Aesthetic Upgrades Discounted by a Pay-Back

Published: May 8, 2013 By: McIntosh Perry

While older, solid masonry buildings are generally well built and provide many decades of reliable service, they eventually need maintenance and repairs. Even the most well-executed repairs can leave tell-tale signs where work was performed, negatively impacting the appearance of an already tired looking building.  After decades of service, a building can experience several rounds of masonry repairs, scarring the appearance of the building. These blemishes can negatively impact the attraction of a renter, who may skip over this building and keep searching for one more visually appealing to call home.

Masonry BuildingSometimes a problem can be transformed into an opportunity, and this is case with solid masonry buildings. These types of buildings are usually uninsulated, resulting in excessive heating costs, meaning lost money for the owner. However, when exterior repairs are being performed to maintain the structural integrity, such as due to excessive mortar deterioration, the owner can take advantage of the opportunity of having the walls accessed and overclad the building with an Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS). EIFS can update the appearance of a building while reducing the heating requirements, reducing the costs and increasing the potential for profitability for the owner.

For solid masonry apartment buildings, installing insulation on the exterior leverages the thermal benefits of the massive masonry walls.  Exterior insulation for such a wall dampens the temperature fluctuations ‘seen’ by the masonry, creating an interior climate that is even better moderated by the masonry walls.

While Technical Benefits are All Well and Good, What are the Cost Benefits?

Let’s take a look at an example. For a seven storey, solid masonry building, the team at CCIG performed a quick energy savings (technically referred to as “energy avoidance”) analysis, using past energy bills and several assumptions about the building’s construction and characteristics.  When an approximation of the heat loss through the walls was determined, reduction in heat loss was calculated for various thicknesses of insulation, which was then translated into the equivalent volumes of natural gas used for heating. The ‘energy avoidance’ anticipated with the installation of various insulation thicknesses was determined, which translates into cost avoidance (savings).

For this particular building, the entire exterior needed to be accessed for repairs. Therefore, the $50,000 or so for access is required either way, and we presented the incremental cost of installing EIFS. As the EIFS was to provide the water shedding surface, fewer masonry repairs were required.  With the reduction in the total scope of masonry work required, there was a savings in excess of $50,000.

Boiler efficiency Annual Cost Avoidance due to EIFS
2” Insulation 3” Insulation
60% $6,700-$7,600 $7,500-$8,500
65% $7,200-$8,200 $8,000-$9,200
80% $8,90-$10,100 $9,900-$11,300

Estimated Cost of Installation  $475,000   $500,000

Looked at over a five year horizon, the net cost of installation could be reduced by 20%. So while the energy avoidance is not projected to offer a reasonable pay-back period on its own, the net cost of the improvement to the property is reduced.

And What of the Naysayers?

Even though EIFS have the potential to provide apartment and property owners with a great way to reduce costs and improve a building’s appearance, there have been reports of problems with EIFS systems. The main source of issues stems from installation, and with almost everything, the devil is in the details. A proper EIFS installation, which looks after the details of sealing at windows and other wall penetrations, will typically perform well.  When EIFS is applied over top of a solid masonry wall, the durability of the masonry system can usually deal with minor leakage, particularly with today’s drained EIFS cladding installations. As with any large repair or renovation, it is worth the cost of a seasoned consultant to design and review the cladding installation.  Such a consultant will detail the penetrations and terminations to minimize the risk of future performance problems.

To find out how we can help you with your next project, call us toll free at 1-888-348-8991.