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The goal of the Building Performance Knowledge Community (BPKC) is to promote architects as leaders in the application of technical design for building performance; in the use of high-performance design criteria, codes, and standards; and in programming, designing and managing building performance. To advance, disseminate, and advocate—to the architecture profession, AIA members, building owners, the construction industry, the academy, and the public—design practices that create buildings that are healthy, energy efficient, and durable.

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Building Enclosure Failures

  • 1.  Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-06-2020 22:59
    I am retired from the business of designing buildings and providing the other common Architecture services.  I am however, regularly asked to provide opinions on issues of a building's design, construction, installed materials, operation, and existing conditions, which occasionally leads to testifying for a deposition or trial.  Clients are Attorneys , insurance adjusters, building owners, contractors, product manufacturers, and Architects.

    The one thing that is the most common issue with building failures, is water penetration to the building interior. It is seen by the tenants and visitors to the building. This water penetration will likely have a variety of sources and causes.  Water intrusion is a nuisance and a potential danger, it can cause damage to the building's structure, finishes, and furnishings, and reduce the indoor air quality, as well as cause slip and fall, and personal injury.  It will take some time and may cost a lot of money to correct the cause of the water penetration(s).  There are a wide variety of causes and reasons water is able to move through the exterior walls, windows, doors, and the roof systems to the building interior.

    Commissioning the building envelope is a big step in the right direction to achieve high performance buildings.  It is also the primary responsibility of the building owner/developer.  They have to want it for it to be done.  The design Architect, engineers, and builder can also do a lot to achieve high performance, energy and maintenance efficient, long lasting buildings.  Once the building is in the construction phase, performance verification inspections and TESTING is required.

    Beyond water penetration of the building envelope, there are the concerns for energy use and waste, and occupant comfort, and safety.  Those concerns should also be dealt with by the discussion items in the last paragraph above.

    ------------------------------
    George Blackburn, AIA
    Blackburn Architecture
    Carrollton, Texas
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-09-2020 17:26
    The age old conundrum.. The architect details the path of every drop of water that will land on, enter and pass through a building. The owner/developer/builder has other intentions, be they known or not.  The less concerted guarantees an unfortunate convening. Hence, our job security.

    ------------------------------
    Kenneth E. Martin, AIA
    Principal Proprietor
    KeMA
    Thornton CO
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-10-2020 18:29
    The building envelope is the most important component of the building structure and this is taken lightly by some such as developers and contractors the architect with his curtainwall consultant designs in efficient system for resisting the worlds elements the climate this this is not to be taken lightly however some do specially in my experience with the building department reviewing for code compliance there’s another aspect of this that’s ignored thermal transfer from outside to inside especially through concrete

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 4.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-10-2020 18:39
    Thermal transfer is often ignored. Typically it occurs through concrete balcony slab edges on residential mid and high rise structures. There are various methods for providing a thermal break between the outside concrete slab assembly and the inside concrete slab assembly. This prevents condensation from occurring on the floor slab at exterior walls and especially exterior glass cladding. Not providing a thermal break necessitates the design for a larger heating system to handle the larger heat load thus increased costs to the tenant and Owner.

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 5.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-10-2020 22:54
    As a follow up to Kenneth E. Martin's comments, I provide the following:

    I thought the Architect's job is to be part of the building team; not blame others.  I do not remember seeing a set of construction documents that did not have a basic weather tightness deficiency.

    Bill Rice, AIA Emeritus
    Atlanta, Georgia





  • 6.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-13-2020 12:22
    Bill,
    I fully agree with your comment.

    ------------------------------
    George Blackburn [AIA]
    Blackburn Architecture
    [Carrollton] [Texas]
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-13-2020 17:26
    Sensing a bit of ousting in this bloggette.. George, did you not offer up in regards to building commissioning that "It is also the primary responsibility of the building owner/developer.  They have to want it for it to be done." ? My followup is in regards to the real world that you open the door to - that that the building owner/developer does not want done and thus, creates the hardship of facing litigious backlash, wherein our expertise is called on to help determine due dilligence/standard of care or lack thereof. Have you ever had to displace the architect in their apparent inabilities and seemingly due to a client driven forced hand? My experience renders a "more than often." 

