I’ve seen even up to 50% on roofs. So imagine that, you have a replacement cost less 50% so the insured is actually getting 50% of the money upfront to start the work. So it puts them in a pretty tough position to amend [SP] the work.

Derek: He signed a contract for 50% more of the cash that he’s actually getting.

Jimmy: Correct. And they’re sort of, like, you know, have to say, financing the project and then they have to submit the receipts later to recover the depreciation. So on some policies it is recoverable. But I just wanted to…I’m glad you brought that up, Derek, because it’s an important topic, absolutely.

Derek: So that sounds like it’s vital to get your ducks in a row, so to speak, well in advance of any storm, understand your policy, have your building evaluate so that you have a baseline condition that you’ve stated what the condition of your property was.

Jimmy: Correct.

Derek: Not simply by just taking a couple photos of the outside, but actually have somebody visit your property and do some testing to make sure everything’s sound. And then maintain all your records so that you can give the insurance company what they’re asking for as required by your contract with insurance. There’s a lot more to this than just filing a claim and going on your way. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of homework to do, and you need people who are knowledgeable and can help you throughout the process.

Jimmy: Absolutely. And again, as public adjusters, public insurance adjusters licensed by the state of Florida, this is all we do is focus on documenting and processing property insurance claims. So yeah, you hit the nail on the head by, you know, what we just talked about archiving and having as much information to provide to the carrier when the event does happen, when there is a catastrophic [inaudible 00:19:06] hurricane event. That way there’s no misunderstanding on some of those.

Derek: So there’s no loopholes or triggers that you can make a mistake with, and then lose out on something that you’re actually entitled to, which obviously does happen and it can be even more traumatic than it really needs to be.

Jimmy: Yes.

Derek: Great. Well, I think this has been a fantastic podcast. To sum it up, I think it’s vital to have some people on your team well in advance to the storm to dig into the knowledge that’s out there. And if it’s something that you need help with, then to reach out to Jimmy or GCI. And certainly, you know, I think both of us are blessed to be in this business where we feel like we can make a real difference in people’s lives, and help them through this trauma and scary time in their lives. So from all of us at GCI, I just wanna thank you for coming on and being our special guest as the only guitar-playing president of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters.

Jimmy: Wow. Yeah, that’s a surprise to the audience, right? That would be only bass guitar and electric guitar player in the 25-year history of FAPIA. But thank you, it’s my pleasure.

Derek: Great. Well, I really appreciate you coming on. And I look forward to…

Jimmy: Right. And if I could just end it with one note, Derek, and you just mentioned that it’s [inaudible 00:20:30] a central theme and common denominator is we are helping the citizens of Florida and the property owners of Florida that when they’re in this unfortunate position, pick up the pieces, and again, put it all together, that we’re there helping the client. And once you put that first, everything falls into place and feel good about it because obviously, yeah, we are serving the community, we are helping the residents, our neighbors. So again, it’s been my honor and pleasure to be here today on this podcast, and I wanna thank GCI for the opportunity.

Derek: Thanks so much, Jimmy. And we look forward to seeing you for many, many years to come. Take care of yourself.

Jimmy: Thank you, sir.

Derek: Thanks, everyone, for joining us at GCI for our podcast with “Everything Building Envelope.” We look forward to providing many more like this valuable and informative sessions where we can help. Thank you.

Strategic Projects Division and Testing Methods

Jason Bondurant – GCI Consultants

  • Strategic Projects
  • Water Testing Methods
  • Hurricane Recovery
  • Water Penetration in Buildings
  • Results & Solutions
  • Consultants versus Contractors
  • Elimination of Problems

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 to today’s “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, Vice President and Senior Consultant for GCI Consultants, and I’ll be your host for today’s podcast. My guest today is Jason Bondurant, Director of Strategic Projects from GCI. Hi, Jason.

Jason: Hey, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Chris: Glad you’re here today. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Jason: Well, I’ve been a consultant for GCI for about five years now. Right now, working in the Strategic Projects division which is mostly dealing with problems with existing buildings and things like leak investigations, like we’re going to talk about today, due diligence, condition surveys, various services for existing buildings, essentially.

Chris: And I have told Jason several times, I think he’s got the most fun job in GCI, as far as I’m concerned. Because he goes out and sees lots of different things all the time, different types of problems in all different types of buildings, all different types of envelope systems. And then he gets to really do the detective work to figure out what the problem is and how to resolve it. And to me, he’s, kinda, putting it all together, everything we do at GCI. So, Jason, we get a call from a client with a problem at a building, why don’t you just run through with us what your process would be then once you get that call?

Jason: So, specifically, that call is usually related to a leak through the envelope of a building. And this has been especially a huge problem we’ve been dealing with in South Florida since Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Basically, the structures, down here, were exposed to water driven by winds in a way that they never may have been exposed to before. So it was an extreme test for all the buildings down here and a lot of the buildings didn’t past the test, and there were a lot of leaks down here. And so when we first get that call, I guess, the first thing we try to do is learn what we can over the phone from the potential client about what’s going on.

Is it hurricane related? Has this been a recurring problem? You know, what’s, kind of, the history of the issue? You, kind of, want to start by finding out what is the history of the issue, and what is the history of the building. And usually, I’ll ask them to send us some drawings if they have any drawings or any other documents about the building. And the reason why we like to look at that is we like to see, you know, what is the overall design concept for the structure, are we dealing with exterior wall problems? What’s on the exterior wall? Is it stucco typically for buildings in this area? Or is it metal panels? Or what is the construction?

