Hurricane Preparedness for Homeowners

Hurricane Preparedness for Homeowners in Preparation of Tropical Storm Erika Making Landfall in Florida

As Tropical Storm Erika heads towards the Caribbean homeowners in Florida and other affected areas should ensure they are protected from the worst possible scenario. The hurricane preparedness experts at GCI Consultants, LLC (GCI) have put together a few tips to ensure your home is properly prepared for a severe hurricane.

Understand Potential Threats

When dealing with a hurricane the three most common threats to property as well as people are wind, wind-borne debris and storm surge. Homes that were not designed to withstand hurricane effects are the most likely structures to be damaged in a severe storm.

Tropical Storm ErikaMinimize Wind Damage

Wind pressure is an extremely powerful force of nature. Wind alone can cause the failure of windows, doors and glass as well as the loss of roof coverings. Windows and doors should all be locked and secured prior to a storm, preferably with storm shutters, if available. Window film or tape can also be used to reduce the amount of flying glass in the event of failure, but these materials do not add any additional strength to glass.

Do not attempt to open a door or window during the peak of a severe storm. If you are worried that a door or window may be vulnerable to blowing out it’s best to go somewhere in your home that does not have any windows with the doors closed.

Dangers of Wind-Borne Debris

If Tropical Storm Erika is upgraded to a hurricane and heads towards Florida, wind-borne debris could be a problem. Wind-borne debris consists of any items blowing around during a severe storm. These items could be roof coverings, garbage cans, pieces blown off of buildings, outdoor furniture and plants or vegetation.

Diminishing wind-borne debris is most often done through proper housekeeping prior to the storm. Make sure to bring in any loose objects from outside prior to a storm. It’s also smart to check your neighbors’ homes to ensure that they do not have any objects outdoors that could potentially cause damage if they became airborne during a storm.

The best protection from wind-borne debris is either properly designed and installed hurricane impact windows with laminated glass or storm shutters. If you don’t have storm shutters you can attempt to board up your windows, but it’s important that the boards are well secured or they can come off and become windborne debris themselves. Organizations such as FEMA and the American Plywood Association provide information online about how to properly protect glass windows and doors.

Storm Surges Are Extremely Powerful

If you live in a flood prone evacuation zone and are in the path of a severe storm you should evacuate immediately. Storm surge is extremely powerful and can wash homes or buildings completely off of their foundations during a violent storm.

About GCI

GCI is a consulting firm that specializes in the exterior building envelope including windows, doors, glass, exterior wall systems and roofs. See www.gciconsultants.com for more information about GCI.

Categories: Uncategorized

Water Penetration Testing

By Shauna Sproul

IMG_20150226_121637Field testing of building exteriors for water penetration, frequently simply called “water testing,” is essential for identifying manufacturing and construction defects in windows, doors, skylights, and other openings in the building envelope.  For example, a window might leak due to problems with installation of waterproofing and perimeter sealant details, or because of improper materials or methods used by the plant during manufacturing.

Many clients come to us for one-day water testing, conducted upon the completion of construction.  While such tests are certainly useful and productive, earlier engagement in the process can help contractors and building owners avoid costly, more complex issues frequently uncovered during one-day tests.

Water testing determines the resistance of manufactured windows, curtain walls, skylights, and doors to water penetration.  Proper water testing methodology follows the protocols set forth in the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E 1105 standard.  Under that standard, water penetration failure occurs when water leaks beyond a plane parallel to the vertical plane of the assembly’s innermost projection, not including interior trim and hardware.

While the test is a field version of laboratory certification tests and simulates the conditions of a wind-driven rain storm, laboratory testing itself of glazing systems and other building assemblies cannot reflect field testing results.  Materials and methods used in construction can significantly affect their performance in actual use.  Events occurring between shipping and installation as well as environmental influences can all have a negative impact on component and system performance.

