VIDEO: Guest Panelist Engineer Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.

Whether new building post-turnover, or a 40 year old building in need of rehab, or streets or other site improvements which are showing signs of distress, building defects are often not discernable without some level of invasive examination and testing. In our next panel, we will feature engineer Felix Martin, P.E., S.E., who has investigated tens of thousands of condominium buildings, connected townhomes, and site improvements in Florida. Learn what is entailed in discovering hidden defects and damage.


Video Script:

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
I'm Alan Tannenbaum of Tannenbaum Scro Lemole & Kleinberg. I have my partners with us today, Salvatore Scro and Jon Lemole and our associate Brian Tannenbaum and we also have our paralegals Meaghan Skillman and Courtney Callahan because I thought it would be really good for them to learn what we do on a daily basis out there in the field when we visit condo buildings and town home [inaudible 00:00:34] so they're joining us and of course Michelle Colburn who sets up these panels for us and runs our technology who's our business development director, she's on with us and we have as a special guest today one of the engineers that we utilize on our cases for forensic engineering testifying and so forth, Felix Martin and Sal Scro and Felix Martin are going to lead the show. Jon, Brian and I are going to interject questions at times and will repeat some of your questions as they go along. Going to be very interactive in the sense of there's going to be a number of photos put up and explanations and so forth, so you should enjoy that.

For managers this is not a CEU course so don't get disappointed with that, but you're going to learn a lot. But before I turn it over to Sal, I would tell my lawyer-engineer-accountant joke, it's very quick. So the question that's posed to a lawyer, an engineer an accountant, what's two plus one? So Felix Martin answers on behalf of the engineers and he's furiously working on his computer for a half hour, he's sweating, he says, "Well, by my best calculation with a coefficient of 4.26, I believe it's approximately three." Then the accountant sitting there says, "Well what do you want it to be?" The lawyer says, "I'm not quite sure but it's going to be a little more than I first thought." So anyway, that's my lawyer joke, lawyer-accountant-engineer joke for the day. So with that said, I'm going to turn the program over to my partner Sal Scro.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Morning everyone. You've heard us talk a lot in all of these seminars and if any of you have been to our CEU courses, you've heard us talk a lot about the importance of inspecting your building and the importance of finding the right person to inspect your building, and I have stressed quite often that in my opinion, if you have roof problems or stucco problems, you don't call the roofer or the stucco in most situations, you should call an engineer. Today, we have Felix Martin with us who is an engineer that we've worked with substantially in investigation of buildings. So rather than hear us talk about it today, you're going to get a chance to see some of the things we do. I'm going to share a screen with you and you should all be seeing the what lies beneath screen and let's make sure I have this okay.

All right, so let's make sure ... You know what? I want to go back here. One thing, let me stop sharing this for a minute and it's working, okay, we're good. All right. So what lies beneath, the importance of looking below the surface and detecting building problems. So this is what we do. We find the problems that you don't see and with that, I have some information on some of the areas that we've looked at in destructive testing, but we have Felix Martin. He's a structural engineer with Marcon Forensics. This is generally what they do. Felix, if you want to interject, I'll let you give a quick introduction of yourself before we get into the meat of things.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Sure. Thanks Sal. So as Sal mentioned, my name is Felix Martin. I am an engineer. I have been doing forensics work, strictly nothing but forensics work, since 1996. I have been involved in investigations across the United States, in Florida, in Nevada, in California, in Colorado and Arizona and Utah and in Oregon. I have worked with the Tannenbaum firm for a number of years, probably 10 or 12 years by now, and I have to say that as far as one of the constructions defect law firms out there, they have certainly been one of the better firms to work for as they have a lot of experience in this type of situation. They understand what the problems are and they understand how to address them and how to essentially recover for the homeowners. But with regards to my own work, my firm became a forensic firm in 1996 and since then that's been our focus. We accept no work from developers because we want to avoid any conflict of interest and the work that we do is largely representing homeowner associations so that we can determine when there is a problem, what the problem is, what the extent of the damage is and ultimately how to repair that damage. Back to you, Sal.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Okay. So what we're going to do is show you some things and we may, depending on the time, we may skip through a little bit. But for example, here's one of the first projects I worked with Felix Martin on. Felix, when we first went into this project, we went out and we did a walkthrough of the project. Tell me what you were looking for just walking through, looking at these buildings when we went out there.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Well this is a very good project to start out with. This is a project that we worked on quite a while back, about 10 years ago. It's a project that again, it didn't really to the untrained eye, it did not really seem to have a lot of issues. There was some stucco cracking certainly but nothing to the extent that we later found out was evident. So it's the kind of thing that I think someone without the background of knowledge that we have, that Sal and I have, would really not be able to notice right off the bat. But as we walked the project, we could definitely see telltale signs that there are issues and some of those telltale signs are in the form of the stucco cracking.

Now people will say stucco cracks of course, but the question is what sort of cracks are there, where are they occurring? What is the nature of the cracking that we see? What are the conditions that we see that have been historically problematic? Because we have the background, we're able to take a look at areas that we know historically have had problems with water intrusion and damage and we can focus on those as we do our visual inspection and Sal, because like I said, he's done a lot of this work, he's really good at doing this type of investigation as well. He can take a look at a property and already from his background and experience be able to tell what doesn't seem like a lot of damage could actually be problematic.

