Extreme Weather Events and the Greater Role of Adhesives and Sealants

Posted on 11/21/2017 10:57:58 AM By Paul Bertram

In September, I presented at the CSI Construct conference on the topic of resilience. This is topic that I have covered to some degree in past blogs but with the recent event of Harvey, Irma and Maria, a heightened discussion has emerged.

In early November, the Greater Orlando CSI chapter convened a panel discussion on the topic of how Resilience in Building Enclosure, Materials, and Building Codes Impact, Project Specifications. Panelist included a code official, a building enclosure expert, and a specialist in panelized off-site constructions.

As a result of these events I offer the following summaries:

ASC Blogger Ujjval Vyas, of the Alberti Group, has long argued to me that focus on Resilience has become the “new” sustainability and is comprised of fragmented narrow views.

He referred me to a paper titled: Institutional Resilience and Economic Systems

 Paul Dragos AligicaVlad Tarko that addresses a key point that resilience is more than mere ‘absorptive capacity’ or ‘speed of recovery’.

From an Architectural Specifiers view, Mark Kalin, FCSI, CCS, SCIP stated that; “Resilience” will play a major role in the design even when discounting hazard events.

What you as a member of ASC might consider regarding “Resilience” and your products.

“Resilience” defined

National Research Council, defines resilience as “The ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events”

Plan NYC:

1. Able to bounce back after change or adversity

2. Capable of preparing for, responding to, and recovering from difficult conditions. Syn.: TOUGH


The capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within to survive no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

(adapted from 100 Resilient Cities -

The Resilience Building Coalition guiding principles - May 2014

•Developing and advocating for codes and policies that advance resilience

•Developing “whole-systems resilient design” approaches for the built environment

Providing guidance, beyond the baseline life-safety codes, that recognizes the importance of fortifying property for individual and community resilience


AIA further differentiates with these definitions:

Hazard: poses a threat to safety

Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, drought, and wildfires

Risk: quantifies hazard threat

Defines the likelihood of occurrence and intensity of the hazard.

Vulnerability: personalizes risk

Assesses the capabilities and interdependencies of individuals and communities associated with risk.

Mitigation: reducing negative impact

Resilience: inherent durability or flexibility

Incorporating changing environmental, social, and economic conditions into projects. This requires designs that are tough as well as flexible; providing the ability to not only bounce back, but forward.

Adaptation: throughout service life

Per AIA, Architects are bound by their licenses to protect public health, safety, and welfare and, to that end, employ design and systems-thinking to address hazard risk and meet client performance goals.

Let’s review some of the key issues where adhesives and sealants play a significant role:

From a manufacturer’s point of view, the associated supply chain, and installing contractors,clearly define what “resilience” aspects you are addressing in your testing, marketing and installation guidelines.

Building Envelope Functions related to “Resilience” in adhesives and sealants include:

  • Control of liquid water penetration (Water Barrier)
  • Control of water vapor flow (Vapor Barrier)
  • Control of heat flow (Thermal Barrier)
  • Control of air flow (Air Barrier)
  • Control of fire (Fire-Stopping)
  • Control of noise
  • Provide resiliency to the building

Air leakagewas noted as one of the largest contributors to energy waste in buildings with HVAC systems. Connectivity at critical transitions is key to long-term performance of the building envelope. It is estimated that as much as 90% of all water intrusion problems may occur within the 1% of the total building exterior surface that contains the terminations and transition detailing: window-to-wall tie-ins, roof-to-wall tie-ins, foundation-to-wall tie-ins, penetrations and corners. Testing of these connection points between air/vapor building protection systems is a key focus as well as other building and design challenges facing the sustainability and performance of the built environment. All of this translates to Risk.

Testing and Compliance is understood by the manufacturers but I question just how much the specifiers understand about all the testing required for compliance. All of these are listed in the codes and manufacturers 3 Part CSI formatted Specifications. What exactly do these test address and how are they tested for approval? I believe this to be an opportunity for manufacturers to develop relationship with design professionals and differentiate performance.

Here is an example regarding air leakage; drawing provided by Dudley McFarquhar, Ph.D., P.E.

(click to enlarge)

Air leakage pathways

At connections; Foundation to wall, floor to wall,wall to window,wall to roof, through materials,concrete blocks,mortar joints


ASTM E2813- Standard Practice for Building Enclosure Commissioning

To deliver greater certainty in performance principles of Enclosure Commissioning might be a consideration even if not specified. Cost becomes an issue with this concept but would be a shared expense with all component manufacturers and would potentially reduce field installed latent defects.

Test specifications:

In general, test specifications define the test methods & procedures for exterior wall assemblies & fenestrations and include the various applicable standards that are included in the 3 Part CSI Specifications.

Test purposes:
Verify Design Performance, Ensure Workmanship Quality, Investigate Defects & Failures related to compliance. Do specifiers and design teams really understand all of these?


Test Types
“Laboratory Testing”

In Laboratory SYSTEM mockup testing – the purpose of the “in Laboratory” testing is to validate the model data against a full-scale SYSTEM mockup performance. Either the model or the construction can be adjusted to provide greater certainty in specified performance. All Recognize the “In Lab” function mockup testing does not totally represent what happens in the field but is suggested as interim step to delivering design intent. “In Lab” testing is also ideal for saleable, repeatable SYSTEM solutions and is of interest to NYSERDA in their Deep Energy Retrofit NY programs on low income multifamily housing.

“Field”mock up Testing
This is something that a small percentage of projects incorporate; Water Penetration, Air Leakage, Thermal Performance, Structural Performance

At the conclusion of Dudley McFarquhar’s, Ph.D., P.E., panel discussion session he recommended these key areas of focus:

Review the number of system types on project

  • Pay close attention to transitions in material types and plane (If there is a complex geometry, include the need for mockups to be included in project)
  • Request 3-D or isometric drawings to be submitted so it can be evaluated
  • Not all tests listed in ASTM E2813 are applicable to each project. Review carefully.
  • Always recommend field tests on large projects as a part of quality assurance
  • Try to include manufacturer’s rep site visit as part of the process. It is important for warranties.

The Market vs The Code
Based on the recent extreme weather events of Harvey, Irma, Maria and back to Super Storm Sandy, it is my opinion and othersthat the insurance and reinsurance industries will be driving increased performance requirements potentially great than code development. How does this impact adhesives and sealants role in performance?

Manufacturers supported by their supply chains and ASC might consider the opportunity to be bring greater certainty to performance and include these issues in education programs to members and the AEC industry.