Multifamily Air Leakage Evaluation: A Modular Case Study

Conor Dennehy, Kevin Grosskopf, Conor Dennehy (NREL Technical Monitor)

Research output: NRELSubcontract Report


The purpose of this case study is to compare the air leakage rates of modular and site-built multifamily dwelling units. The methods, materials, and equipment were observed to be very similar in the modular and site-constructed units in this case study. The installation quality of building envelope measures such as insulation and air barrier appeared to be better for modular construction, because they were installed in a controlled, factory setting. Through field observations, we identified cosmetic damage to the envelope of modular units following transport to the building site, but with no resulting significant air leakage pathways. However, we did see air leakage pathways resulting from field modifications to the envelope of modular units to accommodate structural and mechanical connections. We found that the extensive use of through-wall HVAC systems, combined with the transport, placement, and rework of modular units may compromise the high-quality envelope installation and airtightness observed in the factory without careful planning and/or design. Opportunities for improvement identified from the tested modular dwelling units include minimizing and optimally locating penetrations, pre-cutting and detailing penetrations at the factory where possible, properly sealing field modifications, and using split HVAC systems in place of through-wall packaged systems.
Original languageAmerican English
PublisherNational Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Work performed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/SR-5600-83488

Other Report Number

  • DOE/GO-102022-5761


  • air leakage
  • air-leakage
  • blower door
  • envelope
  • envelope leakage
  • factory construction
  • modular
  • modular construction
  • multifamily
  • site built
  • site-built


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