And then the reason why we like to look at that is because we want to determine how that system is managing water. Typically, down here, it would be a barrier-type wall system if we’re looking at a wall problem. So all the water is, basically, getting deflected at the exterior surface of the wall, or are we looking at a system where it’s a rain screen system and it’s draining water, you know, different types of envelope systems will manage the water differently. So we like to figure out what is the overall design concept. Then, typically, what we would do is have an onsite meeting with the client and have them show us the problem. What we’re looking for is any evidence of water leakage, water damage at the inside of the building.

A lot of the times, when we go in, it’s not actively leaking, so we’re just looking at any evidence of prior leaks. Then obviously, we would want to look at the exterior of the building and see, you know, what are any possible deficiencies with the exterior of the building that could be causing that?

Chris: I was just gonna say that a lot of times when I’m doing those kind of things, the information you get because you’re dealing with people who may not specialize in looking for sources of leaks in a building, it could be a little unclear sometimes, those initial impressions you’re getting from the people at the site.

Jason: Yeah. An anecdotal-type evidence and you could get a different story from different unit owners. And sometimes if it’s not a residential building, you might not get much information at all from the tenants there, if they’re not paying really close attention to the leak when it’s happening. So, yeah, it can be tough. And sometimes, we don’t have a whole lot to go on, and that’s why, you know, it’s important that we do the visual inspection and look at everything for ourselves and not rely on the owner’s reports. Although, that obviously is useful to us. And then the most critical step is really the next step, which would be where we’re performing some kind of testing.

And the reason why that’s important is because really, we can go out there and we can look at it and we can say, you know, “Well, the ceiling joint over here looks like it’s in pretty rough shape,” you know, that could be it. Or, you know, you look over here, well, there’s a stucco crack over here, that could be a problem. Or, you know, the window looks suspect. And, you know, we could say all these things are questionable, but the only way to really know for sure is to do some kind of testings.

Chris: And when you do that testing, I know your experience like mine is what, kind of, proves to you that looking at those suspect conditions isn’t always the answer. Because, you know, I know you found like I have that you do this testing and sometimes it’s not the most obvious visual thing that ends up being your problem.

Jason: Yeah, exactly. And honestly, sometimes when you’re dealing with these issues, the problem may not be something you can see visually. If you’re looking at a deck or waterproofing system that may have pavers on top of it, you can’t visually see the waterproofing membrane down there. Or if you’re dealing with some kind of a rainscreen wall system, you know, you can’t see the weather barrier behind the exterior cladding. So this type of testing is what we use to, kind of, further isolate different areas and try to pinpoint, okay, is it this? Is it that? Is it the window? Is it the wall? Is it the deck?

So it’s very useful, the testing. And the testing can…it can vary by a lot, you know, it’s typically some form of water testing. And there’s lots of different methods we use. You know, if we’re looking at a deck, we might do some kind of flood testing. If we’re looking at a wall, we might just do some kind of rudimentary hose testing. Or if it’s a window, you know, we have our various methods for testing windows and doors using the exterior spray rack and things like that. So we do a lot of water testing when we’re evaluating these leak-type issues.

And then occasionally, even do some more invasive testing where we’re actually pulling things apart and, kind of, digging more into what’s beneath and what’s going on, especially like I said, if we’re dealing with, like, plaza decks, where we can’t see the water proofing. Or if we’re dealing with walls where we can’t see the weather barrier. You know, things need to be opened up for us to do our job, basically. And sometimes that can be challenging to convince a client that it’s necessary to do that.

But our whole approach to this is, we need to do whatever is necessary to really be able to pinpoint the problem. Because we know that if we’re not able to find it, and we recommend something that’s not actually the main source of the problem, then we’re gonna be getting called back later because the problem is still going on. So there’s a lot at stake for us too with all this, and we wanna make sure we get it right the first time.

Chris: You don’t wanna just…and I’ve seen some people whose approach or maybe the first approach on some of these buildings where people have a problem is just to, kind of, put a giant band-aid over everything and hope that the problem goes away. But what you’re saying is we’re not gonna take that approach. We’re gonna dig in and know for certain, here is what the problem is, and here is how to fix it.

Jason: Right. And if the client doesn’t wanna go that extra step for the destructive testing, let’s say, then we’re still gonna help them the best that we can. But we’re gonna be clear about, you know, these are the unknowns, or these are the potential results that could come from taking that approach, basically. But what I was gonna say was, actually, a lot of the times when I’m getting involved in these types of issues, this is not the first attempt that they’ve made to try to resolve the problem. Typically, when a building owner has a problem with their building, they’re gonna call a contractor first.

You know, I understand completely, you know, it’s gonna be less expensive. You know, they figure, why do I need to hire a consultant to help me with this problem? And in some cases, you know, if you are hiring a really knowledgeable contractor, then they should be able to resolve that issue. But in a lot of the cases where we’re getting involved, there have been, sometimes, multiple prior attempts to fix the problem that have been unsuccessful. So that’s why we take this whole approach because we don’t want our clients to be in that position by the time we get done. You know, we want this to be the last time that they have to go through this process for this problem.

And, yeah, usually by the time I get there, that’s what we’re seeing, is we’re seeing sealant that’s been smeared all over the wall or on the deck somewhere to try to mitigate water that’s been coming in. And sometimes it’s done by facilities personnel that may not be the most knowledgeable about the envelope of the building, and they’re just doing what they can. Or sometimes they just don’t have the budget, so they’re just doing what they can to try to mitigate the issue. When in some cases, we’ve even seen those attempts actually worsen the problem before they start to correct it.

So I’m thinking about things like flashings where their ceiling over, you know, drainage channels in the wall or underneath the window to try to keep water from getting in there because it’s leaking inside there and then they just make it worst. And I know you’ve seen a lot of stuff like that.

