Brick And Concrete Masonry Failures: Considerations For Preserving Post-War Era Buildings

Concrete masonry construction was common practice in post-war Modern architecture where it was used extensively in schools, churches, public buildings, and industrial complexes.  Brick and concrete block-bonded construction gained favor in many public buildings for its perceived durability, aesthetics, and relative ease of construction.  Over 50 years later, many of these buildings now have historic significance but suffer…

Mold-Resistant Construction Materials: Godsend Or Gimmick?

Quality moisture management relies heavily on guidance intended to reduce surface relative humidity below thresholds for mold.   The companion to this approach is centered on using materials that are more resistant to mold either by using naturally resistant materials or by employing materials and products manufactured with chemical inhibitors.  Mold-resistance strategies assume that materials can sustain…

Failures Associated with Synthetic Stucco Over Fiber Cement Panels

Failures have been documented in association with acrylic-based synthetic stucco applied over fiber cement panels.  Depending on local code requirements, the fiber panels are generally installed over an approved sheathing such as OSB or exterior gypsum.  A number of these systems have been patented and marketed as ‘synthetic stucco finish system’ or as high build finishes…

Unintended Consequences Of Self-Adhered Flashing

Self-adhered flashings (SAFs) and peel-and-stick membranes are used extensively in moisture control strategies for building enclosures.  When properly integrated with flashed components and weather-resistive barriers, this approach is seen as a time-saving, cost-effective solution to moisture-related failures.   However, an unintended problem occurs when moisture accumulates between the flashing and sheathing due to moisture leaks or as a…

Wood Moisture

There is a persistent misconception in the industry regarding acceptable moisture content of wood and wood products.  These assumptions can lead to flawed decisions regarding construction drying times, mold risks, and failure criteria. Dimensional lumber and sheet materials are subject to varied moisture conditions before arriving at the jobsite.  Whether air-dried or kiln-dried, these materials are usually targeted for drying to an average…

Exterior Insulation And Drainage Plane Woes

The IECC’s requirement for 1” continuous exterior insulation has prompted wall configurations that integrate various types of outbound insulating materials.    With all of these systems, adequate considerations must be made for the amount of moisture penetration from wind driven rain and the presumed location of this moisture load.   It is generally assumed that exterior surfaces of…

Frankensteinian Design: Energy Efficiency At The Expense Of Durability

Energy efficient initiatives, coupled with the IECC’s requirements for continuous insulation over exterior surfaces, have prompted a vast array of ‘Frankensteinian’ energy assemblies.  From three-coat stucco over outbound EPS to EIFS on structural insulated panels (SIPs), the combinations of such hybrid approaches appear endless.  While the professed energy efficiencies can be impressive, moisture management may…

Quotes: Building Durability

“In studying the art of house building, we discover that the most successful houses do not depend upon ornament, nor any particular kind of material, for their success, but rather upon good lines, simplicity and reasonableness. Any building worthy to be called a house should be built of enduring material, and with proper care should…

The Benefits Of Biomass Gasification For Buildings Reliant On Propane Or Electric Grids

We were recently introduced to a commercial application of biomass gasification during our visit the Deep Portage Learning Center in Hackensack, Minnesota.   What we learned surprised us. Biomass gasification relies on renewable energy sources such as cord wood, wood pellets, and agricultural crop wastes.  The technology is relatively simple, efficient, and utilizes the secondary burning…

Use of Particle Counters To Identify Contaminant Sources In Buildings

Tenants of a mixed-use office suite reported several unexplained health effects that were purportedly associated with building occupancy.  These effects include headache, respiratory problems, eye irritation, and discomfort associated with unpleasant tastes and odors.  The structure was previously affected by water damage from interior flooding.  The building tenants therefore suspected that ailments could somehow be…

The Minnesota Energy Code: A State Of Confusion?

States must comply with the U.S. Energy Conservation and Production Act (ECPA), which requires that commercial building codes meet or exceed the standards set forth by ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1.  These requirements address the design of the building envelope, lighting systems, HVAC systems, and other energy-using equipment. Minnesota’s current commercial energy code became effective on June…