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G. Peter Vander Heide, AIA Logo - Expert Architectural Testimony | Philadelphia, PA

(484) 440-2673

Expert Testimony | Philadelphia, PA


Reports & Testimony from an Architecture Expert


Whether you're working on a slip-and-fall or an ADA case, I'm more than happy to provide expert testimony in Philadelphia, PA. Since 2001, I've leveraged my decades of hands-on experience in the architecture industry to compile extensive reports and serve as an expert witness. When you need help Detecting Any Construction Flaws, structural issues or just need an architectural expert opinion on a project contact us today!

Expert Reports & Testimony

After almost thirty years of collecting experiences in a broad range of settings and projects, I ventured into my first case as an expert architectural testimony witness in 2001. Since then, I've been involved in over 60 cases, and I greatly enjoy the work. Sifting through depositions for meaningful testimony or through repositories for significant documentation is much like a treasure hunt, and I find that I have the patience for it.

I never discriminate as to plaintiff or defense work. The facts are the facts, and my job is to thoroughly investigate them. I make sure I know what the facts are before drawing conclusions and developing opinions based on them. Once this step is complete, I organize the facts, my conclusions, and opinions in a logical and easily understandable way. This helps me tell the story that the facts reveal and is usually done in a written report. I take pride in writing well-illustrated reports with helpful graphics and schedules where appropriate. Since most cases settle before trial, I have only had to testify a half dozen times in support of my opinions. That said, I try my absolute best to do so in a credible and convincing fashion.

Envelope Problems

When something is wrong, sometimes the presenting symptoms seem to be energy consumption related; in other situations, water intrusion causes stains or deteriorating materials and finishes. Of course, sometimes it's both. The complexity of modern HVAC systems and buildings, along with the interdependent behavior of heat and moisture in the atmosphere often leads to interconnectedness in the mechanical systems and the envelope. What looked like a bad mechanical design often turns out to be a missing air barrier.

Water vapor moves through most building materials--with the exception of steel and glass —based on the relative vapor pressures on either side of the wall. Vapor pressure is mostly determined by heat and humidity. The volume of water in vapor is quite low compared to water itself, but the process is always working. Since the volumes are so low, the importance of the process has is overlooked in construction. Also, because the volume of water is low, it can take a few years after initial construction for problems from vapor drive to show symptoms.

Building Envelope Investigations

Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to do some serious building envelope investigations. I've been involved with Exterior Finish and Insulation Systems (EIFS), traditional hard coat stucco that required replacement, stone veneer that required replacement, shingle roofs that required replacement, windows improperly flashed, sealant joints missing, required flashings omitted, air barriers omitted, as well as just faulty design.

Many contractors and craftsmen do a fine job of putting buildings together properly, but with the pace of change of new materials, changes in contractor personnel, and the hurry to get work done, it seems that some buildings that just don't go together as they should. Because we're creating artificial indoor climates to live in, which have to be warmer, colder, dryer, or wetter than the outside climate most of the time, we have to have an effective envelope to contain our comfortable climate.

Envelope Modeling

One of the best new tools to come along in some time to screen building envelopes for potential problems is hydro-thermal modeling of the envelope. There are a couple of computer programs that allow this modeling now, including the WUFI system, which I use to look at every envelope I investigate.

The Fraunhofer Institute of Building Physics in Germany developed it in cooperation with Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the US. The name comes from the German: "Wärme und Feuchte instationär." Or, the English translation: dynamic heat and moisture. These laboratories have validated a wide variety of results using this tool.

WUFI Modeling

WUFI modeling offers significantly more information about how building envelopes behave in their environments. It can reveal problems with some materials and offer reassurance of adequate drying in other situations. Some important aspects of WUFI are its coupled heat and moisture values, material properties that vary with humidity, and the ability to consider wind-driven rain and radiation effects in envelope simulations.

I'm very impressed with the information I gain from these simulations, but they do not offer the whole answer. Cracks and the air and water that they can introduce into an envelope are not considered, so that requires more analysis.

Cracks can be very serious transmitters of water into a wall construction. With a little pressure and a good rain, even a small crack can be a great conduit for water into a wall. If it finds its way out again without affecting the rest of the materials in the wall, there may be no problem. But steel rusts faster if wetted frequently, and wood or fiberboard with elevated moisture will rot away all too soon. If you notice a problem with our building's envelopes--which should be dry and crack-free–please give me a call.