Paul Beers – GCI Consultants
- Hurricanes in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
- GCI’s Prior Involvement with Claims
- Maria Rivera & Paul Build a Team
- Recent Hurricanes & Damages
- Water Leakage & Remediation
- Pre-Inspections of Buildings
- Glazing Inspections & Reporting
- Water Leakage Investigations
- Litigation Consulting
About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.
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Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the “Everything Building Envelope Podcast.” This is Paul Beers, and I’m happy to say it’s two in a row for me after a long absence. So it’s good to be back doing these. And thank you for tuning in to listen. I’m recording this, it is October of 2019. We’re at the peak part of hurricane season, but still, there’s three disturbances out there. And so this month is our hurricane theme and that’s exactly what I’m gonna talk about. And I’ve been wanting to do this for a while because there’s a lot that has gone on since the recent hurricanes for 2016, ’17, and ’18. 2019 is not over yet, but so far, it looks good like maybe we won’t have one this year hit the U.S. So, I just wanna share what we’ve been doing and what some of our experiences are. I hope you’ll find it interesting. And it all began with… Well, it began with Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that hit Daytona Beach area mainly. And then in 2017, we had a big one, Hurricane Irma, which basically got the Keys, Marco Island, Naples, and most of the rest of the state. And then a year later, Hurricane Michael, which was a category five storm, hit the Florida Panhandle. So needless to say there was like an eight-year vacation between storms in Florida, but they’ve now seemed to have come back with a vengeance.
And I look at what we were doing back in, after the storms of 2004 and 2005 we never really got involved with the claim part of that until 2008, ’09, and ’10. So there have been, several years have gone by where people were filing claims and trying to get them resolved and whatnot. And then, I guess the ones that weren’t resolved ended up with public adjusters and attorneys. And we worked on, you know, over 200 claims back then. So, when Irma hit, it was a big deal. It was a very strong storm, it impacted a wide area. My expectations were that there would be a lag until we, GCI would get involved in working on claims. Of course, there’s always a bunch of first responder things that we do with buildings leaking and damage and things like that. But from the insurance claim perspective, I expected it to be a bit of a lag before it started. Let me tell you, that was not the case. It started fast and furious, almost within weeks, and it probably could have even started faster, but I just wasn’t expecting it. And I visited some of the clients that we had worked with in the earlier storms and they were just going crazy with new assignments and folks that needed help with the insurance claim. So it seemed to be a different mindset this time around, where people were hiring adjusters and attorneys, right from the start, as opposed to the lag that happened…at least from what where I sat, the lag that happened the first time around.
So we very quickly we’re out in the field assessing damage for clients, and we’ll talk more about that later. But we were doing inspections and basically saying, “Yeah, this looks like damage or no, it doesn’t.” And what we’re talking about here is windows and doors, which is what the big interest was. So really quickly we were involved with a lot of damaged buildings or losses as they call them in the industry. And what was interesting was the last time around ’04, ’05, we’re in the middle of the Great Recession, the financial crisis, all that. And we were honestly looking for things to do, because the construction market that we’re so heavy in didn’t, exist anymore. And, you know, the labor market was wide open, we could hire overqualified people at will. Well, this time, we were super busy, to begin with, when this happened. We were fully engaged, we had a lot of work going on. The team was very busy, including some people that were hired back the first time around in the hurricanes of ’04 and ’05. So there was no resources available internally at GCI to just start working on these claims. Maria Rivera and I took it on in the very beginning. Maria is the head of our hurricane program. She’s doing a great job, and I know many of the listeners probably have interacted with and know her. And she and I were out in Marco and Naples early on looking at buildings, and getting assignments, basically, because there was so much damage over there. And we didn’t have any team to work with, basically. So we had to build the team. We had to hire inspectors, we had to hire office personnel report people, we had to refine our process. It was the same process we used the first time around. But 10 years later, of course, the technology was so much better. We had to build that up and basically start from scratch. And we were going 100 miles an hour when we started.
So it was really interesting. I’ve often said I could write a book just about that part of it, about what we had to do, and we did it. Not that there weren’t some bumps in the road, but we did it and we did it well and here we are. And that’s why I disappeared from the podcast scene for a couple of years, by the way. But it’s all good, and I wanna share some of our experiences. So before we do that, let’s just briefly talk about the recent hurricanes. As I said before, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew went up the entire coast, east coast of Florida, scared everybody. I remember being… My house is in Palm Beach Gardens and I remember it was supposed to hit there and it didn’t. That’s a theme we’re gonna talk about again, I think. And it did get very close to the coast of Daytona Beach. And Daytona Beach has a lot of high rise buildings right on the ocean, some of them are older, and there was significant damage in that area. And you know, also south of that, New Smyrna Beach, Melbourne and north of it up to St. Augustine and Jacksonville were probably more fringe areas, but they had some as well. So Matthew, we probably worked on 10 or 20 assignments that time, so a little bit of a warm-up. Then in 2017, first we had Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were some big winds with Harvey in Corpus Christi and even into southern parts of Houston, and I think even downtown Houston. But it stopped and it rained, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained and it was a big-time flood event. And we’ve worked on some losses in Houston area following Harvey, mainly water leakage issues, some wind though too.
