Panelized Framing Systems: High Rise buildings of more than 6 stories and some mid-rise buildings of between 2 and 6 stories are constructed using various types of panelized framing systems. These are prefabricated panel sections–typically made of wood or engineered lumber–that are engineered and built in an off-site factory, shipped to the site and erected with help from cranes that lift the sections into place where they can be attached with bolts, welding or other methods of anchorage. These prefabricated framing panels are intended to be an improvement over traditional stick framing built by framing contractors at the site because they allow the building to be erected more safely and quickly than can be accomplished through stick framing–especially in bad weather. In addition, factory manufacturing theoretically allows better quality control and tighter tolerances. Problems with these panelized framing systems include, among other things:
- Panels that are not properly engineered or anchored may deflect or sag, causing interior walls to be out of plumb or out of square (ie, they are not straight) , to crack or split. It may be difficult to open or close doors or windows.
- Panels that are not properly engineered or anchored may “rack” or twist, causing gaps or voids to develop between building components such as walls and windows, doors or PTAC units (ie, packaged terminal air-conditioning units which are individual units mounted through the exterior wall of the building) , thereby allowing water infiltration which damages building components.
- Panels that are improperly installed can cause serious problems including, but not limited to, structural failures, deflection of floors, walls and ceilings; cracking of floors, walls and ceilings; and significant damage to interior finishes.
Panelized Exterior Wall Cladding: These are panelized sections of complete wall assemblies that are typically one- story high including holes for windows. The panels typically have a structural supporting frame fabricated from structural steel, sheathing mounted on galvanized steel sheets, an air barrier/vapor retarder, insulation installed inside the air space, an exterior material with drainage capacity such as brick, stucco, EIFS, aluminum panels, etc , and an interior drywall normally consisting of gypsum sheathing.
Curtain Wall Exterior Cladding Systems: This is a building enclosure system that is supported by the building frame rather than by a masonry or other load-bearing wall. Curtain wall systems are usually made of aluminum with large areas of glass. Standard commercial systems are available. There are also custom systems designed with special mullions, parts and accessories. Some of the premium systems are pressure equalized so that outside and inside pressure is the same, theoretically eliminating or at least reducing the possibility that water will be pulled inside the wall assembly during wind-driven precipitation. Non-pressurized systems also exist which use weep holes to allow water to drain out of the wall system.
PROBLEMS WITH PANELIZED AND CURTAIN WALL SYSTEMS:
- Panels that are not properly installed can become loose or entirely dislodged from the building, causing an imminent danger to life and safety of people and significant damage to property;
- We have seen EIFS panels where the sealants were returned inside the joints between panels. As a result, the acrylic finish coat softened over time due to repeated exposure to moisture. As it softened, the finish coat pulled away from the base coat, causing a zipper effect which left room for water to penetrate and cause catastrophic damage including mold and damage to sheathing, framing and other building components.
- Panels that are not properly designed or which are installed in a deficient manner, or which are improperly sealed can allow significant quantities of water to penetrate and cause mold and other damage to sheathing, framing and other building components. Since this damage is often concealed for years, the damages can be catastrophic. We have seen steel framing of the panels so badly damaged from acids secreted by mold that the steel is almost completely disintegrated such that the only thing holding the panels in place is the sealants in the joints between the panels.
A careful evaluation of the building by a qualified expert is necessary in order for you to understand the condition of the building, the causes of any deficiencies in design, materials or construction methods, and the extent of the damages resulting therefrom. Once that information is compiled, counsel can help you determine what your options are for recovering your damages and getting your building fixed.