Volume 8, Issue 3 (March 2011)
Correlation Between Water Vapor and Air Permeability of Building Materials: Experimental Observations
Two fundamental properties of building materials that influence the hygrothermal performance of building envelope systems are water vapor permeability and air permeability. The driving forces for water vapor and air transmission through building materials are, respectively, partial water vapor pressure and total air pressure differentials. The theoretical similarity of the driving forces would suggest the possibility of a relationship between water vapor and air permeability. During past two decades, researchers at the National Research Council of Canada—Institute for Research in Construction have compiled a database of measured air permeability and water vapor permeability properties of building materials commonly used in North America. This material properties database was examined to identify the degree to which air permeability and water vapor permeability of the building materials might be functionally related. The database was segregated into categories for different material types. An approximately linear relationship could, within some categories, be observed between water vapor permeability and air permeability. There were however approximately as many categories within which no relationship between the parameters was apparent as there were categories within which functional relationships between the parameters were apparent. Within categories where functional relationships were apparent, the form of the relationships generally depended on the mean relative humidity at which water vapor permeability was measured. In most cases, a definitive functional form of the relationship between water vapor permeability and air permeability could not be established.