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Uncovering the Truth Behind Building Envelop Failure

All of us have heard about instances of building envelop failure. Whenever this happens, the foremost task is to identify the root cause. However, this detective work can be extremely challenging at times. This task demands the presence of the right kind of experts, ensuring adequate general maintenance, and identification of the red flags on time. Please remember that the failure of building envelops is insidious in nature, and hence, avoiding such failures is not easy. However, by following the steps mentioned below, you may be able to uncover the real facts behind such failures.

Performance Criteria: Whenever a building envelop fails, it is necessary to thoroughly understand the functioning of the system. A basic idea of the envelop components and their properties can provide an idea of the probable areas of concern.

As far as a building enclosure is concerned, there are five critical points of performance and each of them may lead to specific paths for system failure.

  • Water Management: The foremost objective of the building envelops is to keep water out. Therefore, water penetration is one of the potential points of failure. This type of failure leads to corrosion of structural elements and growth of mold on insulation.
  • Air Leakage: Unwanted inflow of external air and outward flow of conditioned air through the envelop causes excessive loss of heat, leading to high energy expenses. Air leakage can sometimes cause pressure differences, attracting wind-driven rain towards the building.
  • Insulation: The insulating layers within the building envelop functions as a thermal barrier. This objective of this barrier is to prevent excessive heat exchange between two different environments. Damaged or faulty insulation can very easily cause temperature differences and occupant discomfort.
  • Vapour Diffusion: Vapour barriers restrict two different humidity levels from equalising. In case of a failure, there is the possibility of condensation and damage to the interior wall cavity.
  • Differential Movement: This point refers to external factors such as wind loading and covers the contraction and expansion of certain building materials. Differential movement can cause performance issues by breaching in any of the remaining four barriers.

Periodic Inspections: Periodic inspection must be carried out from time to time to determine the performance level of the enclosure. You may start by following the occupant complaints or seeking their opinion by sending them questionnaires. In many instances, people working or living in a given environment can provide you valuable clues.

Closely inspect the fixtures and finishes, both outdoors and indoors. Don’t forget the areas that are seldom visited by people, such as the basements, crawlspaces, attics, and ceiling spaces. Annual inspection should be performed for the building’s general exterior. During this inspection, pay close attention to the flashings, sealants, and other components of the waste management system.

In many buildings, the roof is a major component of the envelop. In such cases, roofs must be inspected once every six months or at the change of every season. The most important things to check for are equipment and pipe penetrations, drainage system, water logging, clogged drains, etc.

Routine Maintenance: Build a schedule for routine maintenance to keep a track of all the envelop components and their service lives. This should cover each and every component from gaskets and sealants to cladding and roofing systems. Always stick to the schedule and avoid deferred maintenance because these delays can turn minor imperfections into serious system issues.

All the findings of your inspections must be well documented on a file. This will help you immensely, if a serious issue pops up in the future.

Remedial Measures: In some instances, the remedy may be as simple as replacing some of the flashings and sealants. More drastic remediation may include replacement of the insulation layers or re-cladding. If you come across any structural corrosion, supplementary anchors may have to be installed. The extreme nature of these repairing needs is a clear indication that proactive action is the way to go.

External Clues of Facade Failure: Deteriorating mortar is a clear sign of facade failure. Sealants should also be inspected regularly because they are prone to cracking due to the expansion and contraction of the building. Check whether the steel lintel above your A.C unit has rusted or expanded. Expansion of this lintel creates cracks in the masonry and lifts the wall. These cracks function as entry points for moisture.

Internal Clues of Facade Failure: This is the easiest and earliest alternative to detect issues with a building facade. Molds, blistering, and cracking are definite indicators of a stealthy problem. Check for molds in the hidden areas such as behind a cabinet because these are clear signs of water penetration. Please remember that certain red flags may appear to be minor. Don’t neglect them because a thorough inspection may reveal serious issues.

Roofing Clues of Facade Failure: Problematic eaves and roofs often lead to the failure of a facade. This is why the apparently minor problems such as peeling and blistering must not be ignored. Standing water on the roofs indicates a non-functional drainage system. The roof drains of any building must be examined thoroughly at least twice each year.

We hope you found today’s article useful and will keep visiting us for many more similar discussions in the future. If you have any other questions related to facade failure, please contact our team today.