Then along comes Irma, which is what really got this whole thing going gangbusters. That was in September of 2017. It was a category four through the Florida Keys, category three through Marco Island and Naples and then went right up through the middle of the state and didn’t leave a lot of areas untouched. There was a lot of damage on the East Coast, winds were generally hurricane force and gusts being up into the 90s and 100s a lot. It was a water leakage extravaganza because it was moving so slow. It was the wettest storm I’ve ever seen. Every building I’ll tell you on the east coast of Florida and southwest Florida leaked that was a tall building on the ocean. If people tell you they didn’t have any leaks, I would have to really seriously wonder if that was the case, or maybe they just didn’t see, it wasn’t major. But some buildings had horrible amounts of water in them to the point that they had…you know, people had to move out. There was major remediation. Everywhere I went for the first six months I would go into a building and the drywall would be removed about halfway up the wall all throughout the building, even interior corridors and whatnot because so much water came in, it was under remediation. Around the same time as Irma was Hurricane Maria. You notice the name, Irma starts with an I and Maria starts with an M, so it formed after Irma. But Hurricane Maria got the Virgin Islands and, and Irma I think might have got the Virgin Islands too and Puerto Rico. So Puerto Rico was badly damaged. It was a category four went made landfall there. San Juan didn’t get the cat four conditions but got high winds, and then the interior of the country, some really bad stuff. And we’ve been over there, we’ve done a few projects there. And we’ve looked at others and it was, you know, it was a catastrophe. I think that would be the only way to describe it.
And then there was Michael in 2018. So Michael was in October. We’re in October now. If this was a year ago, Michael hadn’t even occurred. And it was a storm in the Gulf and it was a category one, no big deal. Well, every hurricane is a big deal, but didn’t seem like was gonna be a catastrophic event. There weren’t really any predictions that it was gonna intensify to the level that it ultimately did. But as it approached land, it did start to intensify, and it kept intensifying. And by the time it made landfall in Mexico Beach, which is near Panama City, it was…at the time they said category four, but they’ve since updated that to it was a category five storm. Obviously the damage was catastrophic. It went inland, it got a place called Lynn Haven and also Panama City. And it was tremendous damage. It was a smaller storm than Irma, much smaller and moving faster. So it was different characteristics, but the intensity was really pretty crazy. And I remember seeing it for the first time when I had gotten into Panama City at night, everything was dark, I staying up by the beach. And then the next morning, I went into Panama City to look at a project, I drove over a big bridge that you cross before you get there, and it looked like a bomb went off. I mean, oh my goodness. I’ve seen a lot of Hurricane damage and that was right up there with anything I’ve ever seen. And the storm was, you know, the really big damage was confined to…the big damage being buildings collapsed and, you know, roofs gone and things like that, was confined to a relatively narrow swathe, maybe 40 miles across. Now the fringe areas which got all the condos along the beach and whatnot, and still had very high winds was much, much greater area. But Michael was really something else.
And then here we are in 2019, everybody remembers Hurricane Dorian, and I think they scared 20 million people that, up and down the East Coast of the U.S. that it was gonna be so terrible. And that was another one, it was cat four, maybe cat five and the line five days before, which didn’t turn up to be five days before anyway was pointing right at my house in Palm Beach Gardens. So, yes, I was paying attention to that. It ended up stalling over the Bahamas and I just cannot imagine what would have happened there or what did happen. I mean, I knew it was gonna be terrible. And 185 miles an hour sustained winds when it made landfall in the eastern Bahamas with gusts at 225 miles an hour, and then it stalled. And it was there for days. It got Marsh harbor really, really, really badly damaged, devastated, and it moved into Grand Bahama Island and Freeport, and it was just terrible. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the folks there that had to go through that. It’s just unimaginable that they would be in these conditions for days and days. We’ve all seen the news, really bad. And then it went up the east coast of Florida and passed South Carolina, and North Carolina, like it couldn’t have gotten much closer. And basically, there was not a lot of big winds. There was rain and things like that, but from doomsday to non-event is how I would have characterized Dorian.
