Intertek's Assurance in Action Podcast Network

Building Science Solutions

October 13, 2022 Intertek Season 5 Episode 20
Intertek's Assurance in Action Podcast Network
Building Science Solutions
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of Assurance in Action, Intertek’s Building & Construction Team, discuss Building Science Solutions.  Join our guest John Runkle Intertek’s Vice President of Building Science Solutions in discussing a full array of expertise for enclosure consulting and quality assurance on new and existing facilities.

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Shawn Donovan  0:12  

Welcome to Intertek's Building and Construction podcast, where we discuss all things related to consulting, testing, and certification for building products and construction. I'm Shawn Donovan with Donovan and Associates, and I'll be your host for today's podcast. We're excited to have John Runkle as our guest today. John is Vice President for Building Science Solutions. And John will be discussing the Building Sciences side of Intertek. Welcome, John, and thanks for taking some time with us today to join us on this podcast.

John Runkle  0:46 

Well,  great to be here. Appreciate the opportunity.


Shawn Donovan  0:49  

Absolutely. I'm really excited about this topic. You and I have had a chance to talk a little bit before on this. And it really sounds like there's a lot involved when we talk about Building Sciences. Can you for our audience, can you just first give a little background on yourself? And then we'll kind of jump into the Building Sciences, but can you share with the audience,  your background and experience in this space?


John Runkle  1:14  

Sure. I was always a consultant. And, you know, I think for a while it was tough for companies like Intertek to get their h and s around, how does consultancy fit into the TIC (Testing, Inspection, Certification) industry? Right? And our CEO, Andre (Andre Lacroix, CEO Intertek Group) figured it out very quickly.  And it's the "A" TIC part of it. Right. It's the assurance part. So that's been my background forever and ever.


Shawn Donovan  1:39

So John, we're talking about building science today. Is this a common term in the industry? Or is this unique to Intertek?


John Runkle  1:47

I think "Building Sciences" is becoming a common term in the industry. But it suffers a little bit from the same thing that we suffer from is that is our biggest problem is folks don't know we exist. But when you've seen things over the years, like the evolution of mold in buildings, the desire for sustainable buildings, the understanding that all building systems need to work together, that's Building Sciences. And so we're becoming aware of this, you know, as a people, as an industry as a profession, but it takes a little bit more time for us to be fully ingrained into society.


Shawn Donovan  2:21

Can you share the background and the history if you will, with building science and Intertek?


John Runkle  2:28

Sure you know, it, it's kind of a funny story. I don't want to say that we weren't wanted, but nobody understood how to fit a c onsulting group into the TIC (Testing, Inspection, Certification) space. And I think, you know, probably at the same time, we're Andre was thinking about that, in his mind, we started to do some of this, where we said, look, there's a tremendous testing inspection resource. And we can link in some really great expertise to help consult in this umbrella of testing and inspection. It's already well formed. And so we started to do it. And of course, change is uncomfortable for everybody. But once we once we got into it, I think everyone can see the results. Now,


Shawn Donovan  3:05

it seems like there's a large mix of services within this building science category, if you will. Can you talk about perhaps maybe your top three or four services within this group that you guys are typically involved with?


John Runkle  3:20  

Sure, yeah. And building science is a really large umbrella. Our core expertise has to do around waterproofing, air barrier sustainability type services, where we are preventing problems and buildings. We will do that by starting with design reviews. And we would do inspections and testing and consulting to make sure that what the end user wants is actually going to get built. But we have other services as to where we would go and work on existing buildings. And that might be a property condition assessment, and those sorts of things. But the core fundamental is air water moisture type things.


Shawn Donovan  4:03

Now, when we were talking the other day, I found it interesting that forensic is a part of what you do, too, just out of curiosity, talk a little bit about that aspect of the business.


John Runkle  4:11

So forensics is usually trying to figure out a problem that exists. And we have forensic investigators. And we're actually one of the few business lines within Intertek that actually does insurance and litigation work. So, personally, and in our group, we spend a lot of time being expert witnesses. So not just solving the problem, but actually taking it the whole way through, you know, court if that is part of the progression.


