Article on Commercial and Residential Inspections and Assessment

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Commercial and residential building inspections are C.L.I. Group, LLC’s original business. Serving Greater Cleveland area building owners since 1992. It has always been our goal to help our clients make the transition to a new building or home with as few unexpected problems as possible. Since 1992 we have expanded our services to meet the needs of many of other issues which can affect a building, including indoor air quality, energy, water damage, mold and others. All buildings should be thought of as a series of integral components with each component playing an important role in the function of that building. No component is any more or less important than another. It is when contractors, sub-contractors and field supervision fail to follow this building as a system approach that problems occur. C.L.I. can provide quality control and quality assurance on your projects beginning at the design stage and following through to final commissioning of the building envelope and HVAC systems. The fact is, there is only one way to know for sure what a building is doing, by measuring it’s performance. This allows for finding and correcting problems during the design and construction phases of a project which reduces callbacks later.

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Building Performance:

Because the whole-building, or systems, approach to buildings is a fairly new concept, not everyone in the building trades is familiar with it. And it goes against traditional building practice, which is based on specialty trades. You probably already know how that goes: a different contractor for every task. And none of them has any idea what the other is doing.

This is changing with the emergence of the performance contractor, a person trained and equipped to test buildings, both commercial and residential to see where problems exist. These contractors go by a variety of names, such as commissioning agent, or comfort solutions specialist. Often there is a reference to energy on their calling cards since many of them learned their trade as weatherization technicians or energy auditors and retrofitters. More and more traditional heating/air conditioning contractors, insulation contractors, and general contractors are being trained in the building as a whole approach, so the only way to know if this is part of their practice is simply to ask.

**What To Look For **

Contractors trained to approach the building as a system will use special tools, including blower doors, manometers, infrared thermography equipment, balometers, duct blasters and moisture detection equipment. The specialty equipment utilized during building performance testing or commissioning allows technicians to measure the performance of the building and it’s systems. The results can then be compared to original design and intent to assure that the building is performing as intended in the original design.
Our team includes engineers, licensed HVAC technicians, Board certified indoor air quality professionals, ICC certified inspectors, certified energy inspectors & plans examiners and experienced journeyman craftsmen.
Integrated Design
Integrated design is the consideration and design of all building systems and components together. It draws from all disciplines involved in designing a building and reviews their recommendations as a whole. It recognizes that each discipline’s recommendations have an impact on other aspects of the building project. For example, HVAC systems are too often designed independently of lighting systems and lighting systems are designed without consideration of day-lighting opportunities. The architect, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, contractors, and other team members each have their scope of work and often pursue it without adequate communication and interaction with other team members. This can result in oversized systems or systems that are optimized for non-typical conditions.
Even a small degree of integration provides some benefits. It allows professionals to take advantage of efficiencies that are not apparent when they are working in isolation. It can point out areas where trade-offs can be implemented to enhance resource efficiency. Design integration is also the best way to avoid redundancy or conflicts with aspects of the building project planned by others. This approach allows for optimization of both building performance and cost.
The earlier that integration is introduced in the design process, the greater the benefit. For a high performance school, project team collaboration and integration of design choices should begin no later than the programming phase. In addition, the project team is likely to be more broadly defined than in the past, and may include energy analysts, materials consultants, lighting designers, life cycle cost consultants and commissioning agents.
Source: EPA (IAQ Design Tools for Schools)
Commercial Inspections and Assessments:

Commercial Assessments can be performed in accordance with ASTM E 2018-01 Property Condition Assessment: Baseline Property Condition Assessment Process or to fit your particular needs and budget requirements. We can also perform records searches including CERCLIS, EPA NPL, CORRACTS and other available information. In addition we can perform other services which are outside of the scope of an ASTM 2018-01 assessment when needed. Those services include Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, engineering studies, energy audits, infrared thermography (roof, building envelope scans), HVAC system operational performance checks, balancing and air diagnostics, ADA compliance assessments and other specialty services.
Click Here to View Sample Commercial Inspection Report

Residential Assessments:

C.L.I. has evaluated thousands of homes and buildings throughout Northeast, Ohio since 1992. The assessment process picks up where your home inspection left off. There are too many issues in residential buildings which can be overlooked during a cursory inspection of the building. These issues include concealed moisture problems, poor HVAC system performance, indoor air quality issues, problems with the building envelope and duct systems, etc. It has been our experience that many conditions are also misdiagnosed during cursory inspections of homes.
Our team of professionals can diagnose, measure and test the components of your residential building to assure that the building meets the design intent. This can help to assure that systems reach their full life expectancies, that there are not hidden problems which you will discover when they have become more costly to address and that your building and the systems are working together as a system. The problems are not limited to older homes as many people think. We find just as many significant issues in new homes.
If you are building a home, our team of professionals will work with you from the design phase to assure that the systems are properly sized and properly installed to achieve the design intent. The performance of building systems will be measured during construction and shortcomings will be addressed.
Building Tightness Inspections/Duct Testing/Energy Audit

