Publications > Construction Technology

Coping with Building Disasters & Failures

Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake

Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake October 17, 1989. CC-ND

In this article, Thomas K. Butt, FAIA, offers constructive suggestions for building owners who want to be prepared for the unexpected, and proven techniques for reducing the recovery time following natural disaster or building failure. These helpful tips on preparing maintenance manuals and disaster reaction plans can also reduce operating costs and provide building owners with more efficient management throughout the life of the building. Providing such resources in the care of buildings could save substantial sums in ongoing maintenance costs and could make the difference between financial ruin and successful recovery when disaster strikes.

Read More

Window and Door Design and Installation Guide

Nystrom Elementary School

Nystrom Elementary School CC-ND

This post explores basic information on the design, specifying and installing doors and windows. Techniques for installation of “punched” windows and doors have been evolving continually over the last two decades. For many years, the accepted standard involved four strips of flexible flashing integrated with a nailing fin and the water resistive barrier (WRB) at the window perimeter. This concept was easy to understand and implement because the window fins, the flashings and the WRB were typically all in the same plane. It is amazing, however, that so many designers and builders were still able to get it wrong. Read More

Plaza Deck Design Primer

Plaza Design, Frank Hagel Federal Building

Plaza Design, Frank Hagel Federal Building CC BY-ND

This primer points out key issues for designing and constructing a successful plaza deck system. A plaza deck is a walking surface, which sometimes can accommodate vehicles, typically waterproofed to protect the underlying structure and/or occupied spaces below. Common surface treatments include concrete, ceramic tile, stone or other paving material, usually with a bi-level drain used to accept both surface run-off and water at the waterproofing membrane level. Structural substrates are commonly wood or concrete. Read More

Westcon Tribune

Avoid litigation and achieve better design and construction

Avoid litigation and achieve better design and construction, photo credit Joe Gratz. CC-ND

Architects and engineers become defendants in construction defect litigation because of allegations that they breached the standard of care – that is, they practiced in a negligent manner that caused or contributed to a construction defect that resulted in damage to someone. Tom Butt's presentation at the Westcon symposium included remarks about construction litigation in general, the design professional’s standard of care, using standards to avoid litigation and achieve better design and construction, and tips to avoid waterproofing failures. Read More

Water Resistance and Vapor Permeance of Weather Resistive Barriers

ASTM International is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services

ASTM International. CC-ND

This paper, which is limited to the properties of water resistance and water vapor permeance, provides information that may be helpful in understanding, selecting, and using weather resistive barriers. Weather-resistive barriers (WRBs) are typically used in exterior walls of low rise frame buildings under claddings such as stucco (cement plaster), wood and wood derived products, vinyl (PVC), and masonry veneer. WRBs are primarily intended to provide resistance to water that may penetrate the outer cladding. WRBs also provide resistance to passage of air to varying extents but generally are moderately permeable to water vapor. Traditional WRB materials were limited to asphalt saturated felts and papers, but polymeric sheets have taken a growing share of the market in recent years.
Read More

Soffit/Weep Screeds in Cement Plaster (Stucco) Construction

Stucco remains one of the most popular cladding materials in the west and southwest United States. Photo credit Dante Alighieri CC-ND

Conventional stucco, also called cement plaster, is a mixture of Portland cement, sand and water, to which plasticizers, traditionally lime, are often added to increase workability. In wood frame construction, stucco is usually applied in three coats over metal reinforcement (lath), with or without solid backing. Properly used, stucco is a desirable cladding material that is hard, strong, fire-resistant, rot and fungus resistant and durable. It adapts to any shape, is low in first cost and
has minimal requirements for maintenance. It remains one of the most popular cladding materials in the west and southwest United States. In spite of its many advantages, stucco has, when misused or abused, distinct undesirable characteristics that can cause or contribute to serious problems or construction failures. The undesirable result most often seen is water intrusion resulting in damage to structure or building contents. Read More

Hardboard and OSB Siding

Many manufacturers of hardboard and oriented strand board (OSB) siding have been hit with class-action lawsuits across the country. Read More

Performance of Asphalt Fiberglass Shingles

Asphalt Fiberglass Shingles

Asphalt Fiberglass Shingles CC-ND

Roofing specification writers should be cautious and be aware that not all asphalt fiberglass shingles are created equal and that stated warranties should not be regarded as insurance policies. Horizontal or vertical splitting or cracking of fiberglass shingles has been a concern in the roofing industry over recent years. Following complaints from roofing contractors, studies done by the Western States Roofing Contractors Association in 1992 and 1995 showed that asphalt fiberglass shingles, particularly the 20-year guaranteed shingles, were failing prematurely, some as early as six months, with average failures occurring at about five years. Read More

ASTM Task Group Addresses Challenges of Designing and Constructing Weather-Resistant Frame Buildings

ASTM International is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services

ASTM International. CC-ND

ASTM Task Group E06.21.14, chaired by Serge Fedorov, AIA, an architect with the Oakland, CA Housing Authority, is closing in on a national standard that is intended to result in low-rise frame buildings that are resistant to leaks. Read More

Architect Disciplined for Designing a Flat Deck

Although the debate over substrate slope in protected membrane roofs may continue, a recent disciplinary action by the California board of Architectural Examiners seems to have ended any debate over surface slope. Read More

Environmentally Certified Wood Products

Forest Stewardship Council

Forest Stewardship Council CC-ND

The Forest Stewardship Council (an independent, non-profit, non-government organization) was created as an international accrediting organization to ensure public credibility and rigorous standards of forest product labels in the marketplace. Without the FSC to evaluate and monitor certifiers, product claims about forest management would eventually lead to a loss of public credibility and trust in the reliability of forest product certification. Read More

Water Testing as a Diagnostic Tool for Building Leaks

In the field of construction diagnostics and litigation, water testing is frequently used to find the source of water intrusion, and less frequently, to proof test prototypical repairs. Selecting the type of test and conducting it properly is important, not only so that it will be an effective diagnostic tool, but also so that it will be credible if presented in court in conjunction with expert testimony. Read More

The Search for the Perfect Weather-Resistive Barrier

Find out what improvements are being proposed in the specification, manufacture and evaluation of weather resistive barriers - commonly known as building papers, house wraps and air barriers. Read More

Vinyl Windows May Exacerbate Water Intrusion in Stucco Walls

Because of a very high coefficient of thermal expansion, vinyl window installation in stucco walls may result in large joints and water intrusion between the window and the stucco cladding. Read More

ICBO Reports Now Available On-line Free

How to obtain up to date ICBO and other evaluation agency reports instantly on line at no cost. Read More

New Code Opinion Service Offered by ICBO

For the first time, the International Conference of Building Official (ICBO) is offering to the non-building official members of ICBO the opinion service that heretofore has been available only to member building officials of public agencies. Read More

Mold and Mildew – Emerging Public Health Concern

Although fungi have always been here, they are only recently emerging as a public health and indoor air quality concern. Read More