Environmental Factors in Home Building

The report below is an example of how much detail and care go into the construction of a custom home. It is not as simple as designing a home then going in to build. As we discussed in the last blog, there are many factors to consider when building a home. The location, the environmental threats, height, size, and geographic location are just a few factors that must be taken into account when building a home. It is also always important to remember that while cutting costs may save you money now, it can cost a great deal more in the long term. The damage cutting corners causes can often times lead to families having to take out a mortgage,  sell their homes or worse, go into foreclosure because the fix becomes too great a burden. The following is an (edited) report authored by Richard Wodehouse, Principal of West Coast Project Management. This home most likely had faulty stucco used at the time of the build. This coupled with the wind is starting to cause some potentially costly issues. 

Remember to consider the weather.

This residence is a three story contemporary design with large glass fenestrations facing the direction the winter storms attack this site from. It is located in such a way that it catches the full brunt of wind and rain. In the winter of 2018/2019 the San Francisco area receive unusually frequent and strong storms with record amounts of rain.  There have been an unusually high number of failures in homes resulting from the rains, landslides, and leaks.  West Coast Project Management Inc. has been called to investigate and repair other weather related problems in the area.  Roofing and waterproofing contractors are booked for the entire season.

GLAZING:

I observed that most of the north facing windows and doors had failed in that the dual glaze panels exhibited  a “rainbow effect” which is caused by the two panes of glass touching each other.  The cause of the collapsed glass is typically the result of the perimeter seals on the dual glazing failing and the gas encapsulated in the space between the two pains of glass escaping allowing the glass to bend towards each other from wind pressure.

As I will elaborate on in the discussion on stucco following, it is possible that moisture allowed to come into contact with the edge seals of the glass panels has exacerbated the rate of deterioration of the perimeter seals allowing the gas to escape.

STUCCO

I observed that the stucco on this residence was the synthetic type that was popular during the time this home was constructed.  The dominant product name at the time was Dryvit, a type of EIFS wall system that used foam insulation panels with a thin coat of an acrylic coating that mimics stucco in appearance.  

There were extensive lawsuits regarding moisture problems related to the use of this EIFS system.  If there are any areas where water can enter behind the acrylic coating it is trapped as this coating is non-breathable and therefore the moisture stays inside the wall potentially and probably causing damage to any surface it is touching.

The home showed signs of white discoloration around stucco cracks which is evidence of water  that entered elsewhere exiting at various locations on the North facing wall.

DECK WATERPROOFING FAILURE

There is evidence indicating that the deck extending out on the north elevation allowed water to penetrate the building.  I did not attempt to find the cause of this leak as the owner at the time had extensive plastic tenting covering the deck. (end of report)

It is likely that the owners of this home were not the one to have the stucco put in, but they will be the ones to pay the price. This is why it is so important to have an experienced and knowledgeable project manager or owner’s rep helping you build your home. A good project manager knows which corners are ok to cut and which ones you cannot. 

San Francisco is windy and damp year round, but the Bay Area is filled with micro climates. Marin, for example, is substantially warmer and sees a great deal more sun than San Francisco. The beach areas have the added difficulty of salt in the air which has its own set of challenges to consider. Sonoma county and Napa are considerably hotter and drier. Richard Wodehouse at West Coast Project Management Inc. has over 45 years of experience building custom homes, in many different climates. He is passionate about building custom homes and cares about homes being built to last, and built with the most recent technology in energy efficiency. 

Read More

The Green New Deal Explained

The Green New Deal Explained

Wikipedia states it thus: “The Green New Deal is a set of proposed economic stimulus programs in the United States that aim to address climate change and economic inequality”. Pretty good goals wouldn’t you say?

Data for progress states it this way: “A Green New Deal is necessary to meet the scale and urgency of environmental challenges facing the United States, based on the best available research. A Green New Deal can bring job growth and economic opportunity, with particular focus on historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.” Wow! Can we really pull this off? Data for progress follows up by stating: “A Green New Deal is financially feasible and necessary”

Read More

GREEN NEW DEAL

GREEN NEW DEAL

In my work as a residential construction Owner’s Representative and Project Manager I get to interact with some very interesting clients. Just recently I had a thrilling discussion with one of my owners over the Green New Deal currently being proposed by the democrats.

I am certain that the ramifications of climate change are far greater than is being acknowledged in the media or known by the bulk of the public. There are insidious collateral damages that have a chain reaction effect threatening the balance of nature. Our planet is a living entity that has evolved over 3.5 billion years to become the cradle for the abundant life that we know and enjoy daily. Just two samples, the death of coral reefs which are the nursery for much of ocean life, or as we are just hearing now, the drastic decline in insect population world wide, will have impacts on the overall balance of nature that we cannot accurately predict.

Read More

ADMINISTRATIVE DUTIES OF A GOOD PROJECT MANAGER

In the last writing we focused on the on-site duties of a good construction project manager.  In this issue we will delve into the administrative duties that are also necessary.

Construction project managers have come from one or two basic paths:

  • Those that rose up doing physical work on site, typically carpentry.
  • Those that graduated from a college with a degree in construction project management.
Read More

Are We Over Structuring Today’s Buildings?

Are We Over Structuring Today’s Buildings?

Quite often we find ourselves removing an existing structure prior to building a new one, or making substantial improvements to an existing building.  Once the above ground structure has been taken down, (hopefully deconstructed not demolished), the old foundation has to be removed.  This often is not too bad; some jackhammering, some hydraulic equipment, some loads to the concrete crushing plant.

What strikes me is the huge difference in the amount of concrete that we are pouring into the ground now compared to the old foundations we are removing.  What currently is not that big a deal to have a large excavator dig up and truck away is being replaced with five, eight, ten times the amount of concrete and steel.

Someday these structures we are building now will be remodeled or taken down. I wonder what future builders will need in terms of equipment and energy usage to remove the massive amounts of concrete and reinforcing steel that we are now putting in the ground.

Is it all necessary?  Are we overdoing it?  Is the safety factor getting exaggerated?  Is CYA at every level making it just too much?

Building code has a typical safety factor of about 40%, and that is considered the absolute minimum.  The structural engineers want to add their own safety margin.  Then there is perhaps the civil engineer with their concerns about drainage, etc., and don’t forget the soils engineer who also makes a recommendation. Here in Marin County California we need to add seismic considerations so our structures can withstand potential earthquakes.Richard Wodehouse's Over Structuring 1
Before pic
So all these factors add up to a lot of structure, which may appear ridiculous to the owners who are paying for it. We seem to build as if our structures will be here forever, which is probably the same mindset that the builders of the structures we are demolishing had.

So what can be done to better this situation?  Safety is certainly a key component of building, and as your Construction Project Manager I can help ensure that your home has the foundation and structure it needs. I also take into consideration the environmental impact our buildings will have on future generations and can help eliminate excess without compromising safety.

If you bring me in as a Project Manager during the design process, I ask structural engineers to simplify for constructability. I can examine the plans and question items that might seem excessive or perhaps suggest how the needed result can be achieved in another way.  A mutually respectful evaluation is bound to result in some improvements.  My expertise can help your project strike the proper balance between safety and cost-effective environmental consciousness.

Read More