By Rick Scott, AIA

This is part 1 of 4.

air barrier testing at a tropical resort

Figure 1: New ocean beach tropical resort during construction. Air barrier testing was being performed on the building at the time when this photo was taken.

A 500+ room, tropical high-rise hotel (Figure 1) on the ocean failed to meet the specified building envelope (walls) air barrier goals during construction phase air barrier testing. This was to be a very tight building; air barrier goals had been set very high due to client concerns about wind-driven infiltration of hot, humid outdoor air which could result in mold. The client was aware of another prominent resort in the same tropical area that had suffered extensive mold damage due to such infiltration, resulting in $60 million in remediation and repairs to a $100 million, one-year-old, high-rise hotel building. The client of the subject resort obviously did not want its new building, constructed in 2010, to suffer the same fate.

In addition to concerns about moisture and mold, the client wished to build a “green” sustainable facility. Energy efficiency, which can be affected by unwanted outdoor air infiltration, was an important element among their green goals.

The design phase peer review of the resort that was performed focused on moisture issues, including infiltration. A fluid-applied air barrier system within the exterior wall assembly, which for the guest rooms was generally stucco (portland cement plaster) on lath over sheathing and light gauge steel-framed walls, was suggested. The project team decided instead to go with a commercial building wrap air barrier material. While building wraps are good air barriers, they are installation-sensitive, requiring care when taping seams and sealing holes. Because of this, it was critical that workers pay careful attention during installation in the windy, hot, and humid tropical coastal climate.

To be continued…

With over 35 years of experience, Richard S. Scott is an expert in the areas of architecture, interior design, and building forensics, with a focus on moisture-related building problems. He is certified by both the American Institute of Architects/AIA Florida and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He has published over 30 articles, and has lectured or presented at nearly 40 seminars or events. Mr. Scott has developed various training courses, including a 16-hour IAQ training course for NASA and an 8-hour water intrusion prevention training course for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC). He can be reached at r.scott@libertybuilding.com.