AIR LEAKAGE & BLOWER DOOR TESTING

Blower-Door-Close-UpReducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of your home is a cost-effective way to cut heating and cooling costs, improve durability, increase comfort, and create a healthier indoor environment.

You may already know where some air leakage occurs in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but you’ll need to find the less obvious gaps to properly air seal your home.

For a thorough and accurate measurement of air leakage in your home, hire a qualified technician to conduct an energy audit, particularly a blower door test. A blower door test, which depressurizes a home, can reveal the location of many leaks. A complete energy assessment will also help determine areas in your home that need more insulation.

Before you begin the air sealing process, let’s talk about air leakage and how to measure the air leakage in a home through blower door testing.

AIR LEAKAGE

Air leakage occurs when outside air enters and conditioned air leaves your house uncontrollably through cracks and openings. It is unwise to rely on air leakage for ventilation. During cold or windy weather, too much air may enter the house. When it’s warmer and less windy, not enough air may enter, which can result in poor indoor air quality. Air leakage also contributes to moisture problems that can affect occupants’ health and the structure’s durability. An added benefit is that sealing cracks and openings reduces drafts and cold spots, improving comfort.

AIR LEAKAGE AND CODE

A typical existing home can be very leaky by today’s standards. The metric used to measure the leakiness of a home is air changes per hour (ACH), often measured at 50 Pascal’s (ACH50). In many existing homes this number can approach or even exceed 10 ACH50. For context, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which sets minimum standards with regards to energy efficient construction, requires all new construction to meet certain air leakage requirements. In the the 2015 edition, it was 3 ACH50 (air changes per hour @ 50 pascals). It is widely accepted throughout the industry that anything less than 5 ACH50 is considered to be a tight home.

BENEFITS OF IMPROVING AIRTIGHTNESS

The benefits of having an energy efficiency home with little air leakage are great. Here are some advantages:

  • Lower utility bills – reduction of loss of conditioned air and heating/cooling loads
  • Improved comfort typically decreasing unwanted draughts & allergens
  • Improved indoor air quality – decrease allergens, dust, and dirt
  • Reduce/eliminate moisture problems.
  • Better sound barrier to outdoor noise
  • Reduced environmental impact – lose less energy through the building envelope.

CONDUCTING A BLOWER DOOR TEST

Home Energy Heroes can measure actual air infiltration with the use of blower door equipment. If the first test at lock-up is poor, we can identify leakage areas for the builder or homeowner to remediate so that upon completion, the final airtightness test should deliver a low air-leakage home. And you will then know you won’t be in the camp of seeing 30% of your heating/cooling running costs escaping from your home.

To measure a home’s air leakage, we use a tool known as a blower door. To conduct a blower door test, a fan is mounted into a frame of an exterior door, which pulls air out of the house thus lowering the air pressure inside. Because the outdoor air pressure is now higher than the air pressure inside the home, the outdoor air is pulled in through all penetrations, crack and openings in the buildings envelope.

To measure the airflow, a manometer is connected to the fan and includes reference hoses inside and outside of the home that monitor airflow and pressure. The manometer measures airflow at cubic feet per minute reading (CFM) measured at 50 Pascal’s. Using this number and the volume of the home, we can calculate the infiltration or leakage rate.

Formula for calculating the ACH on a house using a blower door:

ACH50 = CFM50 x 60 ÷ House volume

Read more on Blower Door Testing and Sealing the Building Envelope (PDF)

SCHEDULE YOUR BLOWER DOOR TEST

If you are a builder or homeowner and are interested in getting a blower door test done on your home, please contact us at 518-377-9410 or info@homeenergyheroes.com.

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TEN BENEFITS OF SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION

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Sustainable construction is attracting more attention lately, but many don’t understand its full potential. Sustainable construction isn’t just about the creation of a building that has a low environmental impact; it is a new approach in the building sector that improves the way people live and build.

As the benefits will become more apparent during the next years, the advantages of green construction fall into three main categories:

  • environmental benefits;
  • financial benefits; and
  • social benefits.

This categorization depicts the multi-aspect contribution of sustainable building and is one of the first solid steps of construction to focus on the full building life cycle, combining utility with insightful resource management.

Here are the 10 essential benefits of sustainable construction.

