Building Envelope Performance Testing
“Building Science” is the collection of scientific knowledge that focuses on the analysis and control of the physical events affecting buildings. It traditionally includes the detailed analysis of building materials and building envelope systems. The practical purpose of building science is to provide predictive capability to optimize building performance and understand or prevent building failures.
The outcome of building science knowledge is reflected in the design of the architectural details of the building enclosure and building envelope, and in the long run, the building skin. However, the project scope may be larger than that. Engineering combines applied science with experience and good judgment, and these capabilities are increasingly important. Although emerging disciplines such as building scientists, envelope consultants and/or building engineers are moving beyond traditional engineering and seeking to optimize building performance, Randall Lamb has seized the opportunity to close the gap.
Randall Lamb’s Building Science division encompasses a variety of these less traditional services. This expansion is in response to the need and requirement for building efficiency, reduced costs and healthy, breathing buildings. The following list highlights the capabilities of our Building Science team, led by Michael Kohler, CxA, CBCP, CBST, ABAA Auditor. With the upcoming mandates for participation by the Federal and State governments, Building Commissioning and Air Barrier Testing are becoming increasingly important and include:
- Air barrier installation auditing
- Building envelope ASTM testing
- Building envelope thermal imaging studies
Air Barrier Auditing and Testing
Air Barriers control the unintended movement of air into and out of a building enclosure. Air barrier systems are comprised of a number of materials which are assembled together to provide a complete barrier to air leakage through the building enclosure. The system essentially “wraps” the building shell and ensures that it protects the building from the effects of air leakage. Air leakage can have detrimental effects on how a building functions and reduces its life span.
According to the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA), a properly functioning air barrier system provides a barrier against both the air leakage and the diffusion of air caused by wind, stack and mechanical equipment pressures. When conditioned air leaks out of a building and unconditioned air leaks into a building, additional energy is used to compensate. This can increase energy costs up to 40%.
Air barrier systems reduce building enclosure moisture problems, reduce greenhouse gas production, and reduce building heating and cooling costs. They improve indoor air quality, acoustical isolation, protect the indoor environment and result in sustainable and durable buildings. Buildings which have a properly installed air barrier system can operate with a smaller HVAC system; in some cases, the reduction in mechanical equipment size and cost can offset the cost of the air barrier system.
Air Barrier Testing is a vital part of new federal regulations that apply to construction projects in all government facilities, including military bases. If not addressed at the start of construction, general contractors could be left with expensive retrofits at the end of the project. Using the most recent ASTM standards, Randall Lamb provides Air Barrier Testing and Thermal Imaging Services to verify performance and troubleshoot air barrier systems. In conjunction with the testing, thermal imaging is used as a diagnostic tool to determine air leakage pathways.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently revised the building energy standard, Title 24. It incorporates the air tightness testing protocols established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) for new homes and commercial buildings, originally effective January 1, 2014, but changed to July 1,2014. These new energy efficiency standards for the State of California will enforce the goal to net zero energy homes by 2020.
As one of the first ABAA Audit Firms in California, Randall Lamb also has the resources to provide air barrier testing with thermal imaging services, as the use of air barrier systems is anticipated to be mandated for institutional and industrial buildings as well in the very near future.