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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 43 / Autumn 2022

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42408014 ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022
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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 43 / Autumn 2022

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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.

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 43 / Autumn 2022

  1. 1. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 Minto’s Annual Charity Home To ERV or Not to ERV Dealing with Radon Brighton EnviroHome Indoor Air Quality and Occupant Health, Part I OPTIMIZING INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY HEALTHY HOME
  2. 2. www.airmaxtechnologies.com T 905-264-1414 Prioritizing your comfort while providing energy savings Canadian Made Manufactured by Glow Brand Manufacturing 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 arefully modulating at 10 to 1 and 2 inch PVC venting up to 100 feet. Brand TM ENDLESS ON-DEMAND HOT WATER Models C95 & C140 Glow Brand C95 and C140 instantaneous combination ASME boilers for heating and on-demand
  3. 3. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 1 8 ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. 22 Cover and feature photography by John Godden 16 FEATURE STORY 16 Charity Starts at Home(building) Minto Communities’ long-standing partnership with an Ottawa hospital to build an annual charity home has been a real win-win for everyone involved. by Rob Blackstien PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 Thinking Inside the Box by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 To ERV or Not to ERV: That is the Question by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 5 House Depressurization Standards by Gord Cooke BUILDER NEWS 8 A Breath of Fresh Air by Marc Huminilowycz INDUSTRY NEWS 10 How to Best Deal with Radon in Ontario New Construction? by Paul De Berardis BUILDER NEWS 14 Sarah Margolius: Brand Recognition by Alex Newman BUILDER NEWS 22 A Legacy of Building Better by Marc Huminilowycz INDUSTRY EXPERT 27 Better Air Quality, from the Ground Up by Marc Huminilowycz FROM THE GROUND UP 31 Indoor Air Quality and Occupant Health – Part 1 An excerpt from the upcoming book From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge) by Doug Tarry 3
  4. 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 Thinking Inside the Box C anada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been promoting healthier homes for years. They have encouraged builders to embrace five principles: (1) occupant health, (2) energy efficiency, (3) resource efficiency, (4) environmental responsibility and (5) affordability. Meanwhile, LEED for Homes has always heavily weighted the importance of indoor environmental quality (IEQ); LEED v4 references a pick list of many features allowing builders to score high LEED point totals for certification (see chart on page 28). And the Energy Star home program in the United States has the Indoor airPLUS pick list, which provides a marketing brand for builders for indoor air quality. The interplay between occupant health and safety and affordability has been a discussion in residential housing for almost 35 years, largely due to air tightness. The central issue is that a healthy, more durable box (house) costs more money to build. The very chemicals that make building materials inexpensive, and quick to market, contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that adversely affect human health. So what’s the answer? It has been my experience that the more educated builders and homebuyers are about the building materials used in construction, the more empowered both parties are to choose materials that assure occupant health and environmental sustainability. It is the educated selection of building materials and mechanical systems that results in a win-win situation. The builder can still turn a profit, and the homeowner receives the value they are paying for. In production housing, the builder makes all these choices on behalf of the homebuyer. Minto Communities Ottawa is a great example of a builder that has embraced the healthy home approach to building. Minto annually builds a Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) house. This year, Minto is test driving Panasonic’s Breathe Well marketing platform (page 16). We also have a teaser article introducing a low- carbon laneway house targeting LEED Platinum (page 27). Both projects expose homebuyers to healthy home features and upgrades through education, allowing the homebuyer the full understanding of the benefits they are paying for. On page 3, Lou Bada explores the dilemma of every builder: Should they include features on the front end that cost them, or should those resources be held back to cover warranty claims? Paul De Berardis reminds us of the growing concern of radon in new housing and provides a simple explanation of the Code and how to navigate this critical issue (page 10). Key to the discussion of healthy homes is not only the materials we build and finish them with, but also the systems we use to ventilate and clean the air. In “A Breath of Fresh Air” on page 8, we examine the integration between ventilation and air filtration. Gord Cooke explains the new CSA F300 standard on depressurization and how it will affect airtight houses with large exhaust devices (page 5). And on page 31, Doug Tarry defines IEQ in the first of a two-part article on how it affects occupant health in residential housing. As houses become more airtight and insulated, the clear way to proceed is to think, design and build both inside and outside the box. Hopefully this issue opens up your understanding by bringing a breath of fresh air to the healthy home discussion. BB publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN 2 PUBLISHER Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 416-481-4218 | fax 416-481-4695 sales@betterbuilder.ca Better Builder Magazine is a sponsor of PUBLISHING EDITOR John B. Godden MANAGING EDITORS Crystal Clement Wendy Shami editorial@betterbuilder.ca To advertise, contribute a story, or join our distribution list, please contact editorial@betterbuilder.ca FEATURE WRITERS Rob Blackstien, Alex Newman, Marc Huminilowycz 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.
