because it is not necessary (except in rare cases). The vast majority of radon-mitigation systems now installed in existing houses rely on mechanically driven, or active, subslab depressurization (ASD) techniques (Henschel 1994). These methods seek to reverse the pressure gradient across the part of the building shell that is in contact with the soil. As noted earlier, this pressure difference drives the advective flow of radon-bearing soil gas into a building. The systems are sometimes referred to as subslab ventilation systems, but as a general rule that is a misnomer. When operated in a depressurized mode, the system does draw some outdoor air from the surface into the soil near the building. It also draws air into this region from the basement (reversing the flow of gas in the cracks and openings in the building shell). The flow of air may dilute the soil-gas radon concentration in the vicinity of the building somewhat, but the extent depends on the permeability of the soil. The key operating principle is still reversal of the indoor-outdoor pressure gradient.
Operationally, a subslab system consists of one or more pipes that penetrate the floor slab. The pipes, typically 7–15 cm in diameter, run vertically through the house and terminate above the roof. A mechanical fan, usually an in-line axial fan designed specifically for this application, is installed in the pipe system where it passes through the attic or some other location outside the conditioned living space of the house. The fan operates at about 100–400 m3 h-1 at a pressure of up to a few hundred pascals (Henschel 1993).
In an ASD system, the fan creates a low-pressure zone in the soil outside the building shell. A successful system will reverse—or at least reduce—the pressure gradient at all major building-shell penetrations that are in contact with the soil. An important entry pathway for soil gas in many basement structures is the expansion-contraction joint at the edge of the concrete floor slab where it abuts the wall. In some cases, there will also be openings or utility penetrations through the basement walls or, as in the case of walls constructed of hollow-core "cinder" or concrete block, the wall itself is permeable to air flow. To eliminate or reduce soil gas entry in these areas, the low-pressure zone must extend beyond the region of the floor and up the walls. Almost all the retrofitted ASD systems are successful in reducing indoor radon concentrations to less than 150 Bq m-3 and often concentrations are reduced to about 75 Bq m-3. In some cases when the basement walls are constructed of blocks, depressurization pipes are inserted into the hollow cores of the blocks themselves. Because these cores are typically interconnected, directly or through thin permeable concrete "webs," there is in effect a depressurized plenum within the walls themselves, thus largely eliminating any flow of soil gas across the wall and into the building interior.
Over the last decade, a considerable amount of research and practical experience on the installation of these systems has been accumulated (Henschel 1993). Two elements aid the successful implementation of an ASD system. One is the presence of a high-permeability gravel layer below the floor slab. This layer essentially establishes a low-flow-resistance pressure plenum that enhances the