The building envelope includes all the building components that separate the indoors from the outdoors and is integral to building performance and energy consumption. For clients with stringent sustainability goals, such as net zero performance, the proper design and construction of a building’s envelope is one of the most unique and complex project challenges. In addition to energy performance, the envelope is also one of the most important factors when it comes to protecting a building’s value and keeping maintenance charges in check. The envelope must keep out the wind and the rain, keep the heat in if you’re in a cold climate or out in a warm one. The envelope also mitigates moisture and vapor penetration which can lead to mold, corrosion and wood rot and negatively impact tenant health and comfort.
At PCL, we have you – and your building – covered.
PCL’s building envelope engineer Lori O’Malley (P.Eng., M.A.Sc., LEED Green Associate) has more than 25 years of experience with the design and construction of building envelopes, 15 of which have been as an in-house building envelope expert at PCL. She says the problems tend to start when two of a building’s four control layers – the air, moisture, vapor and thermal barriers – are not designed or installed correctly. “If those areas aren’t designed correctly or they’re not coordinated properly when they’re put together – or materials are used that don’t work together – you will have issues,” she says.
Lori graduated from the University of Toronto with a master’s degree in civil engineering in January 1997 and began working in the building science group of a large consulting engineering firm, taking on responsibility for the building envelope group. She worked on projects around the world, learning the nuances of what it takes to build the best envelopes. “For people to be happy, you have to have an envelope that will do its job,” she says. “If you provide a building that is leaky or there is too much solar glare or the people aren’t comfortable in it or they’re paying a fortune in heating bills, they’re not happy.”
Lori joined PCL in 2008 as one of PCL’s specialized team of in-house subject matter experts. She applies her deep experience and broad expertise to overcome unique challenges and help our clients and our teams design and build innovative and high-performance building envelope systems. She provides technical assistance throughout project development to optimize building envelope performance solutions. She also assists in material selection and in identifying continuity, constructability and sequencing concerns throughout the design, construction, commissioning and warranty phases.
Lori works closely with clients to understand their project goals and opportunities. She says the key is to take a proactive approach with all stakeholders, to sit down as early as possible with the design team when specifications and documents are being put together. “Early collaboration and communication at this point will minimize problems and the potential need for changes down the road,” she says.
Lori works on both new builds and retrofits. She was a key member of the team that conducted a deep retrofit of the Ken Soble Tower in Hamilton, Ontario. Originally built in 1967, Ken Soble is an 18-storey, 146-unit affordable seniors’ housing complex with a three-story annex that – following a deep retrofit – was certified as the world’s largest residential Passive House EnerPHit retrofit. Working collaboratively with the client, consultants and trades, Lori and the PCL team retrofitted an aging building asset transforming it into a high-performance, ultra-low-energy building that has seen a remarkable 94% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Lori takes pride in constructing buildings that address the imperatives of climate change and the need for decarbonization, along with meeting the needs and objectives of owners and the performance goals of the project. “Being engaged early and working collaboratively, we build the best possible building envelopes, meeting and exceeding client goals, targets and objectives,” she says.
One of PCL’s leading in-house experts, Lori is actively engaged to train, mentor and share her knowledge and expertise across the company, working to ensure that project leads understand and can effectively mitigate building envelope risk and complexity.