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Australia is lagging behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to sealing, thermal performance and control of moisture in the built environment.

That was the consensus at AIRAH’s Building Physics Virtual Forum which was held last week.

The event also highlighted the need to make the most of local expertise and to learn from experiences abroad.

More than 130 people from around Australia and the world connected to the virtual event, to watch presentations from 11 speakers, participate in Q&A sessions, and network.

AIRAH CEO, Tony Gleeson, said the Building Physics Forum brings together professionals from diverse parts of the construction process who share a common passion for improving Australia’s buildings.

“They may be engineers, builders, researchers or architects, but at this event they unite to form one eclectic and energetic community,” he said.

“This group is fascinated with why things happen and how to make them better, all while having a little fun.”

This year’s keynote speaker was world-renowned indoor air quality (IAQ) expert Max Sherman, a retired Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and leader of the residential team of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force.

In his presentation he shared experiences from the US of lifting building standards for air tightness and ventilation. He was blunt about the work that lies ahead for Australia, but also optimistic.

“Getting from low-performing homes to high-performing homes is a process,” Sherman said. “The Europeans have been ahead of the US in many ways, and the US may be ahead of Australia in many ways. There are plenty of pitfalls on the path, but Australia can benefit from the mistakes others have made. And in the end it’ll be okay.”

Sean Maxwell, hosted the event and sat on the technical organising committee. He said Sherman pinpointed where we are – and where we need to get to.

“It took building physics, codes and policies, and boiled them down to basic steps that our industries can take to get on the road from ‘good’ to ‘better’ healthy and efficient buildings,” Maxwell said.

During the day, other experts focused on specific building physics challenges and solutions. This included thermal breaks, negative pressure in buildings, above-sheathing ventilation and condensation risks in flame-zone roofs.

Another forum participant, Ania Hampton, said that some of the practical solutions have already proven useful. And she agreed that the event provided a clear view of the road ahead.

“The construction industry has a lot of catching up to do,” Hampton said.

“We are only just starting to listen to the experts and accept condensation and thermal breaks as real-world issues that need to be dealt with.

“We’ve become rather complacent, thinking we’ve been designing thermally efficient and healthy buildings, but we have a way to go. The devil is in the detail.”

 

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