A high-rise office building/hotel complex in the New Orleans area was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina’s wind-driven rains which penetrated through the building’s curtain wall, as well as by hurricane-related flooding, which resulted in damage throughout the lower floor of the building. Additional damage occurred because the flooding, and difficult access to the disaster area, made it difficult to mobilize restoration workers. Restoration following the hurricane resulted in a complete renovation of the building. We were commissioned to determine the extent of hurricane related damage, as opposed to renovation work and betterments, in support of the building owner’s insurance claim.
To assist in our analysis, we were provided with construction documents for the building, and for the post-hurricane restoration work, as well as all testing reports, including moisture and mold testing. We visited the building to acquaint ourselves with the construction, and to interview building staff, and staff of neighboring buildings. Detailed meteorological records were acquired and analyzed to determine the velocity and direction of winds and associated rains and compare this to damage suffered by the building. Interviews found that roof ballast was blown from neighboring buildings shattering windows in the subject building. Construction drawings were reviewed to locate pathways for hurricane driven water. Moisture maps were prepared to correlate moisture damage to the building with hurricane damage. Building codes were reviewed, and building code officials interviewed to determine the impact of required code upgrades on the restoration process. The construction schedule was analyzed.
Our conclusion was that virtually all of the work done in the building resulted from hurricane damage. Review of the schedule found that the owner was a remarkably efficient contractor and was able to restore the building well ahead of reasonable expectations. To explain these finding to technical laypeople in a court room we created multimedia presentations incorporating video documentation of the hurricane, photographic site documentation showing the extent of damages, and 2-D and 3-D computer animations to describe water pathways through the building and to illustrate the conditions that allowed for mold growth within the building after the hurricane.