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    ASTM E3026 - 15

    Standard Guide for Readily Observable Moisture Affected Materials and Conditions Conducive to Elevated Moisture in Commercial Buildings: Visual Moisture Assessment Process

    Active Standard ASTM E3026 | Developed by Subcommittee: E50.02

    Book of Standards Volume: 11.05


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    Significance and Use

    4.1 Use—This guide is intended for use on a voluntary basis by parties who wish to obtain a limited survey of commercial real estate to assess for readily observable moisture-affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture as part of a commercial real estate transaction or commercial property management. This guide is intended to constitute a baseline inquiry using representative observations for the purposes of conducting due diligence regarding the actual and potential presence of readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture in connection with a property. Inquiries that are more and less comprehensive than this guide (including, in some instances, no inquiry) may be appropriate in some circumstances in the opinion of the user (for example, when the presence of moisture affected materials is known to the user). Furthermore, no implication is intended that a person must use this guide in order to be deemed to have conducted appropriate inquiry in a commercially prudent or reasonable manner in a particular transaction. Nevertheless, this guide is intended to reflect a commercially prudent and reasonable inquiry. However, a VMA is not intended to serve as a comprehensive survey for the presence of readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture in all or most of the building systems throughout a commercial building.

    4.2 Clarification of Use: 

    4.2.1 Specific Point in Time—Because conditions conducive to elevated moisture in a building can vary greatly over time due to changes in weather, interior air handling and conditioning, occupancy, and so forth, a user should only rely on the results presented in the report for the point in time at which the VMA was conducted.

    4.2.2 Site-Specific—This guide is site-specific in that it relates to assessment of readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture within a specific commercial building. Consequently, this guide does not address many additional issues raised in commercial real estate transactions such as purchases of business entities, or interests therein, or of their assets, that may well involve liabilities pertaining to properties previously owned or operated or other on-site or off-site liabilities.

    4.2.3 Residential Tenants/Purchasers and Others—No implication is intended that it is currently customary practice for residential tenants of multifamily residential buildings, or other residential real estate to conduct a VMA in connection with these transactions. Thus, these transactions are not included in the term commercial real estate transaction, and it is not intended to imply that such persons are obligated to conduct a VMA in connection with these transactions for purposes of appropriate inquiry or for other purposes.

    4.3 Who May Conduct—The walk-through survey portion of a VMA should be conducted by a field observer qualified as outlined in Section 7.

    4.4 Additional Services—As set forth in 11.13, additional services may be contracted for between the user and the provider. Such additional services may include moisture metering, sampling of suspect fungal growth, invasive testing, thermographic imaging, environmental site assessments, property condition assessments or other services not included within the scope of this guide, examples of which area identified in Section 12 under Out of Scope Considerations.

    4.5 Principles—The following principles are an integral part of this guide and are intended to be referred to in resolving ambiguity or exercising such discretion as is accorded the user or provider in conducting a VMA or in judging whether a user or provider has conducted appropriate inquiry or has otherwise conducted an adequate VMA.

    4.5.1 Uncertainty Not Eliminated—No limited survey of readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture can wholly eliminate uncertainty regarding the potential for readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture to be present at a property. Performance of a VMA pursuant to this guide is intended to reduce, but not eliminate, uncertainty regarding the current readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture at a property nor to eliminate the potential for readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture to be or to become present. The guide recognizes a provider’s findings may be determined under time constraints, formed without the aid of testing, exploratory probing, the removal of materials, design, or other technically exhaustive means.

    4.5.2 Not Exhaustive—Appropriate inquiry does not mean an exhaustive assessment of a property. There is a point at which the cost of information obtained or the time required to gather it outweighs the usefulness of the information and, in fact, may be a material detriment to the orderly completion of transactions. One of the purposes of this guide is to identify a balance between the competing goals of limiting the costs and time demands inherent in performing a VMA and the reduction of uncertainty about unknown conditions resulting from additional information.

    4.5.3 Activity Exclusions—Certain activities are generally excluded from or otherwise represent limitations to the scope of a VMA prepared in accordance with this guide. These should not be construed as all-inclusive or implying that any exclusion not specifically identified is a VMA requirement under this guide. Specifically excluded activities include:

    4.5.3.1 Removing or relocating materials, furniture, storage containers, personal effects, debris materials or finishes; conducting exploratory probing or testing; dismantling or operating equipment or appliances; or disturbing personal items or property which obstructs access or visibility.

    4.5.3.2 Sampling of any type, including sampling for suspect fungi or other forms of biological growth, or sampling or otherwise measuring moisture or other physical characteristics.

    4.5.3.3 Entering or accessing areas of the premises deemed to pose a threat of dangerous conditions with respect to the field observer or to perform any procedure that may damage or impair the physical integrity of the property, any building system, or component.

    4.5.3.4 Providing an environmental site assessment, property condition assessment, or any element of an environmental site assessment or property condition assessment.

    4.5.4 Hidden Areas—Moisture affected materials may occur in hidden areas such as: within wall cavities, within crawlspaces; above ceiling tiles or beneath flooring materials, and so forth. Possible locations of hidden moisture affected materials can include pipe chases and utility tunnels, porous thermal or acoustic liners inside ductwork, or roof insulation materials above roof decks of ceilings. If the user suspects the presence of hidden moisture affected materials (for example, due to musty smells), the user should communicate this fact to the provider. If the provider suspects the presence of hidden moisture affected materials, the provider should detail such findings in the report. Further investigation of hidden moisture affected materials is beyond the scope of work described in this guide.

