New Tool Reveals True Cost of Air Leakage

A Web-Based Energy Savings Calculator for Building Envelope Air Tightness

From JPCL, October 2016

By André Desjarlais, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Air leakage has detrimental effects on energy use and other aspects of building performance. For building owners to invest in reducing air leakage, designers and contractors need a credible, easy-to-use tool that estimates potential energy and financial savings....

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Tagged categories: Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA); Air leakage; Andre Desjarlais; ASHRAE 90.1; Building Envelope; Commercial Buildings; Energy efficiency; National Institute of Standards & Technology; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; U.S. Department of Energy

Comment from M. Halliwell, (10/17/2016, 10:42 AM)

Well written and efficiency is a good goal. However, considering what indoor air quality is like, I would be cautious about becoming too overzealous in controlling air leakage without improved air exchange rates and HVAC systems. Just like there can be diminishing returns for the efforts in reducing leakage past a certain point, there will also be increasing issues associated with human health and chemical exposures as buildings become more air tight for efficiency.

Comment from Aaron Jentzen, (10/17/2016, 12:37 PM)

Author's response: I agree with the comment that we need to maintain indoor air quality. However, I believe this is better accomplished by having a source of controllable “leakage” such as an ERV that allows you the option to ventilate only when needed.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (10/18/2016, 11:10 AM)

Agreed Aaron...that's why I mentioned improved exchange rates and HVAC systems (intentional air movement that we can use heat recovery systems and other systems on to maintain energy efficiency without sacrificing air quality). Indoor air quality is constantly in flux depending on what is in the building...historically, HVAC systems and air exchange rates weren't as critical as buildings did have much higher air leakage rates. In modern buildings where the envelope is far better controlled; however, they become much more important to occupant health.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (10/27/2016, 12:32 PM)

It's not exactly surprising the US is a bit more forward looking than Canada or China in measuring waste. Waste is the low hanging fruit in everything we do in the US. More effort, and money, go into finding ways around waste limiting practices and regulations than go into waste control at the design stage. The lack of a general purpose tool to calculate waste is definitely a good idea. At present the argument away from tighter building envelopes is easy. Customized modeling and integration of those models into the building design and construction process is astronomical. Reliable, affordable and available modeling and calculators definitely have a space waiting for them. It's a step in a positive direction toward changing the culture of engineered waste.

Comment from Aaron Jentzen, (10/27/2016, 3:55 PM)

Posting a response to Jesse Melton from Andre Desjarlais: Thank you for your kind words on our research project. We appreciate the fact that builders need better information before they make any investment; we hope that this tool serves that purpose.

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