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Curtain wall and storefront glazing systems are typically a thin, non-structural outer façade element of a building that can span multiple floors or be incorporated into a punched opening. Glazing systems function largely as air and water vapor barriers, resisting air or water infiltration and accommodate building and system movement induced by wind, thermal, and seismic forces. Glazing systems support their dead load weight forces and provide no structural support to the building. As such, lightweight materials can be used in their development. Commercial glazing systems are typically constructed of aluminum-framed walls with glass, metal panels, louvers, operable windows or vents, or stone veneer infills. Building envelope consultants will often advise designers on curtain wall and storefront requirements for building movement, thermal expansion and contraction, water diversion, and thermal efficiency.
Spandrel infill can enhance the visual impact of glazing systems and are used in place of vision glass where there is a need to hide the edges of floor slabs, insulation, ceiling details, and other building elements that would otherwise be seen through vision glass. Opaque glazing, metal panels, MCM (metal composite materials) panels, or insulated laminated panels are typically utilized as spandrel infill. When insulation is utilized inboard of the spandrel infill, an air space is routinely introduced to prevent thermal damage to the spandrel infill. Unfortunately, the air space can provide an opportunity for condensation to form on the interior face of the spandrel infill.
Weather conditions, exterior temperatures, and glazing system design can have a tremendous impact on the likelihood and the rate of condensation formation at spandrel locations.
Condensation formation on spandrel infill is most likely to occur during extreme winter conditions when insufficient heat is supplied from the interior to prevent interior infill surface temperatures from remaining above the dew point. When interior surface temperatures dip below the dew point, water molecules start to form on the interior surface of the spandrel infill. Conditions that can contribute to condensation are the glazing system geometry, large amounts of interior insulation, uncontrolled air migration into the spandrel air gap, and long distances from heat sources. Should poorly designed spandrel conditions be left unattended, condensation can result in moisture or aesthetic damage to the spandrel panel and/or interior surfaces.
When condensation forms at the spandrel infill of a glazing system, multiple types of damage can occur, and the effects of condensation can be far-reaching. In addition to moisture damage and microbial growth, condensation development on spandrel infill can also have a negative effect.
In addition, combinations of these types of damage can occur, causing progressive damage that will require professional remediation.
Qualified professionals can recommend proven methods to mitigate conditions and remediate any existing damage caused by glazing system spandrel infill condensation.
The most effective means to minimize condensation is during the initial system design. In addition to incorporating rehabilitation methodology, ways to minimize condensation potential during design include:
At Lerch Bates, we can help you each step of the way, whether you recently discovered condensation and are looking for remediation and management solutions, or whether you are designing a building and aim to minimize the potential for condensation at spandrel infill locations. Contact us today for more information.