Chris: Yeah. A lot of people have the idea that mortar caulk is the better thing. So as you said, you sometimes…these that you go out to, they’ve already got three layers of caulk on there from people trying to, you know, put the band-aid on it. It can have no affect or as you said, if it’s over in a location that’s intended to let water out, you end up just holding more in and making it an even more severe problem. So you do your water testing. You do your destructive testing. You find out where the sources are. And then what’s your next step?

Jason: At that point, obviously, we’re gonna provide a report to the client that’s documenting all the prior steps, you know, reviewing all the project documents, evaluating the design, the service history, the inspection, testing. And we’re saying, okay, you know, “This is everything we’ve done. This is what we’ve come up with. Here’s a report, it has pictures.” You know, typically, it has some section details where we’re tracing a leak path through the building, trying to, you know, show them as best we can, you know, this is what we think is going on. And at that point, obviously, you know, the client is most interested in, “Now, okay, what do we have to do to resolve the problem?”

So, typically, what we would do at that stage is we would get a contractor involved and mock-up some kind of repair based on, you know, what our findings with the leak investigations. And if it’s a window leak, as an example, we would have a contractor come out, pick maybe one or two windows on the building and mock-up what we’re recommending would be the repair for those windows. And then, kind of, the final step before we determine, okay, this is the final scope for the repair procedure is we would wanna test that repair. So in the case of a window, we would perform another water test on that window to make sure that it’s no longer leaking.

So that way, everybody has confidence at that point, that okay, we did testing when we first got there. We tested the existing conditions. We found out this is how it’s leaking. We recommended a repair. Then we did testing after the repair, and we said, okay, you know, it’s no longer leaking in that way. That gives everybody confidence, the contractor, the client, and GCI that this repair is successful at addressing this problem. So that, kind of, comes full circle then and now at that stage, typically, the client would hire the contractor to do the repair on all the similar conditions on the building. And then sometimes we would be involved in that process, overseeing that work and sometimes not. But that, kind of, closes the loop on the leak investigation at that point.

Chris: Sure. And as you said, it could be just one location, or it could be a situation where the same problem’s occurring in a hundred different places on the building. And the level of oversight in the repair process could be different depending upon the owner’s budget, how many problems they have, those kind of things.

Jason: Each project we deal with is completely unique. And each client we deal with is unique. So our process, even though we have a very specific method, it’s gonna be tailored to the individual circumstances that we’re dealing with and the individual client’s needs.

Chris: And that goes back to what I was saying, is the variety in the work that you do because as you said, “Everyone is unique.” Unique problems, unique building, unique arrangements in situations with the owner’s budgets, type of building, residential versus office, all those kinds of things, as you said, you have to have a protocol, but you have to have the knowledge and confidence to be flexible in how that’s applied as well. So talk to us then, what’s some of the common problems that you see in these water leakage-type situations that we get involved with?

Jason: So like I mentioned, the majority of these types of leak investigations we’ve been doing since the hurricane, you know, we’ve been doing quite a few. And the majority of the issues that we’ve been looking at since the hurricane, I would say have been window and/or wall issues. And the reason why, is just with the wind-driven rain from the hurricane, driving this rain into the windows and the walls in a way that they were never exposed to before. So with the windows and walls, the main things that I’m seeing, obviously with the walls, stucco issues, which, I think, most people would expect. But I think that people would be surprised as to just the amount of water that can make its way through a little crack in the stucco.

Obviously, we demonstrate that through our leak investigations, but I think people would just be shocked to see the water that’s pouring in through some of these stucco cracks. With the building construction down here in South Florida, any of those cracks that you see is basically a compromise to your building envelope and that’s water that’s getting into the wall. And there’s stucco cracks on probably, say, the majority of buildings in South Florida. So that’s a big one. Glazing window issues is another big one. Again, in South Florida, here, the buildings that we’re dealing with, there is no flashing underneath the windows, so any leaks through the windows itself are getting into the wall system.

And so, you know, we’re looking at…and in some cases, these are just older buildings that we’re looking at. So the window products, you know, maybe they’re gasket glazed at the exterior, the gaskets have deteriorated, they’ve shrunk. Now, you have a lot of water that’s getting into the window and the window can’t manage it. So we see a lot of that type of stuff to. Sealant joints in general, anywhere where there’s sealant joints in the windows, in the wall, the issue with the sealant joints is they’re just so dependent on the workmanship from the individual contractor and the individual person that’s applying those sealants. So any little deficiency in sealant is gonna be letting water into the walls and around the windows, down here. I don’t know, do you have any other ones that you see, typically?

Chris: Well, sure, yeah. And I think as you were saying the severe weather conditions that we’ve seen recently have brought about a lot of the kinds of problems that you described. But I know you and others in GCI have done other investigations in other areas where it doesn’t take the severe event, it’s more the combined long term wetting of the walls, where you see problems that may result from sealant joints or underlying problems that you were talking about earlier with weather barriers, those kinds of things. All of the different parts and components of the walls that have to work together to keep the water out, we often see that some areas where those aren’t joint together, integrated well, and the water finds the way in through that path.

And what you were saying really struck, you know, hit home to me, in that it doesn’t take much of a void, crack, or a small void, or what have you can really end up in a lot of damage. The good thing about the South Florida construction is the CMU walls, in that, even if they’re wet, you’re usually not gonna get deterioration of the structure itself. But we get into other areas and some of the other types of projects you’re working on where it’s wood-framed or metal-framed walls and, I think, your experience like mine has been then you can have a lot worse than just water problems, you can actually be getting into structural damage to those kind of walls.

