We provide the technical and laboratory services essential to diagnose problems with a building or facility, design the needed corrections, oversee the required construction work, and perform any necessary testing or sampling.
Frequently, we are contacted by building owners and facility managers who face operations or compliance issues that are difficult to identify. They know they have a problem, but they may not know precisely what caused the problem, or how to fix it. As such, requests for facility evaluation services are often not specific, but rather describe the symptoms of a building problem, such as mold growth, mildew, high humidity, noise, odors, leaking, etc. We use a multi-disciplinary approach to these problems. For example, it is the work of an industrial hygienist to sample indoor air and surfaces, knowledge of building science is needed to evaluate leaks in the building envelope, and engineering skills are needed to determine if HVAC equipment properly dehumidifies or piping is properly installed. We have all these skills in house, so that we can mobilize a team to fit the specific issues involved.
Where possible, we like to intervene to prevent problems before they happen by consulting to architects and engineers to develop designs and details that avoid later problems with building envelopes, mechanical systems, and plumbing systems. This includes design features and details that make a facility more resilient and better able to recover from a natural disaster.
Frequently we are asked to diagnose building envelope deficiencies that have led to mold growth. In this capacity we have investigated and designed corrective work for damage to buildings caused by hurricanes, storms, and floods, including design and monitoring of mold remediation projects. As a part of this work, we have evaluated water penetration and damage to built-up, shingle and single-ply roofs and flashings, including accessories such as parapet caps, expansion joints, and caulking. Sometimes, this work involved mapping of water and mold damage, determination of remediation requirements, oversight of remediation work, air sampling to monitor the indoor air quality of partially occupied buildings, and post-remediation clearance. After evaluation, we have designed restoration or replacement of roofs, windows, doors, walls, and curtain walls. We have analyzed wind damage and water penetration into and through aluminum and glass curtain walls, stone curtain walls, wood siding, brick, block, stucco, and concrete walls. We have been involved in many projects in which the initial point of water entry into a building is readily evident, but the water pathways and extent of water damage require detailed understanding and analysis of building construction and materials.
Modeling of water vapor and moisture migration through materials and assemblies requires computer modeling, called hygrothermal modeling, and has become a necessary part of design of building envelopes. The responsibility for this work falls on the architect, who is generally not trained or experienced in the necessary engineering and building science skills required to build a proper computer model. We offer hygrothermal modeling as a service, and, where needed, bring these skills to bear when analyzing problems in an existing building. Computer modeling can be useful in analyzing moisture transport through building assemblies exposed to weather conditions such as hurricanes and severe storms, or in situations where freeze-thaw damage occurs.
We have developed educational programs on building envelope design and moisture dynamics, such as a course in Mold Assessment and Remediation developed with The Environmental Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, and course on moisture control in buildings for the American Industrial Hygiene Association. We also developed a section “Mold and Moisture Damage in Building Envelopes” in the Whole Building Design Guide, published by NIBS (the National Institute of Building Sciences).
Architects are responsible for designing buildings that provide healthy and safe environments. In recent years, unfortunately, mold has become a source for indoor air quality problems and liabilities for architects, and this problem continues to increase. In the past, exterior walls were uncomplicated structures without insulation and with vast capability for storing any water that entered the wall assembly. Modern construction methods and materials, combined with the need to insulate, have changed this. More organic materials that can support mold growth are used in wall construction. Construction practices moving toward lighter assemblies have removed materials that are able to store water that enters the wall. Building envelope design, including the proper location of air barriers and vapor retarders, varies significantly in different climactic zones. With our expertise in building envelope design, we have assisted many building owners and architects with issues dealing with water control in wall design, as well as moisture dynamics resulting from the use of different building materials.
Here are some examples of past projects that illustrate our approach.
- Moisture Analysis in Storm-Damaged Florida Condominium
- Ventilation Rates Determined by IAQ Studies
- Plaster Study Classifies Wall and Ceiling Plasters in 200 Buildings Built Between 1880 and 1980
- High-Rise Office Building Extensively Damaged By Collapsing World Trade Towers
- Thickness of Fireproofing at World Trade Towers
- Evaluation of Mold Amplification and Moisture Dynamics in University Dormitory
- Water Intrusion in Community Library Building
- Historic New Orleans French Quarter Hotel Damaged by Hurricane Katrina