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Development of a Reference Material for Building Product Emissions Testing



Cynthia H. Reed, Zhe Liu, Steve Cox, Andrew K. Persily, John Little


The business of measuring volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from building products and materials has grown to include more than 100 laboratories, many with unique testing equipment and analytical techniques. For the purposes of labeling building products as “acceptable” for indoor air quality as part of sustainable building programs, it is important for participating laboratories to demonstrate that its chosen methods can measure product emission rates within an acceptable uncertainty. Currently, equivalence between emissions testing laboratories is established with inter-laboratory studies. These studies can be time consuming, expensive, and do not provide a “true” emission value for comparison. To reduce the need for inter-laboratory studies and improve the reliability of emissions measurements, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Virginia Tech (VT) have collaborated to develop a reference material that has an independently known emission rate. The prototype material consists of a thin polymethyl pentene (PMP) film that is loaded to equilibrium with a VOC. Extensive testing at NIST and other measurement laboratories have shown the film to behave as a homogenous and consistent emissions source. Current research efforts include evaluating the film performance at different environmental conditions and expanding the approach to include other chemicals. The use of reference materials in product emissions testing has the potential to provide an independent test method validation approach that can instill more confidence in product labeling programs.
Proceedings Title
Conference Dates
August 6-10, 2012
Conference Location
washington, DC
Conference Title
National Environmental Monitoring Conference


VOC emissions, reference material, chamber, indoor air quality


Reed, C. , Liu, Z. , Cox, S. , Persily, A. and Little, J. (2013), Development of a Reference Material for Building Product Emissions Testing, NEMC, washington, DC, [online], (Accessed June 14, 2024)


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Created February 4, 2013, Updated February 19, 2017