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Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA)

The Center of Excellence for the Air Barrier Industry

Whole Building Air Tightness Testing

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:

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 - Standard Method for Building Enclosure Airtightness Compliance Testing

The Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) published a new standard for whole building airtightness testing. The standard is called "Standard Method for Building Enclosure Airtightness Compliance Testing".

This standard is the result of years of work by a dedicated group of professionals and industry experts that numbered over 50 people. The baseline for this document was the previously published joint test protocol put together by ABAA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) developed back in May 2012.

Work is now underway to present this to ASTM and develop an ASTM standard. A work item (WK35913) has been created under the E06 Committee on Performance of Buildings.

For a copy of this standard, click here.

Special thanks to Mr. Terry Brennan who chairs the ABAA Whole Building Airtightness Committee and all committee members for their support and input.

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.

Feel free to download and use this spreadsheet during the course of any work. Click here to download this spreadsheet. Any errors shall be reported to abaa@airbarrier.org.

Airtightness Technical Resources & Publications

This page will be constantly updated, so please check back often for more news and information.