Small Firms Roundtable Committee Meeting

Why Buildings Leak: Understanding and Avoiding Water-Related Defects in Architecture

October 15, 2020
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Credit: 1.0 HSW
Virtual Meeting

Brought to you by: Small Firms Roundtable

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Why Buildings Leak: Understanding and Avoiding Water-Related Defects in Architecture

A building leak has four components, and there is no leak, properly understood, without all four: (1) a source of water; (2) a pathway for that water to travel from where it is to someplace we do not want it to be; (3) a driving force to push water along that pathway; and (4) something that can be damaged as a result. Thinking about leaks in this way helps us to understand important missed opportunities in architecture when it comes to controlling water in buildings. For example, we obsess over sealing potential water pathways but often overlook design strategies and products that help us practice source control and minimize the driving forces, without which there is no leak. Rather than policing the detailing of every fastener or trying to anticipate every installation defect, this line of thinking leads us to strategies that are both far less expensive than the most common approaches and far more effective in reducing risk. This discussion will outline the three fundamentally different water-management strategies in buildings, discuss the importance of distinguishing between them, and present simple approaches to detailing to minimize risk for each strategy.

By attending this session participants will be able to:

  • Identify the three fundamentally different water management strategies in buildings
  • Identify the risk factors associated with each of these strategies, and discuss how climate and context influence which approach is more common in different parts of the world
  • Articulate the different approaches to building detailing required by each of these three water management strategies
  • Respond with confidence to the most common objections to the proposed water management improvements related to constructability and cost

Presenter: Christine Williamson

Christine Williamson has spent her career in building science forensics, discovering why buildings fail, and working with owners, architects, and builders to remedy the problems.  Her new construction consulting helps architects use building science not only to mitigate risk of failure, but also to help them make their projects as energy efficient as they are beautiful.  She is the founder of the Instagram account @BuildingScienceFightClub, an educational project that teaches architects about building science and construction.  She graduated from Princeton University and studied at Boston Architectural College before completing her Master's of Architecture at NewSchool of Architecture + Design.  She is a member and past chair of ASHRAE Technical Committee 1.12, Moisture Management in Buildings.