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Trifecta of Design Flaws Magnifies Sunlight, Turns Condos into Greenhouses

Glass can refract light and turn it into heat like a magnifying glass can burn objects when sunlight passes through it. In California, a condominium developer built a high rise with a façade made entirely of glass. The luxurious building featured a beautiful cityscape, and buyers paid top dollar to live there. The units did not include air conditioning because of its proximity to the coast and the expectation of ocean-cooled temperatures. However, the builder also failed to construct proper insulation and ventilation. As a result, sunlight refracted through the glass windows, super-heating the air inside the condos and creating a greenhouse effect. Consequently, the air inside these condominiums could reach as high as 90 degrees on temperate sunny days. Such high temperatures were not only uncomfortable, they were also dangerous for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Daniel Rottinghaus and Howard J. Silldorf of BERDING|WEIL represented the homeowners’ association to compel the developers to fix the defective construction. As they prepared their case, Daniel and Howard reviewed the building designs. They also brought on a team of architects and engineers to validate their claims. While the problems were clear to them, explaining it to those without architectural or engineering experience — including a potential jury — would be challenging. Their solution was to call DK Global.

DK Global worked alongside and with the direction of Daniel, Howard, and their experts. They created an animated reconstruction of the condominiums and how their defects caused such an unreasonable heat gain.

The video began with photos of the condominium complex and a time lapse of how the sun hit the building throughout the day. Next, the presentation zoomed into images of one of the condos to provide a case example. The pictures then transitioned to a close-up lateral 3D depiction of unit’s windows and floor, complete with the inner component that made up the windows and floor. The glass windows were framed by uninsulated aluminum, sealant, and fireproofing. A concrete slab laid the foundations for each unit’s flooring. Notably, the building featured decorative glass panes that covered each unit’s windowsill. The glass was situated a few inches in front of the sill material, creating a shadow box.

Next, the animation explored how air flowed into the condominiums from the outside through a stack joint in a curtain wall system. It revealed that as air passed through the ventilation, it was exposed to the uninsulated aluminum framing. As the sun shined on the building each day, the temperature of the aluminum rose, heating the air the passed through it. In addition, as the sun’s rays hit the condominiums, the concrete floor slab conducted heat through the apartment. Last, the animation showed how sunlight passing through the glass directly also heated the units. This trifecta — air heated by metal exposure, heat conducted through the concrete flooring, and heat magnified by direct sunlight — caused the condo interiors to heat to as high as 92 degrees when it was only 66 degrees outside. Moreover, the heat did not dissipate efficiently, significantly raising room temperatures into the evening.

“Prior to having that demonstrative,” said BERDING|WEIL’s Director of Client Relations, Jill Jackson, “people had a really hard time wrapping their head about ‘why is this such a problem?’ And then, being able to visualize it goes back to what I was saying about really feeling it and imagining yourself living in these conditions — you feel a lot different when you’re seeing an illustration of it.”

Using the animation to clearly illustrate the builders’ negligence and construction defects, Daniel and Howard were prepared to secure their clients a favorable outcome.

Daniel Rottinghaus has continuously been named a “Super Lawyer” for over ten years, representing commercial and residential real estate clients regarding construction defects. Daniel has served as a Special Task Force legal advisor for the U.S. State Department and as a Lead attorney for U.S. Army cases involving multi-billion-dollar Iranian claims, earning him the Department of State “Superior Honor Award” in 1993.

For nearly 30 years, Howard J. Silldorf has represented clients throughout Southern California, recovering more than $200 million for his clients in over 100 cases. Howard has earned the Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rating of “AV Preeminent” for representing his clients in construction defect cases, a prestigious accomplishment attained by attorneys of the highest level of professional excellence.


"Working with DK Global is so helpful because they have the type of experts on staff that can help contribute — can help tell us what might benefit us — what might be meaningful through the course of the case."
Jill Jackson - BERDING|WEIL
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