  5. 5. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 It should be no surprise that homebuilders are highly sensitive to market forces and (over-) regulation. When I speak of regulation, it’s not just changes to the OBC and energy efficiency programs imposed by municipalities (though they are unpredictable and non-sensical at times) – there are many other regulations that affect us adversely. Without going too far down a rabbit hole, I’ll give one recent example (and again there are many, many more): Tarion has decided A number of years ago, while we were crying over a few drinks, Myer Godfrey of Yorkwood Homes told me: “Lou, remember that no matter how bad things are today, 10 years from now these will be the good old days.” I have those words framed in my office. Well, eight years ago, in the fall 2014 issue of Better Builder, I wrote about the value proposition of installing a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) in our homes. I tried to explain the cost–benefit thinking in the decision-making process of using an HRV for homebuilders. Currently, we are discussing upgrading from an HRV to an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) in our current construction. HRVs are now virtually ubiquitous in new home construction due to recent Ontario Building Code (OBC) changes. Does it make sense to spend a few hundred dollars more for an ERV in lieu of an HRV? In short: mostly yes and maybe not. I’ll try to explain. There is little debate on whether ERVs are a typically better product in terms of comfort, air quality and energy savings (in our climate). I’ll let other writers better explain how, in terms of humidification and dehu- midification, ERVs are worth the few hundred dollars more than HRVs, with little debate. They’re actually less expensive and likely more effective than installing a humidifier. (Of note, though: the homes are getting tighter and, often, the homes are multi-gener­ ational with higher occupancies and thus higher levels of humidity.) Despite the positive cost-benefit analysis, not all builders install them. Why not? that builders are now responsible for warrantying damage caused by ice damming on roofs for seven years as a “structural defect.” While the problem of ice damming can be a significant problem for a homeowner, it was always excluded by Tarion for repair as a structural defect because it is a weather event caused by the freeze/thaw cycle, which is sometimes extremely difficult to avoid (with an asphalt-shingled roof). This previous warranty exemption excluded an improperly insulated attic, which 3 thebadatest / LOU BADA To ERV or Not to ERV: That is the Question BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 BENEFITS OF WINTER ERV OPERATION VERSUS STALE 42º FRESH 62º FRESH 32º STALE 70º Site design, control and review can lead to complex roof designs that contribute to ice damming. ICE DAMMING NEW TARION REQUIREMENT
  6. 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 schemes. NIMBYism is rampant. Our products are unattainable for most new home buyers. The law of supply and demand is immutable. I understand builders won’t get much sympathy in most places, but it’s difficult to make good choices when there are few to make. Voluntarily adding costs to our product for something few customers are asking for is daunting. We have less and less discretion in what, where, how and when we build. We have little wiggle room. Oppressive regulations lead to some absurd outcomes. Think of it another way: If we build 200 homes in a community and choose not to spend $300 per home for an ERV, we can save $60,000 on that site. $60,000 will go some way in covering us for the new ice damming regulation imposed on us by Tarion, which benefits very few. Doesn’t seem right. I guess I can only look forward to looking back nostalgically. I just can’t see it now, as I couldn’t see it years ago when Myer was consoling me then. I’ll just have to trust him that these are the good old days, someday. 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). would and should be warrantied. Most builders already use ice and water shield to mitigate the possibility of ice dams in vulnerable places of the roof, but it’s not foolproof. Ice damming would also usually be covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy (you should check yours). This cost has now been downloaded to builders for seven years (thus some insurers benefit). It gets better. The best way to remedy ice damming – besides ice and water shield and adequate insulation – is to avoid building, for lack of a better word, a complicated roof with many unnecessary hips, valleys and projections. In the meanwhile, urban planners and control architects, through agreements with municipalities, are happily forcing us to build more complicated roof lines and add other unnecessary and expensive elements to our homes. Regulators often pull us in completely opposite directions. I digress. My point is that builders are forced to do many things that make little sense. Our homebuyers compel us to add features like 10-foot-high ceilings, hardwood floors and solid surface countertops. Asking for nice finishes is understandable when the homes they buy are very expensive. We wouldn’t sell many homes if we didn’t do these things and this conversation would be academic. On the other hand, current market conditions are deteriorating while inflation is high and costs for labour and material are spiraling out of con- trol (think of a scissor graph). Govern- ments have also chosen to increase development charges and add even more requirements, such as inclusion- ary zoning for affordability (another discussion to be had). Approval times have gotten longer. We are subject to contradictory zoning and planning 4 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 LowCostCodeCompliancewith theBetterThanCodePlatform BetterThanCodeUsestheHERSIndex to Measure Energy Efficiency TheLowertheScoretheBetter Measureable and Marketable 80 60 40 20 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 2024. 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. betterthancode.ca Email info@clearsphere.ca or call 416-481-7517 The best way to remedy ice damming – besides ice and water shield and adequate insulation – is to avoid building a complicated roof.
