Blocked Downspout

I found myself token-less and running late for a meeting the other day, and so forced to walk I happened across this site, which stopped me inquisitively and delightfully in my tracks. Can you spot the potential building diagnostics nightmare? I couldn’t resist formulating a narrative in my head about how this happened and more importantly how this might be affecting the building. A wider angle of this photo would show that this location appears to be the shortest distance from the Subway loading dock/area to the street curb. Why walk more than you have to, right? Rain and snow melt naturally find their way down the downspout, efficiently convert their potential energy to kinetic, and shoot straight into the back of that trash can wheel (about 2″ away). The water splashes, forms small droplets, which freeze on contact with the metal downspout effectively sealing it. Aside from the localized moisture source potentially leading to moisture migrating into the wall at grade or below, it remains to be seen what kind of damage can be incurred as a result: added weight on the fragile downspout fasteners leading to detachment? Added weight of the ice pulling the downspout free of its connection with the gutter at roof level? Imagine if the whole wasn’t there, and the entire downspout filled with ice–it could easily detach with the weight of several hundred pounds of ice and harm or seriously injure passersby. Or even simply sealing the garbage can lid shut with ice, offering the garbage man the little-needed motivation to not take out the garbage? Any others?

The most powerful tool you have in diagnosing any problem is observation, taking in the ‘lay of the land.’ Blame is typically and generously applied to the architect, the engineer, the contractor, etc. However, user error can often be the most impacting factor when it comes to the degradation of buildings. Water is the moist dangerous element to buildings, it will ultimately always find a way in or around an obstacle. The question here is, in suite with the unfolding scene above, is the whole intentional? Could very easily see a building maintenance person stabbing the whole rather than freeing the downspout of ice (in defense of building maintenance men, is most likely is unintentional).

Lesson here? Walk every now and then, you might learn something. And keep your eyes ever-peeled.



Letting Context Speak for Itself

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