Build Tight, Ventilate Right

“Air tightness” comprises building envelope and air barrier, ventilation, condensation, building design, construction and materials. It is a critical area where significant and lasting improvements can be made to achieve healthier, more energy efficient and lower cost buildings.

Earlier this month, the GBCA’s spotlight series brought industry representatives together to unpack the key issues and challenges related to improving building quality through air-tightness.

In both states, the day began with an overview of the current industry requirements and testing methods before examining in detail a number of interventions that are possible during the commissioning and planning phase of a project. The third session of the day featured a number of case studies, with a final presentation on moisture management in air sealed structures.

Industry leaders provided a valuable understanding of current industry performance, highlighting the implications for air-quality and thermal performance and challenging some preconceived notions (that leaky buildings are healthy, or that air tight buildings would necessarily produce condensation issues). Expert panellists then shared their own experiences with testing and improving air tightness and acknowledged the increasing interest in air quality and energy efficiency from customers, clients and contractors.

Some time was spent on the growing attention to air-tightness within industry, with audiences hearing about ASBEC and ClimateWorks Australia’s report, Built to Perform in addition to upcoming changes in the National Construction Code. 

Questions from the audience provoked discussions around various techniques, ventilation, materials, costs, and education strategies, many of which were revisited throughout the day. Many practitioners stressed the importance of addressing air tightness requirements as early as possible during a building’s design phase to avoid additional costs and complications later in the process.

Sean Maxell, President of the Air Infiltration and Ventilation Association of Australia (AIVAA) discussed specifications for air tightness and challenged audience members to apply their learnings with the Red Pen Test, an apparently simple exercise that helps, at the schematic design phase, to detail the air barrier locations and anticipate construction details. Clare Parry from Grun Consulting and Milica Tumbas from Lovell Chen also shared practical examples from a range of projects with a focus on the application challenges during a project’s construction phase.

Audience members learned that the key to successful outcomes is training and early engagement with the whole supply chain and trades involved in the project. This lesson was echoed by speakers  from Mirvac, Frasers Property, Henley Properties and Aurecon.

From Lendlease, Jeremy Mansfield in Sydney and James Wewer in Melbourne presented a case study on the Sunshine Coast University Hospital which represented a huge step forward for the industry in achieving  fantastic air tightness results. Devin Grant then presented his experiences in building a house along Passivhaus principles, inspiring audiences with inspiring audiences with a new approach to construction sequencing.

The Green Building Council of Australia wishes to thank the Air Infiltration and Ventilation Association of Australia (AIVAA) and the Air Tightness Testing and Measurement Association (ATTMA) for their involvement and support.

GBCA’s Spotlight Series aims to shine a light on specific issues and developing areas in the industry to give a deeper level of knowledge to the audience. The next Spotlight Seminar will take us into the planning and implementation strategies of urban developments. Join us on 23 October in Melbourne at the Future Precincts Seminar being held at the Younghusband industrial village currently in development in Kensington.