Jason: Just to add to that, just in general, the issues that we’re seeing could be related to the original installation or the original design of these buildings, or they could be related to differed maintenance and maybe prior remediation attempts being unsuccessful and things like that. So, I mean, we do these types of leak investigations on newer buildings and older buildings. Though the actual cause, or in terms of who is responsible varies by quite a bit.

Chris: So those are, kind of, some of the vertical issues, you know, walls, glazing systems, those kind of things. But I know you also get into horizontal issues with waterproofing, roofing, terraces, those kinds of things as well.

Jason: Yeah. And the waterproofing and the roofing issues can sometimes be the most damaging just because of the exposure at being on a horizontal surface. It’s gonna be exposed to a lot more water, especially if the drainage is not ideal on these decks. And that’s one of the main things that…or one of the first things that we look for when you have leaks through a waterproof deck. What is the drainage like? And the key there is making sure that you have drainage at the finished surface and also at the waterproofed surface. And this is another area where a lot of people don’t really understand how these types of components function where, you know, if you have waterproofing on a structural deck and then you have a topping slab, a lot of people don’t understand that, that that water is meant to get beneath that topping.

And when it does, you have to make sure that it’s designed and has a place for that water to go. That’s something that we look at a lot with plaza deck issues. And these can be some of the difficult to deal with, too, because it’s usually the most invasive to try to actually investigate these problems because we have components on top of the weather resistant layer that are concealing it, so they have to be removed in order for us to see it. So definitely, with waterproofing we see a lot of drainage problems. A lot of problems where the waterproofing is not integrated well with other components, so where the waterproofing transitions to the walls or where it transitions to windows and doors.

This is a big problem on new construction, especially because we’re just finding a lack of coordination between the individual trades where it comes to these types of transitions. Roofing issues, same type of thing, the main issue we see there where the roof is tying into the exterior wall, parapet walls are a big source of leaks. And also, just differed maintenance on the roof is another big problem. I think building owners should understand that preventative maintenance especially on something like a roof is well worth the investment, and it’s gonna prolong the life of your roof considerably.

So in a lot of cases where we’re looking at issues with the roof or with the waterproofing, you know, maybe nothing’s been done, no work’s been done up there for 20 years, and it’s really no surprise to us when we get there that it’s leaking because they just haven’t done anything to maintain it. And that’s something else that we try to stress to our clients through these whole processes. You know, what can they do in the future to try to avoid getting into this situation again.

Chris: Right. Because a lot of people with buildings just feel like, okay, you build it and you forget about it, and it will all be fine forever. But what we know is that, there is two things. It has to be built right in the beginning, and then it has to be maintained because nothing lasts forever.

Jason: Yeah. The owners have that responsibility to maintain it.

Chris: Exactly, right. Whether they know that or not, we help to educate them if they don’t, that you’ve got some ongoing responsibility here. Even after we come in and find the solution to your problem, there is going to be some ongoing maintenance required. In the intro you had also mentioned, in addition to the forensics where we look at buildings with problems, that you’re also doing due diligence inspections for real estate transactions.

Jason: And it’s not just that but also just general conditions surveys for building owners, which is another area where we’re talking to owners about maintenance, and we try to educate them about that because this is another type of task that we’re involved with where we’re seeing a lot of differed maintenance-type problems. But, basically, what these condition survey, due diligence-type inspections are is, it’s more general, I would say, we’re not focused on an individual leak problem as much as we’re kind of assessing the whole envelope.

So sometimes we would be called in, like you said, because someone wants to purchase a building, and they want someone to do a survey to see, you know, what are the problems, what is the likelihood that there’s gonna need to be serious maintenance on this building within the next few years. And so, typically, what we would do is, again, a visual inspection of the building. We’re looking at, what is the general condition of the envelope of the building, the walls, the roof, the waterproofing, the windows.

Again, we’re looking for things that could potentially cause moisture intrude through the envelope, or we’re looking at things that could potentially be a structural concern. But just, kind of, giving an overall survey and then, typically, providing recommendations for repair, either in the short-term or sometimes in the long-term, where we may say, “Well, you know, the roof is in fair condition now, it seems to be performing, but you’re gonna wanna think about replacing it in the next 10 years.” Let’s say, so. That way, the owners can take that and budget for that or use that in their decision whether or not to purchase the building or in their negotiation to purchase the building.

Chris: Sure. And similar too if you’re buying a home and you have a home inspection, this is valuable information for people spending millions of dollars on large building real estate transactions. They need to know. They need to know if there’s a problem right now. And then also, as you said, budgeting for what needs to be done on this building over the next 5, 10 years if they buy it and own it. And that’s obviously a very important factor in these purchased decisions that our clients in that area are making.

Well, thanks for your time today, Jason. I’m sure our listeners gained a lot of insight and advice regarding the strategic projects forensic work that you do. If you’d like to speak with Jason, you can call GCI at 877-740-9990. I hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. GCI Consultants looks forward to bringing you continued interesting topics and guest to continue to talk about matters that affect the building envelope. Thank you. And I look forward to talking with you again soon on the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast series. For now, this is Chris Matthews signing off.

Construction Industry Legal Services

Paul Gary, ESQ – The Gary Law Group

  • About The Firm
  • Notice of Defect & What to do
  • Florida 558 Notices
  • Opportunity to Cure – Right of Repair
  • Documentation needed to avoid insurance issues
  • Product Warranties & Importance
  • Water Leakage Defects & Contractor Inspections

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!

Will: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s podcast. I’m Will Smith. I’m the president of GCI Consultants. I’m going to be your host today. I’m very happy that we have with us an old friend, Paul Gary of the Gary Law Group in Portland, Oregon.

Paul’s firm has an extensive history of providing legal services to the construction industry. So welcome, Paul.

