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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 37 / Spring 2021

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 37 / Spring 2021

  1. 1. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Alternative Building Systems INSIDE Innovations in Panelized Framing and Cladding Insulated Concrete Forms Building a Legacy Structural Sustainability The Finish-Ready Basement
  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 37 | SPRING 2021 16 1 FEATURE STORY 16 An “Inside the Box” Approach to Affordable Housing Global trade has provided a surplus of shipping containers that can be re-purposed as living space. by Marc Huminilowycz 6 ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 On our cover: Rendering of 251 Watkins Street by John Van Tran of Architectural Visualization. Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. 13 22 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 Rethinking Brick Houses (or the Three Little Pigs, Version 2.0) by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 If the Mountain Will Not Come to Mohammed, Mohammed Will Go to the Mountain by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 6 Is It Time for Another Look at Insulated Concrete Forms? by Gord Cooke INDUSTRY NEWS 10 The Winds of Change Have Begun to Blow by Paul De Berardis SITE SPECIFIC 13 Building a Legacy by Alex Newman INNOVATION NEWS 22 Less Is More with Structural Sustainability A structural engineering firm is teaching builders how to avoid over-engineering, employ more efficient products and develop techniques to improve the structural integrity of their houses. by Rob Blackstien FROM THE GROUND UP 30 The Finish-Ready Basement by Doug Tarry
  4. 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Rethinking Brick Houses (or the Three Little Pigs, Version 2.0) 2 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. T he story “The Three Little Pigs” takes on new meaning in today’s building landscape. The wolf in our new story is any threat that could diminish the resiliency of our homes, including wind and water. The first two little pigs built with stick and straw, which, under current extreme wind conditions, is like using a one-inch foam-only sheathing, without any bracing system. The third little pig built their structure differently, with the best technology of the time. We can all agree that the brick house was the most durable and resilient. But today, we know that brick, steel and concrete have large carbon footprints, so brick may not be the best choice for the exterior finish. And in any new home, one of the largest sources of embodied carbon is concrete. With the current material shortages and the impending carbon tax (both resulting in increased material costs), we may need to rethink and build our structures differently. This issue is about rewriting the “Three Little Pigs” story with today’s choices and challenges. Our feature story (page 16) gives us an “inside the box” look at NOW Housing’s approach to repurposing shipping containers to create affordable, durable housing across Ontario. Like many consumer goods, this concept has been shipped around the world. Lou Bada brings us a mountain of an idea by introducing an exterior insulated stucco facing system (EIFS) that could eliminate the use of brick veneers (page 3). And in “Less Is More with Structural Sustainability,” Travis Schiller, a structural engineer, shows us how to detail structural insulated sheathing with a brick veneer to stay on an eight-inch poured foundation to reduce embodied carbon (page 22). The winds of change have begun to blow with proposed National Building Code changes for Ontario. Paul DeBerardis discusses ramifications for Code harmonization for wood-framed structures with increased wind load considerations (page 10). In our pursuit to reduce carbon and concrete, we need to examine the appropriate use of materials. Gord Cooke explains how the insulated concrete form (ICF) building system can make sense when we consider life cycle costing and extreme winds (page 6). Lastly, Doug Tarry shares a very timely and deep subject on page 30. Common construction practice is to use an inexpensive insulating blanket system to meet Code, but it often causes callbacks for condensation. Doug discusses cost-effective strategies for finish-ready basements that can be easily completed after closing by home owners. Looking forward, with challenges for housing on all fronts, let’s channel the wisdom of the third pig to find the best innovations for durable low-carbon homes. Common sense is our best resource in a climate where the winds of change will always blow. We need to adapt to find a happy ending. BB publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN
  5. 5. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 members on an 8-inch foundation wall. The outboard continuous insulation values for 2-, 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-inch thicknesses range from R-7.4, R-11.4, R-15.4, R-19.4 and R-23.4, respectively, for the PUCCS NC system. An outboard air/water barrier makes achieving greater airtightness for our buildings much easier. These qualities I f things aren’t going your way, then you’ll have to change the way they are. If you can’t go over an obstacle, you’ll have to go around it or through it. Innovation begins where the search for greater efficiency ends. Panelized framing has gained ground in the new-home building industry. Finding efficiencies in this innovative field are always ongoing. So, what’s next for panelization? And what products are new and innovative for home builders? Can we marry them and have a sustainable honeymoon? I have an idea. I’ve been familiar­ izing myself with a new cladding system from DuROCK Alfacing International Limited: PUCCS NC Rainscreen Exterior Insulated Finish System (EIFS) (check out www. Based in Woodbridge, Ontario, DuROCK has developed a National Resource Council-tested, Canadian Construction Materials Centre- evaluated, non-combustible, continuous insulation system that incorporates an air/water resistive barrier and mineral wool insulation. It’s a rainscreen system that has a defined drainage cavity on the backside and an integral alkali- resistant fibreglass mesh on the frontside. It has a reinforced base coat and a primer, and it comes in a multitude of finishes. (Detail at right.) Now for the best part! A builder can achieve an R-27 wall using 2x4 wall framing members or up to an R-37 wall with 2x6 wall framing also contribute to better construction detailing and to building more resilient homes. It’s an excellent choice for a high-performance building envelope. PUCCS NC is also excellent for energy retrofit applications for exterior walls in high-rise or low-rise buildings. Bonus: as a non-combustible cladding, it can be used for reduced side and rear 3 thebadatest / LOU BADA If the Mountain Will Not Come to Mohammed, Mohammed Will Go to the Mountain BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 2" x 4" WOOD STUDS FRAMING @ 12" OR 16" O.C. WITH R-14 INSULATION GYPSUM SHEATHING (BY OTHERS) DuROCK AIR/MOISTURE BARRIER DuROCK MOISTURE BARRIER/ADHESIVE 2" DuROCK PUCC-ROCK INSULATION BOARD WITH INTEGRAL REINFORCING MESH DuROCK REINFORCING MESH EMBEDDED IN DuROCK BASE COAT DuROCK BASE PRIMER DuROCK BRICK FINISH COAT DuROCK MECHANICAL FASTENER FIBRE MESH TAPE AT SHEATHING AND CONCRETE INTERFACE WRAP INSULATION EDGE WITH REINFORCING MESH, TERMINATE BASE COAT AT DRAINAGE TRACK DuROCK UNI-TRACK DRAINAGE WITH LIP CONCRETE FOUNDATION (MINIMUM 6" THICK) T.O. GRADE MIN. 200MM (8") DuROCK SYSTEM: PUCCS-NC WITH BRICK FINISH CO U RT ESY D U RO C K A LFAC I N G I N T E R N AT I O N A L LI M I T E D A RC H I T E C T U R A L F I N I S H I N G SYS T E M S
