Building Wall Assemblies: Focus on In-Field Testing for Air Leakage

Posted on 4/17/2013 8:28:49 AM By Bob Braun

In my last blog, I focused on a newer and very useful laboratory test used to measure water penetration based on cyclic air pressure differences: ASTM E547. See the summary for E547 in this link: ASTM E547-00(2009) Standard Test Method for Water Penetration of Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls by Cyclic Static Air Pressure Difference .  Earlier I reviewed an older but similar test, ASTM E331.  We also looked at how sealants and adhesives provide air leakage resistance and how the air leakage is related to water ingress as well.  This blog will focus on the field testing of wall assemblies for air leakage.  Such tests are conducted on existing buildings and are usually called for because there have been signs of air infiltration or to confirm that a new building performs according to design.  There are several test usually employed per the list of links below. 

ASTM E1827-11 Standard Test Methods for Determining Airtightness of Buildings Using an Orifice Blower Door

ASTM E1186-03(2009) Standard Practices for AirLeakageSite Detection in Building Envelopes and Air Barrier Systems

ASTM E779-10 Standard Test Method for Determining AirLeakage Rate by Fan Pressurization

ASTM E741-11 Standard Test Method for Determining AirChange in a Single Zone by Means of a Tracer Gas Dilution

But in this blog I will detail the associated tests ASTM E1827 and E779 often referred to as the whole building blower door tests.  E1827 was developed in the 1990’s and the first edition issued in 1996.  This method is suitable to single zone buildings or to buildings that can be configured to a single zone by opening doors to connecting rooms etc.  The method is useful for small indoor-outdoor temperature differentials and low wind pressure conditions.   The ASTM E741-11 Standard Test Method for Determining AirChange in a Single Zone by Means of a Tracer Gas Dilution is suitable for measuring the air change rate under normal conditions of weather and building operation.  One can either induce positive or negative pressure differentials across the building envelope with the E1827 test while E779 employs both.  The illustration below shows a blower door configuration and the associated link summarize how the test is conducted…


This link shows a larger building test employing E779.  This link also provides the details for the pressure differentials and air leakage requirements as well…

Here is an older but excellent article reviewing in detail the history of the blower door as published in Home Energy Magazine.

Multiple and larger blower door instruments are available for larger buildings using multiple fans but the really large commercial buildings require an extremely large fan that is often not practical.  Nevertheless the Canadians have done testing using a “Super Sucker”. The Super Sucker is a whopping 55,000 CFM fan that is 40 ft long and 5 ft in diameter. It is transported to the site on a flatbed trailer, and it takes a team of five people to hook it up (to a pair of double doors) and perform the test.  To date most testing using this device has been developmental due to the cost.

In Blog #26, I will I will continue to review methods used to evaluate in-place constructed walls for air/water leakage. The list below shows what we have discussed so far and the next steps.

  • ASTM E 283 Laboratory Air Infiltration
  • ASTM E 331 Laboratory Water Penetration (Uniform)
  • ASTM E 547 Laboratory Water Penetration (Cyclic)
  • ASTM In-Field Air Leakage
  • ASTM Field Water Penetration Testing
  • ASTM E 2128 Standard Guide for Evaluating Water Ingress

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