So as you look at this photograph right here, you don't see a lot of evidence of damage. It doesn't really seem like this is a problematic project and yet as we walked through it, we could see that there was a lot of evidence that was visually available to us to tell us that this was going to be a project that was going to be essentially in deep trouble, even though it didn't look that way.

So the types of things that we look for are areas like I said that we have known previously to be historically problematic, and typically these intersections between the roof and the stucco have been a problem in the past. You have a very code in Florida. The Florida Building Code is a very good document, but there are areas that it doesn't really necessarily address very specifically and that is the intersection of different installations, such as the intersection of the roof with the stucco, and those are installations that are done by two separate subcontractors. You have the roofing contractor and you have the stucco subcontractor, and pretty much a lot of the times they're focused on their own work and they don't necessarily focus on the interaction between the work that they do.

So when we get to these areas where the two intersect where you have problems with the flashing at these roof to wall intersections, those are typically areas that have been problematic in the past and in this project, that was exactly the case. As we took a look at it, we could see that the installations that existed, even though again to the untrained eye as you see this photograph, doesn't seem to be a problem, doesn't seem like there's a problem there. The fact is we know that these installations are problematic, and that water is getting in and causing damage.

So once again, you look at these elevations that Sal is showing you here, and you don't really see much that you as an untrained person could see that was an issue, that would say, "Okay, this is speaking to me that I'm in big trouble here." But when Sal brought me out to this project, he already knew that this was a problematic installation because he has, like I said, he's been to these types of projects before and he's learned to recognize the issues or the locations where potential problems occur. So by the time he brought me out, essentially he already had a pretty good idea that this project was going to be something where the construction had been deficient and where that deficiency in the construction was going to allow water to penetrate and cause damage.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
I have to say it is important, the managers of the associations, they play a big role in assisting our attempts to recover for the construction defects and assisting the engineer in doing the proper investigation. So I know on this project we had great assistance, so for the managers, don't discount your role in helping the association in addressing these issues.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Sal, as we're looking at these pictures, what was the age of these buildings at this point?

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
This was an apartment complex built in 2004. When we first got out there, it was maybe ... It was converted a few years after and we got out there and I think we did an initial look at the place in 2011 and in 2012 I think was when we did the investigation of the project. So one of the things too here is you're looking at this and walking through it and we knew that there were some complaints of window leaks and stucco cracking, but with Felix out there walking through, the areas that we pointed out in the prior slides, those were things that he identified, this isn't necessarily a stucco problem. There were stucco problems, but one of the major concerns and you'll see is how some of those little pieces that we walk by every day and don't even pay attention to make a big difference in the interior of the building and if you don't address them in a timely fashion, you're going to run into a lot of trouble. So what's this Felix?

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Before you get there, there's a question. How do we know when to have an inspection if we don't see problems with an untrained eye?

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Well that's a really good question because again, that's what it takes. Most of the time, what happens is that you may get a couple of leaks from the roof and you may think, "Well, that's kind of a situation to be expected." But I guess the first answer would be don't minimize when you have some water intrusion. Because the problem is that even a small amount of water coming in can cause a horrific amount of damage.

So the first indication would be if you're having any kind of a problem at all, you should definitely be contacting someone to come out and make sure that what's happening is either not a problem or something that needs to be addressed right away, and that should be stressed. It needs to be addressed right away if it is a problem because even a small amount of water within a contained space is going to cause a lot of damage. Because the problem is that most of the damage that will occur will occur under the building finishes, and so when it comes time to repair, you have to remove the finish, and that makes the repair a very expensive proposition. So rather than stick your hand in the sand, what you have to do is you have to be proactive about this, and if you have any kind of indication that water is coming through, you should definitely get someone out.

But in addition to that, I think that if you have a project that is approaching a certain age, you should definitely have someone take a look at it and the best people to contact of course would be the law firm because they would be able to tell you first of all if there is a chance for recovery should there be an issue, but also they have the resources like someone like myself to come out and call and say, "Hey Felix, can you go out and take a look at this," and we can do that.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
But what we would recommend and what your general counsel probably would recommend is that all buildings, whether you think they're problematic or not, should be inspected on some periodic basis by an engineer. A lot of times the insurance companies require that anyway, so that would be the answer. If nothing's obvious, have an engineer out there to make sure that what you're seeing is what is in fact the situation. So Sal, go ahead.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
All right. So Felix, I'm going to lead you into this a little bit. Why is it that this was a location that you decided to investigate?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Yeah, so this is a location that we decided to investigate because it offers a lot of good information when we're doing our investigation. So what you're looking at is the front of the building, and you're looking at an intersection of the lower roof first of all or I should say the lower roof there. There is an intersection between the roof and the stucco and then at the same time it's the lower corner of a window. So by essentially cutting the stucco out in this one area, we're getting information with regards to the window installation, the flashing around the window, the installation of the stucco, the installation of the building wrap, the installation of the roof, and the installation of the flashing between the roof and the wall. So in just this one location, there are a number of components that have historically been problematic and yet with a single cut, we can remove the stucco at that location and get a lot of information as to how that was put together. How did the contractors install the stucco? How did they install the windows? How did they install the roofs? How did they install the flashing? So we select these test locations so that we get the maximum amount of information and we minimize the impact on the community.