Building Tightness Inspections/Energy Audits are performed using state of the art equipment including Minneapolis Blower Doors, Duct Blasters and FLIR infrared thermography equipment to evaluate the building for energy losing leakage, insulation deficiencies, inadequate combustion zone air and other building leakage related problems.
We use blower door technology to put the building under either a negative or positive pressure (depending on particular circumstance) which induces airflow through building leakage points. We can then quantify the leakage and evaluate pathways using thermal images. Thermal images provide a visual presentation of leakage pathways for the retrofitting company that will be performing tightening operations and completing other improvements on the building. We offer multi-point blower door assessments which are more accurate than a typical, single point blower door test. Our multi-point testing evaluates your home across a series of different building pressure which allows for more accurate results.
In addition to performing a building tightness analysis, we will also evaluate combustion systems by performing a complete combustion analysis of fossil fuel fired appliances to assess the potential for problems with combustion air, exhaust spillage and back-drafting which might result from building tightening operations. In such cases we would recommend a mechanical ventilation system be installed.
Click Here to View Sample Building Tightness/Energy Loss Report
Click Here to View Duct Leakage Test, Duct Leakage Curve

Construction Defect Investigation

If you have what may be a case of defective construction, we can investigate and document the defective construction or materials for you. Our construction defect investigations can include product research, building code research, photo documentation, on-going defect documentation. This may be critical if there is an insurance claim or litigation involved. We are experienced building inspectors and building code professionals and we are knowledgeable concerning insurance claims and denials and how to properly document your defects while you are involved in the claims process. Closer Look Inspections uses the most accurate and state of the art equipment available to assure accuracy. Our equipment calibrations are traceable to N.I.S.T. and is maintained in the C.L.I. office using a primary standard where applicable.
The C.L.I. “holistic approach” to building performance lets us evaluate the entire building without the biases normally experienced when contractors are hired. We are consultants ONLY, so we can view the building using our holistic approach because we have no interest in any particular system. For example, if your building is suffering comfort or indoor air quality problems and you contact an HVAC contractor, you will likely be told you need a new HVAC system. The fact is, your existing system may be fine, it is not performing due to a poor installation. What this means is that you may pay for a new system and still get poor performance. Our technicians are experts in diagnosing building and system performance. By making the proper repairs and adjustments, your building will perform as it was intended at a fraction of the cost.
In both cases shown in the photo’s, if a single system approach to the problem had been utilized, the problems would still exist. In many of the cases C.L.I. Group investigates, claims are made that systems have been commissioned, balanced, etc. The problem is this, if the building envelope is in failure, the HVAC system can never be properly balanced. Both systems must be corrected together. The same is true of indoor air quality, moisture issues, etc. The building must be evaluated holistically. True, there may be only one system at fault, but our experience has led us to believe that the single system approach usually fails.
The current thinking in the industry appears to be leaning more toward the “total building commissioning” approach.

Click Here to View Sample Construction Defect Photo Documentation Report

Indoor Air Quality/Water Damage Investigations

If your building has been damaged by water from any source, it is important that you document your damages correctly and move quickly to stop the source of the water. Microbial growth can occur within 24-48 hours of water damage, and an improper cleanup could actually make things worse. Microbial contamination may not always be visible or fully visible. Many times, a leak has caused much more damage than is actually visible and you will require the services of an investigator that is experienced in both water damage restoration and air quality. Mold growth can be inside of walls where it is not visible and it will take an experienced investigator to find it. In many cases, it may be that there is more than one reason/source for any microbial contamination, some may be covered by your insurance and some may not be covered. In such cases, it may be your responsibility to segregate the contamination to specific sources. This could prove difficult, even for an experienced investigator. The source of the water intrusion is also something that needs to be considered when it is time to clean up and repair. Water intrusion can be broken down into three categories; clean water, gray water and black water. Your investigator needs to be able to properly identify the water damage type in order to determine the remediation method required. The water type can also degrade (ex. from clean water to gray water) as time passes, hence, the remediation specifications will also require changing in order to properly remediate the problem.
Today, the marketplace is saturated with overnight mold experts created by companies interested in only one thing…your money. There are many home inspectors and other masquerading as indoor air quality professionals after a one day training class. These companies and individuals may be bad for your health, your home and your bank account. Many get involved as part of pre-purchase home inspections. Mold is spotted during the inspection and they sell sampling as part of the inspection. This again, is likely to be a waste of your time and money. Taking a tape lift sample from attic sheathing or anywhere else is worthless. A single surface sample is not going to tell you if a home is contaminated. The information is basically worthless. Avoiding such inspectors would be a wise decision. It might be wise to avoid them for inspecting the building as well. When home inspectors or real estate agents get involved in mold issues, there are ulterior motives (selling the property). All indoor environmental concerns should be evaluated by an experienced CIEC or CIH.
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See Sample Water Damage Report

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