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Better Builder, Issue 31 / Fall 2019


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Better Builder Magazine brings together premium product manufactures and leading builders to create better differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. The magazine is published four times a year.

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Better Builder, Issue 31 / Fall 2019

  1. 1. PUBLICATIONNUMBER42408014 INSIDE Back to School with Barbini Carbon Pricing A New Take on Air Sealing Top 11 Renovation Lessons A Good Energy Rater is Key Insulating Existing Basements ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 Making the Old New Again
  2. 2. 209 Citation Dr. Unit 3 & 4 Concord, ON L4K 2Y8 905-669-7373 · Models C95 & C140 Condensing Combination Boiler Glow Brand C95 and C140 instantaneous combination ASME boilers for heating and on-demand hot water supply. The ultra-efficient compact design combination boiler has an AFUE rating of 95%. These units are fully modulating at 10 to 1 and 2 inch PVC venting up to 100 feet. Canadian Made
  3. 3. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 16 1 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 Carbon, Sticks, Carrots and Climate Change by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 Is Carbon Pricing Actually a “Tax on Everything”? by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 5 A New Take on Air Sealing Existing Homes by Gord Cooke INDUSTRY NEWS 9 What’s Good for New Is Good for Old by Paul De Berardis BUILDER NEWS 13 Top 11 Renovation Lessons by Rob Blackstien SITE SPECIFIC 24 Why Having a Good Energy Rater Is Key for a Successful Renovation by Alex Newman SPECIAL INTEREST 26 Two Smart Ways to Insulate Existing Basement Walls by Howard Cohen BUILDER NEWS 28 Two Goes Into One by Rob Blackstien FROM THE GROUND UP 30 In Conversation with CHBA President Stefanie Coleman Building Codes, Net Zero Goals and the Existing Housing Supply – Where Do We Go from Here? by Doug Tarry FEATURE STORY 16 Back to School In the HGTV “home porn” era, how much of the responsibility of teaching home owners what’s truly important in their projects falls to builders? by Rob Blackstien 30 ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 On our cover: High Park renovation by Barbini Design Build. Photographed by John Godden. Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. 5 26
  4. 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 20192 PUBLISHER Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 416-481-4218 | fax 416-481-4695 Better Builder Magazine is a sponsor of PUBLISHING EDITOR John B. Godden MANAGING EDITORS Crystal Clement Wendy Shami To advertise, contribute a story, or join our distribution list, please contact FEATURE WRITERS Rob Blackstien, Alex Newman PROOFREADING Carmen Siu CREATIVE Wallflower Design This magazine brings together premium product manufacturers and leading builders to create better, differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 Copyright by Better Builder Magazine. Contents may not be reprinted or reproduced without written permission. The opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the authors and assumed to be original work. Better Builder Magazine cannot be held liable for any damage as a result of publishing such works. TRADEMARK DISCLAIMER All company and/or product names may be trade names, trademarks and/or registered trademarks of the respective owners with which they are associated. UNDELIVERABLE MAIL Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 Better Builder Magazine is published four times a year. W hen Ontario’s current Conservative government was elected, one of the first things it did was scrap the Climate Change Action Plan. As a result, the federal Liberal government has imposed a carbon tax on Ontarians and their businesses. This tax (or stick) is supposed to create an awareness around CO2 emissions. The upside of this tax is that the CO2-producing fuels, like natural gas and gasoline, will be taxed. The downside of this tax is that our money will be returned to us as a credit each year ($307 for a family of four). The idea of a tax credit may sound good – but does it actually lessen the burden for consumers, or is it just politics? Does it make sense to give a sin tax back to us for our bad behaviour? That’s why I’m in favour of a tax credit program with oversight by utilities and government. Generally, tax credits (or carrots) work to promote good choices or behaviours. The spending power remains in the consumers’ hands and does not involve government bureaucracy. This is fundamentally different from rebate or incentive programs, wherein utilities or governments give us our own money back at a fraction of what was originally paid. Subsidies like these do not create longer-term market conditions, whereas tax credits can. (For more on the debate between carrot or stick solutions, see Lou Bada’s column on page 3.) The Consumers Council of Canada’s 2017 study, Incenting Energy Efficient Retro­ fits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers, provides vital information for tackling energy conservation in the existing housing stock. It also highlights the importance of consumer awareness, which is a key theme that runs through this renovation issue. On page 16, we learn how Amedeo Barbini took his clients back to school with a recent renovation, showing them that there’s so much more to a reno than the hardwood floors and granite countertops shown on TV. Doug Tarry shares a candid interview with Canadian Home Builders’ Association president Stefanie Coleman on the importance of consumer education in pushing sustainable change (page 30). There are lots of tools and solutions to help home owners renovate sustainably. We’ve identified a couple of great energy-efficient reno opportunities in “Top 11 Renovation Lessons” on page 13, and Gord and Brian Cooke share some promising air sealing results using AeroBarrier on page 5. And in “Two Goes into One” on page 28, we learn why A.O. Smith’s Polaris combi system is ideal for space and hot water heating in retrofits. Energy audits provided by a third party are a powerful tool for educating and training home owners, renovators and designers. Read Paul De Berardis’s article on page 9 for more on the importance of energy audits and modelling when undertaking a reno, and see this issue’s Site Specific column on page 24 to learn why good energy raters are few and far between. The word “renovate” means “to restore to good condition; to make new as if new again or repair.” It’s time to renovate our approach to existing housing stock and carbon emissions, and start fostering a green economy. BB Carbon, Sticks, Carrots and Climate Change publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN
  5. 5. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 In Canada, the traditional approach of taxing bad behaviour and incentiv­ izing good behaviour – the proverbial “carrot and stick” approach – is littered with pitfalls (the Ontario government’s FIT/microFIT Program for solar installations comes to mind). Also, I see that through public education and public relations, there are efforts underway to change our views on the environment and climate change. In theory, taxation, incentives and education should work – but will they work in practice? This strategy seems to have worked in curbing tobacco use in Canada. I wonder what would happen in our interconnected world if we adopted a strong carbon pricing model but the large emitting countries of the planet did not. I am truly struggling with the idea, and I’m of two minds when it comes to a tax on carbon – a “tax on everything,” as some have labelled it. Let’s face it: no one likes taxes (unless they believe someone else is paying them). Many don’t like the concept of a carbon tax on the fuels that generate carbon emissions which filter into the cost of much of everything we con­ sume. On the other hand, according to the federal government’s carbon pricing plan, 90% of the tax collected is returned to consumers through varying income tax credits on income tax (assuming you have an income) based on family size and place of residence. Companies that face foreign competition from countries with weaker environmental laws will receive greater tax breaks to protect them from an unfair advantage. In carbon tax theory, even though we will get (our own) tax money back, we are always inclined to try and save money – so we will thus choose less expensive carbon- intensive products, buy less or take measures to conserve energy. Proponents of the tax believe it is the best and most efficient way of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and they use British Columbia’s carbon tax as an example. According to the BC government’s website, provincial real GDP grew by 19% and net emissions declined by 3.7% between 2007 and 2016. Although this may sound promising, it points to a correlation and not necessarily causation. Broad statistics rarely tell you the entire story. The following information was taken directly from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks: Executive Summary 2019: “In 2017, the combined emissions from Alberta and Ontario, the largest emitters, represented 60% (38% and 22%, respectively) of the national total. In 1990, Ontario’s GHG emissions were higher than those from the other provinces because of its large manufacturing industry. Alberta’s emissions subsequently surpas­ sed Ontario’s, with an increase of 58% since 1990, primarily due to the increase in the oil and gas industry. Ontario’s emissions decreased between 1990 and 2017 primarily because of the closure of coal-fired electricity generation plants.  The provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, which rely on abundant hydroelectric resources for their electricity production, show more stable emission patterns over time and a decreasing pattern since 2005. Quebec had a 10% (8.4 Mt CO2 eq) decrease from its 2005 emissions level; mainly attributable to decreasing emissions from the residential, aluminum production and petroleum refining industries. Over the same period, emissions from British Columbia had a decline of 2% (1.0 Mt CO2 eq); essentially due to decreasing emissions from the manufacturing industries and fugitive sources. In contrast to these decreases, emissions in Saskatchewan increased by 14% (9.8 Mt CO2 eq) between 2005 and 2017, primarily due to increases in activity from sectors such as transportation, oil and gas, and mining.” It seems that most reductions in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from a global economic shift away from manufacturing in Ontario and Canada. Manufacturing likely moved to jurisdictions with lower labour costs and more lenient environmental laws. Ontario has reduced its emissions 3 Is Carbon Pricing Actually a “Tax on Everything”? thebadatest / LOU BADA INTERPAS/ISTOCKPHOTO I recognize the need for everyone on the planet (and in government) to find a way to conserve energy and move on to a less carbon-intensive economy. However, the solutions to climate change don’t seem as clear to me.
