Facility Dude

Your building envelope keeps air in and water out

By Kate Donnelly
Aug 24, 2015

Clubs, Energy Management

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Your building envelope keeps air in and water out Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of facility management is staying on top of the flow of financial resources. In other words, it's key that a facility manager ensures that the money coming in through the budget remains higher than the money going out into things like repairs, upgrades and regular building maintenance.

Maintaining a steady operations budget depends largely on controlling two factors: energy and water consumption. In fact, these two areas account for much of a given building's operational expenses, so maximizing efficiency in both of these regards is crucial for keeping your facility on-budget.

It can be difficult to maximize your building's energy- and water-efficiency, especially if the facility and its infrastructure are old. While there are many factors to take into account here, one good place to start your proactive maintenance efforts is with your building envelope.

Your building envelope plays a dual role

The first, perhaps most obvious question is, of course, what is your building's envelope? Simply put, it's the part of your structure that separates the conditioned interior from the exterior. In other words, your building envelope - comprising insulation and other thermal, air and weather barriers - is the primary line of defense in keeping out the elements.

There are two main ways this is accomplished. First, the weather barrier keeps cold air, extreme heat, wind and rain all outside. In addition, the thermal barrier of your building envelope keeps the climate-controlled and conditioned environment inside your building. This is great for keeping your tenants comfortable, but it also makes your heating and cooling efforts far more efficient, saving you tremendous amounts of money in the long term.

This envelope stays sealed

When it comes to the efficacy of your building envelope, the most important thing to keep in mind is the way in which it's sealed. This is a process that involves applying one of any number of sealant products to the exterior of your building. The type and materials of these sealants have evolved significantly over the past few years, but envelopes are commonly sealed with polyurethane, silicone and similar materials.

Choosing the proper sealant for your building is crucial, as different building materials require different chemicals to properly seal. For example, stone, brick and concrete may require a different chemical sealant than glass or wood.

The material of your building plays a large role in what type of sealant to use, but there are other factors to take into account too. One major issue that has been prominent within the facility management industry recently is the use of sealants and building coatings that contain volatile organic compounds. Some states have even introduced official legislation to try and regulate the use of these VOCs in building materials due to their potentially harmful impact on the environment or on tenants. This regulation has led to the development of alternative products, though there is something of a balancing act in terms of weighing environmental friendliness against efficiency of sealant.

Inspect the building envelope

Just like any other part of your building or its essential infrastructure, the envelope requires regular maintenance to root out and fix any minor problems and address any issues before they potentially balloon into larger issues.

The extent to which this inspection takes place is largely dependent on your facility's needs and its current maintenance state. Newer buildings may only need visual checks to make sure no cracks are forming along the foundation or next to windows. Additionally, FacilitiesNet recommended an infrared roof survey every five years to ensure that leaks haven't formed that could lead to costly water damage.

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