A building envelope system can fail for many reasons, though all produce the same results – a less energy-efficient, moisture-resistant, durable, and comfortable structure. Contractors can prevent many building envelope failures by using Barricade Building Wraps or Barricade Thermo-Brace S.I.B. Both products provide air and moisture resistance, durability, strength, and easy installation – all of which help prevent building envelope failure.

The building envelope, which includes the walls, roof, foundations, windows, and doors, protects the interior of a structure from the outside elements. A properly designed and constructed building envelope combines moisture management, structural integrity, temperature control, and air pressure boundaries into a cohesive system.

What Happens When a Building Envelope Fails?

  • Building envelope failure allows moisture to infiltrate the envelope during construction and occupancy. If the moisture becomes trapped, it can lead to mold. Mold can degrade the integrity of the envelope system, sometimes to the point of structural failure and eventual litigation.
  • Envelope failure increases heat gains and losses, which increases energy use and utility bills.
  • Building envelope failures can also degrade the aesthetics of a structure with glass and plywood delamination, warping, discoloration, and other material finish failures.

What are the Main Reasons a Building Envelope System Fails?

peel and stick house wrap

1. Design Defects Can Lead to Building Envelope System Failure

A tight building envelope system requires precise design-build engineering expertise that includes a continuous air barrier and sealing of all joints and breaks. Unfortunately, the aesthetic design choices architects and designers make sometimes don’t provide adequate performance criteria for structural capacity, thermal movement, or water-resistance.

2. Not Applying the Whole-Building Approach to Design and Building

The whole-building system approach mandates that every building professional on the team understands all aspects that affect the building’s envelope. Contractors that coordinate and consult with the expert parties involved in the project considerably lessen the chances of building envelope failure.

3. Material Problems Can Cause a Building Envelope System to Fail

Building envelopes can fail when materials don’t achieve the published performance levels, often as a result of errors in the manufacturing, storing, or handling of the materials or components within the product. Contractors must inspect all building products before using to prevent envelope failure. For example, metal can fatigue, sealant adhesion can degrade, and laminated glass can delaminate.

Building envelope systems may also fail if subcontractors minimize costs by reducing the number, size, and weight of the number of different components vital to the structural integrity of a building.

4. Poor Workmanship – a Common Cause of Envelope Failure

Envelope failures due to poor workmanship grow during periods of skilled labor shortages. During times of labor shortages, contractors often must rely on inexperienced, unsupervised, and untrained employees to work on projects. Relying on these employees can lead to poor workmanship and installation of building envelope components that don’t comply with manufacturer specifications.

Unfortunately, the 2019 third-quarter commercial construction index found that 58 percent of U.S. contractors report a high level of concern over the lack of skilled workers.

5.  Not Hiring a Qualified and Expert Building Envelope Inspector

Upon completion of a construction project, a skilled building envelope inspector must perform the final building envelope system inspection according to the 2018 International Energy Conservation Codes and local and state codes. An inaccurate final inspection may allow a building envelope system to fail.

6. Natural Disasters Can Damage the Envelope During and After Construction

Wind-driven rain, hurricane-force winds, and extreme temperature fluctuations (during and after construction) can damage an improperly designed building envelope, which makes it susceptible to deterioration or failure. To minimize the damage to the building envelope by natural disasters, contractors and building owners should perform detailed inspections and make necessary repairs after each severe weather event.

7. Avoid Envelope Failure by Conducting Daily Inspections During Construction

For the best defense against envelope failures, builders must conduct daily inspections of the building envelope during the construction process, and should immediately repair any detected problems in the building envelope system.

8. Prevent Envelope Failure After Construction with Routine Inspection and Maintenance

For the long-term durability of the building envelope system, building- and home-owners should routinely inspect their investment and immediately repair any problems found. Building owners should inspect several specific components of the envelope annually;

  • Drains, gutters, downspouts, and roof
  • Flashings and copings of the roof
  • Perimeters of the windows, doors and other wall penetrators
  • Building control and expansion joints
  • Driving and walking surfaces

How Barricade Products Help Builders Avoid Building Envelope System Failures

Builders looking for superior products that can help avoid building envelope system failures should consider Barricade® products:

Barricade Thermo-Brace Structural Insulation Board (S.I.B.)

  • The weather-resistant barrier on both sides of Thermo-Brace S.I.B. panels provides a wall system with a continuous air and moisture barrier.
  • Barricade Thermo-Brace S.I.B. combines superior strength and B.A.S.F. Neopor G.P.S. (Graphite Polystyrene) rigid insulation in one solution. The combination limits damage to the air and moisture barrier before, during, and after installation.

Barricade Wrap Plus

  • A proper application of Barricade Wrap Plus manages air and moisture infiltration within the building envelope. Also, the permeability of Barricade Wrap Plus (16 U.S. perms) permits moisture that enters the envelope to evaporate.
  • The durability and strength of Barricade Wrap Plus limit the occurrence of gaps and cracks in the air barrier before, during, and after installation.

When a building envelope fails, a building becomes less energy-efficient, moisture-resistant, durable, and comfortable. Building envelope systems can fail for numerous reasons: design flaws, not implementing the whole-building approach, material problems, poor workmanship, not hiring a qualified building envelope inspector, natural disasters, and not conducting routine inspections during and after construction.

Builders can avoid many of the threats to the building envelope by using Barricade Building Wraps or Barricade Thermo-Brace S.I.B. Both products provide air and moisture resistance, durability, strength, and ease of application – all of which help prevent building envelope failure.