  6. 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 20194 below 1990 levels (mostly by closing its coal-fired electricity plants), while British Columbia’s emissions have not dropped below 1990 despite its carbon tax. Also of interest is that, according to Statistics Canada (Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, from the 2016 and 2011 censuses) and the Ministry of Natural Resources, British Columbia has 13.2% of Canada’s population and produces 9% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, while Ontario has 38.3% of Canada’s population (almost three times that of British Columbia) while producing 22% of Canada’s emissions. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is complex, and referring to regional differences and increases or reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in isola­ tion is not particularly informative. When it comes to new homes and renovations, these taxes are straight-up costs that will eventually be passed onto consumers. Our industry doesn’t face foreign competition and won’t likely receive tax relief under the plan. As far as I know, we haven’t done any studies to see exactly what the cost impact of an escalating price on carbon for new homes or renovations will be. Hence, I don’t know if the increased costs of buying a newer energy-efficient home or undertaking an energy-efficient home renovation will be offset by the cost savings of the improved energy efficiency. I do know that many building products used to make homes energy efficient (think of foamed insulation, sealants, etc.) and other regular building products are petroleum based and/ or energy intensive to produce. Lower carbon-intensive building products are not readily available. I also know that we require everything (including our workforce) to be transported to our construction sites. I believe there will be significant increased costs. Housing is a necessity, not a luxury that we can forgo. Like many other pieces of govern­ ment legislation, the devil is in the details and implementation. I don’t believe that the cost of the bureaucracy to administer the tax will disappear into thin air either. I believe our industry, and home owners that choose to do an energy retrofit, should get a bigger carrot – not the stick – when it comes to carbon pricing. I like creative, targeted solutions, such as some of those in Europe. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation’s 2018 report, Using Vehicle Taxation Policy to Lower Transport Emissions, there are good strategies throughout Europe – particularly in France and Norway – where there are dedicated taxes on gas-powered passenger cars which directly subsidize incentives, such as no VAT (value-added tax; similar to HST) on the purchase of electric vehicles. It seems more transparent. Aside from lower operating costs, electric vehicles are also exempt from road tolls in some jurisdictions. It seems that the carbon tax is akin to a “sin tax” of the sort you see on cigarettes and alcohol. I just don’t think it should be a sin to buy a new energy- efficient home or do an energy-efficient retrofit on an existing home. BB Lou Bada is vice- president of low-rise construction at Starlane Home Corporation and on the board of directors for the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). 4
  7. 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 Last winter, I wrote about Harold Orr’s induction into the Order of Canada for his contributions to the improvement of Canadian homes (“The Game Changer in Air Sealing of Houses” in the winter 2018 issue). I had the pleasure of meeting him again in Saskatoon recently as he reiterated the findings of his research of over 40 years ago that unwanted air leakage accounted for at least 30% and as much as 50% of winter energy waste in Canadian homes. In those articles, I encouraged you – maybe even cajoled you – to do two things in every renovation project: (1) include a pre-renovation air test on every project and (2) set a goal to improve or reduce the air leakage rate by at least 20%. Can I ask you if you did that? If so, I would certainly welcome stories of your successes or challenges. Send them to the email address at the end of this article. That said, I know it’s not easy. The many considerations involved – inclu­ ding design selections, scheduling, budgets, trade selections, material selections and compatibility with the existing structure, home owner expec­ tations and, indeed, the uncertainties of airtightness results and the chal­ lenge to make a dent in those numbers in an old house – can be daunting. In the article I wrote last fall, I reported on our success with the new AeroBarrier technology in new homes, but I cautioned that its use in existing homes may not be worth it, due to the possible deposition of dried sealant on horizontal surfaces and thus the need for extensive protection of those surfaces. However, we have had very encouraging experiences with four or five renovation projects, and I want to share key lessons from three of those jobs. First, as part of our initial training last summer, Angela in our office was in the middle of a major renovation of a 1980s townhouse. Flooring, cabinets and most plumbing fixtures were out. We covered stairs, railings, door knobs, mechanical equipment, and horizontal surfaces of doors and window trims that were not being removed. The project did not include much in the way of opening up of existing walls or ceilings, and the attic was already insulated, so opportunities for traditional air sealing work were limited. It will be no surprise that the original air test – even after spray foaming basement rim joists, as well as replacing a few new windows and 5 A New Take on Air Sealing Existing Homes industryexpert / GORD COOKE Air sealing a semi-detached house. E xactly two years ago, I wrote an article compelling every renovator on every renovation project to include comprehensive air sealing measures (“Air Sealing Existing Homes” in the autumn 2017 issue). I quoted Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, which stated in its 2017 Keeping the Heat In report: “Air leakage control is the single most important retrofit activity, and it should be considered first in any retrofit strategy. Air leakage control is essential.” AUSTINL.TODD/COEFFICIENTBUILDINGSCIENCE
  8. 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 20196 at least one door – was 5.5 ACH50 (air changes per hour at 50 Pascal pressure). After 90 minutes of sealing with AeroBarrier, the airtightness was 2.3 ACH50 and, a year later, it is still at 2.65 ACH50. (You might wonder why we didn’t go further. Well, although we tried ventilating and filtering the attached neighbour’s townhouse, one of the occupants was house bound and was getting anxious about possible effects. Two great lessons: I can’t imagine another way to reduce the air leakage of an old house to such an extent and do a better job of managing the process of effectively sealing the demising wall of a townhome.) The next project was a wonderful high-end retrofit and renovation of a 200-year-old farm house in Perth, Ontario, directed by Michael Glover of ECOTAY Education Centre and with Mark Tritton of The Lanark Design/ Build Group as the builder. The goal was to create as energy efficient a home as possible while still keeping the “bones” intact. Before we got All these products meet ENERGY STAR’s higher standards For more information or to order, contact your local distributor. vänEE 100H vänEE 200HvänEE 60H vänEE 60H-V+ vänEE 90H-V ECMvänEE 40H+vänEE 90H-V+ vänEE 60H+ vänEE 50H1001 HRV vänEE Gold Series 2001 HRV vänEE Gold Series vänEE air exchangers: improved line-up meets ENERGY STAR® standards Superior Energy Efficiency Ideal for LEED homes and new building codes 5-year warranty* FRESH AIR JUST GOT GREENER *ON MOST MODELS. Insulated air-tight retrofit on the left side. –12.0 –11 .0 –10.0 –9.0 –8.0 –7.0 –6.0 –5.0 –4.0 ºC–13.0 –3.0 –12.9 –3.6 AUSTINL.TODD/COEFFICIENTBUILDINGSCIENCE
  9. 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 Brian Cooke is sales and marketing manager of Aerobarrier. Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. Now that we have your attention, Enbridge and AeroBarrier are offering incentives to new home builders to test drive the AeroBarrier air sealing approach. Don’t hesitate to contact us for information at or 519-489-2541 (cell). the call, they had done extensive (but conventional) air sealing and insulation work and had gotten the house down to 2.79 ACH50. This included spray foaming basement walls, replacing some (but not all) windows and installing high- efficiency mechanical equipment to eliminate natural draft chimneys. In an AeroBarrier seal time of 240 minutes, the finished air leakage rate was down to 1.18 ACH50. I can only imagine that Harold Orr would be pleased that we now have the ability to take 200-year-old houses down to under R-2000 levels in four hours. By the way, the seal was done on a balmy eastern Ontario winter’s day at –10°C. Finally, I think you will find our experience during a renovation of a 1942 semi-detached home in downtown Toronto by Solares Architecture of interest as well. The home was being renovated into three separate rental suites, and the goal was to create a Passive House Canada-level home. Through conventional air sealing and insulation practices, the renovator achieved remarkable results, going from a starting value of 9.8 ACH50 down to 1.61 ACH50. Moreover, they had worked with their certified energy advisor to do multiple air tests to track the effectiveness of their air sealing efforts (check out the graph of these progressive tests over a six-month period). We were most interested in hearing that, despite a solid commit­ ment to air sealing, they had pretty much hit a wall on February 7, 2019. They started the day at 1.62 ACH50 and, after three to four hours of work by two people, they dropped the air leakage to just 1.61 ACH50. We were pleased to be asked to participate at that point, and after a seal time of 160 minutes (just another 2.5 hours), the AeroBarrier result was 0.34 ACH50. However, there is a caveat to that result. AeroBarrier results are done in a pressurization mode, with intentional openings like fans or mechanical vents taped off to avoid gumming them up with sealant. The final as-operated depressurization test advocated by programs such as Passive House, with those openings in their operational state, typically shows higher results. In this project, that final test still met the Passive House goal of 0.6 ACH50. These results are outlined in the chart at left. Based on these experiences, I am more bullish about the cost effectiveness of AeroBarrier in major renovation projects. If you are replacing all or most of the flooring, all or most of the cabinetry, many of the plumbing fixtures and some of the trim, then my recommendation is to do a pre-test, find the big holes and seal them on your own. Then let the amazing new AeroBarrier technology find and seal the rest. There really is a compelling reason to think we can finally achieve the airtightness levels in existing homes that good old Canadian research has been advocating for over 40 years. BB 7 SOLARES ARCHITECTURE – ECO-FLATS 2.0 – 550 DUFFERIN ST, TORONTO 09/04 2018 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0 10.0 9.81 6.14 01/23 2019 02/06 2019 02/06 2019 2.96 2.43 02/07 2019 02/07 2019 1.62 1.61 02/11 2019 0.34 0.0 AIR LEAKAGE RATE (ACH50) PRE- RETROFIT AEROBARRIER INSTALLED BLOWER DOOR TEST DATES CONSTRUCTION PHASE
  10. 10. • PROVIDES A CONTINUOUS THERMAL RESISTANCE OF R-5; perfect for meeting the requirements of the Quebec & Ontario Building Code. • DOES NOT REQUIRE ADDITIONAL BRACING; one-step installation saving time and cost. • INTEGRATED AIR-BARRIER; no additional housewrap required saving material costs. • LIGHTWEIGHT AND EASY TO INSTALL; allows for fast installation saving time and cost. R-5 XP C O M B I N E S T H E W I N D B R A C I N G P R O P E R T I E S O F W O O D F I B R E W I T H T H E T H E R M A L R E S I S T A N C E O F E X T R U D E D P O L Y S T Y R E N E F O R O V E R 1 0 0 Y E A R S INSULSHEATHING Panel Introducing a Unique Innovation:
  11. 11. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 9 industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS More on that example later. For now, let’s look at the game changer for Ontario homes: the Ontario Building Code (OBC). The first provincial Building Code came into effect in 1975. The Code superseded local building codes and was part of an effort to harmonize construction standards across the province. New editions of the Code were published in 1983, 1986, 1990, 1997, 2006 and 2012, with interim amendments to the Code frequently made between publications of new editions. With the continually evolving OBC generally updated every five to seven years, and with enhancements in each subsequent edition, the next generation of housing stock typically benefits from improved energy efficiency as well as refinement of construction practices and materials. The OBC has transformed the way Ontario builds its homes. Although houses are still generally built in the same fashion and using the same fundamental building blocks (such as concrete foundations, wood-framed structures and masonry exterior cladding), they are vastly different. The way we use these materials, and the abundance of innovative product offerings, have enabled new-home builders to evolve and deliver a superior product to new-home buyers, our customers. The quality of new homes has continued to improve over time, thanks to advancing technology and construction practices. More recently, since the last signi­ ficant OBC update to SB-12 upping the standards for low-rise houses in 2017, Ontario’s Building Code is one of the most advanced energy efficiency regulations in North America. Builders’ ambitions play a big role in the quality of Ontario’s new homes, as new-home builders often exceed minimum OBC standards and deliver even higher-performing homes to new- home buyers than what’s mandated. As the OBC has evolved: • More energy-efficient building products and assemblies – ranging from insulation, windows, furnaces and water heaters – have been mandated; • Mechanically controlled ventilation has regulated and improved indoor air quality with the introduction of heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs), while working towards encouraging improved airtightness; and • Advanced air and vapour barrier systems, as well as the increasing usage of continuous exterior insulation, have led to better performing building envelopes. As construction quality continues to improve, there are increasingly stringent expectations on new homes, which are an easy target for over- regulation to continue the trend of ever-improving energy efficiency and GHG emission reduction. However, to be quite frank, new houses are not the problem when it comes to governments looking to reduce GHG emissions, such as the June 17, 2019 House of Commons declaration of a national climate emergency in Canada. As a response, Canada will commit to meeting its national emission target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper GHG reductions. Since new housing stock typically adds less than 1% to the existing housing stock each year in Ontario, the more impactful approach would be to develop a framework towards improving the existing housing stock instead of pushing marginal gains in the already high- performing new housing sector. Back to the comparison of a 2019 home and one built in the 1980s. I happen to be renovating my 35-year- What’s Good for New Is Good for Old I always laugh on the rare occasion someone tells me “they don’t build houses like they used to.” You’re right, friend, we don’t – we build them a lot better. After all, what’s the difference between a new home and an old home? I’m not even referring to a post-war home; I’m talking about a new home built in the last few years compared with one built in the 1980s or 1990s. Although a 2019 home and one built in the 1980s have a lot in common, they are worlds apart in terms of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) or CO2 emissions. 45 30% BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL PAULDEBERARDIS,TORONTOON RatingDateAugust12,2019 2012SB-12REFERENCEHERS60
  12. 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201910 old Greater Toronto Area home and will incorporate the best of my knowledge from the world of new-home construction to raise its standards. While many renovations typically focus on aesthetics – such as flooring, millwork, trim and paint – it is also wise to consider what can be done to improve the performance and thermal comfort of an existing home when undertaking a renovation, should the project scope and budget permit. This is where the federal and/or provincial governments can work to devise a practical program to meaningfully incentivize home owners to raise the bar when it comes to GHG reductions in the existing housing stock, as opposed to simply giving out free smart thermostats. With the vast availability of more energy-efficient building products and construction practices, certain elements of a new home can be incorporated into a renovation. Elements such as increased thermal insulation, right-sized high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, controlled mechanical ventilation, improved building envelope air sealing measures and new windows with low solar heat gain coefficients (SHGC) can go a long way to transforming an older home to perform like a new build. So just how significant can the impact be when implementing current Code-compliant construction practices into an older home to improve its energy efficiency? The chart above uses a reference house as the basis of comparison to model the performance of a home built to each successive edition of the OBC, it becomes apparent that a current Code-built house has made tremen­ dous progress towards reducing GHG emissions. As an example, the reference house built to the 1990 OBC FIGURE 2 : DE BERARDIS RENOVATION VS CURRENT CODE COMPONENT A/ EXISTING B/ AS BUILT PROPOSED Ceiling With Attic R40 R60 Ceiling Without Attic R28 – 2x10 Rafters @ 16" R31 – 2x10 Rafters @ 16" Exposed Floor N/A R31 Walls Above Grade R20 – 2x6 @ 16" R24 + 5 ci Grade 2 Walls Below Grade R12 – 2x4 @ 16" R6 ci + R12 - 2x4 @ 16" Windows & Sliding Glass Doors R 2.8 SHGC .8 U = 1.53, SHGC = 0.17 Space Heating (AFUE) 80% 96% w/ECM Ventilation Exhaust only 80CFM 75% Drain Water Heat Recovery N/A R-3-42 (2 showers) Domestic Hot Water (EF) 0.56 0.95 Air Tightness 4.50 2.50 Annual Consumption (kWh/year) 64,765 45,062 Consumption Savings (% BTC) N/A 30.42% FIGURE 1 : GREEN HOUSE GAS EMISSION SAVING FROM 1990–2017 FOR SB-12 REFERENCE HOUSE COMPONENT OBC 1990 OBC 1997 OBC 2006 OBC 2012 OBC 2017 Ceiling With Attic R-31 R-31 R-40 R-50 R-60 Exposed Floor R-25 R-25 R-25 R-31 R-31 Walls Above Grade R-19 R-17 R-19 R-22 R-22 Walls Below Grade R-12 FH R8 to 2' R120 to 2' R12 FH R-20 FH Windows 2.8 2.2 2 1.8 1.6 Space Heating 90% AFUE 90% AFUE 90% AFUE 94% AFUE 96% AFUE** Domestic Hot Water 0.55 EF 0.55 EF 0.57 EF 0.67 EF 0.8 EF Minimum HRV Efficiency 80 CFM @ 0% 80 CFM @ 0% 80 CFM @ 0% 60% 75% Drain Water Heat Recovery — — — — R3-48 on 2 drains ACH 6.0 4.55* 3.57 3.1 3 Annual Space Heating Consumption (kWh) 27169 25089 23118 18032 16118 Annual DHWH Consumption (kWh) 7239 7239 6636 5795 3306 Total (kWh) 34408 32328 29754 23827 19424 Annual GHG Emission (Tonnes) 6.57 6.17 5.68 4.55 3.71 Annual GHG Emission Saving — 6.0% 13.5% 30.8% 43.5% *First Code considering continuous barrier. Ref. 9.25.3 / **Furnace with brushless motor / 1 kg of CO2 = 1 kWh x 0.191