So we don't want to be just cutting holes everywhere. We cut a good-sized hole, but we select locations that are going to provide the maximum amount of information as far as all the different traits that were involved in a project.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
So how do you select ... If you have multiple buildings or even a single building, how do you select the areas that you want to test? Do you just look for the bad areas?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
No, no, no, we don't, and there's good reasons for that. The first thing is that when we select the areas to test, we try to get a spread across the site. So we don't focus on just the older buildings, we don't focus on the newer buildings. We try to pick locations that are spread out across the site so that we get a good sampling of data. But to say that the problems are going to occur only where you can see obvious signs of damage is not what we do. Because what we have determined from history has been that even areas that look perfectly good, once you open them up and you test them, you will find that there are going to be massive amounts of damage behind it. So just because it looks good it's not an indication that there isn't water intrusion taking place and damage taking place. So these locations are selected not so much by the way they look as by getting the information across the site. Construction, when it comes to production housing, is repetitive. It's like a car factory. You have people that do the same task over and over and over again. So typically if we find a problem in one corner of a project, we're going to find that same problem across the site because the installer that's doing that installation improperly is going to repeat that mistake all the way across the site.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
So we have a question here. Do you participate in the turnover from the developer, and I don't know if the question is to the engineer or to the attorney, but I will tell you from the attorney standpoint yes, we think it is important that you have an attorney participate in the turnover from the developer for several reasons. One is if it's a condominium there's an extensive list of items that need to be turned over at turnover. Some of those things include an inspection report by an engineer, and there's certain things that have to be in that report. So many times, we'll see those reports are either left out or if they are turned over, they are not given with the information required by statute. It's also important to get a list of the contractors and subcontractors and the work they perform so you know if you have problems, not only the general contractor and developer but what subcontractors you should go to to address these issues.

Alan, one of the things we talk about sometimes we hear from the owners is that they have warranties, and they have a one-year warranty, and they should come out and fix these things. What's the response to that with regard to ... That there's other avenues regarding whether it's a condominium, if there's a statutory warranty or HOA? What other means can owners and associations address any construction defect problems?

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Well, that may be for a whole nother session, Sal. Here is the key.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
The quick version.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Here is the key, our firm takes HOAs and condo associations through turnover. We help you get the engineering, we help you get the evaluations, and then we handle the claims. So that is basically what our firm does and we bring in engineers like Felix upon turnover and engineers who do site evaluations for HOAs, we bring them in to do the analysis, we help with the scope of the analysis and so forth. So that's what we're here for. But Sal, I want to see the rest of the guts of this building, so get to it.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
All right, here we go. So here we are at another position here at a chimney and this was another area selected because as Felix pointed out, he found the area of the roof to wall intersection with some flashing that was an issue. So I'm going to skip through some of these and why don't you explain the process here Felix and I'll slip through some of these as you speak.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
So again, as you saw initially, before we actually started testing that, the stucco did not really appear to be heavily damaged. But we saw the connection and the way that the flashing appeared to have been done between the roof and the stucco, and we could see that historically this has been a problem. So we selected this as one of the areas that we wanted to test, and sure enough, as you see here, as we started removing the stucco, we found that water had penetrated from the roof into the wall, and then that had started causing the type of damage that you see here.

Now what you're looking at there is as we're chasing the water damage down, you can see the amount of rot that has taken place, to the point where the framing is actually being, the structural framing is being damaged by this water intrusion. Even though there was really no visual evidence on the exterior before we started testing that this was taking place. So this is an example of where a small amount of water, when it starts to penetrate over a long period of time, is going to cause an extensive amount of damage. Keep in mind, this is starting up at the high roof. Water flows downhill, and so as that water is coming in, that damage actually extended all the way from the roof to the bottom of the wall, which meant that the repair for that conditioning essentially required that all of that framing had to be taken out and completely replaced. So even a small amount coming in at the roof to the chimney intersection produced enough damage where you now had to take all the stucco off and take all the framing out and repair it or replace it, which again, gets kind of expensive.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
All right, everybody's still hearing us, I hope. Yes?

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Yeah, I'm having some issues here too. Can you still hear me?

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Yes. I can. Everybody else out there? Give a wave, yes? We're still good, okay, go ahead. Because we got a strange message.

Speaker 6:
Yeah, it just came back, we're good now.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Okay.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Felix? Are you there Felix?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Yeah, I'm here. So once again, this is damage continuing down from that water intrusion that we saw at the top. Now as this water is penetrating, it continues to cause this damage. So like I said, you can literally follow the damage all the way down to the ground, where it started up at the top right there at that photograph, where we could see the flashing was not done properly and then as soon as we opened it up, we saw that confirmation that yes, the flashing had not prevented the water from getting it and you can see that the damage above that location has no damage. So it confirmed that the water was getting in at that intersection between the roof and the wall, just as we thought it had started.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Sal, there's a question about town home communities, and hopefully you folks can still hear us. There's a question about town home communities and do the same type of issues apply? And the answer is yes. Most of them are built under an HOA regime and not a condominium regime. You don't have statutory warranties as a result. But you do have recovery for building code violations, for negligent construction, and some of actually our larger cases have been HOA town home communities, so it definitely applies.

