Category: Structural inspections

Five Major Reasons Why Building Envelopes Fail, & Prevention Tips

At BE Structural, we see our fair share of building envelope failures. Think of a building envelope as the shell or skin of a structure. When exposed, the structure’s primary framing and building systems beneath it become vulnerable. A building envelope is therefore an essential component of the building’s infrastructure, creating a barrier in protecting it from external forces, primarily weather. Moreover, a building’s envelope regulates interior heat and moisture levels, while offering first impressions of its aesthetic appeal. A building envelope includes walls, doors, windows, foundations and roofs. So, why do building envelope failures happen?

Five Common Reasons Why Building Envelopes Fail

  1. Design Flaws
    The building envelope is a unique system requiring precise design-build engineering expertise to get it right. While facades may present desired aesthetic impressions, they may not be the best choices for intended uses. To err is human, architects may create designs that specify inappropriate materials.A common mistake occurs when building materials do not meet thermal movements in the area. Architects may forget Mother Nature always has the last say. Regardless of stone or masonry, temperature changes inevitably create cracks and loosen joints in structures. Design deficiencies also occur from water penetration, resistance and structural capacities. When water penetrates the building envelope, moisture becomes trapped, causing materials to warp. This also creates the perfect breeding ground for mold to grow—and introducing a new problem.
  2. Construction Defects
    Building envelopes fail due to construction defects or poor workmanship. This ultimately results in serviceability issues or worse—structural failures. For instance, subcontractors may minimize costs by reducing size, weight and the number of different components essential to maintain structural integrity. This is where BE Structural engineers mitigate defects by inspecting and assessing every required code is incorporated, to uphold the highest building standards to ensure the building’s lasting value.
  3. Poor Workmanship
    Poor workmanship arises during construction booms with many inexperienced, untrained and unsupervised personnel working on projects. Often, building envelope components are improperly installed, disregarding manufacturer specifications. Minimize this danger by putting the right people in the right job and providing a quality control program of installation, observation and inspection.
  4. Natural Disasters
    When a building envelope is exposed to major storms, wind-driven rains and hurricane-force winds, problems compound. This scenario includes structures that have been designed properly. A homeowner may have diligently installed siding and sub-systems correctly; but disasters happen, exceeding design expectations. Unexpected fluctuations in temperatures, hurricanes, and pounding rains damage even the best designed and installed features of any building. Tip: To lessen these weather effects, perform routine checks and regular maintenance repairs.Building envelopes are exposed to numerous elements, making them susceptible to damage even when “looking safe.” Be sure transitions and areas around doors and windows are checked regularly to avoid water from penetrating. Also remember that siding and other envelope components do not last forever; sometimes it makes sense to replace them, than spend lots of money later, on repairs. Be Structural is experienced in building envelope mitigation issues, and ready to offer cost-savings tips.
  5. Costs of Repair Will Only Increase
    Late maintenance and poor repairs inevitably contribute to problematic transitions and joint seals. Say a homeowner decides to remove a gutter expansion joint instead of repairing it. When it rains heavily, water will flow in all directions, with gutters receiving more water than they can handle. This example of poor maintenance adds to water intrusion, further weakening building envelopes.Seasoned property managers and homeowners know putting off repairs always costs more in the long run. Weather and natural deterioration of materials over time exact heavy tolls. Wintry conditions and freeze-thaw cycles severely impact building exteriors, leading to cracks in masonry, split caulked joints and deteriorating mortar joints. Roofing systems weaken and degrade with snow piling on and melting off. If a building’s degradation is not monitored and maintained, it snowballs to unsafe living conditions.In addition, expenses to repair and fix degraded conditions are more exorbitant. However, being proactive and conducting routine inspection, repairs and maintenance, will protect property owners from unnecessary emergencies. BE Structural engineers are happy to inspect and detect problem areas before water and moisture cause extensive and expensive damage to properties.

Tips for Mitigating Envelope Failures

  • How to mitigate, even prevent, building envelope failures? At BE Structural,
    We start with a properly designed building envelope engineered to follow all applicable codes and standards.
  • Second, we select appropriate building materials.
  • Third, prioritizing these first two critical functional steps means incorporating them into the early stages of design-build, to prevent future failures and serviceability issues. Every building component must be well-maintained for the building’s weatherproofing and structural soundness.
  • Fourth, we recommend consistently inspecting and maintaining the building envelope.
    BE Structural uses thermal imagers to detect moisture intrusion and building envelope failures.

If a building is well-maintained and kept safe, current tenants and potential buyers will continue to enjoy living and working there. Tenants spared from leaks are happy tenants. That’s why BE Structural believes an ounce of prevention saves pounds of costly cures.

