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Also known as “air barrier”, “air leakage” and “blower door” testing, air tightness testing is required by the US Army Corps of Engineers and NAVFAC for all new conditioned buildings as well as for renovation projects totaling 25% or more of a building’s replacement value. To ensure compliance, HICAPS follows the most currently recognized ASTM standards (ASTM E779-10 & ASTM E1827-11) for air tightness testing and stays up-to-date with all revisions to the USACE Air Leakage Test Protocol for Building Envelopes, Version 3 – May 11, 2012. Additionally, our technicians are experienced with air leakage site detection using IR thermography and smoke tracing in accordance with ASTM E1186 and our personnel can recommend proven solutions to issues diagnosed. 

(Click images for larger view)

These images illustrate how stack effect causes air infiltration and exfiltration in leaky buildings. Notice conditioned air escaping at the roof/wall intersection in the bottom image.

IR image courtesy of The Snell Group.

Why Tight? Why Test?

In most commercial and industrial buildings, outdoor air is introduced by design; however, uncontrolled air leakage across a building’s enclosure is responsible for a significant addition to space conditioning loads. The US Department of Energy estimates that 20 to 30 percent of heating and cooling costs in commercial and residential buildings are the result of infiltration and exfiltration. An effective air barrier system air sealing reduces heating and cooling costs by minimizing this uncontrolled airflow. More importantly, air barriers can significantly enhance building durability by preventing airborne moisture from entering envelope cavities where it condenses on cooler surfaces causing premature material degradation and even mold. Unplanned air flow can result in over 200 times more moisture entering a building than vapor diffusion.

The Air Barrier Association of America lists the following reasons for utilizing a continuous air barrier system: 

  • Reduces building enclosure moisture problems
  • Improves indoor air quality
  • Reduces building heating and cooling costs
  • Improves acoustical isolation
  • Isolates the indoor environment
  • Results in sustainable, durable buildings

Fan-induced pressure testing is the only reliable, quantitative method of confirming that a building’s air barrier is continuous and effective.