  7. 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 5 If you can use 20% less material (8 inches of concrete rather than 10 inches, for instance) and it’s locally produced, you’ve really got something! for the PUCCS NC system in a panel framing plant? I haven’t seen it yet, but panel producers have overcome more difficult challenges and are always looking for ways to add value to their products. One of the most refreshing parts of our business is interacting with the great people I’ve met who are yard applications where the Ontario Building Code requires a non- combustible veneer. The ability to use an 8-inch foun­ da­ tion wall cannot be understated. Aside from the cost implications, an important consideration for choosing a sustainable building material is the amount of embodied energy/carbon in its manufacture and shipping. Concrete, brick and manufactured stone have a great deal of embodied energy, and if you can use 20% less material (8 inches of concrete rather than 10 inches, for instance) and it’s locally produced, you’ve really got something! Now, how about this: Can we do some of this installation work the innovators in our industry. They are open-minded, creative and committed, and they meet challenges head-on by looking for alternatives. They go through mountains. Our panel supplier (H+ME Technology) and DuROCK are excellent examples of this. I am going to try for an arranged marriage between them and hope that they live happily ever after. 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
  8. 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 6 industryexpert / GORD COOKE At every session, however, some­ one will inevitably ask “what about insulated concrete forms (ICF)?” My answer is always “yes, of course, ICF construction is an excellent way to achieve the goals of high-performance construction.” Typically, the person who has asked the question will go on to explain that they have been using ICF for years and are surprised that more builders don’t choose to use them. That same questioner will often ask if I would use ICF for my own home. Up until last year, I would explain that while I felt ICF was an excellent technology, the two homes that had been built for us over the last 30 years were wood-frame construction. However, when my brothers and I finally decided to go in together on a new family cottage, I felt like there were at least three things about the project that were perfectly suited for a whole-home ICF build. To start, there can be little debate about the characteristics of an ICF home with respect to the five high-performance attributes that we always repeat: simultaneously (1) safer, (2) healthier, (3) more comfortable, (4) more durable and (5) more energy efficient. The durability and strength of a concrete structure, the continuity and thickness of the insulation, and the inherent airtightness of how the forms link together checked off a lot of performance boxes. There was no question that the project would be qualified under the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Net Zero Energy program. In the energy modelling, it was determined an effective R-value for the walls needed to be at least R-27. The typical ICF products are based on two 2.5-inch layers of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) for an effective R-value of approximately R-22. The leading manufacturers of ICF, however, now have options for either extra foam inserts or simply thicker foam to create the form. We chose the Amvic Plus 3.30 block, where each side of the form is 3.25-inch thick EPS. That ensured an effective R-value of R-26 for the foam itself and also got us nicely over the R-27 we needed when interior drywall and exterior cladding were added. The measured airtightness of the building was just over 1.0 ACH50Pa without any additional air sealing work. We knew we were going to apply the AeroBarrier technology to the home, so I wanted to see how the ICF did on its own without any added effort. When we applied AeroBarrier, the airtightness dropped to under 0.1 ACH50Pa. Thus, energy efficiency requirements for even a net zero energy home can be met with this one technology. Now, I mentioned in a previous article the almost comically ferocious windstorms on the shores of Lake Huron throughout the winter. It is on these occasions where the ICF performance really shines. “So quiet,” “so secure” and “so comfortable” are the descriptors expounded by the rotation of five families that have found the cottage to be a great safe haven during the pandemic. The ICF experience has been so markedly different for each of them: one from a grand but creaky century home, one from a downtown condo, one Is It Time for Another Look at Insulated Concrete Forms? D uring education sessions I do on high-performance home construction, there is definitely a focus on wood-frame construction. And that’s warranted, given that wood-frame construction makes up over 90% of low-rise residential construction in North America.
  9. 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 and cost comparisons: the apples-to- apples of full-height basement insula­ tion costs and challenges to make it a truly livable space, and more recently, the true cost and challenge of getting insulated sheathing on wood-framed structures to meet ever higher effective R-values now and as we move towards net zero–ready in the next 10 years. For this particular project, think about the cost and the investment calculation. Consider the increasingly rare lakefront property, for an extended from a typical suburban brick-clad 1990s home, and two from those small, quaint post-war bungalows. This was the second reason why I felt this project was ideally suited for the ICF technology. The entire family has noticed and relished the lifestyle difference when a home truly performs without compromises. Certainly, the professional builders reading this article will be wondering about the costs. I have heard countless times the debates family where three generations are already enjoying the home. While many think about incremental costs over a 30-year mortgage, you can easily imagine amortizing this investment over many generations. Indeed, we brothers made many decisions in this project where the key determinant was resiliency. The ICF decision was easily rationalized on this count. It was my experience in this project that the primary reason more builders don’t choose ICF is the requirement for the significant process change in design and building. In the design phase, the slight dimensional changes in wall thickness and heights were noted. In early site work, there are the logistics of dealing with large skids of foam. Then, you have to find the right trade to erect the forms and gain acceptance from plumbers, electricians, drywallers and finishing contractors – both interior and exterior – to adjust to the ICF forms. Fortunately, there are strategies to quickly offset these process changes. My good friend Robert Rawlings, who has been building with and training others to use ICF for 20 years, provides the following advice: Choose an ICF supplier that provides on-site training and support or enlist the services of someone who has used ICF. Indeed, I was pleased that our builder hired Robert for our project. Give the designer or architect a few extra weeks on your first project so that they can consult with the ICF supplier to consider and adjust for those small dimensional changes. Invest in proper bracing, which is extremely important. Spend extra time ensuring 7 AMVIC R30 ICF BLOCK INCREASED WALL ASSEMBLY AIR TIGHTNESS THERMAL MASS CONTINUOUS INSULATION R30 WALL ASSEMBLY APPARENT SOUND TRANSMISSION CLASS (ASTC) RATING 47+ ICF forms provide structural stability for open concept houses with large window areas in localities with extreme wind conditions.
