Case Studies

Project: Mid-Rise Hotel – Southeast U.S.

Client: Confidential

Services Provided

LBFG performed a forensic review of the window configuration, glazing material, and applicable code requirements to assess possible code violations related to the original window assembly or resulting from the renovation preceding the accident. an expert report and arbitration testimony to assist in resolving the dispute.

Case Summary

A hotel guest accidentally broke through a guest room window and fell 10 floors to her death at a mid-rise hotel in the Southeast built in the early 1970s. The hotel construction included floor­to-ceiling window systems between the floor slabs and columns. The glazing for the windows incorporated ordinary annealed glass rather than stronger safety glazing. The hotel had been renovated shortly before the accident. During the renovation various inspections of the guest rooms and exterior were made and no significant deviations from building code requirements were reported related to the guest room windows. Based on information reviewed by LBFG, no code violations were identified and safety glazing was not required for the specific lite of glass associated with the accident given the dimensions and configuration of the window system. Neverthe­less, the accident raises questions regarding the adequacy of the current building code and warrants review of the code by industry representatives and building officials as well as consideration by facility owners of potential obligations to modify or replace similar window systems to reduce the possibility of such accidents.

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Project: Custom Residence – Southeast U.S.

Client: Confidential

Services Provided

LBFG provided both architectural and mechanical building forensics services that accurately diagnosed the cause of the condensation/frost formation and properly identified deficiencies in the HVAC design contributing to the problem. LBFG’s services included providing an expert report and arbitration testimony to assist in resolving the dispute.

Case Summary

A two-story custom home in the Southeast constructed around 2013 with custom steel-framed windows was experiencing excessive condensation and frost formation on the interior of the window frames; however, not all of the steel-framed windows experienced the problem. The windows that exhibited the condensa­tion/frost formation were located in rooms with a bay window configuration in which the windows were located away from HVAC supply diffusers. Similar windows in other areas of the house that had HVAC supply diffusers in closer proximity to the windows did not show signs of condensation/frost. LBFG determined that the conductive properties of the steel-framed windows in conjunction with a lack of sufficient warm air flow from the HVAC system resulted in condensation and frost formation at the bay window locations. LBFG identified specific HVAC industry design guidelines published by ASHRAE that had not been adequately implemented, which would have reduced the probability of condensation and frost formation.

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Project: University Classroom Building – Southeast US

Client: Confidential

Services Provided

LBFG provided building forensics that reverse-engineered the installation to show that the windows met both the project and industry requirements and that the window subcontractor’s own lack of product knowledge and improper workmanship led to the loss in production and material and labor overages. 

Case Summary

During construction of a university classroom building the windows repeatedly failed field water testing by the window subcontractor. These failures appeared to indicate a performance deficiency or problems with the fabrication of the windows, when, in fact, the problems were related to issues associated with the window installation. Several attempts to seal the windows were unsuccessful and the leaks continued. Ultimately, extensive supplemental flashing and caulking around the window openings and surface-applied interior sealants were successful in preventing leakage and the windows satisfied the project field testing requirements; however, the window subcontractor incurred substantial unreimbursed costs for the remedial work and extensive re-testing required to resolve the leak issues. LBFG determined that the windows met the performance requirements of the specifications and that the manufacturer’s installation guidelines provided for watertight performance if installed correctly; additionally LBFG identified deficiencies in the subcontractor’s installation methods and workmanship that resulted in leakage.

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Project: FAU Engineering Building

Client: Leo Daly Architects

Services Provided

LBFG provided building commissioning and peer review services. We recommended key design phase techniques to evaluate the building air, water, and vapor leakage characteristics. In addition, LBFG provided problem avoidance services during construction.

Case Summary

Architects seeking LEED® Platinum certification used innovative features in their building design, failing to consider that the LEED® rating system has not been adapted for warm, humid climates. To minimize conditions conducive to moisture problems, these state-of-the-art building features and systems required unique startup, commissioning, and maintenance. Implementation of building performance criteria for warm, humid climate design was needed. This included pressurization and flush out, indoor air conditions, building leakiness, water infiltration, and condensation control.

