Beacon News

Construction Defects Spotlight: Reviewing Causes of Curtain Wall Failures

Beacon E-News Updates

In the world of construction defects, curtain wall problems are not uncommon and can lead to millions of dollars in damage to property and structures.

In layman’s terms, a curtain wall is the glass and metal “protective skin” that shields modern buildings from the elements. Curtain walls are usually not load bearing, but do play a critical role in protecting a building’s integrity. Because they are subjected to changing weather conditions, expansion and contraction, pressure and thermal gradients, and building movement, curtain wall leakage and more serious failures are not uncommon.

The term “curtain wall” is used to describe a wide range of building envelope systems. From the shining glass skin of many modern skyscrapers, to the glazed-façades of buildings found in most office parks, curtain wall systems are now ubiquitous and have rapidly evolved in recent decades as architects and developers strive to meet a wide range of competing goals, from enhancing aesthetic appeal to increasing energy efficiency and maximizing the usable area within a structure.

Façade engineers and fenestration experts may be needed to analyze the specific root causes associated with curtain-wall-related damage claims. However, the following categories summarize much of what can go wrong:

  • Water intrusion
  • Condensation issues
  • Thermal issues (such as air leakage)
  • Sound intrusion
  • Glass Breakage
  • Corrosion of materials / hardware damage

The root cause of these issues can include:

  • Design deficiencies
  • Defects in manufacturing
  • Improper installation
  • Incorrect specification
  • Normal wear and tear
  • Insufficient or improper maintenance
  • Severe weather

Water infiltration is a problem often associated with improper installation or maintenance of curtain wall systems. All of the following issues can result in water infiltration:

  • Missing or improperly applied sealants
  • Improperly installed (or missing) flashing
  • Cracked or broken seal components
  • Clogged or missing weep holes
  • Missing or improperly installed gaskets
  • Improper setup of glass-setting blocks
  • Cracked glazing (a possible indication of other issues)
  • Insufficient maintenance practices

Beacon Consulting Group, Inc. has expertise in all the following areas to help clients determine the root causes of curtain wall failures and assess/mitigate associated damages, including:

  • Review, analyze and organize all available documentation related to the curtain wall system that has sustained damage (architectural drawings, manufacturers information, installation guidelines and related info)
  • Document (and estimate the cost to repair) for damages sustained as a result of curtain wall failures
  • If required, engage the most appropriate independent curtain wall experts to perform a detailed investigation and develop a forensic report
  • Determine who is responsible for any construction defect, and if multiple parties are responsible, recommend distribution of liability
  • Determine if third party damage is the result of a construction defect
  • Recommend repair option(s) for third party damage
  • Provide cost estimate(s) for repair option(s)
  • Provide documents and exhibits for litigation purposes
  • Provide expert testimony

Contact Beacon Consulting Group, Inc. for any construction-defects-related assignments, construction management projects, or surety consulting services.