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  11. 11. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 the bracing and reinforcement is complete around windows, doors and corners in particular. Double- and triple-check all reinforcement and bracing before you pour, even going beyond the manufacturer’s bracing requirements. Robert also noted that the concrete pump truck operator needs to be experienced with pumping into ICF to ensure they have the proper reducing attachments and the right size (1¼-inch head) concrete vibrator ready to go. The concrete mix should be optimized for ICF (typically a slump of five to seven inches is best for pouring). All of these hints are to acknowledge that there are process changes needed to make your first ICF project successful; learn from the mistakes of others and use their experience. Clearly, our project had compelling elements that led us to consider ICF. The energy efficiency, quality of life and resiliency that were important to us would also be common to many projects you are working on. In fact, they will undoubtedly rise in importance over the next few years as energy efficiency requirements, climate change considerations and the rising cost of land compel home buyers and planners to have a longer-term vision for homes. A close friend of mine just described a home investment he made with his daughter where careful thought was given to the location, design and ownership so as to be suitable not only for this generation, but for his grandchildren as well. In my opinion, ICF construction will be a helpful technology in responding to the ever- increasing expectations of codes and consumers. Builders should be looking for opportunities to try it and work through the process changes to have success with it now and in the future. BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. 9 Meet the new AI Series! The most advanced Fresh Air System available. Your work just got a lot easier! Contact your Air Solutions Representative for more information: | 800.267.6830 We Know Air Inside Out. You won’t believe how easy the AI Series is to install. Quicker set-up – save up to 20 mins on installs Consistent results – auto-balancing and consistency in installs for optimal performance 20-40-60 Deluxe – wireless Wi-Fi enabled auxiliary control with automatic RH dectection Advanced Touchscreen – using Virtuo Air TechnologyMD Compact – smallest HRV and ERV units delivering the most CFM
  12. 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 10 industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS Some of you may be asking why you should be concerned with proposed changes to the NBC here in Ontario, where construction standards are governed by the Ontario Building Code (OBC). Well, the short answer is that the federal and provincial governments have committed to harmonizing construction standards across Canada, so changes to the NBC will now be a lot more relevant and influential in Ontario. Many of the significant changes relating to energy efficiency have already been covered in past articles – but equally as notable, changes are proposed in relation to wind and seismic loads affecting structural lateral resistance in homes traditionally designed under Part 9. Changes have been made to seismi­ city values assigned for locations across Canada. The impact in some regions will require more stringent prescriptive solutions under Part 9 due to the higher spectral hazard values. Additionally, there will be more regions that will now fall outside the limits of the prescriptive solutions in Part 9 and require Part 4 structural design. The threshold for the 1-in-50-years hourly wind pressure (HWP), above which wind needs to be considered in Part 9 of the current NBC 2015, is 0.8 kPa. The analysis used to establish new prescriptive provisions for the higher seismic hazards proposed for NBC 2020 suggested that the existing minimum trigger of 0.8 kPa was too high, and that braced wall bands would be justified for lower triggers of HWP than are currently set in Part 9. It was indicated in the documentation associated with the proposed change that the 0.8 kPa trigger reflected wind speeds similar to those associated with EF2-level tornadoes. However, based on my own estimates, a 0.8 kPa HWP correlates with wind speeds of approximately 130 km/h or 80 mph, which is actually categorized as an EF0 tornado – so it seems like there was a bit of embellishment incorporated to support the proposal. The justification for the proposed change cites market trends in new home construction, such as shifting to open concept layouts (having fewer interior partition walls), larger windows and narrower lots/houses. Therefore, the once-expected built-in redundancy characteristic of light- frame wood construction is becoming less. As such, lateral loads resulting from earthquake and wind could negatively affect houses in low seismic zones, which currently are not required to be specifically braced to resist these loads. To exacerbate matters, other proposed changes relating to escalating The Winds of Change Have Begun to Blow M any of you regular Better Builder readers are likely aware by now of the ongoing review of proposed changes for the next edition of the National Building Code (NBC) of Canada, as discussed in past articles. Like all things affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting the many national task groups, standing committees and Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) meetings virtually has delayed the process, so the much- anticipated next edition of the NBC (originally intended for 2020) likely won’t be ready until the end of 2021. energy efficiency requirements will push builders to replace structural wood sheathing products with various types of foam-insulated sheathing, reducing lateral restraint. The proposed change attempts to reduce the large gap between Part 9 and Part 4 provisions with respect to wind loads, and it introduces minimum requirements for lateral design to resist wind loads for all regions in Canada. Considering the reported increasing trend of rare wind events, and the decision to require a minimum consideration for lateral resisting elements for all seismic levels, it was deemed appropriate to provide similar minimum requirements for wind loads. An impact analysis was performed to act as some sort of cost–benefit evaluation for this proposed change and, like many other bureaucracy- derived theoretical cost estimates, you can take it with a grain of salt, as you will see below. These cost justifications remind me of those TV shopping channel advertisements where they try to entice shoppers by advertising that purchases can be paid for with six low, easy monthly payments of $49.95, which seemingly make any purchase more palatable. For this proposed change, only a single home archetype was used to inform the impact analysis – a 1,383-square-foot, two-storey detached home with an attached garage, supposedly representing a common suburban home design – considering wind and seismic design parameters for 15 separate locations across Canada. A combination of RSMeans 2019 costing data for braced wall panel assemblies (represented in U.S. dollars, then converted to
  13. 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Canadian dollars with an assumed exchange rate) and Altus Group 2018 square footage construction costs was used to determine that the proposed changes would lead to a cost increase in each location analyzed, “but still remains small with a difference in cost of 0.64% in Toronto.” So, if these proposed changes are adopted, all you builders remember to hold your framing contractors and lumber suppliers to a mere 0.64% cost increase, because that’s what the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) said it will cost. All joking aside, the proposed changes with respect to lateral bracing to resist seismic and wind loads will have a notable impact on design and construction considerations. The prescriptive path includes changes to framing practices such as limiting sheathing material options, increased quantity and size of fasteners (nails and anchor bolts), and greater usage of braced wall bands and braced wall panels. These new lateral bracing considerations will further pose additional material specification and construction challenges when considering the usage of insulated sheathing products. The proposed change will also create instances where wind and seismic factors will not permit the usage of prescriptive design considerations, necessitating engineered Part 4-based structural solutions for low-rise, single-family home applications. The proposed prescriptive require­ ments for bracing to resist lateral loads are limited and do not explore other possible solutions outside of braced wall panels and bands. For example, depending on the