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Project: FEMA Trailers

Client: Various Law Firms in Louisiana

Services Provided

LBFG was retained to determine the cause of alleged formaldehyde and moisture problems by conducting sophisticated air infiltration testing on typical FEMA trailers. Their findings were used as a basis for LBFG’s defense opinion on behalf of the three trailer manufacturers. Using animation-based evidence, LBFG proved to the jury that there was sufficient ventilation to offset any alleged off-gassing, and that there were no moisture-related defects.

Case Summary

Expert consulting services were required for a case involving a claim against three manufacturers of trailers provided by FEMA in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

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Project: Military Housing – Southeast U.S.

Client: Confidential

Services Provided

LBFG provided diagnostic testing (including blower door testing and pressure pan testing) to test building air tightness and evaluate overall home pressurization and HVAC system performance.

Case Summary

LBFG was asked to determine what was needed to get HVAC units in up to 100 homes at a U.S. AFB working in such a way as to prevent moisture-related problems, and to remediate any mold problems we discovered. Blower door testing showed the homes’ envelopes to be fairly tight and adequate to meet required ventilation rates. Attic mechanical exhaust systems were recommended for removal and outside air ductwork was recommended for positive pressurization.

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Project: Louisiana Superdome

Client: Bridgestone-Firestone & Hamblin, Griffen, and Khoenke, PA

Services Provided

LBFG was retained to conduct the analysis and provide an opinion on how damages should be allocated. Using a written and photographic record of thousands of documents showing post-hurricane damage, LBFG calculated the amount of damage to the facility from the rain, occupants, and post-storm flooding. These findings were used to determine the amounts of physical and financial damage and to determine appropriate responsibility for each party.

Case Summary

An analysis of roof repair costs for the Louisiana Superdome following damage from Hurricane Katrina was required. The primary focus was the cost of repairs and separation of the costs between the roof failure and the post-hurricane flooding event.

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Project: Medical Facility – Midwest U.S.

Client: Confidential

Services Provided

LBFG provided building forensics and diagnostics services, including the use of internet-connected wireless data loggers to test and analyze humidification.

Case Summary

The medical facility was experiencing build-up of frost and ice in above-ceiling spaces and in clerestories during winter months two years after construction. The frost/ice eventually melted, causing damage and leaking into occupied rooms below. LBFG discovered the causes to be an improperly designed air barrier system, improperly operating humidifiers set so high as to cause excess humidity, and exfiltration of humid interior air through HVAC-induced building pressurization. Our data loggers showed how properly operating the humidifiers without sacrificing occupant comfort solved the frost/ice problem without having to disrupt facility operations by replacing the air barrier or changing pressurization. The wireless, internet-accessible data loggers were left in place to allow the owner to continue to monitor the building operation.

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Project: Resort – Nassau, Bahamas

Client: Confidential

Services Provided

Based on field and laboratory analysis, LBFG advised that the likelihood of additional pipe failures over the next five years was high. By recommending how to test and identify problem piping to proactively avoid more damage, LBFG enabled the hotel to remain operational while piping replacement occurred.

Case Summary

The hotel’s documented leak history reflected an average of one CPVC pipe failure per month, with multiple units often being affected by water damage each time. Although most documented leaks were in the hot water piping, some also occurred in the cold water lines. Nearly all leaks had occurred at floor penetrations where sealant had been used as fireproofing during original construction.

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Project: Tropical Resort

Client: Confidential

Services Provided

LBFG provided design and construction phase building commissioning and peer review services, including air barrier testing.

Case Summary

The design team had set unrealistically high building envelope air barrier goals for an oceanfront tropical resort. This was done in an effort to avoid the extensive mold damage suffered by another tropical resort nearby due to wind-driven infiltration. During design phase commissioning peer review, LBFG recommended installation of a fluid-applied air barrier system. The design team decided to use a sheet-applied building wrap instead. LBFG recommended air tightness testing to confirm the efficacy of the building wrap with respect to the design team’s goals. Our air barrier testing found the building to be leakier than predicted and specified. Although these results alarmed the client, LBFG suggested the goals originally set were unrealistic for the specified air barrier assembly, and that a lower number would be acceptable with the proper as-designed HVAC system in place. We also recommended that the design team and general contractor provide better directions to workers on air barrier assembly installation.

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