By Ori Aphek
The façade is the most expensive system in a building, making up 20% of the construction cost. It plays a crucial role in enabling energy efficiency, protecting against the elements, and tying the design of the exterior to the interior design for a cohesive experience. Because of the size, scale, and difficulty surrounding façade construction and renovation, facility managers must be mindful of its degradation and stay ahead of potential safety hazards, lawsuits, and insurance claims. Between 30% and 70% of construction lawsuits are due to water intrusion, half of which trace back to the envelope and the façade.
While the best way to future-proof a building’s façade is to utilize data-driven technology during the initial construction process, these actionable insights can also help prepare for anticipated renovations and get the building sell-ready when the time comes.
Due Diligence And Forensics
The façade significantly impacts the price of a building and the transition of ownership. Typically, a buyer has many questions to limit the possibility of post-transaction surprises, and inspections provide them with the leverage they need to negotiate the price. Owners have taken upwards of $20 million off a building’s price because of the shoddy façade quality.
Potential buyers need due diligence and forensic information quickly, but facility executives must contend with jumping through scaffolding and road-blocking hoops to begin the process. After this, they must then coordinate the time-consuming, close-range manual inspection. It’s inherently challenging to inspect the façade of a building that is hundreds of feet high.
When doing a manual assessment correctly, inspectors must review every detail joint by joint, window by window, stone by stone, and brick by brick. Further, inspectors can only access one portion of the shell at a time and often have to review from indoors, on balconies, or on the ground level, which doesn’t paint a complete picture. Because of the breadth, the entire process can take weeks to complete, so teams often settle for spot-checks and naked-eye, ground-based inspections.
Digital construction verification tools shave months off the inspection, are more accurate, and circumvent safety concerns. The technology confirms every square inch of the exterior without inspectors having to manually do it from the ground level and balconies. Additionally, if there are any insurance disputes down the line, it’s simple to go back to the digital footprint and refer to objective details.
Because façades are in direct contact with the elements, aging begins almost immediately after construction; a typical high rise requires exterior renovations every five years. Signs of a façade vulnerability often start small, like a crack or leak developing several stories up, and many issues result from the initial construction process. Some of the most common are unseeded gaskets and missing coupling bars. Despite these elements “only” being second layers of protection, they could create significant structural issues and warranty concerns down the line.
Renovating façades is expensive, and changes, errors, and omissions will increase costs. When preparing for a renovation, teams often perform spot checks to gauge what is needed, meaning they are working with information from about 20% of a building. Having accurate, up-to-date intel with digital verification tools is invaluable for teams to fully understand their renovation material needs. Not thoroughly assessing renovation needs will likely lead to a material shortage or an overestimation. The global supply chain crisis exacerbates this issue by piling on extended delivery times and uncertain availability.
Future-Proofing Buildings During Initial Construction
Remediating shoddy construction is expensive and time-consuming. While some façade renovations are unavoidable over time due to environmental deterioration and corrosion, fixing previous mistakes like leaks and material displacement is frustrating and can lead to warranty headaches and cause safety concerns. Future-proofing during the initial construction process is the best answer to avoid unnecessary renovations down the line.
Digital construction verification technology streamlines projects, improves coordination, and eliminates costly and time-consuming rework. With $273 billion construction errors made yearly, rework is more than tolerated in commercial construction—it is built-in to project budgets and timelines. An overarching issue with façades is that teams are usually unaware of a problem to fix. When facility managers don’t discover defects until months or years after construction, water and thermal leakage can creep in, necessitating premature renovations and making the owner susceptible to legal action. Actionable insights from verification technology increase first-time quality across the board; they inform post-construction building modifications and provide the owner quality assurance as the property evolves over decades.
While getting a façade right the first time is ideal, it’s challenging to do so without the right technology tools. When it comes to due diligence, forensics, and anticipating the cost and needs of a renovation, digital construction verification is an invaluable tool to eliminate guesswork, manage teams’ safety, and expedite the already taxing process.
Aphek is the Founder and Vice President of Business Development at SiteAware, where he was also CTO, Chief Product Officer, and CEO. Before SiteAware, Aphek was the Founder and CEO of Optigo (acquired in 2010). He also worked at various electro-optics B2B companies, serving as CEO, Vice President of R&D, and Product Manager. Aphek holds an MBA from INSEAD, an M.Sc. in electrical engineering, and graduated from the prestigious Talpiot program.