    ------------------------------
    Kenneth E. Martin, AIA
    Principal Proprietor
    KeMA
    Thornton CO
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-13-2020 18:44
    Kenneth,
    Owner/Developer clients that do not want to pay the additional cost for commissioning, will most likely be selling the property in the short term and all tenants are paying the cost to operate and maintain the building.  They are also probably underfunded for the project.  Responsible Architects should properly detail the building envelope with adequate and continuous air, water, and thermal barriers with termination that work.  They should also adequately specify the many components of the building envelope for a high performance and energy efficient building, putting some responsibility in the hands of the contractor to execute the work. Of course value engineering can wipe out the good design and performance intentions.

    I am often hired by general contractors to review the design and construction drawings and specifications.  Their main concern is about on water intrusion.  I also discuss any deficiencies I see in the air and thermal barriers.  They also call me after the building is completed and leaking when they didn't hire me in the first place.  The feed back I get back from the design Architect goes from no comment to appreciation for my recommendations.  There are also some resentments by some for my recommendations, but that does not bother me in the slightest.  I have far more experience and knowledge in design and construction (50 years in both design and construction) than they have.

    ------------------------------
    George Blackburn [AIA]
    Blackburn Architecture
    [Carrollton] [Texas]
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-14-2020 11:28
    The most neglected component of the building envelope, in my experience, is concrete slab thermal breaks. Thermal transfer from outside to inside concrete slabs can be prevented by specifying thermal breaks. Thermal breaks are to be located at the exterior wall at the intersection o/s and i/s concrete slabs. The application of thermal breaks in concrete slabs prevents condensation on the interior concrete slab at the exterior wall. The lack of thermal breaks can be compensated by providing larger capacity heating systems. Although the cost of thermal breaks vs larger heating systems may be a wash, the long term operating costs of a larger heating system are not. These operating costs are passed on to the future owners/tenants which typically is no concern of the original Real Estate Developer.

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 10.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-17-2020 15:46
    Mark,
    The other day you mentioned that there several ways of providing a thermal break between the interior and exterior slab.  I was able to find one, a thermal break manufactured by Schoeck.  Could you elaborate on the other methods?

    ------------------------------
    Patrick Quinlan AIA
    Westport MA
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-20-2020 18:15
    Shock Bauteille, Farrah, Armatherm, Thermal bridging has been addressed in Europe for about a decade. Shock Bauteille is a German Company. Farrah provides thermal bridging for steel structures and concrete. Armatherm has an interesting product. You mentioned “Schoeck”-do you mean-Shock Bauteille? Let us continue this Thermal Bridging discussion. Sincerely, Mark C Miller

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 12.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-21-2020 17:36
    Those familiar with the German language will know that a) the firm in question is Schöck, which b) in modern orthography, eschewing the use of many diacritical marks such as the umlaut, those vowels having one are represented as having an "e" following: thus Schöck is often rendered Schoeck, especially on the internet, to save on keystroke modifiers.
    --

    ------------------------------
    Charles F. Wahl, AIA
    New York NY
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-21-2020 18:24
    Mark & Charles
    Yes, I meant Schöck Bauteile.  Their product data also spelled the name as being Schoeck.  I checked the spelling as I was writing my response. ( I wouldn't attempt spelling it on my own ).  Hope you weren't offended. ....... Anyway ...... I'm working on a project that has interior concrete that extends outdoors.  I'm concerned about thermal bridging and potential condensation.  I gather that a manufactured product by Farrah, Armatherm or Schöck Bauteile is required.  Is that correct? ..... Please let me know.

