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Improving building envelope resilience to moisture damage (in progress)

What we are doing and why

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is supporting research by The University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning through a research grant to increase the resilience of external building envelopes to moisture damage.

This research grant was awarded in 2022, and supports research that will find, or contribute to, new and innovative solutions to minimise moisture ingress and water damage in Victorian buildings, and help provide the evidence base to inform regulatory decisions and improvements to the building regulatory system and the quality of the built environment in Victoria.

Many Australian homes suffer from excessive dampness and indoor mould. This can be exacerbated by inadequate or poor design, poor construction practices, and poor maintenance practices, resulting from lack of awareness and knowledge in the construction industry and by building occupants.

Water damage routinely tops the list of defects encountered in buildings and in complaints to the VBA, claims to the Victorian Managed Insurance Agency and disputes to the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria. Wet areas and water proofing and drainage issues are commonly occurring areas of compliance risk we identify through the VBA’s proactive inspections.

Mould can be caused by excessive presence of water within a building component (such as an external wall or roof), due to extreme events (such as flooding) or internal leakages from plumbing services, or condensation issues being caused by design and construction practices.

Condensation and mould in buildings is linked to negative impacts on human health and amenity, as well as building structural integrity.

The research aims to develop comprehensive recommendations for the design, construction and maintenance of climate-appropriate building envelopes methods in Victoria to increase the moisture resilience of the external building envelope.  It includes both one-dimensional (standard) and two-dimensional hygrothermal analysis[1] of typical external building envelopes constructed in Victoria, including details such as building corners, thermal bridges, balconies and wall/roof intersections, with a particular focus on the placement and permeability requirements of vapour control layers in walls, roofs and floors, and air cavities in walls and roofs.

The University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Arianna Brambilla is leading the research.

What we have achieved so far

This research commenced in November 2022. Due for completion in 2024, this research complements the research the VBA is already supporting or has conducted, including:

[1] Hygrothermal analysis evaluates the risk of condensation formation by studying heat and moisture movement within built spaces, and the diffusion of moisture and water vapour through the built fabric.