The "HOLE" Truth About U.S. Buildings

| by Neal Walsh

It’s time to tell others that secret that industry professionals have been keeping for so long.

If you are a building engineer or facility manager or commissioning agent – or any other professional involved in commercial properties, chances are pretty good that you already know what a recent survey of building professionals uncovered. The majority of U.S. buildings today are broken. Their HVAC and ventilation systems stink – both literally and figuratively.

In a recent survey conducted by the Building Commissioning Association, 74% of building professionals agreed that leaky ductwork is a common problem found in U.S. buildings today. Most agree that leakage rates are typically 15% or more. 75% of respondents believe that these leaks are responsible for significant energy loss and many find high duct leakage rates common in new buildings as well as existing structures.

Why keep this information a secret? And why spill the beans now?

For decades the problems associated with leaky ducts and ventilation shafts have been ignored for one simple reason – there hasn’t been a viable solution. With ductwork running throughout the interior of our buildings, accessing and sealing these leaks has been a near impossible task. Few building owners are willing to go to the enormous expense and disruption of tearing down walls to access and repair the ductwork.

And so we’ve all just turned a blind eye to the problem.

A new duct sealing technology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, called aeroseal, is changing all that. Over the past few years, hundreds of buildings – from New York and Boston, to Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco – have all had their ductwork repaired with this new aerosol-based approach to duct sealing. In most cases, it’s been done with little to no disruption to the day-to-day operations of the buildings.

In New Jersey, a 55-year-old multi-family apartment building had its ductwork rehabilitated without disturbing a single occupant. In Atlanta, Georgia, a luxury hotel had 10 23-story ventilation shafts sealed tight without a single guest noticing. In lower New York State, the ventilation system in a prestigious medical center was sealed tight – including those sections servicing the ER and laboratories – while the medical staff continued to perform surgeries and care for patients.

So now that there is a proven solution to this decades-old problem, experts are speaking out. They are talking about the role that ductwork plays in proper HVAC functioning and ventilation. Duct sealing commercial buildings is quickly becoming the new low hanging fruit for those looking to reduce energy costs. Sealing leaks in ventilation shafts is being singled out as the cost effective solution to stale air, uneven heating and cooling, persistent mold and mildew and musty smells. It is being highlighted as a means to improve worker productivity, reduce indoor allergies, and solve excessive absenteeism.

Now that there is a viable, cost-effective solution to duct leakage in commercial buildings, it’s time to tell the “hole truth.” And it’s time to help our clients solve the problems that have been ignored for far too long.

For more information or to view an infographic with complete study results, click here.

Topics: HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

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