Friday, 22 July 2011

Certification airtightness test

Note: since posting this, the completed air test documents show a result of 0.2 air changes per hour.

It's been a while since I've posted during the always-longer-than-the-client-expects period where all the finishing work is completed.

We have started the process to get Certification as a Passivhaus, using the UK's top certifier and general guru on all things building physics related, Warm Low Energy Practice. Yesterday, Paul Jennings ("doorfanman"), our airtightness consultant completed the official airtightness test and we got:

0.19 air changes per hour!

This is a really big improvement on April's test. Partly because I calculated the internal volume more accurately, using Bluebeam, which has a great tool for measuring dimensions, areas etc of PDF plans. Our internal ventilation volume is 442.38m³ and the April test had been based on a rougher calculation of 400m³. Mostly though, the information from the April test helped us to to improve the weak areas.

It will be interesting to see how durable our result is. We believe we have created an airtightness layer which lasts.

I had already put up a DIY shelf in one of the rooms before yesterday's test was conducted, which required drilling a few holes into the plaster than forms the airtightness layer in the external walls of the refurbished part of the house. I put some sealant into the holes before inserting raw-plugs. Obviously, I will be aware of the need not to drill holes in the original external walls without thinking about airtightness. In the new build section, where the airtightness layer is beneath a 50mm service void, I will not have to worry nearly as much about affecting airtightness. For this reason, in any new build, I would always want to design in a service void. I think that, in the real world, it stands a much better chance of remaining intact over the design life of the building.

Next week, our MVHR (heat recovery ventilation unit) will be commissioned. This will involve, amongst other things, calibrating the airflow to each supplied room (and from each extracted room) to:

a) ensure that there is an appropriate air change rate for the use of the room
b) ensure that sufficient heat is delivered to the rooms (the tiny trickle of heat needed in a Passivhaus is delivered via the supplied air in the ventilation system)
c) ensure that the total rate of air supplied equals the total rate of air extracted. This is important because if the two are not in balance, the MVHR wastes electrical energy and because it results in the house being slightly over or under pressure, it will increase the flow of air through the fabric of the building.