Design Reviews

Building Envelope Performance Design Review Process for New Construction

Carlos Rosario International Charter School

Many Owners who are planning new buildings are familiar with ice dams, frozen pipes, and other building envelope problems and wish to prevent these insidious cold-climate problems and the related maintenance and repair costs.  Buildings in hot and humid climates can have their own air quality, comfort, and energy-related problems.  Many of the problems Owners have experienced or heard of could have been avoided at the design stage, and most could still have been diagnosed and prevented during the construction phase of the work. E. L. Haynes Charter School

It is possible to significantly reduce the likelihood of having building failures through the use of a design review process, followed up with a rigorous quality assurance process.  This process is also called building commissioning.  These preventive measures can easily be incorporated into the design and construction process and should  seriously be considered Kol Shalom Synagogue
for all new construction projects for the following reasons:

  • Quality assurance procedures are inexpensive and the downside of not doing them can be financially catastrophic.
  • Almost all building failures, whether Eagle Academy Charter Schoolrelated to temperature or moisture issues, are also related to wasted energy. Preventive measures are paid for by the energy saved.
  • Preventing building failures during the construction phase is inexpensive; fixing failures after the building is finished and occupied is very expensive (to say nothing of the disruption, cost of related maintenance, and the loss of good will).
  • Most building Owners are concerned with the efficiency of the energy management systems (i.e., heating and air conditioning systems) that create or use the energy in their buildings, but there is usually very little focus on the vessel (the building envelope) that can either waste or conserve that energy.  These are inseparable concerns and should be dealt with accordingly.
  • Buildings can be built to perform well, even if they are large commercial buildings or very complex structures. Example: the new Vermont Law School building is reported to be one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world. The designers attribute its success to both the energy management systems, the high-performance building enclosure, and commissioning.

The following outlines a typical process that focuses on eliminating common causes of ice dam formation, freeze-ups, heat loss, and condensation problems often present in new construction.  It only addresses building envelope problems, but the general concepts can be applied to energy management systems as well.

  • Review the architectural plans, ideally with the architect and the energy systems engineer (the design team), to identify problematic areas of the building enclosure configuration, details, and systems that typically lead to building envelope problems/failures.  Work out detail refinements or report potential problem areas.  If possible, this should be done in advance of bids so that any changed details can be incorporated into the original pricing.
  • Complete a similar review of the architectural specifications to verify the inclusion of all components of the building envelope required to avoid building envelope failures. Emphasize the methods of installation to the builder. (Review Sample Specifications).
  • Propose minimum performance standards where appropriate for inclusion into the project documents. (Review Sample Specifications).
  • Propose quality assurance procedures for inclusion into the project documents and address sequencing issues. (Review Sample Specifications).