Published: Jan 2009
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EXISTING RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS COMPARE well to new homes. Their performance history is evident to the trained eye of someone like a home inspector, and good diagnosis of problems helps in performance prognosis. By any measure of “sustainability,” existing structures are desirable because the materials in place form a valuable repository of embodied energy. They are often in the most desirable economic locations. Existing homes have survived many of the problems that occur after construction, such as construction moisture and backfill settlement. Existing homes are of many vintages and many types. The moisture problems that occur are strongly dependent on age, climate, condition, materials, finishes, thermal protection, foundation type, roof geometry, maintenance, use, etc. Thus it is very difficult to seek to provide a comprehensive list of possible problems, the associated factors, and recommended remedies. This chapter seeks to simply give an overview. Moisture problems may be chronic (wet basement is a common example) or catastrophic (as from a pipe burst, hurricane, or flood). This chapter addresses chronic problems. Catastrophic moisture problems require local professional care. The fire and water damage restoration industry, represented by associations such as Restoration Industry of America (http://www.ascr.org/) and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (http://www.iicrc.org/), has emerged to address cleanup after catastrophic problems like this. Existing houses are not governed by the same model codes and local codes that govern new construction. The International Code Council has issued the International Existing Buildings Code , which describes four levels of alteration to the existing building, leading to four different levels of code compliance. In making changes to existing buildings, make sure that “bringing the building up to code” is done under the proper set of code regulations.
Rose, William B.
Research Architect, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,