Air tightness testing is a process in which the building envelope is tested to quantify the air tightness. The test measures air leakage rates through a building envelope under controlled pressurization and depressurization.
Building testing is not a mandatory test prescribed in building codes, but a performance-based option that many designers are requiring. The only requirements for whole building testing are in the State of Washington, the United States General Services Administration and all United States Army Corps of Engineers projects.
There are many standards worldwide that detail how to perform this test, some of these include:
- The United States Army Corps of Engineers Air Leakage Test Protocol for Building Envelopes
- ISO 9972:2006 - Thermal performance of buildings -- Determination of air permeability of buildings -- Fan pressurization method
- ASTM E779 - Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage Rate by Fan Pressurization
- ASTM E1827 - Standard Test Methods for Determining Airtightness of Buildings Using an Orifice Blower Door
- ATTMA - Measuring Air Permeance of Building Envelopes (Dwellings)
- ATTMA - Measuring Air Permeance of Building Envelopes (Non-Dwellings)
For more resources on whole building testing, please visit the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG), a program from the National Institute of Building Science (NIBS) website at www.wbdg.org.
ABAA - Whole Building Testing Standards Development
The Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) Whole Building Air Tightness Testing Standards Committee was approached by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in 2010 to review their Air Leakage Test Protocol for Building Envelopes. Over the course of nine months, a team of whole building testing professionals and manufacturers of testing equipment reviewed the protocol, made proposed amendments and sent the document back to the USACE for their review and final publication. The USACE has recently released a new version of this test protocol that was re-developed in conjunction with the ABAA. Please click here to download a copy of this document.
The USACE and the US Navy requires all of their new and renovation construction projects meet a specific air tightness level based on testing to this protocol. This protocol has been used to test up to 300 USACE and Navy buildings thus far. Many of these construction projects specify the ABAA Quality Assurance Program (QAP).
State & City Requirements for Whole Building Testing
Washington State Energy Code
Non-residential Buildings permitted under the 2012 edition of the State Energy Code must be tested in accordance with ASTM E779. The specified target is 0.40 cfm/ft2 (2.00 L/s.m2) when tested at a pressure differential of 0.3 inches of water (75 Pa).
Click here for a paper presented at ASHRAE in 2014 about lessons learned about Large Building Testing Procedures in the State of Washington: http://rdh.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ASHRAE-2014-Annual-Conference-Building-Enclosure-Airtightness-in-WA-Final.pdf
Click here for a copy of the Washington State 2015 Energy Code for Commercial Buildings: http://www.energy.wsu.edu/Documents/ga_2015WSEC_C_final.pdf
Seattle Energy Code
All Buildings require a whole building test conducted but the code requirement does not require the building to pass a prescribed value. For more details on this requirement, click here (see Chapter 13).
State of California Incorporates RESNET Air Tightness Testing Provisions Into Revised Energy Code
On May 31, 2012 The California Energy Commission (CEC) unanimously approved the revision of the state's energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings. As part of the revision of the energy code, the CEC incorporated the air tightness testing protocols established in RESNET's Chapter 8, "RESNET Standard for Performance Testing and Work Scope". The revised standard will take effect on January 1, 2014. For more information, please see the news release here.
ABAA Whole Building Air Tightness Testing - Air Leakage Unit Conversions spreadsheet
The ABAA Whole Building Air Tightness Testing Standards Committee has developed a spreadsheet for conversion of units typically found when conducting whole building air tightness testing.
Airtightness Technical Resources & Publications
- TightVent Europe - the European portal for Airtightness of Buildings and Ductwork. For more information, news, publications and events please visit tightvent.eu
- TightVent Europe Newsletter September 2012 - The Observatoire BBC Examines Airtightness
This page will be constantly updated, so please check back often for more news and information.