Structural engineering company

The Different Ways a Steel Structure Can Fail

The job of every structural engineer is to ensure any given building is safe and structurally sound. This can occur during the initial design of a building or during the inspection of an existing building. When it comes to steel structures, it’s hard to imagine them failing due to the strength of the building materials themselves. However, there are several different ways steel structures can fail, and most of them can be prevented with the help of great structural engineering practices. Here are the main ways steel structures can fail.

Insufficient Strength With Connections

Almost every time you hear about a steel structure failing, it’s because of a connection issue. A structural engineer has to put in an incredible amount of thought and detail when designing the joints and connections to ensure they are strong enough. Calculating the strength of joints and connections is a tedious process, and it’s important for the structural engineer and the construction professionals to be on the same page. Any type of miscommunication in the type of bolt or other materials to use can lead to insufficient strength and possible failure.

Tension Failures

Another possible failure in steel structures is putting too much tension on any given member. It takes a significant amount of tension to create this type of failure, and most of the time it only occurs when the structural engineer makes a mistake in the design process. Tension failures are widely known as the most dangerous type of failure, so every structural engineer places a high level of importance on it in the design phase.

Too Much Weight On Beams

Beams can fail in a steel structure as well. It’s fairly simple to figure out when this type of failure will occur, since it happens when the weight on the beams exceed the weight limit they can handle. Lateral torsional buckling is the main concern for every structural engineering company, since it involves predicting where the most significant amount of weight will be placed on the beam. The strongest point of the beam is in the center of it, so buckling could occur and lead to beam failure if the weight on either end of the beam is too much for it to handle.

BE Structural is a team of structural engineering professionals that has an extensive portfolio of construction and engineering projects. Whether a steel structure undergoes minor local buckling or has experienced significant structural failure, we have an expert ready to evaluate the situation and provide the best solutions. No project is too large, small or complex for our structural engineering professionals, so don’t hesitate to contact us at any time when you need us.

Structural engineer

What Qualities Should Your Structural Engineer Have?

When you have a new construction project or are doing major renovation work, one of the first experts to call is a structural engineer. However, just like not all structural engineering companies are created equally, neither are individual structural engineers. The best ones will work with the architects, designers and other contractors you hire in order to ensure everyone is on the same page with the same vision for the project. Before you hire a structural engineer for your project, make sure they possess these qualities.

Creativity

No two buildings are exactly alike, so your structural engineer should use their knowledge, skills and expertise to design the safest and strongest building for your particular project. This includes evaluating the weather and climate and using building materials that will withstand the harshest elements. Structural engineers have to be creative in order to build a safe structure, while still fulfilling the needs and vision of the homeowner or property owner.

Extreme Attention To Detail

There are plenty of obvious reasons why a structural engineer has to be extremely detailed in the work they do. One seemingly minor mistake could lead to a fatal flaw in the design of the building. And the structural engineer needs to follow through with the other contractors who are actually building the structure to ensure everyone is on the same page and there’s a complete understanding of their thought process.

Innovative Strategic Thinking

With the technology available to every structural engineering company today, there’s no excuse for not using innovative technology to help design a building. The challenge every structural engineer faces is being able to satisfy the needs and desires of the individuals, while also adhering to safety regulations, sustainability practices and more. It requires innovative and strategic thinking to be completely well-rounded, and taking the time to find a structural engineer who possesses these qualities is well worth the effort.

Problem Solving

Problems will always arise in any project, no matter how large or small it is. Whether it’s external factors like the weather, or other unique challenges that aren’t evident immediately, a good structural engineer must be able to think quickly. The best structural engineering professionals will be able to identify problems before they occur and plan on a solution, but sometimes it’s not possible. In either situation, coming up with the best solutions possible is an important quality for structural engineers to have.

At BE Structural, we have a unique mix of structural engineering professionals that work together every day. Each of our structural engineers are well-rounded when it comes to their education, experience and background, and we are constantly in collaboration with one another to enhance our skills. We strive to be your go-to resource for any structural engineering needs, so don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of service to you.

Structural engineering company

5 Common Structural Issues in Industrial Buildings

The manufacturing industry is arguably the most important industry in the United States. While it’s important to keep manufacturing machinery and equipment maintained in order to keep production going, it’s equally as important to maintain the industrial buildings where the work is done. If the integrity and safety of an industrial building is compromised, it could lead to the manufacturing plant being shut down until a structural engineer can come in for an evaluation. While significant events like this are not likely with preventative maintenance practices, here are five of the most common structural issues in industrial buildings seen by structural engineering companies.

