Parallel Processing is a computer term that describes the way in which a computer can perform multiple processing functions or multiple storage functions at the same time. Computers use this to either increase their processing speed or create back up redundancy that protects data integrity, so parallel processing is in many ways responsible for the incredible leaps forward that technology has made in the past couple of decades. We take all this performance completely for granted and most of us forget how hard we (and our computers) used to have to work to perform tasks that today seem effortless. We also forget the learning curve, the frustration, and the confusion that new systems initially bring. Human nature takes us through the inevitable phases of confusion, frustration, re-aiming, acceptance, and finally adoption. What is new, almost always confuses and frustrates, then we study and calculate a new approach, then we begin to accept a new way, and then finally, we adopt change as the new devil we know. What was new and strange eventually becomes familiar and status quo.
Our industry contains many parallels. As a for instance, building and energy codes are changing fast enough that a code element that is not registering on any inspector’s radar at the beginning of a job, can end up being an area of intense scrutiny by the end of the job. Look at the parallels between blower door testing, window and door installation and finish hardware installation. In each case there are prescribed methods of accomplishing a desired result. In blower door testing, it is a process of elimination; in doors, windows and hardware, the method is spelled out in manufacturer’s instructions.
Blower Door testing is an area in which inspectors are being pushed to comply with the code and Bruce Torrey of Building Diagnostics in East Sandwich says that virtually all towns in our area are enforcing the blower door testing requirement. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s part of the code. Working with a consultant like Bruce, you can walk through the necessary steps of blower door test preparation and virtually guarantee yourself a good test grade (provided you follow the instructions) or you can follow your instinct and hope for the best on the day of the test. Bruce says that 80% of the houses he tests that have been prepped by the instinct method fail the test. There are too many ways for air to infiltrate through holes plates, strapping cavities, and the like and without a defined process, success on an instinct job happens only 20% of the time.
Parallel process is seen frequently with doors and windows. All have been tested (regardless of brand) to various PG (Performance Grade) ratings to quantify their ability to stand up to air and water infiltration. More than 80% of the time that we are called out to look at a leaking window or door, we find that the installation has been done by instinct, not by process. The PG rating of the unit is only as good as the installation. If steps are skipped in installation, typical success rate of unit performance drops to 20% and that sounds expensive for everyone. The Building Code calls out for installation according to manufacturer’s installation instructions. Frequently we hear “Well, I’ve been doing it this way for 30 years”. Up until very recently we did not have the type of high performance windows, high performance insulations such as Icynene, and high performance blower door testing that we are now faced with. It’s a different world today in construction than it was even 5 years ago.
Hardware installation is another parallel. Instinct installation has a low success rate with hardware too. Taking the time to do it right, following the instructions, sticking to the plan, significantly increases results and significantly decreases the cost of do-overs.
“If there isn’t time to do it right, there’s always time to do it twice” is part of Murphy’s Laws of Passive Dynamics. But who pays the cost of doing it twice? Surely not Mr. Murphy! The answer is that you do. Part of experience is learning that in any area of tight tolerances or air and water infiltration, there are no shortcuts. Shortcuts are only the quickest route to the longest, most expensive way around, period.
“People do what you inspect, not what you expect” is Mobley’s 3rd Law. Proper window and door installation are actually part of a successful blower door test result, but they are also part of preventing water infiltration, moisture damage, and mold as well as potential subsequent lawsuits. Shepley does window and door installation classes and onsite installation clinics to demonstrate the process that will swing your success needle to the positive side of the scale. Please take the time to do things right and don’t fall victim to the old “ Pay me now, or pay me more later” syndrome. Set yourself up for success by taking control of the process instead of leaving it up to chance. By the way, it’s the law.... Murphy’s Law, the law of averages, or the law of the Massachusetts Building Code.