  7. 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 More generally, there are three primary issues or risks (and a few inconveniences) associated with depressurization of buildings by exhaust appliances. The first and most serious is the risk of backdraft- ing of combustion appliances. The second is the potential impact on other exhaust appliances or even the proper performance of the offend- ing appliance itself due to the back pressure of the building. Third is the comfort issue of drafts and the heat loss or gain of the infiltrating air when an exhaust fan is operating. Current building codes provide some general direction and prescrip­ tive measures to limit depressuriza­ tion. For example, in the International Residential Code (IRC) used in the United States, if an exhaust appliance with a capacity of over 400 cfm (cubic feet per minute) is installed, then makeup air shall be provided. In Canada, limiting depressurization has been dealt with in the ventilation sections of codes and standards with the primary focus on combustion safety. Hence, in Section 9.32.3: Mechanical Ventilation, different types of ventilation equipment are described for homes based on the types of combustion appliances installed in the house. The F300:22 edition provides better direction for builders and their mechanical designers and HVAC contractors because this edition applies to new houses as well as existing ones, while the first edition was directed at existing homes only. The major changes in this edition include the removal of the −5 Pa (pascal) pressure limit for solid fuel- burning appliances (think wood- burning fireplaces), but the inclusion of carbon monoxide alarm requirements for all solid fuel-burning appliances. This should be helpful to builders and HVAC contractors to avoid the need for complex makeup air systems for large exhaust appliances whenever a wood-burning fireplace or stove is installed; homeowner safety is ensured by a carbon monoxide alarm rather than relying on a mechanical air intake system. The −5 Pa pressure limit stays in place for other spillage-susceptible combustion appliances – such as natural draft water heaters, furnaces and gas log sets – since the dangers of backdrafting from these types of appliances is more complex than simply carbon monoxide. To address the question about how big is too big for a range hood in tighter homes, the new F300 edition includes a −25 Pa pressure limit during what is referred to as the depressurization test condition (DTC). Imagine the range hood, the clothes dryer and the whole house ventilation system (the energy recovery ventilator, for example) all running at the same time, competing for air in the house. The experience has been that building enclosure pressures of more than −25 Pa result in annoying drafts, hard-to-open doors and transfer of odours from adjacent suites in multi-family buildings. Moreover, the exhaust capacity of most 5 House Depressurization Standards industryexpert / GORD COOKE Insulated duct with makeup air damper. The screened vent terminates in the mechanical room of the house and is activated by a pressure switch in the range hood vent duct. R ecently, the second edition of the CSA standard that provides guidance on depressurization limits within houses was released. First published in 2013, it is formally known as the CSA F300:22 Residential Depressurization Standard and, in my opinion, it will bring clarity to a challenge that builders have been facing for at least the last 15 years: how big a kitchen range hood can a homeowner choose when houses are getting tighter and tighter? GORD COOKE
  8. 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 6 residential exhaust fans – such as bath fans and range hoods – are rated at −25 Pa. If these fans have to operate against the back pressure induced by the house enclosure being under a negative pressure, their exhaust capacity will be reduced. I recall a 30-storey condominium project where I was asked to investi­ gate a kitchen exhaust challenge. All 300 suites were planned to have special off-shore, grease-capturing range hoods with a reported capacity of 600 cfm. When these fans were running in the relatively small suites, the pressure difference between the suites and the hallway or the outside was in the order of 75 Pa. The actual range hood capacity at this 75 Pa back pressure dropped to just under 250 cfm. There were two important results. First, the 250 cfm was no longer enough to meet the exhaust flow specifications of the planned natu- ral gas ranges needed to ensure safe exhaust vent duct temperatures. Second, the bath fans were unable to overcome the 75 Pa static pressure and actually ran backwards whenever