sheathing used, other options could include wood 1x4 let-in bracing or diagonal metal bracing (flat strapping, T-profile or L-profile strapping), and inset shear panels could be specified. There are also various laminated insul-sheathing products which also possess structural properties for lateral bracing that were not given any consideration. There should be more prescriptive options for such products and methods to resist lateral loads, especially in low-seismic and low-wind zones. While RESCON took part in the review and consultation on proposed changes to the winter 2020 NBC Codes Canada process, submitting feedback in opposition to this parti­ cular proposed change, there appears to exist a certain momentum in this highly bureaucratic process to seemingly push ahead with many of the proposed changes, despite prevalent expert and industry oppo­ sition. This particular proposed change seemed to represent a govern­ ment make-work project to keep the researchers at the NRC occupied. While I agree with the concepts presented by Travis Schiller in the article “Less Is More with Structural Sustainability,” this proposed change will ultimately propagate the trend in over-engineering wood-framed structures, leaving less space for insulation to achieve increasingly stringent energy efficiency require­ ments. With lumber pricing and supply still being adversely affected by the pandemic, the ability to use wood fibre/foam insulation composite sheathing products has been welcomed by builders – so a possible code change that limits the choice of sheathing products would be a challenge for the building industry. While I am not optimistic about the likelihood of this proposed change being reconsidered at the NBC level, I remain hopeful that when it comes time for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in Ontario to consider this proposed change for harmonization, they don’t adopt it as-is and instead allow more design flexibility. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at 11 braced wall band braced wall panel braced wall band full storey height braced wall band max. 1.2m wide braced wall band aligned with braced wall bands on storeys above and below Braced wall bands in an example building section SO U RC E : N RC CO D ES C A N A DA P U B LI C R E V I E W 2020
  15. 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Shannon Bryant and Brian Couperthwaite on their custom infil site in Markham. Her mother, Robin, oversaw the interior design. And that’s the route Bryant took after high school. “The design aspect really influenced me – I loved seeing the changes transpire over a period of weeks or months,” Bryant says. For the past 10 years, the 41-year- old single mother of two, has drawn on both influences – design and construction – while working for a company whose main focus is building and renovating funeral homes across Canada. When her father found a lot to build his dream cottage in 2014 – after looking for about 30 years – she got involved in the project. “He finally found the perfect lot he’d been looking for. When he showed me the drawings, I made some improvements like redesigning the kitchen and master ensuite layout to comply with the engineered architectural drawings. From there, my parents hired me to do the interior design which my mom and I did together. My dad saw what I was capable of doing professionally and kept me in mind for this family business idea he had.” She also learned a lot of the structural side of things from that cottage project. Once the cottage was complete, Couperthwaite retired in 2018. It was something he loved “for about a second,” until he decided he wasn’t ready to retire. He developed a busi­ ness plan for his own home building company, BK Couper Custom Homes. He discussed various options with Bryant, who had finished a certificate in project management from the University of Toronto. With COVID-19 came the opportunity to transition from working for someone else to be in a partnership with her father. “Everything aligned at the same time. It just fell into place,” Bryant recalls. The skills Bryant had spent nearly a decade developing in her previous role were a perfect fit for the family business, where she now oversees construction, working on site with trades. She also oversees interior design drawings and finishes to get the right outcome. “It’s the best of both worlds,” she says. The intention was always to involve other family members too, and while Bryant’s siblings aren’t involved in daily operations, they work peripherally – her older brother Jesse Couperthwaite’s water treatment company is part of the later process, and her sister Krysta’s husband, Andrew Pinguet, has a framing carpentry business. Robin, Bryant’s mother, does all the bookkeeping and accounts. (The last sibling, Adam, is an actor living in Manhattan.) The company develops on a smaller scale: seven homes in Markham, five homes in Richmond Hill and a one-off custom build in Port Perry, 13 Building a Legacy “I grew up either living in a renovation or in a rental while my dad built us our next home,” says Shannon Bryant. “So building and housing is in my blood. It’s all I know.” It’s also what her father, Brian Couperthwaite, knows best. Custom building their family home was the side hustle to his day job with a home builder. “But, you know: with construction, 9 to 5 just doesn’t exist,” she adds. sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN
  16. 16. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 14 with several more in the works. This allows them to keep strict control over construction quality as well as the energy-efficient components that the homes are packed with. Every Markham home promises to be 20% better than code and will be evaluated using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). This is a recognized method of evaluating and scoring the energy efficiency of a home and deemed more effective than other rating methods. Every new BK Couper home will be certified 20% better than code via the HERS score. In order to achieve that, each custom home has been packed with extras, such as a high-performance weathertight envelope rated and tested by an independent third party. Features include Building Products of Canada’s R-5 XP structurally insulated sheathing made from 98% recycled content, an exterior air barrier system including flashing windows, air sealing on all HVAC, ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD™ 80 to reduce basement moisture, and high- performance windows with passive cooling to reduce heat gain in the summer. Each has a high-efficiency, right- sized, two-stage furnace for maximum air distribution while using 50% less electricity with an electronically commutated motor (ECM) blower, as well as a drain water heat recovery system. Whole-house ventilation guar­ antees a minimum energy recovery of 75%, while the right-sized 15 seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) air conditioning yields 23% higher cooling efficiency than standard. To reduce water usage, toilets are ultra-low water consumption. In addition, a HERSH2O water conservation label will be provided for each house, showing the impact of water use- reducing features. While this seems a very high level of green, it’s just part of the commitment to quality that Bryant and her father have always considered standard in their business. “My approach to building has been developed since childhood, watching my parents work – first what my mom was willing to do to help my dad, and then working with my dad in construction and seeing how he wasn’t willing to compromise his integrity. He wouldn’t cut corners. My father has my respect for that,” Bryant explains. That kind of quality takes time and effort, though: “Everything he’s done is because he was willing to put in the time and do the work. He’s always taught us you don’t get things handed to you, and that we will appreciate everything so much more when we work hard for them.” When we asked Bryant what the company stands for and what their message to clients is, she summed it up by saying: “We want you to take as much pride living in your home as we have building your home. We want you to smile when you walk into that home, because we’ve been able to take your vision and bring it into reality.” It’s clear that BK Couper Custom Homes, and its clients, have much to take pride in. BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at Contact your Air Solutions Representative for more information: | 800.267.6830 Tankless just got even better. Dual venturi - provides a higher turn down ratio up to 15:1 Easy to use Set-up Wizard 2” PVC up to 75 ft. Optional NaviCirc™ - easy to install with no recirc return loop needed Better never looked so good. High efficiency up to 0.96 UEF Built in Hot Button™ on-demand system Meet the all NEW NPE-2!