Paul: Thank you, Will. Nice to hear from you. I’m happy to be here.

Will: Great. Can you give our listeners a little bit more information about yourself and your firm?

Paul: We are located out, as you mentioned, in Portland, Oregon. Really have for the past…well, let me put it this way. In 1992, I got involved with construction issues and working with window and door manufacturers, and have been doing that ever since in the last probably 10 years mostly with regard to representation of window and door manufacturers, but in the context of exterior cladding issues and construction defect issues.

Will: Great. And that fits right into what the topic is going to be today. I’ve asked Paul to talk with us today about what do we do when we get a notice of a defect related to a construction project? Now, in Florida, we’re kind of used to hearing about what we call a 558 Notice.

And I know that Paul’s firm has even been involved in some of these cases here in Florida, but I believe other states have provisions that are similar to a 558 Notice. Is that right, Paul?

Paul: That is right, Will. And yeah, we’ve had a number of these down in Florida. Nevada has chapter 40. California has what’s still called Senate Bill 800, and so it’s a phenomenon that emerged some years ago and is pretty prevalent now.

Will: And what is that notice? Is it really a lawsuit?

Paul: The notice is not a lawsuit. We actually wrote the Oregon notice and opportunity to cure statute. And bear with me for an anecdote, I remember being at a hearing in the State Capitol and representative from the industry that I was with said, “You know, the last time I was sued, I had…the first notice I had that there was any problem was entitled summons and complaint.”

And there’s something that’s just not right about that. And the way to tap the brakes, so to speak, and put a check on a situation like that is to have a statute which requires notice, an opportunity to inspect, and an opportunity to make an offer to perform or do some corrective work if it’s called for as a precondition to the right to file a lawsuit.

So that is what 558 is, chapter 40, Senate Bill 800, and Oregon chapter 701.

Will: Okay. Let’s say I’m a contractor or a material supplier, a manufacturer, whatever, let’s say I get one of these notices. What do I do now?

Paul: Will, that is a pretty open-ended question, and I’m happy to answer it. There are some things that you always want to do. And then as you gather information, you’ve got more specific choices to make. But perhaps to me, the first thing to do is get your own information.

You should have been given notice of project name or address, dates, parties’ names, and get your own information from the sources that are available as to what your involvement was at that project, and whether or not there have been any problems. If you have a product manufacturer, what product is involved? And products have strengths and weaknesses.

And begin to build your own context because the information that you receive from what I’ll call the other side, and a notice and opportunity to cure situation, is all filtered. It’s all tailored to make it look like you have a liability. So you have to get out there and do some work , to do your own investigation.

At least that’s step one to me.

Will: Okay. This notice of opportunity to cure is really…it’s telling me that I have the option to go out and fix something. Is that right?

Paul: That’s right. You have the right to request or demand an inspection in a lot of situations. Initially, a visual inspection. Get out, get on the ground and see what’s there, to be followed if need be with an invasive investigation as you very well know because we’ve done a bunch of them together.

Will: Yeah. Now, let’s say I’m a contractor and I get this notice or anybody involved in the construction process and I get this notice, you mentioned preparing yourself and documentation. What kind of documentation do I need to get? What should I get together?

Paul: I’d want to know what my product is, whether or not I have any contractual entanglements. In other words, do I have any contracts that apply to this project? Because those commitments form a background, whatever the contractual terms are, form a background to your notice and opportunity to cure.

They don’t go away. They’re still part of the situation. Find out whether or not there have been any complaints. And let’s say you’re a product manufacturing and you sell through distribution, contact your distributor. Find out if there have been any problems, any issues at this project or at similar projects involving the same parties. Because believe it or not, you often will get one of these and it’s not your product and it’s not your work.

It’s easy to send out one of these notices. It takes a little bit of diligence to make sure, first of all, am I really involved in this job? And secondly, then, have there been any signs of any problems? Because you’d like to know that before you get out there.

Will: What about product warranties and construction warranties? It’s pretty common in the construction industry that they offer like a one-year warranty or something like that. Are these warranties really important and how does the Notice of Claim, how does that affect all of this? What if it comes in after the warranty period expired?

Paul: Well, if a Notice of Claim comes in after the warranty period has expired, there are other legal theories that are normally available to a property owner who’s really got the primary responsibility to give the notice that’s part of this program. And if there’s a latent defect or if there is damage to other property, the law gives claimant an opportunity to bring tort claims which are different than contract or warrantied claims.

Is the warranty important? It’s absolutely important and I’d be happy to talk about that as we go along here.

Will: So if it’s let’s say a one-year warranty period and that one year has gone past and I get a notice, that doesn’t just mean that as a contractor, I’m off the hook because one year has gone by.

Paul: No, that would be a mistake to treat it that way.

Will: Yeah, okay. And talk a little bit more about these warranties. You said there’s other information you can give us about those.

Paul: Yeah. Well, this is a theory or an approach that we’ve developed. And candidly, it’s summed up by this simple comment. You can’t sue me for something I’m willing to do. You can’t sue me for something I’m willing to do.

So if you do have a warranty and let’s say the warranty is not expired and you offer to perform under the warranty, the lawyer who represents the party that issued the notice and is intending, this is really a precursor to litigation, is intending to sue you, they don’t want you to do the work. They want a check, they want money.

And by offering to do work, whether it’s in the chapter 40 context or the 558 context of notice and opportunity to cure, or simply under a product warranty, you are offering to do something. You’re tendering performance. And if the claimant won’t allow you to perform, that obligation may be excused.

We use it all the time. You can’t sue me if I’m willing to do the work that can exist in warranty or outside of warranty.