the range hoods were turned on. This was an amusing oddity, but the safe venting over the gas cook top was a clear safety issue that needed to be resolved. Fortunately, this issue was discovered early in the construction process and, in most of the condo- miniums, the installation of gas ranges was discontinued in favour of electric ranges and range hoods that were able to capture grease and cook- ing odours at lower airflow capacity. Within F300:22, HVAC designers and contractors are given options to use predictive tools to determine possible pressure challenges or in-field test procedures to verify safe operation and compliance. Builders who are doing regular airtightness testing of their homes can use the test results in both the pre-project mechanical design and the final compliance verification. For example, the common metric when doing an airtightness (blower door) test of a house is air changes per hour at 50 Pa negative pressure (ACH50Pa). To arrive at that metric, energy advisors measure the volume of air in cubic feet per minute (cfm) it takes to create that 50 Pa pressure in any specific house. Thus, we know the cfm at 50 Pa (CFM50) and, using a simple formula, an extrapolation of the air flow required to create a −25 Pa pressure can be completed. (There is an online calculator provided by Residential Energy Dynamics that you can use to predict pressures at different air flow capacities: www.redcalc.com/ depressurization-analysis.) The actual formula is: Allowable exhaust flow at −25 Pa = Where n is the slope of the airtightness test curve determined by the blower door software used. If you don’t know the slope of the line, then using 0.65 for the slope is a common assumption. Here is an example: If you are building a 2,500 square foot house with an interior volume of 30,000 cubic feet and you commonly achieve an airtightness level of 1.5 ACH50, we can calculate/predict the CFM50 as follows: = 750 cfm to create –50 Pa pressure Now, use the allowable exhaust flow formula to determine how much air would be required to achieve –25 Pa as follows: Allowable exhaust flow = = 478 cfm Therefore, if you have a dryer that exhausts 100 cfm of air and you are using a balanced whole-house ventilation system (ERV), then a range hood smaller than 478 − 100 = 378 cfm would allow you to meet the requirements of the CSA F300:22 standard for intermittent depressurization. You can adjust the formula for any desired pressure. For example, the safe pressure limit when you have combustion spillage equipment is −5 Pa. In the example house above, we can determine the exhaust flow that would create a −5 Pa pressure as: Allowable exhaust flow at −5 Pa = = 168 cfm An exhaust flow of 168 cfm would create a −5 Pa pressure. CFM50 × 25n 50n 30,000 × 1.5 ACH 60 minutes per hour 750 CFM50 x 250.65 500.65 750 x 8.1 12.72 = 750 CFM50 × 50.65 50.65 750 x 2.85 12.72 =
  9. 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 It is helpful to know that, within the new edition of F300:22, there is flexibility in assigning the −25 Pa limit for exhaust flows. For example, the designer could show that they have specified or even verified in the field that the range hood used is able to operate properly at pressures greater than −25 Pa. In the annex section of the standard, there is a list of 10 potential solutions offered to remediate negative pressure concerns. These solutions are appropriately focused on resolving potential combustion spillage. Included are solutions for replacing spillage- susceptible appliances with direct vent-sealed combustion options, reducing the size of large exhaust appliances or providing makeup air. Fortunately, the leading manu­ facturers of range hoods (like Broan Nutone) are responding well to these concerns and now offer a series of products that have makeup air relay kits and optional dampers available to facilitate the installation of makeup air dampers. The new CSA F300:22 Residential Depressurization Standard is another important tool as all new home build­ ers need to resolve the challenge of creating ever tighter homes to ensure the durability, comfort and energy efficiency of the homes they build without compromising the health and safety of homeowners or the choices they wish to make with respect to kitchen and laundry appliances. BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada.   7 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: suppport@airsolutions.ca | 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 The major changes in this edition include the removal of the −5 Pa (pascal) pressure limit for solid fuel-burning appliances (think wood- burning fireplaces), but the inclusion of carbon monoxide alarm requirements.
