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Terracon's Air Infiltration and Water Penetration Testing Services

One of Terracon’s unique services offered within the Facilities Engineering Services group is air infiltration and water penetration testing of the building envelope and glazing systems. While this technology is typically used to document performance of buildings that are under construction or being renovated, it can also be performed on existing buildings in a diagnostic or forensic capacity. The testing will identify improper installation, inadequate performance, or material defects in the installed systems. In recent years, several factors have combined to create an increased demand for these testing services:

  • Air infiltration and water penetration testing are often required by the Architect or Engineer of Record, and are written into Division 8 of the Specifications.
  • Glazing systems are constantly evolving, leading to new technologies and building techniques that make them increasingly air- and water-tight.
  • Increased focus on green building (LEED®, energy efficiency, carbon footprint) demands that systems perform to higher standards, and under tighter tolerances than their predecessors.
  • The public is becoming aware of the potential negative impact of water infiltration on building materials (mold, reduced indoor air quality, structural decay).
  • Energy costs are expected to increase in the future. Leaky, inefficient systems increase a building’s operating cost, making owners and property managers more focused on constructing (and documenting) an air- and water-tight building envelope.
  • In some cases, deficiencies in the design and/or installation of glazing systems result in significant damage and costly insurance claims or litigation. In these cases, the source, origin, and pathways of the water infiltration must be documented to determine the cause(s) of the damages, the responsible parties, and to determine the appropriate corrective action.

This testing is a means of quality assurance during construction, similar to density testing of fill soils for a building pad or compressive strength testing of concrete used in a structure. In fact, Terracon often integrates this testing service into an existing proposal or contract, an additional line item in our construction materials engineering and testing scope of services.

Terracon employs a variety of technology, equipment, and test standards to perform this testing. Test procedures range from use of a calibrated hand-held spray nozzle to large-scale testing using a vacuum chamber assembly and calibrated spray rack to simulate a wind-driven rain on a building under cyclic pressure.

Terracon also utilizes a variety of peripheral equipment such as digital borescopes, infrared imaging systems, and chemical smoke to aid in the location and identification of avenues of air and water infiltration. In our largest-scale tests, an entire building is pressurized and all pathways of air infiltration are identified using a variety of diagnostic tools and methods.

The vacuum assemblies, instrumentation, spray racks, and wands used in these test procedures are commercial-grade components that have been manufactured specifically for testing, and should not be confused with the “pieced-together” or “homebuilt” systems assembled from parts available at the local home improvement store. Terracon uses trained professionals including professional engineers, architects, and registered roofing/waterproofing consultants to perform these services in general accordance with testing procedures established by respected organizations such as ASTM International and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA).

Who will benefit from these testing services? The answer is simple: Everyone. Owners, architects, engineers, and contractors receive written documentation that the fieldinstalled systems are performing to manufacturer’s specifications, and that they are adequately water-tight. Building owners can expect lower energy (operating) costs and an increased service life of building systems. Building occupants and tenants are more comfortable because of reduced temperature fluctuations. The risk of future moisturerelated material damage and biological growth is reduced. In cases where existing systems are not performing as anticipated, Terracon’s analysis will identify how, why, and where the systems are failing so that the appropriate corrective actions can be taken.

Air infiltration and water penetration testing are performed on a variety of systems, from operable residential doors and windows, to fixed-glass storefronts, curtain walls, and sloped glazing systems, to insulated metal panels. The accuracy and adaptability of our modular test equipment allows us to hand pick from our arsenal to develop the most appropriate assembly for any project. Recent notable projects include a command facility at White Sands Missile Range, new laboratory and classroom buildings for numerous universities and colleges, criminal justice complexes, fire stations, hospitals, and medical office buildings.

Terracon’s services don’t end once the deficiencies or performance issues are identified; our national network of professional engineers, architects, LEED® accredited professionals, certified building commissioning professionals, registered roof consultants, and building envelope consultants will work together to develop clientfocused, cost-effective solutions.