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Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA)

The Center of Excellence for the Air Barrier Industry

Air Barrier Technical Library

ABAA Research Projects


Attached is the final report on a research project that ABAA was involved in. The project was to determine the most appropriate way of retrofitting old CMU constructed buildings from the inside. First a list was generated of all the potential methods for retrofit. From that the list was culled down based on cost and expected energy savings. From that a short list of potential walls were modeled to determine energy savings. Two of the most promising walls were then constructed on the Building research Platform at Oakridge National Laboratories. They were instrumented and monitored. The attached is the final report on this project.

Case Study Guidelines and Results

One Page Summary of Results

Hanley Wood University - Architectural Course Description


The Buildings Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) performed field evaluations of 24 wall panels with different types of air barriers that are commonly used in residential and commercial construction. Field assessments were conducted from September 2009 until August 2010 at the Building Envelope Systems Test (BEST) laboratory, which is located at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. This project is a cooperative research among ORNL, the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA), Syracuse University, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

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Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of the energy used in the US. Codes have been increasing building envelope requirements, and in particular those related to improving airtightness, in order to reduce energy consumption. The main goal of this research was to evaluate the effects from reductions in air leakage on energy loads and material durability. To this end, we focused on the airtightness and thermal resistance criteria set by the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Requirements from the 2012 IECC will be setting the path for construction practices across the nation for some time given the slow adoption rate of new codes. As of September 2013, the 2012 IECC has been adopted fully or with limitations by only seven states.

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Evaluation of Air Barriers for Residential Buildings

The purpose of this project was to increase the knowledgebase on air barriers for residential buildings. To this end, nine air barrier assemblies were evaluated following a modified version of the ASTM E2357 Standard Test Method from the American Society for Testing and Materials. The assemblies included the eight air barrier types that are readily available in the US, even if some of these are currently mostly used in commercial construction.

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National Research Council Wall Drainage Research Project Reports

The National Research Council (NRC) in collaboration with ABAA performed research on “Performance Evaluation of Proprietary Drainage Components and Sheathing Membranes when Subjected to Climate Loads.” Listed below are 10 reports on their findings.

  1. Task 1 – Wall Assembly Specifications
  2. Task 2 – Building Component Hygrothermal Properties Characterization
  3. Task 3 – Hygrothermal Model Benchmarking
  4. Task 4 – Characterization of Air Flow Within Drainage Cavities and Drainage Components
  5. Task 5 – Defining Exterior Climate Loads
  6. Task 5 – Characterization of Water Entry, Retention and Drainage of Components
  7. Task 6 – Hygrothermal Performance of NBC-Compliant Reference Walls for Selected Canadian Locations
  8. Task 6 – Hygrothermal Performance of Client Wall Assemblies for Selected Canadian Locations
  9. Task 6 – Hygrothermal Performance of Client Wall Assemblies: Results for wall components having Medium Resistant (MR) Mould Growth Sensitivity Class
  10. Task 7 – Summary Report on Experimental and Modelling Tasks and Recommendations



The following Technical Bulletin is a overview on the application of designing transition membranes into the building assembly.

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CODE UPDATES (ABAA Technical Bulletin – 2012-01)

The following document is an overview of the requirements of Air Barrier Materials, Air Barrier Assemblies, whole building testing, and Water Resistive Barriers in ASHRAE 90.1-2010, ASHRAE 189.1-11, 2012 IRC, 2012 IECC, 2012 IgCC and 2012 IBC.

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SPF Adhesion/Cohesion Testing (ABAA Technical Bulletin – 2012-02)

The following document is a clarification on the method that ABAA SPF Installers and Auditors must follow to test the adhesion and cohesion of SPF for the daily work records and audit reports.

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What are the two primary test methods of water vapor permeance in ASTM E96?

There is a lot of misinformation in the industry currently about vapor permeability and the numbers reported. The 2012 International Building Code defines vapor permeable membrane as “the property of having a moisture vapor permeance rating of 10 [US] perms (5.7 x 10-10 kg/Pa x s x m2) or greater, when tested in accordance with the desiccant method using Procedure A of ASTM E96.” The 2012 International Residential Code uses the same definition for vapor permeability though uses a threshold of 5 US Perms when defining a vapor permeable membrane.

Currently the two primary methods of testing to ASTM E96 is Procedure A [desiccant method/dry cup] and Procedure B[water method/wet cup]. The results achieved from those two methods will differ and need to be known by the design professional when they are conducting a hygrothermal analysis.

On ABAA's "Evaluated Materials" page, we list both methods at the tested thickness. Please refer to this page to ensure you are comparing identical test methods when evaluating materials.

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What is the Procedure for Testing the Pull-Off Strength of Air Barrier Materials?

