Without a word, she dropped to the ground. The five men admired her feline-like movements for she had descended with the grace of a cat. They stared at her, each hoping that she would speak to exonerate their work; but she was silent. Taking their cue from her, they wordlessly watched Joe, the roofer, collapse the ladder and together they walked back to the building lobby.
It had been unbearably hot on the roof in the noonday Texas sun, and now a welcome blast of cold air met them as they passed through the revolving door into the lobby. Jack, the building manager ushered them into his conference room.
Jack had called this meeting for a kill. A hen-pecked husband he took his frustration out on his subordinates and contractors and now he was determined that someone would pay, and pay dearly, for the mildewed walls in his four premier top-floor hospital rooms.
On the table were photographs of the peeling wall-paper with blacked sheet-rock walls revealed where it had been pulled off. On the side Jack’s assistant had placed some ice cold water bottles. The men gratefully helped themselves as they sat down. Each shuddered as they looked around the room, wondering whether the building system for which he was responsible could have failed and allowed water to enter the building. They knew that mildew needs only two ingredients, a food source and moisture to flourish. The sheetrock provided the food source and the moisture; well the moisture, they could only deduce, must have entered from the outside through a system failure.
Jack sat at the head of the table; he glared at the group before him,
“Well, how do we fix this problem?”
No-one answered his question and so he went on, enjoying every minute,
“As you know, Mark here is my legal counsel; he is here to make sure that we solve this problem without cost to the institution.”
Jack lent back in his chair to survey the blank faces before him. He was tempted to hit the table with his fist but restrained himself. The silence riled him but he was enjoying this confrontation in which he felt himself to be the wronged party. He attempted a smile, or maybe it was a smirk.
At last Amanda, the architect spoke. Her voice was sonorous and considered. As she began Jack wondered whether she was going to admit guilt herself and explain a design flaw; he secretly congratulated himself that he had insisted on a hefty professional liability insurance clause.
“The problem is very simple;” she held a piece of the peeled wallpaper in her hand and waved it gently, “but before I get to the solution I wish to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy days to meet here.
Jack guffawed but did not interrupt.
“Since the moisture problem is in the top four corner rooms one might think that water is entering at the eaves flashing.” She turned to face Joe, “But the eaves flashing and parapet flashing are in good shape you are to be congratulated.” She turned to Frank the curtain-wall representative, “The curtain-wall flashing looks equally well executed. I see no problem there. The same goes for the glazing.” She smiled at Tony the glazier.
“So, it is a simple problem with an easy solution. In the summer, in our hot Texas climate, the exterior wall has a steep temperature gradient across it. The coldest point is the inside surface next to the air conditioned interior. If you place a cold object into such an environment condensation occurs.” She touched her bottle of cold water on which a film of moisture trickled down onto the table coaster. Water vapor enters the wall from the exterior and flows freely through the wall especially if the interior is under negative pressure as in your infectious disease rooms. Normally this is of no concern but the recently installed vinyl-backed wall-paper,” she waved the piece of wall-paper which she still held in her hand, “acts as a vapor barrier which, in turn, results in condensation behind it.” She turned to face Jack.
“If you had installed a breathable wall paper such as one of the ones which we recommended then there would have been no condensation and no mildew.”