A reliable assessment expert seeks answers to your property damage questions with the scientific method at top of mind. Our post about how this method factors into forensic inspections covers the importance of research in the analysis step. As part of that process to achieving accurate results, your assessment partners should consult and cite resources that are objective, timely, and verified by the scientific community.
Reputable resources such as materials testing standards, building codes, weather data, and subject matter organizations help experts bring you conclusions that support a fair and defensible claim decision. The body of scientific knowledge and resources is too expansive for this blog post, so we’re covering four of the most commonly referenced organizations and databases by forensic engineers when testing a hypothesis.
Unbiased experts cite resources and materials that have been reviewed by the scientific community to bring you conclusions you can count on.
ASTM International (ASTM) is a non-profit organization that tests thousands of types of materials, products, and systems spanning multiple industries. With members worldwide dedicated to product quality and safety, their findings and recommendations are often adopted internationally.
When your expert references ASTM, you get the benefit of cutting-edge research. Their testing encompasses new and changing materials, methods, and processes to eliminate the guesswork in answering your property damage questions.
Cracks near the window frames allowed water to get behind the stucco thanks to a construction defect; control joints don’t meet ASTM recommendations.
For instance, an adjuster asked Donan to find the cause of water intrusion behind exterior stucco. The ASTM standard states that no area of stucco should extend more than 18 feet without a control joint. ASTM, stucco manufacturers, and installers tested and documented this recommendation, as well as adequate drainage requirements, to prevent stucco from cracking and letting water enter.
Comparing observations and measurements to this standard, the engineer determined that the stucco had inadequate expansion and moisture control components as a result of a construction defect.
For details about how a forensic engineer used the ASTM standard to verify observations for a claim involving an injury, check out this case study: Calculating the Slip Index.
International Residential Code
The International Residential Code (IRC) focuses on structural, mechanical, and electrical requirements for one- to two-family residences up to three stories. This code provides regulations for multiple aspects of often-claimed materials and designs, including technological advancements.
The IRC updates every three years, so your expert has access to timely industry developments. It not only supports observations about the cause of damage to a variety of materials in residential claims, it also provides construction requirements. If you need to know what repairs will return a structure to pre-loss condition, you can rest assured that an expert who stays up to date with the IRC will provide code-compliant recommendations.
The IRC addresses both new construction and repair and replacement methods for aging or damaged structures.
For example, a car ran into a policyholder’s exterior wall. Their carrier hired Donan to determine the extent of structural damage and make repair recommendations. While Donan is not a repair company, its experts are familiar with and reference the IRC and local and state building codes when making repair recommendations.
For the vehicle-impacted home, the brick wall’s displaced portion needed to be replaced, including electrical panels. The interior wall behind the impact area also required replacement, and the engineer recommended that the wall framing be inspected during the process for broken or displaced members.
An engineer using the IRC as a guide provides recommendations that address the most recent construction, material, and safety standards available. You get an objective and up-to-date starting point to determine next steps in the claim.
The National Weather Service (NWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are government agencies that track climate trends, provide forecasts, and predict and warn about severe storms. This is a necessary service to the entire public, but their recording stations throughout the country are especially valuable in property assessments.
While weather data alone isn’t enough to resolve a claim, referencing the data these stations collect helps experts verify if a weather event might have affected the property in question. In short, is the reported cause of loss even possible for the date and location claimed by the policyholder?
NWS and NOAA data, combined with expert observations and other resources, can determine whether reported damage could be the result of weather events.
When an insured claimed wind damage to a roof covering, Donan inspected the roof at the handling adjuster’s request. The engineer found that the roof covering was wrinkled, and several tile wall caps had dislodged. However, the NOAA data had no reports of wind damage within 15 miles of the property, and the nearest NWS recording station reported maximum gusts that weren’t sufficient to damage a sound roof covering.
The engineer observed that the displaced wall caps had been improperly installed, making them vulnerable to low winds. Because weather data isn’t always available for an exact location, an experienced engineer will compare the data to other resources and observations. The Donan engineer used aerial imagery to confirm that the roof covering had been wrinkled two years prior to the reported date of loss. The onsite evidence, aerial images, and NWS and NOAA data supported that wind had not damaged the roof covering.
To learn more about how the NWS classifies wind damage, read our guide to the Degrees of Tornado Damage to One- to Two-Story Residential Homes.
American Society of Civil Engineers
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) sets industry standards and is designed by and for civil engineers. That means that subject matter experts help each other address and solve issues surrounding the materials and inspection processes.
The ASCE’s evolving library of academic publications, continuing education opportunities, and engineering programs helps the experts you trust stay at the top of the industry. Reputable forensic engineers often cite ASCE publications or standards when discussing how the body of scientific knowledge supports their observations and conclusions.
The results of years-long tests published by the ASCE help the engineer determine the duration of water exposure to this cabinet.
An insurance carrier needed to determine the duration of water damage in a policyholder’s kitchen. Through his observations and two ASCE publications describing the progressive effects of water damage to cabinets over the course of eight years, Donan’s engineer confirmed that the absence of black stains below the cabinet and the mild swelling of the cabinet walls indicated a short-term water exposure of only two days.
Reliable property assessment experts corroborate their observations with a varied and evolving body of scientific knowledge. You need a partner with deep knowledge who stays up to date on developments and trends. Submit an assignment today to experience how Donan engineers leverage their expertise and array of scientifically verified resources to deliver accurate and objective conclusions.