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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 29 / Spring 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 Magazine, Issue 29 / Spring 2019

  1. 1. ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019PUBLICATIONNUMBER42408014 Energy-efficient post and beam Discovery Dream Homes Exterior insulation successes Aligning the Ontario and national building codes Climate-resilient construction INSIDE Alternative Building Systems with Wood
  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 29 | SPRING 2019 16 1 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 The Winds of Change and Alternative Building Systems by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 Alternative Building Structures and Systems Improving Our Industry by Lou Bada INDUSTRY NEWS 6 Aligning the OBC to the National Code by Paul De Berardis INDUSTRY EXPERT 10 Being Successful with Exterior Insulation by Gord Cooke BUILDER NEWS 14 Building the Dream – Discovery Dream Homes by Alex Newman SITE SPECIFIC 22 Continuous Insulation and Improvement by Alex Newman SPECIAL INTEREST 24 Stand Up to the Weather with APA-Recommended Building Methods by APA Staff BUILDER NEWS 26 Switching to the Panel Channel by Rob Blackstien FROM THE GROUND UP 31 Climate-Resilient Construction – The Low-Hanging Fruit by Doug Tarry FEATURE STORY 16 Beaming With Efficiency A Nova Scotia teacher with a passion for old-school building managed to build a home that’s the model of energy efficiency. by Rob Blackstien 26 ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 Cover: Beaming with efficiency, courtesy of Andrew Parsons. Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. 14 3
  4. 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 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 EDITOR 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 ith current extreme weather and wind conditions it’s hard to resist referring to the fable of the three little pigs. Challenging market conditions, labour and land costs, new technology and a changing climate is causing us to rethink what we should build and how we should build it. The pig that constructed the brick house seems to be the innovator. He/she invested more time and resources to build a more resilient structure. The other two pigs, not thinking about the what and the how, constructed enclosures that could not stand up to the forces of nature (the wolf). Currently, a major driving force influencing builders’ choices in Ontario are government structures like the building code and local municipalities who ask for more through local green building standards. The new government has shelved the climate change action plan (CCAP) and the mandate of NET Zero by 2030. The new provincial emphasis will be on the harmonization of the Ontario Building Code (OBC) with the National Code by 2020. OBC SB-12 energy performance levels may not change in 2022 because other provinces must catch up to Ontario’s 15% lead. A builder’s focus, in a slower, more competitive market, could involve assessing lower cost durability and resiliency features. Lou Bada nails this topic down in this column. Simple anchoring methods and using an exterior second plane of protection are “do”able for durability. On page 24 the APA out­ lines its online resource with strategies for helping builders stand up to extreme weather. Continuous insulation provides energy efficiency and savings but also protection against condensation in a cold climate. Gord Cooke offers great science on choosing the right thickness of exterior insulation and why. The feature story on a post and beam home in Nova Scotia underscores the complexity of decision making when bringing a traditional building form together with a high-tech low carbon approach. There’s no shortage of ideas, the challenge is how they get integrated into the building process. This project is a testament to the balance between beauty and efficiency. Lastly, Doug Tarry shares lessons learned from category 4 hurricane, Maria, in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico. Roofs are the most vulnerable parts of houses. Doug’s experience is that small details can provide resistance to roof uplift in extreme winds. He believes this is important for Canadian homes. Looking forward, our greatest resource is our collective experience, knowledge and practical application of new technology. The winds of change will always blow and howl. The question is, which pig are you in your story? Are you the one who builds from sticks or straw, or the one who builds a durable, resilient structure that will stand the test of time? BB The Winds of Change and Alternative Building Structures publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN
  5. 5. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 Alternative Building Structures and Systems Improving Our Industry 3 A couple of years ago, I wrote about the disruptive nature of panelized light wood frame construction. I extolled its virtues in terms of quality, increased productivity and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The innovations in and around off- site construction are continuing, thanks in no small part to some very courageous and forward-thinking individuals and companies – not that I want to embarrass the likes of Tad Putyra and H+ME Technology by mentioning him (oops, too late). What has always impressed me about those in the field of off-site construction is their openness to new ways of thinking and doing things. Nothing is off the table; they are willing to consider everything and they are not dogmatic in their beliefs or actions. However, they are determined. I would say these are necessary attributes for innovation and continuous improvement. Change, however, does not have to be radical in nature. I have a colleague that is so skilled that he could practically design a structure of pre-stressed chicken skin and make it work. But not all ideas have to be revolutionary. In our efforts to overcome the many challenges we face today, we may neglect to look at some of the smaller details that are inexpensive, common sense and simple to do. However, “simple” shouldn’t be confused with “easy.” thebadatest / LOU BADA Off-site construction and automated production lines can make simple and better details easier to implement. In panelization, we only need to teach a machine to do something once and it gets done properly each and every time. The Good Builder Score, which my friend Paul De Berardis of RESCON discussed in the Spring 2018 issue, becomes much easier to put into effect. An off-site building plant can have its products CSA-approved, thereby adding assurances to the end user. In a world where we are being asked to look at climate change mitigation and consider building resilience, we can now better sidestep the unpredictability of an individual tradesperson’s diligence. COURTESYAPA–THEENGINEEREDWOODASSOCIATION Often the proper fastening and anchoring of a building’s structure from the roof continuously down to the foundation is not as expensive in time and material as one might think.
  6. 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 20194 In many cases, the proper fastening and anchoring of a building’s structure from the roof continuously down to the foundation is not as expensive in time and material as one might think. However, the reluctance to change old practices by framers and other tradespeople is difficult to overcome. Often, expensive hardware is contemplated – as in the case of hurricane ties – where simpler methods could work if we could overcome our conventional way of thinking and working. The second plane on the exterior of a building to control moisture from infiltrating the structure, and proper flashing techniques, are important to the longevity and resilience of a building. Roof and wall details should also be considered, especially where walls and roofs intersect. I believe off-site construction is the best way to address these issues. We aren’t at the point where we can start using pre-stressed chicken skin on our buildings just yet – but with the help of automation and machine learning through off-site construction, the future looks bright. 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). 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 The targets must be reasonable, and they must be based on a value proposition and professionalism, not on ideology or a political agenda.