    ------------------------------
    Patrick Quinlan AIA
    Westport MA
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-22-2020 13:41
    Dear Mr Quinlan, Hi Patrick, If you want to provide responsible design for your client, incorporate a thermal break at the intersection of inside-to-outside concrete slab. This, in my opinion, is excellent energy efficient, conservative building design. If I may suggest, provide a cost comparison of providing the concrete slab thermal breaks versus the difference of long term heating energy costs(20 years) for NOT providing the thermal breaks and providing thermal breaks. The energy cost difference should be more than the cost of the thermal breaks. Your client will appreciate your due diligence! And if you get a building permit plan reviewer who thinks “outside the box,” he/she will appreciate it, as I would have(being as such in my career), and issue your permit expeditiously. Thank you for your response Patrick. Have a great day, stay well, and TAKE CARE, Mark C Miller. PS. This design approach has LEED implications.

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 15.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-27-2020 16:42
    Hi Mark
    Thanks for your response. ..... I'm dealing with a concrete wall that is interior for a short ways and goes outside.  But, it is similar in that It should have a thermal break.  Also, I'm concerned about condensation.  Providing the break improves energy efficiency and will save money.  ... Yes, it's a bonus if score a few points with the building inspector.   I do not intend to file for LEED certification.

    Pat


    ------------------------------
    Patrick Quinlan AIA
    Westport MA
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-27-2020 17:18
    Patrick. Thermal break at interior/exterior wall is wise choice. Not going for LEED Certification IS also a wise decision. In my opinion and experience, the LEED Certification process is a money-making SCAM!

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 17.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-28-2020 19:01
    Wow - LEED "a money-making scam."  That's a strong statement.  A scam it is not.  There are projects for which LEED makes no sense and there are projects for which LEED makes a lot of sense.  From my personal experience, projects that go for LEED certification, especially the higher levels of LEED certification, are usually better, more energy-efficient, more healthy and often better-constructed than similar projects that do not.  But it's a mixed bag. Unfortunately, if you just assume that all LEED projects are a scam, it will be hard to understand the nuance and it will be hard to see the good that LEED has done over the years to transform the market with regard to green building and to raise the bar on energy efficiency and environmentally friendly building.  I agree that LEED is currently not the end all and be all, and it is not a scam.

    By the way, I also agree that providing a thermal break for concrete slabs at an interior/exterior wall is super important.  Unfortunately, it seems that many in the U.S. deem it too expensive.  It will, unfortunately, not get you a LEED point on a commercial building (e.g. a high rise apartment building with balconies), but maybe if it was incentivized through LEED, projects would get a point or two (or more) for providing that thermal break.

    ------------------------------
    Helen Kessler FAIA
    President
    HJ Kessler Associates, Inc.
    Chicago IL
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-29-2020 13:35
    Hi Helen, thank you for your response! I agree with you regarding the results of LEED design strategies The “Scam” I’m referring to is the certification review process for the following reasons: 1) Excessive Cost, 2) Certain LEED points are available for a purchase price,3) Excessive duration & conceited undertone, 4) LEED design guidelines should be codified into a Code(such as the Energy Efficiency Code-EEC) and referenced by the IBC such is the EEC, and 5) Eliminate the point system, along with “silver, platinum & gold” building plaques. LEED Professional qualifications testing, I propose to be incorporated into the architectural licensing testing process. If you’re a licensed Architect-you are automatically a LEED Professional. The USGBC probably would not agree with my proposal; however, the architectural profession would be clarified and simplified. With Best Regards, MARK C MILLER

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 19.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-30-2020 17:43
    A few years ago it was shown that using LEED did NOT necessarily deliver buildings that were more energy efficient.  If we as a profession wish to get serious about energy savings then we need to design for actual performance, not compare a questionable energy model against an even more questionable "base building" model.  On top of that, there should be a minimum energy conservation performance required for the building enclosure so we might stop seeing LEED Platinum buildings with an R-3 curtain wall....what a joke.  I have seen many energy models with completely unrealistic input values for the performance of the enclosure, but there is no one to check and no problem if reality turns out worse than the prediction.

    LEED is not useless but LEED is not the answer to net zero/carbon neutral!

