This is the first post in a series by J. David Odom (ASHRAE), Richard Scott (AIA/NCARB/LEED AP), and George H. DuBose (CGC). It was first published as a mini-monograph for NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards).

“Most new products are experiments and most experiments fail.”

~ Quote from “How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built” by Stewart Brand (1994)

hidden risks of green buildings

Stewart Brand’s caution in 1994 about using new products is engaging and even quite controversial, since progress can only be made through the use of new products and innovative approaches. Yet Brand’s caution echoes what forensic building consultants and building scientists have seen for decades; anything that departs from the “tried and true” method often fails. This finding is not surprising, since even traditional building materials experience some percentage of catastrophic failures from moisture and mold problems.

Brand’s caution seems particularly appropriate today with the proliferation of new products, many intended for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Although many of these products have been developed within the last five years, they are intended for use in buildings that should last for 50+ years. Even a casual review of the literature indicates that some of these products appear to have minimal in-situ testing or performance verification.

Additionally, many of these products have not been marketed in a manner suggesting caution about regional or climatic restrictions in their use. Finally, we suspect that there has been even less testing of the complex, interrelated assemblies in which these products will be asked to co-exist for the next half century or more.

To be continued…

J. David Odom is a Vice President and Senior Building Forensics Consultant with Liberty Building Forensics Group. He has managed some of the largest and most complex mold and moisture problems in the country, including the $60M construction defect claim at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu and the $20M claim at the Martin County courthouse. He has also managed over 500 projects for the Walt Disney Corporation dating back to 1982 that have included technical issues related to corrosion, moisture, and design & construction defect-related problems. He has published numerous manuals and technical articles, including a monograph on moisture and mold for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). For more information, contact J. David Odom at d.odom@libertybuilding.com.

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.

George H. DuBose, CGC is a certified Florida General Contractor and Vice President with Liberty Building Forensics Group, a firm specializing in moisture intrusion, mold problems, litigation support/buildings forensics, problem-avoidance peer reviews, commissioning, and implementation of green buildings. He has authored numerous articles and co-authored three manuals on moisture-related indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and building commissioning. He has diagnosed and solved hundreds of moisture and mold related building problems worldwide. DuBose can be contacted at g.dubose@libertybuilding.com.