Shawn Donovan  4:36 

So John, we've, we've had some podcasts in the past, we were talking about some of the testing services and some of the certification services. How does your group tie in to those other services that Intertek offers, or does it?


John Runkle  4:50

Yes, it's heavily linked, especially when you look at testing in the field testing side of it. But there's an important distinction because you don't want to start with the test. You want to make sure that you're on the right track before you execute the test. The test is an important part and certainly if you get a poor result on the test, again, there's more consulting and assurance that needs to occur along with that test. So it's it's kind of, I wouldn't say it wraps around it, the existing services very complements it very well. But just as Andre is laid out, it's the "A" TIC portion of it, which starts before and it continues after our core services.


Shawn Donovan  5:28  

Right? And with that said, do you typically have long term relationships with your clients? Or is it typically you come in and, and you do some consulting and you leave? And you how does how does your relationship work with clients typically?


John Runkle  5:41 

Yeah , our typical job is actually quite long. It's over a year in execution, which is unusual at Intertek. But when you look at building a new building, which can be multiple years, it's not too much of a surprise, sometimes our friends investigations or property condition assessments, they can be shorter term exercises, but by and large, we have a really long project execution cycle. And again, with our client experience, you know, those usually turn into new project for will have relationships with clients for decades.


Shawn Donovan  6:16  

Just to touch a little bit on consulting services, kind of big picture in our industry, have you seen an increase or decrease in these type of services?


John Runkle  6:28  

Well, it's always more and just as the name Building Sciences suggest, it's rather generic, right. And so we spoke earlier about it being air and water, but it has increased in terms of our services significantly, where, you know, we're being asked to do acoustical, whereas to do vibration, structural, even advice on modular construction, and so forth. And so what we've seen is an expansion in the breadth of our practice, and in the geography of our practice as well.


Shawn Donovan  6:58  

How about a big topic right now, since we're in the middle of the hurricane season? How about when it comes to the hurricane market? I mean, you guys, I know you play in that space? It's a it's a, it's a big market, when it comes to testing certification, I would assume consulting as well.


John Runkle  7:12  

Yeah, it's probably our fastest growing sector, where we support those that are involved in assessing hurricane damage, as well as cost estimating in developing any remediation that's needed. Obviously, it's not just hurricanes. But that's, that's a dominant thing, especially this time of year. And again, that's the fastest growing sector of our business right now.


Shawn Donovan  7: 36

Yeah, I'm curious. It just kind of I had a thought around design assist, do you guys get involved with design assist with with architects or owners before a project starts?


John Runkle  7:46  

We do. Yes. And in the context of the previous conversation, we have to be a little careful to not do design assist when we're doing commissioning. But we can certainly do both just not on the same project. And we've actually been the design of a record for some small things. And good examples of that would be waterproofing designs, air barrier designs, and in some case, structural repairs, and so forth.


Shawn Donovan  8:10  

Who really are your target audiences for the services that you provide?


John Runkle  8:17

Again, this is another differentiator with us in most most groups, you know, product manufacturers are on our list, but they're close to the bottom. We're really looking at developers, we're looking at contractors and architects, attorneys, which, you know, those are probably not at the top of most of Intertek business lines clientele list.


Shawn Donovan  8:38  

When you look at really the value you guys bring, what's the greatest value that your team really brings to a client on a particular project? Regardless, if it's any one of those clients or target audiences that you just mentioned? 


John Runkle  8:51  

Well, we pride ourselves in being able to find a solution for them. And we also are somewhat a miscellaneous department. And so a lot of times we get requests, we're really people don't know where else to turn. And so we pride ourselves on being able to give them that solution that they really struggled to find.


Shawn Donovan  9:09  

And do you find that it varies from from project to project or, you know, client, the client or services service? 


John Runkle  9:17

Yeah, I mean, like all businesses, we have our core services. And we talked about the property condition assessments, we talked about, you know, the building commissioning, and the forensic evaluations, but we have lots of very one off kind of odd challenges to solve for our customers. And, quite frankly, that the most fun


Shawn Donovan  9:36  

We know your business is a international or international in scope, would that be a true statement?