  17. 17. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 16 featurestory / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ An“Inside the Box”Approach W hen affordable housing professional Thomas Fischer retired following a distinguished 15-year leadership career with Habitat for Humanity, he had no idea that he would be spending much of his time now preparing a multitude of requests for proposals (RFPs) for a new and innovative housing product. Fischer, who has a long-time passion for providing housing for people in need, served first as the executive director of the Brampton/Caledon branch, then, following an amalgamation, as vice president of the Greater Toronto Area branch of Habitat for Humanity – a non-governmental organization that helps people in communities around the world build or improve places they can call home. He has a track record of successful affordable housing builds in Peel Region. “I retired, but I soon realized that there is a huge need to supply housing to those people who can’t afford it, especially these days,” says Fischer. When he heard about NOW Housing, he was intrigued. NOW Housing is a Cambridge, Ont.- based company that uses steel shipping containers and converts them into clean, comfortable, fully furnished and affordable modular homes. Two years later, as vice president of partnerships, he
  18. 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 17 to Affordable Housing is being contacted by non-profit organizations, government departments and private developers. “The process starts with our containers, which are surplus, manufactured overseas and sourced from local suppliers, mostly in Toronto,” says Fischer. “The only containers we buy are called ‘one-trippers,’ meaning they are used once to ship things like furniture and electronics from overseas. The magic happens in our factory, where the containers – all 9’6” tall ‘high boys,’ 8 feet wide by 20 or 40 feet long – are modified to create high- quality, permanent housing in a variety of sizes and models,” Fischer explains. Finished units come in a variety of configura­ tions, depending on the requirements of clients. They include: the space-efficient Studio, which contains a separate bedroom, bathroom with ensuite laundry and a full kitchen with a dinette set; the larger Single bedroom unit, comprised of containers connected side-by-side, which offers a spacious living room; the Duo Suite, with two separate adjoining suites containing a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen; and the Multi-Bedroom, which is multiple containers wide and offers a common living/dining area and shared bathrooms (including laundry), best suited to individual Staggering top and bottom units at the rear forms access and porch at the front of the structure. J O H N VA N T R A N , A RC H I T E C T U R A L V I S UA LIZ AT I O N
  19. 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 18 families or several tenants sharing common spaces. All units can be built barrier-free with accessibility features for people with disabilities, including lower countertops, larger bathrooms and wider access doors. Far from being spartan, NOW Housing homes come with a number of modern, comfortable and maintenance-free features to make the spaces feel like home, such as hardwood kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, separate heating/ cooling systems, quality furnishings, large windows (and sliding glass doors in some units) for natural light, wiring for internet and cable connectivity, and scratch-proof/ water-resistant panel system walls and vinyl flooring. “Because our units are made of solid steel, they can stand up to almost anything our Canadian climate can throw at them. Inside, we use non-organic and mould- resistant materials to make cleaning and maintenance easier and provide quick turnover timetables between tenants,” says Fischer. “Our units can be stacked multiple storeys high, creating contemporary multi-unit designs with entrance and balcony overhangs to form affordable housing complexes in single-development areas,” Fischer adds. “Through our quality-controlled production line process, which promotes optimal efficiency, we can produce affordable units faster, in greater quantity and at lower cost than any competitor.” As for the construction of its homes, NOW Housing takes great care in sourcing environmental, economical and durable materials to ensure the highest level of comfort. Inside its Cambridge factory, unit interiors are fitted with steel studs (separated, according to Code, by a “thermal break” from the exterior steel walls) and insulated in between with two- pound closed cell spray foam. Instead of conventional drywall, a more durable and maintenance-free wall panel system is installed. “When you have small spaces where people live closer to walls and windows, energy efficiency has to be better. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) requires efficiency to be significantly improved for modular ‘in situ’ buildings – by at least 25%. All of our units are certified CSA-A277 at the factory,” says Fischer. To ensure the highest possible level of energy efficiency and comfort, NOW Housing consulted with home and heating system designer John Godden to build in the latest energy recovery ventilation (ERV) technology and state-of-the-art air source heat pumps. All windows are high-performance triple-glazed designs. On the outside, areas that require extra sealing, such “Our units can be stacked multiple storeys high, creating contemporary multi- unit designs with entrance and balcony overhangs to form affordable housing complexes in single- development areas.” Two containers form a single unit 16 feet wide and 40 feet long.
  20. 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 as seams, are insulated as needed. Finally, exterior cladding (siding or brick) is applied according to the exterior appearance desired by the client. Completely finished and furnished units are installed by crane on site in a matter of hours. Today, in addition to building a steady supply of affordable modular homes, Fischer and the company are keeping busy applying for contracts from municipalities across Ontario who are eager to provide affordable housing to their middle-class, student and vulnerable citizens. Thanks to the federal government’s recent release of the Rapid Housing Initiative (through the CMHC), $1 billion is available to create up to 3,000 new permanent, affordable housing units across Canada: a major cities stream component of $500 million in immediate support for pre-determined municipalities, and a projects stream of $500 million for projects based on applications from provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous governing bodies and organizations, and non-profit organizations. An October 27, 2020 news release regarding the initiative stated: “Everyone should be able to find a place to live, raise their families, and build their future ... since 2015, the Government of Canada has helped more than 1 million people have a safe and affordable place to call home. This work is more important than ever as communities across the country continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19. By investing in affordable housing, we can create jobs and grow our middle class, build strong communities, fuel our economic 19 Above: Individual shipping containers are modified and married together to form spacious and affordable floor plans. Below: High density polyurethane foam is blown with a stand- off wall system to provide thermal comfort and air tightness. recovery, help reduce homelessness and support vulnerable Canadians.” “At NOW Housing, our mission is to work towards a sustainable environment for future generations – by reducing landfill waste and our carbon footprint; practicing reduction, re-use and recycling; and producing unique and environmentally friendly structures,” says Fischer, noting that the company’s market has been focused on smaller-space projects (typically rentals), sized at 480 square feet including living area, bathroom and kitchen.