So, anyway. We’ve been working on all this stuff. What do we do when we get a claim? I’d like to review that with you a little bit and then talk about what we’ve seen following some of these storms. So the first thing that we do, we call it pre-inspection. And what that means is, if somebody contacts us and says they have a possible assignment for us… And generally, the people that are contacting us are property owners, public adjusters who represent property owners, or attorneys who specialize in insurance claims and also represent property owners. We occasionally do work for insurance carriers, but generally in these hurricanes, particularly in Florida, we seem to generally end up on the property owner, public adjuster, insurance attorney side. So what we do when a call comes in is we wanna go out, me as the expert or we as a company or other experts that work for us, we wanna go out and take a look and see what’s going on. So we do the entire exterior building envelope, windows, doors, glass, exterior facades, which would be the outside walls of the building and roofs. The vast majority of the requests we get are windows and doors because that’s a specialty that we have and there’s really not others that do it as well as we do. So we go out and what I wanna do is I wanna go take a look, I wanna kick the tires so to speak. So the first thing we do after we get a call is we do planning and scheduling. We gather information about the project, we schedule a site visit, and we review the process of what’s gonna happen when the pre-inspection does occur with the property manager, board members, whoever’s gonna be in charge, or maybe an adjuster and an attorney will meet us out there.
The actual pre-inspection, we wanna inspect four units, I say three to four generally that are… And we don’t ask for the worst stuff we just wanna see typical conditions. In fact, if I had my druthers, I’d wanna see the worst unit and then I’d wanna see what they consider one that doesn’t have any damage, because a lot of times the damage to windows and doors is discreet. And the average building owner may not think it’s damaged but actually sometimes they are. So we go out, we go into these units, conduct a walk around visual inspection. And generally, I just look at key areas on windows and doors where if there was damage where it would show up. And I document the findings with digital images. Actually, the technology is so great today with phones, I use my cell phone and it takes really great pictures. So at that point, I make a go, no go decision. And we have plenty of times that we say, “No, I’m sorry. We don’t think that this is something we can help you with, because I just honestly don’t see the damage that would be worthy of being part of a hurricane claim.” But lots of them do have damage, especially if you’re going to areas that had the big winds, which typically we are. And once we’ve gathered everything up, we prepare a pre-inspection report we call it. And it’s got examples of the pictures that I took and what the damage is. And generally makes recommendations and usually, you know, the report will say something to the effect of, “I found damage that’s indicative of wind storm damage to the windows and doors.” And we’ll submit a proposal with the pre-inspection report to go back in and inspect everything, basically. And at that point, if the proposal gets accepted, then we move into the next phase, which is the inspection and report process. So what we do with inspection and reports is we gather more relevant information about the building and the onsite people that we’re gonna be working with. At this point, we’re looking for site plans, floor plans, photographs, any original documents, if they have original blueprints from when the building was built, which oftentimes they don’t. Anything like that we wanna get our hands on, and we go about setting up the project digitally.
So we set up the floor plans and the window elevations digitally. We use a program called Blue Beam, which is a PDF review program, and we then get into the planning and coordination of actually doing the inspection. So we confirm… Once we’ve got it set up digitally, we’re gonna go out to the building, we’re gonna confirm all the layouts are correct, and everything is where it says it was on the plans we were provided. Sometimes, particularly buildings that are older, there’s been changes, and they’re not always accurate, so we go check that out,make sure it’s accurate. We’re calling this onboarding and we meet with the property management folks or the property owners. We basically tell them what to expect, what’s coming, what we’re gonna do, and try to get on the same page so that we can all work together to have a very successful inspection. And success is defined by getting in and out as fast as possible while being able to get a high quality of observations and being very thorough. So when the inspectors go out there to do the inspection that we need escorts with us, so that could be security guards, that could be property owners, it could be representatives of the attorney or the adjusting firm. But somebody’s gotta get everything organized, get us into the units and be with us while we’re in the units just to make sure everything is going well and that there aren’t any issues. If we really have things going our way, the property owner will help move furniture and open window blinds and things like that. Anything like that always helps move things along faster and ultimately results in a lower fee. We document all of our findings with digital images, and at this point, we’re using iPads. So the iPads have Blue Beam for iPad on it, and we’ve got the floor plans and the window elevations digitized. And we’ve got a list of typical damages, what we call keynotes. So we drag the keynote right onto the page of each particular window, and we take a picture of any damage observation. So a big building can actually have thousands of pictures because if it’s repetitious damage, there could literally be thousands of instances of damage. It’s not at all unusual.
