Tackling air tightness with Sean Maxwell


31 JUL 2019

Australia is a renowned world leader in green building.

Each year, the GRESB results demonstrate our commitment to sustainability, and precincts like Barangaroo continue to reel in global accolades.

However, on some issues, like air tightness for building performance, we’re lagging behind.

Sean Maxwell is a Technical Manager at Pro Clima Australia and an expert on building science.

Prior to moving to Australia, Sean kicked off his career in the residential space in Massachusetts, working closely on the Energy Star Homes program – the US government’s label for energy efficient dwellings.

“I learned more in that first six months of my career than I did at university.

“After that, I moved to New York City where I got a handle on big buildings – and that’s how I made a segway into understanding the importance of air tightness,” explains Sean.

Air tightness testing is currently one of the biggest issues Australia is facing when it comes to green building.

“Other markets like Europe are way ahead of the curve when it comes to air tightness. And we don’t have an excuse.

“When I was working in New York, a lot of the projects I was working on were low income or affordable housing and simply didn’t have the funding to implement adequate systems.

“In Australia, most projects have the funding and we have an incredibly skilled workforce – there’s no good excuse not to do better,” says Sean.

But our market is unique and catching up to our global counterparts is merely a case of compliance, with rating tools such as Green Star lending a hand.

“I think as an industry, we can take air tightness as a current issue and spin it into a positive opportunity for us.

“We have this highly skilled workforce engaged with Green Star and once we turn our attention to air tightness testing, there will be a lot of electrical and gas savings ripe for the picking.”

“We’re going through a period of incentivising best practice and although we’ve had a few years of testing poorly for air tightness, we’ll take what we’ve learnt and over the next five years and improve on it,” Sean believes.

So what can we do to accelerate this improvement?

The GBCA will be running a Spotlight Seminar, zoning in on this critical issue that will unearth how air tightness testing can lower energy consumption for buildings, increase building control and modelling accuracy, as well as improve occupant comfort levels.

The seminars, to be held in Sydney and Melbourne this September, will be run by Sean, who promises an interactive, hands-on approach to learning.

“I want people to have a real, tactile understanding of these concepts, not just a high level discussion.

“Bring along the plans for your next project and let’s map out solutions for air tightness from the get go.”

Want to be part of our Spotlight Seminars? Tickets are available now.