Even though some codes include air barrier assembly as a compliance option, the default compliance path for air leakage control tends to be through air barrier materials. For many years, practitioners relied on air barrier materials properties, while the performance of installed air barriers was largely untested. While testing air barrier assemblies can offer information on performance of installed air barriers, few manufacturers engaged in this because it was not required by code.
In 2009, the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) developed an evaluation process to establish performance of installed air barriers. To
be listed by ABAA, manufacturers were required to submit third-party test reports for air barrier materials and assemblies, as well as demonstrate compliance with current standards. Air barrier assemblies are required to be tested in accordance with ASTM E2357, Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage of Air Barrier Assemblies. The ABAA website currently lists air barriers that have completed the evaluation process to date.*
The air barrier assemblies listed on the site do not include water resistance testing, which is not required by ASTM E2357. This is a major limitation of the standard, since air barriers commonly serve as water-resistant barriers (WRBs) as well. A separate section lists those materials meeting WRB acceptance criteria (i.e. International Code Council Evaluation Service [ICC-ES] Acceptance Criteria [AC] 38, Water-resistive Barriers), but that have not been tested in wall assemblies.** Very few manufacturers integrate the water infiltration resistance testing of ASTM E331, Standard Test Method for Water Penetration of Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference, with ASTM E2357’s air barrier assembly testing, which is very important for assessing performance of installed air and water barriers.
Even though the importance of air barrier assembly testing has been recognized before the ABAA initiative,† the association’s evaluation process was critical in implementing uniform performance criteria across the industry.
* Visit www.airbarrier.org/materials/assemblies_e.php. This air barrier section does not include water resistance testing (which is not required by ASTM E2357), but WRBs can be found at www.airbarrier.org/resistive/index_e.php.
** Visit www.airbarrier.org/resistive/index_e.php.
† See co-author Spinu’s previous article for The Construction Specifier, “Testing Mechanically Fastened Air Barrier Systems,” which appeared in the December 2009 issue.
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