Repair of a Wellness Center Air Barrier

Track 1: Air Barriers

Wednesday, May 11, 8:30am – 9:30am

In 2010, a regional medical center in Western Iowa opened a new 46,000 square foot wellness center complex across the street from their local hospital. The new building was housed in a pre-fabricated metal building configured on the inside to house a natatorium on one half and a fitness center on the other. In the first winter of operation, considerable moisture problems were seen both inside and outside the building. The Owner returned to the design/construction team to help resolve this problem. At first, the problem was considered to reside in a poorly installed plastic vapor retarder, and the proposed repair entailed ripping down the interior walls to repair this deficiency. When WJE came on board, we questioned the air barrier – which we quickly found was the root cause. Our repair approach removed the exterior panels, installed a SPF air barrier and thermal insulation and replaced those panels. The Center remained open during the whole repair. Whole building air testing confirmed that we now had a tight air barrier and the Owner reported saving 25% in energy bills the first winter after repair.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Determine how Heat, Air and Moisture (HAM) move through the building envelope.
  2. Recognize the difference between rainwater and HAM water leaks.
  3. Comprehend the different functions of air and vapor barriers.
  4. Appreciate the use of spray polyurethane foam as a repair material.
Level of content:

Jennifer Schneider

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

Jennifer Schneider received her Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and joined Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., in 2009. She has been involved with numerous projects related to the inspection, investigation, and repair of distressed conditions in existing buildings. Her experience also includes building enclosure commissioning and peer design review for new construction, applying her experience in modes of leakage, condensation, and distress to proposed detailing. She also applies thermal and hygrothermal modeling to her evaluation of exterior wall systems. Ms. Schneider is a licensed architect in Illinois and a LEED Accredited Professional.

Sarah Sinusas

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

Sarah Sinusas is a Senior Associate at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. (WJE) in the firm’s New Haven, Connecticut office. She is a Professional Engineer and has specialized in building envelope systems since beginning her career in 2008. She specializes in the evaluation and investigation of fenestration assemblies and building science assessments, and has participated in and led projects that include design, detailing, testing, and monitoring of a variety of cladding and glazing systems. Her work has included peer reviews of architectural and envelope shop drawings, thermal modeling of wall assemblies, as well as investigations, field observations, and construction monitoring for both new construction and repairs to existing structures.