Building Envelope Failure Case Studies in High-Rise Construction

Apr 12, 2010

Many argue that through improved education, developers will increase their desire to make available the necessary budgets to construct more durable and better performing buildings; so therefore, more elaborate building codes may not be necessary. Unfortunately, in order to produce competitively priced buildings, developers are under pressure to build to the Standard prescribed by the Building Code (herein referred to as the “Minimum Standard”). However, the Standard of Care required of reasonable and prudent engineers and architects is sometimes above this Minimum Standard. In the zone between the Minimum Standard and the Standard of Care of a reasonable and prudent practitioner, lies an area where ignorance can be a marketable commodity. Through ignorance, willingness to design and implement inferior designs can improve business opportunities while increasing the risk of localized or systemic building envelope failures.

Vancouver’s building envelope failures, over 20 years, have provided a wealth of knowledge about what can go wrong with building envelopes. Unfortunately, the knowledge gained is not efficiently incorporated into the design industries’ knowledge base because the mechanisms to do so are lacking. To compound the problem, settlements of claims between building owners and the design and construction teams are usually confidential, reducing the likelihood that the lessons of building failures are absorbed into the design industries’ knowledge base.

This paper will review, with the author’s opinion on the expected Standard of Care, case studies of waterproofing, cladding, glazing and roofing failures and possible construction improvements.

Pierre-Michel Busque, P.Eng
Presented at: 
Building Enclosure Science & Technology (BEST2) Conference
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
Busque Engineering Ltd.
Building Enclosure Technology & Environment Council (National Institute of Building Sciences)

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