Here are three steps that architects can take right now to protect against moisture problems in high-performance buildings:
A Technical Peer Review: A technical peer review of the design should be implemented that attempts to predict the building performance with the new materials and products. At a minimum, this review would focus on the HVAC and building envelope systems that are most exposed to moisture-related failures. This should provide a more climatologically and regionally accurate green design.
Moving Expertise Upstream: The design team must be confident that they have incorporated the institutional knowledge already known in the fields of humidity control, waterproofing, and building envelope performance. Processes that have already lost favor in the indoor environment field, such as “building flush out,” should not now be incorporated into green construction as “best practices”. These processes have historically shown little benefit and have demonstrated high cost, high risk, or both.
New Products Check: The acceptance of new products with specific “green” benefits should be especially scrutinized. Our experience is that gaining performance in one area often means sacrificing performance in another area. If the area where performance is sacrificed is a critical parameter (such as the water absorption qualities of wall insulation), then the risk may be too great, no matter what the benefit is. We are not sure if it’s realistic for a design team to make all of these required assessments, but without it, building failure seems more probable.
This post is adapted from material that was first published as a mini-monograph for NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards), J. David Odom, Richard Scott, AIA, NCARB, George DuBose, CGC.