How it’s done

Water testing measures penetration by applying water to the outdoor face and exposed edges of the tested assembly with a static external air pressure higher than the pressure on the indoor face.  Not only will it determine resistance of assembly components themselves, it can also reveal leakage between those assemblies and the surfaces in which they are installed.  While a manufactured component may successfully meet ASTM E 1105 water testing criteria against leakage into the building itself, water may penetrate an assembly, leading to degraded performance of materials.

IMG_20150602_093724

Water testing is typically conducted by sealing a chamber to the interior face of the assembly tested, then exhausting the air from that chamber to produce pressure differentials similar to those produced by weather. A rack of calibrated water nozzles sprays water at the proper rate on the exterior surface.  The air pressure differential may be uniform (constant) or cyclic (varied).  It’s important to note that air pressure varies greatly across the building envelope and the water testing methods applied should incorporate an understanding of that variation.  Though water testing uses similar equipment, air infiltration measurement is not included as part of the procedure.

When to test

Water testing may be conducted any time between initial assembly installation and construction completion.  However, earlier and repeated testing is advisable for multiple reasons.  Tests conducted upon initial installation provide easier inspection of interior surfaces for penetration and to identify the precise point(s) of penetration.  More importantly, with early testing, fabrication and installation problems can be discovered at a time when corrections are more easily made and at much lower expense since no interior wall components must be removed and replaced.

While building codes may not require it, every new construction project should be water tested regardless of size.  No project is too large or too small.  Many smaller projects don’t incorporate water testing simply to keep construction costs lower.  Any financial advantage disappears, however, if windows or doors start to leak and water testing reveals hidden problems.  The cost of water damage and remediation can greatly exceed the cost of early testing and consultation.

The ideal time to start water testing is when the first few glazing systems are installed.  Not only are problems more easily detected, design and potentially recurring issues can be corrected going forward.  Contractors and owners who rely on one-day water testing only when the project nears completion may be unnecessarily adding risk and cost to their construction projects.

Better still, engaging the full scope of services of a building envelope consulting firm like GCI can help identify water penetration and other building envelope issues at the planning and specification stage.  It simply makes more sense to solve water issues in a project’s development and before testing, not after leakage has occurred in a nearly completed building and added water damage to the combined problems.  Some potential leakage problems can be solved before windows and other assemblies have even been ordered.

The ASTM Standard is used for both the one-day testing and in the testing we would do on a full scope project, yielding the same results.  The concern is we cannot always fix the issues easily with a one-day test because the building is closed up and all the windows have already been installed.  In a full scope job we would test early enough to get the issues resolved before all the windows would go in.

Glazing System Replacements

By Jason BondurantIMG_1332

Replacing windows or doors is no small task. Just ask any building owner or manager who has faced the challenge. What may seem simple at first becomes increasingly complex, once all the factors involved are considered and construction starts. It goes beyond material costs, building codes, and contractors. You also must take into account who will be designing and managing the project. A bad installation can result in more problems than you started with. You need a collaborative approach, with everyone working together with the single goal of getting the job done right using the right products.

Building owners or managers will have to make many critical choices which will directly affect the success of the glazing replacement project.

Choosing the right time

Many people think the time to consider window replacement is when problems related to age and wear – wind and water leaks, paint, corrosion, mold and mildew problems, operating difficulties – become obvious. It might not be a good idea to wait that long, though, especially if your building is 20 years or older or more. Besides, the benefits of modern glazing systems show up in ways far beyond cosmetics. Consider that once popular single-pane aluminum slider windows have a heat loss rate approaching 50 percent even when properly installed.

The lessons learned from damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 provided the turning point for building codes and construction standards in US coastal areas and elsewhere throughout the nation. The experience may have been both painful and expensive, but today’s glazing systems are windborne debris resistant, energy efficient, and free from wind and water leaks. Plus, building codes continue to change and evolve in the 21st century as materials and technologies improve and provide even more risk mitigation.

