Sealing the Building Envelope

Facility management has become a complicated discipline in today’s changing world. Concerns, such as, strategic planning, ergonomics, bench marking, accessibility, post occupancy building evaluations, partnering and down sizing continue to devour a facility manager’s time. It is little wonder that building leaks do not rate preferential treatment. Inevitably, though, keeping a building safe from water infiltration becomes an important part of every facility manager’s duties.

Water infiltration causes major problems to a structure. Water damages a building first cosmetically then structurally. It is important to realize is that by the time a stain shows up on the interior of your building most likely irreversible damage has been caused to the exterior. Water soaked roof insulation will never dry out. The effective “R” value of the insulation is now destroyed. Trapped moisture in insulation can also decay a roof deck and will cause roofs to fail prematurely. Water entering walls will rust steel relieving angles and carrying beams which support the structure. Moisture penetrating reinforced concrete structures carry chloride ions which will rust reinforcing bars causing them to expand in size resulting in spauling concrete. As one begins to understand the mechanics of water infiltration one begins to understand the importance of keeping a building watertight.

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Should Historic Masonry Buildings Be Insulated During Renovation?

In Boston and other cities in the Northeast, many historic, solid mass masonry wall buildings are undergoing or in need of restoration. This article focuses on the potential negative impact of adding thermal insulation to the exterior building envelope wall systems of historic masonry structures and the benefits of proper restoration of the masonry structure itself coupled with installation air barrier systems.

When undertaking the restoration of a historic, masonry building, there is controversy over whether adding thermal insulation to the exterior building envelope wall system is a construction practice that will enhance the building’s energy efficiency significantly enough to justify the potential risk of causing structural damage to the masonry walls. It is an important issue, one that building owners, managers and/or developers should carefully consider prior to assuming that insulating the structure is a sound decision.

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What’s All This About Air Barriers?

There has been much talk about Air Barriers lately and much confusion regarding them; what they are, how they are achieved and even, why bother? The answers to these questions are often not as simple as one might think, and most often, quite surprising.

The United States Department of Energy has concluded that as much as 40% of the energy needed to cool or heat a building is lost due to air leakage into and out of buildings. Structural damage due to moisture condensation in building walls has been documented. And there are increasing problems with mold growth in buildings, causing severe health risks.

These facts led to the State of Massachusetts incorporating requirements for Air Barrier systems into the Massachusetts State Energy Code for Commercial and High-Rise Residential New Construction (780 CMR 13) as of January 1, 2001. Paragraph 1304.3.1 Air Barriers states: “The building envelope shall be designed and constructed with a continuous air barrier to control air leakage into, or out of the conditioned space. An air barrier shall also be provided for interior partitions between conditioned space and space designed to maintain temperature or humidity levels which differ from those in the conditioned space.”

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To “Roof” or Not to “Roof” That Is The Question

To repair or replace an existing roof is a more complex situation than most people realize. Many factors mis be taken into consideration. The first thing that must be determined is how widespread the problems are. Are the leaks confined to one area or do they occur in several areas?

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