As far as the question about HOAs, you may not have buildings. It may be a single family home community, but the same process exists. You get the entire infrastructure inspected, you look at the accounting and the budgeting from the developer also, you get engineers out to do those evaluations, and then we handle negotiations with the developer to make things right after the fact. So that is definitely a part of our practice.

There's a question about repairs to existing buildings. We're not going to cover that in this session, but really the same forensic analysis applies. If you have a roof that's leaking in an older building, you had better get a good engineering inspection done of that roof, which may include some invasive testing. Otherwise you really don't know what the recipe for solution is because you really haven't gotten to the root of the problem. So the same forensic process applies, even in those circumstances. Go ahead Sal.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Yeah, I'm going to add to that, I'm going to go back on that for a second but the construction, the state of construction in the state of Florida is just horrendous. That's the best word that I can describe it. I mean like I said, I've done work in Nevada and Arizona which are dry states, where it hardly ever rains, and the conditions for waterproofing buildings in Nevada and Arizona are much, much better than what they are in the state of Florida. I've mentioned that there are good codes in effect in Florida, but the fact is that builders just choose not to follow them. So there are rules in place and they just do not follow those rules. That's one of the reasons why you have to be always cognizant of bringing someone in like Sal and Alan who are attorneys that know the rules and know what to do about making sure that those rules are followed or should have been followed or what to do about them.

So Alan just mentioned the whole issue between condominiums and town homes. The construction is just as bad for construction in town homes as it is in condominiums, but some of the rules are slightly different. Condominiums are required to provide a turnover report. Well a turnover report is a well-intentioned document that's prescribed by law, but who pays for that turnover document? The builder does. So the builder essentially pays an engineer to go out on inspection and say that the developer's work is deficient or not. Well if that engineer ever expects to get work back from that developer, what are they going to do? They're going to have these very, very basic reports that essentially don't want to see anything that's wrong. So turnover reports tend to be a source of a lot of misinformation in that they don't really go deep enough into analyzing what was done wrong. We've seen turnover reports that were done by a guy essentially driving through the community, inside his car and taking photographs from the car, without ever getting out of the car.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Felix, to clarify that, actually the report is for a different intent. It's more like a reserve study than it is a defect report, and in fact the engineers who do them, many of them put right in the first paragraph of the report, make it very clear that it's not a defect report. So a lot of groups get confused that they get this turnover report, they say, "Well why do we need our own engineer?" The reality is everything that Felix said, but also the purpose of the report is much different. It is not a report to report on defects, it's more in the line of a reserve report.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
All right. Sal, you had a good photograph up there a second ago. Did we lose Sal?

Jon Lemole, Esq.:
While Sal's doing that Alan, I think another good point that Felix raised is that there's a lot of non-compliance with codes and people might say, "Well it gets approved by the county or the city building official, so what does that mean?" That brings up a good point about approval by the municipality doesn't necessarily mean that you're out of a claim because you can still bring a statutory claim for violating a building code if the contractor knew or should have known, regardless of whether there was approval.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Jon, the simple answer is, every defective building in Florida that's occupied has a certificate of occupancy, and Felix will tell you there's a lot of occupied buildings with defects. So building approval at the outset really is not a defense to anybody, and the Supreme Court of Florida has said that. Go ahead Sal.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
We are shown the entranceway here and I think we're pointing over to this area here and inside, we found some ... Just a little bit of water. Just a little bit, but this was an area that Felix ... Actually, he found this in his walkthrough, and I have to tell you, and I say this during our seminars about the right expert and the key is to get an expert who can communicate. Somebody who knows what they're talking about and is interesting and I've sat through depositions and Felix is one of the best as far as when it comes to explaining to the general public what the issues are and how they found them, but I'm going to just flip through some of these because we have quite a few slides. This area here Felix, explain what this piece is right here. Because that's something of importance I think.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Right. This is what's called a roof diverter and the idea is as you have water flowing down the roof meeting the water flowing down the wall, it serves to collect that water and is called a diverter because it's bent that way so that the water gets kicked out away from the face of the building. Unfortunately, this type of diverter that you see here is famous or infamous I should say for not really being watertight, and the problem with that of course is that it allows water to penetrate. You can see that in this photograph, the damage it's starting cause to behind it. It has water penetrating through a number of areas. I think earlier you saw a photograph of the backside of the diverter, which was not sealed, water got in through that. It also will have water that comes in through the front side of the diverter because the construction of the diverter is such that it leaks into the building.

So there's water coming in from the work that was done by the roofer in terms of not providing a diverter that doesn't leak. There's water coming in as a result of the work of the stucco installer in that the stucco was improperly installed and allows that moisture to get in, and there's water coming in as a result of the work of the painter because the painter didn't provide the sealant behind the diverter to keep that water from coming in. 