John Runkle  9:43  

Absolutely. And I think some of our best projects experiences are those where we're involving not just our building, science international team, but other Intertek team members to help bring creative solutions. And so what we've been able to do through technology is to bring expertise anywhere in the world, through partnerships, again with our local personnel, but expertise that might be contributing from afar.


Shawn Donovan  10:10  

So do you see this or do you see that person active as a as a competitive advantage, the fact that you can you have those resources and you are an international player.


John Runkle  10:19  

Absolutely. When you look at, you know, the drivers behind our services desire for, you know, a sustainability certification, or they want to have a building that is a place where people want to work are comfortable working or don't have leaks and so forth. That problem exists all throughout the world, but the solution doesn't. And so when we're able to bring it to even remote parts of the world, that's a huge value to our customers.


Shawn Donovan  10:45  

So John, if we can just touch on a couple examples, I think it's always interesting to hear kind of the real life stories on how you interact with a client, can you talk a little bit about maybe a few recent client projects and some of the challenges and how you worked with the client, and ultimately, the end result.


John Runkle  11:01  

So we had a standard building enclosure commissioning job in New Jersey, where we were, you know, doing our drawing reviews, watching things get built, observing the testing, documenting the testing, in some cases, executing the testing, helping the resolution, many challenges with that. But the unique wrinkle with this one was, the fabrication was done in China, some of the assembly was done in China, some of the testing was done in Germany, and things were put on shipping containers and sent to certain places. And we had to leverage really the full strength of Intertek to complete this job, where we had team members in China that were assisted by subject matter experts from afar, that helped us with those inspections, we had different checkpoints to make sure that when things were shipped, and received, that they were in the same quality that they were, you know, when they were tested, and we help the customer develop, you know, a quality assurance plan to make sure that that value is maintained throughout the whole life of the project. And it really helps to minimize that risk.


Shawn Donovan  12:09

So John, where is where's your team located? The Building Sciences group?


John Runkle  12:14  

Well, if I answer this in a couple months, it'll be a longer answer. But right now, we're predominantly based in North America with a high concentration in the US. But we also have team members throughout the Middle East, as well as in Asia, specifically China.


Shawn Donovan  12:29  

And you have offices throughout the US. We do we have


John Runkle  12:33 

over 20 offices throughout the US. So you know, we're within a drive of just about anywhere in the country.


Shawn Donovan  12:42  

Great. And are those offices typically tied to some of the testing facilities as well? Are they independent offices?


John Runkle  12:49  

We have both, we have cohabitation locations. And we also have locations where we, you know, we need to be close to the project sites. And so we actually have a few more locations that are located specifically in between some of those holes that we had in our laboratories.


Shawn Donovan  13:06  

So John, I have to assume you guys got a pretty big team, when you talk about the scope and the locations. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, the size of your team and some of the key players and how you guys are structured? Internationally?


John Runkle  13:18  

Sure, yeah, our team is about 200 right now. However, when you look at the resources that we have, when we tap into laboratory expertise, and so forth, it's really about 350 people that actively help solve problems for our customers. And we have really deep skill sets as well. So certainly we have folks that are all rounders, maybe like myself, but we have folks that are just very specifically focused on certain areas like glazing experts, stone experts, people that can get way down in the weeds of any topic that's needed for our customers.


Shawn Donovan  13:53  

And when you guys go on, and you have a project, do you have team leads? Or how do you typically structure your team and assign folks to a particular project? 


John Runkle  14:01  

Yeah, I think this is, you know, similar to most folks, they're going to have a main point of contact and a project manager. But our projects are all's often multidisciplinary, where they're going to have that coordinated person, but that person's not going to be the one that's going to be able to solve all their problems, but they're going to provide the links to the other team members that can solve those problems. You know, and I'll give you an example of that. So, you know, we might have a project that has a little bit of an acoustical component or fire component, there's acoustical and fire in the in the moisture folks will not be the same folks, these are all different professions, but they're going to have that point of contact that project manager that's going to tie it all together for him.