  10. 10. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 8 Symak notes an increased interest over the past two-and-a-half years in ventilation as either a replacement to filtration or as an added measure to ensure healthier indoor commercial environments. The acquisition of Airia Brands and Lifebreath by the Zehnder Group in early 2022 has benefitted the 35-year-old Lifebreath brand by making it part of a much larger global enterprise, which will grow the brand and its markets. In 2021, Better Builder contributor Lou Bada created a “Good Builder Checklist for IAQ” (see the summer 2021 issue, page 3). From a builder’s perspective, how does the Lifebreath brand meet the requirements of this checklist? Energy recovery ventilator (ERV) products According to Symak, ERVs have historically been reserved for cooling- only climates. “Technology has advanced to the point where ERVs can effectively and efficiently operate in cold weather,” she says. “In fact, many Lifebreath ERVs are independently certified to operate in cold northern winters. For example, the Ontario Building Code requires ERVs to be tested at −25 °C at flow rates of 30 L/S with a minimum sensible recovery efficiency of 55% for use in Ontario. Having an ERV in the winter allows you to retain more moisture in the indoor air compared to an HRV. This makes an ERV a good option when you tend to have dry indoor air in the winter.” MERV-13 Filter and HEPA Air Filtration MERV-13 filters were adopted as a furnace system add-on for COVID-19 virus mitigation in homes. Lifebreath’s MERV-13 filter is designed for protection from dust, pollen, mould, bacteria and all airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns. It is available as an upgrade for most of the company’s heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and ERVs. Lifebreath’s HEPA air cleaning units ensure clean, healthy air throughout the home, removing 99.97% of unwanted particles. They allow for free air circulation without putting any extra load on the home’s air distribution system. Symak explains: “Air exchangers like ERVs remove indoor air (with all its contaminants) and replace it with fresh outdoor air. By doing so, the indoor air quality is generally improved. Filtration deals with contaminants. While outdoor air is usually cleaner than indoor air, there are benefits to filtering the outdoor air before it enters a building. What’s more, filtering indoor air as it is being circulated throughout the home can work well as a parallel system to an air A Breath of Fresh Air buildernews / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ Tony DiClemente, president, Aria Comfort Systems, shows ERV and parallel HEPA air filtration. R emote work. Social distancing. Masking. Outdoors-only get-togethers. COVID-19 profoundly changed everything in our daily lives. If there’s one main takeaway from the pandemic from a building perspective, it’s a renewed focus on the importance of ventilation and air quality in indoor environments. “While COVID-19 brought the idea of indoor air quality to the forefront of people’s perception of their imme­ diate environment, increased demand for ventilation has been driven by builders who want to sell a healthy building,” observes Karen Symak, GTA and Central Ontario territory manager for Airia Brands, which owns Lifebreath Indoor Air Systems. BET TER BUILDER
  11. 11. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 exchanger to boost indoor air quality.” Good ventilation continues to be a vital factor in the health and safety of occupants in indoor spaces, as well as an important component of indoor air quality. And technology continues to evolve to meet the IAQ challenge. “As an IAQ pioneer, Lifebreath is continuously developing new technology,” says Symak. “Auto balancing units and fault detection are two current trends being driven by the California building code, which leads the way for better buildings as a minimum standard. We’re always ready to adapt to changing codes, while also developing technologies for future improvements to IAQ management.” With builders and contractors “at the frontlines of the industry, installing Lifebreath units and communicating with end users,” Airia Brands offers free Lifebreath Academy training to educate them on every detail of installing, balancing, maintaining, troubleshooting and retrofitting an air exchanger. Included in the training are sales points to help contractors better communicate the benefits of high-quality indoor air to homeowners. 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. 9 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. lifebreath.com Visit Lifebreath.com tolearnmore! orcallusat 1-855-247-4200 “…filtering indoor air as it is being circulated throughout the home can work well as a parallel system to an air exchanger to boost indoor air quality.”
  12. 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 10 There are generally two options for testing a house for radon: (1) purchase a do-it-yourself radon test kit or (2) hire a radon measurement professional. The radon test kits include instructions on how to set up the test and to send it back to a lab for analysis once the testing period is over. The cost of a DIY radon test kit ranges from $40 to $50. The Canadian guideline for radon in indoor air for dwellings is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (200 bq/m3). A becquerel is a unit that measures the emission of radiation per second. The radon level in a dwelling should not be above the guideline. The only way to know your radon level is to test and, if high levels are found, take action to reduce it. This issue has come to light once again through the ongoing harmoni­ zation process where the Ontario Building Code (OBC) is being further aligned with the National Building Code of Canada. So, for those that may not be too familiar with radon, what exactly is it? According to the federal government, radon is a radio- active gas that occurs naturally when the uranium in soil and rock breaks down. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted and is not a concern. However, in enclosed spaces (like homes), it can accumulate to high levels, which can be a health risk to occupants. Radon gas moves through the ground and escapes outside or into buildings. Radon can enter a home any place it finds an opening where the house is in contact with the ground: cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls. All homes in Canada can have radon gas in them, but concentrations differ greatly across the country. Radon concentration levels will vary from one house to another, even if they are similar designs and next door to each other. No matter the age, type of construction or where a home is located, the only way to know the extent of radon in a home is to test. With my role at RESCON, our industry association has commented on regulatory requirements surround­ ing radon requirements in the past, but I’ve had no direct experience in testing or mitigating radon. I thought it would be worthwhile and interesting to use my radon knowledge and took it upon myself to test my own home (located in York Region) to see what the level of radon concentration would be. Not knowing what to expect, especially after hearing stories of builders dealing with isolated instances of high radon readings, I was fortunate when my test analysis revealed a reading of approximately one-tenth of the 200 bq/m3 guideline, thereby needing no further action. While my home testing revealed minimal concentration, radon can be dangerous to your health under adverse conditions. Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon in indoor air results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The risk of cancer depends on the level of radon and how long a person is exposed to those levels. When it comes to the current OBC and radon requirements, a building/ home in the following designated areas shall be designed and constructed so that the annual average concentration of radon does not exceed 200 bq/m3 of air: the City of Elliot Lake in the Territorial District of Algoma, the Township of Faraday in the County of Hastings and the geographic Township of Hyman in the Territorial District of Sudbury. How to Best Deal with Radon in Ontario New Construction? industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS T he topic of radon has long been a contentious issue in the residential homebuilding industry. Depending on who you ask and where you are in Ontario, you will likely get a different answer from everyone on what measures, if any, are needed to address radon. The subfloor depres­ surization rough-in is an economical option as radon levels cannot be predicted in advance of the completion of a building, so further measures beyond the rough-in may never be needed depending on what testing reveals after occupancy.
