Containment Sealing 101

New technology minimizes the spread of bugs, odours and noise.

Living in close quarters can present many challenges for apartment residents, and often those challenges consume a lot of staff time. Nobody has much tolerance when it comes to the spread of bugs, cooking odours, smoke and noise, and for landlords looking to resolve those matters, the costs and energy spent can be exorbitant.

Fortunately technology is advancing, providing new solutions for housing providers looking to increase tenant satisfaction while better allocating staff resources. One new solution developed to address the spread of pests, odours, smoke and noise, is containment sealing.

Property owners today are looking for improved and permanent ways to control pests and reduce tenant complaints, while tenants are looking for increased isolation from their neighbours’ environments and reasonable utility costs. Containment sealing is a new technology that can satisfy both requirements in multi-residential buildings. It is also referred to as ‘compartmentalization’.

– Shane Blanchard, Energy Management Consultant

Improving Airtightness Between Units

Building airtightness is a key parameter in modern designs. It is measured using a value of ‘Air Changes per Hour @ 50 Pa’, which usually shortened to ACH@50. A typical building with low airtightness will have a value of 4 or greater. The Canadian R-2000 program has an airtightness standard of 1.5. Net-zero ready buildings will almost always need to have a value less than 1.0. The ‘Passivhaus’ airtightness standard, which has previously been a tough standard to achieve, is 0.6.

Traditional air sealing approaches to improve building airtightness are a hodgepodge effort from multiple trades that requires all sorts of project management. Results are never certain, and there’s nothing worse than failing a blower door test just before occupancy, which can cause overruns in construction budgets and delay revenue from the building. While manual caulking applied by contractors can be somewhat effective, it often does not meet the industry’s highest standards, nor does it usually come with a guarantee. In finished spaces where the plumbing, electrical, and drywall are already installed, manual sealing is nearly impractical.

Containment sealing is the newest ‘best of class’ technology being incorporated into multi-residential building design and operation. Effectively sealing the envelope that exists between apartments is not only critical for maximum energy efficiency, but it’s also key to ensuring high indoor air quality and limiting the migration of bugs, potential cannabis smells, smoke, noise and other common tenant discomforts that can travel from one unit to another.

– Shane Blanchard, Energy Management Consultant

As most people spend 90% of their time indoors, providing a healthy, efficient living space is critical to tenant satisfaction and retention. Reducing the environmental footprint of multi-residential buildings is important in today’s day and age. Implementing effective containment sealing of units has many benefits to both the property owners and tenants:

  • Seals the shared walls between units and the hallways, which greatly reduces the spread of bugs, smells, smoke, and noise;
  • Lowers the cost of the utilities for the HVAC system by 20% to 30%;
  • Diminishes the stack effect and wind effect that are present in multi-story buildings;
  • Protects the structural integrity of the building by preventing air and moisture transfer;
  • Achieves a more consistent temperature throughout the units and building;
  • Improves indoor air quality, reducing intake of toxins from the environment;
  • Contributes to resiliency by increasing the amount of time the building will remain warm during a utility outage;
  • Reduces the initial cost of unit construction;
  • Scores points in building rating systems such as LEED and Energy Star.

How the Process Works

Containment sealing is a single-step computerized process, which can be dialed in to reach specific desired results. Each individual unit is pressurized with a blower door, which causes the air to leak throughout all areas which are not sealed, including the walls, floors, roof, and windows. While under pressure, sprayers located in the unit are activated to generate a mist of sealant in the air. The air then carries the mist to the leaking areas and deposits the sealant wherever there is a pressure drop, which is where leaks are occurring.

Common Questions About Containment Sealing:

Can this be used in new builds, renovations, and during tenant turnover?
Yes, yes, and yes. Containment sealing can be done in all three scenarios. The least expensive time to do it is during construction, so it is highly recommended that all new builds incorporate this into their design.

How long does it take to seal a unit?
It takes approximately four hours to seal a unit from start to finish. Multiple crews and machines can be setup to seal an entire building as quickly as is required by the owner. How large a gap can be sealed?

Up to 5/8 of an inch. Any larger gaps require a temporary patch which will be completely sealed during the application.

Is the sealant safe and non-toxic?
The sealant is GreenGuard certified and free of VOCs. It has multiple certifications from UL, FDA and NSF. It dries in approximately two hours and has no odour once dry.

What is the warranty and life-expectancy on the sealant?
3-year warranty with a 50-year life.

According to Shane, “Containment sealing is quickly becoming the new standard in multi- residential buildings. The financial benefits to property owners are multi-faceted, including reduced pest control costs, lower utility bills, and improved tenant satisfaction leading to lower turnover & vacancy rates.”

It is expected that by 2030 at least 30% of the multi-residential buildings in Canada will have completed or be underway with their containment sealing program. In an environment where rental housing providers are looking to reduce energy costs, provide efficient units to their residents and make apartments more livable, it just makes sense.