Will: It’s very interesting. Let’s talk a little bit…you mentioned earlier about making a demand or a request that you perform an inspection. So let’s say I get served this Notice of Claim , and how do I go about making this request to do an inspection?

And what am I going to be looking for? Let’s say the claim is, as you and I have seen many times and they often involve water leakage, how does the contractor know what to look for when they do this type of a property inspection?

Paul: Well, if the contractor is not confident, if it’s a significant project and the contractor is not confident that they understand their work well enough to be able to go out and look at critical areas around the work that they have done and observe the condition and get a pretty good sense of whether or not there’s a problem with what they did.

If they don’t feel like they can do that, they really need to get some expert assistance to help them because you get one visual inspection normally, and those eyes have to be trained to be able to identify, are there signs of problems?

Will: Do you find that these notices are kind of vague when they come in? It says they have a problem where…do they get specific about the problem or they just generally say we have leakage or something like that?

Paul: They’ll often say, “We have leakage,” and be terribly vague. And most 558 and most of these statutorily-driven schemes require specifics. And someone has to understand the basis on which, in our case are hypothetical, the 558 notice is given and look at the rules.

And if the person sending the notice didn’t follow the rules and didn’t provide the specifics, that’s your first response to them. You haven’t given me an adequate notice. I’m not recognizing this as an adequate notice. And whether it’s from a statutory scheme, Will, or a contract, always stop and look. If I’m not reasonably informed of what they believe the problem is, that in and of itself is a problem and you have to go back to the claimant with that.

Will: Okay. So now, and theoretical here, I’ve gotten a notice. I’ve responded to it. I did all my due diligence, got all my background information, got my documents in order. I went out there and did my inspection. Now, how do I respond to the 558 as a contractor or a material supplier?

Do I just shoot off a letter in my letter head or what do I got to do?

Paul: Yeah. The form of the communication is mostly by letter, but you really have to have a template of what are all the time deadlines and to make sure that you follow those. And then you have to get enough information so that you know whether or not to make an offer.

And normally, you can make an offer to do work or you can make an offer to write a check or pay money. And if that is accepted, then the claim against you, assume you go ahead and do the work, at least the claim against you pursuant to that notice is satisfied.

Will: So it sounds to me that no matter what, if I’m a contractor, a builder, a material supplier, and I get one of these notices, my best defense is to get legal counsel involved.

Paul: Yes. Unless it’s such a small item that you believe it’s not worth it or you’ve had an awful lot of experience in doing this yourself, you really do need to have some guidance. You spend a few bucks up front, pays off in the long run.

Will: All right, well, I think what you’ve given us here is excellent information. I really appreciate your time today with us, Paul. It’s been very helpful and I know our listeners gain a lot of insight and advice on handling these types of notices. But before we go, what’s the best way to contact you or your firm?

Paul: Oh, thanks, Will. Our website is prgarylaw.com. My email is paul@prgarylaw.com. And God rest her soul, I used to explain to my mom that I name everything after myself so that she thinks I’m successful.

Will: Good move. Excellent. All right. Then, Paul, thank you so much. Again, I hope everyone enjoyed our podcast today. We really look forward to bringing you other interesting topics and guests as we continue our discussion about matters affecting the building envelope. Again, thanks to Paul, thank you to our listeners.

I look forward to talking to everyone soon, once again, on the Everything Building Envelope podcast series. And if you want any more information, you can also contact GCI at www.gciconsultants.com, or you can see the entire series of podcasts at www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com. So thank you for now. This is Will Smith signing off today’s broadcast.

Thank you.

Roof Systems, Hurricane Preparation & Recovery

Derek Segal – GCI Consultants, LLC

  • Roof Consulting
  • Hurricane Preparation
  • Vendor Relationships
  • Investigations
  • Maintenance
  • Warranty & Insurance

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 to today’s “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, Vice President and Senior Consultant for GCI Consultants, and I’ll be your host for today’s podcast. My guest today is Derek Segal. Derek recently joined our GCI team as an experienced and sought-after roof consultant. Welcome, Derek.

Derek: Thanks for having me today, Chris.

Chris: Sure, glad to have you on board with GCI and on our podcast. Why don’t you fill in our listeners with a little bit about your background, Derek?

Derek: Thanks, Chris. Yes, career started more than 25 years ago in South Florida. I was president of a pretty prominent commercial roofing company in Fort Lauderdale for 13 years. Licensed, state licensed, and qualified for the company. In 2006, my role transitioned more to a roof consulting focus. I felt property owners needed an advocate for them to help them make better-educated decisions about the long-term care and management of their roofing systems.

After the 2004/5 hurricane seasons, there was a tremendous need for an expert that had some experience with, you know, storm-related damage and how to help these property owners accurately evaluate and present their damage to insurance companies and different industries to make sure that they got, you know, the money they needed to recover from these hurricanes. And so I already developed a keen eye for that forensic-type inspection. And that’s why I really wanted to come on board with GCI and, you know, help make a difference in the long run.

Chris: Great, and we’re sure glad to have you. And we’ve seen after Irma more widespread effects from a hurricane than Florida has experienced in many, many years, and seeing that, especially in your area, in the roofing. So following that landfall of Irma back in September of 2017, what are some of the steps an owner or manager could take regarding their roof and the effects of the storm?

Derek: Well, that’s a great question. And I think the one thing that comes to my mind is really that the preparation for any type of storm or any type of high wind event or abnormal condition is to start your preparation well before.

And, you know, what I mean by that is not an hour before or a week before, I mean months before, by having someone create a relationship with you that knows your roof, has the historical information about your roof, knows who the manufacturer is, knows if you have a warranty and what’s required for that warranty, and someone that can make sure that everything is tuned up and in good shape prior to a storm so that recovery or dealing with issues after the storm become much more simple.