Interior and Exterior Wall Damage

Both interior and exterior walls will eventually experience some damage in industrial buildings. With forklifts, operations vehicles and other heavy equipment constantly being used, it’s inevitable for some damage to occur. The main thing to do is have a structural engineer evaluate the damage and have it repaired right away if necessary. Most of the damage is cosmetic, but it’s always better to be cautious.

Damage To Columns

Depending on how severe the damage is, a damaged column could be very dangerous from a structural standpoint. It seems like every column in an industrial building is in the way for forklift operators, which means they will get dinged up occasionally. But as long as the damage is minor and doesn’t have a structural impact, then operations can continue as normal.

Inadequate Framing

Many industrial buildings are very old. During the original design of the building, the framing was likely designed to support a certain amount of stress. When structural engineering experts see an issue with framing in an industrial building, most of the time it’s because too much stress was put on it. Because of this, it’s important for managers to have the framing inspected whenever additional equipment is added that could increase the stress on it.

Poor Roof Draining System

When water stays pooled on a roof without draining properly, there’s a wide range of issues that could occur. Any structural engineering company will inspect the roof of an industrial building to ensure gutters are working properly and the best systems are in place to properly drain water from the roof.

Neglected Maintenance Practices

Accidents will happen in an industrial building with so many moving parts at any given time. However, any structural engineer will tell you major issues can be prevented by performing routine maintenance practices. These could include ensuring roof drainage systems are functioning, no rust is present on steel components, all seals and connections are in good shape and more. If there are any issues that need the expertise of a structural engineer, don’t hesitate in contacting one.

BE Structural is here to ensure all industrial buildings are in good working order so manufacturing processes can continue without interruption. Production is critical for every manufacturing plant, but so is safety. As a structural engineering company, we will evaluate every component of your building, identify any potential issues and promptly fix them. To learn more about how we can help in industrial settings, contact us at any time.

Structural engineering

3 Types of Failures in a Steel Structure

Steel structures are unique in both an appearance and construction aspect. Steel is an extremely strong material with many different levels of strengths and members that all have to be connected correctly in order to make a building structurally sound. Not all steel members are created equally with the same strength, so structural engineering professionals must test the strength of each member against the force put against it during construction. Not doing so can lead to structural failure, which can cause devastating consequences. Here are three of the most common types of failures in steel structures that every structural engineering company sees.

Beam Failure

Beam failure in steel structures doesn’t occur very often, but it is a legitimate concern every structural engineer has to be conscious of. This type of failure happens when a beam doesn’t flex properly or experiences something called lateral torsional buckling. Since pressure is typically not applied directly to the center of the beam during construction, twisting can occur. Failure typically happens when the beam is not braced with anything to support the twisting motion.

Tension Failure

Every structural engineer knows the risks and consequences of trying to stretch any given material too much. When designing any given member in tension, structural engineering professionals must be cautious of a possible net section rupture or block shear failure. These are two common failures directly related to tension, but typically do not occur when an experienced structural engineer works on the project.

Connection Failure

Connection failure is by far the most common type of failure in a steel structure. The connection is typically the first component to fail if the force of the load is more than anticipated. When a structural engineer designs the construction of a building, they use precise calculations to determine the strength of bolts or other connections needed. However, one minor miscalculation or a misstep in the construction process can lead to unpredicted force and failure at that particular connection. The challenge for every structural engineer is to take human error into consideration during the construction phase and design the connections to withstand a little more force than calculated.

BE Structural is here to help with your commercial or residential construction project, structural inspection, complete building renovation and anything else related to your building. We are proud to have a diverse group of structural engineering professionals so we can handle any project, no matter how large or small it is. To learn more about how our team can help you or your company, contact us today.

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The Effects of Wind and Hail on a Flat Roof

Wind and hail can cause significant damage to buildings, and especially those buildings with a flat roof. The majority of commercial buildings have flat roof systems and can all be constructed differently. The most common construction materials include multi-ply asphalt systems, single-ply membranes or metal panels. The role of a structural engineer when constructing a commercial building is to determine the best material to use to withstand the weather conditions most commonly seen in the area. Some of the most damaging weather comes from wind and hail, and here’s how those conditions impact a flat roof.

Vulnerable Areas of A Flat Roof

With a flat roofing system, the most vulnerable areas prone to wind damage are on the corners and around the edges of the roof. This is due to the uplift pressure of the wind, which can actually be much faster than the horizontal wind speed itself. The problem with these vulnerable areas is when the perimeter of the roof gets damaged, it can start peeling back and lift up. In worst case scenarios, the wind pressure can get under the roof and essentially blow it off of the building. However, these scenarios are very rare, since structural engineering professionals have strict codes and guidelines to follow to ensure it doesn’t happen.