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
I remember one time being in Jacksonville and talking to Felix on the phone and having him explain this to me and having me fold a piece of paper because some of these diverters are fabricated. So my advice to anybody that's having any re-roofing issues out there, if you're going to have a contractor out there, please have your contracts reviewed in advance, but one of the things you should also ask is maybe a review by a professional like Felix to review the contracts because one of the things I would say to specify is that you have a manufactured diverter as required in the project because what they do is they fabricate these out of L-flashing on the site and what happens is there's problems. So it's very important, the minor details, if you require certain things, they will be out there.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Here's an example of a location where they actually didn't even bother to build a diverter. So you don't have that piece that essentially kicks the water out away from the wall. So once again, as water is coming down that roof, it gets to that termination and it goes actually inside the stucco. It's essentially being directed to go into or behind the stucco and into the wall cavity, which of course is never a good thing. If you have the diverter, at least you have something that's going to try to divert some moisture out, where you have it completely missing then it's just essentially pouring that water into a wall cavity and that's just going to be nothing but trouble. So you can see that the damage isn't occurring just to the wood framing, it's occurring to the stucco as well. The backside of the stucco that you saw there a second ago had a lot of rusted lath, and that rusted lath eventually expands to the point where it will begin to cause damage to the stucco and then that brings in additional water to cause additional damage.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Felix, what is lath?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Lath is essentially the reinforcing that's place inside the stucco. It's like rebar in concrete, except in this case it's stucco plaster. So the lath is what ... We used to call it the chicken wire that you put in there to reinforce the stucco so that as it expands and contracts, it controls the amount of cracking that you can have in it. But the other thing that it does is the means by which the lath, or sorry, the stucco is applied to the building, attached to the building. Because the lath is stapled into the building. So if your lath becomes damaged, first of all you have no reinforcing and so the stucco will become damaged, but the other thing that happens is the lath will lose whatever anchorage it has to the building to the point where it actually starts literally coming off the building and falling to the ground.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
So when it's concrete, when it's stucco on a concrete block, you'd typically have lath or is it just where it's a wood frame structure?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
No, you typically find lath when you have construction over wood frame. There is some construction over masonry where you can have lath, but typically you don't. When you apply stucco directly on masonry, what happens is there's an actual chemical and mechanical bond that occurs between the stucco and the masonry block, so that when it finally cures, it's actually like a single unit and you want to see that bond occur.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Now a lot of the town home buildings that we've seen are built first floor block, second floor wood frame. So you have a different type of stucco application. What kind of issues does that cause?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Well you have the same wood issues of course but when it comes to the block what you have is that you have water penetration and that water penetration typically occurs around the windows and then when that water comes in, what it does is it starts to delaminate the stucco from the masonry, and so eventually that stucco starts to pull away from the wall and again literally begins to fall off the building. The other thing that it does is because that water is coming in around the windows is it produces damage to the interior. People forget that even when you have a block wall, the interior of the building is furred out with wood framing and it has drywall which has paper in it, and so when that moisture gets in, it has an opportunity to produce mold behind the wall and that mold can be of course not a good thing to have around.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
All right Sal, we got about 20 minutes, so use your time judiciously. I won't interrupt again.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Yeah, so I want to get through a couple of these. Felix, I'm going to run through these kind of quickly but here's an area that you looked at and it looks okay, but we're just going to flip through and I'll let you talk as we go through this.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Yeah, once again this is an area where we were getting water intrusion around the windows, and that water of course was flowing down. As it flows down, you can see where that is, it's retained at the bottom of that wall and it's just ... Once it gets to that point where it's wet, you can see that doesn't look bad, but when you take it apart, you see that it's produced not just damage to the wall sheathing but to the framing as well. So after a while, you start wondering, "Well what the heck is actually holding up this wall?" Because the damage to the structural components has been so extensive that it's literally in danger of collapse. So again, even a small amount of water. A small amount of water, but every single rainstorm, you multiply that by the number of rainstorms that occur in Florida within a year, it builds up, and when that moisture level reaches a certain threshold, the micro-organisms that multiply and produce the rot just start multiplying like crazy and they just start chewing up on the cellulose and that's where it produces the rot damage that you see.

This is a condition that we see under the windows where the installation of the stucco is done improperly and the waterproofing paper is installed in such a way that instead of keeping water out and away from the wood, it actually guides water into the wood and as you can see there, it produces damage. One of the problems that we have of course is we have wood construction in Florida. Nothing wrong with wood construction, you just have to make sure that you protect it properly. But you have a wet climate like Florida where it's always going to be raining, and the danger is you have to make sure that you protect against that water intrusion, and that's just not being done by builders. You can see in this there's water coming in at the window, that's what you're looking at, and you see the damage directly underneath the window, because that water has come in around the window and through the window, and you can see the amount of damage that it's producing. Once again you multiply that water intrusion by the number of rainstorms within a year in Florida, by a few years, it's no wonder that you get this type of damage because that damage just continues to happen and it just ... It multiplies [inaudible 00:40:03] then you get the rot damage from [inaudible 00:40:07]. Go ahead.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Sorry, explain what you're doing here with this window.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Well here again, what we're doing is we have taken the window and we have done a water test on it, and there is a specific water test protocol that's been established by the American Society of Testing Materials where what you do is you mimic what would be wind-driven rain, and you do that water test to try and determine whether the water is coming in through the window or through the stucco or maybe both. So we conduct that water test, you can see that we've labeled it. There is a little dam that's built in the corner there, and we pour water into it. That's one of the first tests that we'll do, and this is testing whether the window itself is leaking into the unit. Because if it cannot hold that water, if the window frame cannot hold the water, then that tells you that the window is inadequate in terms of providing water protection. If the window is inadequate, then that water's going to leak, and you can see a little bit of the damage that's occurring at the very base of the window on the sill and then that water continues to percolate down and you can see underneath the damage that has occurred to the plywood underneath.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
So here's when they perform the work inside, just to show an example. [inaudible 00:41:33] they make sure they take everything apart and put it back the way it should be. That is an example of the lath. I am going to skip through some of these. Here's when we opened up inside in between units, and this is something that gets forgotten about sometimes. Why did you open up this wall here?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
This is a fire separation wall between the units, so this is intended to provide protection if there is a fire in one of the units so that the fire doesn't go across the wall into the next unit. What we find is that that fire separation is not done as required by the code. So what happens is you have things like the separation for example of the electrical outlets that you see there. There's a certain distance that those outlets have to be kept apart. You have to look at the blocking so that any fire that gets into the wall is stopped by the blocking. You have to take a look at the nailing of the wall to make sure that the size of the nails is sufficient to anchor that wall during a fire. Again, nails are made out of steel, so when there's a fire, there's a tendency for that nail to soften by the heat, become softened. If you don't have the right-sized nail, then it will not be able to protect you in a fire, or for a prescribed amount of time, and that fire will come into the next unit.

