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Causes For Building Envelope Failures

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By : Alan Trauger    99 or more times read
The majority of building envelope failures can be attributed to water in one of its many forms (gas, liquid, solid). Water degradation can take the form of biological degradation, freeze / thaw cycling or frost heave, condensation, high relative humidity (RH) levels, water ingress and absorption. Other environmental effects that are harmful to buildings are air, and its components (oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide), wind, biological and ecological agents, temperature and solar radiation.

Differential service life is a particularly important subject because it relates to the premature removal of building components simply because they are part of a system comprised of components with varying service lives. The component with the shortest life dictates the life span of the system as a whole. It is important to harmonize the service life of system components and ensure the accessibility of components for periodic maintenance, repair, and replacement.

Buildings are constructed to provide space for a function, and the functional requirements of a building typically require that the enclosed environment be controlled. The building envelope consists of those parts of the building that separate the controlled indoor environment from the uncontrolled outdoor environment. The enclosure acts as an interactive system that requires integration with the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, structural, architectural systems, as well as occupant comfort and loading to ensure building performance. The building envelope includes the foundation, walls, windows and doors, and roofs.

Performance requirements for the building envelope are:

  • Control heat flow

  • Control water vapor flow

  • Provide strength and rigidity

  • Control light and radiation

  • Be aesthetically pleasing

  • Be durable

  • Control air flow

  • Control rain penetration

  • Control fire

  • Control noise

  • Be economical


  • Poor design and detailing

  • Lack of buildability in design

  • Lack of knowledge of materials and components used

  • Lack of maintenance and repair

  • Environmental effects including water related factors, biological contributors, chemical contributors

  • Construction on contaminated land

  • Inadequate drainage

  • Movements due to settlement or temperature changes

  • Normal wear and tear and userís abuse

  • Poor construction workmanship and inappropriate installation

Water related factors of deterioration to buildings may take the largest toll on structures- Snow, rain, moisture, internal condensation, and humidity. Biological factors include fungi, bacteria, and insects. Chemical contributors may include oxidizing agents, i.e bleach, reducing agents, i.e. sulfides, acids, i.e. bird droppings, bases, i.e lime, salts, i.e. chlorides, or even chemically neutral substances such as fat or oil. Solar radiation, air quality, freeze thaw effects and wind are other environmental contributors to building deterioration.
Alan Trauger is a Real Estate and Building Consultant for residential and commercial properties. Mr. Trauger has attained over 35 years of diversified experience and knowledge in construction, finance, and real estate. He has been involved in various facets of asset management, acquisitions, real estate work outs, property management, construction, inspection analysis, development, sales, leasing, and Ad Valorem tax appeal for over 25,000 single family and multi-family units and over 2.5 million square feet of commercial buildings. A Court Appointed Receiver and Expert Witness. An experienced and knowledgeable problem solver, understanding processes, and issues related construction and real estate.

Mr. Traugerís wide spectrum of experiences, education, research, teaching, and publication of previous articles, commercial real estate market sales comparables, and textbooks enables him to assist property owners through the property assessment and tax appeal process.

To learn more about how your real estate tax assessment is prepared and how to appeal your property taxes - Property Tax Reduction Manual.

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