Once we’ve collected the data, it then goes in for what we call quality control. So the office goes through it and just make sure that everything is laid out properly on the page, and that the inspectors called the damage by the right name, just things like that. And then once that’s all done, then the expert, me or somebody else, will review it all and basically look at every single picture, not a lot of fun, but that’s what we do. We look at every single picture, and we make sure that whatever is in the report is accurate and representative of damage that occurred during the storm in question. We also author what we call a front page, which is basically the introduction and it lays out the scope of what we do and how we do it, and has photos of representative damage, and then sometimes makes recommendations, how to correct the damage. So for the scope of our inspection is that it’s a limited, non-invasive walk around inspection, and we wanna look at every accessible window and door in the building. Usually, that doesn’t work. Usually there’s gonna be a unit maybe where they don’t have a key, or maybe we’ll go into some units and do the furniture placements and window treatments that can’t get opened and t,here are some windows usually that we aren’t able to inspect. But, you know, we’re going for 90 percentile 90 or higher. Sometimes we get 100%. The more the better. Our damage evaluation is based on an insurance policy, not an expert judgment. So there’s expert judgment involved, but the standard for how we evaluate is based upon the insurance policy which says, which is insuring the building and the windows and doors for damage. And damage, if it occurs, then it needs to be repaired to what they call the pre-existing condition or the condition it was in before the storm. And there’s different strategies for having that happen once you spot the damage. But basically, you know oversimplification is you’re either gonna repair the window and door or if it can’t be repaired, you’re gonna replace it. And replace it obviously might make it better than the pre-existing condition, but the obligation is to restore it to its pre-existing condition or better.
So, a lot of times with older windows, you got 30-year-old windows and doors, almost 100% of the time the window company is long gone, out of business. And if you’ve got a need for parts aside from hardware, wheels and locks and things like that, you can still get in the aftermarket. But if you’ve got actual window frame members or glass stops that hold the glass in, things like that, you can’t get them anymore, or if you can, they’re gonna stick out and be really ugly because they’re gonna be a different color, everything else is worn, then we end up replacing the window or door. So, what did we find? We’ve done all these inspections. And right now, our pre-inspection list is pushing 900 jobs that we’ve looked at. And we probably inspected ,I don’t know, 400, maybe half that many. Not everyone becomes an inspection. We do a pre-inspection, of course. And what we found is this time around… Well first, I wanna say there’s a difference from when we did the hurricanes of ’04 and ’05. A lot of buildings have a combination of old windows and new windows in them. Old windows being non-impact, new windows being impacts. In the mid-’90s’ most of the codes in Florida were changed and impact-rated assemblies were required in coastal areas. And so most buildings, the unit owner is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of windows and doors, and that includes replacing them if they feel that’s necessary. The caveat here is that with a catastrophe, the building insures all the windows and doors on behalf of the unit owner. So while they’re responsible for them under normal circumstances, when there’s a catastrophe, then the condo association generally takes over. That’s in a condominium of course.
So what we see a lot of times is a building where half of the windows in the building are the older original windows that were installed when the building was built, and then the other half are newer ones that unit owners have replaced along the way. I spoke earlier about the water leakage. There was a lot of water leakage, wasn’t discriminate with older or newer windows. You get these high winds that, the windows are rated to a certain level, and when you have 100-mile-an-hour winds let’s make up a number. That exceeds basically the rating or the capacity of any operable window. So a few leaks during the storm, not necessarily hurricane-damaged by the way. But if the window or door is damaged during the storm, and that contributed to the leakage and that’s causing it to continue to leak after the storm where it didn’t leak before, then that’s an issue that’s tied into the insurance policy. And there was a tremendous amount of that going on. The third thing that’s really interesting is storm shutters. So we see a lot of storm shutters. And my opinion of storm shutters right now is that they basically don’t do anything for you. They don’t help in any way except flying debris. When you look at a 20-story condo on the beach, there’s no flying debris. So they’re in place. And what we saw in Naples and Marco, multiple times, was the shutters were intact, and the windows blew in behind the shutter. So shutter is fine, it doesn’t look damaged. Window is lying on the ground inside the unit. The other thing is they really don’t do anything to stop water leakage either. So they’re not airtight, the air pressure bleeds through them. And then they kind of act as a pendulum, the shutters and the windows are moving tremendously during the storm. The Hurricane effects, by the way, are high winds and cyclic wind gusts on top of that. So you have a very strong wind, hurricane force, pushing on the window and door and shutter if it’s there, bending it, they bend, they’re designed to bend, that’s okay. If they bend and they don’t break, that’s good. But not only that, you’ve got cyclic wind gusts on top of the wind pressure, and it basically causes them to vibrate in and out with the big load on, and then additional loads. So the gusts are always higher, just by definition, than the sustained winds of the storm.
