As summer thunderstorms buffet condo properties throughout New England, less-than weather-tight windows, doors, and roofs may begin to make themselves known. And though condo boards never enjoy addressing the perennial problem of weatherproofing, now is the time to consider the matter—before the cold winds of winter blow.
“In older buildings, I think people are much more expecting to find issues of what I call lack of modern buildings methods,” says Jack Carr, P.E., RS, LEED-AP, senior vice president of Criterium Engineers, based in Portland, Maine. “I think the more interesting situations are newer buildings where you find these problems.” It’s not unusual, say experts, to find building envelope issues in properties that are less than five years old. “Often the first issue is water infiltration—some water is getting into the cavity and wetting the inside,” says Carr. “So the investigations of buildings focusing on water infiltration are key.”
“Slowly but surely, the condo industry is accepting the fact that you can’t talk about a separate roofing project, a separate siding project, a separate window and door project. You have to talk about integrating these projects together,” notes Ralph Noblin, P.E. As president of Noblin & Associates, a consulting engineering firm based in both Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and Dover, New Hampshire. Noblin says he’s often seen condo boards who misunderstand the integrated nature of the various structural elements. “It’s not a siding discussion; it’s not a window discussion; it’s not a skylight discussion. And I tell them it has to be a discussion about all those things, because that is the building envelope.”
From the Top Down
A condominium’s building envelope begins at the ridge of the roof and extends downward to the foundation, physically progressing under the building and around it—“like a big rubber band surrounding the building,” says Carr. “Things usually start at the roof or the attic. The attic is key to many of the issues inside a building,” he notes. “When we put things in terms of priorities, we always discuss that it’s best to address the attic first.”
Proper insulation of the attic is key to energy efficiency and overall building health, say the experts. But often times, correct installation methods are misunderstood. Proper installation should include insulation placed beneath the attic’s floor, not above its ceiling. The latter method—a common mistake in amateur construction—serves only to trap heat inside the attic, leading to rooftop wear and premature roofing failure.