Is Hail Damage Only Cosmetic?

The type of roof covering used on a flat roof makes a difference in whether hail damage is only cosmetic or can create larger issues. Hail as little as ½” in diameter can create dents in a metal roof. While most of this damage is cosmetic, the finish on the roof could be compromised, cause rust and shorten the lifespan of the roof. Single-ply roofs are more vulnerable to experiencing damage that’s more than cosmetic. It will still take hail of 1” in diameter or more to cause serious damage, but every structural engineer suggests inspecting the roof frequently and thoroughly to determine any vulnerabilities.

Frequent Roof Inspections Can Prevent Significant Damage

Any structural engineering company will highly recommend conducting roof inspections often. The age of the roof plays a big role in how vulnerable it is to wind or hail damage. Too many commercial properties make the mistake of not replacing their roof soon enough, since severe wind and hail events don’t happen every day. But with the unpredictability of the weather, it’s best to be prepared and have a structural engineering professional out to make a recommendation on how to protect the roof from damage.

BE Structural is a team of structural engineering professionals with many different levels of experience. We are experts in commercial construction, residential construction and even various non-traditional projects. We are always available to serve you whether you have a new construction project or just need a thorough inspection of your property. For the best expert advice from a qualified structural engineer, contact us today.

Facade engineering

Structural Engineers Aim to Assist in a Zero-Waste Future

Excessive waste is a serious problem across many different industries, but it’s especially problematic in construction. It seems like no matter how much effort is put forth to reduce waste, the issue is still prevalent. Structural engineers are putting their best foot forward to create a zero-waste future, and with a continuous effort, they could be successful. From the design process to the components used and even bulk materials handling, here are ways structural engineers will have an impact on significantly reducing waste.

Detachable Building Components

Through forensic engineering investigations, results indicate a significant amount of waste can be reduced by using materials that can be detached rather than demolished. And even further in the future, the detached components could be recycled and used in other applications. Detachable components are far from being usable today, but it is something on the radar of every structural engineer.

Design For The Future

Another thing structural engineers are doing is requesting that the design teams think about the future of the building throughout the design process. Things to think about include how a building could potentially expand, be repurposed or have other functional implementation. Planning ahead in this manner could reduce the chances of having to demolish materials in order to expand or repurpose any given building.

Maintain High Performance, While Minimizing Resources

Technology is continuing to advance, whether it’s regarding facade engineering or any other component of the construction process. Structural engineers are placing an emphasis on using the latest technology to their advantage in order to use fewer resources, but still keeping performance at high levels. Many advancements in technology are designed specifically for this purpose, but they aren’t necessarily used accordingly.

Continuous Effort Will Reduce Waste

The more forensic engineering investigations that identify waste, the more structural engineers will push for a zero-waste future. We have come a long way in our efforts of reducing waste, but there is still a long way to go to eliminate it completely. When everyone involved in the construction process gets onboard with waste-reduction efforts, the better the chances are of it becoming a reality.

At BE Structural, our structural engineers and facade engineering experts constantly think about different ways to reduce waste. Through diligent and continuous efforts, we all work together and contribute to waste reduction practices. To learn more about how we are working together in our efforts to reduce waste, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.

Building envelope engineering

5 Key Components to Help Identify a Building Envelope Failure

By the time a building envelope fails, a thorough investigation has to take place to determine the exact cause. There are many reasons why this failure can occur on any given building, but identifying the issue takes some experience. With a building envelope inspection by a professional, most issues can be identified and corrected before major damage occurs. However, there are some signs you can look out for as well to help identify the potential for failure.

Air Leaks

If air leaks out of a building through windows, doors or attics, potential problems could arise. There could also be air leaks in a building you aren’t even aware of until your energy bill skyrockets. Air leaks are problematic because they can lead to condensation if the humidity from outside is being pulled inside.

Water Penetration Vulnerabilities

Sometimes poor design or construction of a building can lead to water penetration vulnerabilities over time. During the course of building envelope engineering, a significant amount of sealant is used to prevent water penetration, but even the tiniest oversight can cause big problems.

Insulation Breakdowns

Insulation in a building is more functional than simply keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It also acts as a barrier to prevent outdoor elements from getting into the home and causing problems with the building envelope. Without insulation, extreme temperature difference indoors compared to outdoors can create moisture and lead to building envelope failure.

Differential Movement

Thermal expansion of concrete, masonry or other building materials can lead to differential movement. This is one of the most difficult features for the average person to identify, since the changes are so subtle. Too much differential movement can cause the structure to fail in different ways. Getting a building envelope inspection frequently is sometimes the only way to identify and correct this issue.