It may be easy to feel good about such advances, but they still haven’t reached the vast majority of the nation’s commercial building environment still vulnerable to high winds and windborne debris. This deficit ensures it will take many years before a significant percentage of commercial buildings are protected, even if all new buildings are fully compliant. Changes in building codes and the benefits of new glazing systems should be incentive enough to begin investigating into upgrading your windows. The cost of a new glazing system may be high but the cost of an old glazing system which is not replaced until it finally fails during a storm could be astronomical.

Choosing the right system

“New windows” likely means more than just new glazing (glass), especially for older structures. New energy standards and impact resistance standards usually me
an replacing the glazing system –  glass plus structural components, including frames and anchorage – that make up the entire window or door. Some older buildings may require upgrades to the adjoining structure so that windows and doors can be properly anchored. Improvements in building science and materials all must be taken into account during the design and planning phase to ensure the final product will continue to perform many years into the future.

Updating the glazing of older buildings to meet current code compliance often presents unique obstacles – even though construction stringently met every once-current standard. New window systems’ tight tolerances may make installation in old existing walls difficult to tie into the existing structure to make them air- and water-tight. Plus, architectural design and aesthetics are as important for reglazing as they were when the original building plans were first drafted. Some owners may be interested in modernizing their building with a new style while more often than not they would like to preserve the original design intent.

With all the recent advancements in engineering design and materials, the benefits of a new glazing system can add up quickly. Of course, the obvious advantages include being water-tight and energy efficient, plus the potential for increased resale value. But not all benefits are financial. Lower maintenance requirements, easier window use, and reduced exterior noise infiltration all contribute to owner satisfaction and comfort.

Choosing the right team

It takes the right team with the flexibility to adapt to and meet the challenges of glazing system replacement. They should be fully engaged collaborators from the start to completion, throughout the entire installation process. No matter how thorough planning may be, concealed conditions – wall and flashing leaks, for example – might not be known until the job begins. They should be excellent communicators and managers, providing the ideas and tools necessary for the smooth completion of the project.

Considering all the variables – known and unknown – in glazing system replacement, choosing the right contractor becomes critical. They must stand behind their work. Replacing a glazing system involves both exterior and interior work. For residential buildings, that means contractors will be working in somebody’s home. Not only are they obliged to keep the inconvenience and possible damage at a minimum, they must ensure the safety of the residents and workers alike. They need to be very flexible.

Choosing the right designer/manager/consultant is even more critical. You’re more likely to be satisfied and have fewer problems from start to finish when you select someone like GCI Consultants, LLC with deep experience and knowledge in all facets of glazing system replacement. Our unique skill set and expertise in all phases and aspects of glazing system installation have led us to serve as expert witnesses in courtroom litigation throughout the nation. We know which window systems and installation methods that can be relied on and the ones to avoid. Most importantly, we work closely with clients, combining innovation with building science insight to eliminate potential problems that could occur during the design and construction phase.

A large scale glazing replacement or retrofit project can be a daunting task. These properties wanted to get the job done right, so they contacted GCI Consultants, LLC:

*  The Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood, Florida

*  Yacht Harbour Condominium, Coconut Grove, Florida

*  Renaissance Jaragua Hotel, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

*  The Alexander Hotel & Condominium, Miami Beach, Florida.

Let us know your glazing system challenges. We’re here to help from the very start.

The Importance of a Moisture Management Program

By Nate Sanders

Moisture Management is an approach intended to help building designers, contractors, owners, and maintenance staff prevent moisture problems and associated mold growth. Moisture intrusion and subsequent mold growth in buildings may affect the health and comfort of occupants, negatively impact rental income, and threaten asset resale. To avoid these issues, moisture and moisture sensitive building materials should be managed throughout the life cycle of the building, including design, construction, turn-over and operations and maintenance. All parties involved within the life cycle of a building (designer, owner, contractor, maintenance, & occupants) have a responsibility in the moisture management efforts to reduce the risk of moisture related problems and consequential mold growth. This is necessary because design flaws, construction defects, improper sequencing of installations, poor maintenance, and occupant activities can all contribute to moisture/water damage.