  13. 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 generates 6.57 tonnes of GHG emis­ sions annually, compared with the 2017 SB-12 reference house generating nearly half that (at 3.71 tonnes of GHG annually). That’s a reduction of 43.5% or 2.86 annual tonnes of GHG emissions. (See Figure 1.) For perspective, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (assuming the average gasoline vehicle has a fuel economy of about 10.7 L/100 km and drives around 18,500 km per year). So, the annual operation of a Code- built home in Ontario produces less GHG than the average annual use of a passenger vehicle. Considering this information, doesn’t it seem logical that if the government is truly interested in combating the so-called “national climate emergency in Canada,” it would behoove them to address the real problem: how to meaningfully improve the bulk of the existing housing stock, which generates significantly more GHG emissions than new housing? So, if you are planning a renovation to an existing home, consider what options may be feasible to incorporate into improving the efficiency of the home. A key resource to planning is an energy audit to benchmark the existing home. Improvements can be evaluated using computer modelling programs based on HERS-approved software (read more about modelling in Site Specific on page 22. Figure 1 was produced based on this modelling. Figure 2 is my existing, as-built house before and after the renovation, targeting 2.5 ACH@50 Pa for reduced air leakage. The result will be a 30.42 percent reduction in natural gas con­ sumption and CO2 emissions. The best part is an energy rating label that shows this if I should ever choose to sell. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at 11 Don’t just breathe, BREATHE BETTER. As the industry leader in Indoor Air Quality systems, Lifebreath offers effective, energy efficient and Ontario Building Code compliant solutions for residential and commercial applications. To learn more about our lineup of products contact us today. Visit tolearnmore! orcallusat 1-855-247-4200
  14. 14. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 13 buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN 1. Arrange an energy audit This allows you to get an energy rating, so you can set goals for your project and specifications for your design. This is important because you need to decide upfront if you’re going to change the mechanical systems, which Smith advises can be a wise exercise – she’s saving 36% off her previous utility costs. See chart on page 25 comparing energy consumption. Planning upfront in this manner also helps reduce “weird bulkheads all over the place.” 2. Find a good designer You’ll need help to create plans and specifications to meet your needs. The designer will also help you navigate the various municipal processes, such as Committee of Adjustments variances. Smith worked with Bill Harrison of Fine Line Design, who she says handled all the correspondence and meetings with the city. “He speaks their language; he does this stuff all the time,” she says, which means he was able to handle all the challenges effectively. Visit him on LinkedIn. 3. Alert your neighbours Once you’ve finalized your plans, you should speak to your neighbours and inform them what you have planned – even if you don’t think the project will affect them. In this instance, Smith needed their approval on a party wall. But more importantly, it’s vital to keep good relations, so your neighbours won’t mind helping you by moving their car off the street when a delivery is expected, for example. Manage their expectations by letting them know how long the project will take and what hours workers will be there, so they don’t get upset. “We found the more information we gave them, the better,” Smith observes. Giving them a sense of power and a voice in the process can make all the difference. 4. Find a good general contractor (GC) You need someone that can educate you about all your choices, while treating your job as a priority. Ask for testimonials and take the time to speak to those people about their experiences working with this contractor. If the GC is reticent about giving you previous clients to talk to, that should be a big red flag. Drive by their clients’ homes and see what you think of their work. 5. Get three quotes for every­ thing while clearly defining the scope of work and payment arrangements This is especially true in instances when the home owner decides to act as their own GC – but for those hiring a GC, ensure you get three quotes. This is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, and you may be planning to live in this home for many years, so you’ve got to get the right partner. Once you’ve picked a contractor, it’s time to define the project, which needs to be done in an extremely clear fashion and in writing. Explicitly lay out how much the total cost is, what increments it needs to be paid in, and what exactly needs to be completed at each of those stages. Every detail must be clearly spelled out in this contract so no one has a doubt about the scope of the project. 6. Avoid house porn Many designers may come in with extravagant ideas that you may not have the budget for, but this is not a reality show with an unlimited budget and 50 workers that will complete an entire house in a week. This is the real world. So do some research and focus on the important features that can really help you save money – and no, we don’t mean granite countertops and hardwood floors. (For more on this issue, see Back to School on page 16.) L ate last year, Wanda Smith sold her condo and bought a townhouse in the Leaside area of Toronto. Before moving in, however, she underwent a major renovation on the new home. Based on her experience, Smith shared with us some nuggets of wisdom in the form of lessons learned. 78 36% BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL WANDASMITH,TORONTOON RatingDateAugust15,2019 2012SB-12REFERENCEHERS60 120140 80 60 40 20100 132 Top 11 Renovation Lessons A home owner shares what she learned from her recent renovation Do some research and focus on the important features that can really help you save money.
  15. 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201914 7. Do not move in before the job is substantially complete Moving in while the project is ongoing can be a nightmare as you’ll be living in a mess with dust everywhere, dealing with the smell of paint fumes and navigating your way around supplies, not to mention you and the workers will be all over each other. Oh, and good luck having a moment’s peace with the constant noise. 8. Find a kitchen person you can work with In a reno, the kitchen is the room most likely to undergo design changes as things progress, so you’ll need a flexible designer that can roll with it and who excels at communication. Smith recommends choosing your appliances well before the kitchen is designed and being realistic about delivery dates because you don’t want them delivered in the middle of the project. In Smith’s case, the HVAC contractor was able to hide 60% of the duct work inside the kitchen cabinets. 9. Designate a storage area Once your basement is done, section off a portion of it and use it as a storage area, because as you get closer to moving in, you’ll likely have more of your own stuff at the house and you want to keep those things away from the mess. A storage locker is a great idea too, as you’ll have a place to tuck away your furniture if you’re staging an old property for sale. It also helps when moving into the new house as you can bring things over in stages. 10. Be flexible Smith was dead set on putting a gas fireplace in her living room, but it’s not a huge space and the fireplace supplier told her she’d be blasted out of the room by the heat. So she opted for an electric fireplace, “and it’s actually really beautiful.” Listening to an expert saved her from making a costly and uncomfortable mistake. 11. Remember your most important resource is your relationship Death, public speaking and renova­ tions. If you’ve never undergone a reno before, it can be among the most stressful things you’ll ever endure, and it will definitely test your patience, your sanity...and your relationship. Just remember, you and your significant other are on the same team, and if you aspire to live happily ever after in your gorgeous upgraded home, you’ll need to find a way to avoid axe murdering each other during the project. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer.   The kitchen designer (Lesson 8) and HVAC installer collaborated to hide 60% of the second-floor ductwork behind the cabinets. Here, cabinet installers skillfully jockey around the ductwork. Far right: Where the kitchen dropped to the living area, the floor installer matched the seams of engineered hardwood from one level to the next. (Installation by Flooring + Home, page 4.)