Condensation

Condensation that builds up on windows during certain times of the year is generally harmless when it’s wiped away. However, when condensation builds up in between wall cavities, it could eventually cause building envelope failure. This type of condensation is more difficult to identify, and when you do, most of the time the majority of the damage has already been done.

BE Structural has a team of building envelope engineering experts to help you identify potential failures in your structure. If you have the ability to identify any of these signs on your own, then don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule an inspection. It’s always a good idea to schedule regular inspections anyway to prevent building envelope failure from occurring in the first place.

Building envelope inspection

Is Your Building Envelope Failure Because of Workmanship Errors?

Just like there are many reasons why a building envelope may fail, there are many workmanship errors that can cause the failure to start. Following a building envelope inspection, most of the time the issue discovered boils down to a workmanship error during the design, construction or the installation of certain components of the home. Most building envelope failures are the result of water intrusion, and many times the expertise of building envelope construction is needed in order to identify the issues. Here’s how you can tell whether your building envelope failed because of a workmanship error.

Most Common Workmanship Errors

Since water intrusion is generally the most common reason why building envelopes fail, building envelope consultants typically identify workmanship errors as being the cause. Most of these errors deal with the improper installation or improper sealing of water diverters and end dams.

Not all workmanship errors derive from the installation process, however. Sometimes poor design and planning practices can also lead to issues with the building envelope. Sometimes it takes more than a simple building envelope inspection to determine the actual root cause of the error.

Can Workmanship Errors Be Prevented?

Since there are many different people who work on the design and construction of any given building, a workmanship error is inevitable. However, sometimes these errors aren’t a result of negligence. Rather, it could be the installation professional did not have access to the original design plan or was not instructed correctly. In order for every single workmanship error to be prevented, each person involved with the process of constructing a building from start to finish must be on the same page and have a clear understanding of the installation requirements.

Building Envelope Inspections Can Reveal Facts

You will never truly know where an error originated from unless you have a thorough building envelope inspection conducted. Whether it’s a residential or commercial building, these inspections can actually begin the investigation process of determining who is at fault for the building envelope failure. Many times it’s discovered that the person who performed the installation actually isn’t at fault at all.

BE Structural has a team of building envelope consultants to thoroughly analyze and evaluate the reasons why a particular building envelope may have failed. The extensive process of the inspection is detailed and is the only way to truly identify whether the failure was caused by workmanship errors or any other reason. To learn more about the process, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.

Structural forensic engineer

Forensic Engineering Explores Steel Framing After a Fire

One of the many roles of forensic engineering services people may not be aware of is assessing steel framing following a fire in a building. Steel can withstand high temperatures, and sometimes it may even look like it was unaffected after a fire. However, even if it appears to be normal, the integrity of the steel could have been compromised. A structural forensic engineer looks at many different factors to determine the integrity and viability of steel framing following a fire. Here are some of those factors, along with some background on how fire affects steel.

How A Fire’s Temperature Impacts Steel Strength

The higher a fire’s temperature is, the more steel will be impacted. The framing could buckle and twist, as well as experience a reduction in stiffness and overall yield strength. But the unique thing about steel is it’s possible for it to regain all its properties back if the fire’s temperature does not exceed 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit for more than about 20 minutes. However, if the temperature is higher than that or it takes longer for the fire to be extinguished, then a structural forensic engineer will likely find some major issues with the integrity of the steel.

Determining Whether Steel is Usable After A Fire

If you happen to watch steel framing as a fire is taking place, the average person will deem it unusable. However, buckling and other deformations can occur in steel at relatively low temperatures. This does not mean the overall integrity of the steel framing is completely and permanently compromised, though. Each situation is unique, which is why forensic engineering practices are needed to determine exactly whether steel framing is strong enough for people to even walk into, much less use the building ever again.

How Forensic Engineers Assess Steel Framing

A structural forensic engineer will look at the external appearance of steel to determine how high the temperature of a fire got, and how long it remained at that temperature. If the steel looks a normal color and there are no other obvious deformities, then most likely the temperature was less than 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. But if the temperature exceeded that number, then the surface of the steel may appear oxidized, show signs of pitting, reduction of thickness and will have a different color. Once the structural forensic engineer determines the severity of the impact the fire had on the steel framing, he can determine whether the steel is usable as it is, if it can be used with slight modifications or if a complete replacement is needed.

BE Structural has a solid team of experts to provide many different forensic engineering services. A fire can cause an extensive amount of damage in a short period of time, so it’s important to have a structural engineer analyze the damage to deem the building safe or unsafe. To learn more about how the process works, feel free to contact us at any time.