A Combined Effort of the Architect, the Installation Contractor, and the System Manufacturer

by David Cannon, AIA, Matthew Smith, AIA, and Amanda Nogay, E.I.T.

Flashing of high-end commercial and institutional window wall systems (curtain wall and storefront) is traditionally a combined effort of the architect, the installation contractor, and the system manufacturer.  However, during the design phase when the overall building envelope is being developed by the architect, the process for the installation of the window wall system flashing is often left uncoordinated and under-designed.  Even though the details of the window wall system provided by the manufacturer are typically very product specific, they lack instructions for integrating the window wall system’s flashing with the other elements of the building for a particular project.  Therefore, it becomes the architect’s responsibility to coordinate these details to create a complete overall building envelope.

Water intrusion caused by improper flashing can result in recurring moisture staining, interior finish distress at and below the window system, corrosion and deterioration within the wall assembly, and in extreme cases, section loss in the structural members.

Properly installed window wall flashing will prevent moisture intrusion, be realistically buildable in the field, and prevent the need for excessive maintenance by the building owner.  Designing and installing flashing for the appropriate window wall system type is the best approach to prevent water intrusion and maintain the integrity of the building envelope.

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