DESIGN

Designers are pushing the envelope to create new and interesting features and details in construction projects these days. However, the fundamental principles of buildings still hold true that water needs to be kept out of the building. The intricacies of pushing the envelope and creating new and unique buildings need to have the details vetted in order to have a design that truly keeps the water out.

Material selection also is a key component in new and cutting edge designs. Moisture sensitive materials in close proximity to moisture conveyance or impermeable materials need to be reviewed and clearly understood.

CONSTRUCTION

As projects progress into the construction phase the schedule becomes the dominating influence, sometimes to the detriment of the overall project. There are typically two main issues that cause large scale moisture related issues during construction; improper sequencing of materials, or incompatible materials adjacent to each other. Both of these can affect the schedule as it becomes one step forward and two steps back.

TURN-OVER

When a new building is ready to be occupied, does it really work as designed? A simple way to confirm is to functionally test the key items that are in place to control water or moisture. On the exterior of the building, the windows, roofs, and balconies can be spray or flood tested to confirm proper function. On the interior of the building, the plumbing, mechanical, and water conveyance can all be tested to confirm proper function and control of water and moisture.

OPERATIONS & MAINTENANCE

Very few items within a building are intended to last forever.  Proper maintenance of interior and exterior components will keep the critical moisture controlling items in proper working order for their intended life cycle. Do the building maintenance personnel know what these items are and how to keep them maintained? This is where training and O&M manuals are vital to the long term viability of any building.

For any type of building, no matter where they stand in the life cycle, controlling moisture is a key component in order to retain asset value and occupants’ well-being. GCI can assist any building, no matter where it stands in its life cycle, in identifying how and where moisture needs to be controlled.

GCI’s BUILDING ENVELOPE AND MOISTURE MANAGEMENT SERVICES

Building Envelope Consulting Services, combined with Moisture Management Services, help the Design and Construction Team prevent moisture problems. What better way to ruin a project that to have water leaking in and mold growth? This almost assures costly litigation and a bad experience.

GCI’s Building Envelope Services Include:

  • Design Assistance – reviews and collaboration with the Design Team to identify the best solutions and proper use of materials
  • Review of Shop Drawings and Submittals to confirm materials and systems going into a building meet the project requirements
  • Pre-Installation Meetings to get the entire Project Team on the same page and to review the project requirements and field conditions
  • Site Inspections to confirm the work is being installed in accordance with the project requirements, approved submittals and industry standard of care
  • Field Water Infiltration Tests for glazing, cladding and waterproofing to verify performance during construction before the building is occupied.

GCI’s Moisture Management Services Include:

  • Materials Review to confirm moisture resistant materials are being used to the fullest extent possible
  • Emergency Response Plan to address unexpected water release such as burst pipes or catastrophic events; this includes clean-up and confirmation that everything was dried properly
  • Infrared Interiors Scan prior to drywall installation to confirm no unintended water in interior spaces
  • Infrared Interiors Scan after drywall installation to confirm no unintended water in interior spaces
  • Interiors Acceptance Testing just prior to occupancy includes an infrared scan and testing of all mechanical and plumbing systems for moisture issues; this includes turning on all systems (washers, dishwashers, faucets, etc.) to check for leaks.

Wet Sealing Glazing Systems to Halt Water Intrusion

By Paul E. Beers

Example of Bad Wet Seal

Example of Bad Wet Seal

I recently tried a Google search for the term “Wet Seal” and found it is a clothing chain for teenage girls that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January.   I did not find any information about what I was looking for, which is a concept for sealing glazing systems in an attempt to halt water intrusion.  I then searched several major sealant manufacturers’ websites and again came up empty.  I found this to be very curious in that “Wet Seal” is a term I think most in the glazing and construction industry are very familiar with.  Finally, I found the term defined by the Glass Association of North America (GANA) as Application of an elastomeric sealant between the glass and sash to form a weather-tight seal.