  7. 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 20196 industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS Through 2016 and 2017, the pre­ vious government launched extensive consultations on what would have likely been the next edition of the OBC in 2019 or thereabouts, with nearly 500 new proposed changes. Many of these proposed changes reflected social engineering policy directives of the Kathleen Wynne government. This represented a drastic departure for the role of the Building Code, which was largely technical in nature and had addressed construction standards. So, what was the difference at the time? The previous government was using the OBC as a policy tool to implement its directives derived from the provincial Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) when Glen Murray was at the helm of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. The policies in the CCAP highlighted areas such as promoting the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the marketplace, boosting low- carbon technology in homes to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for space and water heating, and moving towards net zero carbon emission new homes that would have come into effect by 2030. Downloading these policies into the OBC would have been challenging for production builders to implement and costly for new home owners to absorb, which we have explained in previous issues of Better Builder. Since the new government has come into power, things have changed. The ministry – now called the Ministry of Environment, Conser­ vation and Parks – has announced that it will scrap the CCAP and will be replacing it with the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan and its realigned priorities. From what I have seen expressed by OBC users, regulators and building officials, there is a lot of relief in industry circles – including RESCON – that the current government has moved away from using the OBC to enforce social engineering and policies that were otherwise unenforceable or unreasonably expensive. Net zero carbon emission small buildings In my opinion, the previous govern­ ment attempted to use the OBC as a sledgehammer to push its political agenda forward. This was supposed to come into effect by 2030 at the latest, with initial changes to be effective by 2020. Now, there’s no CCAP and no unreachable net zero carbon requirements, but there are lots of relieved builders – and, ultimately, lots of lucky new home buyers who will be able to keep some money in their pockets during an affordability crisis. We’ve written about this in previous issues so we won’t blather on. EV chargers off the table And then there’s the electrical vehicle (EV) rebate. While huge taxpayer- funded rebates on EV purchases were Aligning the OBC to the National Code T he Ontario government is looking to adopt 192 changes to the Ontario Building Code (OBC) to increase the harmonization of technical requirements across Canada, ultimately by better aligning it with the National Building Code (NBC). Most of the changes will be relatively minor, and there are some advantageous changes – but there are a few that will rankle some of this province’s home builders. Before we get into what those somewhat controversial changes are, let’s look at what brought about the harmonization efforts over these last few years.
  8. 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 available, EVs to this day remain an expensive niche within the vehicle market, representing less than 1% of vehicles on the road. To top off the costly rebate program, the Wynne government further forced its agenda by trying to mandate EV chargers in all new homes and buildings regardless of affordability, cost or lack of market demand. It was meant to be implemented in all residences, high- rise buildings and low-rise homes (but it only made its way into the low-rise market as an EV charger rough-in). Many of our high-rise members were relieved to learn that this is no longer a priority, as many condo unit owners didn’t even own a car, let alone need a parking stall. Radon mitigation and hurricane straps The previously flagged proposals on everyone’s radar were radon mitigation measures and the application of hurricane straps. They are not among the 192 proposed changes going forward for the current OBC harmonization. Both former proposals caused many in the industry to shudder because neither one was absolutely necessary for every new home in Ontario. New government, new direction After the new government came into power in June 2018, there was a period of uncertainty on the fate of these proposed changes which, up to this point, had involved development of the proposals, a public consultation process and review by a technical advisory committee, and were just waiting for implementation into what would have been the next edition of the Ontario Building Code. 7 D I S C O V E R Y D R E A M H O M E S . C O M C e n t r a l / E a s t 1.866.395.5647 We s t C o a s t 1.877.823.5639 N o r t h / E a s t U S A 802.445.3007
  9. 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 20198 The Doug Ford government then put everything on hold as it decided on how to proceed. It announced in the fall that “provinces and territories [will] focus on how to increase the harmonization of technical requirements across Canada.” Updates from Minister Clark More recently, in meetings with the new Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, our industry has received updates that future Building Code proposals will have a focus on further aligning the OBC with the NBC, with the next edition of the NBC anticipated for 2020. Minister Steve Clark addressed this at RESCON’s annual general meeting. Among his comments, he told RESCON: “Harmonizing our Code to the national Code is something that is very important to our government. The previous government consulted on the changes, but as of January 1, 2019, the changes weren’t finalized; they didn’t come into effect. The Code was the same on January 1, 2019 as it was on December 31. We’re working again to update the Building Code to reflect some of the technological consultations and some of the changes, some of the expert research, some of the input that was done as part of the national construction code that was released in 2015. I’ve been pretty consistent when I’ve spoken [previously] to say that we need to catch up. We need to have that harmonization. We need to do it for jobs, we need to do it for interprovincial trade, we need to do it to make it easier for Ontario manufacturers and developers and business to be operating in our province, and for people to have that consistency to be able to keep costs down. Reducing red tape, having efficient regulations, putting health and safety in the window is something that our government puts as our priority.” (See the transcripts of his speech at The current provincial government has a new focus on how to increase the harmonization of technical building requirements across Canada. Therefore, of the nearly 500 previously proposed OBC changes from earlier consultations, only 192 remain which seek to harmonize provisions between the OBC and the 2015 NBC. We predict the next update to the OBC will likely be in the form of an interim amendment to the current 2012 edition, with the next new edition of the OBC being released sometime after the anticipated 2020 NBC. We recently met with the Ministry to discuss these remaining 192 proposals, and the Ministry is open to feedback with respect to timing and possible challenges regarding the implementation of these proposals. Coming soon There are two proposed changes coming down the pike that we’d like to flag to the industry. Stair dimensions: After much deliberation, this change is finally coming. We’ve had this conversation within the industry for the last few years. Steps will have to be deeper – the minimum stair tread run will go from 210 millimetres to 255 millimetres for private home stairs within a Part 9 building and inside dwelling units. Apparent sound transmission class (ASTC): This means a single- number rating of the airborne sound attenuation of building assemblies separating two adjoining spaces, taking into account both the direct and flanking sound transmission paths. The new ASTC metric considers flanking sound transmission, which can be described as the sound that passes around, over the top or under the primary partition separating two spaces. Flanking sound transmission can be especially bothersome in townhouses and multi-family residential buildings. While the harmonization is mostly seamless, there are some changes we must be ready for. In the meantime, the best thing we can do is ask for enough time to ease the transition. But when you have a chance, thank the government for scrapping the CCAP. That would have been a nightmare for affordability and construction. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at 8 While the harmonization is mostly seamless, there are some changes we must be ready for. In the meantime, the best thing we can do is ask for enough time to ease the transition.
