Air Leakage Testing Of High Rise Buildings: Limitations And Alternative Approaches

Track 2: Construction & Testing Sessions

Wednesday, May 9, 12:30 – 13:30

Whole‐building air leakage testing has been mandatory in all new buildings in Washington State since 2011. During this time numerous high‐rise buildings have been constructed and tested in the Seattle Area. While it is theoretically possible to test a building of any size, taller buildings present a number of unique challenges that must be overcome. The effects of bad weather are far more pronounced in taller buildings, and the schedule‐driven world of new construction cannot afford to wait for a good weather window to perform an air leakage test. Stack effect and wind are the two primary factors that inhibit collection of valid test data, and most testing standards offer relatively poor guidance about the
acceptable conditions for testing.

Several case studies will be presented and discussed, including multiple guarded tests on a 41‐story multifamily tower. Guarded testing of representative sample areas of a building can relieve much of the uncertainty regarding weather conditions; however, it presents a new set of coordination challenges with the construction team as these tests typically occur during construction. Given that most high‐rise buildings are relatively uniform for the majority of floors, testing portions of a building can be considered a viable alternative to whole‐building testing in many cases.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify requirements for preparing a building for an air leakage test.
  2. Describe difficulties associated with testing high‐rise buildings.
  3. Explain the planning process for guarded testing in a high‐rise building.
  4. Explain the principles of guarded testing as it applies to high‐rise buildings.
Level of content:
Construction & Testing

Denali Jones, EIT

Building Science Engineer
RDH Building Science Inc.

Denali’s work is focused primarily on new construction projects, reviewing the design and constructability of building enclosures to ensure the primary control layers are maintained through all assemblies, details, and fenestration systems. Denali also regularly performs field review of ongoing enclosure construction, verifying conformance with project details and manufacturer’s instructions, and troubleshooting complex interfaces which have not been adequately detailed.

Denali is also regarded as an industry expert at air leakage testing. He has extensive experience conducting whole-building air leakage testing on large buildings and has led training seminars throughout North America. He is often consulted by code officials about air leakage testing procedures and results and has contributed to several national air leakage testing protocols and standards including the new ABAA Standard Method for Building Enclosure Airtightness Compliance Testing.