High-Performance Buildings: How Air Barriers Affect Design

Posted on by Tremco

When designing for healthcare, it is mandatory to design the most robust facility possible to manage air and moisture vapor infiltration. A high-performance, sustainable building is dependent on a high-performance building envelope.  Achieving an integrated, high-performance building envelope, however, can be fraught with problems as the number of trades and products expands.

The integrity of the building enclosure plays an integral role in the ability of a hospital to truly be considered high-performing not just the day it opens its doors but for the decades to come. 

Any gaps not addressed – or detailed -- in a comprehensive way open the door to the promotion of airborne infections, patient discomfort, escalating maintenance costs, increased operating costs from energy inefficiency and, ultimately, a lack of sustainability. 

Providing continuity throughout the building envelope layers of protection is imperative for control of air and moisture infiltration. The air, weather, vapor, and thermal control layers must be connected, compatible, and operate as one without gaps in any of these layers where they overlap and connect.

It is ultimately imperative that we look at systems instead of products.  New initiatives have permeated the architectural community and we are thinking more holistically.  Today, the basis-of-design in our air barrier specifications includes an “engineered only” transition as an accessory and we are working to ensure that everyone draws this type of transition in their details.

We like to specify Tremco’s Proglaze® ETA Engineered Transition Assembly as part of the air barrier system, whether self-adhered sheet or fluid-applied, in Section 072713 or 072726, respectively.  Our logic is two-fold. 

First and foremost, we have confidence in the single-sourced, system approach as indicated in our building envelope requirements. The best way to specify a “system” is to put the entire system within a single specification.  Consequently ALL components of the system are subject to the same performance criteria required for the entire system.

Secondly, the OTHER transitional components of the air barrier system are specified within this section as well, so it makes sense from a consistency perspective.  Self-adhered sheets (up and over copings) and spray foam (for thermal envelope continuity in cracks) still have their place within the system, so we feel the Proglaze ETA should be treated no differently in that regard. 

However, we do specifically say in the ’Accessory’ article of the specifications that Proglaze ETA is to be used ‘at the door and window openings’.

Before the introduction of Proglaze ETA, there were no good solutions to deal with field irregularities and conditions like offsets in plane between window and jamb.  Proglaze ETA provides adaptability for the not-so-square field conditions and the system provides at least three different ways to attach to the glazing system.  It is truly an engineered solution that Tremco is able to tailor to the conditions unique to the project.

Bridging the gap from effective design to proper operational functioning requires old practices to be challenged.  The design and construction teams today are faced with countless decisions and they are held responsible for the long-term consequences. 

With ever more demanding requirements, the traditional definition of the team is being extended to include building product manufacturers capable of providing more advanced, sustainable construction practices, documented performance of new technologies, critical solutions designed to respond to increasing demands of the application and field support to help ensure success. Additionally, when it comes time to develop shop drawings, the manufacturer is an active participant in developing workable solutions that are adaptable to field conditions.

Chris Johnson
Director of Technical Design Services

Glazing/Facade Testing


About Tremco

Tremco Commercial Sealants & Waterproofing (CS&W) is North America's foremost supplier of sealant, weatherproofing, and passive fire control solutions for commercial and residential construction and industrial applications.

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