  16. 16. Ī Ī Ī Ī Ī
  17. 17. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201916 P ink Floyd was rarely, if ever, wrong. But when it wrote “We don’t need no education” in its 1979 classic, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II,” it clearly wasn’t referring to home owners. Because, let’s face it: Home owners, left with few options to edify them­ selves outside of the home porn that HGTV serves up, definitely need to be educated in the ways of energy-efficient home building and retrofitting. Worse yet, constructors – who tend to pay lip service to being green – often don’t introduce these options to their clients, either because they worry about sticker shock or perhaps because they assume home owners simply aren’t interested. We’re left with a disproportionate desire among home owners for granite countertops and hardwood flooring as key elements of a reno, while the true difference makers – a tight envelope, energy-efficient building techniques and systems, and a general approach designed to reduce the home’s carbon footprint – are eschewed or ignored. What HGTV fails to mention is that you can add that countertop any featurestory / ROB BLACKSTIEN In the HGTV “home porn” era, how much of the responsibility of teaching home owners what’s truly important in their projects falls to builders? Back to School
  18. 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 time, but once the walls are up, good luck trying to improve the building envelope. The truth is, in the world of reality TV renovations, a vapour barrier can’t hold a candle to the sexiness of hardwood. But in the real world, guess what’s sexy? Saving money on your utility bills and having a home that’s extremely comfortable to live in, not to mention the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done something to help save the planet by reducing your carbon footprint. This is what makes a recent reno in High Park by Barbini Design Build so remarkable: the home owners were amenable to being schooled in the art of energy efficiency and are now reaping the rewards. The work Amedeo Barbini and his team did for Katie Flynn and her husband, Mark, was a total renovation, including lowering and underpinning the basement while extending the house at the back (including the base­ ment). Hydronic heating was added to the ground floor as well. (For more on the home, see the “Tech Specs)” sidebar, page 19.) Barbini said the couple were very interested in the sustainable energy conservation and consumption elements of the project, so naturally they were very receptive to the idea of having a home energy consultant come in, as Clearsphere’s John Godden did. In fact, they opted to employ virtually every item on Godden’s checklist of recommendations. Flynn says they were very conscious about sustainability heading into the project, and actually felt guilty about the amount of waste the demo portion generated. “But the house itself was very inefficient. You would put your hand on the wall and it would be freezing,” she says. As a result, she and Mark welcomed this approach. “It’s all about what are you going to put into your home that’s not just visible countertops, but something that is going to: first of all, make it a more comfortable home; second of all, make it more cost efficient; and third of all, really have much less carbon footprint” while providing enhanced air quality through the home, Barbini explains of his approach. It’s what he likes to call “stealth comfort.” Of course, this type of innovation is nothing new to him. Barbini launched his business in 1975. Over the years, he grew his business into a full-service design- build firm, and it wasn’t long before he needed a bigger boat to fit all his employees and accolades. Barbini transcends being a mere home builder/ renovator; he specializes in what he terms “environment creation.” 17 43 THIS HOME IS 29% BETTER THAN CODE 46KENNEDYPARK,TORONTOON RatingDateJuly18,2019 2012SB-12REFERENCEHERS60 PHOTOSCOURTESYBARBINICORP
  19. 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201918 He’s always offered a home owner educational component as part of his offerings, and he believes it’s really the duty of all builders to do so for their clients. Unfortunately, in many cases, the builders themselves need to go to school, Barbini suggests. “Builders have to be educated. Builders have to put a value on this kind of stuff, and if builders operate just on a monetary level, they’re not going to [push this] until they’re forced by the Building Code.” His energy-efficient offerings are like a shopping cart, he says: “people can put in that cart what they feel they can afford, what they feel they’d be interested in, and we offer that as a component to the renovation.” Having said that, it’s not always an easy sell, he adds. “You have to have a consumer that’s interested in contributing to a better environment for their family and a better environment [for the planet].” Flynn and her husband fit the bill, and she recognized how lucky they were to work with Barbini. “It’s a great team because they have a good leader. He gets right in there and I can call him or text him anytime,” she says. Flynn lauded his passion and constant pursuit of new ideas that he could bring to the table. Flynn agrees that it’s the builder’s responsibility to inform their clients and present these types of options because she says, even with her education, “I wouldn’t know about vapour barriers.” Her advice to builders is to present a business case for energy-efficient Where old meets new – the existing masonry and new rear addition. STEP 1 : Air gap membrane applied over existing basement wall and underpin. STEP 2 : Amvic radiant pex panel for quick installation of radiant flooring. STEP 3 : Rockwool COMFORTBOARD™80 provides a continuous insulation layer which manages moisture. STEP 4 : Stand-off wall with R22 batts gives the basement wall an R30 rating.
  20. 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 features. Show the consumer what the initial investment is, discuss the benefits, present the projected return on investment in savings and then let the home owners make an educated decision. The amazing thing is, renovating a house in this manner only adds about 2% to 3% to the total costs, Barbini says – a pittance when you consider the return from a savings, environmental and comfort standpoint. “You’re not going to see that money anywhere, but it’s going to be experienced ,” he says. (Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: home owners will see a return on that investment in lower utility costs.) He believes that Katie and Mark understand what they received, given how educational Godden’s meetings were. “They were very good students,” Barbini says. “It’s a different thing,” Flynn adds. “It’s not like ‘oh, this granite top will increase your house value because people will like it’ – it’s more like we know that we’ll pay less over time.” What Flynn really appreciated about working with Barbini – who had done work previously with her sister and aunt – was his “open book” approach. She said he was completely transparent with them about quotes and pricing. “I never felt like I was being sold to; I just felt like I was being educated and we made the decisions on which ones we would use,” she adds. Having gone through the process, does Flynn see the value of consumers educating themselves about what’s inside the walls? “Yes, and I’m surprised how people are kind of ignorant about it,” she says. Flynn’s experience has put her in 19 Tech Specs Partway through the process, Katie and Mark realized they would require more space, so a third floor was added, and Barbini had to go back to the Committee of Adjustment to get approval for this change. On that top floor, two bedrooms and a bathroom were added, while the attic space was used for three large closets. “We basically built a new house inside the masonry walls,” Barbini says. The basement was completely moisture proofed, and Flynn was thrilled with the result: “The basement now feels just as fresh as every other part of the house, with no moisture.” In the end, the house is 59% better than before, taking it to 29% above Code with a HERS score of 43. Among the energy-efficiency features added were: • a 95% efficient boiler with storage tank to provide space heating and domestic hot water heating; • a 16 Seer air conditioner; • an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) providing 75% efficiency with exhausts ducted to adjacent bathrooms; • a Greyter greywater system offering 42% drain water heat recovery on two showers; a reduction of 20–25% in water use; • 90% compact fluorescent lights for energy-efficient lighting; • quiet Panasonic WhisperGreen high-static exhaust fans; • high-performance, low solar heat gain windows for passive cooling; and • ROCKWOOL stone wool insulation throughout, including basement (read about better basement strategies on pages 20 and 26). Third floor addition during construction (top) and finished view from the rear.