  13. 13. INSUL-SHEATHING Panel 11⁄16” DuPontStyrofoam™BrandPanel ½” All-Natural Wood Fibre Panel All-Natural Wood Fibre Panel The Leslieville Laneway house is a project in the Toronto area. This discovery home is built for climate change. It Features superior woodfibre insulation combined with energy-efficient HVAC and grey water recycling. The innovative design creates efficient spaces for more occupants, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint building. The project is targeting LEED Platinum. A Barbini Design Build (barbini.ca) construction, developed with the assistance of Clearsphere Consulting for Skye Mainstreet Properties Ltd. bpcan.com S I N C E 1 9 0 5 BP’S R-5 XP INSUL-SHEATHING PANELS ARE NOW GREY, BUT GREENER THAN EVER R-5 XP Insul-Sheathing panels are now available with DuPont’s new reduced global warming potential Styrofoam™ Brand XPS formulation. This means that our already eco-friendly panels are now greener than ever — and still provide the same benefits that have made them so popular: • No additional bracing required • Integrated air barrier • Lightweight and easy to install To make them easy to identify, they are now grey instead of blue. That way, when you see our new GREY panels, you will know instantly that you are looking at a GREENER product. OUR GREY IS YOUR NEW GREEN
  14. 14. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 CENTRE OF FLOOR SLAB RADON SLOPE PIPE FOR CONDENSATION DRAINAGE EXHAUST PIPE 150mm DEEP GRANULAR MATERIAL FOR A RADIUS OF NOT LESS THAN 300mm AT THE CENTRE OF FLOOR SLAB 100mm 12 While the OBC currently regulates radon in only these three geographic areas of Ontario, experience and testing have shown other potential hot spots in the province when it comes to radon. Together with regional public health units and select building departments, various municipalities have also mandated the requirements of SB-9 as part of the building permit process. Developed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), Supplementary Standard SB-9: Requirements for Soil Gas Control outlines various methods of mitigating radon soil gas in new homes. The three radon gas mitigation options include a subfloor depressurization rough-in, a soil gas barrier or an active subfloor depressurization system. The radon mitigation options in SB-9 all present viable options for builders to address the potential for radon should it exist above the recommended concentration. Most notably, the subfloor depressurization rough-in is an economical option as radon levels cannot be predicted in advance of the completion of a building, so further measures beyond the rough-in may never be needed depending on what testing reveals after occupancy. However, on the contrary, home builders have become more aware and efficient at mitigating uncontrolled air leakage with improved air barrier details and sealing practices, minimizing uncontrolled air leakage in a home. This combined with the OBC requirements of the 2017 MMAH Supplementary Standard SB-12: Energy Efficiency for Housing, which mandated heat or energy recovery ventilators in new homes, thereby providing consistent mechanical ventilation of fresh air that can reduce the potential for increased radon concentration in a home. Like I said earlier, depending on who you talk to in the homebuilding industry, some believe radon is not a problem and the current OBC requirements provide adequate mitigation, whereas others believe the full gamut of SB-9 should be included in every new home. Getting back to what future reg­ ulations may look like for radon soil gas control under the harmonization process, the proposal that MMAH consulted is essentially the same as the subfloor depressurization rough-in option presented in SB-9. However, if the proposal was to proceed as planned under the harmonization process, this would become a requirement for all new homes in Ontario, whereas SB-9 is currently being mandated through the permit process by select municipal building departments. While having a radon subfloor depressurization rough-in will prove useful if high levels of radon are detected by a homeowner after occupancy, the real challenge is that the majority of homeowners do not test their homes for radon and they will undoubtedly be confused by the stub pipe marked “radon” sticking out of their basement floor slab. Requiring the subfloor depressurization rough-in is only one piece of the puzzle. Much more homeowner awareness, education and testing is needed to properly address those instances where high radon concentrations may be present. BB Paul De Berardis is the director of building science and innovation for the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). Email him at deberardis@rescon.com SB-9 mandated by some Ontario localities includes a sub-floor depressurization rough-in as an option. Requiring the subfloor depressurization rough- in is only one piece of the puzzle. Much more homeowner awareness, education and testing is needed.