Once again, water intrusion from poor drainage on the site. In this case, what you saw there was just water coming into the unit at the bottom level because the water drainage was actually being directed towards the building as opposed to away from the building, which is what the code requires. So there's a code requirement but it wasn't met in this location, and the water was literally coming into at the base of the wall.

This is a post-tensioning cable which is used to reinforce the slab. This is what provides your foundation for the building and what we're seeing here is that that post-tensioning cable, which is a high-strength cable that's pulled during construction, and then when the concrete is set it's released, so that it compresses the concrete together, and it guarantees that you have a crack-free slab. Well this one has busted. It was pulled, it was cinched, they let it go, and then it snapped. So what you have is a broken cable here so now you don't have an active foundation system like you should have.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
So now we're going to talk about some high-rise buildings. Again, whether they're condominiums or HOAs, it really doesn't matter. Construction is pretty much construction and they should be investigated if you have turnovers or if you have issues or even if you need to know really what the condition of the building [inaudible 00:44:25] was delivered to you. So here's a high-rise that we looked at and they did a walkthrough but I'm going to play a quick video of some of the [inaudible 00:44:37]. When they go out to do their testing and they look a little bigger here because I stretched this video out for the purposes of seeing it here, but -

Speaker 7:
Is it bare concrete? Is it a primer concrete? Okay. Let's start there.  Nice and easy one, we'll move to that above ground planter and just take a look at the planter area.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
So they map out what they're going to do. What's happening here?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
This is what we call a tap test which is a simple test that is done when you have stucco over masonry, and what happens is like I said, when you start getting that water intrusion, the stucco begins to delaminate away from the masonry. So you tap it and you can hear the sound, you can hear how hollow that sound, and that's because the stucco has completely delaminated away from the masonry. That's not a good thing, because over time that will just get worse. This is a high-rise.

Now imagine if you would what would happen if you have stucco delaminating and falling off the building from a high-rise. That is a life safety issue because anybody walking down below, they could be seriously hurt by that stucco. So a few years back, the courthouse in Sarasota had some issues with this where the stucco was literally falling off the building and damaging cars as they were driving by, and so it required an intervention and a major repair if that stucco is not properly bonded to the building. So these tests that are being conducted here that Sal is going through is like I said first of all, we do that tap test to check the stucco, and then we literally cut into the stucco to show that is it bonded to the substrate, to the surface underneath, and you can see again here [inaudible 00:46:32] and then as he finishes that cutting [inaudible 00:46:34] how easily it's coming off because it's absolutely not bonded to the concrete and concrete masonry underneath. So that stucco is not bonded at all, and again over time, it becomes more and more loose as more water gets behind it, and eventually it literally will start falling off the building.

Same kind of situation here. So in this high-rise, we found that most of the stucco was not anchored to the building anymore. So again, a relatively new building, looks great, looks like it [inaudible 00:47:27], and within a few years, you would have the potential for that to literally be coming off the building and causing damage on their [inaudible 00:47:34]. Now this right here is a window in that same high-rise and you can see the water intrusion coming through the window. So here is a problem with the installation, not just of the window but again of the stucco around it, and the flashing between the stucco and the window that allows this to happen. Now once again, this is just proof that the construction was done in such a way that even for a relatively new building like this one, water was coming in and as you multiply that water intrusion over a period of time, it just causes more and more damage to the point where those repairs become just prohibitively expensive.

