STA White Paper – Beyond the Envelope Warranty: A New Paradigm for Building Enclosure Delivery, Performance, and Durability
Marketing Communications Specialist
The design complexity associated with delivering a high-performance building enclosure has become increasingly difficult to manage and execute. It is generally accepted that the building enclosure is the most at risk for claims and litigation on new construction, with an estimated 70% of construction litigation coming from water intrusion. EDA Contractors suggests a new mechanism for dealing with and solving this issue, mainly from the perspective of a building enclosure specialist and an innovative exterior envelope contractor. With full coordination and collaboration during design and construction, the designer and the contractor can substantially increase the quality of the preconstruction, construction, and most importantly, the post-construction performance of the building enclosure. Coupling this with a 10-year watertight guarantee helps to reassure the confidence we have in this integrated approach.
The Issue: Exterior building enclosures are becoming more complicated and expensive each year
Water intrusion through the building enclosure has produced the most claims and litigations nationwide over the last decade. A majority percentage of enclosure failures are due to installation errors, and unfortunately, correcting these errors are not that simple. The issue extends beyond subpar workmanship; it often is the result of unrealistic scheduling or separate subcontractors not working together during the build process. These seemingly small issues can lead to inefficiencies during delivery, and can result in much larger issues, including a loss of integrity to the building enclosure, wasted resources and money to remediate, and strained relations between owners, architects, BECs and installers.
Goal: Reduce the risk of envelope installation with a blended approach
This white paper will describe how, using this new paradigm, a team of building science specialists and enclosure contractors, plus an installation warranty can be combined to provide a coordinated enclosure system. Ultimately, we expect to substantially reduce the risks to architects and owners by transferring these risks to a building enclosure “super subcontractor” who is responsible for enclosure design, construction, and performance responsibility.
A Disjointed System: The norm for building enclosure installation leaves too much room for error
In a traditional structure, Building Enclosure Specialists (BECs) work across the table from installers. This often leads to inefficiencies in planning, which results in incurred costs for owners. For decades, a BEC and installers would meet to discuss the details of an architect’s design intent for a construction project. The BEC would create a list of suggestions for the best – and often most expensive way – to enclose the building. The problem however, is that would conflict with an installer’s “Design-Bid-Build” delivery model. In this model, the installers submit a price to install the work with the fastest installation method in mind. Working with a BEC can lead to multiple meetings, several design revisions, and additional billable hours. This delay risks lost project time that ultimately costs building owners money.
BECs were introduced to help navigate constant changes to building science. They focus on delivering the architect’s aesthetic vison while also ensuring the functionality of the building enclosure to prevent water intrusion. While BECs are typically employed by the building owner or architect, they are expected to work alongside installers to ensure they deliver the design intent. Oftentimes this can lead to a disjointed relationship between the BEC and installer, as they are only introduced when the building process is about to begin. On the other hand, a common perception from owners and architects is that BECs would face a ‘conflict of interest’ if they were contracted under the general contractor or installer, instead of the owner or architect. The main concern is that the installer may be compelled to take shortcuts to ensure greater profit margins for the installer and potentially jeopardize the integrity of the building enclosure. In other words, owners often use the BEC to oversee the installer rather than allow for a true collaboration.
Our Recommendation: Change the structure of how the Building Enclosure Specialists works in the build process
EDA’s recommendation to mitigating the concerns of contracting a BEC under the installer is providing an extended (10-year) watertight warranty for the entire exterior enclosure. By allowing the envelope installer to act as a “super subcontractor,” the owner would allow the installer to hire their own BEC to ensure checks and balances and encourage knowledge sharing throughout the installation. With the BEC working directly under the installer, they can work together to deliver the design intent while also streamlining the process of planning and coordination. By having the BEC work alongside the installer and their team, there is improved collaboration that leads to fewer instances of water leaks post-completion. With complete control of the enclosure, the installer can control the steps and installation of scopes beneath their work and can quality control all work impacting the exterior envelope for a smoother installation. They receive the design intent from the architect for the exterior enclosure, then work together for the most cost-effective way to build without leaks.
This construction delivery method goes beyond the gold standard, as it offers a platinum service that caters to owners and architects, ensuring design intent is met while mitigating risk. It enhances collaboration, streamlines design and installation process, and shifts liability from the owner or architect to the BEC and installer. This collaboration would all be protected by the installation warranty, which gives the building owner protection for up to ten years. Additionally, the BEC would be required to absorb liability for the design by stamping the drawings, and the installer would be required to absorb liability for workmanship by providing the extended warranty.
