Façade Leaks: Records Are The Best Clues

This blog will look at how we can capture the details of high-rise façade leaks to make investigations and repairs more efficient and avoid the usual looking-for-a-needle-in-a-haystack scenario. 

Why leak details are so important

Leaks are the most irritating of defects for any building surveyor, particularly on a high-rise façade. Where water appears inside the building, it rarely corresponds with a defect in the same spot outside. This is why it is so important to narrow the search through recording details of the leak when it happens.

If a surveyor knows where the water was dripping from inside, they know where to start fanning upward and outward on the outside. Without that vital clue, the surveyor and the maintenance contractor are often left clutching at straws. On rare occasions, there will be an obvious defect that has allowed water to come in, but in the majority of cases, the issue is not so easily identifiable.

As a surveyor, I find leak patterns incredibly informative. If I know water is coming in at the top of a window, I’m interested in the inter-storey joint above. If water is coming in from a mid-rail, I’m keen to check the weep holes. With information on how the leak presents inside, I can rule out some possible causes and this makes the process of investigating on the outside much more efficient.

Without appropriate leak investigations, leaks are likely to reoccur and ad-hoc repairs have the potential to do harm to the façade system. For more information on this, take a look at Façade Maintenance: Sealing In Problems.

Capturing the clues

There are various different ways to capture the data from leaks but, from my experience, simple questionnaires and registers usually work best. These are the two key documents I recommend:

Leak Questionnaire

Below is an example of a Leak Questionnaire that some of my Clients have been able to successfully make use of on their high-rise office buildings:

Leak Questionnaire

Example of leak questionnaire to be completed when a leak occurs.

Tenants are key to the successful recording of leak information so, questionnaires should be as tenant friendly as possible. On the building where this template was first introduced, tenants are generally happy to complete the questionnaire and have been able to provide essential clues to feed the investigation process.

Even if a leak has occurred on the same window before, it is important a questionnaire is completed each time. Records of multiple leak events help the surveyor understand where the water might be coming from, if the issue/defect is getting worse or whether trial repairs have been successful.

Leak Register

Keeping track of leaks in one document is important as it allows you to see what is happening at a glance and track the progress of individual leaks through to repair and sign-off. An example leak register is shown below:

Leak Register

Example leak register (excel spreadsheet).

The leak register should be searchable so that when a questionnaire is received, the facilities manager can see if there has been a leak from that window previously. If so, notes in the comments column should be made and the questionnaire filed under the original defect reference with any previous questionnaires. Do not give each new leak report/questionnaire a new reference as this will give a false impression of the number of leaks and lead to duplication of work.

The facilities manager is usually responsible for maintaining the register, logging of leaks and collation of the questionnaires. This process allows the facilities manager to understand the quantum and severity of leaks on their building, helping them develop a strategy around inspections and repairs, with input from their surveyor and maintenance contractor.

Summary

Leaks will occur on most high-rise façades at some point. Ad-hoc repairs can inadvertently damage the façade and be a waste of money. So, if you are tempted to instruct an urgent ‘repair’ without knowing how the leak has occurred, consider investigating first. Investigation is essential to implementing successful repairs and it starts with information gathering.

Tenants can be the source of valuable information if you give them a template to use and most tenants are happy to help. Logging leaks in a register helps the whole façade maintenance team (facilities manager, surveyor, contractor etc.) understand how many leaks there are, and their status. Without this bigger picture view, it will be difficult to plan an efficient investigation and repair strategy.

Information cannot be interpreted or used if it is not collected and shared. So, if you don’t have a process in place for recording and registering leaks, think about introducing a leak questionnaire and register to your building management strategy.

By Victoria Richardson

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