    4.5.5 Representative Observations—The purpose of conducting representative observations is to convey to the user the expected magnitude of commonly encountered or anticipated conditions. Representative observation quantities should be provided in the agreement between user and provider; however, if in the provider’s opinion such representative observations as presented in the agreement are unwarranted as a result of homogeneity of the asset or other reasons deemed appropriate by the provider, a sufficient number of units, areas, systems, buildings, and so forth may be observed so as to achieve a reasonable confidence as to the representative present conditions of such repetitive or similar areas, systems, buildings, and so forth.

    4.5.5.1 User-Requested Representative Observations—A user may define the representative observations required for a given property.

    4.5.5.2 Extrapolation of Findings—Provider may reasonably extrapolate representative observations and findings to all typical areas or systems of the property for the purposes of describing such conditions within the report. The provider’s rationale for the extrapolation of findings should be included in the report.

    4.5.6 Level of Inquiry Is Variable—Not every commercial real estate transaction will warrant the same level of assessment. Consistent with good commercial practice, the appropriate level of survey will be guided by the type of property subject to assessment, the expertise and risk tolerance of the user, geographic and other environmentally related issues such as local climate, drainage and proximity to surface water, and other information that may be developed during the course of the VMA.

    4.5.7 Comparison With Subsequent Inquiry—It should not be concluded or assumed that an inquiry was not an appropriate inquiry merely because the inquiry did not identify readily observable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture in connection with a commercial building. VMAs should be evaluated based on the reasonableness of judgments made at the time and under the circumstances in which they were made. Subsequent VMAs should not be considered valid standards to judge the appropriateness of any prior assessment based upon hindsight, changed conditions, new information, use of developing technology or analytical techniques, or other factors.

    4.6 Rules of Engagement—The contractual and legal obligations between a provider and a user (and other parties, if any) are outside the scope of this guide. No specific legal relationship between the provider and the user is necessary for the user to meet the requirements of this guide.

    1. Scope

    1.1 Purpose—The purpose of this guide2 is to define good commercial practice for conducting a baseline survey for readily observable moisture affected materials and conditions conducive to elevated moisture in a commercial building related to a commercial real estate transaction or commercial real estate asset management by conducting: a walk-through survey, document reviews, and interviews as outlined within this guide. This guide is intended to provide a practical means for the visual identification of moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture as a result of water infiltration through the building envelope or substructure, or generated within the subject building as a result of processes or mechanical systems, excluding de minimis conditions. This guide is to allow a user to assess general moisture concerns, as well as the potential need for further assessment or other actions that may be appropriate that are beyond the scope of this guide. For purposes of this guide, the initialism “VMA” or “Visual Moisture Assessment” is used interchangeably with this guide’s full title.

    1.2 Purpose Limitations—While a VMA may be used to survey for readily identifiable moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture, the VMA is not designed to serve as comprehensive survey for the presence of moisture affected materials and physical deficiencies conducive to elevated moisture in all or most areas in a commercial building. It is not intended to reduce or eliminate the risks that elevated moisture may pose to the subject building or its occupants.

    1.3 Considerations Beyond This Scope—The use of this guide is strictly limited to the scope set forth in this section. Section 12 of this guide identifies, for informational purposes, certain physical conditions (not an all-inclusive list) that may exist at a property and certain activities or procedures (not an all-inclusive list) that are beyond the scope of this guide but may warrant consideration by users. The need to investigate any such conditions in the provider’s scope of services should be evaluated based upon, among other factors, the nature of the property and the reason for conducting the VMA. The scope of such further investigation or testing services should be agreed upon between the user and the provider as additional services, which are beyond the scope of this guide, prior to initiation of the VMA process. The responsibility to initiate work beyond the scope of this guide lies with the user.

    1.3.1 Sampling for suspect fungi and other forms of biological growth is a non-scope consideration under this guide.

    1.3.2 Sampling or otherwise measuring for moisture is a non-scope consideration under this guide.

    1.4 Organization of the Guide—This guide has 13 sections and three appendices. Section 1 defines the Scope. Section 2 is Referenced Documents. Section 3 is Terminology. Section 4 defines the Significance and Use of this guide. Section 5 describes User Responsibilities. Sections 6 through 11 provide guidelines for the main body of the report, including the scope of the walk-through survey and preparation of the report. Section 12 and Appendix X1 identify Out of Scope Considerations. Section 13 lists keywords for Internet reference. Appendix X1 provides the user with additional VMA scope considerations, whereby a user may increase this guide’s baseline scope of due diligence to be exercised by the provider, Appendix X2 provides the user with a suggested Interview Checklist, and Appendix X3 provides the user with a suggested Field Checklist.

    1.5 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.


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    DOI: 10.1520/E3026-15

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    Citation Format

    ASTM E3026-15, Standard Guide for Readily Observable Moisture Affected Materials and Conditions Conducive to Elevated Moisture in Commercial Buildings: Visual Moisture Assessment Process, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2015, www.astm.org

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