lateral extension of the pressure field, as described earlier. In some cases, the presence or continuity of the gravel layer cannot be easily determined. In these cases, a ~ 1 m diameter sump or pit is dug into the soil below the slab at the point where the ASD pipe extends below the slab. The pit helps to ensure that the pressure field created by the ASD extends as far as possible throughout the region of the soil-building interface.
The second practical element in the implementation of an ASD system is sealing as many of the potential radon-entry locations as possible. Although sealing by itself is usually not effective in eliminating radon entry, sealing does enhance the effectiveness of an ASD system because it helps to reduce any short-circuiting of air flow from the building interior into the depressurized region below the floor slab. By reducing this air leakage, the low-pressure field created by the ASD system can be further extended laterally along the soil-building interface.
One variant of the subslab system uses a fan to pressurize the region below the floor slab. In this case, the system is providing ventilation of soil gas, thus reducing the radon concentration in the soil region adjacent to the building. Rather than reducing or reversing the pressure gradient across the building shell, this method actually increases the interior-to-exterior pressure difference and so increases the flow of gas from the soil into the building. When successfully implemented, the reduction in radon concentration in the soil gas more than compensates for the increased flow. Careful studies have shown, however, that high soil permeability is key to the successful use of this technique, because it permits a larger dilution effect (Gadgil and others 1994; Turk and others 1991a; 1991b).
Basement pressurization has also been used to control radon entry. This method uses the same principle for control as does an ASD system, but it pressurizes the entire basement volume to reverse the indoor-outdoor pressure gradient. Successful use of the technique in a research-house study provided strong empirical evidence that radon entry into buildings is dominated by advective transport. However, as a practical matter, use of the technique has been limited to basements that can be made very tight with respect to air leakage, particularly the membrane between the basement and first floor. Pressurization is done with conditioned air, usually drawn from the first floor. If flow rates are too large, a substantial energy (and in some cases comfort) penalty is associated with heating or cooling the extra "make-up" air as it infiltrates into the house. This method can also create backdrafting problems for fireplaces or other combustion appliances on the first floor (Turk and others 1991a; 1991b).
The source-control methods described thus far for use in existing houses are all mechanically driven (that is, fan-powered), so-called "active" methods. Two other techniques—both passive—have been used. The first technique, sealing, has been noted earlier. Empirically, this method has not been found to reliably produce substantial reductions in radon entry, largely because it is often difficult