  10. 10. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 • 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 29 | SPRING 2019 cavities because the exterior sheathing stayed warmer. The condensation potential curve 1 in the graph at right indicates that when inside air is at 21°C and 35% relative humidity (RH) (a pretty normal inside condition), there is a potential for condensation in the wall cavity from about mid-November until about mid-March in southern Ontario. If you are wondering why you didn’t used to see this moisture, remember that there was less insulation in the cavity in the 1990s and it was common for the relative humidity to be lower in houses in winter, until we started adding humidifiers. Make no mistake: if there is air leakage through the wall assembly, there is a potential for condensation. Some of it (in fact, most of it) will be absorbed and held by wood-based sheathing until conditions are right that it can dry through to the outside. If it is wet enough for long enough, it will get mouldy and may even eventually rot. The picture (next page) shows some fairly minor mould spotting on the sheathing behind fibreglass insulation. It is very common to find this in walls, if you take them apart. 10 industryexpert / GORD COOKE When I tell builders that, I typically get two questions about insulated sheathing. The first is: “Is it really okay to put a foam plastic insulation on the exterior of a wall in Canada?” This is sometimes phrased as “Isn’t that a double vapour barrier?” or “Everyone knows a wall has to breathe.” I was just at a house the other day where the home owner showed me an email from her builder that said “the building department makes me put that on, even though we all know it is causing problems that we never had before.” That house offers a good case study of the science behind this first question. The second question is usually “Which is the best choice?” The answer to that question has a number of decision criteria to consider, which I outlined in the summer 2017 issue of Better Builder, just as the 2017 Code was being implemented. Let’s review the science – just as John Straube (from RDH Building Science and undoubtedly the leading building scientist in Canada) did at our recent Spring Training Camp in Caledon in April. Here is the short version. Water in walls is never desirable – it is the biggest risk to builders everywhere, so keep it out. If it gets in, let it drain and dry out. It is water in liquid form that we are most worried about. Rain is the biggest risk, and it trumps vapour movement by far – so do everything you can to keep it out. But we will have to discuss rain in another article. In this article, we are going to consider water vapour risks. Water in vapour form is not an issue, but it becomes an issue when it hits a cold surface and condenses into a liquid. Don’t let warm moist air hit a cold surface. That’s where vapour barriers come in. In theory, they stop water vapour from diffusing through walls from the warm side to the cold side. In practice, there is far more (about 100 times more) vapour movement by air leakage than by vapour diffusion. So while vapour barriers may be good, air barriers are far more important. Make walls really airtight. In fact, the more insulation there is in a wall cavity, the colder the inside surface of the exterior sheathing gets. We should have more concerns about walls today than walls 30 years ago because we put more insulation in the cavity. So make walls even tighter: the more insulation you put in the cavity, the more airtight you want to make your wall. Put another way, we didn’t need to make walls so airtight when we didn’t put much insulation in the Being Successful with Exterior Insulation A s a building science guy, it is very encouraging for me to drive to new home sites across Canada and see a variety of insulated sheathing products being applied. I see blue, pink, silver, green and white – all good choices and all of them dramatically improving the total thermal effectiveness of exterior walls. However, there still aren’t enough builders doing exterior insulation – and those who are need, in my opinion at least, to put on more of it as we wander down the path to net zero energy homes.
  12. 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 Some moisture will dry through to the outside because wood- based sheathing is permeable (not very permeable, but somewhat permeable). If you look it up, typical oriented strand board (OSB) has a listed vapour permeance of between 45 to 120 ng/Pa.m2 .s (nanograms per pascal of vapour pressure difference per square metre per second). To put this into perspective, when it is 21 °C and 35% RH inside and -10 °C and 100% RH (snowing) outside, about a cup of water would dry through a square metre of OSB (about the size of one stud bay) over a period of one to two years. In other words, don’t let much warm moist air into a cavity because it takes a long time for water vapour to dry through OSB or plywood. Walls with lots of insulation need to be really airtight. There is, however, another strategy: warm up the interior surface of the exterior sheathing. The more insulation you put to the outside (“outsulation”), the warmer the interior of the exterior sheathing will be. Any and all insulated sheathing reduces the risk of condensation in cavities because it warms up the first condensing surface. In fact, if you put on enough insulated sheathing, the first condensing surface will be above the dew point and there will be no risk of condensation in the cavity at all. If you think it through, the more insulation you put in the cavity, the more exterior insulation you need to keep that first surface warm. The less insulation in the cavity, the less you need outside to avoid condensation. This is what they are doing in commercial construction. In many cases, they have gone back to 2x4 construction with R-12 or less in the cavity and R-10 on the outside with no risk of condensation in the cavity in a central Ontario climate. So it doesn’t matter if the insulated sheathing is vapour permeable or not, as long as there is enough insulation on the outside to keep the sheathing warm enough that there is little or no condensation. The condensation potential curve with R-10 exterior insulation 2 in the graph above shows the risk of condensation is reduced to a few days during the coldest part of the winter in southern Ontario. Make no mistake though: if you put an impermeable insulated sheathing on the wall at less than R-10, and there 11 Outsulation reduces cavity condensation. To compensate for the additional thickness, wider jambs are required on the outer walls. -10 -5 0 5 10 15 20 ºC AMFJDNOSAJJM DEW POINT 21ºC 35% RH 2X6 R22 BATT WITH R10 EXTERIOR INSULATION MEAN DAILY TEMPERATURE 2X6 R22 BATT WITH OSB SHEATHING SOUTHERN ONTARIO INTERIOR SIDE OF SHEATHING TEMPERATURE 2 1 2 1
  13. 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 201912 is air leakage through the cavity, there will be condensation. Unlike OSB or plywood, foam-based sheathing will not absorb the moisture. You will see it or feel it on the surface. Fortunately, the moisture won’t damage the foam sheathing itself – but if it is wet enough for long enough, it will drip down onto the plates, resulting in mould and perhaps rot. Some moisture may dry through the insulated sheathing, depending on the type of insulation. The permeability of typical insulated sheathing is shown in the table below (all at 1-inch thickness). You should note the tremendous “forgiveness” of the mineral wool insulation board. The “dryability” of these products offers a significant advantage in avoiding moisture risks in wall cavities. That house I mentioned earlier had 1-inch, R-6 foil faced insulated sheathing and there was some air leakage – it wasn’t much, but the bottom of the wall had enough mois­ ture in it that I could squeeze water out of the fibreglass batt insulation. The right answer would have been to add thicker foam sheathing (R-10) or make the wall even tighter at the time of construction. That, of course, is not very helpful now that the house is two years old. Short of tearing apart the wall, the only short-term recom­ mendation I could offer was to lower the relative humidity in the house and wait for it to dry out. They had been keeping it at 40% to 45% RH because that is what they were told to do by their builder for the hardwood floors. That’s the short version of the science. If you are uncertain about these statements above, I strongly encourage you, your designer and even your framers to attend a building science training session like those offered by groups such as EnerQuality, talk to your energy evaluator or refer to websites and apps such as www. There are lots of insulated sheathing options to consider, each with strengths and challenges. For example, rigid mineral wool board provides superior fire and sound control, and it has great drainage and drying capabilities. It would need to be combined with a structural sheathing, but due to its weight, it would require careful thought as to how to mount and attach it on a wall. Compare that to the much lighter XPS board, where structural integrity can be accomplished with let-in bracing or intermittent shear panels. In this case, however, the low permeability of the product requires that more thought be given to water management and a move to higher R-values to avoid condensation risks. As you consider your alternatives, take a longer-term view. It seems really clear to those of us watching Code cycles and industry direction that we are driving towards net zero homes within the next 12 to 15 years. Thicker insulated sheathing (R-10 or at least R-7.5) simultaneously improves the durability, comfort, health and energy efficiency of your homes and can be done very cost effectively. Partner with insulated sheathing manufacturers that offer application details, training and on-site support to find the solution that best fits your designs and build process. You are just a step or two away from the perfect wall. BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. EXTERIOR INSULATION PERMEABILITY Foil faced polyiso foam 0 to 6 ng/Pa.m2 .s Extruded polystyrene foam (XPS) 45 to 90 ng/Pa.m2 .s Expanded polystyrene foam 120 to 240 ng/Pa.m2 .s Semi-rigid mineral wool 1,500+ ng/Pa.m2 .s Water vapour can condense on a cold surface like plywood and cause mould growth.