This again is a demonstration how the stucco is being removed and how it is absolutely not bonded to the [inaudible 00:48:18] underneath, like it's supposed to. You can see [inaudible 00:48:22]. There's absolutely no bonding anywhere on that stucco [inaudible 00:48:25] so that it is supposed to be literally anchored, chemically as well as mechanically, to the surface underneath, and it is not at all [inaudible 00:48:38] -

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
How would that bond be created?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Well that bond is created again by how you place the stucco. So the stucco, as you place it, stucco is concrete, is essentially cement, and the masonry, concrete masonry, is the same material. So when the two come together, they will chemically bond. When you apply the wood stucco on it, they chemically bond as well as mechanically because the surface of the masonry is rough. Where you have concrete, which has a smoother surface, you are required to use a bonding agent that chemically bonds that stucco to that surface. So the intent is to produce a finished product that's solid all the way through. Not two separate components, but solid all the way through. Because [inaudible 00:49:28] it creates a means for that water to travel between those two surfaces, and that's just something that you don't want to see.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
What likely did the contractor do wrong?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Well there's a number of things that they did wrong. One of the things that they did wrong was again, they installed the stucco on a surface that was not clean, that had something on it. It can be dust, you can have dust so the surface is dirty, and so that stucco is not able to bond to it. It can be that there's no bonding agent on the concrete and the stucco as it comes onto a slick surface that's concrete will not bond to it. It can be that they misapplied a waterproofing material, something that's not approved, so that what happens is that waterproofing material creates a bond breaker between the stucco plaster installation and the material that it's supposed to attach to. If you have that bond breaker there, it means that that bond will never happen. So what you want is that chemical bond that puts those two together and if you have something preventing that, then you now have two separate surfaces that when it gets wet, that water will travel between and cause additional separation of the stucco.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Once again, we did the tap test on these areas and we noticed that they sounded hollow and as you see this [inaudible 00:50:58] this piece, you can see once again. No bonding at all between [inaudible 00:51:04]. There is absolutely no bonding between that stucco and the surface underneath, and you can see the surface underneath is coated with the material. That's an example of the material that the concrete block was coated with, but unfortunately that coating prevented the stucco from bonding to it. It acted as a bond breaker. So rather than protect the construction, it actually created a condition where the stucco is now a separate skin. Kind of a loose skin on top of the masonry, and it's not bonded at all like it should be.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
What do we have here, Sal?

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Here we have some issues with the area beneath the pool. So we brought Felix and Marcon Forensics out there to take a look and you see a pool and a hot tub that looks pretty okay and then you go down below and you're finding that this is the -

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
[inaudible 00:52:14] I was showing you photographs of the skimmer there, we find that the skimmer itself was fine, but the area around the perimeter of the skimmer was not properly waterproofed. So the water is getting in around the edges of the skimmer, and what you see there is the net result of that. Now you have this leak that's coming underneath, and this is constantly let because it's a pool. So there's water that's constantly coming through.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
So sometimes there's some testing that needs to be done on windows and I'll just go through some of this here. What are they doing here?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
So this is a spray test. I mentioned this before, this is based on an ASTM standard, an American Society of Testing Materials. It's a protocol that they've set up where you actually set up a spray rack and you put in a negative pressure on that window to simulate what wind-driven rain would be, which would be ... We're not talking hurricane strength here, we're talking about just a regular rainstorm and then the wind just essentially beating that rain against the window. The windows are required by the code to be able to resist that. They're required to not be able to allow any water to come in under this test. This is essentially the same test that this window would have gone to get certified in the state of Florida, you have to pass this. What you see is that as you start to spray the window and you apply this negative pressure, the water started to come in, and so that obviously tells you that this installation was not done properly, was not done in such a way to not allow that moisture to come through.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
Here's another type of building that you looked at.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Yeah, this is a recent construction, recent investigation that we did. Once again, this is a masonry building, no wood framing here. Now we're looking at the roof, and the roof has a combination of metal roofing as well as membrane roofing and the metal roofing looked great. We asked them, "Have you had any reports of roof leaks?" And they said, "Yeah, we had a couple. Nothing really major." This is not a very old project at all, it's a relatively new project, and then lo and behold, we looked at the roof and we said, "Oh no. We think we may have some problems," and as we did our testing, you can see that as we removed the roof material, the roofing material from the roof, we found sure enough that there is extensive damage underneath. So there, you can see right there, that's the intersection of the metal roof with the membrane roof and you can see how much damage there is underneath. That's all rotted out. So once again, you get these [inaudible 00:55:08] and if they're not treated properly, [inaudible 00:55:18]. So this is a relatively new project that already has a high level of damage.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
Now this right here, again same project, this is an installation. Again, this is a spray test that we're conducting, and what you can see here is as the spray test is taking place, we placed this paper, this pink paper, that turns chartreuse when the water hits it. You saw in that video how that water is just coming in. Not supposed to happen. Not supposed to happen at all.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
There was nothing that you could really see over the sill or the sheet rock, was it?

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
No. There was no indication that this water, when we first started this test, there was absolutely no indication that this was a problem area, and yet as soon as we conducted ... Well as soon as we opened up the window, we saw that there was evidence that water had been coming in. But from the finished outside, you would not be able to tell that. But once we removed the finishes, we saw some evidence that water had come in, and then we conducted the test, and that definitely determined that the water was coming in, it told us how the water was coming in, and to what extent that water was coming in.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
So I want to say something about this particular project here. This is one where we had some issues structurally but when we had this case, I brought Felix in, and all we did was a one-day testing. We probably could have done a three-day testing, but we did a one-day testing and we did ... The value of the case to address the defective conditions rose significantly, not because that we didn't know the defects were there, but because we had the appropriate expert investigation and testimony that made the case more valuable. So that's why I always say it's important to have an engineer in the project. Explain what a, I know you guys call them pot shelves, but explain that.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
We're hitting the end, so let's pick the best.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
A recessed window and once again here is a great photograph. It doesn't look bad. it doesn't look bad at all. But we observed that it had a negative slope. We saw how it had been flashed. We opened it up and when we opened up we had the oh my god moment. I mean you can see the lath is rusted, you can see the paper was improperly placed. That's a staple, you can see how rusted it is, and you can see the level of damage underneath it. So this location which did not appear to be a problematic location to the untrained eye, but which we identified as a problematic installation, definitely when we opened it up, we found a serious amount of damage. Sal mentioned this was a one-day destructive testing that we did. Typically we'll do a multi-day, but essentially from this one day that we did testing, we found that the damage to this community was extensive and again through Sal's work, they were able to recover funds and this community now is under repair. But had Sal not become involved with this and brought us on, this community would have essentially suffered some really serious ... I mean it's already serious, but some extremely serious damage to the community.

