Define the recommended scope of work and confirm that the scope meets the needs of the community.
Educate the community about the need for the project and the steps involved.
Improve performance of final product.
Reduce the risk of future problems.
Provide expertise in building envelope materials and compatibility issues.
Coordinate and comply with building code and local building department officials.
Provide professional observation and documentation of the work during construction.
Evaluate contractor payment applications
Expeditiously resolve unforeseen complications discovered during construction.
Understand the “big picture” and how specific building envelope repairs relate to the overall structure and site.
Gorman Richardson Lewis Architects (GRLA) recently named Chris Paszko, PE as Director of its Building Envelope Sciences division. Chris, a registered professional engineer, brings over a decade of experience in building enclosure technology, including performing evaluations of existing failed and deteriorated systems and designing repairs for Masonry, Flashing, Roofing, Waterproofing, and Windows. Previous work has included new construction as well as historically significant buildings for clients such as Harvard University, UNH, Town of Wellesley, and Massport.
Over in Burlington, MA, a 50,000 SF construction project at The Residence and Shoppes at Simonds Park is progressing. This development will contain two new retail buildings, just beginning to take shape, and an almost-complete residential building, which offers 29 apartments. Lately, attention has been given towards exterior details such as:
- precast details
- storefront entry systems on the retail buildings.
Medway Housing Authority’s Lovering Heights Elderly Development has its roof replacement project wrapping up. The five buildings' two-story residential complex has had a new asphalt shingle roofing system installed after its previous roof system failed prematurely. New system components also include the following:
Self-adhered waterproof underlayments
Synthetic water-resistant underlayments
Copper vent pipe flashings
Preformed aluminum drip edges
Aluminum gutters and downspouts
GRLA is looking forward to scheduling a punch list inspection once the contractor has finalized gutter and downspout installation.
M.E. O’Brien and Sons new 9,500 SF corporate office is currently under construction in Medway, MA, with a schedule of it being completed in mid-late July. The construction began during the winter and the project schedule was maintained through the rough late winter that New England endured.
With the vast majority of the building envelope installed, effort has now begun to concentrate on the finish sitework and the office interiors. Lately, landscaping and other exterior work is being completed and, during the last week, finishes have started to be installed, including:
- paint and flooring on the interior,
- feature wall utilizing decorative faux wood wall planks,
- ceramic tile floor to exhibit the Owner’s outdoor site furnishings.
Did you know that construction documents, by law, must include details showing how the building envelope is to be constructed?
This is great news! Why? Because clear, carefully crafted building envelope details make it easier for Contractors to build a reliable, high performance building.
And since buildings consume nearly half of all energy produced in the U.S. and the building envelope is responsible for about 25% of that energy use there are some big opportunities to improve performance here.
Add to that the opportunity to reduce risk - problems from water leakage make up a big percentage of construction litigation - and it's clear why we should all want better buildings.
Ok, so back to the key point - all of this wishing and hoping for better buildings is actually supported by the law! Here's the pertinent section from the International Building Code:
Wow, right? How often is all of that crystal clear in a set of construction documents?
Let's look at a definition real quick too: exterior wall envelope is defined in Section 1402.1 of the IBC as a system of components that provides protection from the detrimental effects of the exterior environment (slight paraphrase).
The important part of that definition is that it is all about function. Aesthetics are great, but the obligation to detail the building envelope is not about how it looks, it is about how it works.
Here's another key point: the building code is the minimum standard. It literally describes the worst building you're legally permitted to build.
Let that sink in.
So if you're a designer and you want to do better than the worst - if you want to be an A student instead of scraping by with a D - your building envelope designs and documentation need to go even further than what's described above.
When a client is hesitant about the cost to properly detail critical components of the building, we should all be reminding them of these obligations. Let's all work together to raise the bar in our industry.
Don't leave out key details. Understanding and clearly documenting how water, air, and heat are controlled by the building envelope is a critical part of the design process. It's OK to rely on building envelope specialists to help with the building envelope design - just like there are specialists for mechanical, structural, lighting, and other components of the design.
But it's not OK to leave it out.
How does a team of 8, managing 40 projects at once and constantly travelling to job sites, stay connected and organized? Microsoft Teams!
The Building Envelope Sciences Group of GRLA began using MS Teams in 2017, and the following benefits have now become an integral part of our daily project management.Read More
In the Building Envelope Sciences group, it is common for us to have dozens of deliverables to simultaneously review, revise, edit, and send out to the client. Keeping track of these reports or other similar tasks can be tricky especially when you’re not the only one working on it.Read More
We’re excited to be getting to work on designing cladding and window replacement at the Sargent School elderly and disabled housing building in Westford, MA.
This former schoolhouse, constructed in 1884, is located in an historic area of town. We’ll be working to maintain the character of the building while providing a reliable lower-maintenance building envelope. We are seeking to improve occupant comfort as well as simplify maintenance needs for the Westford Housing Authority.
Planning on construction next summer!
By Matt Copeland, Director of Building Envelope Sciences
"I'm a building envelope engineer."
That's the answer I give when people ask what I do for a living. It often results in a blank stare.
So here's the follow-up: the mysterious world of building envelope science, engineering, and consulting explained in 2 minutes or less.
What's a building envelope?
The Building Envelope Design Guide and other industry sources offer a bunch of definitions of the building envelope (also known as the building enclosure). But let's keep it simple:
The "building" part of building envelope is a misnomer. I've applied building envelope design principles to other structures too - like the Weeks Footbridge across the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge, MA.
The Four Barriers
In building envelope science there are four barriers, or control layers, that make up the building envelope (Lstiburek, The Perfect Wall). If you keep those layers continuous and in the right places you're golden. That's all there is to it.*
These are the four "loads" that must be controlled by the four barriers:
- liquid water
- water vapor
The tricks come in understanding where those control layers go, identifying what materials perform what function, and figuring out how to keep them all continuous in the messy and hectic world of construction. "The devil is in the details" applies here.
Building Envelope Consulting
Building envelope consultants apply principles of structural engineering, physics, and materials science, as well as knowledge of architecture and construction to solve problems related to the building envelope.
Building Envelope Technical knowledge
There are many technical problems to solve related to the building envelope.
Problems from water leakage make up a huge percentage of construction litigation, so getting these technical details right can save a lot of headaches down the road.
Improving energy performance is huge: the building envelope is responsible for 25% of all building energy use, and buildings consume 40% of all U.S. energy.
To improve building performance in these, and other, areas we need to be experts at roofing, waterproofing, windows, and all types of wall assemblies. With this expertise we diagnose the sources of leaking roofs, design flashing details that will keep windows water- and airtight for many years to come, and decide where to put the insulation and how much of it to use... among many other tasks.
Building Envelope Education
At the root of any building envelope design or repair exercise there are common threads: communication and education.
There are often several solutions to building envelope problems - and the right solution may be different for different people. Cost and reliability are frequently at odds, and understanding the potential risks and benefits of competing options allows decision makers to act with confidence.
So, as a building envelope consultant, our most important task is often to be an educator.
Where to Learn More
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Please let us know what you think in the comments below.
*Of course that’s not all there is to it.