Capabilities

We provide testing services to certify product and materials compliance, support quality control, and ensure the health and safety of workers and their environment. We provide assistance for clients who are not sure what tests they need. Our accredited materials characterization laboratory is the foundation of all the services of RJ Lee Group provides, including standardized testing for compliance, industrial hygiene and environmental analyses, quality control, and materials research and development.

We provide credentialed expertise supported built by robust scientific data. We provide significant support to industrial clients for product development, industrial hygiene and overall production support.

RJ Lee Group maintains a visible and respected reputation within the legal community, having offered scientific support in civil litigation matters for nearly 30 years. 

  • Product Liability 
  • Toxic Tort
  • Construction Defect
  • Fugitive Emission
  • Personal Injury
  • Patent Infringement
  • Contract Disputes
  • Insurance Subrogation

Subject Matter Experts

From our core business of providing scientific solutions to our clients, we have developed innovative products. Some are produced internally, and some have arisen from partnerships with other research organizations. 

For example, we build lab software solutions to help manage and streamline your labs data, and environmental testing products for a variety of applications. 

  • IntelliSEM is a powerful automated particle analysis system.
  • ParticleID is  a customizable cloud hosted web application used to identify foreign particulate matter and  assist with root cause investigations. 

Other products we create count particles and help keep the air and environment safe.

RJ Lee Group is a materials analysis laboratory and consulting company which serves many different industries. We offer scientific solutions such as industrial forensics services, laboratory and testing services, litigation support, and laboratory software to many industries:

Defining the Challenge

Upon completion of a high-rise residential structure, cracks and delamination appeared on exterior surfaces of the tower compelling building owners to initiate a lawsuit against the general contractor. The contractor, in turn, blamed faulty materials used by subcontractors. With so many subcontractors involved in this large construction project, it seemed an almost impossible task to pinpoint the cause of the materials failure. The question that eventually arose was whether building materials or faulty workmanship was to blame. RJ Lee Group was retained by a law firm representing one of the manufacturers of packaged building materials used in the construction and asked to examine the building’s stucco system and underlying build-out materials, undertake the task and perform failure analysis to determine the cause(s) of the cracking and delamination.

Investigative Approach

RJ Lee Group’s petrographic experts used a combination of analytical techniques in accordance with the ASTM methods for petrographic examination of hardened concrete including visual examinations, optical stereo-microscopy, polarized light microscopy (PLM) and/or scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy dispersive spectrometry (EDS). We tested not only material samples removed from the building, but also newly purchased, unhydrated build-out material and stucco with and without the additive that had been used in construction of the high-rise. We studied both product formulation data and production information and reviewed reports prepared by experts for the Plaintiff, the contractor and the subcontractor. We also developed accelerated tests to reproduce color variations seen in samples of the build-out material and to determine if the resulting color change produced a change in volume since stucco strength can be compromised through volume changes.

Materials Analysis

Build-Out Materials
In examining the three different types of build-out materials used to level various areas of the building, we discovered that there was no correlation between micro-cracking observed in these materials and the defects produced. We did observe paint in shrinkage cracks indicating that the cracking occurred during curing or shortly thereafter which meant that these cracks occurred before painting and were caused by improper application of the stucco.

Stucco
When we evaluated the stucco we observed shrinkage cracks caused by hydration and moisture loss as well as excessive water loss in both the stucco and build-out materials. We also determined that the improper mix of the stucco scratch coat was responsible for the high porosity of the applied mixture and that the stucco was not properly cured. This was evidence of improper mixing and application of the stucco.

Upon further examination of the scratch coat where the delamination plane occurred, our expert observed a layer of laitance—fine particles often found on the surface of cementitious materials when too much water is used. We were able to reproduce this laitance by over-mixing stucco with twice the recommended amount of one of the build-out materials proving that it had not been combined in correct proportions as directed in the mixing instructions. Based on this observation, the failure was the result of either over-mixing of the build-out material and/or an excess of water.

Our Conclusions

Unlike some experts, our petrographic scientists were able to use our own in-house laboratory capabilities to explore the necessary scenarios that eventually provided the evidence as to why and how the delamination and cracking were taking place. Our failure analysis investigations uncovered multiple workmanship issues: build-out materials were not properly leveled resulting in variation in stucco thickness; fiber mesh was improperly embedded in the scratch coat resulting in delamination; the substrate layer was not roughened to provide adherence for the next layer and it was not properly cleaned prior to stucco application. These conclusions provided evidence that the manufacturer of the material was not responsible for the failure of the materials but rather that the stucco was not applied correctly—a result of poor workmanship. The improper application of the scratch coat caused the weakness that resulted in the delamination and cracking.