ABAA requires daily adhesion testing from our Air Barrier Contractors as well as testing when our Auditors are conducting inspections. This is a good overview document on how to conduct adhesion testing of air barrier materials.

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View our list of ABAA Evaluated Air Barrier Assemblies that have completed a ASTM E2357 Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage of Air Barrier Assemblies. This test combines the primary air barrier material with supporting air barrier accessories such as transition membranes and sealants to form a complete air barrier assembly, near-identical to how a wall would be designed and built in your construction project.

For each air barrier assembly listing, you will find air barrier construction design details from the manufacturer which you can download and use in your project design. Click here to download these design details.


A number of general details were developed when the State of Massachusetts adopted air barriers in their current energy code. The details provide a number of wall systems and provides general guidance into some of the design considerations:

Want to learn more about air barriers, their use in construction, cost benefits and design guidelines ? Check out of technical library and air barrier materials page.


Click here for the ABAA Air Barrier Master Specifications


  1. "Continuing Problems with Air Barrier Systems" - The Construction Specifier December 2011
  2. NEEC - Air Barrier Management Fact Sheet, July 2011
  3. "Air Barriers: An Evolution" April 2010
  4. The High Performance House – What Does It Take? – Part One
  5. Handling Framing Details in High – Performance Homes – Part Two
  6. The air barrier defined.
  7. Air barrier systems: Construction Applications
  8. The difference between a vapour barrier and an air barrier.
  9. Air Barrier Systems in Buildings
  10. Moisture Control for Buildings
  11. Let's Talk about ... Moisture and Mold
  12. A Method of Evaluating Air Barrier Systems and Materials
  13. Guidelines For Delivering Effective Air Barrier Systems
  14. Design Considerations for an Air Barrier System
  15. Air Sealing in Occupied Homes
  16. Air Barriers
  17. Structural Requirements for Air Barriers
  18. Air Barrier Materials and Systems: What is the Difference? Is There a Difference?
  19. Guide to Insulation Sheathing sheathing
  20. Single Wythe Block Construction
    Analysis on how single wythe block can meet the requirements for the energy code for various states
    A report has been generated to provide guidance.
  21. Air Barriers in Building Construction
    Understanding Costs, Meeting Performance Standards and Exceeding Codes
    Honeywell 2010 - White Paper_Air Barriers - SPF.pdf


  1. Wrap it up: Building Houses with the Skin on the Outside
  2. Energy Efficient Remodeling – Grab the Opportunity!
  3. Controlling the transfer of heat, air and moisture through the Building Envelope.
  4. Wind and air pressure on the Building Envelope
  5. Joe Lstiburek & Betsy Pettit: Better Building
  6. Wind Safety of the Building Envelope
  7. The New Building Crisis: A Survival Guide
  8. Are Your Houses Too Tight?
  9. Low-Permeance Materials in Building Envelopes
  10. Service Life of the Building Envelope
  11. Integrating the Window with the Building Envelope
  12. Air Pressure and the Building Envelope
  13. Building Envelope – Keeping Walls Dry – Part 1
  14. Building Envelope – Keeping Walls Dry – Part 2
  15. Impact of Air Leakage on the Thermal and Moisture Performance of the Building Envelope
  16. Details: Airtight Framing
  17. Weather-Tight Exteriors
  18. Investigation of the Impact of Commercial Building Envelope Airtightness on HVAC Energy Use.
  19. The Trouble With It: Building Science


  1. Beauty and the Beast Upstairs
  2. Out, Out Dammed Ice!
  3. Vapour Barriers in Home Construction
  4. Vapour Barriers: What are they? Are they effective?
  5. Air leakage control
  6. Control of air leakage is important
  7. Air leakage in buildings
  8. Humidity in Canadian Buildings
  9. Humidified Buildings
  10. Vapor Barriers and Wall Design
  11. Understanding Vapor Barriers barriers
  12. Vapor Barriers and Wall Design


  1. Moisture Control in Bathrooms
  2. Moisture and Mobile Home Weatherization
  3. Fundamental of Moisture in Houses
  4. Moisture problems in houses
  5. Moisture Sources in Houses
  6. Building Science: Understanding Heat Flow
  7. Building Science: Understanding Air Flow
  8. Building Science: Moisture Flow
  9. Building Science: Clearing the Air
  10. Moisture Control for Buildings
  11. Relative Humidity
  12. Humidity Control in the South
  13. Measuring Humidity in your Home
  14. Moisture and Wood-Frame Building