Wet sealing is a remedial process.  It is not a part of new glazing system designs and should not be confused with “wet glazing,” which is when manufactured systems use sealants or tapes as part of their glazing detail.  Wet seals are applied remedially when a conventional drainage system has internal leakage that is difficult to access or expensive to repair.  In my experience with due diligence and investigations of water leakage in buildings, there are many buildings, particularly older ones, which have had some form of wet seals applied.

There are some important considerations when applying a wet seal.   First and foremost is that a wet seal usually changes the design concept of a system from collecting and draining water to a barrier system where all water is repelled at the exterior plane.  Once a wet seal is applied, if any water does enter the system, it is trapped inside with no provisions for drainage back to the exterior.  Regular inspections and maintenance are very important to identify and repair any avenues for water entry.  Water entry from surrounding areas, such as stucco, sealants, expansion joints, or even a roof leak above will also cause water to be trapped inside a wet sealed glazing system.

Window Rendering Featuring Wet Seal

Window Rendering Featuring Wet Seal

When applying a wet seal, it is critical to fully seal every possible avenue for water entry.  This includes glass to metal, metal to metal and perimeter sealant joints.  Each seal must be done properly and must tie in with each other.  The finished system should basically be one continuous seal across the entire system.  Since glazing systems experience very high temperatures in direct sunlight, silicone is the only material that should be used.  Manufacturers’ recommended details for the type of silicone, joint design, profile and installation must be carefully followed.

The wet seal solutions we have designed include cutting back existing gaskets and applying silicone at glass to metal joints and using preformed silicone seals for metal to metal applications.  We always involve sealant manufacturers to review and approve our details as being in accordance with their published recommendations.  Manufacturers can also provide recommendations about needed accessories, surface preparation, proper adhesion and compatibility with abutting materials.  Some manufacturers will provide up to a 20 year labor and materials warranty when following their strict guidelines.

For wet seals to work properly they must be designed and installed to be 100 percent perfect.  If there are any deficiencies, water enters the system and becomes trapped, which can cause long term degradation of systems.  Therefore, it is critical to proof the concept in the field and have a high degree of quality control during installation.  We recommend that an in-place mockup of the repair be installed at project startup to include all typical conditions.  The mockup up should be inspected and approved and then tested using ASTM E1105 Standard Test Method for Field Determination of Water Penetration of Installed Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls, by Uniform or Cyclic Static Air Pressure Difference.  After successful testing of the in-place mockup, installation should be carefully monitored by a third party and the sealant manufacturer must remain fully involved.

I consider a wet seal application to be a last resort after other considerations to repair and restore a system to the original design concept are deemed impractical or too expensive.  Wet seals only are as good as their design and workmanship and last only as long as the materials continue to perform.  While wet seals can be an effective and long lasting solution, they are basically a “band-aid” to correct problems that cannot be solved conventionally.  Wet seals are often considered the easy, cost effective solution, but it really is “buyer beware” and all of the pros and cons should be carefully evaluated.

New Acquisition Positions GCI for Industry Leadership

New Acquisition Positions GCI for Industry Leadership

Merger with IAQCP brings together top building protection experts

West Palm Beach, Fla – January 29, 2014 – Building envelope specialists GCI Consultants, LLC announces its merger with one of the country’s top indoor air consulting firms, Indoor Air Quality Consulting Partners (IAQCP).  The new acquisition positions GCI as a leader in the building construction industry, as the company will now offer in-house services for protecting both the exterior and interior of new and renovated residential or commercial buildings.

