Resilient and Energy Efficient Envelopes for Passive House Standard Buildings

One-third of the energy used to heat a typical house is lost by air leaking through the walls or roof. Consequently, new houses built to standards that require minimal energy to provide thermal comfort rely on airtight building envelopes. While the efficacy of the air barrier in these houses is tested during construction and initial occupancy, there has been no research conducted into the resiliency of these air barriers to minor or major displacements caused by earthquakes, wind or other forces. This project will test the air barrier resilience of the two most common methods of providing air barriers for conventional wood framed walls: (1) the use of specialized tape at the intersections of plywood panels and (2) fluid-applied – specialized paint – air barrier over the plywood panels. We will start with small test specimens to understand the mechanical properties of air barriers before moving to full-scale tests of commonly used systems to understand how the air barriers perform under simulated seismic and wind loads. This preliminary data is necessary to make the case for future externally funded research that will establish a new line of inquiry into resilient, multi-performance building enclosures that continue to meet rigorous standards throughout their life-cycle.

Resulting Publications

  • Memari, A., Iulo, L., & Griffin, C. (2019). Study of Vulnerability of Air Barrier Membranes and Sealant Joint Tapes Applied over Wood Sheathing Panel Joints Due to Racking Movement in Passive House Designed Residential Buildings. Wood Design Focus, 29 (1), 10-17.
  • Adelwahab, K., Gracie-Griffin, C., Memari, A., & Iulo, L. (2022). Small scale testing of air barrier systems adherence on sheathing panels under in plane relative displacement simulating seismic effect, In Proceedings of 2022 Residential Building Design and Construction Conference, State College, USA, 2-3 March 2022.
  • Erisman, C., Iulo, L., Adelwahab, K., Griffin, C., & Memari, A. (2022). Overview of common residential wall construction methods applied to achieve a continuous air barrier and their material properties, In Proceedings of 2022 Residential Building Design and Construction Conference, State College, USA, 2-3 March 2022.


Ali Memari

Professor and Bernard and Henrietta Hankin Chair in Residential Building Construction, Architectural Engineering

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