    ------------------------------
    David Altenhofen AIA
    Technical Director
    RWDI USA LLC
    Philadelphia PA
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 05-01-2020 14:03
    Great post David.  I fully agree with your comment.  I hope you and your family are well and safe.  FYI, I became a grandfather last month.

    ------------------------------
    George Blackburn [AIA]
    Blackburn Architecture
    [Carrollton] [Texas]
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 05-01-2020 16:54
    Ditto to George and David. There are so many different Green certiifcations globally in addition to LEED. Architect should be look upon to have the wherewithal to be able to design building that is sustainable and energy efficient with or without LEED certificatons.

    Respectfully,
    Casey K. Sien, NCARB, RA





  • 22.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 05-02-2020 01:55
    George, David, and Casey, I concur! There are too many versions of LEED. Comply with the IEEC, professional ethics & standards, and local building codes. NCARB & USGBC should revise the architects exam to include the fundamentals of energy and water efficient design and eliminate the LEED AP designation-ONE TEST/ONE LICENSE-licensed architect(LA). What a concept-do you think we could handle the clarity and simplicity of such an idea?! With Best Regards, MARK C MILLER, LA (former LEED AP, BD & C)

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 23.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 05-02-2020 12:00
    Ditto. Just like you don't need another profesional designations after your name to design Health Care Facilitites, High-rise Buildings, Commercial Buildings, Residential Buildings, Research/Lab Buildings, etc., why do we need another professional designations to make the buildings sustainable and energy efficient that are already by codes or other standards. 
    NCARB and AIA should make an effort to educate the building industries that all licensed architects have the wherewithal and professional expertise to design all buildings that are sustainable and energy efficient and Geeen certifications are not necessary. NCARB and AIA should advise Federal and State entities that it is not necessary to require incorporate Green certification requirements for such purpose and if incorporated to require the architect as the
    responsible professional to comply with the incorporated requirements just like any other responsibilities required of the architect to design the project. I understand architect want to shield itself from Green liabilities and reluctant to accept the responsibilities. NCARB and AIA should study these to help architects to stay competitive.

    Respectfully,

    Casey K. Sien, NCARB, RA





  • 24.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 05-03-2020 19:52
    Agree.  It is left to the Design Team & Owner to decide the path on based on Bldg. codes.   





  • 25.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-30-2020 19:00
    Mr. Miller,

    I definitely do not agree with your negative view of LEED.  On the contrary I find LEED to be a very positive and excellent system. LEED has done a great deal to transform buildings into much greener, higher performance buildings and especially when used with an eye to the right purposes, to elevate the human experience with buildings. It is the right fit for many projects and should never be thought of simply as a way to chase points.  There are also more stringent systems like the Living Building Challenge, and less stringent systems - that can more easily be employed from the entry  to expert levels. The AIA's Framework for Design Excellence provides that opportunity.

    I do not find the the cost of LEED registration or certification reviews excessive for most of the projects we work on. On the contrary I wonder how these services can be performed at these costs.  I'm sure they would be much higher if performed by a for-profit business. What is expensive is the professional time it takes for the architect, the "traditional" consultant team, LEED consultant and the construction team to assure due diligence is performed to reach the goals that their clients seek.  Helen has already pointed out that LEED is not the answer for every project. It is much harder for small projects (say less than say $2 million budget for a LEED BD+C project) to absorb those costs than it is for a $5 mil., let alone $25 mil project to build-in those costs.

    I find the duration of the LEED process acceptable. We have been experiencing an approximately 5 week turn-around during reviews; sometimes with intermediate comments much sooner. We then have a similar time to respond to those comments but we often take longer because it takes time to coordinate those responses, for team members to respond and to check those responses. Yes, I wish this was shorter and maybe someday it will be.  As far as attitude goes - we have been involved in approximately 50 LEED projects - I have found the attitude of reviewers and team members to be stellar.  I expect they are probably overworked and probably underpaid, as things tend to be when working for a not-for-profit.  The staff that I have had the pleasure to know personally - several from top to bottom - seem to be motivated by being part of a movement that is enriching life not by financial greed. Imagine that - living a life motivated by doing good for others!