  15. 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 14 buildernews / ALEX NEWMAN “I wanted to address complex issues successfully,” she says. “I wanted to combine business, design and futures methodologies to come up with new strategies to solve complex problems. The program was really all about making life better for people, and what I liked about it was that sustainability was a core value.” Margolius considers herself a sustainable change agent, “passionate about finding solutions and win-win outcomes.” And since 2007, she’s taken up the cause professionally. With certifica­ tion from the Project Management Institute as a PMP, Margolius was hired by EnerQuality (EQ) as program manager for Union Gas’s Optimum program, and then Enbridge’s Savings by Design. While at EQ, she fell in love with homebuilding and buildings in general and launched the first Net Zero Builder training program. Earlier this year, Margolius joined Panasonic, a company that is “actively engaged in finding solutions. But at the end of the day, it’s about meeting human needs. We’re not just adopting complicated technology for the sake of meeting a target. Our new technologies will meet – and exceed – it, but we do it in order to satisfy homeowner expectations.” Those homeowners have grown increasingly aware of environmental issues and are especially interested in indoor air quality, particularly since the start of COVID-19. “We’re constructing buildings tighter as climate drives us more indoors,” Margolius points out. “That leads to a lifestyle change which in turn alters consumer demands, especially as people start making the connection between what’s happening inside and outside.” According to a recent North Amer­ ican survey on indoor air quality, though, the housing industry needs to catch up. “The study found that the building industry consistently underestimated how much home­ buyers are concerned about air quality. That’s starting to change, and we’re doing our best to move that along.” Her main message to the housing industry today is that it is absolutely within reach to offer homeowners what they want: improved indoor air quality, reduced energy consumption and money savings, all at the same time. That happens where innovation and education meet, and when companies with high brand recognition like Panasonic collaborate with builders. Its recent collaboration with Minto is a prime example. Minto, which has Sarah Margolius, Business Development Manager, IAQ (Indoor Air Quality), Panasonic. Sarah Margolius Brand Recognition I nspired by summers spent in cottage country, Sarah Margolius has always been interested in the environment and its sustainability. In high school, she co-founded an environmental action group. After graduating with a history degree from McGill, she was part of OCAD University’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation program. DAVID CHANG PHOTOGR APHY
  16. 16. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 frequently won Green Builder of the Year, was appointed the construction of the grand prize in the sweepstakes to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). The Ottawa-area home, aptly named a Breathe Well Home, has been a great vehicle to showcase some of Panasonic’s newest technologies, like the energy recovery ventilator (ERV), as well as other award-winning solutions for improving air quality and reducing energy consumption. “Ventilation aligns perfectly with the charity, which is all about children’s health,” Margolius explains. “A healthy home needs good ventilation. That’s essentially the lungs of the home. Improving ventilation guarantees improved health outcomes by as much as 20% to 50%.” Builders have a few ways to meet energy reduction targets and position themselves for ever-tightening building codes. There’s LEED certification, Energy Star, Savings by Design, Better Than Code and the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). While she’s very familiar with the Energy Star and R-2000 programs from her previous positions, Margolius likes the flexibility of the HERS ratings. In the United States, Energy Star was created using HERS before it came to Canada. “There’s no doubt that Energy Star is one of the most impactful programs,” she says. “It has incredible name recognition. The R-2000 program was good for builders because they could take pride in delivering efficient homes thanks to the cutting- edge technology.” But HERS, she finds, “is a great tool which provides lots of flexibility. And different builders can scale it to their needs across different regions.” It’s also easy to adopt and can deliver savings. “What I like about the HERS rating is the ability to try something new that is a proven technology. It will get us to our climate targets but in a practical and cost- effective way.” Margolius points out that the ERV is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy consumption and improve air quality – and the HERS rating helps builders understand the variety of components that can be included, such as the ERV. In fact, the most efficient HERS homes almost exclusively use ERVs, she says. And it works well with the Better Than Code approach, which looks at saving costs. “The ERV is one of the most cost-effective features,” Margolius says. “It gives a great score without a big cost.” “When you start from the viewpoint of meeting human needs, the rest follows,” she says. Getting efficient and reducing carbon emissions also ends up saving money in the long run. “But most important is it’s better for people.” BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at alexnewmanwriter.com. 15 519-489-2541 airsealingpros.ca 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. “A healthy home needs good ventilation. That’s essentially the lungs of the home. Improving ventilation guarantees improved health outcomes by as much as 20% to 50%.”