So try to create a relationship with someone prior to a storm. Because, you know, I use the analogy of a doctor. The best time to go and see your doctor is before something happens. Why? Because that gives that doctor and you some type of relationship. And the worst time to look for an expert or somebody you can rely on is really after a storm event like Irma. Everybody’s running around trying to deal with chaos and everything after a storm, and really it is a stressful situation. And the best time to have that relationship and develop these ties to experts is prior to the event.

So, you know, here’s something I would do right before a storm, is have your roof checked, make sure everything’s tightened up, you know, equipment is secure, and perhaps even have a moisture test of your roof, if it’s a flat roof, every couple of years that you have a baseline condition. After the storm, call your expert out. Take as many photos as you can. And by the way, you should take photos before a storm as well. And have that independent expert get up on your roof and do a careful visual inspection. And perhaps if it’s a flat roof, again, do some basic moisture testing.

Because the fact that there’s no water pouring into the building shouldn’t be a reason for complacency or thinking that nothing happened on your roof. You have an obligation for your roof warranty, and also for your insurance company, to make sure that you protect your property. So, again, I want to stress, again, create these relationships before an event. Have your team in place ready to go so that the recovery from that storm becomes much easier and less stressful.

Chris: Sure. And we see that in a lot of areas of the building envelope in that some building owners, managers, are very diligent about maintenance and upkeep of the systems, and some feel like, you know, they were installed in the beginning and we’re never going to worry about them again. And in our experience, the people who stay on top of the systems and maintenance typically do a lot better when the storms or other severe weather events come.

So many folks are of the mindset that if there’s no leak after the storm or things look relatively normal, nothing’s necessary. What are your opinions about that mindset?

Derek: I would say if you don’t see a leak in the building, you should probably be more concerned than if you do see a leak. And what does that mean? Again, you know, out of sight is out of mind. Nobody wants to look at the roof. Everybody’s looking at landscaping, and what fell over, and what fences got damaged. But don’t be complacent.

A lot of time, especially if it’s a flat roof, the structure underneath the roof can actually hide a lot of defects. Some roof deck types will actually provide some waterproofing function that can hide or delay leaks into a building that could actually make things much worse for you. So the fact that there’s no leak does not mean you should not have that roof very carefully checked, again, by an expert trained in a post-storm effect on your type of roofing system and someone that can look under the hood to make sure that there’s nothing hidden or concealed that may come back and actually be much more difficult and more expensive to deal with later on.

Not to mention that it’s your obligation as a property owner to have your property checked and prevent any additional damage from happening. Because two years down the road if you get a leak and you finally call your insurance company, that may actually hurt you in the long run, because you do have that obligation to make sure that, you know, nothing untoward happened to your property, either visibly or hidden, that may make things much worse.

Chris: Sure. Yes, and I can speak from experience on the wall system work that I do that some of that hidden damage can be so much more severe, and especially if it’s allowed to continue over a long period of time.

Derek: Yeah, you may actually also have some biological growth that could happen under that roof, or in a wall, that could actually lead to health problems. So, again, you know, I can’t stress enough the fact that you need to have somebody experienced that can perhaps use some equipment to look under the hood and make sure that there’s no issues.

Chris: Sure, yes. Great advice. So when the storm comes and someone does do the right thing, does contact, hopefully, you and GCI to come out and do an inspection, what’s that going to involve?

Derek: Again, I think, first of all, depending on how proactive you’ve been prior to the storm will kind of determine how easy or how simple, you know, the after-effects will be. If you have a relationship with GCI or some other professional expert that already is intimate with your property, knows who the manufacturer of the system is or was, knows how your roof is attached, and knows what maintenance issues you’ve had prior to the storm, knows what roof equipment you have up on that roof, will make things much easier.

So let’s look at it from that perspective first. If I’m that expert and I’ve already been on your roof, I know exactly what to look for, how to get up onto the roof, where perhaps the more critical areas of damage are. And damage can be twofold. There’s what’s called direct damage, which is actual lifting up of the roof or on a sloped tile roof tiles that are missing or tiles that are broken. So direct damage is actual direct impact that your roof sustained.

And then the second type of damage that, you know, we need to be concerned about is what’s called indirect damage, and that’s where flying debris may have rolled or caused equipment to fall over, or some other consequential damage might have occurred. That’s what’s called an indirect damage.

So step one is call your expert that hopefully you already have that relationship with. That will also put you at the top of the list, because, keep in mind, things are so busy after a storm. Get that expert out there as soon as possible. Once we get up onto the roof, what we would do is focus on the more susceptible areas of a roof, which are…typically on a flat roof it would be the corners or the edges of the roof. We would inspect those very carefully to make sure that there’s been no loss of attachment of the edges of the roof. And then we would also check to see sometimes that the corners actually lift up and air gets up underneath the roof. We would check for that.

And on a tile roof, I would say the most obvious things are tiles that have flown off the roof, tiles that are broken. And some of the other things we would look for would also be if your tiles are screwed down or mechanically attached or nailed. These tiles can crack in the corners, because what happens in the high wind is that they lift up, and then they come crashing down when the wind subsides, and they actually contact with one another and actually break in the corners.

So we would get up on the roof. We would perhaps do that thorough visual inspection. If on a flat roof, we would, again, do some moisture testing to make sure there’s no hidden moisture underneath the roof. And then based on what we find, we would either come off the roof and say, “Mr. Property Owner, you can feel safe. Your roof’s in good shape,” and that will give the owner peace of mind. Or we can identify some issues that perhaps need some more careful attention, and then recommend some other testing or inspections that need to be done, and actually hold their hand all the way through the process. So that’s kind of what we would do, you know, from the time after the storm to kind of when the next phase may be required.

