Air Leaks - Understanding Airflow - Moisture Control and Mould - Part 1
Air leaks reduce the thermal performance (energy efficiency) of a building and the main culprits are openings and cracks in the building’s walls and roof. Air leaks can lead to excess moisture, which leads to mould and other health risks. It also has a host of other downsides and living in a building with air leaks is considered both dangerous and expensive.
Understanding Air Flow
Exfiltration is a term used to explain the occurrence of air exiting a building through an uncontrolled manner such as cracks; whilst Infiltration is the opposite and occurs when air enters a building.
Ventilation refers to fresh air that moves in and out of a building by way of design. Ventilation decreases stuffiness and unpleasant odours, and also helps control the amount of moisture in a building.
Generally, a builder’s main aim is to construct a building with controlled ventilation, striving to reduce air leaks as much as possible.
We already know that energy-efficient buildings are a growing trend in Australia therefore, constructing an airtight building is a good way to keep up with the times. In fact, it is a prerequisite in many Australian states to design an insulated building in order to obtain a number of certifications including a BASIX and NatHERS Certificate. A Thermal Performance Assessment is conducted prior to finalising the DA (development application) to determine the most efficient building materials, window options and other necessary specifications.
Moisture Control and Mould
Air leaks may also lead to moisture accumulating on walls often causing mould deposits to form which can have an immediate effect on those residing in the building.
How Mould Can Affect Your Health
Inhaling mould fragments or spores can inflame the airways, causing nasal congestion, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and throat irritation. Prolonged exposure to high levels of indoor dampness can reduce lung function and cause chronic health problems such as asthma.
Mycotoxins can kill neurones in the brain, which directly affects our mental capacity and can alter our psychological makeup. Some of the neurological symptoms of the ingestion of mycotoxins include confusion, dizziness, a ‘foggy’ brain, hallucinations, seizures and trembling.
Other important symptoms to look out for, relating to respiratory, circulatory and other conditions, are difficulty breathing; bleeding gums; nose bleeds; cold and flu symptoms; vomiting blood; wounds that won’t heal; blurred vision; nausea; and jaundice. Infection from damp and mould is very serious so it is imperative that if you notice any of the above symptoms you seek medical attention.
There is also evidence that mycotoxins are carcinogenic, which can lead to the growth of cancers.
Overall, airtight buildings are not only in the best interest of the resident’s health, they have a higher Thermal Performance Rating making them far more energy-efficient than those with uncontrolled air leaks.