With age, facades may experience degradation as a result of normal wear and tear and chemical exposure. Moisture, either penetrating the exterior or escaping the interior of a building, can cause rust and deteriorate supports. Water vapor pressure trapped within the veneer along with freeze/thaw action can result in cracks and spalls. Building movement in the form of shortening, caused by creep and shrinkage, and foundation settlement can cause cracks, spalls, and buckling of the façade. Differential expansion and contraction, caused by temperature and moisture changes, can also lead to similar failures. As one can imagine, northern climates experience more severe façade degradation compared to southern climates due to the colder temperatures, significant snowfall, extended periods of below freezing temperatures, and larger seasonal temperature changes.
Thirty or more years ago, not much was known about the effects of moisture changes and building movements on facades. Consequently, buildings constructed in this era lack modern detailing, including expansion and contraction joints and flexible connections, which address these effects. It is estimated that a piece of masonry falls off of a building in the United States once every three weeks. Unfortunately, it has taken front page news of personal injuries, deaths, and property damage to prompt governmental authorities and large private property owners to impose restrictions.
Major cities such as Chicago, Boston, Columbus, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, and St Louis have adopted façade ordinances. The variability of these laws, ranging from visual inspection only to both visual inspection and close-up physical examination, led to the development of ASTM E 2270, Standard Practice for Periodic Inspection of Building Facades for Unsafe Conditions. This standard is intended for adoption by model building codes and local municipalities, as well as owners of multiple buildings. The adopting authority has only to define which buildings within their jurisdiction require inspection based on height, age, and occupancy. With roughly only 15,000 buildings subject to façade ordinances in nine cities across the nation, there are a lot of other possible time bombs out there requiring inspection and remedial action.
The IEI Advantage
Determining the root cause of a facade deficiency can be very challenging, though not impossible if you understand how façades and building superstructures are constructed, how they behave when subjected to movement and load, and the possible failure mechanisms involved. As experts in the design and construction of building facades, and stability and deterioration mechanisms relating to the specific materials and assemblies of facades, Innovative Engineering Inc’s facade inspection services include a critical examination of as-built drawings, user interviews and research, broad and close up inspection of the building façade, photographic evidence collection, and estimating repairs and reporting. A variety of inspection techniques are utilized depending on the situation, including but not limited to rappelling and bore scope examination. All inspections are executed with complete regard for safety using a 2-man buddy system consisting of an engineer and inspector for each site visit.