Felix Martin, P.E., S.E.:
We've seen projects like this that they reach a level of damage where the building department will red tag the project and require the tenants and homeowners to move out because they're in danger, and when it gets to that point, then they have to essentially move everybody out, and as a homeowner, you're still making payments to the bank, but you can't live there, because it's compromised. We never want to see that. We never want to see a project where it's going to get to the level where it's compromised like that, or even in some extreme cases, like the Champlain Tower collapse, where it gets to the point where the building is so structurally compromised by water intrusion that you get to the point where the building department has to kick you out.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Well we obviously could go on for quite a long time and we'll keep Felix on for a little bit because I know there's people that have to go but I'm willing to let Michelle Colburn close us out because she has this [inaudible 00:59:53] that she's doing.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
One quick second, Alan. I do want to thank Felix because it was nice of him to take the time away today and come and help us out and explain some of the things that have gone on. Really appreciate that and if anybody has questions I'll let you pick up from there, Alan. Sorry.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Yeah. If anyone has any questions about anything we provided you today, you can email us offline. If it's an engineering question we can refer it over to Felix, he's happy to give a quick response to something that doesn't take an in-depth investigation. We are involved in all facets of turnover, turnover claims, whether it's a site-related issue, a building issue, whether it's condo or HOA, contact us and we'll tell you whether it's appropriate for your building to have an evaluation. We make recommendations on who should be doing that. We also get involved extensively in repair work, helping with the contracts, helping enforce the contracts, and unfortunately, when you didn't call us in the first place we spend a lot of time cleaning up projects that didn't go well. So we are involved in that process too and again I repeat that the forensic methods that apply to new construction also apply to a mature building when you're trying to figure out how to repair it. Before you start a contract to do repairs, you better look carefully at what you've got before you go forward.

So I'm being told I have to answer the last question. It says we decided to have an engineering inspection on our 37-year-old building, but are having problems getting proposals. Okay, so this is the reality. After Champlain Towers South, a group of very busy forensic engineers became much busier for obvious reasons. So there is a delivery problem, a challenge these days because they're busy. We can connect you with them, use whatever leverage we have to get them out earlier, but that is a challenge. Champlain Towers South was a blessing and a curse or the engineers in Florida because people wanted the inspections done and if you're concerned about your building, you don't want to wait 60, 90 days for that engineer to do their inspection, but there's only a relatively small group of qualified engineers who can do these type of structural inspections. So my sympathies with the managers who are trying to get that done, but it is a challenge. Call us up and we'll try to twist some arms for you.

Speaker 10:
What about the question on who pays for repairs, special assessment or insurance?

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
All right, well who pays for repairs? If it's a newer construction, what we do is get the developer to pay for as much of those repairs as possible. If it's a mature property, you either do it by special assessing the owners. You may have an insurance claim, if it's covered under a policy, that covers part of it. We have a lot of excellent banks who are very happy to loan money to associations if you have a fairly small fee fault raise on your assessment collection and a lot of groups rather than hit their owners with a major special assessment will get a credit line to cover an extraordinary expense or at least part of it.

Salvatore Scro, Esq.:
From our standpoint, if we are involved and it's something that we think there's potentially liable parties out there, we analyze your case and if we feel that we can gain a positive result, then that would be much that less if anything that the association would have to pay for repairs and sometimes, especially with newer projects, you may have some significant repairs or significant damage issues of what was supposed to be given. But when it's all said and done, you do have the ability to look at what needs to be done versus what should be done as far as what should be given to you so that you can pace things out so that you can use the money that's recovered to do what is needed to be done and you limit your out of pocket expense.

Alan Tannenbaum, Esq.:
Yeah. If I was to summarize what we do, we get developers, contractors, architects and engineers today as large a portion of the owner's obligation to repair as we're able to in any particular case. If you don't pursue responsible parties, it's guaranteed that the owners will pay 100% of the repair cost. If you do pursue responsible parties, you have an opportunity for the owners to share only a portion of the cost and with the developer and liable parties picking up the rest. So that's basically the guts of what a defect claim is all about. Helping get some money from other parties to take care of the association's problem. That's what we do, that's what Felix does.

Again, we thank everybody for attending. This will be available on our website within a week I am told and we have a really interesting session next month on connected town homes and the need to amend the documents so that there's coherent repair and maintenance and claim ability, so for those who live in that type of community, that should be very interesting. That one is a CEU for managers. So everybody have a great - 

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