  21. 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 20 “Our aim is to positively influence the stability and quality of community living by providing an improved housing solution to change the landscape of communities, allowing everyone to maintain their independence and dignity. Through co-operative endeavours with agencies, organizations, municipal and regional governments, and private and non-profit organizations, our goal is to be the largest builder of affordable housing in Ontario (and eventually Canada) by continuing to deliver cost-conscious solutions,” Fischer explains. As he completes yet another RFP for a municipal affordable housing project, Fischer reflects on the process: “I truly wish that helping people could be easier. I may sometimes complain, but really, my affordable housing journey has been well worth the effort.” BB Marc Huminilowycz is a senior writer. He lives and works in a low energy home built in 2000. As such, he brings first-hand experience to his writing on technology and residential housing and has published numerous articles on the subject. IT’S OUR NATURE 1 877 828 1888 CRAFT is dedicated to creating uncommonly beautiful wood floors that are as kind to the planet as they are luxurious. SHOP AND SAMPLE NOW: Global trade has provided a surplus of containers to be re-purposed as living space. S H U T T E RS TO C K 1275 4 0523
  22. 22. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 R A P H N O G E L P H OTO G R A P H Y 22 innovationnews / ROB BLACKSTIEN A ttention: Builders. Read on if you’re interested in making homes that are more struc­ turally sound, are safer during the construction process, are built to last longer, are more efficient, employ better (and sometimes cheaper) materials and have lower embodied carbon – all without being over- engineered. Not intrigued? That’s okay… Surely there’s some dinosaur racing on TV somewhere. Over-engineering of houses has been a challenge with some builders, typically occurring when the units are designed by engineers who excel in structural steel and reinforced concrete but lack the same level of comfort using wood. These designs will invariably include a “fudge factor” – extraneous materials included to overcompensate for a perceived lack of confidence that the home will be structurally sound. However, this practice goes against the very essence of structural sustainability, which is to optimize the home’s structure without significantly increasing costs. Ultimately, it’s a less-is-more approach that uses just the right amount of materials, thereby increasing efficiency (by leaving more room for insulation) while lowering material and labour costs. It’s a paradigm that’s been adopted, A structural engineering firm is teaching builders how to avoid over-engineering, employ more efficient products and develop techniques to improve the structural integrity of their houses. This practice [including extraneous materials to overcompensate for a perceived lack of confidence in structural soundness] goes against the very essence of structural sustainability, which is to optimize the home’s structure without significantly increasing costs. Less Is More with Structural Sustainability Travis Schiller, Schiller Engineering Ltd.
  23. 23. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 perfected and evangelized by Travis Schiller, principal of Mississauga, Ont.-based Schiller Engineering Ltd. A 2012 graduate of the University of Ottawa’s civil engineering program (which is where he learned about wood engineering), he got his start working with two larger firms (Aecom and Cole Engineering) before founding his own company four years ago to provide structural engineering services to developers, small builders, renovation contractors, architects and designer firms across Ontario. Value differentiator What differentiates the company is that its team of architectural techno­­ logists and engineers acts as a one- stop shop by offering city coordina­ tion/planning, construction drawings and structural engineering for custom homes and renovations. “Everything that we’re doing helps builders get their permits,” Schiller says. “With our extensive knowledge of architectural design and detailing, we don’t only think of structural impli­ cations when providing engineering services. We also take into account architectural implications which lead to more efficient and problem-free construction execution,” he adds. At its heart, structural sustainability is about finding balance: “You want to put in the least amount, but get the most out of the building,” he says. Over-engineering results in more wood members taking up space in the interior wall cavities, leaving less space for insulation and, ultimately, less efficient walls, which means more energy will be required to heat and cool those homes. Schiller understands the reticence of some engineers when designing with wood, given that there are higher safety factors with the product compared to manufactured building materials like concrete and steel. Wood has cracks and knots, so not every piece will be identical from a strength perspective. Combine that with the fact that wood shrinks and shifts and has pores in it that will have different moisture content throughout the year, and it’s easy to see why some aren’t comfortable with it. The result? “They’ll add in the fudge factor because they’re afraid that if [they] don’t add additional safety factors, it won’t be strong enough,” Schiller explains. As a formula, design x fudge factor = $$$. Code misinterpretation Another area of concern is how the current Building Code can be mis­ interpreted in regards to the use of rigid insulation instead of structural exterior sheathing, leading to numerous homes collapsing during construction [see photo above]. Schiller explains that the way the Code change to structural and energy efficiency standards was written is causing some builders to interpret it to mean that, in low seismic and low wind zones, exterior structural sheathing can be replaced by rigid insulation, as long as the interior side of the studs are finished with a panel-type material such as gypsum board. Where problems arise is that during construction, homes can be fully framed and sit for a long time before the interior drywall is installed. Mean­ while, Schiller explains, the home is not structurally sound, and in many instances homes have collapsed in windstorms based on this Code inter­ pretation. He says the Code needs to be corrected to ensure a safe, structurally sound work site for the complete con­ struction period. “There’s been enough of them that it’s just a ticking time bomb. Someone’s going to die in one of these homes,” Schiller warns. 23 Extreme winds require more lateral bracing than foam sheathings without drywall installed on the inside. PAU L LOW ES
  24. 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 24 TYVEK WRAPPED MINIMUM 4" UP INSIDE FACE OF STUD WALL BRICK VENEER 1" AIRSPACE 1-3/16" BP R-5-XP INSUL-SHEATHING PANEL 2"x6" WOOD STUDS @ 16" O.C. R-22 BATT INSULATION 6 MIL. POLYETHYLENE AB/VB 1/2" GYPSUM BOARD TYVEK BUILDING WRAP 1" R-4 ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD 80 DRAINAGE PLANE 1/2" AIRSPACE CAPILLARY BREAK APPLIED FLASHING/ VENEER WEEP HOLES BATT INSULATION WITH 6 MIL. POLYETHYLENE AB/VB 8" POURED CONCRETE FOUNDATION WALL 6CI ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD 80 + R14 BATT INSULATION POLYETHYLENE AB/VB SILL GASKET 6 MIL. POLYETHYLENE AB/VB Thanks to Schiller Engineering, Clearsphere, BP Canada and Rockwool International for a collaboration on this detail. 8" FOUNDATION WALL SECTION AT FIRST FLOOR WITH BRICK VENEER 3 = 1'0 moisture in the walls). Similarly, the government is considering changes to the Building Code that would alter the structural requirements for lateral loading from wind. Such a change, Schiller explains, would shift Ontario from the low to moderate wind loading category, thereby creating a requirement for builders to complete lateral designs and add extra reinforcements on low-rise residential projects. “Builders would be forced to install braced wall bands as required throughout the structures, which would create issues Even in instances when the home remains standing, if there isn’t proper exterior structural sheathing during construction, a windstorm can twist and pull on the nails, potentially weak­ ening the connections and thereby compromising the home’s structural integrity. A home built to last 50 years may only be 35 years old before interior damage – like windows cracking or drywall shifting and popping – occurs. That’s going to have an effect on the sustainability of the house because “if you can add 20 or 30 or 40 years to a house, its carbon footprint is going to be reduced based on the amount of effort that went into tearing it down and building a new one.” Schiller’s advice? Add some struc­ tural sheathing – be it oriented strand board (OSB), plywood, wood fibreboard, exterior dense glass or exterior weather-proof gypsum. Perhaps the best option, he suggests, is the wood fibre/rigid insulation combination product, which allows the home to breathe so it has better drying potential than OSB (which doesn’t dry well and can trap