  1. Unventing Attics in Cold Climates
  2. Reexamining Roof Ventilation
  3. Forum Brings Fresh Air to Ventilation Issues
  4. Ventilating Attics to Minimize Icings at Eaves
  5. Mechanical Ventilation for the Home
  6. Ventilation of houses.
  7. Ventilation Principles
  8. Preventing Ice Dams
  9. Residential Ventilation: Too Little, Too Much, or Just Right?
  10. Why Houses Need Mechanical Ventilation Systems
  11. Current Approaches for Mechanical Ventilations of Houses
  12. Factors Affecting the Performance of Ventilation Systems in Large Buildings
  13. Evaluating Ventilation in Multifamily Buildings
  14. Improving the Evaluation of Building Ventilation
  15. Myths about Building Envelopes
  16. Ventilation
  17. Residential Ventilation and Latent Loads
  18. Airflow in the Ventilation Space Behind a Rain Screen Wall
  19. Forum Brings Fresh Air to Ventilation Issues


  1. Drying out a crawlspace
  2. Better Breathing Thanks to Good Science
  3. Moisture Control in Bathrooms
  4. Sick Houses : Using Diagnostic Tools to Improve Indoor Air Quality
  5. Rain Penetration and Moisture Damage in Residential Construction
  6. Dealing with Moisture Problems
  7. Beating the Mould Challenge.
  8. Indoor Air Quality and Mold Prevention of the Building Envelope
  9. Moisture Management
  10. Tips for Controlling Mold
  11. Winning the War Against Mold
  12. Water Management – control moisture problems, and you can control mold.
  13. Mold: A growing concern!
  14. What you need to know about mold
  15. Mold Testing
  16. Mold Remediation in Occupied Homes
  17. Mold: Causes, Health Effects and Clean-Up
  18. Moisture, Building Enclosures, and Mold – Part 1
  19. Moisture, Building Enclosures, and Mold – Part 2
  20. Humidity Control in the Humid South
  21. Mold and Moisture Dynamics
  22. Dangers of Mold lie in Ambiguity
  23. Combating Mold and Mildew
  24. Mould
  25. Air Pressure and Building Envelopes
  26. Fighting Mold – The Homeowners Guide
  27. Should You Test the Air in your Home for Mold?
  28. Water Damage, Mold and House Insurance
  29. How To Clean-Up The Mold:
  30. Mold & Mildew – Cleaning up your Flood Damaged Home
  31. Mold & Moisture – Should you be Concerned?
  32. A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and your Home.
  33. Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings.
  34. Mold and Moisture
  35. Indoor Air Quality and Mold Prevention of the Building Envelope
  36. Indoor Air – Mold
  37. Sick Houses – Using Diagnostic Tools to Improve Indoor Air Quality


  1. Snowy and Icy Indicators of Wasted Money
  2. First Step in Cellulose Sealing : Spot the Style
  3. Home Energy's Consumer Guide to Insulation
  4. The Insulation Industry's Dirty Secret
  5. An Insulation Roundup
  6. Choosing Insulation
  7. Prevent Ice Dams
  8. Insulation, Sheathings and Vapor Retarders
  9. Vermiculite Insulation Containing Amphibole Asbestos
  10. Air Leakage Control


  1. ASHRAE Standard 189.1 - Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings
  2. Building Better - How High-Efficiency Buildings Will Save Money and Reduce Global Warming (March 2010)
  3. Temperature Gradients through Building Envelopes
  4. Thermal Bridges in Buildings
  5. Heat Transfer at Building Surfaces
  6. Thermal Resistance of Building Insulation
  7. Energy Conservation in Canadian School Building
  8. Performance Testing Standards for building
  9. The National Research Council of Canada: Energy Efficiency Pioneer
  10. Interior Lighting Design and Energy Conservation
  11. Space Heating and Energy Conservation
  12. New Energy Codes and Their Impact on Lighting Design
  13. Rehabilitation of Solid Masonry Walls
  14. Energy Education: A Kilowatt is a Terrible Thing to Waste
  15. Energy Savings Rise High in Multifamily Buildings
  16. The Key to Persistence
  17. Making Low Income Housing Affordable: The Northgate Retrofits
  18. Selecting Windows for Energy Efficiency
  19. Energy Efficient Retrofit- The Building Envelope
  20. Energy Efficient Upgrade – Mechanical Systems
  21. ASHRAE Mulls Continuous Air Barriers
  22. Blueprint for Advancing High-Performance Homes
    Turner-Vaughan Issues in Science and Technology Article.pdf
  23. TightVent Europe Newsletter September 2012: The Observatoire BBA Examines Airtightness
  24. Mandatory Energy-Reporting for Large Buildings Reaches Minneapolis - Construction Dive, Feb 14, 2013
  25. Building Energy Benchmarking and Disclosure is Adopted by the City of Minneapolis - MEEA Unplugged, Feb 12, 2013

In the Media

  1. New Study Finds Americans Jumping Ahead in Energy Efficiency
    Read more