Mock-Ups: Construction's Crash Test Dummies

Posted on by Brian Stroik

The automotive industry found a way to ensure safety performance from all manufacturers to car owners through testing and validation. Yet when we approach the subject of performance mock-ups within the building community, people seem shocked at the suggestion. After all, it might cost something to make sure it gets done right the first time – heaven forbid! 

Today's Complicated Building Matrix

Consider this: buildings today rely on hundreds of manufacturers for thousands of products with thousands of different chemical compositions, installed by a group with a known labor shortage, and managed by firms with differing delivery methods. Try and figure out that matrix of possible outcomes.

Add in the fact that very few architectural schools teach building physics for students’ understanding of heat, air, and moisture transfer, and it is no wonder insurance claims and litigation from moisture and water issues in construction have become a billion-dollar industry annually. 

So how many architectural firms have chemists or research and development labs or full-scale testing facilities? The answer is very few. However, the industry is asking the architect to provide product choices in specifications to properly design and detail projects, all with the full knowledge that no single person or firm could possibly know all the technologies available for all six sides of the enclosure.

Field Performance Mock Up being tested to AMAA 501.1 – Dynamic Water testWith all of this in mind, how can building owners be assured their buildings are being properly constructed? The solution isn’t as complicated as it might seem, when using the building industry’s “crash test dummy” – the performance mock-up.

The Performance Mock-Up

A performance mock-up is used to validate building design elements, product selection, and planned method and sequence of material application prior to the final installation on the building.

Would you build a car in your backyard for your 16-year-old to drive on the expressway at 70 mph? Of course not. So why would anyone expect a unique set of design plans, materials and installers to be able to successfully provide an owner with a leak-free building on the first try? Every building is UNIQUE.

Even if you use the exact same design from project to project, you must add in the experience, or lack thereof, of the installers for each building, unique jobsite and environmental conditions, and so on. Even selecting the exact same materials for two identical projects, there is no feasible way they could be built with the exact same labor force in the exact same site and weather conditions. It is impossible!Test_Wall_Air_Chamber_07

The performance mock-up can be built and tested in a myriad of configurations and at different levels of cost.  The most important part is that they are tested – for water leakage, air leakage, thermal concerns, and durability.  Make sure the people building the mock-up are also going to be working on the project. What good does it do the project if the knowledge gained by the mock-up is not available for the actual construction of the building? 

Do it right the first time and aim to get the lawyers and litigation out of construction.


Learn more about Tremco's Sustainable Building Solutions Test Facility, which can help you put your mock-ups to the test: 

Test Wall PROMO

Testing

Brian Stroik

About Brian Stroik

Brian Stroik is currently the manager for Tremco Sealants & Waterproofing’s Building Envelope Solutions Team, vice chair of the Air Barrier Association of America, past chair of the National Building Enclosure Council, voting member of ASTM E06 – Building Performance, a union-trained carpenter and former quality assurance manager for a billion-dollar construction management firm.

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