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  15. 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 201914 buildernews / ALEX NEWMAN Sharpe is the director of design for the aptly named Discovery Dream Homes. Based in Peterborough, the company has a clientele that’s notably geographically diverse – from Muskoka, the Prairies and the Rockies, up to Alaska, down to California and Mexico, and as far away as China. Founded by Ray King 16 years ago, Discovery Dream Homes was an offshoot of King’s father’s company, Confederation Log Homes. Discovery Dream started with a better, more efficient log home process that focused on custom cutting log and timber frames using the machined process. This manufacturing method is what makes Discovery Dream unique. All materials – logs and timber – are precut, then shipped to the site for a local contractor to piece together. Everything is clearly labelled and instructions are provided in order to create a weathertight structure. The price is based on design and materials, but doesn’t include interior fixtures, such as the kitchen, baths and floors. The only variables in cost are shipping, price of land, and cost of local contractors and cabinetmakers. The company is one of the few log builders that is certified and approved to use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber. “We have always tried to consider renewable materials, which is why we source FSC timber,” says Sharpe. “We want to make sure the timber comes from renewable locations and that it’s not disturbing wildlife.” Eastern white pine is used because it has “a lot of character,” says Sharpe, but also because it’s easy to work with. The timber is air-dried for up to 18 months to complete the settling, shrinking and checking, so that future shrinkage is minimal. (Discovery Dream will use kiln- dried timber for items like interior stairs, or sometimes for export outside of North America.) The timbers are precision cut by computer, and then shipped to the site in packages that belong together. Once the materials have all been shipped, construction begins. The process resembles an old-fashioned barn raising, with several workers with their mallets raised, hauling logs, or operating forklifts, piecing it all together on site. Check out the “Dream Home Process” on YouTube. Customers find Discovery Dream Homes through a variety of channels: online, trade shows, billboard ads or word of mouth. If they’re local enough, they then follow up with a visit to the model home factory. Those who aren’t local can still start the process online – as Sharpe points out, “we can do quite a bit with images and Google Earth.” Purchasers need to come with a must-have list: how many bedrooms and baths, and the desired size of common areas. Sharpe encourages them to create their wish list after their must-haves are decided. “Given our concern with budget, we tend to work backwards from that,” he says. Building the Dream Discovery Dream Homes A rustic cabin perched on a rocky outcropping of the Canadian Shield, a canopy of pine and maples in the background, and soft waves lapping at the shore. This is an image that resonates with most Canadians. It’s also an image that home owners can realize by purchasing property and building a log home. As architectural technologist Jason Sharpe says, “Clients often say they’ve been dreaming of this for a long time.” COURTESYJASONSHARPE,DISCOVERYDREAMHOMES
  16. 16. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 There is considerable back and forth during the design process. Discovery Dream uses sophisticated software that allows for a 3D walk- through to help customers visualize their designs. The company’s website also has a huge gallery of past projects so that buyers have a good sense of what is possible. Four types of log construction are offered. Three of those – the traditional round log profile, the square log system and the D-log style – are milled with a double tongue and groove ridge for easy fitting, then precut to size, and have either dovetail or lap lock construction on the corners to ensure a tight fit. The square log has a flat planed interior and either a flat planed or machined rough exterior. The fourth type is a timber frame structure, which can be purchased as a standard package that brings you to the lock up stage, or provides all the materials necessary for turn-key. The Pier One is a good example of this: dream-designs/pier-one/. Discovery Dream’s homes vary in size (from 400 square foot log bunkies to 6,000 square feet) as well as in appearance, with some consisting of traditional chunky logs; others of smooth, square-cut façades; and still others that are additions snugged up against century brick. It’s also not unusual for buyers to incorporate a mix of styles and construction methods in the custom home design. In one century brick home in Ontario, for example, additions were made in two different types of log walls for a pleasing blend of materials and historical accuracy. See the link: www. settlers-ridge/. The difference between the systems is mainly esthetic since all have the same stringent airtightness standards, says Sharpe. This is important, given the bad rap log homes get on energy efficiency. People who want a log home want rustic, outside and in, at least on the main floor. That means no drywall, and therefore no insulation, which sets them up for low R-values. But Sharpe says this is unfair, since the homes can now be built extremely airtight. Admittedly, older types had issues with air infiltration between logs, he says. But Discovery Dream’s precision, computer-driven construction creates machined logs with double tongue and groove ridges between the logs, as well as a dovetail or lap lock corner construction. Sealants are inserted between every row, and a unique through-rod system keeps constant pressure on the walls to eliminate air infiltration. The company’s head of purchasing, Ted Lillico, lives in one of the company’s log homes and says it’s airtight and comfortable. “We did a blower door test and it exceeded Building Code requirements,” he says. “It has a lot to do with the tongue and groove process, as well as the concealed gaskets. Combined with logs six or eight inches thick, you’re getting a tightly constructed wall.” When you combine this with the structural insulated roof panel – which works with the timber frame roof that Discovery Dream manufactures – you’re getting a lot of R-value in the top of the building as well, Lillico adds. Because the company manufactures the parts for the shell, it is up to the local contractor to handle insulation and fixtures (kitchen cabinetry, bathrooms, plumbing and so on). Discovery Dream will provide structural insulated panels (SIPs), which are shipped with both the insulated wall system and the timber frame roofs. Insulated sheathing isn’t used on the log walls, but it is used on the gables or other framed walls. Since so many of these homes are built in rural areas, Sharpe says they will help source local contractors, and then provide follow-up guidance to that contractor. “One of our staff has been trained – by John Godden – in better building methods, and is able to suggest to buyers which kind of foundation or HVAC system would work best with the structure and the site.” They also provide guidance on potential area restrictions, such as energy compliance to the Building Code. “On a rural site, you might not have a lot of choice how you get your energy,” Sharpe explains. “Electric delivery might not be very good, and natural gas might not be available. Most of our clients go with propane, some with geothermal. There are others still who come in with very specific ideas about how to heat and cool the home, with radiant heat, boiler systems, and so on.” Building a log home that’s energy efficient doesn’t have to be just a pipe dream, says Sharpe. And it doesn’t have to be just for the look, either. “There are verifiable benefits – the studies show log homes actually lower blood pressure.” BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at 15 A propane wood stove is the cabin’s primary heating system.
  17. 17. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 featurestory / ROB BLACKSTIEN Beaming With IMAGESBYJOSEURIBE Above: A modest front façade conceals an expansive interior. Lower left: It takes a village to erect a modern post and beam house.