So what did we see? We saw… First of all, I wanna say, you know, I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I was very involved after Hurricane Andrew, which was the first big catastrophic event that I saw and I think a lot of people saw. And it resulted in new building codes. I’m one of the inventors of the tests that was done with that code. You’ve probably seen the flying two by fours on television. And that was all developed and I was a big part of that after Hurricane Andrew. But I have to tell you, since Andrew, Irma, I had never seen so many blown out windows and doors until Irma came in Marco Island and Naples and the Keys. And it was spectacular kind of blowouts where the window would blow out fly across the room and smash a flat screen TV lying on the wall across the room. So tremendous amount of blown out windows and doors, broken glass, impact damage. And that’s what I call obvious damage. And that’s something you’re not gonna likely get an argument from your insurance company about. They generally will acknowledge when something is…evacuate the opening. Sometimes they wanna put it back in, which is kind of silly, but that’s just the position they take. Then with the argument that the insurance company generally comes in is what I would call the not as obvious damage. So I’ve got what I call the big four. So the big four is damage to window and door frame joints, where we have two pieces of metal coming together. Think about a sliding glass door, you’ve got metal all around a piece of glass that rolls in the opening. Well, where the vertical and the horizontal pieces come together, that gets stress because the connections can be old or maybe just not as strong as everything else. And again, you’re putting these loads on it, these high wind loads that are bending it, and then you’ve got the vibration from the pressure cycle. So we see a tremendous amount of frame joint damage. I did an insurance appraisal hearing, insurance appraisal hearing which I’ll talk about later, that’s how they determine insurance company versus property owner, who wins, and we had 2,000 pictures of frame joint damage on one project.
Another thing that we see a lot of is glass stop damage. A glass stop is a piece of metal that holds the glass in place. So when the windows are manufactured, the glass is set into the frame, and then it’s gotta be fastened in somehow. So there’s sealant that seals it to the frame, and then there’s usually a piece of metal that snaps in place that’s called a glass stop that secures it in the frame. And a lot of times we’ll have vinyl or something, rubber gaskets too also to keep the glass stop from touching the glass. Third, not as obvious damage that we see is called frame movement. And that’s where you see cracking between the frame and the building either on the inside or the outside or both. And that’s indicative of all those high loads and cyclic wind gusts, basically damaging the attachments of the frame to the screws that hold it into the structure. And when you get frame movement, there’s another issue and that one’s really hard to deal with because you can’t see what’s going on inside the wall unless you take the window out. And almost every single time if you try to take the window out, it’s not going back in because it’s been damaged, it’s old, just the fact…even without a hurricane, just the process of removing it and reinstalling it would cause damage. The fourth, not as obvious, although I should say sometimes it’s very obvious depending on what you see around the window opening, is water damage. And water damage is very prevalent in every storm. And again, leakage during the storm isn’t necessarily damage, but leakage after the storm caused by damage to the windows or doors is definitely in play with the insurance policy. And we call it…we say that the water is coming in through openings formed by the storm. So I’ve added a fifth item to my big four after Panama City experience, and that’s insulated glass failure. So insulated glass is something you don’t see so much of it in South Florida and the further north you go you see more and more of it. But insulated glass is a very common architectural product. It’s two pieces of glass with a sealed airspace in between, and you’ve got these throughout the U.S. and throughout the world. And they basically are good for lower temperatures. Like, if you don’t have insulated glass in the Panhandle, in the winter when it gets cold out and you’re heating up inside spaces, you’re gonna get a lot of condensation on the inside surfaces. So it’s very popular, and even now with the new energy requirements and the code, it’s mandated basically throughout the entire state, not 100%, but basically it is.
So what happens with these insulated glass units is if the sealed airspace loses its seal, then moisture accumulates inside between the two pieces of glass. You get dirt, dust, things like that, and eventually, you can’t even see out through the glass. So imagine this, this storm with high winds pushing on the glass bending it, and then you’ve got the cyclic wind pressure rallying it in and out, there’s a tremendous opportunity for insulated glass seal failure. It doesn’t show up right away all the time. We do have a test to check to see if the seal has failed or not, which I’m about to talk about. But that’s the fifth item I’ve added into the big four. So again, the big four are frame joint damage, glass stop damage, frame movement, and water damage. And then the fifth is insulated glass seal failure.
