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Air Leakage Testing/Standards

Posted on 5/9/2012 9:45:01 AM By Bob Braun
  

In this third blog in the ASC Building Products series I will continue the theme set in blog #1 and 2...sealants and adhesives used to air seal the gaps and joints between the many installed building products used in construction.  Previously I highlighted many of the building applications for sealants and adhesives.  Here I will describe many of air barrier codes and standards that have been created, along with related specific test methods.  Indoor air quality and air barrier durability will be considered in the next Blog however.

As previously discussed there are literally hundreds of points of possible air leakage in buildings and very often the leakage occurs between the interface/junction of two or more materials that may or may not be the same material.  Thus the use of adhesives and sealants is essential in connecting these materials to effect an air tight system.

In the USA most air leakage tests have been developed through the ASTM E06…the committee for building performance.  Within E06 there are currently 67 active ASTM Standards for air leakage in buildings along with 52 historical ones, and ten new ASTM Work Items.  These Standards include Test Methods, Guides, Practices, and Specifications for many different building materials and assemblies.  This list includes standards as diverse as metal roof systems, whole wall assemblies, simple cracks and joints, and whole buildings.  Generally tests are run and results reported at a pressure difference of 75 Pascal.  Certain tests also include the determination of water penetration under a static or dynamic pressure difference.  Below I list only a few test method designations and later I will describe the design basis for these tests.

  1. ASTM E283 Standard Test Method for Determining Rate of Air Leakage Through Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, and Doors Under Specified Pressure Differences Across the Specimen
  2. ASTM E2319-04(2011) Standard Test Method for Determining Air Flow Through the Face and Sides of Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, and Doors Under Specified Pressure Differences Across the Specimen
  3. ASTM E2357-11 Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage of Air Barrier Assemblies
  4. ASTM E547-00(2009) Standard Test Method for Water Penetration of Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls by Cyclic Static Air Pressure Difference
  5. ASTM E1827-11 Standard Test Methods for Determining Airtightness of Buildings Using an Orifice Blower Door
  6. ASTM C1642-07 Standard Practice for Determining Air Leakage Rates of Aerosol Foam Sealants and Other Construction Joint Fill and Insulation Materials

Many of these tests involve the testing of a partial building assembly (e.g. section of a wall) but may also simply be a single product such as a window where the integration of the window into the wall is not tested.  Below I have several illustrations from these specific tests.  The science behind these tests is generally based on the principles of ASTM E283 where the test assembly is sealed to one face of a test chamber (shown below); a negative or positive pressure is applied at a rate to maintain a specific test pressure difference across the specimen.  The resultant air flow is then measured with a suitably sized air flow meter.  The air flow is reported as the total air leakage (often then calculated per unit area of the assembly or per unit length of test joint).  In some tests, a quantified forced air flow is used to pressurize a structure to 50 Pascal and a manometer is used to monitor the inside pressure difference from that of the outside condition (note video below).

air 

test 

ASTM E283 Test Chamber with Foam Sealant Test Jig per C1642

penetrations

blowerdoor



Representation of ASTM E1827 for Determining the Air Tightness of Buildings


The list below provides contact references for many of the associations (in addition to ASTM and ASC) involved in research, standards’ and codes’ development, and education for air barrier materials, assemblies, and systems.  In addition there are many initiatives at the state and local level that are too numerous to mention.  The Mass Code referenced below was pioneering in this effort.

1. DOE: Whole Building Design Guide http://www.wbdg.org/resources/airbarriers.php?r=envelope#rcas

2. ASHRAE: http://www.ashrae.org/standards-research--technology/standards--guidelines

3. AABA: http://www.airbarrier.org/

4. USGB/LEED: http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=1988

5. BEP Oak Ridge: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/

6. CCMC: http://www.nationalcodes.nrc.gc.ca/eng/nbc/index.shtml

7. CGSB: http://www.ihs.com/search.aspx?searchinput=building+air+leakage&PrimaryNavigator=&SecondaryNavigator=&ResultsPerPage=10&SortBy=Relevance&offsets=&showtab=0

8. ICC: http://www.iccsafe.org/Pages/SearchResults.aspx?cat=StoreSearch&q=air%20leakage

9. Massachusetts Energy Code for Commercial Buildings, 780 CMR, Chapter 13, 2010

10. National Model Building Code of Canada, NBC 2005, Chapter 5.  http://www.nationalcodes.nrc.gc.ca/eng/nbc/index.shtml

11. RESNET: http://www.resnet.us/standards

12. ICC: http://www.iccsafe.org/Pages/SearchResults.aspx?cat=StoreSearch&q=air%20leakage

In Blog #4 I will discuss the details of various current code requirements, their origins, and the related air quality issues and standards.

I suggest you may want to also view this video related to testing whole building air leakage per ASTM  E1827.



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