This is the eleventh post in a series by J. David Odom (ASHRAE), Richard Scott (AIA/NCARB/LEED AP), and George H. DuBose (CGC). It was first published as a mini-monograph for NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards).

increased building ventilation

Figure 3.5: Martin County Courthouse, Stuart, Florida. The HVAC design produced high rates of outside air ventilation but poor temperature and humidity control which contributed to mold and moisture problems, resulting in over $10 million in renovation costs for a 3-year-old building.

Intent: Provide additional outdoor air ventilation to improve air quality for improved occupant comfort, well-being, and productivity.

For decades there have been competing arguments within the mechanical design community on whether to increase or decrease the amount of outside air that is introduced into commercial and institutional buildings. Although there are sound arguments on both sides of the debate, today’s emphasis on increased building ventilation to achieve LEED credits has given an added incentive to increase the amount of outside air to buildings. The experience of many forensic building experts (especially in the eastern half of the country) do not necessarily support the theory that adding more outside air creates a better performing, more sustainable building – sometimes quite the opposite (Figure 3.5).

What is known about ventilation air is that in regions with ambient high dew point conditions and elevated relative humidity levels (which include much of the entire eastern half of the country during portions of the year), there is a direct correlation between the number of moisture problems and increased rates of mechanical building ventilation. This can occur for obvious reasons, such as the additional moisture load that is introduced into the building along with the outside air.

However, more obscure reasons can also increase the risk of adding outside air to a building. Unbalanced (or partially depressurized) buildings can be the result of moving large amounts of air around a building. When this condition occurs, moisture problems become more prevalent. These unbalanced conditions happen when air is trying to flow from the supply side of the air handler equipment to the return side but is restricted by structural or architectural barriers.

To be continued…

J. David Odom is a Vice President and Senior Building Forensics Consultant with Liberty Building Forensics Group. He has managed some of the largest and most complex mold and moisture problems in the country, including the $60M construction defect claim at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu and the $20M claim at the Martin County courthouse. He has also managed over 500 projects for the Walt Disney Corporation dating back to 1982 that have included technical issues related to corrosion, moisture, and design & construction defect-related problems. He has published numerous manuals and technical articles, including a monograph on moisture and mold for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). For more information, contact J. David Odom at d.odom@libertybuilding.com.

With over 35 years of experience, Richard S. Scott is an expert in the areas of architecture, interior design, and building forensics, with a focus on moisture-related building problems. He is certified by both the American Institute of Architects/AIA Florida and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He has published over 30 articles, and has lectured or presented at nearly 40 seminars or events. Mr. Scott has developed various training courses, including a 16-hour IAQ training course for NASA and an 8-hour water intrusion prevention training course for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC). He can be reached at r.scott@libertybuilding.com.

George H. DuBose, CGC is a certified Florida General Contractor and Vice President with Liberty Building Forensics Group, a firm specializing in moisture intrusion, mold problems, litigation support/buildings forensics, problem-avoidance peer reviews, commissioning, and implementation of green buildings. He has authored numerous articles and co-authored three manuals on moisture-related indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and building commissioning. He has diagnosed and solved hundreds of moisture and mold related building problems worldwide. DuBose can be contacted at g.dubose@libertybuilding.com.