Unlike its industry competitors, who typically employ a general inspector to assess damage, make recommendations and take preventative measures, the collaboration between GCI and IAQCP now provides clients with world class experts in exterior glazing, wall, roofing, cladding and waterproofing systems as well as indoor air quality control.  “We have a specialist for each building segment, and our people are well trained to collaborate,” says Paul Beers, one of the managing partners at GCI Consultants.

“The merger of GCI and IAQ Consulting Partners elevates GCI into a class of its own,” continues Beers.  “As far as we know, we are the only company who offers an entire slate of qualified experts who can evaluate a building from roof to foundation and everything in between.  If buildings are properly protected from the outside, now we are prepared to help owners assess and correct problems on the inside, when water or other elements are creating problems.”

Equipped to find the root cause of “sick” buildings, the new indoor air quality team will specialize in hospital indoor air quality, hotel indoor air quality, office building indoor air quality, and commercial indoor air quality.  Led by industry veterans Hall Brodie, PE, and Nate Sanders, CIH, LEED AP, IAQCP is known for its expertise in forensic investigations to discover the sources of moisture, mold, chemical substances and other items that can wreak havoc on a building’s interior.

Geography also played a key factor in the merger.  IAQCP is located in Atlanta.  As GCI expands its presence in the Southeastern states, an Atlanta office will help facilitate growth.  GCI currently has offices in West Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville.  For Brodie and Sanders, Florida’s moist climate creates a logical market for helping owners protect indoor air quality.

GCI and IAQCP recently partnered to work on 12th and Laurel, a large luxury residential project in Nashville.  The successful collaboration was impetus for the acquisition.

“We couldn’t be more perfectly poised for growth, and feel like 2014 will be a significant milestone for all involved,” says Beers.

Categories: Company News

Going the Extra Protection Mile at Procacci Development’s BB & T Bank Building

At Procacci Development Corporation, one of South Florida’s leading development, construction and management companies, they take hurricane protection seriously.  In fact, the company has developed a reputation for constructing and retrofitting Class A commercial office buildings that are so strong, they meet the requirements of Public Shelters and enable tenants to continue business immediately following a hurricane.  Another plus:  Procacci is able to obtain high quality insurance with reduced deductibles – a challenge faced by many property owners throughout Florida – savings which they are able to pass onto their tenants.

The upcoming complete retrofit of the windows at the BB & T Bank Building in Doral, FL purchased by a Procacci affiliate last year is just one of many examples of Procacci’s efforts of ensuring that its buildings have a well-protected façade, critical to withstanding hurricane-force winds and flying debris.  Working in tandem with GCI Consultants, LLC, Procacci will replace all windows in the existing 4 story, 35,000 square foot structure.  The new windows are designed to withstand winds up to 176 miles per hour of a Category 5 hurricane and are made with large missile impact glass.  GCI helped assess the building façade on the 13-year old building, developed plans and specifications, consulted on the glazing selection and conducted water infiltration tests.

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Procacci’s “Built Procacci Strong” initiative meets or exceeds the rigorous standards of the Zurich insurance company’s Highly Protected Risk (HPR) program.  Procacci, Zurich and GCI have collaborated on many projects, which have validated the fact that building envelope protection is good business for everyone involved.

“Tenants of our buildings sometimes have no idea about the effort and cost involved in our designing and constructing work environments that are safe and that will withstand Category 5 storms, but it’s rewarding for us to make such an important contribution,” says Philip J. Procacci, Chief Executive Officer of Procacci Development Corporation in Baca Raton, FL.

About Procacci Development Corporation

Procacci Development Corporation is a full-service development, construction and management company with extensive knowledge and experience in commercial office space. Our Company has a defined mission that concentrates on achieving a superior experience for our tenants. We are dedicated to providing real estate solutions that will have a positive impact on our clients’ operations by delivering quality results that exceed the highest industry standards.

Since 1976, we have been creating innovative projects, building quality properties and managing for long-term success. By concentrating on responsiveness, flexibility, persistence and accountability, the Procacci Team has built a solid track record of sustaining tenant satisfaction.

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