  21. 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201920 a unique position to offer advice to home owners embarking on a similar journey: “‘Don’t be afraid to get a John Godden or that type of a consultant and encourage your contractor to look into that and support that, because it makes sense economically and environmentally.” She adds: “If the house is gutted, it’s not that much more expensive to get the proper materials, so it really is a no-brainer.” For her part, she can’t understand why HGTV doesn’t spend any time educating consumers about the benefits of energy-efficient home building. Could it be that the drama of doing things wrong is more entertaining than doing things right? Delta Membrane: Air gap membrane used as moisture barrier and drainage layer on inside of existing foundation wall. Exterior basement wall is not damp-proofed on the outside and there are no weeping tiles. Rockwool COMFORTBOARD™80: Used as a secondary drainage layer and continuous insulation layer at R6, reducing thermal bridging and keeping wood framing high and dry. R22 Rockwool Insulation: Fills cavity of the standoff framed wall and provides insulation at R4 per inch. As it is non-combustible, the base­ ment wall could remain without drywall or wiring. The combination of two layers of Rockwool insulation gives an effective R-value of 24. BARBINI’S BEST PRACTICE FOR FINISHING EXISTING BASEMENTS BARBINI DESIGN BUILD : 46 KENNEDY PARK ROAD ENERGY MATRIX COMPONENT EXISTING (2300 SQ FT) PACKAGE A1 (3824 SQ FT) DESIGNED (3824 SQ FT) Ceiling With Attic R20 R60 R60 Ceiling Without Attic R12 R31 R31 Walls Above Grade D.B brick R22 R22+5 ci Walls Below Grade R4 R20 R22 (2x4)+5ci Below Grade Slab > 600mm BG — — R10 Below Grade Slab < 600mm BG R10 R10 R10 Insulation Grade III III II Windows & Glass Doors (U value) < 17% glazing/wall U = 3.7 U = 1.6 U = 1.4 Space Heating  60% AFUE boiler 96% AFUE 95% boiler ASHP — — HSPF = 8.5 Cooling 13 SEER 13 SEER 16 SEER Minimum HRV/ERV Efficiency Exhaust Fan 75% 75% ERV Domestic Hot Water Heater (EF) 0.5 0.8 95% boiler w/ storage tank Drain Water Heat Recovery None 42% (2 showers) 42% (2 showers, greywater) Energy Efficient Lighting — — 90% CFL Solar PV — — — ACH Modelling 6 3 3.4 HERS Score 144 50 43 Design Heat Loss (Btu/h) 47100 39200 33300 Annual Energy Consumption (kWh) 65788 37756 26761.3 (29% BTC) % Better Than Existing — 43% 59% % Better Than Code — — 29% UNDISTURBED SOIL 2" RAM-SET NON-SHRINK GROUT WALL FOOTING EXISTING WALL WALL PARGING CONCRETE RE UNDERPINNING 2" R10 AMPEX RADIANT HEAT PANEL NEW SLAB R10 BLUE RIGID INSULATION DELTA MEMBRANE 1-1/2" ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD™80 R22 ROCKWOOL INSULATION VAPOUR BARRIER 4" GRAVEL ½" DRYWALL HYDRONIC HEAT TUBING BASEMENT EXISTING HOUSE UNDERPINNING/LOWERING TYP.SEC.
  22. 22. EcoVent™ —The fan that meets designed airflow requirements. For true performance under the hood, install Panasonic EcoVent™ with Veri-Boost.™ Ideal for new residential construction, EcoVent is the perfect solution for home builders looking to meet designed airflow requirements the first time and avoid the hassle of replacing underperforming fans. EcoVent is a cost effective ENERGY STAR® rated solution that delivers strong performance. If you need to bump up the CFM output to achieve airflow design, simply flip the Veri-Boost switch and increase the flow from 70 to 90 CFM and you’re good to go! Learn more at
  23. 23. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201922 “HGTV and the house renovation culture media does not prioritize it, and that’s too bad,” Flynn says. She thinks the government should offer tax credits for home owners to help encourage more people to pursue this type of renovation. She might be onto something here. Because if consumers are insistent on focusing on sexy things when they renovate, what could be hotter than the government making it rain in the form of money back in people’s pockets? The fact that they’d be doing right by the planet is just the cherry on top. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. 2018 residential builder ad Designs that install faster and connections you can count on with customer care that gives you confidence to advance your business. See how progress is made at Progress means plumbing systems that conserve water, energy and peace of mind. AIRMAX high velocity air distribution system with three zones, complete with steam injection humidifier. Combination boiler with indirect storage tank for radiant floor distribution in basement.
  24. 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201924 sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN W hat started as a labour of love for Robert Weatherseed turned into a vocational change. When he and his wife started building their cottage in 2004 on Georgian Bay, he became fascinated by building science. A lifelong learner, he set out to discover everything he could about energy efficiency. It wasn’t so far removed from his day job, either. As head of national sales for Honda’s motorcycle/ATV/ power equipment division, he was used to mechanical things. And Honda’s corporate culture was always based on a deep and thorough knowledge of the products. But after 25 years, he felt it was time to do his own thing. Given his new interest in building science, and looking for flexibility in his schedule, Weatherseed started at Seneca College’s home inspection program, but realized halfway through it wasn’t a good fit. A friend of his was a certified energy advisor, doing energy modelling and certifying builder homes to ENERGY STAR. Intrigued, Weatherseed decided to “tag along, carry his bags and ask questions.” It was so fascinating, Weatherseed started taking EnerQuality courses to get certification for energy rating. He met John Godden of Clearsphere during one of the courses and followed up later to ask about doing energy rating on homes. “He just happened to need someone at the time, so he subcontracted me. The knowledge I gained from him is unbelievable.” One thing in particular that Weatherseed learned was the HERS method of energy rating. After conducting some research and doing more training through RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network), Weatherseed grew more convinced that the HERS rating system was superior to Energuide. He attended RESNET’s conference in the United States for three days of workshops (attendance at which is mandatory for continuing education credits towards certification). Weatherseed’s reasons for liking HERS are many. For one, it offers an alternative to the EnerGuide system. Moreover, the focus should be on building better than code – and while both ENERGY STAR and HERS currently do just that, he finds HERS more flexible in certain categories and more progressive on water usage and waste water recycling. Lastly, Weatherseed likes the software: “I find it more flexible and generally better for energy modelling.” He uses the HERS rating system on all his homes now, both new and retrofitted. Recently, in one customer’s home in north Toronto, the inefficient old furnace was replaced with a combination heating system with an Envirosense hot water tank that heats both the home and the domestic hot water (e.g., taps and shower). Windows were replaced, air leaks were sealed and the basement was insulated. Those retrofits increased airtightness by 20% and reduced energy use by 36%, he says. Weatherseed modelled this house and compared HERS to Energuide. The results are shown in the chart at right. In fact, the project was an example of the perfect hit list for creating energy efficiency in an older home. “The biggest energy sucks are space heating and hot water heating, followed by electrical loads,” Weatherseed says. “Just replacing an inefficient furnace and conventional draft hot water tank can make a big impact.” The other half of the equation, he adds, is finding out where the home loses energy. This is where an energy audit comes in. “It’s relatively easy to identify where a house is losing heat. Air leakage can account for 25% of heat loss, and it’s not hard to fix – just finicky work, like spray foam and caulking.” More expensive (but effective) fixes include replacing windows – which can account for 20% of heat loss – and adding insulation to old homes of double brick construction. Enbridge has a great program for consumers which was rolled out in 2012. The company provides an energy audit for customers whereby, if they do two or more recommended upgrades, the cost of the audit is reimbursed. Why Having a Good Energy Rater Is Key for a Successful Renovation Robert Weatherseed COURTESYROBERTWEATHERSEED
