Continuous air barriers are key to energy efficient buildings

A continuous air barrier is an essential component of a commercial building envelope. It is what helps to control the movement of air through the building and improve energy efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality. Without continuity, the air barrier system performance is compromised.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings account for about 76% of electricity use and 40% of all U.S. primary energy use and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And 35% of the energy used within those buildings goes to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. One of the primary functions of an air barrier is to prevent drafts and air leaks, which can lead to energy loss and uncomfortable temperatures in a building. When air leaks through the building envelope, it can cause the heating and cooling systems to work harder, leading to increased energy consumption and higher energy costs.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) estimates that air barriers, when designed as part of a building envelope system, can cut building heating and cooling energy use by an average of 30% across all climates. Instead of specifying oversized HVAC systems to compensate for energy losses, air barriers can help designers control the movement of air and moisture that cause those building energy losses in the first place. An air barrier helps to seal gaps and cracks in the building envelope, preventing air from entering or exiting the building. This helps to create a more consistent and comfortable indoor environment.

In addition to improving energy efficiency, a continuous air barrier can also improve indoor air quality. When outdoor air enters a building, it can bring with it pollutants, allergens, and other contaminants. An air barrier helps to prevent outdoor air from entering the building, improving indoor air quality and protecting the health of occupants.

Another important function of an air barrier is to prevent moisture from entering the building. When air enters a building, it can carry moisture with it, which can lead to moisture-related problems such as mold, rot, and structural damage. A survey conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners ( looked at 17,000 construction defect claims which indicated that 69% of them were associated with moisture-related defects in the building envelope system. And of those claims, 53% of them were due to faulty installation, and 19% were tied to design errors and omissions. A proper designed and installed continuous air barrier system helps to block the passage of moisture-laden air, which can help to protect the building from these types of problems.

There are several different materials that can be used to create a continuous air barrier, including plastic sheets, metal sheets, foam board, and spray-applied coatings. The choice of material will depend on the specific needs and requirements of the building, as well as the local climate and building codes.

If you are looking to for a continuous air barrier for your next project, contact a Henry representative today to discuss your needs and how to select the best system.

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