Chris: Okay. When you talked about some of the types of damage which may be visible, tile damage, cracking, damage to a flat roof, are there some other examples of visible or hidden damage that may have happened during the recent hurricane?

Derek: Yeah. I mean, you know, a lot of time what can happen is flat roofing systems are adhered either mechanically or with some type of adhesive down to the underlying materials, which could be an insulation board or the structural deck. Now when air gets up underneath the roof, it’ll lift the corner, which will still stay lifted, but the actual center or the field of the roof will set back down as if everything is fine.

And something we really look for is what’s called wind uplift. And oftentimes, you won’t even notice that the roof is actually no longer properly attached. And there are some tests that we can perform called a wind uplift test where we use a device to actually determine how securely the roof is attached to make sure that there’s been no delamination or deflection of that roofing material that could, you know, be detrimental to the building later on.

Some of the other damage we’ve seen that may be hidden underneath some roof tiles is that these nails or screws, when the front of the tile deflects or lifts up, it’ll actually torque the nail up. And when the tile sets back down, that nail, which is concealed under the tile above it, is now not seated properly. And so this may not lead to massive leakage into the building. But what’ll happen over time is water will now be able to work its way in around all these little nail holes that you can’t really see. And by the time we catch this a year or two later, half of your structural decking may have actually rotted.

So it’s really something that you should make certain you have a relationship with someone that has extensive training, especially in high wind zone areas, that knows where to look, how to inspect it, and also, again, I can’t stress enough, someone with whom you have a relationship with prior to the event.

Chris: So in this tile situation that you’re describing, the storm comes, lifts the tile. It’s almost prying the nail out of position like you would with a claw hammer removing a nail. And then so are you saying then the tiles could just lay right back down and look like there was no problem at all?

Derek: Absolutely. In fact, they will. They will lay back down. The only thing that’s now changed is that, once we actually get up underneath the course of tile that’s above the tile that’s had the problem, we’ll be able to actually find where that nail has now backed out or is no longer seated properly in that hole within the tile. And these little holes now are obviously passages for moisture to continue to leak into the building that may be unnoticed for years.

And when that next storm comes along, I mean, I guess you can kind of imagine what’s going to happen is all these tiles are now going to fly off the roof. Which if you didn’t locate this damage in the prior storm and then an insurance expert comes out, they may determine that this may have, in fact, happened years before, and you may have a big problem.

So even if you think there’s no damage to your roof, you need that expert out there to make sure you don’t have damage. And if you do have damage, that he notifies you to let your insurance company know so that you protect your right and you make sure that you can recover financially from these very traumatic events.

Chris: Sure. And that one hits home for a lot of people. We have a lot of tile roofs in Florida, for sure.

Derek: Correct.

Chris: Well, so, obviously, buildings with tile roofs. But what are some other building types that may be more likely to have damage?

Derek: Well, here’s the thing. The most critical buildings, I would say, wind speed at ground level may be 70 miles an hour. But if you have a building that’s 30 stories up in the air, the wind speed and uplift pressures increase incrementally substantially once you get up, you know, above 30-40 feet. So any building that is obviously not at ground level but is a high-rise building is more susceptible to damage.

A building that’s closer to the ocean, or east of U.S. 1 in the HVHZ, which is the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone, wind zones which are, you know, anywhere between 130 to 150 mile per hour 3-second gust, so close to the coast, and then obviously buildings that are of some age, which perhaps were not built according to the most stringent Dade County codes, I would say, need extra special attention, because, you know, these buildings are more susceptible to that type of damage. And, obviously, a lot of these buildings have older windows, which obviously are also much more susceptible to being affected by the wind.

So, again, it’s a high-rise building, it’s a building that’s closer to the coast, and I would say it’s a building that’s, you know, not a new building. I would say a building that’s 10 years plus in age I would pay extra special attention to. But that doesn’t mean you should not focus on newer buildings as well, because we’ve seen extensive damage to those as well across the state.

Chris: Sure. Yep, we’ve seen it, as you say, more in the older buildings, but in a storm like Irma, both new and old affected pretty dramatically.

Derek: Right. I think one thing that I mentioned early on in the discussion is what you’re looking to have at the end of the day is you’re looking to have a baseline condition of your property. And if you can do that prior to any storm event, you have some baseline condition of your property to make a comparison to. So you have an expert come out, document the condition, document any moisture or any issues you’ve had, and really help you address any risky or areas that look like they could, you know, be adversely affected by a storm.

Once you’ve taken care of that and you have your baseline condition, then that expert you worked with has something to compare it to after the event, and that will really go a long way to help you recover quickly, financially, and physically from that type of event. The more you can do prior to the storm, the easier it will be after the storm.

Not to mention that you also have a roofing warranty in place. So you also have to find out what that manufacturer requires you to do to maintain your roof and also what they require you to do after a storm event. Maybe you need to contact the manufacturer. You need to make sure that you fulfill whatever contractual obligations you have so that you don’t influence negatively the outcome or the recovery that you could have done a better job being more proactive with.

Chris: Sure, and that’s great advice for every aspect of the building envelope. Building that baseline before the storm so that you’ve got something to compare to afterwards.

Derek: Correct.

Chris: Thanks for your time today, Derek. I’m sure our listeners gained a lot of insight. I know I did, on your advice on roof assessments. If you’d like to speak with Derek, you can call him at 877-740-9990. I hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. GCI Consultants looks forward to bringing you continued interesting topics and guests to continue to talk about matters that affect the building envelope. Thank you, and I look forward to talking with you again soon on the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast series. For now, this is Chris Matthews signing off.