Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Catastrophic

How Long Before the Pipes Freeze?

An unexpected severe winter freeze will remind many people and businesses that when water in a pipe freezes, the ice will expand and burst the pipe or pipe fitting.  Large losses will result from flooding when the temperatures rise.  Insulation will help, but not prevent freezing.  Insulation simply slows down the rate of heat loss.  The time of exposure to subfreezing temperature is an important factor.

The American Society of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Handbook of Fundamentals has a short entry on the topic (Chapter 23, page 23.5-6), which gives an equation for estimating the time that it will take an insulated pipe to freeze, Read More

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Types of and Techniques for Reinforced Concrete Masonry Block Construction

Construction using concrete masonry blocks or units (CMU) is ubiquitous in the United States today, and in fact in the whole modern world.  CMU blockwork is a very versatile and relatively economical building material.  It is naturally strong in compression, but with reinforced, grout-filled cells, it can also withstand large shear, bending, and tensile loads imparted by lateral wind or seismic events.  In this article, I will discuss the various types of CMU designs, as well as terminology, construction techniques, and application uses.

The design of CMU is typically comprised of hollow concrete “face shells” with Read More

Uplift and Shear Restraint Techniques for Residential Structures in Hurricane Wind Zones

Hurricane and Tropical Storm strength wind forces can wreak havoc on wood-framed residential structures.  One of the primary hazards is the negative pressures which can develop on the exterior building envelope when the structure is subjected to the high encircling winds.  These negative pressures act like the suction of a giant vacuum on a dwelling’s roof diaphragm, which produces enormous uplift forces throughout the entire structure.  The leeward walls are also subjected to negative pressures, while the windward walls take the brunt of the positive wind pressures.  The uplift on the roof is caused by what the author dubs “the airplane wing effect”.  In other words, Read More

Construction Techniques to Prevent Water Penetration at Windows

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Windows, and their interface with the exterior walls, are an important part of a building’s envelope that resists the intrusion of water. Most builders take many precautions to protect a house from water damage. One of the most important factors in keeping the water out is the installation of window flashing, a thin material that prevents water from seeping in around a window. Read More

Hail Isn’t Cool

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Hail property damage is frequently reported after an HVAC service call.  Building owners are often unaware there is damage until the power bill starts trending higher and the HVAC system is simply not cooling effectively. Take look at the fins! The National Weather Service reported over $722 million in property damage from hail in 2018.  Based on NWS data, hail caused more property damage than tornadoes or thunderstorms.  Only Tropical Storms/Hurricanes at $12 billion, coastal storms at $1 billion and flooding at $1 billion were more costly than hail to property.

One of the items very susceptible to damage is the HVAC system.  The heat that is removed from the interior of a building must be rejected to the environment.   As such the HVAC system is placed where it can have unhindered access to outdoor air in order to function properly.  This often results in the unit being placed in a large open space such as a rooftop, making it susceptible to damage such as hail.  Read More

Flood Damage to Electrical Equipment

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As a result of the recent weather, those of us in South Carolina have gained a renewed appreciation of the damage that can result from flooding. Even a few inches of flood water can result in property damage and a loss of services in addition to the immediate risk of physical harm. Read More

Catastrophic Weather – Lessons Learned

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In recent years, with Hurricane Ike in Galveston, TX in 2008 and Superstorm Sandy along the New Jersey and New York coastline in 2012, we have had the opportunity to see firsthand the destructive power of storms like these.  We were “boots on the ground” literally days after the initial coastal strike.  The damage observed to residential and commercial structures was far reaching, diverse and some preventable.  We want to share some “lessons learned” from these observations for these two CAT events. Read More

Hail Damage Standards – Part 3

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In the continuation of the series on Hail Damage Standards, we will now focus on defining “Functional vs Cosmetic” hail damage to shingle roofing and other building components.  As discussed before, our goal in this blog series is to accurately and consistently determine hail damage to roofing and building components. Read More

Hail Damage Standards – Part 2

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In the continuation of the series on Hail Damage Standards, we will now focus on the velocity and directionality characteristics of hailstones.  As discussed before, our goal is to accurately and consistently determine hail damage to roofing and building components. Read More

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