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What is Building Envelope and why is it important? 

October 27, 2022
Sean Mettert

Sean Mettert, PE, Etica Group’s Building Envelope Department Manager breaks down what the components are of a Building Envelope, why it’s important, and what you can do to stay up to date with your building maintenance.


What are some common terminology people might not understand?

EIFS exterior insulation – an expanded poly Styrofoam, installed on the outside of the building walls, with reinforcing mesh and then a thick coating of paint, creating a water-resistant barrier.

Curtain wall – an outer wall of the building that is a nonstructural wall, to keep the exterior weather out.

Thru wall flashing – used to redirect the water before it causes any damage. Behind every exterior cladding, masonry, or wall cavity, it catches water and ejects it down below.

Masonry control joints – gaps that go from the bottom to the top of the wall that helps the masonry expand and retract. This helps take some pressure out of the wall.

Roof recover – leave the existing roof in place and put a new roof over top. This option is only good in certain situations and is not as efficient as replacing the roof.

What are components of the Building Envelope?

Components are everything that keeps the water and weather from entering your building. They separate the interior and exterior elements.

Some of these elements include exterior finishes i.e. wall cladding (brick, wood, fibre cement, concrete, stone etc.), the caulking around the windows and doors, masonry siding, exterior insulation, and EIFS full grade water proofing flashing sealants and insulations.

Why is this important?

It is important to understand the elements because there could be small imperfections, or some could be on the verge of failure. When this happens, it can allow water to infiltrate into the exterior walls allowing it to cause damage to the interior wall cavity.

When this happens it causes mold growth, masonry cracking, and if there is a leak it will cause the insulation to become saturated.

What are issues that you typically identify when assessing an envelope?

The most common things we look at are leaks, sealants, weather stripping around doors and windows, condensation within the windows, and flashing deterioration. We look to see if the metal flashing is damaged or missing and look for cracks in masonry walls. Cracks can tell us whether we need to add control joints or go inside and look for signs of active leaks from the roof and try to pinpoint outside elements that might be an issue.

How do you stop this from happening?

We recommend assessing your building every 5 years. When we perform the assessment, we are looking for any sealants or cracks that are warping. This helps keep track of current conditions, allowing the owner of the building to get ahead of any issues before they turn into a serious problem.

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Community Harvest food bank in Fort Wayne, IN

Opportunity Enterprises in Northwest, IN

Fallen Firefighters

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