  25. 25. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 25 After the improvements are made by customers, Weatherseed follows up. “When you see that change, there’s such a sense of satisfaction, especially when you find out they’ve reduced natural gas consumption by 30% to 36% – and that’s not unusual.” BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at “It’s good to incentivize consumers to lower their use,” says Weatherseed, who conducts energy audits for the program. Once complete, he walks customers through areas for improvement. “A blower door test shows a lot,” he says. “You can see where you need to seal the air leaks, and it can have a huge impact on energy use. The payback is big in reduced utility bills.” GJ 20 80 100 40 60 HERS CONSUMPTION (GIGAJOULES) ENERGUIDE (GIGAJOULES) Difference: Energuide uses defaulted occupant base loads. 99.9 GJ PRE- AUDIT 63.5 GJ POST- AUDIT 107 GJ PRE- AUDIT 75 GJ POST- AUDIT –36% –30% SILVERBOARD® ROOF/CEILING: TAPED AND SEALED TO ACT AS VAPOR BARRIER SILVERBOARD® GRAPHITE EXTERIOR ABOVE GRADE: TAPED TO ACT AS A“SECOND PLANE OF PROTECTION”AND PROVIDE CONTINUOUS INSULATION MASONRY VENEER SIDING SILVERBOARD® UNDERSLAB: TAPED AND SEALED TO ACT AS VAPOR BARRIER SILVERBOARD® GRAPHITE INTERIOR BELOW GRADE: DECOUPLE WOOD STUD WALL FROM CONCRETESILVERBOARD® EXTERIOR BELOW GRADE: MAINTAINS CONTINUOUS INSULATION HERS vs ENERGUIDE FOR CALCULATING ANNUAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION
  26. 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201926 T he two most important factors for keeping basements drier in older homes are proper grading and drainage. Basements that don’t exhibit moisture problems are excellent candidates for interior insulation. Renovators could take the lead of basement packages outlined in SB12. These packages use one or two inches of foam against the interior of foundation walls to de-couple the moisture sensitive wood framing from the wall. Amvic’s SilveRboard is available in both vapour permeable and impermeable versions offering excellent insulation values as well as moisture management. The following wall assemblies Two Smart Ways to Insulate Existing Basement Walls specialinterest / HOWARD COHEN MOISTURE STAYS OUTSIDE GRADE EXISTING FOUNDATION R4-R6 1" RIGID INSULATION, VAPOUR IMPERMEABLE R22 5.5" MINERAL WOOL WITH 2x6" 16" O.C. WOOD STUDS VAPOUR BARRIER TAPED AND SEALED DRYING POTENTIAL TO THE EXTERIOR 2x4" STAND-OFF WALLS COULD SAVE MATERIAL STAGE 1 — R5-SilveRboard used as a continuous insulation and moisture barrier layer against basement wall. STAGE 2 — 2 x 4 studs comprise a standoff wall (2 inches) to create a cavity for R22 batts. METHOD 1 AMVICBUILDINGSYSTEM
  27. 27. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 27 1x2" METAL L-SHAPED BRACKETS VAPOUR BARRIER MECHANICALLY FASTENED TO STUDS, TAPED AND SEALED 2" ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD™80 (R8) 3-1/8" ENVIROSHEET 12 (R12) BOTTOM METAL TRACK METAL STUDS 24" O.C. represent two different approaches for reducing moisture related issues in basement renovations: Method 1 uses conventional wood framing and cavity insulation with 1" of rigid foam. Method 2 eliminates the need for wood framing which can reduce most of the concern for mold and mildew growth. For basements with water problems, Barbini’s best practice on page 20 includes and air gap drainage layer underneath the insulation, which drains the water to weeping tiles. BB Howard Cohen is Director, Diversified Insulation Products. OPTION 1 — R12 envirosheet against existing concrete block wall. Can be covered with COMFORTBOARD™ 80 for thermal protection. OPTION 2 — R12 envirosheet can be used with metal track for finishing with drywall over top of fitted COMFORTBOARD™ 80 sheets. METHOD 2 AMVICBUILDINGSYSTEM
  28. 28. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 20192828 buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN A recent renovation in the Greektown area of Toronto served as an ideal example of how to deploy an energy-efficient solution that was not only easier to install but is providing savings to the home owner of nearly 25% on their annual utility costs. In this instance, the home owner had a mid-efficiency furnace and a natural draft water heater. In the pre­ vious configuration, both the furnace and the hot water tank vented through a chimney liner through the roof. “Having two different venting configurations, you need to take that into consideration when looking at retrofit options,” explains Dave Hammond, vice president and general manager Canada and export markets for A.O. Smith Enterprises Ltd. A.O. Smith Corporation was founded in 1874 and currently employs 16,100 workers across eight countries globally, with sales and distribution in over 60 nations. The solution in this instance was his company’s Polaris PR34-100-2NV, a high-efficiency, high-performance water heater designed to be employed for combination domestic water and space heating. “The great thing about the Polaris product is in addition to high- efficiency, you only need to consider one vent termination to outdoors,” he says. “This can overcome complex exhaust termination requirements.” While this specific deployment featured Polaris’ 2017 re-designed model, this solution has seen its share of battle testing. In fact, Hammond says the Polaris is “a time proven solution” that was originally developed in the 1980s to provide a high- efficiency combination heating and hot water solution. He explains that the original design – with the helical heat exchanger centered within the tank to provide even heat distribution and lower operating costs – remained the same over time, while the unit has been modernized over the years with tweaks and added benefits such as advanced electronic control with diagnostics and a modulating burner that maintains high-efficiency operation at lower input rates. The Polaris is capable of overcoming many different application issues, Hammond says. He likes to call this all in one a “simple solution to a complex problem.” Yes, this solution will cost more, but when you factor in the annual utility savings, from a total cost of ownership perspective, it’s a more sensible approach. Hammond says among the PR34- 100’s features are quick recovery and the ability to provide a large dump load – both attractive benefits for families. The unit earned its name because of its 34-gallon tank and 100,000 BTUs capability. He says the system uses 444 stainless steel, something that’s rare within residential products and offers superior chloride and stress corrosion resistance without the need for an anode. And from an environmentally friendly perspective, Hammond adds, the Ultra-low NOX burner has been enhanced to produce lower NOX emission levels than standard products. This particular installation paired an air handler (to circulate hot air throughout the house) with the Polaris, but the basic idea is to “use one burner to do two jobs,” he explains. While the retrofit market should definitely consider this option, Hammond recommends, it’s a particu­ larly great solution for townhouses, he says, because of its quiet power direct vent design – ideal for the type of in-suite mechanical closets found within this housing form factor. From an efficiency standpoint, the solution is clearly working. Post- installation data revealed that the new system uses 24% fewer cubic metres per heating degree day, thereby reducing the home’s carbon footprint while also offering significant savings on utility costs. So, the home owner Two Goes Into One Polaris™’ combi system is ideal for townhome retrofits. NORMALIZED GAS CONSUMPTION YEAR SYSTEM 2016 OLD FURNACE = 80% AFUE 2018 NEW COMBINATION HEATING = 90% AFUE W hen you’re pouring a good chunk of your hard-earned dollars into a major renovation, the last thing you want to do is go bargain hunting when it comes replacing your heating and hot water solutions. That sweet deal you think you’re getting? It may come back to haunt you on a monthly basis – each time your utility bill lands in your mailbox.
