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Waterproofing problems with recently constructed curtain walls illustrate that some, well understood, principles of waterproofing continue to be violated during wall construction. The author finds that divided or fragmented responsibility for the design often leads to the lack of understanding of the waterproofing requirements. New problems are being invented/discovered during the design and construction of these curtain wall systems due to the lack of understanding of the design requirements. Design specifications, workmanship, and the management of construction all contribute to recent problems. This paper presents the author's experience investigating and repairing waterproofing problems in newly constructed curtain walls. The author presents examples of design, workmanship and construction management problems that contribute curtain wall leakage problems, and presents a summary of the repair design and implementation.
Designers must understand the difference between barrier (surface sealed) curtain wall systems and cavity wall systems. The design must reflect the selected concept(s) consistently through the details, and it must anticipate a reasonable level of workmanship. Contractors and construction managers contribute to waterproofing problems in modern curtain walls through their lack of understanding of the design principles and, therefore, their lack of knowledge of what is important to the waterproofing performance. When the managers and oversight professionals fail to understand the construction, their direction or lack of direction to the workers contribute to problems.
Curtain wall, leakage, design, construction, management, mock-up, testing
Associate, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., Consulting Engineers, Arlington, Massachusetts