By: James Monahan

As stated in the New York Times, one of the most common misused design phrases is “form follows function.” This quotation is often misattributed to Le Corbusier, when in fact; it was renowned architect Louis Sullivan who coined the phrase “form ever follows function.” The principle behind his design philosophy is that the style of architecture should reflect or be governed by its purpose. This concept is often debated among Engineers and Architects.

Architects will often argue that the beauty and artistic value of a building is based on its appearance and aesthetics. Engineers, however, put much more emphasis on the performance of building components over time. A Building Envelope Consultant understands that these views are not mutually exclusive, and will attempt to bridge the gap between form and function. A Building Envelope Consultant will ensure a building is watertight, and that the façade is structurally sound. However, a Building Envelope Consultant is also concerned with restoring the façade to its original and/or historic countenance, and maintaining/preserving that appearance for years to come. While the performance of a building is a high priority to its Owner, the building’s aesthetics can also greatly affect its property value, along with its commercial or residential appeal.

Fixed budgets and limited resources are the biggest challenges facing Building Envelope Consultants during façade and roof restoration projects. In a world of limitless funding, every corner column or parapet wall could be rebuilt, all facades could be repointed, and entire roof systems could be replaced. In the real world however, Building Envelope Consultants must prioritize how money is spent.

Such is the role of the Building Envelope Consultant – to identify the benefits and disadvantages of various courses of action or repair options, to design details for these options, and to prepare realistic repair budgets. At the same time, he must strive to strike a balance between form and function, and uphold the public’s safety.

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