  25. 25. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 with use of wood fibreboard, exterior rate gypsum panels, etc.,” he says. Ontario is currently a low seismic zone and a relatively low wind load area compared to other places in the country, so if the province is shifted into the moderate zone, Schiller says it will have “design implications, where a lot of the subset that is currently viewed in the Code by builders would no longer be acceptable.” Schiller says this proposal has sparked pushback – specifically from suppliers of materials that would no longer be deemed acceptable under the change – so it may or may not be approved. In fact, he says an online search shows no current information about the proposal. However, regardless of whether the Code changes or not, the sug­ gested techniques should probably be adopted by builders as part of a best practices approach. Pandemic silver lining Schiller and his firm offer several recommendations to make low-cost structural sustainability improve­ 25 Advanced framing A key component of structural sustainability, advanced framing consists of stripping out all non-essential lumber in home construction. Basically, it involves changing the wood stud and joist spacing from 12 or 16 inches to 24 inches apart, with the joists stacked directly in line with the studs. Doing so allows double top plates to be reduced to a single plate and three-stud corners to be trimmed to two. Even with the reduction of wood, this technique can still provide adequate backup with special clips or blocking to support the drywall. By reducing the wood in the walls, there’s more space for insulation, thereby increasing the wall’s overall R-value [see chart above]. Schiller explains that advanced framing is ideal for larger, wider homes that have ample wall sections, but is not recommended for smaller, infill or townhouses that are generally narrow and three to four storeys tall. “It’s an interesting concept and I think there’s certain home types that it works really efficiently in, while it’s not so efficient in other types of projects,” he says. EFFECTIVE R-VALUE OF SB-12 WALLS WALL CONSTRUCTION FRAMING CENTRES EFFECTIVE R-VALUE 2x6 STUD R22 BATT 16 O.C. 17.03 2x6 STUD R19 + R5 BATT 16 O.C. 20.32 2x4 STUD R14 + R7.5 BATT 16 O.C. 18.62 2x6 STUD R22 + R5 BATT 16 O.C. 21.4 2x6 STUD R24 BATT 24 O.C. 19.24 Going to 24 centres improves the effective R-value of the wall by 13% (framing factor goes from 23% to 19%). 519-489-2541 As energy continues to become a bigger concern, North American building codes and energy programs are moving towards giving credit for and/or requiring Airtightness testing. AeroBarrier, a new and innovative envelope sealing technology, is transforming the way residential, multifamily, and commercial buildings seal the building envelope. AeroBarrier can help builders meet any level of airtightness required, in a more consistent and cost-effective way. Take the guesswork out of sealing the envelope with AeroBarrier’s proprietary technology.
  26. 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 that calls for an inch of rigid exterior insulation, which has increased the foundation wall from its traditional eight inches to 10 inches based on the typical details builders employ. This has created problems with carbon footprint, given that concrete is the largest carbon producer of any building material, and with carbon tax increases on the way, “they’re going to get taxed basically to death, and the builder’s going to pay the price,” he says. To combat this, Schiller’s firm has come up with a solution allowing builders to go back to an eight-inch wall and still enjoy all the positives of having more efficient walls above. They’ve simply bumped up that one- inch air gap, which normally ends at the concrete wall, so it’s now flush to the top of the floor, pulling in the walls ¾ of an inch to recapture that space. [See diagram on page 24.] “So it’s just a very slight change in the details, which literally costs nothing to the builder – but they save two inches of concrete and keep header areas warm and this reduces condensation in those areas.” Given how important a topic carbon emissions will be for builders going forward, this is a vital component of a carbon reduction strategy. “I think the single most important way a builder can lower their carbon emissions is to lower the material amount used for the largest producer of carbon emissions, which is concrete,” Schiller advises. 26 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. A new code will be coming in 2022. How will you comply with the new requirements? 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 ments, but the key is “getting builders away from construction methods that they’ve been used to for decades.” For instance, OSB has been typic­ ally employed as exterior sheathing in residential construction, but one silver lining of the pandemic is that material shortages have forced builders to seek alternatives. Fibreboard is an excellent option in low wind and seismic areas and offers many advantages, including adding R-value to increase energy efficiency, lower cost, easier installation because it’s so light, and good drying potential so no moisture is trapped inside the walls because of its higher vapour permeance. Another of Schiller’s recommend­ ations relates to the Code change
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  28. 28. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 28 Raise the roof Schiller also recommends an inexpensive alternative for anchoring the roof system to the walls. Going to a raised heel truss, where the profile is higher at the edge of the building, addresses the concern that there’s a very small pocket to provide insulation where the roof meets the exterior walls. That was a real issue given that it’s at the edge and was a very high heat loss point because heat rises. Raising the roof profile not only allows for more insulation in that location, but with the sheathing now overlapping into the actual raised truss, it will act as a strap, thereby strengthening the connection between the roof and walls and adding structural stability to the building [diagram at right]. The bottom line In the end, let’s ignore for the moment the sustainability and structural integrity advantages that value engineering offers and simply focus on the bottom line. Given the relatively low cost of wood, what may not seem like a big deal can have a huge impact when you look at the big picture, Schiller warns. “When you add up these low costs multiple times per house in a new housing development – a few hundred or thousand dollars of extra building material multiplied by hundreds of homes – it adds up to a very substantial amount of money and profits lost to the builder, which then in turn can drive the costs of homes up for the end user,” he explains. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Online Zoom Webinar April 22, 2021at 10:30am Led by Structural Engineer Travis Schiller Participants must register to receive log on details – visit ENERGY-HEEL TRUSS FIBREGLASS R60 22 BP R5 XP ENERGY-HEEL TRUSS (VENTILATION BAFFLES NOT SHOWN FOR CLARITY) NAIL SHEATHING TO TOP PLATE AND TRUSS HEELS INSULATION CELLULOSE R60 16 ANCHORING RAISED HEEL TRUSSES Proper lapping and nailing of exterior sheathing can provide ample anchoring for roof systems in lieu of hurricane straps.