1. COST REDUCTION

Construction is a $10 trillion industry but its financial struggles can’t be ignored. With its efficiency and rework rate up to 30 percent, smart and functional alternatives are considered to be more than necessary. Sustainable construction can provide great help in that direction. Overall, a green building costs less than a normal building because fewer resources (e.g. water and energy) are required for the completion of the project. On top of that, sustainable buildings have great ROI, as well. Simply put, the value of the property is significantly increased with sustainable building.

2. INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY

As reported by The Guardian, environmentally friendly workspaces help employees perform better while reducing absenteeism. The better the environment, the easier it is to concentrate and work effectively toward the completion of tasks.

3. IMPROVED HEALTH

Green buildings can be beneficial to health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, outdoor air is two to five times less polluted than indoor air. Building and furnishing materials, such as paints, cleaning products and carpets, can be dangerous for human health. The use of sustainable materials can help with the purification of the air.

4. WASTE MINIMIZATION

In Europe, the construction industry is responsible for 34.7 percent of the continent’s total waste. Green buildings minimize waste with their lower environmental impact and use of renewable sources and materials. Products such as demolition debris, sand and burnt coal can be used with excellent environmental and aesthetic results.

5. BETTER USE OF MATERIALS

Sustainable buildings manage water in a more effective and environmentally friendly manner. Sustainable buildings can be equipped with systems that recycle water, such as collecting rainwater for toilet cleaning. Sustainable buildings can collect and preserve natural energy, such as solar or wind energy, storing it and reusing it accordingly.

6. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Recycled materials used during the construction process are contributing significantly to the protection of the environment and to the reduction of waste. Moreover, sustainable construction takes into serious consideration a number of critical elements. The installation of well-insulated windows, ceilings and walls can ensure that no energy is going to waste. Additionally, the use of solar heaters, insulated air-conditioning pipes and photovoltaic panels can make buildings more energy efficient and less harmful to the environment.

7. NOISE AVOIDANCE

Noise can have a significant effect on a person’s well-being. Sustainable construction put extra attention to noise avoidance in the following ways:

  • distance augmentation between the source of the noise and the subject;
  • planting of more trees close to the noise source in an effort to absorb it; and
  • creating noise barriers (between a building and a highway for example).
8. BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE

Sustainable construction has a plethora of benefits in every stage of a construction project. Improved health due to safer materials, increased productivity thanks to better surroundings and more effective noise protection are only a few of the advantages. Green buildings can improve life quality.

9. A NEW MARKET IS EMERGING

The advent of sustainable building has helped the market evolve and unlock new possibilities.

10. ROOM FOR EXPERIMENTATION

Sustainable construction can be an excellent opportunity for creative experimentation in the industry. New materials are being used and as a result, more innovative techniques are being developed and implemented, such as the ski slope opening on a new power plant in Copenhagen.

Sustainable construction is developing day by day and opportunities are opening up for the industry. Keeping an open mind and a well-functioning plan can result in further groundbreaking changes.


Source: Construction Executive, Written by Anastasios Koutsogiannis, GenieBelt, May 22, 2018.

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BEYOND ENERGY EFFICIENCY: BIM IN SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION

green-building-sustainability

What is sustainable construction?

An article published by the LaFarge Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction defined their key mission this way:

“Sustainable construction aims to meet present-day needs for housing, working environments, and infrastructure without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs in times to come. It incorporates elements of economic efficiency, environmental performance, and social responsibility, and contributes to the greatest extent when architectural quality, technical innovation and transferability are included.”

So the concept of sustainable construction goes far beyond installing energy-efficient mechanical systems or making sure the client chooses LCD lighting for their new building. It’s a philosophy that impacts every aspect of the design and construction phases as well as the ongoing maintenance and operation of the building going forward. And, with over 2.2 million square feet of space becoming LEED certified every day, it’s become a popular philosophy.

The LaFarge article breaks down the initial phases of sustainable construction this way: “it involves issues such as the design and management of buildings; materials performance; construction technology and processes; energy and resource efficiency in building.”

Considering how much energy commercial facilities use and how rapidly the worldwide urban population is growing the long-term importance of sustainable construction is undeniable. How a building is designed and built lays the foundation for how energy efficient it will be throughout its lifetime.

