Forensic Investigation of Water Leakage Issues into Buildings, Recreating the Leaks Vs. Determining the Cause

Article Author: Kami Farahmandpour, P.E., FRCI, REWC, RRC, RWC, RBEC, CCS, CCCA (NAFE 854F)

Volume: 32
Volume #: 2
Month: December
Year: 2015

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Forensic investigations of water leakage through building envelopes often involve complex investigation techniques and testing. In many cases, forensic investigators perform testing under controlled conditions to recreate the leaks and to determine whether design and/or construction defects resulted in leaks. However, construction-related litigation involves complex lines of contractual responsibility and multiple parties. As such, allocating responsibility to various parties requires an increased level of scrutiny. This paper provides an overview of typical construc-tion defect cases and how the lines of contractual obligations can impact the scope of investigation by a forensic engineer. As a case history, a forensic engineering investigation of water leakage reported in a recently constructed building will be reviewed. The plaintiffs’ experts performed testing to recreate the leaks, and adequately proved that the designs or construction methods of the exterior walls were defective. However, they were unable to prove causation attributed to one prime contractor who did not settle prior to trial. At trial, the defendant’s expert demonstrated other potential paths of water leakage that were not attributed to the defendant, raising sufficient doubts about the liability of the sole defendant at trial.


Building envelope, construction, project delivery, water intrusion, water leakage, water testing