  29. 29. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. has essentially reduced gas usage by about one-quarter annually without any performance or comfort issues. See the chart below. BB Polaris Pro Tips Dave Hammond offered up a couple of Polaris installation best practices: Plan out your installation Consider the best, shortest vent run. Don’t forget about the condensate When converting from non- condensing to condensing equipment, you must factor in condensate drainage. He advises using hard pipe condensate piping, sloping down towards the drain. If you use flexible tubing, it can create a condensate flow issue. Consider the customer needs and then size the application It is important to size the appli­ cation correctly. There are many options to consider, so it is vital to review the total retrofit with the customer to ensure they can get maximum performance at the best value. Hammond explains that under sizing or oversizing the equipment based on the size and needs of the home can create performance issues such as not enough heat and struggles to meet water heating requirements. He says Polaris offers models that will meet even the most demanding residential requirements. 29 FOR OLD SYSTEM VERSUS RETROFIT AT 82 ARUNDEL AVENUE WATER HEATING SYSTEM NATURAL GAS CONSUMPTION (M3 ) HEATING DEGREE DAYS (HDD) M3 /HDD IMPROVEMENT OLD WATER HEATER = 0.60 EF 3410 3462 0.985 N/A NEW COMBINATION HOT WATER = 0.90 EF 2809 3749 0.749 24% 1 HIGH GRADE 444 STAINLESS STEEL TANK WITH BRASS CONNECTIONS 2 SUBMERGED COMBUSTION CHAMBER WITH SPIRAL FLUE 3 ULTRA-LOW NOX MODULATING GAS BURNER 4 SIDE-MOUNTED HOT AND COLD RECIRCULATING TAPS 5 INSULATED FOR LOW HEAT LOSS 6 SERVICE ACCESS FROM THE FRONT 7 LCD TOUCHSCREEN DISPLAY SMALL (22" DIAMETER) FOOTPRINT 10-YEAR LIMITED TANK WARRANTY 1-YEAR WARRANTY ON PARTS POLARIS® RESIDENTIAL WATER HEATERS AT A GLANCE DATACOMPILEDBYSURENBALENDRAN
  30. 30. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 201930 fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY Why are we as a company under­ taking this transformational change? Ontario is experiencing more frequent and more extreme weather events. Canada, as a country, is warming at twice the rate of the global average. Things are getting weird out there, folks: Situation Normal is a 100-year storm occurring as frequently as every year. Whether you believe in climate change or simply feel that the earth is warming naturally, the outcome remains the same. From longer, hotter summer heat waves to wintertime polar vortex events, the evidence is growing that our weather is changing, and our homes need to be able to withstand these extremes. Net zero and net zero-ready homes are a significant improvement over homes built to the Ontario Building Code (OBC). These homes are much tighter and far more energy efficient, have significantly lower energy usage (meaning lower utility bills) and are more resilient than an OBC-built home. With increased insulation, more efficient mechanicals and better windows, these homes are also quieter, healthier and far more comfortable. You would think that the next progression would be to continue to improve energy performance and climate resiliency, and establish what to do with the existing housing supply. Not so fast. In Ontario, the OBC has just gone through a recent update review and the focus was decidedly on updating standards and harmonizing with the National Building Code. While these changes, in many cases, are of limited impact, they are also long overdue. So here’s a quick recap on what’s in, what’s out and next steps with the OBC: • Stairs are getting larger treads. You’ve got until January 2022 to prepare for this change. • Drain water heat recovery remains in the Code. You still have the option of going performance path to come up with alternatives. • The 200-amp electrical service with dedicated car charger rough-in has been taken out. This is effective on all new permits beginning in January 2020. • There are no further energy code changes coming into effect at this time. That’s correct: all the previous changes that were being discussed over the last few years have been put on the back burner indefinitely. That includes the massive changes proposed for the existing housing supply that would have seen a significant strain put upon the building inspection community if they had been implemented as previously proposed. I see this as both good and bad for our industry and our society. Simply put, industry was not yet ready for these changes and needed implementation time. However, this is the greatest area of gain for reducing overall carbon footprint and to create more resilient homes, and it must happen sooner rather than later. Energy-efficient renovations are a good thing, and when coupled with a home In Conversation with CHBA President Stefanie Coleman Building Codes, Net Zero Goals and the Existing Housing Supply – Where Do We Go from Here? A s of January 1, 2019, all new homes built by Doug Tarry Homes are being built to net zero-ready as the minimum standard. This is the final outcome of being committed to the goal of sustainability while on the path of continuous improvement over the last decade. In addition, Doug Tarry Homes has recently launched a pilot project in partnership with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, to test details and techniques designed to construct homes able to withstand an EF2 tornado. This pilot is under the supervision of the Western University engineering department. TOSTPHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK
  31. 31. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 renovator tax credit with building permits and HST being paid, they have proven to be tax revenue neutral. From a saving-the-planet perspective, this is a major setback, and I am hopeful that the Ontario government will revisit this issue soon with some type of effective initiative. I am more than happy to have a conversation on what that looks like; however, I have to admit I have my doubts now that they have scrapped the Building Code Conservation Advisory Council. (It was the first time in my adult life I’ve ever been fired – but as an unpaid volunteer committed to serving, I tell myself the pay wasn’t that good anyway.) And I realized I needed a moment to remind myself what good looks like. So, I decided I would pay a visit to my friend, client and colleague Stefanie Coleman for a sneak peek at her new net zero-ready home shortly before we handed over the keys. Stefanie is the principal of Pretty Smart Homes and an experienced renovator. Oh, and she is also the current president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA). The recent heat wave had found Stefanie living in an older rental home while we completed hers. I asked for her thoughts and commentary on taking net zero to renovations. Here’s what she had to say: “From personal experience, going from a 1980s Code-built home with no air conditioning in the heat of summer into a brand-new net zero-ready home, the difference to my well-being, both physically and emotionally, is amazing. These homes are not just about saving energy; they are about greater health, comfort and a sense of calm. The discomfort I experienced in the rental with the extreme heat and humidity affected my motivation levels. It was difficult to get things done when the rental was anywhere from 27°C to 30°C and with humidity levels peaking at 84%. It’s like the air is thick and has a smell, a heaviness. Whereas in the net zero home, the air is clean, light and fresh, and my energy is much higher. That [boost] is also due to more, and better, windows that let in more light, so [we get] more sunshine and energy. It is emotionally and spiritually energizing with the additional light and brightness. And quiet. You can see the wind in the trees, but you don’t hear anything.” That’s great, but what do we do about the existing housing stock? “Obviously, we have to address the existing housing stock – it’s part of the Pan Canadian Framework [on Clean Growth and Climate Change] – but how do we do that without a lot of unintended consequences? In my opinion, the first thing we need to do is ensure that each home has an energy benchmark so we know where we are at, a position the CHBA has been championing for many years. And that is done by way of an energy evaluation, like the EnerGuide Rating System that is backed by the federal government. Most importantly, [we need] a professionally trained and recognized Certified Energy Advisor (CEA) to help guide the home owner. The CEA can provide recommendations for a home’s improvement, inclusive of a pathway to net zero/net zero-ready that can be done over time, should the home owner choose to do so. Hiring a professional contractor who provides written estimates and a detailed outline of the scope of work is critical in order to deliver the renovation in a manner that supports the recommendations of the CEA. As the president of the CHBA, I would advocate that the home owner hires a RenoMark contractor. A key concern is that a home owner does not know what they don’t know until they live through it. For example, the rental unit I stayed in while I was waiting for my home to be completed [...] is a good example. In the summer heat, it was extremely uncomfortable; too much heat, too much humidity. From past experience, I knew there was a better choice and selected my net zero home accordingly. In renovations, people become acclimated to a poor-performing home and don’t even realize there is an alternative. This can lead to poor health conditions or even people dying in their homes (as happened in the Montreal heat wave of last year, when 66 people perished from the heat, the vast majority in their homes). This is an outcome that we should expect to get worse if we don’t address the existing housing stock and extreme weather. We have to find a way to give these home owners some sensory experiences so that they understand that their home can not only be made to be more efficient, but also more comfortable, quieter, healthier and all of the other wonderful additional benefits that come with a healthier home. It’s not just the granite countertops.” 31 A home owner does not know what they don’t know until they live through it.
  32. 32. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 31 | AUTUMN 2019 What about labelling programs? How do we ensure that there is choice in the market for consumers, without confusing the message? “Personally, I am an advocate for the EnerGuide Rating System as being the gold standard in Canada. While I understand that there are options for rating systems and choice is always ideal, it’s critical that energy measuring programs produce consistent results between them. Much the same way as food is now labelled with calories and other important information that is consistent across all food products, the labelling of the homes needs to operate the same way and cannot become a source of confusion. Consistent energy rating information helps avoid marketplace confusion and [promotes] trust in the information provided. That’s why I am a firm believer in measuring gigajoules and using the EnerGuide Rating System. It is backed by the government, is tied to many established programs and provides clear performance information. In the case where a home owner is purchasing a home, this gives them critical ’apples-to- apples’ information they need in order to make an informed choice on the largest investment they will likely make in their lifetime.” BB Stefanie Coleman is the principal of Pretty Smart Homes and is senior project manager at Building Knowledge Canada. Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario.   32 Check out our website at While there are options for rating systems and choice is always ideal, it’s critical that energy measuring programs produce consistent results between them.
  33. 33. Trailblazer Matt Risinger Builder and building science expert COMFORTBOARD™ has received ICC-ES validated product acceptance as continuous insulation for multiple applications. For more information visit Continuous stone wool insulation that improves thermal performance Trailblazing requires confidence, expertise and a desire to do things right. Matt Risinger uses non-combustible, vapor-permeable and water-repellent COMFORTBOARD™ to help wall assemblies dry to the outside, keeping clients comfortable inside. It cuts down on heat loss and improves energy efficiency so that what you build today positively impacts your business tomorrow. 3773