So, other ways that we investigate hurricane damage, aside from the non-invasive walk-around visual inspection, is to do a water leakage investigation. So water damage and continuing leakage big, big issue with these storm, and we do what we call a water leakage investigation. And we use a standard…it’s ASTM, which is a consensus standards organization that, really, so many things are ASTM rated, carpeting, tile, lots of stuff. And they’re a big part of the window and door testing and certification as well. And also, an organization called AAMA, the American Architectural Manufacturing Association, also very involved with consensus standards. So ASTM E2128 provideds, basically, it’s a guide for how to conduct a water leakage evaluation. So the first part of it is information gathering. You’re gonna review project documents and evaluate the design concept. So if you can get drawings and details and things like that that the building may have from construction, you wanna get all that. Sometimes you can’t so you’ve gotta basically do an analysis without it. And you evaluate how everything works. If you’ve got a sliding glass door, for instance, the way they work is when they get hit with wind driven rain, the water is supposed to go down into the track of the sliding glass door assembly and then drain to the outside. And when they leak, normally, you’ll have issues such as the tracks lost a seal at the corners where the vertical and horizontal members come together, at screw penetrations that are through the track, they’re typically sealed. But again, you’ve got all this movement occurring during a hurricane and you can lose a seal there. You’ve got weather strippings that are not aligned anymore, you’ve got sealants that fail. So there’s a lot of things that can go on. And you need to understand how these assemblies work in order to be able to diagnose what’s going on. We also look at the service history. So if the building has any maintenance records, sometimes they do sometimes they don’t. In condominiums, they often don’t because the unit owners are responsible. So if the building doesn’t, we interview people at the project, property managers and board members, unit owners, whatnot. You know, we wanna find out, “What was it like before the storm? Were there any problems, and if there were, were they widespread? And what’s it like now?” And if they’re telling us, you know, “We didn’t have any problems before the storm, or maybe we had a few problems, but nothing serious and now everything’s leaking, and it ties right into the storm event then that’s obviously some valuable information that you wanna consider as well.
Once we’ve done all that, we may and often do elect to do investigative testing. So we do what we call diagnostic water infiltration testing. We use an ASTM test method there as well, ASTM E1105. And basically, it simulates the conditions of a wind-driven rainstorm. We spray water on the outside of the assembly from a uniform spray rack. It’s not a fire hose, it’s not high pressure, it’s just a spray of water that’s calibrated to a certain level by the ASTM test method requirements. And then on the inside, we vacuum air from the inside, and we do it at a measured rate so we can simulate wind conditions. So we’re pulling from outside to inside and we’re spraying water. It’s the same thing as a wind-driven rainstorm. When do these investigations, do we test to the hurricane level? No, we don’t do that. We’re not trying to recreate the hurricane. What we’re trying to do or what we are doing is we’re recreating normal weather conditions that might occur at the project, not tropical storm or hurricane conditions. So we research weather records from a nearby weather station for a year or prior to the date that we’re doing the test to the date that we’re setting up the test. And we’d look for days with high winds and rain. Usually, we’re gonna find stuff in Florida in the 30, 40-mile-an-hour wind range and rain. It’s the summer thunderstorm typically, sometimes a frontal passage in the winter. And that’s what we test. We wanna know how these assemblies are performing under normal weather conditions. We actually run the test with no wind pressure first because we got it all set up. And many, many times if they’re damaged they’ll leak with no wind pressure, but if they don’t then we put the wind on and we see what happens.
Once we complete that, we analyze the results, we prepare a pre-comprehensive report with photographs, and we take video and we really got good information. Also for the testing, we’ll often remove interior wall finishes so that we can see not only if water is coming in through the window, but is it leaking into the wall. Now, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “Oh-oh. I don’t want them cutting my walls up,” it’s a necessary part of the investigation. We always make arrangements to have a quality contractor involved that can remove window treatments, provide protection to the interior of the unit for protection, cover all the furniture with tarps and plastic and whatnot. And then they remove the drywall in a very neat and orderly fashion. And then, of course, when the testing is over, they put everything back. And the goal and the objective and what we accomplish is it looks as good or better than before we ever did the testing. So water leakage investigations are another piece of the puzzle. We’ve done the visual inspection, we’ve done the water leak investigation. We talked about insulated glass seal failure. We have a procedure for that that we call frost point testing. So frost point testing, we have a device that we put on the glass and it’s got dry ice in it, and it’s able to lower the temperature inside the air space between the two pieces of the glass to a very low temperature. What we try to use is the lowest temperature on record in the given area that we’re testing for the first phase of it, and then the second part, we take it down to zero. We could take it to minus 100 if we want to, but we don’t do that. We try to, again, use conditions that may or could occur at the sites. So, in Panama City, I don’t know what the number is, it’s probably 10 degrees is the record low or maybe give or take a little bit, and that’s what we use. Now, we’ve taken the temperature and the airspace down to 10 degrees. If the seal has failed, there’s moisture between the glass and ice forms in between the air space where we’ve put the device on the glass unit. And that’s an indication of seal failure. So even though the thing hasn’t fogged up yet, even hasn’t clouded up, we can do this test to determine if seal failure has occurred, and depending on other observations with the windows and doors, we can then further give an opinion or not that the storm caused or contributed to this failure.