  18. 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 17 A Nova Scotia teacher with a passion for old-school building managed to build a home that’s the model of energy efficiency. Efficiency W ho ever would have thought that a home that was painstakingly constructed by hand by an amateur – which combined century-old building techniques with modern energy-efficiency practices – could wind up being good enough to nearly win an award for energy efficiency? The results are all the more remarkable when you consider that its builder, Andrew Parsons, is not a trained architect, designer or professional builder. But in reality, the quality of this 3,500-square foot post-and-beam home in Melmerby Beach, Nova Scotia, was no fluke. It was the culmination of a long-time fascination with timber frame structures and an insatiable appetite for self-education by its creator. To understand fully how Parsons managed to meld old-school design with new-school technology to build a home with a HERS score of 35 that was the runner-up in the 2018 RESNET Cross Border Builder Challenge, we’ll need to go back in time. Below: Inner beauty and exterior strength. PHOTOSCOURTESYOFANDREWPARSONS
  19. 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 After earning his degree as a guidance counsellor in the early ’90s, Parsons went up to Nain in Northern Labrador. It was there that he was first exposed to timber frame cabins, and he was instantly captivated by their rustic charm. “They were very austere and yet unbelievably beautiful in their own right. And they accomplished incredible things on a very tight budget.” A year later, he moved to Abbots­ ford, British Columbia, to be a high school teacher/guidance counsellor. Honing His Craft It was there that Parsons sharpened his skills, as the metal and shop teachers took him under their wings. He was teaching regular academics, but an opportunity arose for him to cover a section of classes in wood shop. The wood shop teacher taught Parsons everything he needed to know. The following year, the same thing happened with metal shop, helping to broaden his technical expertise. In 1996, after Parsons expressed an interest in making one of those cabins he saw in Labrador, one of the teachers offered a spot on his land for the two of them to build a 16 x 12-foot post-and-beam structure. Flash forward to Parsons returning to the east coast, now as the depart­ ment head for the Technology & Career Education Program at the North Nova Education Centre. His experience as a guidance counsellor led him to work­ ing with students who tend to struggle in a traditional academic environment, yet flourish when working with their hands. In his class, they’ll often score over 90 – “and that’ll be the first mark in the 90s they ever got.” 18 The class has a pair of two-week placements annually, in which Parsons will assign students to a tradesperson in a specific field they’ve shown promise in, like plumbing, landscaping or roofing. The students started building baby barns, but eventually, both they and he got bored by them, so they moved onto timber frames. In 2011, Parsons got the funding necessary to fly to Colorado for a 10-day crash course in timber frame construction, a class that culminated in the creation of a timber frame structure. There, he learned old- school techniques, like using a boring machine with a hand crank to drill the slot, and then chiselling out the holes to make the mortise. The following year, Parsons ordered the frames and built a 12 x 16-foot structure with his students. Soon, a community group was drawn to what they were doing and asked him to make a timber frame building that would become the first overnight structure for people to use on Nova Scotia’s Cape to Cape Trail. Passive House Next, he took a Passive House builder course in Vermont. The genesis of net zero, Passive House originated in Europe as a voluntary standard for building energy-efficient structures with reduced ecological footprints. These homes are designed to gain passive solar heat by having glass face the sun, with virtually no windows on the north side. While Parsons wanted to emulate the Passive House philosophies as much as possible, these homes typically employed triple-glazed windows that had to be shipped in from Switzerland – a huge added expense. He wanted to do it just as well, but on a budget. In 2016, Parsons again teamed up with his students to build his first timber frame/Passive House hybrid, a 12 x 16-foot structure coined BL@M. Essentially a test home, BL@M gave him a sense of what did and did not work, readying Parsons for his next challenge: the Melmerby Beach house. Still, questions remained. “How do I modify what I learned in the BL@M? Booming the BP structural insulated sheathing.
  20. 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 19 How do I do it on a bigger scale? How do I take Passive House – this really expensive, really amazing approach – and combine it with timber frame, which is super old school, and yet do it with typical building materials (like OSB, tuck tape and drywall, nothing terribly exotic)?” The process started in late 2016, when Parsons talked to his second cousin, John Godden of Clearsphere. Parsons then enlisted a professional timber frame company (run by a man aptly named Forrest Rand) to draw up his house plans – a design that Parsons and his wife, Shauna, had literally scribbled on the back of an envelope. Prepping the Frame Over the course of three weeks, Parsons’ neighbour – who owns a portable Wood-Mizer mill – cut the entire frame for the home. At the beginning of 2017, Parsons received his first load of materials for the new home. He would assemble all the pieces for a pair of bents with it lying on the floor, and then his neighbour (who had a crane) and seven or eight helpers would show up for an hour. The crane would hoist everything into position and they’d attach the two bents together, which would become a stable structure of its own. Then the crane would drive away, leaving Parsons another week to work on the next section. “People would have a little bit of barbeque and a beer, and they’d be like, ‘alright, next Friday we’re coming back,’” he recalls. When it came time to put the structure in place, it was akin to an old-time community barn raising, featuring friends, family, neighbours, co-workers and former students all pitching in. On the first day alone, there were around 45 people there. “We had people that were six and people that were 76,” Parsons says. Barry Godden – the brother of John Godden and a second cousin of Parsons – was there, pushing on a timber. John’s son Josh, 18, helped out in the summer to earn school credits. Even the provincial Minister of Agriculture was there, pulling on a rope. Oh, did we mention Parsons accomplished all this while retaining his full-time teaching gig? He worked every evening, every weekend and through March Break. By the end of August 2017, the final bent was erected to finish the frame. Next, the rafters and roof were built by hand, before the crane came back for the final sections. The timbers were in place by the end of September, and the roof was weather tight by the end of November. Coincidentally, the dimensions of the home were within a couple of feet of the traditional Nova Scotia vernacular barn. Parsons suggests that it stands to reason, given that it’s really form following function – when working with spruce, you can only use timbers that are so big and so long. Still, it was yet another eye-opener for him: “That was sort of one of those weird twists we didn’t see coming.” Many of the building materials, Parsons adds, were locally sourced. A Culmination of Decisions While this wasn’t as extreme as an amateur scientist building a rocket and hoping it could safely carry him to the moon, there was a similar leap of faith here. Yes, Parsons had built five timber frame structures before this, but never on this scale. He devoured every building science article he could as he planned this, so he believed it should work in theory. But given that he’s not an engineer or architect and that he didn’t have years of building experience to lean on, he really did rely on some pretty educated authors, plus the help of people like Godden and the technical support from some key manufacturers (see “The Machines Behind the Dreams” sidebar, next page). Hydronic heating distribution is installed throughout, powered by a propane Polaris condensing combo heater.
