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Paulina Beeche Larrain

Member Spotlight: Paulina Beeche Larrain

Paulina Beeche is a Chilean architect, licensed in Maryland, and with 20 years of experience in the private sector. Currently, she is working with the Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore.

When did you earn your Certified Air Barrier Specialist (CABS) certification from the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA)? 

A: In December, 2021

What inspired you to pursue the CABS program with ABAA? 

A: I have always been interested about the physics of building envelopes. I was raised in Chile and became a licensed architect there first. So when I started designing buildings here, I started questioning why there is so much decay and why air barriers are so important. It affected how I saw the relationship between building technology and climate and I wanted to learn more.

Name: Paulina Beeche Larrain
US Army Corps of Engineers
Baltimore, MD

ABAA member for 3 years

How has the CABS certification impacted your career or professional development? 

A. It gave me a voice. I was working in a private firm when I was certified and I started training young architects on the importance of knowing all your barriers, their compatibility and transitions. These things are too specific to be learned in school, but they are too costly to learn the hard way. If you work in a firm where no senior architect is aware of the differences between air, vapor, and weather barriers, nobody learns until there is a lawsuit. I felt it was important to start that awareness and training.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in air barrier field and how as your certification helped you address them? 

A. The technology and materials are always changing and evolving; Master specification softwares have changed their formatting and naming of air barriers in the last 15 years. For a designer who does not supervise/observe the installation of air barriers as a regular task, specifying the right air barrier can become very-very confusing. When I do QC on details and specifications, most times I find conflicting information on the part of the designer/specifier. Getting certified made me stronger in knowing how to address barriers from a critical thinking point of view.

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing the CABS certification with ABAA? 

A. I made the mistake in only studying the handbook and failed on my first attempt. There is a lot to be learned from being on a construction site, but designers don’t have that opportunity as often as liked. My advice is to know your physics, study the handbook and google every single concept that is not clear. Then read all the articles available in the website. Participate in as many webinars as possible, and then ask questions. I was lucky that a member of ABAA offered to answer all the questions I had during my study. I sent them questions every day on my last two weeks before the exam.

In your opinion, what are the most crucial aspects of effective air barrier system design and installation? 

A. The transitions. Most details focus on the wall and roofs, but there is little awareness on how to build a floor air barrier and of all the transitions. Designers need more details for those elements and transitions. In terms of installation, I have seen issues with penetrations when other trades come in; experienced/training supervisors are crucial.

Any additional insights about your certification experience or working in the air barrier industry? 

A. Climates around the US and around the world are diverse and changing. We need to be prepared to think in terms of what is it that we want to achieve in an envelope and apply critical thinking; it is not the same answer everywhere. We may work in places without codes, or codes that don’t address barriers, or places where barriers are not beneficial. We need to be educated on how too much or too little barriers affect envelopes, and we need to be able to respond creatively when resources are limited.

June 21, 2024