Another thing that we do sometimes, an additional investigation beyond water leakage investigations and frost point tests, is take things apart and see what’s going on, destructive analysis. So we don’t do this a lot, but sometimes we do. And we’re looking for hidden and internal damages. Sometimes we do it to test repair hypotheses. We also produce repair protocol. So we may have a job where they’ve got a lot of, say newer windows that they have a lot of water leakage and the water leakage is still occurring. So maybe internal seals have been damaged, weather strippings have been crushed things like that. Newer doors, sometimes it’s possible to do a repair. So we may go through a building that’s got half old doors and half newer doors, and we’ll recommend to replace all the older doors and windows. Because you can’t get parts and you can’t fix them, you know, they’re basically not in good shape, to begin with. But they were insured and there is an obligation to restore them to their pre-loss condition. And then the other half of the doors might be newer impact doors, and we’ll develop a repair protocol for those. So every job is different, and that’s why you have experts and expert judgment. You hire somebody like GCI Consultants to do the analysis because we can sort out what needs to be done to get things back where they need to be. So we’ve done all this, you’re probably wondering what happens with these insurance claims. Well, one outcome could be that all the information is submitted to the insurance company, the reports and the cost estimates and things like that, and they pay it. I can tell you, that doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s possible. Another outcome is that there would be some negotiations and there would be a negotiated settlement between the insurance company and the property owner or the property owner’s representatives. When those two things don’t happen, then it’s headed into some form of dispute resolution. So what’s unique to insurance policies, and you see a lot of this going on, is what’s called an appraisal hearing.
So an appraisal hearing generally, will be each side presenting their damages. The insurance company appoints an appraiser and the property owner appoints an appraiser. And then the third person on the panel is a neutral, often called an umpire, who’s either an insurance industry professional, a contractor, and a lot of times a retired judge. So the two appraisers present all their portions of the claim…well, both, actually the property owner presents the claim, and the insurance company either agrees or disagrees with it. Many times experts are involved. I’ve been doing a lot of appraisal hearings lately and the calendar is booked up going forward. So a lot of times there is expert testimony. And so what I see typically being done is experts will go in, give a presentation. I like to use PowerPoints and visuals, videos, things like that. And then the experts, pro and con, insurance company and property owner, will walk into some…inspect the property basically, typical units, things like that with the two appraisers and the umpire. And it’s not like courtrooms or deposition or anything like that, it’s more informal and there’s a back and forth. But ultimately, what the appraisers try to agree on as much…the insurance company appraiser and the property owner appraiser try to agree on as much as they can. What they can’t agree on the umpire rules on and his ruling is binding. So that’s probably a lot of the way these go. But if they don’t go to appraisal, sometimes they go to either arbitration, which again, is usually a panel. And the one the arbitration that I’ve done for Irma, the panel consisted of somebody the insurance company appointed, somebody the property owner appointed, and a neutral. And there, there were lawyers involved and we had a hearing. It was like a three or four-day hearing. And there, was expert testimony…testimony in general, and also expert, in fact, witness testimony just like a regular courtroom trial. And this was in a hotel conference room. And after all of the testimony was heard by the arbitration pane,l they met the next day. They made their ruling. And by agreement on this particular one, I don’t know that they’re all like this, there was no appeal there either. It was a binding arbitration.
The other way to go, which is always the one that gives everybody the most apprehension, is courtroom trial. So courtroom trial, I’ve done a lot of them so far. This time around I’ve only done one, a trial in federal court in Miami, from Irma. So it can be federal court or it could also be Circuit Court, which is generally county by county. But federal is not unusual in these things because the insurance companies are typically from out of state. They’re not Florida registered all the time. So a trial is, it is what it is. It’s depositions, it’s called discovery. So you write reports, you exchange information. There’s depositions where the attorneys asked all the witnesses fact and experts questions. Sometimes there’s challenges to qualifications of experts and whatnot. And then there’s a trial with a jury. And when that’s over, the jury renders a verdict, and oftentimes those get appealed. So that’s the way these… The possible outcomes are insurance company pays, insurance company and property owner negotiate, appraisal hearing, arbitration hearing, or trial.