  29. 29. Check out our website at
  30. 30. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 30 fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY The Finish-Ready Basement In an attempt to reduce costs, the majority of production builders achieve Ontario Building Code (OBC) compliance for full-height basement insulation by using a double layer of bag wrap insulation, otherwise known as the “diaper.” Why do leading builders refer to it as “the diaper” and avoid its use? Because bag wrap insulation traps moisture and that makes it get wet. Then it collects things like mould and, eventually, that smell you get in the basement is much the same as changing the grandbaby’s dirty diaper. And it’s about as healthy for the occupant to be continually breathing that in. It may be the cheapest way to meet Code, but it lacks value, both from an actual insulative value (wet insulation doesn’t have much in the way of R-value) and in occupant value (you can’t finish it as is). If so many builders are using this method, why bother changing it? Besides the glaring concern for occupant safety, it’s simply a waste of materials in the long run. A customer wanting to finish their basement will need to build a stud wall in front of it, run the electrical needed for Code and then finish with drywall, all while leaving that poorly performing health hazard in place. More often than not, they get rid of “the diaper” and start over – meaning the product lasts a very short time before it is transported to its final destination, the landfill. So how do we create a basement that is healthier, more comfortable and ready for the home owner to finish? By taking a more holistic, future-proofed approach to our basement details. Personally, I am a big proponent of installing closed cell underslab spray foam insulation with rigid foam insulation against the wall. Correctly installed, this will be your air, vapour and soil gas barrier, meaning it will greatly reduce the chances of radon entering into the home. Now that foam plastics have changed from a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) blowing agent to a hydro­ fluoroolefin (HFO) blowing agent, their carbon footprint has been significantly reduced. It is still an issue when looking at embedded carbon, but it is much improved, and the other benefits make it a strong choice to consider. And the floor is warmer and drier, making the space far more comfortable for the occupant. While not a Code requirement, we’ve found it is very cost effective to spray the header at the same time as we spray the basement floor. This will reduce your home’s overall air leakage by about 1.0 ACH, a significant improvement. For the walls, consider 1.5 to 2 inches of rigid insulation against the concrete wall, with your header wrap taped to the top of the insulation. In southern Ontario, the 1.5 inch rigid acts as the vapour barrier and the taped joints will meet the air barrier requirements. Next up is to build a stud wall in front of the rigid insulation. While I am personally a fan of wood stud walls for their carbon reduction, current market conditions would indicate that it may be necessary to use steel studs. In an unfinished basement setting, the protection of foam plastics required by the Code would be met by installing an R-22 mineral wool batt. Roughing in the electrical prior to installing the batt insulation saves an additional step for the home owner, but is not necessary if the interior partition walls are not installed before closing. Note that since the rigid insulation is now acting as both the air and vapour barrier, the use of poly on the basement walls is no longer a requirement. The only reason to apply poly in this situation is to limit the potential for the batt insulation to particulate into the air, where the occupant might breathe it in. To limit this possibility, the poly only needs [Bag wrap insulation] may be the cheapest way to meet Code, but it lacks value, both from an actual insulative value (wet insulation doesn’t have much in the way of R-value) and in occupant value (you can’t finish it as is). G iven the rapid rise in home prices throughout Ontario over the last year, it is even more imperative that we consider housing affordability. While there will be those who feel the best approach is to “dumb down” their specs in order to hit a specific price point, there is an alternative that could be considered – the creation of a “finish-ready basement.”
  31. 31. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 to be stapled in place – no taping, no excessive sealing details. That work is now all done behind the stud wall. We also provide home owners with a basement layout showing the mechanical room, bathroom, family room and at least one bedroom. That makes it much easier for the customer to finish the basement. We also use this basement design to do our HVAC heating and cooling loads on a room-by-room basis, which we then use to install the supply lines into the rooms as if they are finished, with a centralized basement return. It’s fairly cost effective and eliminates the challenge of an HVAC contractor showing up on site and telling your client the system is undersized. That happens far more frequently than it should, as many HVAC contractors are not familiar with the smaller load requirements of even a Code-built home meeting the current OBC. While the cost of these additional materials will vary based on location and product used, it would not be 31 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. AMVIC BUILDING SYSTEM
  32. 32. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 32 unreasonable to consider the added cost above the bag wrap insulation to be in the $7,000 to $8,000 range. I’m sure you will be asking yourself, “But how can we afford to add another $7,000 to $8,000 to the house price?” Here’s a thought: reduce the square footage of the floor space above grade to offset this added cost. At roughly $200 per square foot, you’d need to reduce the home size by about 40 square feet. So a 1,100 square foot home would reduce to 1,060 square feet – and let’s be honest, not many builders are building a 1,100 square foot home nowadays. Redirecting where some of the home construction cost is allocated opens up the possibility of another 900 square feet of finished basement (allowing for a generous mechanical room) that can be finished by the home owner when their budget permits. More importantly, the cost to do so is only about 20% ($40 per square foot) of the cost of the home itself, and that’s where the true value lies. One last point to consider. It’s well worth adding one egress window to the basement at time of construction in order to provide a true “finish-ready basement.” I recently completed a basement renovation of an older 1979 bungalow that had half-height basement insulation and smaller basement windows. It was a real chore to cut in an egress window. Instead of $1,000 extra, it ran closer to $3,000, and the rear yard got torn up to complete the installation of the window and window well. From first-hand experience, it is way better to simply include one egress window in a new build. But it does show that the same concept (minus the sub-slab insulation) can be completed in the renovation of an older home. As builders, we have the opportunity to improve customer affordability by providing a “finish-ready basement.” It also provides the opportunity for a significant high-profit upsell for builders that will help meet their customers’ needs and budget. And that is a win-win-win all the way around: the customer, the builder and the environment. BB Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario. AMVIC AMDECK MODULAR ONE-WAY CONCRETE SLAB ICFVL FLOOR LEDGER CONNECTOR SYSTEM ELECTRICAL OUTLET
  33. 33. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 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
  34. 34. * HST is not applicable and will not be added to incentive payments. Terms and conditions apply. To be eligible for the Savings by Design Residential program, projects must be located in the former Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. service area. Visit for details. © 2021 Enbridge Gas Inc. All rights reserved. Savings by Design | Residential Designforenergyefficiency and sustainability — Savings by Design gives builders free access to industry experts, energy modelling and financial incentives to help build the high-performance and sustainable homes that buyers want. Get free expert help and up to $ 100,000* in incentives Why participate? Improve energy performance. Avoid costly changes during construction. Enhance comfort, health and wellness. Future-proof for a changing climate. Reduce environmental impact. Meet buyers’ changing needs. togetthemostoutofyournextproject.