What role does BIM play in sustainable construction?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has long been at the cutting edge of design/build technology, so it makes sense that it can play an important role in achieving the goals of sustainable construction. But, how do the two relate? Why would adoption of BIM and its related technologies and processes result in more sustainable construction?

There are three main connections between BIM and sustainable construction

  1. Greater transparency during the design phase
  2. Greater efficiency during the design and construction phases
  3. Greater control during the operations phase

How BIM offers greater transparency during the design phase

When design begins on a project using BIM, it allows for a highly transparent process from day one: as design data is added to a shared model each stakeholder in a project can quickly and easily access a full, real-time summary of what products and materials are being proposed, how they will be fabricated and installed, and what can be expected as to their performance post-construction.

This transparency allows for contractors, energy engineers, suppliers, and more to provide their knowledge and experience to the overall construction and operation of the building early on, making the project more sustainable in the design phase before any money is spent on materials or supplies. This not only ensures the most environmentally-responsible materials and methods are used during construction, but also saves time and money by avoiding rework and schedule delays during construction through better planning up front.

How BIM offers greater efficiency during the design and construction phases

The use of BIM results in 3D virtual prototypes that can be easily shared and used for real-time collaboration and simulation to test both the logic and sequence of construction. From estimating and takeoff to layout and ongoing project management, every step in the design and construction workflow is reviewed and enhanced to the extent that BIM technology is integrated.

These improvements can be seen in:

  • The speed of job completion (Example: BIM-powered robotic layout solutions have proven to be up to four times faster completing a layout compared to traditional methods.)
  • The efficiency and cost savings that come from prefabrication
  • A reduction in errors and ad hoc troubleshooting
  • A reduction in crew redundancy
  • An improvement in asset management
  • And many other areas…

But, perhaps the most important improvement we see with the full adoption of BIM is the positive impact it has on sustainability throughout the entire construction workflow:

Every step of the process where BIM saves time, improves efficiency, enhances design, and reduces errors, provides a quantifiable opportunity for the building’s lifelong environmental impact to be reduced. In this respect, BIM thoroughly supports the entire philosophy behind sustainable construction.

How BIM offers greater control during the operations phase

In the past, once a construction project was finished, there wasn’t a lot the builders could do to help improve the ongoing operations of the building. That was left to the owner or facility manager until repairs or retrofitting work became necessary.

However, thanks to the high level of detail and ease of shareability inherent to the 3D models created using BIM, a wealth of operational data and insight can be passed along to the building owner and manager, improving their ability to run the building at its maximum potential.

Once again, this benefit of BIM dovetails perfectly with the sustainable construction philosophy, which extends beyond design and construction, and into the long-term maintenance and use of the completed structure.

Proactive construction professionals are taking advantage of this benefit of the BIM process by including long-term, environmentally-conscious operational recommendations and maintenance schedules in their completed project parameters. This is a value-add for new building owners, improves the overall sustainability of the facility, and deepens the firm’s relationship with each client.

There are likely many other ways you can think of where adopting BIM technologies and methods can improve the sustainability of construction projects under your unique circumstances. Why not share some of them in the comments? We’d love to hear from you.


Source: Beyond Energy Efficiency: BIM in Sustainable Construction, By DAVID BURCZYK, February 28, 2018.

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CONSTRUCTION TREND: BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING

bim

The construction industry is under a paradigm shift, and companies must adapt in order to keep up with the growing competition . Let’s take a look at one of the construction trends for 2019.

Building Information Modeling

Building Information Modeling (BIM), has become one of the most prevalent construction technology innovations of today — and is expected to become even more popular in the new year. BIM utilizes interactive smart models that accurately represent existing structures, systems and building characteristics. Those models are then shared among project principals at all levels, providing a virtual drawing board to simulate how changes to a project would manifest in the real world — before actually beginning, or making changes to, a project. One common myth of BIM is that it is nothing more than 3D modeling, but it actually involves more than that. BIM and the subsets of BIM systems and similar technologies feature more than just 3D (width, height, and depth), but may include further dimensions such as 4D (time), 5D (cost), 6D (as-built operation) and even 7D and 8D (sustainability and safety).

There are a number of benefits to BIM, the most notable benefit being improved communication and collaboration. With all major parties of a project having access to a single virtual model, it becomes much easier to keep everyone on the same page and ensure that decisions are being made with up-to-date information. Other major benefits include error reduction, improved approval processes, shorter project lifecycles, decreased paperwork and project costs and a higher level of customization and flexibility.

