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Airtightness: Critical to Building Performance

Posted on June 20, 2014 by IT Admin

The building envelope performs the essential function of controlling the movement of air through your building. The airtightness of your building envelope has a significant impact on your building’s energy efficiency. In fact, as much as 30% to 50% of a building’s heat can be lost due to air leakage through cracks, gaps, and poor insulation. It is important to review and address the airtightness of your building envelope through regular maintenance and energy efficient improvements.

The role of the building envelope

The building envelope controls the flow of heat, air, and moisture into and out of your building. The stack effect is a good example of how poor airtightness in the building envelope results in an overly high flow of air into and out of your building. Pressure differences result in drafts, wherein air is drawn in from outside through cracks and holes on lower floors. As that air heats up inside the building, it rises and then exits out upper floors and elevator shafts. Heat energy is lost as the air exits the building. The pressure created by the stack effect can also increase the flow of cigarette smoke and cooking odours throughout the building.


Strategies to improve air tightness

There are several measures for improving the airtightness of your building. They include:

  • Weatherization, such as applying weather stripping, caulking, and sealing;
  • Cladding improvements;
  • Increasing the R-value of insulation, including accessible attics, roofs, the underside of floors exposed to the cold, interior walls, pipes and ducts; and
  • Upgrades to doors and windows, including frames, sashes, film, and glazing.

The highest priority areas are the shafts for elevators, plumbing, service, and stairwells. Other areas to address include building envelope, exterior doors, and windows, mechanical room and underground parking garages. The application of weather stripping, sealing, and caulking depends on which area is being addressed.

Taking these steps will positively affect your building’s energy and maintenance costs, structural integrity, and resident comfort, both in terms of heating and air quality.

Special incentives exist for weatherization and cladding, insulation, and building envelope retrofits. To find out about these and other incentives for Ontario’s social housing sector, click here.

Source: Enbridge Gas Distribution

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