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Case studies of building envelope leakage measurement using an air-handler fan pressurisation approach

Case studies of building envelope leakage measurement using an air-handler fan pressurisation approach

Abstract

The air-handler fan pressurisation method can be a practical way to estimate envelope leakage in large scale or tall buildings where a conventional blower door test is not practical. Standards such as CGSB 149.15 describe desirable test conditions and protocols for such tests. However, because of the variety of building air handling system constructions and site conditions, and limited time and budget available for testing, one may not be able to perform the test under the recommended standard conditions, especially when the system configuration and operation at the site are unfavourable. This study describes air-handler fan pressurisation tests performed for two existing buildings having problematic site conditions affected the ability to perform standard test protocols. Envelope leakage was measured with and without sealing of elevator shafts. Both buildings were found to have standard leakage flow rates that exceed typical levels, with or without elevator shaft leakage. This paper provides some insight into what should be done to ensure a successful air-handler fan pressurisation test by describing what was done to deal with undesirable site conditions which could occur in many buildings. Practical applications: This study shows that air-handler fan pressurisation tests can be performed even in problematic buildings by improving test conditions at the site by adjusting the system operation and by utilising site specific measurement techniques and instrumentation. The applicability of recently developed fan airflow and outdoor intake flow measuring sensors to the air-handler fan pressurisation test is also discussed. However, it also shows that perfect implementation of standard air-handler fan pressurisation test procedure may be difficult in real buildings for a reasonable cost. Published case studies providing methods for solving various practical problems at the test site are very rare. This paper is useful for engineers who are seeking practical information about the air-handler fan pressurisation.
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