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Architectural Forensics

 Architectural Forensics

Architectural Forensics



With owners and facilities managers increasingly focused on bottom-line results, the lessons learned from forensic architecture and engineering offer tools that can bring about significant building operating and maintenance cost savings. Forensic architecture and engineering are essentially processes of diagnosing facility problems and providing appropriate solutions that take into account all the building elements. Perhaps more importantly, the forensic architect can be employed as part of a preventive strategy, helping to anticipate problems and implement corrective actions before failures occur.

In attempting to define architectural forensics, most people relate it to a court trial. In reality, few of the cases actually ever reach the courtroom. While court cases may often attract the most attention, in reality, they actually account for a small percentage of most forensic architects’ work. Most frequently, forensic investigations involve the resolution of other issues such as: whether a building has problems that will affect a real estate transaction or acquisition, or the cause of mold growing on the walls, and how to stop it and
eradicate it, or whether the terms of a construction contract have been fulfilled. Being a fairly new discipline, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are a substantial number of architectural consultant firms now on the Internet that offer architectural forensic services.

One of the most important lessons emerging from Forensic architecture and engineering investigation is the importance of periodic inspection programs that evaluate the condition of a building’s assets (e.g., building systems and structures and all equipment for operating the building, including vertical transport systems). Normally, the process requires a trained forensics expert with intimate knowledge of the systems being analyzed and is outside the expertise of the forensic architect. In such cases, the forensic architect needs to bring in a system-specific engineer that can solve the particular problem, and who will also look at the broader picture to understand the environment in which the component must successfully operate.

Most prudent building owners and managers today consider the application of due diligence services to be a prerequisite prior to making a meaningful financial commitment. The process itself rarely involves a decision or recommendation, but rather it primarily confirms that requisite tasks pertaining to the property have been executed, pertinent issues addressed, and critical information identified and disclosed.


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