A practical understanding of materials science
Understanding materials is at the root of all investigation and successful diagnosis of building failures. When you understand how building materials work and how they interact with one another over time, you are better able to trace the symptoms back to their underlying cause. By identifying the real reasons behind a material's failure you can develop more appropriate and long-lasting treatments.
Science is often viewed as an ivory-tower endeavor to be left to "the experts," but a distant lab cannot relate their data with site-specific conditions. Because buildings are a complex of interrelated systems, the various interactions still require the attention of someone on site. Sending samples off to someone who is viewing them out of context of their environment risks the wrong tests being performed and even the right questions never being asked. Also far too common and convenient is the reliance on product salesmen willing to corrupt science for financial gain. Trusting either laboratories or salesmen blindly has had disastrous consequences for many buildings. The disconnected conclusions often lead to entire building systems being replaced, removing offending symptoms of a problem, rather than looking to the localized source of failure.
Many people feel their science education is lacking or do not even consider putting their knowledge of science to use when viewing building problems. Yet understanding the needs of buildings does not have to be so daunting that it must be left to others. The goal of this section is to provide building owners, craftsmen, architects, and engineers with a working knowledge of materials science and the tools to understand their buildings and make informed decisions.