Mark Meshulam is an expert witness and consultant for building exteriors.
These days you can pretty much find a consultant for anything. Without trying very hard, you can find:
So it stands to reason that you can find a consultant to assist you with your windows or the exterior of your building.
As it happens, there are quite a few of us providing construction consultation services to building owners, property managers and attorneys.
In my consultancy, the issues that come my way are interesting and varied:
Why did this glass break? Do we have recourse? Is it safety hazard?
Where are water leaks coming from? Is mold present? What should I do next?
How to repair an air infiltration problem? My building is very drafty.
Is this built according to prevailing standards?
I have a construction defect. What should I do?
My insurance company is rejecting my claim. What can I do?
Why is there condensation on my windows?
Is my sealant failure premature? What could have been done better?
How should the remedial work be done? Who will do it?
Why are my wood windows rotting? What can I do?
The developer of our building left us with lots of problems. How can we get started addressing them?
What is the best way to detail our window replacement?
What window, glass and sealant selections should be made for our project?
Was our client’s injury caused by deficient construction?
Being a window/exterior building consultant is like having your own TV show where each episode has a different issue and a new cast of characters. Sometimes it is a detective show, where hints and tiny clues can come together to form a powerful argument. Sometimes it is like a legal drama, where responsibilities and rights, causes and effects get parsed under a strong magnifying light. Sometimes it is a political drama, where the parties are at war with one another, and the consultant is a weapon.
Selecting a consultant for your building exterior can be confusing. I hope to bring some structure and clarity to this challenge.
Origin of the (Window Consultant) Species
Because there is no school that specifically prepares one to become a consultant specializing in windows or building exteriors, professionals who do this work must enter the field from some other origin. Some window consultants are architects, some are engineers, and some, like myself, arose through the business end – being a contractor specializing in building exteriors.
Each origin brings with it a point of view.
For instance, it seems that the structural guys will naturally focus on the structure: Is the design strong enough? How can it be made stronger? Once structural adequacy is assured, they leave the prissy stuff to someone else.
Structural engineers dwell in the world of structural failures, load paths, deflections, wind load, dead load, fastener bending, prying actions, fastener and anchor integrity, and connections acting in tension, shear or torsion. These guys can be a lot of fun at parties.
The architects will focus more on the details and the specifications, and will also be more sensitive to the aesthetic aspects. The architects will struggle with trying, against all impediments, to design a “second line of defense” (against water penetration… or was it liability?). Their flashings will have flashings and all of their designed caulk joints have the exact required amount of adhesive contact and width-to-depth ratios.
The architects have the luxury of designing with CADD, wherein a tolerance of one thousandth of an inch is easier to render than the scrawl of a crayon.
Sometimes the experience of having effortless access to virtual precision tempts the architect into thinking that the actual building must also be dead-nuts accurate.
The realities of the inaccurate construction environment must cause the most anal amongst them to lose hours of sleep and clumps of hair.
The folks who came through the business of furnishing and installing window and exterior building products tend to be task oriented, concrete and hands-on. They will think in terms of, “Who made the mistake?”, “What’s going on inside the system? Hand me the jimmy-bar and let’s take a look”, and “What is the most practical way to fix the problem?”
This group has had plenty of exposure to the concerns and fixations of the engineers and architects, and having had years of experience trying to fulfill these, and will have opinions about what design concepts are truly fundamental, and which ones are pie-in-the-sky.
This group is also especially sensitive to the idea of designing for successful field implementation. Some designs are easy to accomplish. The tasks involved lead the worker to doing it well. Other designs involve convoluted or unnecessary steps. These promote failure because the worker will look to shortcut the inefficiencies, and in so doing, might violate the design concept.
I suppose all of us could have a paintball match in an effort to determine the best professional to evolve into a consultant. As for myself, I have no snobbery on the subject.
Here in Chicago we have a truly excellent stable of consultants who came from all possible areas. Most consulting firms have both architects and engineers on staff to cover a fuller spectrum of client needs. There is no generally right answer – it all depends on the project at hand.
Areas of Specialization
Consultation on windows or building exteriors leads the consultant into a number of separate but related task specialties:
Review of project documents, including drawings and specifications
Review and application of codes
Field testing of windows, glass and curtainwalls
Laboratory testing of windows, glass and curtainwalls
Documentation and reporting
Contracts and legal
Industry standards and practices
In addition, the consultant may have a specialty that is a component of the building, such as windows, curtainwalls, glass, masonry, roofing, flashings, vapor barrier systems, concrete, coatings, sealants, etc.
Like doctors and lawyers, consultants refer work to other consultants. If you think you need a window consultant or an exterior building consultant, call me and I will help you with some options.
Looking for a window consultant or an exterior wall consultant?