Contributed by Cory Robbins
I work for a multi-disciplined exterior envelope contractor. We have run into the same problem over and over for the past decade and are looking to address it sooner rather than later. We are talking about the huge gap/loophole that exists when installing a multi-layered dry-joint rainscreen system. Rainscreens are here to stay, and architects are designing buildings across the country to include them and show off some beautiful looking exterior facades that make everyone stop and stare when walking past.
The issue that we have run into is quite simple, but tricky to fix. At the end of a project, if there happens to be a leak in the elevation including a rainscreen, the owner is in a heap of trouble. There is usually an Air & Vapor Barrier installer, and an Exterior Façade installer on the project and they both will complain and blame the other contractor for the leak. The worst part is they both have valid arguments. The AVB installer has an easy out in that “My work was watertight before the exterior façade installer drilled 50,000 holes through it, you can’t blame me!” The exterior façade installer says “My system is dry-seal, and is designed to let water through, how can you possibly blame me?”
And so…… The Blame Game ensues!
To make things worse, every AVB material warranty is void the moment it is pierced by any fastener. They specifically do not warrant workmanship and the best they will do is warrant their material failing. Manufacturers of AVB will replace the material (which costs next to nothing) and sometimes pay for the labor to remove their material, NOT INCLUDING the overburden/exterior façade. The owner of the building has two options at this point.
Both of these options are TERRIBLE! In both situations, the owner loses and the only winner is the lawyers who are making $400/hr. We have come up with a solution that can be incorporated into the specifications by the architect designing the project. The concept is simple, place the AVB installer/subcontractor underneath the exterior façade installer/subcontractor and make them one entity that provides a 10-year workmanship warranty for the wall system. This way, there is only one company to call when a leak is found in the elevation, the exterior façade installer. That subcontractor is in charge of the wall system, and they vouch for the AVB installer and their work. This does not mean one sole-source company, and it can be two separate companies, with one united goal, a leak-free rainscreen wall system.
The precedent for this has already been set in curtainwall when the curtainwall installer includes the storefront and glazier and caulker under one umbrella. Or, when a roofer brings along their favorite plumber for the storm drains that need to be installed. The 10-year workmanship warranty language also forces a more detailed coordination effort by the two installers, simply because they know they will be coming back if there are any leaks after project completion.
The warranty language covers the owner and the architect alike and forces coordination and detailed shop drawings through a contract signed between two companies, working together to create a rainscreen system that does not leak. The idea can be added as an “Add Alternate” to give each exterior façade installer the opportunity to put a price tag on the warranty, and then the owner can decide if it is worth the extra money for the high-quality it gives them. If they choose to exclude it, then at least the architect warned them against cutting corners on the rainscreen system. The architect can remind them that the water integrity of the exterior of the building should be the number one priority on any project. As we know, water/moisture is the number one enemy of ANY building.
Here is the warranty language as our lawyers have written it, and every architect has the ability to incorporate the language however they see fit. (usually in the Division 7 specification for the exterior façade)
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