In order to stay ahead of envelope issues, take a more proactive
approach. Rather than waiting for
a costly problem to appear, regular
checks with a consultant might allow
you to get ahead of moisture leaks
and save money in the long run.
Ford suggests that you inspect
annually, depending on the building. Performing a visual survey
with envelope experts is a good
practice, and having your maintenance team look for visual issues
also gives you a chance to stay
ahead of the game. Springtime can
be a particularly good time to do an
annual check so you can take stock
of conditions after winter.
“If you’re a proactive owner,
there are some things we can do
from a consulting perspective
where we would do a visual assess-
ment of the building and look for
some typical visual keys that could
be a sign of moisture or thermal
infiltration. We can also perform
water testing and infrared ther-
mography of a building from the
inside or the outside,” says Ford.
“Even if you don’t hire a consultant
annually, at least go around and
But if you do inspections on your
own, you might miss something
that a consultant would be able
to catch earlier. In some cases,
it might not be possible to find
problems on your own, but if a leak
eventually reveals itself as a serious
problem, contact a specialist soon.
“Often the maintenance manager or the owner doesn’t find the
signs until the damage is already
done,” explains Lehr. “But once
there are signs of moisture infiltration, it’s crucial to report that
moisture problem and get a specialist to investigate the problem. The
sooner it gets resolved, the better.
The longer moisture sits, the more
it spreads and does more damage.”
No Half Measures
Once you find a moisture leak
issue in your facility, the clock is
ticking and you need to ensure that
you resolve the issue completely.
FMs that wait or inadequately fix
moisture leaks typically face much
larger problems down the road.
With budgets weighing heavily on FMs, some are pressured
into make poor decisions that only
reduce costs in the short term.
Instead of fully addressing the
problems in the exterior wall, some
FMs try to come up with a temporary fix that they assume they can
continue to apply over time. Others
might completely ignore the problem with the hopes that it won’t
cause any long-term consequences.
But as the leak overcomes the half-hearted effort or becomes too widespread, costs skyrocket.
“It’s not good to ignore the leaks
or cover them up. That always leads
THERMAL LEAKS in the
In addition to moisture leaks, thermal leaks can also ail a building, although they are often not as threatening in their scope of damage as moisture
leaks. Thermal leaks will reduce your building’s
energy efficiency and allow potentially damaging
condensation to form in your walls.
“If you have a moisture leak, you obviously have
an air leak and that’s going to cause a thermal
leak,” says Sage Lehr, Engineering Manager at IWR
North America. “Sometimes you don’t have an
obvious hole that’s letting in moisture, but it is let-
ting in air and vapor. If warm air comes in contact
with cold surfaces, condensation occurs.”
However, you don’t need a physical penetra-
tion for there to be a thermal leak. A considerable
amount of energy is wasted simply through the
building materials that comprise your building
envelope. Thermal bridging is a common problem
in exterior wall systems when parts of the wall
aren’t insulated or there is a change in materials
or systems that transfer heat differently, explains
David T. Ford, Principal and Managing Director of
the Diagnostics Group at Walter P. Moore.
Providing consistent insulation throughout the
building and incorporating thermal masks to maintain air temperature are the best methods to prevent thermal bridging.
“We had fewer thermal bridging issues in older
buildings with several layers of masonry,” says
Ford. “The problem with those older walls is that
they were often not insulated at all. With newer
wall systems, thermal bridges are collectors of
energy, so depending on the wall and how many
you have, they could have a significant effect on
the amount of energy needed to heat or cool the
building because energy is conducted across the
OLDER BUILDINGS WITH SEVERAL LEVELS
of masonry can provide thermal masks, but they
are often not insulated. New buildings, on the
other hand, are typically well insulated but have
many thermal bridges that allow heat transfer.
WHILE THE COSTS FOR ENVELOPE REPAIRS MIGHT CLASH WITH
YOUR FACILITY’S BUDGET, it is important to fully resolve moisture
leak issues. Any temporary fixes or half-hearted attempts to stop these
problems will cost more down the line.