Shawn Donovan  14:40  

You know, we've talked about some of the things that you guys do and how it's a little bit unique to the Intertek business. Can you elaborate a little bit on how the Building Sciences is different than some of the core Intertek services? 


John Runkle  14:53  

Yeah, so our goal is not necessarily to help bring a product to market and make it fit for sale and safe. Our goal is focusing on the built environment. So anywhere there's a building, there's a place for Building Sciences.


Shawn Donovan  15:07  

You had mentioned to me before the term kind of desire versus required is that That kind of what you're talking about.


John Runkle  15:14  

Yeah. And it's it's a little different concept because I think a lot of the Intertek customer experience has to do around something that they have to do a code or something they have to comply with. And they're coming to us to, I hate to say it, check a box. That's not what building science is about. Building Sciences is about solving a problem. Maybe it's a problem that they don't have, but they're afraid about, maybe it's a problem that they're very well familiar with. And we help them get their buildings to function and perform better.


Shawn Donovan  15:43  

So John, it sounds like, essentially, this was a startup within Intertek, and you've had great success as a result, but what's really allowed you to create the success within this platform?


John Runkle  15:58  

Well, there's, there's two things. One is, you know, Gavin Campbell, with with his vision and his support, to see how a consulting group could really not only exist, but thrive within the framework of a TIC company. And secondarily is the quality of our experts. We just have great people. And we have a lot of fun.


Shawn Donovan  16:16  

So you I find this interesting John, as a marketing person, what are you guys doing to really market your services? Because as a startup, that's always the biggest challenge, right? And you've had a lot of success. But what are you guys doing to really promote what you do and how you do it?


John Runkle  16:31  

Yeah, I guess the short answer is probably not enough. You know, we're laser focused on solving our clients challenges, working on projects and doing our best work. And we've done a lot of just repeat, work through that. But it's time for us to kind of expand and make sure that other customers that also need these solutions, know where to find us.


Shawn Donovan  16:50  

Yeah, and that makes sense. And that's always the challenge, right? Because you get so busy doing your work. It's like, wow, we gotta let people know who we are and what we're doing. And the best thing you got going for us, you got one of the biggest names in the industry with with Intertek. So that certainly doesn't hurt.


John Runkle  17:05  

It's been a huge wind in our sails. And folks like you are doing a great job of helping us to preach the gospel.


Shawn Donovan  17:12  

Well, John, listen, thanks for sharing. This has really been a lot of great information on Building Science Solutions. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you think would be worthwhile sharing with our audience related to this topic?


John Runkle  17:25  

Yeah, I think it's, it's nice for them to know that there is a resource, right? And that we're more than just a pass fail organization. Also, we're not just an organization where you go to where you have to, right, our clients come to us because they want to come to us. They have a problem. They don't know where to go. But it's not necessarily a problem where they're mandated to do this test, and they need somebody to execute the test. We go way beyond that. And I really think it's important for customers to know that there's a resource there that can help them beyond the test.


Shawn Donovan  18:01 

That's great. Well, John, if folks need to get a hold of you, well, how's the best way to either get a hold of you or your team? What's what's the best route here?


John Runkle  18:09  

Well, you can always I mean, always, call me or email me. So my cell phone number is 717-495-8286. And my email is


Shawn Donovan  18:28  

John. Thanks again. And for that, that concludes this podcast for Intertek building and construction Business. Thank you.


Transcribed by

Background of John Runkle
The term "Building Science"
History of Building Science and Intertek
Top Building Science Services
Forensics Aspect of the Business
Testing and Certification Services
Relationship with Clients
An Increase or Decrease
Hurricane Market
Involvement Before a Project Starts
Target Audience
Greatest Value the Team Brings
Does it vary?
An International or International in Scope Business
A Competitive Advantage
Recent Client Projects
Team Location
US Locations
Office Structure
Team Structure
Project Team Structure
Building Science and Intertek
The Two Terms
The Success
The Marketing Approach
The Challenge
Additional Information
Contact Information
Closing Credits