  21. 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 The Machines Behind the Dreams Several manufacturers lent both products and technical support to help Parsons’ dream home become a reality. This equipment helped him build a home in which “the envelope kicked ass” – to the point that it achieved a HERS score of 35. For the exterior sheathing 1, BP R5 XP – a brand new product at the time – was employed. Parsons says it was a pleasure to work with, given how easy it was to cut, install and seal. “It quickly provided an efficient layer, keeping wind and moisture out of the building envelope while also adding stability to wall framing.” As an exterior air barrier system, R5 XP contributed to the structure’s airtightness. It tested in at .45 ACH at 50 pa, which exceeds passive house level of .6 ACH. Panasonic supplied the ERV and exhaust fans 2. Parsons said the ERV is easy to monitor and maintain, and it “functions so efficiently and quietly you are barely aware it is in use.” He was pleased with the fan’s ability to quietly remove moist air from the bathrooms while helping to keep humidity levels down in the home. He was also very happy with the insulation 3. He used ROCKWOOL Comfortboard 80, which installed quickly, was easy to cut and provided a continuous layer of insulation between the cement foundation and wall fram- ing for basement walls, eliminating any thermal bridging in this aspect of the build. “The comfort batts retained their shape once squeezed through smaller openings behind timbers or when stacked in large cavities,” Parsons says. Additional vendors who lent support include DOW, which provided special tape, and AO Smith, which supplied a Polaris condensing hot water heater 4 to act as the heating plant for the house. BB 20 Parsons was also grateful for Donnie Hislop, an independent electrician who he says “was unbelievable.” Parsons wanted to minimize penetration in the envelope, and usually, he says, “trades come in, and all they want to do is drill holes in everything.” In contrast, Hislop worked with Parsons to figure out ways to run the wires through the floor, thereby retaining the airtightness of the exterior walls. Even the services come up through the floor, which is super insulated. Parsons recalls that his local building inspector struggled to assess his plan, but ultimately determined that the home had exceeded Code. Also significant to this project was Parsons’ decision to mostly eschew high-priced local coal-fired electricity (and the federal grants that incentivize its use) and opt to employ propane for the majority of the home’s heating. Computer simulations proved that doing it the way the grants specified would have produced 11.03 metric tonnes of CO2 per year, whereas his method produces just 6.4 metric tonnes per year. Parsons’ choice wasn’t only more environmentally friendly, but it was also cheaper. While Parsons didn’t specifically set out to make as green a home as he could, the result was a culmination of many of the decisions made along the way. “Any time we had an opportunity to look at the environmental impact, we did,” he says. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. 35 THIS HOME IS 59% BETTER THAN CODE 6091LittleHarbourRoad,KingsHeadNS RatingDateAugust1,2018 2012SB-12REFERENCEHERS60 1 2 4 3
  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 29 | SPRING 201922 sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN P aul Lowes is a lifelong learner, interested in how things work – and how he can make them work better. From his educational background in health sciences and business to his current position as technical business development manager at Building Products of Canada (BP Canada), he has looked for ways to improve products, sales and information. Today, he represents BP Canada’s sales and product education team, helping builders and architects better understand building envelope insulation practices. The company manufactures essentially three structural insulation sheathing products that exceed both Ontario Building Code and National Building Code requirements. Lowes focuses on Excel and R-5 XP – both of which enhance drying potential in wall cavities in residential applications. Excel is a continuous insulation panel, or sheathing, with an air barrier membrane applied to a structural high-resistance wood fibre panel. The membrane resists water penetration from the exterior while being perme­ able to water vapour from the inside of the house. Excel is free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and has excellent sound-deadening properties. As Lowes explains, Excel is permeable because the fibre board has natural bonding agents but does not have glues or resins (which would prevent moisture from permeating through and escaping to the outside). Lowes’ other specialty, R-5 XP, is a composite product consisting of foam laminated to half-inch fibre board for a total thickness of 1-3/16 inches. The foam, an extruded polystyrene (XPS), is just thick enough to allow moisture to escape outward. The 5 in the product name stands for its R-value. R-5 XP combines the structural mechanical properties of wood fibre panels with the XPS’s insulation abilities and meets energy-efficiency requirements for both the Ontario and Quebec building codes. “You can’t underestimate the importance of eliminating moisture in a home,” Lowes says. “When moisture can escape the wall cavity, it keeps the lumber and building materials intact and does not encourage mould growth or material breakdown. Oriented strand board (OSB) has a relatively low perm rating so you may have issues with mould, which can lead to allergies and other serious respiratory issues.” These products are not to be confused with structural insulated panels (SIPs), which are both costly and cumbersome. Lowes says that BP Canada’s structural continuous insulated panels wrap a structure in an insulation “blanket,” reducing energy loss through thermal bridging. BP Canada’s products also perform very differently from the more common materials of OSB and plywood. OSB traps moisture because of the resin, Lowes explains. The other challenge with OSB is that, while it takes longer to get wet, it also takes longer to dry – and when it does, there’s still swelling along the edges where it got wet. With its tendency to hold moisture, it also breaks down faster. In contrast, Excel and R-5 XP are made in Canada from recycled and renewable materials, give off no toxic chemicals or VOCs and have a higher perm rating, which enhances drying in the wall cavity. Because they’re perme­ able, they encourage moisture to escape outward, thereby reducing condensa­ tion on colder surfaces inside walls. Lowes is very interested in the way systems work, and to that end, he is actively involved in improving his product line with BP. Recently, the company has undertaken exhaustive testing on the structural stability on their sheathing product, addressing the capacity of the product to make houses more resistant to changing extreme weather forecasts in municipalities across Ontario. Lowes understands building science not only from his academic background – he holds a BSc from the University of Toronto – but also through his varied career moves since then. After university, he had almost completed a physiology and anatomy certification at Humber College when he realized a medical career wasn’t for him. His first job out of school was com­ missioned sales in giftware, which Lowes says “was actually a pretty good fit. People had always fascinated me. But I also got really excited by the chase of closing business. It’s something I absolutely love, finding solutions, and I can’t imagine ever retiring.” With the economic downturn, the giftware company restructured and Lowes went to work for Imperial Oil as Continous Insulation and Improvement Paul Lowes
