The influence of airtightness on contaminant spread in MURBs in cold climates

Build Simul. 2021 May 15;1-16. doi: 10.1007/s12273-021-0787-6. Online ahead of print.


Tall buildings in cold climates have unique challenges in maintaining indoor air quality due to stack effect. During the heating season, interior air buoyancy creates large pressure differentials in vertical shafts that can drive airflow from lower floors into upper floors. This pressure differential can result in the spread of contaminants throughout a building. Most recently, concern over COVID-19 has increased attention to the potential spread of airborne diseases in densely populated buildings. For many multi-unit residential buildings, suite ventilation has traditionally relied upon fresh air supplied through a mechanically pressurized corridor. In cold climates, large pressure differentials created by stack-effect can reduce the effectiveness of this approach. Multizone and CFD simulations are employed to analyze airflow and contaminant spread due to stack effect. Simulations are conducted on an idealized model of a 10-storey building using a range of experimentally derived airtightness parameters. Simulations demonstrate stack effect can reduce corridor ventilation to suites and even reverse the airflow for leakier buildings. Reduced airflow to suites can result in the accumulation of contaminants. Reversal of the airflow can allow contaminants from a suite to spread throughout the building. Contaminant spread is illustrated as a function of mechanical ventilation, building airtightness, and ambient temperatures. Strategies to reduce the influence of stack effect on mechanically pressurized corridors are discussed.

Keywords: MURBs ventilation; contamination spread; stack effect.