Dear STA Members and friends,
On behalf of the Subcontractors Trade Association (STA), I thank our outgoing Executive Director Henry “Hank” Kita for his nearly ten years of service. He will be retiring at the end of February 2023.
Over the past decade, Kita has transformed the STA into an even more vital, recognizable, and change-making organization that is building New York better.
Kita’s successful guidance led to myriad accomplishments benefiting our members and the industry. Just one clear example is the effective legislative efforts of the Association, including several bills passed under his purview:
- Amendment to Public Authorities Law (Article 1774) (2014) – dramatically improved the change order process for subcontractors working with the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA).
- Reauthorization and Reform of M/WBE Law (2019) – increased the personal net worth cap to qualify for M/WBE status and other reforms.
- Substantial Completion on Public Works Projects (2020) – defined “substantial completion” and prescribed timelines and procedures to be followed by public owners and contractors for prompt subcontractor payment.
- Construction Advisory Council on Public Contracting Reform (2022) – established a statewide advisory council to study public contracting issues such as delay damages, substantial completion, retainage, and M/WBE; STA will serve on the advisory council.
There have also been several pieces of legislation championed by the STA during this time that made it through to the Governor’s desk to ultimately be vetoed. STA will continue to pursue them in the future. These bills include:
- Contractual Notice Provisions (COFED) – prohibits the use of arcane, overly strict and unfair notice requirements in public construction contracts that are unjustifiably prejudicing contractors and subcontractors. (Vetoed 2016.)
- Delay Damages – provides for delay damages to contractors in public works projects, where such delay is both unreasonable and is the fault or responsibility of the public owner. (Vetoed 2019.)
Kita also played a major role in the following initiatives that are still working their way through the legislative process:
- Material Price Escalation Bill (2022) – provides equitable relief to contractors who have sustained unanticipated expenses by reason of construction materials price escalation.
- Small Contractor Relief Act (2022-23) – creates a captive insurance pilot program to provide affordable liability insurance for small and M/WBE contractors and subcontractors.
Reimagining the STA
Hank Kita spearheaded the initiative to reimagine STA events by holding some of the largest construction awards dinners in STA history, with between 500-600 guests attending annually over the last five years.
Kita also began STA’s yearly “Speed Meeting” event that gives subcontractors unparalleled access to meet with procurement representatives from the top GCs in New York.
He also assisted in the digitization of the Association with redesigned online newsletters and member access.
Many widely-read industry publications and white papers were released under Hank Kita’s purview. Notably, this Fall, the STA released our latest legal guide: “What do you do? How to Better Manage Contracts, Preserve Claims & Reduce Project Risk” (By Andrew Richards, KDV Law). The comprehensive guide was released to all members to help them run their business better and have a clearer understanding of construction contract clauses.
Providing Stable Leadership through the Pandemic
In March 2020, Kita helped lead our members through the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. Constant updates, bulletins and industry news were fed almost daily from the STA, and he served as a point of contact for all members when dealing with running a business in a global crisis.
A Storied Career with Vast Experience
Hank Kita brought many years of invaluable industry experience to the STA, most recently serving as Senior Vice President of the Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA) of New York. Benefiting the 26 trade associations BTEA represents, Kita managed vital safety initiatives, grant development, MWBE advocacy, and educational programs.
Additionally, please feel free to send Hank Kita good wishes and farewell messages to email@example.com.
Conclusion: Delegated design is cost-effective and mitigates risk
Delegated design of the exterior enclosure is a cost-effective measure for owners because they are relieved of liability and risk. Both the BEC and installer assume responsibility for issues that arise, and workmanship is backed by an extended (ten-year) warranty. The owner also saves additional costs that come from streamlined collaboration between the BEC and installer. This is the result of fewer meetings and increased timeline to execution. Further, the architect benefits from delegated design as a delivery method because their design intent is held paramount by both the BEC and installer. The architect effectively relinquishes any risk and liability of the design stamp for the exterior envelope, which is assumed by the BEC and installer. This idea for a delegated design of the exterior envelope as a construction delivery method creates a gold standard for construction projects. It ensures that BECs and installers are complementing, not competing, efforts to balance the delivery of design intent and integrity of the exterior envelope through shared knowledge of the scope of work.
Principal, ALC Steel
President, STA Board of Directors