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Securing the Building Envelope


A good contractor knows that quality is one of the most important elements to ensuring a successful project. For this reason, many companies, including MW Builders, place an emphasis on putting the right people and protocols in place to make sure that every part of the structure — from the foundation to the roof — can withstand the natural elements. And nature can be quite the enemy. Water infiltration is one of the biggest problems in the construction of a building.

Planning Makes Perfect
For many projects, the exterior design and aesthetic is just as important as the interior. While the sky may be the limit from a design perspective, it is essential that all parties work together to make sure the final end product looks as good as the rendering. The architect’s aesthetic should translate into functional details with the right systems and materials to achieve optimal performance. Understanding and addressing potential detailing and material issues is best suited for early in the design process.

Mock-ups are a fundamental element of ensuring the building envelope works both on paper and off. Once the entire team is on board — engineer, architect, general contractor, and third-party verification — the design is ready to be taken to the next level.

Any issues with building envelope design will surface sooner when the team is working in a design build or assist capacity. Due to the nature of the early collaboration of this team set-up, potential issues rise to the surface much faster and are able to be resolved much sooner.

While the design may work on paper, one of the biggest causes of building envelope issues is due to transitioning 2D architectural details into 4D construction, as well as incorrect installation. Developing sequenced 3D details for complex interface conditions and working with the trades through pre-install meetings and mock-ups to get things right is key. Details need to be buildable and work with the sequence of construction, and ultimately, coordination between trades at interfaces keeps projects on the path to success. Ensuring there is a quality control check around installation of all exterior elements is also important. Manufacturer instructions differ by product and a close eye must be kept on the project to ensure all parties adhere to the correct instructions.

Check and Recheck
While it may seem like there are many opportunities for pitfalls, one of the surest ways to avoid costly mistakes is to designate quality control managers onsite.

“We have a lot of experience working on government projects, where a designated quality control team member is mandated on each project,” said Mark Hegarty, vice president of operations at MW Builders. “Through that work, our team has grown accustomed to paying attention to every minor detail to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. This is the key to every successful project.”

It’s more than just assigning a quality control manager; it’s adding in other checks and balances, too. Project management software is often utilized to help track and organize quality issues and helps the team manage fixing problems. Third-party verification is another key element of success when it comes to securing the building envelope.

The quality of the construction of each project is ensured through the successful implementation of a quality control program and carrying out a three-phase inspection approach for all of the definable features of work. MW Builders’ three-phase approach includes the preparatory, initial, and follow-up phases, with inspections held at each phase to assure compliance with project quality standards.

Building envelope consultants have knowledge in the energy efficiency, code compliance, sustainability, integrity, and longevity of the building, as it relates to its exterior. Their expertise can be utilized throughout the building process — from planning to implementation and eventually to the final proofing.

“Our role as Building Enclosure Consultants is to develop functional enclosure details without destroying the architect’s aesthetic intent, so when we do our work well, it is virtually invisible,” said Christopher Norris, principal at Walter P Moore. “We find that early involvement of the contractor through a design-assist approach helps to develop a collaborative team, which leads to better project outcomes.”
Water intrusion is a common and destructive issue for the structural integrity of a building. Adding a qualified building envelope consultant to your project team helps provide reasonable assurance against problems and pitfalls developing before, during, or after construction.

Stronger Together
Building envelope issues arise quickly and can cause major damage. Make sure to avoid costly problems and schedule delays by paying close attention to details, working with trusted partners, and keeping open lines of communication among team members.

“You’re only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself,” said Hegarty. “We know that when we are on projects with our trusted partners, we have a much higher likelihood of counting the project as a success at its completion.”