While BIM has been around in the construction industry for a few years, the future of BIM is looking very bright. According to Laura McIntyre, the future of BIM involves focusing less on developing a “good-looking set of drawings” and more on creating a “well-structured data set” by putting an emphasis on logic; a concept called Computational Design.

Data + Logic = Computational Design

“Computational Design provides us with access to vast amounts of data and allows us to manage large data sets, which enables us to create highly-customized design responses ranging from daylighting and energy conservation systems to optimized building programs.” — ZGF Architects

Essentially, Computational Design is the process of data creation and manipulation with an emphasis on automation, and is meant to compliment BIM — not replace it.

“Geometry can be considered a result of data, in other words, in a building model a set of coordinates can define geometric size and shape. Now couple that geometry with logic, or a series of if-then statements, and you have yourself a Computational Design tool. With this shiny new tool, you can potentially “automagically” create several hundred iterations of complex, intelligent objects with the push of a button.” — ZGF Architects

Learn more about the future of BIM and Computational Design.

As we move into 2019, and the worldwide demand and need for construction continues to grow, companies will be faced with the decision to adopt new technology and expand, or fall to the back of the line. As the construction industry grows, so do the challenges and potential opportunities. It is our belief that those companies who choose to adopt will be positioned for great success throughout 2019 — and beyond.


Source: 2019 Construction Trends Coming Your Way, D2K Traffic Safety Inc., December 31, 2018.

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THE 2018 IECC & STATE ADOPTION

Within the home performance community, 2018 marks the exciting introduction of the newest residential energy code – the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Like a celebrity, the 2018 IECC is something to admire but may seem out of reach for many contractors.

Some Background & Lag

States and municipalities can choose to adopt the latest and greatest IECC code every 3 years – or not. Residential contractors use the building code as their guidebook, performing work in accordance with the code every day.

Environmentally-progressive contractors want to see increased energy efficiency requirements in their state code as a way of mandating that all home performance is done to the same high-quality standards and focuses on energy-saving techniques.

The reality, however, is that the majority of states are still functioning under the 2009 and 2012 IECC codes.

Here we are in 2018, and fewer than 10 states have adopted the 2015 IECC. They include Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont. Granted, the code adoption process can take some time, but it’s good to know that these states have made energy efficiency a priority. Of course, there are also state-specific codes with regional amendments (Michigan, Florida) that are comparable to 2015 IECC, as well as individual municipalities that have adopted the 2015 code requirements themselves.

For the most part, the energy efficiency provisions in the building code get better with each 3-year update. For example, 2009 IECC brought to light the importance of blower door testing and duct leakage testing. The 2012 IECC sought to require blower door and duct leakage testing to be performed by a certified third party. The 2015 IECC introduced a new Energy Rating Index (ERI) compliance path, which offers homebuilders greater flexibility with their products and strategies.

Expectations Of The 2018 IECC Code

Some of the key changes that we can anticipate in the 2018 IECC residential code include:

  • Better U-factor on windows
  • More air-sealing measures
  • Better insulation on heated slabs
  • Buried ducts in vented attics
  • More realistic Energy Rating Index compliance path scores

These changes are not only intended to make a home more energy-efficient and healthy for homeowners but also intended to make the ERI compliance path a more attractive option to builders. When builders work toward code compliance using the ERI pathway, they generally rely on the consultation and guidance of a certified RESNET HERS Rater.

HERS Raters have demonstrated proficiency in the technical requirements of the RESNET Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, which is what the ERI Index was largely based on. In fact, in 2017, the ANSI/RESNET/ICC standards 301 and 380 were incorporated into the 2018 IECC code verbiage. Specifically, 301 is the official basis for the ERI calculation. 380 is a referenced standard for building envelope testing.

Which States Will Adopt 2018 IECC?

You might think that the states that were early adopters of the 2015 IECC would likewise be quick to adopt the 2018 IECC. In some cases, this might be true – based on the process that some states have in place to adopt the newest code every 3 years.