So we’re in the phase now where… There’s a three year limit on filing insurance claims. So with Matthew, it’s over. With Irma… This is in Florida too, by the way, because in Texas with Hurricane Harvey the limit was two years. But in Florida with Irma, which was the big, large geographic area, claims are still being filed and will be filed until sometime in September. I’m trying to remember, I think was September 17th. No, September 10th. September 10th of 2020 will be the limit on filing claims. That doesn’t mean they all get resolved by then either. That’s just have to file it. Then there’s typically a long duration until disputed claims are resolved. The last two weeks in a row I’ve done appraisal hearings in Daytona Beach, and those were Hurricane Matthew claims. And Hurricane Matthew was…I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in 2016 during hurricane season, August, September, probably somewhere in there. Here we are over three years later finally starting to get some of them resolved. So it’s very frustrating to everybody involved that it takes so long. The property owners, especially, they have to put up with a lot, and it takes a long time until they finally get their day in court, so to speak. And that could be an appraisal hearing too just, that’s just a figure of speech. So I’ve thought about this, is there a better way to do this? I mean, it just seems so cumbersome, so confrontational, stress, anxiety, angst, and lots of money at stake. I’ve wondered, why don’t we go in before these storms and assess the buildings and really establish a baseline for what they’re gonna be like? Maybe agree on what the definition of damage is up front. Seems to me that then everybody could plan accordingly, buildings could upgrade if they were advised as such, and insurance companies could have a better expectation on what the potential damage is, maybe have an opportunity to provide better pricing for their customers.
So it’s not the way it’s done. And in fact, I’m reaching out…right here. I’m reaching out across the aisle to, if there’s any insurance company folks listening, they wanna talk about this further, let me know. I’m happy to sit down and try and see if we can come up with a better model. But right now, it’s basically us against them. It’s confrontational and it’s just what we do. So it’s been a really interesting two, three years since I really got into this, two-plus years, I guess I would say. The whole thing with my company from a business perspective of starting out at 100 miles an hour with no resources and rallying to meet the demand. And now, you know, there’s so many of these things that didn’t get resolved and are coming around in appraisals and in other forms of final judgment, and there’s a lot of work that goes into that. So that’s basically what I’ve really been wanting to share. So I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
And I want to just tell you a little bit more about our company, GCI Consultants. So if you’re wondering, what else do we do? I told you we were super busy. So we do expert witness work, litigation, construction defects, things like that. And we’ve been doing that, by the way, since 1988, when I formed the company. So we’ve got a lot of experience with that. We actually work with insurance companies that represent building owners. Well, not building owners so much. Well, building owners, contractors, architects, engineers, so we do a lot of that kind of work. We also do forensic and water leakage investigation. So what’s the difference between what I just told you? The difference here is maybe the building is not in litigation, maybe it’s not in a hurricane claim, but there’s problems. Maybe the underground garage is leaking, maybe the pool deck is leaking, maybe the windows are leaking or the roof is leaking. So we do a lot of investigations with that, similar concept to what I was telling you we do with the hurricanes. We do building enclosure consulting. We’ve worked on some of the biggest buildings in Florida. In fact, the tallest one, Panorama Tower in Miami, which is the tallest building in the eastern U.S. outside of New York City, 86 stories, I think, we finished up on that one last year as the building envelope consultant. And we’ve done a lot of iconic work. We’ve worked with the Daytona Speedway, we’ve done a bunch of Orlando properties, Championsgate Resort, and others. And pretty much any town we go into in Florida, I can point out large properties or important properties that we’ve worked on. And then, of course, the wind damage catastrophe stuff we’ve already talked about that a lot. So that’s kind of what we do.
If you want more information about some of the things that we talked about in this podcast today, go to gciconsultants.com/gci. Again, our website gciconsultants.com/ letter G, letter C , letter I. We’ve got information cards about outlining the services that we provide for wind storms, and we also have one that goes through what we do beyond hurricane inspection. So we’ve got the pre-inspection process, we’ve got the inspection and report process, and we’ve got the water leakage investigation. So if you go there, we’re gonna ask for a little bit of information from you, and we’ll either just mail you a hard copy or send you a digital copy, your choice. Again, gciconsultants.com/gci. If you want to sign up for our newsletter and other information, special offerings videos that we produce things like that, text. You can do it via text message, and the text is 22828. So text GCI to 22828 to sign up for GCS’s newsletter and our special offers. If you want more information about GCI, there’s also a wealth of information on our website, lots of videos talking about hurricanes, construction defects, water tests. If you want to see what the water test looks like, there’s videos on our website that show that. And our website, of course, is gciconsultants.com.
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So if you want show notes, you can visit our other website, the www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com website. We have show notes there and we also have other episodes. I had a lot of listeners and I really appreciate the support, www.everythingbuildingenvelope.com. So I hope you enjoyed this episode of “Everything Building Envelope.” This is Paul Beers saying thank you for listening, and so long till next time.