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Air Tightness Test

There are few things in life are as sure as an air leakage test (if performed by a competent Air tightness testing professional)!

All tests we undertake are carried out in accordance with EN 13829:2000 – Thermal Performance of Buildings – Determination of Air Permeability of Buildings – Fan Pressurization Method (this is the European air tightness testing standard and has national interpretations)and the requirements of the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NASI) Certified Air Tightness Tester Scheme.

Builders are clever, flexible and practical people and when air leakage testing for new dwellings was introduced as mandatory under the 2008 Building Regulations they had to rise to the challenge of understanding a new skillset and how to apply the bespoke materials to achieve a level of air tightness which was designed, specified and then tested.

The beauty of an air tightness testing is that it is tangible in so far as if the result you are getting is not what you want it to be you can always find the problem using our experience and once identified they can be taken care of until the sum total of the repairs make the building air tight to the acceptable or target level.

The beauty of an air leakage test is that it is tangible in so far as if the result you are getting is not what you want it to be you can always find the problem using our experience and once identified they can be taken care of until the sum total of the repairs make the building air tight to the acceptable or target level.

This is what we mean about builders and practicality – show them the leaks and they will understand what the problem is, how to fix and will not repeat the same error again.

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Air Tightness Testing is a direct line measurement of the overall quality of construction of a building.

The design strategies of buildings and where specified their controlled ventilation means that ever tighter tests have to be achieved and all of these, including Passive House levels of air tightness can all be achieved with a combination  of experience and the correct approach to quality control.

If you are building to a tight level of air tightness then it makes sense to undertake 2 air leakage tests.  The initial one will be at first fix stage before the building get closed up as leaks found at this stage are readily found and generally easy and inexpensive to fix.

Only the final test on practical completion is valid for Building Regulations purposes (i.e. a first fix trest or one performed during a construction element [timber frame erection] is not valid for use to comply with Part (L) but is indicative of the envelope at that stage). This has been confirmed as the accepted methodology for inclusion in a BER calculation (DEAP software) by the SEAI in their reference REF-73577-P0L3.

This is what we mean about builders and practicality – show them the leaks and they will understand what the problem is, how to fix and will not repeat the same error again.

Why is air leakage testing important?

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Whether a house has natural ventilation or is to be fitted with one of the many mechanical ventilation systems it is important that the ventilation be controlled and designed to operate within an acceptable atmosphere.

An adequate amount of ventilation (Part (F) of the Building Regulations) is required for healthy living but uncontrolled ventilation can lead to many types of long term construction damage as well as providing an unhealthy atmosphere for the building occupants or users.  This applies therefore to both domestic dwellings as well as commercial buildings.

Our Air Tightness Testing experts cover the whole of Ireland

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If you are building a scheme of houses then there is a requirement for a sample number of houses to be tested in line with table 4 of the Part (L)

Critically however, if one of the critical factors of your the DEAP calculation for your BER is dependant on an input value lower than the backstop value of 7 m³/hr/m² then a test must be performed on each dwelling proving the input value.

This is extremely important if the house is to comply overall with Part (L) and the DEAP calculation is marginal and only just compliant with the CPC and or the EPC as the adjustment between a good test and the backstop value could be enough to prevent the house from being compliant.

At 2eva.ie, we are one of Ireland’s leading and most experienced air leakage testing companies and have been undertaking tests since 2008 and in the interim have performed tests on hundreds of buildings of all types and are expert at advising clients on how to maximise the tested value in conjunction with their DEAP calculation for compliance.

So what does a good test look like?

Air leakage tests happen when a pressure difference of typically 50 Pascals (Pa) is generated between the inside and outside of the building in comparison to natural air pressure using a fan suitable for this purpose.  This can be either under pressure (i.e. air is pulled out of the building) or overpressure (i.e. air is blown into the building) and ideally a combination test of both.

Our Air Tightness Testing experts cover the whole of Ireland

The fan is typically built into an external door (hence the name a blower door test) but can also be built into a window.

There are many ways to express the uncontrolled movement of air into/out of a building but in Ireland this movement is typically expressed in 2 ways.

Air Changes per hour at 50 Pascals pressure difference which is called the n50.

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The n50 is expressed in air changes per hour (ac/h).  It is the relationship between the total volume of air in m³ and how often leaks in the building envelope allow the air to exchange at 50 Pascals air pressure difference.  This reference is often used when installing a mechanical ventilation system.

Air permeability rate per hour at 50 Pascals pressure difference which is called the q50.

The q50 is the air permeability rate and is expressed as m³/hr/m².  It is an expression of the amount of air leaked from the dwelling in relation to the total exposed surface area of the building (i.e. the ground floor, all exposed ceilings and all external walls) at 50 Pascals air pressure difference.

Critically it is the air permeability rate that is relevant for Irish Building Regulations.

The q50 test result is then divided by 20 and inputted into the DEAP calculation to improve the BER and prove compliance.

Best practise in domestic dwellings calls for an ac/h rate of:

  1. 3.0 ac/h   –  natural ventilation (i.e. with wall vents) – very easy to achieve
  2. 1.5 ac/h    –  with mechanical ventilation
  3. 0.6 ac/h   –  Passive House Standard
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NSAI or INAB?

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) and the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) are the two recognised accreditation bodies of air leakage testers in Ireland.

The testing standard is EN 13829 and both bodies certify testers to this standard and operate the scheme under their own system.

The most common scheme is the NSAI scheme and the vast majority of testers in Ireland are accredited through the NSAI (2eva is accredited through the NSAI).

The main difference between the two schemes are that the NSAI audit and certifies each individual tester via its initial and annual audit whereas the INAB accredits the testing company and it is then up to the company to determine if their employees are fit to test.

Commercial & Industrial Building Testing (incl. clean rooms & data centres)

2eva.ie has made significant investment in training and equipment to undertake testing using fans connected together which multiples the building volumes that can be tested.

This allows us to test very large and/or very leaky buildings using the specialised systems such as the one shown here.

This requires painstaking planning and cooperation with our clients/partners to ensure a successful test.

Likewise smaller volumes can be tested to ensure the integrity of clean rooms or data centres where critical air movement levels are vital to the success of cooling or fire suppression systems.

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Where clients do not elect to have a first fix test done then 2eva.ie would encourage them to consider purchasing the low cost and effective Zephair Pre Pro which helps them to find leaks in the continuous air tight layer prior to testing and ensures that the final testing outcome is maximised.  Built simply and quickly into a door or window the fan under-pressurises the building so you can find the leaks!

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We Are Experienced

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We have published 5,189 BER Certificates to date

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