With the Atlantic hurricane season running from June 1 through Nov. 30, it’s crucial that your buildings and components are structurally sound to withstand heavy winds, rains and severe storms. Having a thorough, professional inspection performed is part of routine risk mitigation to help you avoid costly damage, expenses, aggravation, and potential disasters in the future.

What Is a Building Envelope?

That part of any building that physically separates the interior environment from the exterior environment is called the building enclosure or building envelope. The building envelope is the scientific term for numerous building systems that protect the interior of the building from exterior elements. The building systems that make up the building envelope include: the roofing systems, exterior wall systems, air barriers, foundations, floors, windows and doors.

Why Do I Need to Get It Inspected?

A Building Envelope Inspection includes a survey and assessment on the building’s ability to keep exterior elements out and interior elements inside. Every building manager’s operations and maintenance program should include an annual Roof & Exterior Building Envelope Inspection by a licensed, accredited expert that includes the roof and exterior envelope. Until a problem is detected, it can’t be fixed.

Much like a vehicle, buildings experience extreme wear and tear throughout their lifetimes, and nothing strains the structural integrity of a building quite like severe weather. Routine assessments and repairs can mean the difference between your building’s systems retaining integrity or failing entirely.

Roofs Aren’t The Only Elements That Leak

While roofing leaks tend to be common culprits of damage as they are often the first line of defense, there are many other ways water can enter a building’s interior, and that is exactly what a Building Envelope Inspection will discover. Things that we look for at Venture Construction Group of Florida (VCGFL) include:

  • Is there a building grade issue that is forcing water into the building?
  • Are there cracks or gaps in the mortar joints of a brick facade?
  • Are the seals physically sound or are they wind damaged, deteriorating or splitting?
  • Is the porosity of the EIFS and split-face block up to par?
  • Is the lintel detail around doors accurate per building codes?
  • Are the window wells properly installed?
  • Are the drains clear and clog free?
  • Are there any areas around the foundation that may be susceptible to leaks due to the pressure produced by water in the soil surrounding the foundation?

Even though the roof is always included in the Building Envelope Inspection, these are just some of the other issues that can also be the culprits of water intrusion.

According to a recent article in Building Enclosure magazine, the effects of envelope performance—or failure—can extend all the way through the building, especially in regard to moisture. Although elements closest to the exterior are likely the most affected, water has a tendency of finding its way deep into a structure. Not only can this cause leaks, flooding, and deterioration, intruding moisture is a frequent cause of problems with indoor air quality (IAQ). When moisture combines with organic material used in building products, it creates a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.

One of the most important functions of the roof and exterior envelope of a structure is to prevent water and vapor from penetrating the structure. If leaks are present in either the roof or walls, water can slowly accumulate. Precipitation deposited in an exterior envelope or roof can drain further into the structure. These issues can eventually lead to structural and foundational failure, resulting in expensive and complicated repairs. Even a seemingly minor crack in a parapet cap can lead to a large amount of water entering the wall. As this water is transmitted inside of the structure, it will rust any steel components and framing, saturate insulation and other material, and cause the entire exterior envelope to shift. Repairing a parapet cap or small leak is exponentially less difficult and less expensive than replacing and repairing an entire roof and exterior wall system.

Importance of Pre-Hurricane Season Roof & Exterior Envelope InspectionsPhoto Source: Hoffman Architects

Weather Impacts

During a hurricane or other severe storm, the risk of damage is compounded even further by massive amounts of stress on structures caused by forceful winds and heavy rains. With wind speeds reaching upwards of 158 miles per hour during a hurricane, wind mitigation becomes key to preventing massive structural failure. The average storm total rainfall during a hurricane is about 16 inches, with 70–75% of the storm total falling within just a 24-hour period. An already compromised roof and exterior envelope will not retain integrity under such pressure.

Your building’s roof and an exterior envelope are parts of a well-oiled system that protect the structure of a building and its interior. This system works ideally when all of the components are functioning together optimally. Any underperforming components, due to inadequate design or material degradation, can lead to the entire system failing and leaving the building vulnerable to extreme damage.

How Often Should I Get A Building Envelope Inspection?

You want to be certain that your roof and exterior envelope are able to resist the elements. Here in Florida, we recommend getting an annual Pre-Hurricane Roof & Exterior Envelope Inspection to detect and mitigate minor issues before they become major. These routine inspections are your first line of defense in identifying the risk of these major issues, before they can happen. These high-level assessments include recommendations for repair and/or replacement of aging components, and also identify design, installation and/or material problems while they are still small. The report findings will provide reliable documentation that you can present to your insurance company if the need arises for you to file a claim. Unfortunately, many property owners fail to understand that waiting to fix a problem until after a major storm can be prohibitively expensive.

With over 20 years of experience, VCGFL is an award-winning leader in commercial and industrial construction throughout Florida, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Bahamas and the Caribbean. Call 1-866-459-8351 for a Pre-Hurricane Roof & Exterior Envelope Inspection.