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Air leakage is a significant driver of energy use within buildings and can negatively impact thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and mechanical ventilation systems operation. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it accounts for approximately 4% of building energy use in the United States.
Automated building envelope sealing is automatically drawn to leaks, removing human error and reaching inaccessible areas. In 2022, researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory evaluated automated air sealing during a renovation at the Denver Federal Center Building 40. The automated envelope sealing technology was tested in 4,461 square feet of space in this two-story, 46,000 square foot office building. In preparation for the sealing, two temporary walls were installed, and intentional openings, such as electrical outlets and fan vents, were covered. Researchers found that the technology increased airtightness by more than 50% from an already airtight envelope.
The largest potential for cost savings derived from this envelope tightening technology is downsizing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment costs. Researchers estimated that HVAC equipment costs could drop by 70% when tightening a leaky envelope. A sealed building envelope reduces overall heating and cooling demand, supporting GSA’s climate goals and enabling low-cost building electrification.
This article is part of the Winter issue of the FOCUS newsletter. Please visit the Focus Newsletter page .