    You suggest certain LEED points are available for purchase. Not really. If you are referring to the option of doing something like installing bicycle storage at a facility that very few could be expected to bike to then it doesn't make sense to use that credit because one would then be "buying" that credit or point chasing - paying for a credit when it makes no reasonable sense to take advantage of its benefits. Another credit I can see as being confused with "buy-it" would be green power.  Purchasing green power can be a reasonable way to support renewable and other forms of green power when it is either too expensive or not feasible to install on-site renewable energy.  Again this is an optional credit.  If it does not make sense for the project or client to seek a credit then don't. The design team can help analyze the economics such as life-cycle costs or return on investment if that is the driver, but there are often many other drivers.

    Many LEED design guidelines ARE codified into performance Codes.  The levels of which vary by adopting jurisdictions. At a lesser level LEED has affected the International energy codes.  Have you noticed how ASHRAE/IESNA Std 90.1 is referenced in both LEED and the International Energy Codes with LEED stepping up the levels with each new version to parallel? That is no accident.

    You suggest eliminating the point system, along with "silver, platinum & gold" building award levels. I rather like the different levels.  It allows achievements to be recognized no mater what level of achievement is appropriate for the client/project.  "Certified" is not too difficult to achieve on projects, whereas "Platinum" certification takes a lot more effort and designates a high level of accomplishment.  We have many clients very happy to find achieving a higher level of certification than they originally envisioned is achievable in budget and is rewarding. Having different levels to the "high jump" works.

    Lastly, I have no argument that LEED Professional qualifications could be met through architectural licensure. That may be an excellent idea.  But it would require a level of training that is done in very few accredited architectural educational programs, and testing not currently included in the licensure examinations. Unfortunately being a licensed architect does not qualify one as proficient in green design. I know of many licensed architects, many of them exceptional architects, that are not qualified to manage the LEED process. I hope that one day being licensed would have something to say about one's professional "green" qualifications. The AIA has been taking steps in that direction with recent changes to the Professional Code of Ethics which essentially stipulates that it is an AIA member's responsibility to have a conversation (about the benefits) about green building with their clients. Now with a movement to include sustainable measures as criteria for consideration of essentially all AIA design awards the AIA is making another statement of change within the profession. The AIA is also working on may other very positive "sustainability" actions dealing with topics such as a  significant carbon reductions leading to net-zero carbon, and a Climate Action Plan, resilience, healthy building materials, sustainability advocacy and more.

    For those projects that are "smaller" or otherwise cannot afford to include costs to incorporate LEED I will again point to the AIA's Framework for Design Excellence.  It is intended to be useable to most any depth the project team deems appropriate for the project and covers many of the issues that LEED does but allows more flexibility in achieving the goals with less stringent documentation and more self-policing. Still it provides excellent guidance for a design team to green their project. I especially find the "If you can only do one thing, do this" under each of the 10 categories a very approachable way for almost anyone to get started.

    ------------------------------
    Ralph Bicknese AIA, LEED AP BD+C, LEED Fellow
    Principal
    Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects
    St. Louis, MO
    ------------------------------



  • 26.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-30-2020 11:18
    Just use the Energy Code and supplement the rest as needed with best practices. Certification is for marketing and may not be necessary. Architects can be more proactive.

    Respectfully,

    Casey K. Sien, NCARB, RA





  • 27.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-30-2020 12:30
    I AGREE! MCMiller

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 28.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-13-2020 17:28
    Documents prevalent in weather tight discrepancies would signify a big problem in our profession. Maybe you can clarify your last sentence?

    ------------------------------
    Kenneth E. Martin, AIA
    Principal Proprietor
    KeMA
    Thornton CO
    ------------------------------



  • 29.  RE: Building Enclosure Failures

    Posted 04-13-2020 19:13
    Do you have a question about the benefits of building envelope performance and commissioning?

    ------------------------------
    George Blackburn [AIA]
    Blackburn Architecture
    [Carrollton] [Texas]
    ------------------------------