  24. 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 a terminal operations analyst. This position saw him involved with any fuel product moving through Canada, including the oversight of terminals. “We’d be right there for a spill in western Canada, or the power outage of the early 2000s, when we had to ensure hospital generators were up and running or getting helicopters what they needed when the fires raged in Alberta and BC’s interior.” It was an exciting job with a lot of security, but when Imperial Oil changed its internal structure, relocating some operations to Calgary and others to the east coast, Lowes opted to take a severance since he was a new dad and wanted to stay put. From there, he moved into food – he explains that he was “always about the new experience.” But Lowes also brought vital skills learned from Ellen Scarrow – an amazing mentor at Imperial Oil – about “identifying problems and coming up with viable collaborative solutions.” That success led to being headhunted for ENI, the Italian oil company most famously associated with Ferrari. Lowes spent eight years building their key accounts, over which time he observed the greening of the economy on the horizon. He subsequently moved to a company that manufactured readily biodegradable products in the mining, forestry, rail, hydro electricity and utility segments, with big clients that included the likes of Metrolinx and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Although Lowes witnessed the inroads the green economy had made, he realized it would take a couple of decades for that industry to really catch up – so when head­ hunters approached him for BP Canada, he hit the research again. “I have always been interested in residential architecture and construction, and I could see there was growth in the housing industry,” he reasoned. “And since the company had once been owned by Imperial Oil, I knew that process was an important piece of their corporate practices.” Within a month of starting at BP Canada in 2017, Lowes was introduced to John Godden of Clearsphere. “I watched him closely, how he managed people and their expectations, and how incredibly well informed he is. I appreciate his honesty, his candour, his knowledge and his collaborative approach – I’ve learned a lot and continue to do so.” BB 23 Check out our website at
  25. 25. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 201924 specialinterest / APA STAFF Stand Up to the Weather with APA-Recommended Building Methods Raised-heel trusses, also known as energy-heel trusses, deliver strength and cost-effective energy performance by overlapping with wall sheathing. These trusses are easy to build with, save money on blocking and insulation, meet code and enhance structural performance. In addition, they improve HERS scores and stabilize the internal temperature of the home by not compressing insulation. BB APA – The Engineered Wood Association is a non- profit trade group that represents U.S. and Canadian manufacturers of structural engineered wood products through promotion, quality assurance, and technical and educational support. Our website offers industry-best builder tips, publications, product reports, webinars and more, free of charge. To learn more, please visit GRAPHICS COURTESY APA – THE ENGINEERED WOOD ASSOCIATION U sing APA-recommended building methods allows builders to construct homes with greater resilience to high wind while also offering greater thermal performance. These methods often provide savings on material and labour costs as well, making them a benefit to builders as well as home owners. Continuous plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) wood panel sheathing and raised-heel trusses are two methods that can result in stronger and more efficient homes. Continuous wood panel sheathing creates a home that has two to three times greater ability to withstand wind, weather, seismic and moisture challenges. This advanced framing technique helps all components of the home – walls, floors, roof and foundation – function together as a unit for increased strength. Wood sheathing has the ability to absorb stresses and impacts without weakening, making it a superior building material to alternative sheathing options. RESILIENCE RAISED-HEEL TRUSS Overlapping wall sheathing onto truss heels results in a strong connection. Insulation space permits full-height, uncompressed insulation and does not pinch insulation at top wall plate.
  26. 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 201926 buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN Jason Morin, vice president of construction for Vaughan, Ontario- based Arista Homes – one of the early adopters of this technology – believes the panelization trend will rise. He says the upcoming Code changes will push builders to use continuous exterior sheathing (ENERGY STAR already mandates this, he says), which is what Arista does now in the form of one-inch foam (particularly SilveRboard). Ron Protocky agrees. The general manager of Maple, Ontario-based Panelized Building Solutions (PBS) says it’s gaining in popularity because of the Building Code and the desire for more thermal breaks. Benefits Erecting frames is so much faster with panelization compared to traditional stick framing. Protocky estimates enclosing a panelized home would take two to three days vs. one to two weeks using stick framing. “We can get from the top of the foundation wall to the top of the building in a fraction of the time it would take us doing it stick built,” Morin says. That translates into less weather damage as the house is enclosed quicker. The workmanship on wood floors and walls is flawless, meaning a panelized home is higher quality. Thanks to more precise cutting and fitting, energy efficiency is enhanced. Protocky says that by putting code­ board or foam on the exterior, the wall cavity becomes a warm area, thereby reducing condensation and mildew inside the wall as “moisture always goes from warm to cold.” A panelized home is much more airtight, he says. Builders also laud the consistency of panelization, as “every house is built the same way,” Protocky says. For carpenters, the heavier, backbreaking aspects of the job are removed and automated in a factory. The only thing they really have to Switching to the Panel Channel I n our Spring 2016 issue, columnist Lou Bada described panelization as a disruptive technology, one that could have a massive impact on the residential construction industry. Three years later, it’s time to see how much traction panelization has gained while exploring the benefits and challenges of this building approach. Beating the weather: With panel construction, buildings can be enclosed in a fraction of the time.
  27. 27. Barrie, GTA West, GTA North Eric Byle | 416-937-8793 Toronto East Al Crost | 416-676-0168 Available to water heater customers whose equipment is not operational (i.e. no hot water)
  28. 28. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 201928 move is the lighter interior walls – so, because it’s not as hard on them, once carpenters have done a couple of panel jobs, “they really don’t want to go back to stick,” Protocky says. Fewer employees are needed, Morin says. A traditional framing crew consists of three or four workers; in contrast, panelization can be done with a two- or three-person crew, which is a significant advantage given the skills shortage. “There is definitely an increase in the element of safety on the site,” Morin observes, as crews will build safety railings on a floor panel while it’s at grade, so that when it’s hoisted up to the second floor, the railings are already in place. Approximately 26% less wood is needed, and there are significant savings with less waste, which means sites are cleaner and safer. “You’ve got very little excess material floating around that has to be cleaned up and shipped out,” Protocky notes. There’s not only an economical benefit, but an environmental one too, as panel shops take those extra pieces of wood that would be tossed away on the site and use them for blocking or other purposes. Panelization is tailor-made for the new six-storey wood framing form factor, making building these structures much more achievable, and helping address density issues in urban centres. Another huge advantage, Morin says, is that no one ever steals panels. “We get, like, zero theft on the site now with respect to lumber.” He estimates that losses from stolen lumber used to average in the hundreds of dollars per lot. “It was to the point that we would never take a lumber delivery on Friday,” Morin recalls. Challenges One of the key challenges restricting the panelization trend is opposition from unions that don’t want to drop their pricing, despite the fact the work is so much easier on the body because of all the cranes used. “The problem with the unions today is they want their least skilled [person] to be making the same money as their most skilled person,” says Protocky. The fact is, panel projects simply require fewer workers, and that’s a fly in the oint­ ment as far as unions are concerned. Similarly, there’s been resistance from some lumber yards, suddenly forced to do something with the material other than load it on a truck and ship it to a site. Because panel shops need several weeks of lead time to design customized walls, builders need to sign off on the final specs earlier – and given that the usual process is to wait until the last minute to sign window contracts (for example), this will require a mindset change in the industry. Builders have to alter their process, Protocky says. “There's a lot of front-end planning that needs to happen in order for a panelized site to run smoothly, but once you’ve done it once or twice, it’s not magic anymore.” Left: Manpower allows for more flexibility in sheathing choices. Right: Panelized walls with SilveRboard stacked and ready to go.
