Party Walls

Whole Building Blower Door Testing – Big Buildings Passing the Test

The residential energy efficiency industry has been using blower door testing since the mid 1980’s to measure the air tightness of homes. Since then, we’ve evolved from testing single family homes, to testing entire apartment buildings. The Passive House standard requires whole-building testing, as will many local energy codes, along with assembly testing. While the concept of – taking a powerful fan, temporarily mounting it into the door frame of a building, and either pulling air out (depressurize) or pushing air into it (pressurize) – is the same for buildings both large and small, the execution is quite different for the latter.

Commonly called a whole-building blower door test, we use multiple blower doors to create a pressure difference on the exterior surfaces of the entire building. The amount of air moving through the fans is recorded in cubic feet per minute (CFM) along with the pressure difference from inside to out in pascals. Since the amount of air moving through the fans is equal to the amount of air moving through the gaps, cracks, and holes of the building’s enclosure, it is used to determine the buildings air tightness. Taking additional measurements at various pressure differences increases the measurement accuracy and is required in standards that govern infiltration testing. Larger buildings usually test at a higher-pressure difference and express the leakage rate as cubic feet per minute at 75 pascals or CFM75.

SWA staff at a project site setting up a blower door test


2016 New York Energy Code Blower Door Testing – How Does it Measure Up?

Written by Sunitha Sarveswaran, Energy Engineer

Welcome to part three of the air sealing blog post series! In previous posts, we have reviewed the substantive changes in 2016 New York Residential and Commercial Energy Code, focusing specifically on the new blower door testing requirements. In this blog post, we’ll examine how these requirements stack up in comparison to green building certifications that we are already familiar with: LEED for Homes, LEED BD+C, ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes, ENERGY STAR® Multifamily High-Rise (ES MFHR) and Passive House (PH).

To make this easier to digest, we’ve divided this comparison into two parts – compartmentalization and building envelope. If you need a refresher on the difference between these two types of blower door tests, we recommend referring to the article “Testing Air Leakage in Multifamily Buildings” by SWA alumnus Sean Maxwell.


2016 New York Energy Codes: Residential Section

By Steve Klocke, Senior Sustainability Consultant

A week has passed since the new energy code went into effect in New York State and New York City. Did you miss it? Hopefully not, but we thought it might be helpful to review some of the new requirements in the residential section (stay tuned for future posts on the commercial section).

Attached Single Family

Attached single-family dwellings follow Residential section.

In case you need a refresher on what constitutes a residential building, we’re talking about “detached one- and two-family dwellings and multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) as well as Group R-2, R-3 and R-4 buildings three stories or less in height above grade plane.” Here are the documents you’ll need:
1. 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)
2. 2016 Supplement to the New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code (NYSECC)
3.2016 New York City Energy Conservation Construction Code (NYCECC)

New York City did us a favor and put everything into one document, but we weren’t so lucky with the state code – you’ll have to cross reference the supplement with IECC (links 1 and 2 above). All of the residential codes are now denoted with an “R” prefix (as compared to “C” for commercial).