However, the folks at REScheck actually see the 2018 IECC as an opportunity for states that have not taken a stance on energy codes in the past to make a bold move toward the future. Instead of adopting an almost decade-old code like 2009 IECC, several states would certainly benefit from adopting the most up-to-date code.

recent blog from REScheck shared the following insight:

“Through our polling of building officials, lobbyists, and energy code compliance legislators we found the following states most likely to consider the updated IECC 2018 code: Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, and North Dakota. This follows closely with our hypothesis that the states with the least energy compliance could be looking to catapult towards the front of the pack with adoption of the IECC 2018 codes.”

HERS Raters Opportunities

States that adopt the 2015 or 2018 IECC code versions will be strong hiring grounds for HERS Raters. They’ll be able to lend their expertise of home energy rating scores to builders in need of code compliance. HERS Raters can expect to gain new business and partnerships with homebuilders in need of a third-party, certified energy efficiency professional.

Webinar

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar discussing the energy code changes scheduled to take effect in 2019 as states adopt the 2018 IECC! Learn about the major changes in the energy code, best practices, and ask the experts your energy code questions. Check out our energy code training page!

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MARYLAND ENERGY ADMINISTRATION’S LOW-TO-MODERATE INCOME PROGRAM RECEIVES NATIONAL RECOGNITION

mea_lmi_011619Newport Partners LLC would like to congratulate the Maryland Energy Administration for being recognized as a national leader as a recipient of ACEEE’s Exemplary Energy Efficiency Programs for their Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Grant Program! The program was one of 53 recognized in ACEEE’s 4th national review. These programs are selected based on their innovation and effectiveness in helping customers increase energy efficiency in their homes and businesses.

Newport is proud to serve as the technical support contractor for this award winning program!

Download the report
Read the press release

Learn more about the MEA LMI Grant Program including Case Studies, Success Stories, Program Information and more!

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WHAT’S NEW IN THE 2018 IECC?

ICC_Logo_Vert_PMS_7729The 2018 International Energy Conservation Code® (IECC®) is code establishing a baseline for energy efficiency by setting performance standards for the building envelope (defined as the boundary that separates heated/cooled air from unconditioned, outside air), mechanical systems, lighting systems, and service water heating systems in homes and commercial businesses.

Internationally, code officials recognize the need for a modern, up-to-date energy conservation code addressing the design of energy-efficient building envelopes and installation of energy-efficient mechanical, lighting and power systems through requirements emphasizing performance. The International Energy Conservation Code is designed to meet these needs through model code regulations that will result in the optimal utilization of fossil fuel and nondepletable resources in all communities, large and small.

This code contains separate provisions for commercial buildings and for low-rise residential buildings (three stories or less in height above grade). Each set of provisions, IECC—Commercial Provisions and IECC—Residential Provisions, is separately applied to buildings within their respective scopes. Each set of provisions is to be treated separately. Each contains a Scope and Administration chapter, a Definitions chapter, a General Requirements chapter, a chapter containing energy efficiency requirements and existing building provisions applicable to buildings within its scope.

This comprehensive energy conservation code establishes minimum regulations for energy-efficient buildings using prescriptive and performance-related provisions. It is founded on broad-based principles that make possible the use of new materials and new energy-efficient designs. Take a look at some of the highlights of what has changed in the residential and commercial requirements since the preceding 2015 edition.

Key Highlights to the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code®:

  • Revisions to interior and exterior lighting power budgets and better clarity for lighting controls.
  • Clarity that regardless of design methodology, system commissioning is required.
  • New limits on heated or cooled vestibules.
  • Mechanical provisions reorganized based on equipment type rather than design methodology.
  • The maximum allowable fenestration U-factors in Table R402.1.2 (for the prescriptive compliance path) for climates zones 3 through 8 have been reduced from the values in the 2015 edition.
  • The ICC/RESNET 380 standard has been included as one of standards that can be used for determining the air leakage rate of a building or dwelling unit.
  • The Energy Rating Index compliance alternative index values have been increased slightly however, the method for determining an index is now required to be in accordance with standard ICC/RESNET 301.

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar discussing the energy code changes scheduled to take effect in 2019 as states adopt the 2018 IECC! Learn about the major changes in the energy code, best practices, and ask the experts your energy code questions. Check out our energy code training page!

Posted in Commercial Building, Energy Code, Energy Code Training, Energy Efficiency, Residential Building | Tagged , , | Leave a comment