The “envelope” of a building, when understood within an architectural context, includes a host of factors that were all considered at the time a building was first designed.  Yet, basically, the term also means the exterior or shell of a building – all those parts providing protection against the elements.

Here are 5 ways to identify various types of structural defects.

  • Look for problems with the building’s insulation. Particularly, when moisture enters in to the building’s atmosphere, long-term damage can occur. The insulation itself was installed to help keep elements – especially moisture and heat – outside.  For example, if key wood structures are exposed to excessive moisture, they can be seriously weakened.  Moisture can create rotting.  Once wood is weakened from this kind of deterioration, it won’t support walls or ceiling components adequately.  Hence inspections need to include a proper assessment of how well a building’s insulation is working.
  • Material expansion. Concrete and other masonry is often subject to thermal expansion. This type of problem is generally hard to detect.  Therefore, many structural experts in the field recommend frequent building inspections to catch this kind of ‘expansion’ early in its development.
  • Water only needs a small crack in a wall or roof to create a big problem. If water penetrates key structural areas, a lot of damage may result.
  • Spotting poor workmanship is yet another sign that problems may lie around the corner. For instance, if two beams are designed to line up flush against one another, the gap an inspector discovers in between them may indicate the beams will move toward or away from one another as time goes on.  And although they may be bolted in some type of brace, the compromise made by the workers can lead to a real structural shift – even cracks in the outer structure as the central frame shifts.  Inspecting the core joints that are part of the central structure can help adjustments to be made, strengthening the primary supports in the framework. Other evidence of shoddy craftsmanship can point you toward possible leaks, air passage and moisture entrance, or other kinds of undesirable outcomes.
  • Look for air leaks; once air enters in to a structure it can lead to condensation if the humidity from outside gets drawn inside. An inspection can determine where such leaks need to be filled or where surrounding surfaces need to be redone.