  29. 29. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 Morin concurs: “There's a lot of front-end planning that needs to happen in order for a panelized site to run smoothly, but once you’ve done it once or twice, it’s not magic anymore.” Panelization does cost more than stick framing, but the difference is shrinking (Protocky estimates it could break even this year), and those costs are recouped through less waste, fewer workers, less theft and better quality (fewer callbacks). Another consideration is that, because paneli­ zation is designed to fit a perfect square, the foun­ dation must be done exactly to plan, Protocky says. There are also several perceived issues with panelization that are simply not accurate. For instance, many believe that panels are not as rigid, making it more challenging to boom onto trucks at the factory. And because they’re seen as not that structurally stable, many believe the panels are harder to erect on the site as well. Protocky says this isn’t the case. Because PBS builds its walls in bundles, stacks them together, strips nails them down and straps them in, “we don’t have any problems with it.” Many believe that panelization offers no flexibility on design, but Morin says that’s not true. And while people think it’s just great for townhomes but not on detached, he says that’s wrong as well. Conclusion There’s no doubt panelization will continue to grow, regardless of resistance from unions and lumber yards. It just may not happen overnight. After all, Morin says, “The pace at which construction tends to change is slower than a lot of us would like to see happen.” Protocky says more plants need to get involved with panelization before it takes over the market, but he estimates over 50% of homes will be built this way five years down the road, up from 20% to 30% today. “It’s a better way of building; there’s no question about it.” BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer.  29 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
  30. 30. 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. LowCostCodeCompliancewiththeBetterThanCodePlatform This rating is available for homes built by leading edge builders who have chosen to advance beyond current energy efficiency programs and have taken the next step on the path to full sustainability. BetterThanCode This Platform helps Builders with Municipal Approvals, Subdivision Agreements and Building Permits. Navigating the performance path can be complicated. A code change happened in 2017 which is causing some confusion. The new code will be notionally 15% better than 2017. How are you getting there in 2020? Let the BTC Platform – including the HERS Index – help you secure Municipal Subdivision Approvals and Building Permits and enhance your marketing by selling your homes’ energy efficiency. 45 BetterThanCodeUsestheHERSIndextoMeasureEnergyEfficiency TheLowertheScoretheBetter–MeasureableandMarketable OBC 2012 OBC 2017 NEAR ZERO 80 60 40 20 Email or call 416-481-7517
  31. 31. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY So what, if anything, do we do about it? Perhaps a little perspective is needed. Like all industry stakeholders, I deal with the constant barrage of Code changes that come from every direction. It has become so overwhelming we’ve actually coined the term “Code fatigue” to describe it. Over the last decade in Ontario, we have seen the continual march towards more energy-efficient houses and buildings, and the home building industry should be proud of our accomplishments towards reducing our carbon footprint. Participation in voluntary programs, such as ENERGY STAR for New Homes, has created the needed capacity to enable us to continually improve the new homes we build. Today, more and more builders are beginning to build houses and communities to the requirements of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) Net Zero Home Labelling Program. To be sure, our industry’s best efforts are still led on a volunteer basis. However, as I noted in my last article, there is another part of the climate change story: adapting to the changes that are already happening with more climate- resilient construction techniques and better planning for our geographic locations. I thought it might be worth looking at the low-hanging fruit that can be adapted to Canadian housing. David Foster at the CHBA office in Ottawa is doing some great work wading through the complexities of these issues and helping to provide a more simplified explanation. At the 2018 Ontario Home Builders’ Association Conference, David outlined our three greatest threats: extreme rainfall and overland flooding, interface wildfires, and extreme wind such as tornadoes. He explained that the major driver for action is the rising cost of catastrophic loss payouts by the insurance industry. We have skin in the game, whether we want it or not. If home owners can’t get home insurance, it will be devastating to our industry. Over the last year, I’ve had the privilege of leading a team of volunteers to help the people of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico as they rebuild after Hurricane Maria. While our efforts were to provide shelter capable of withstanding a Category 4 hurricane, part of our team’s mission was looking at lessons learned and working to apply them here in Canada. We are not really worried about the associated winds of a hurricane here in Ontario, but tornadoes are fairly common. While the 2018 Dunrobin- Gatineau tornado was an EF-3, the great majority that occur in North America are an EF-2 or less. Even more severe tornadoes have diminished winds on the edges. So constructing Climate-Resilient Construction The Low-Hanging Fruit I t seems you cannot turn on the news anymore without seeing a story on a natural disaster of some type. From raging forest fires and massive flooding affecting millions to the devastating effects of high-wind events and severe storms like the Ottawa tornadoes last fall, we are bombarded with images of the devastation. While the news industry is often accused of the dictum “If it bleeds, it leads,” it does not negate the reality that we are facing a climate that is changing. 31 TYPICAL STRONG-DRIVE® SDWC INSTALLATION –TRUSS ALIGNED WITH STUD (offset truss similar) TYPICAL ROOF-TO-WALL CONNECTION INSTALLATION ANGLE LIMIT F1 F2 SIMPSONSTRONG-TIE
  32. 32. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 29 | SPRING 2019 Dr. Kopp’s research would show that adding hurricane straps and changing our sheathing nails from 2 inches to 2.5 inches would help builders construct homes that are capable of withstanding an EF-2 tornado. As building codes are being reviewed, this would seem to be a reasonable approach to achieving more resilient new home construction. One caveat is leaving room for innovation and voluntary programs to move industry forward. For example, if we are able to use new technology – such as the Simpson Strong-Tie 6-inch screw in place of a hurricane clip – can we reduce installation time and get broader industry buy-in? According to Sarah, “In our testing we have found that small, simple details can make a significant difference in the uplift resistance of the roof. Things like hurricane clips or screws at the roof-to-wall connection are relatively cheap, and easy to install in a new build. Even I have done it myself in the Puerto Rican heat!" (Sarah is off to Cuba to continue her research, working with the University of Holguín.) As I noted earlier, our industry has shown tremendous leadership on a voluntary basis for energy conservation. Perhaps it is time for an industry leadership pilot project on resilient construction. There is an opportunity to get ahead of this and do what we do best: lead, innovate, develop best practices and build capacity. The alternative may put our clients’ home owner insurance at risk. That’s a risk that we can’t afford to take. BB Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario. 32 a home that could survive an EF-2 seems to be a logical goal. One of our team members, Sarah Stephenson from the Western University engineering program, introduced me to Dr. Gregory Kopp, the dean of the program and the person responsible for blowing buildings up at the Three Little Pigs research project site in London, Ontario. I asked Dr. Kopp about low-hanging fruit and how we might cost-effectively implement this into residential construction in Ontario. According to Dr. Kopp, “Our research conducting damage surveys following extreme wind storms in Ontario indicates that the roof is the most vulnerable part of a house – particularly the roof sheathing and the roof-to-wall (toe-nailed) connections. This is consistent with wind tunnel data and full-scale tests in our labs, which indicate that longer sheathing nails and use of hurricane straps will mitigate this structural damage for up to EF-2 tornadoes. This represents more than 90% of all tornadoes, and can be implemented for relatively little cost.” “In our testing we have found that small, simple details can make a significant difference in the uplift resistance of the roof.”
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