  17. 17. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 16 buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN CHARITY STARTS AT HOME(BUILDING) I f karma exists, Minto Communities sure has been banking its fair share of the good variety over the past couple of decades. Since 2000, the Ottawa-based builder has partnered with Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) to annually build the home that is raffled off to raise funds for the hospital as part of the Dream of a Lifetime Lottery. For Minto – and the dozens of partners, suppliers and trades that help bring this house to life every year – this endeavour is like a gift that just keeps on giving. From the environmental, social and governance (ESG) boost to the charitable tax benefits, from the public relations value and partnership sparking to the opportunity to experi­ ment and innovate with new building Franklin Menendez, energy rater and inspector (left), with Justin Bouchard, Director of Estimating & Purchasing at Minto.
  18. 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 techniques in an effort to create low- carbon products, the CHEO truly is a win-win for all parties involved. Minto has been a true leader in sustainability for over 20 years; in fact, it’s been building Energy Star houses since the program’s inception way back in 2005. As per its website, the company is guided by its values. These include innovation, continuous improvement and grabbing any chance “to make things better for our customers, investors and communities.” This is why the company seeks opportunities to donate to organizations that are making a positive impact on their communities, such as CHEO. While three of the last four CHEO homes have been Net Zero, Minto opted to go in a different direction for this year’s home, says Justin Bouchard, director of estimating and purchasing. He says he’s learned a lot more about Net Zero in recent years, and the more he’s exposed to different tech­ niques like what he learned through Savings by Design (see page 19), the more convinced he’s become that a broader view of green building makes more sense. While Net Zero is mostly focused on energy, Minto believes a strategy that factors in air quality and water conservation in addition to energy conservation is the best way to go. A more holistic approach “We want to take a more holistic approach to sustainability,” Bouchard says. After all, he adds, “with energy reduction nearly tapped out, we start to get into the law of diminishing returns, so this approach makes more sense as we move into a more realistic Net Zero-ready world.” “You can only put so much insula­ tion on the side of the house,” he says with a laugh. While Net Zero may still ultimately be the end game, perfecting it will be a process. “We’re not going to get there overnight, so where are those incremental pieces we can do every year to [move the ball forward]? Maybe one day we do get there, but there’s got to be a bridge for us to get there,” Bouchard says. Gas can’t just be shut off tomorrow, he says. But perhaps it can be used in a smarter way – with heat pumps, for instance. Using fossil fuels intelligently “Using our fossil fuels smartly is, to me, the right approach to eventually getting to Net Zero at some point down the road,” Bouchard concludes. Among the sustainability highlights of the 2022 CHEO home: • Panasonic EverVolt Black Series solar panels; • Panasonic EverVolt home battery storage; • Panasonic Breathe Well indoor air quality system (see below); • Hybrid gas/electric mechanical system for heating/cooling, consisting of: iFLOW zoned air handler, Navien tankless water heater, Comfort Star air source heat pump and Panasonic Intelli Balance ERV for ventilation; • Water conservation features such as: Greyter greywater recycling system, hot water recirculation line, low-flow water fixtures, drain water heat recovery and front-load washing machine; • Insulation: R-10 under slab, R-24 below-grade walls (R-10 XPS and R-14 Batt), R-27 above grade walls (R-5 XP Insul-Sheathing and R-22 Batt) and R-60 attic (cellulose); and • High-performance double-pane windows. Bouchard, a 14-year company veteran who joined Minto straight out of school and has occupied a variety of roles with the firm, stressed that it really takes a village to build the CHEO home every year. Usually around 70 contributing partners are involved, including suppliers, installers and trades – most of whom donate time and/or supplies to varying degrees. “We wouldn’t have the CHEO house if it wasn’t for all these different people that contribute to the house every year,” he says. 17 Minto Communities’ long-standing partnership with an Ottawa hospital to build an annual charity home has been a real win-win for everyone involved.
  19. 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 18 Bouchard says among this year’s key sponsors are: • BP, whose integrated, structural wood sheathing/insulation is employed on the exterior of the home, and actually presented a cost savings during the height of the lumber market shortage, not to mention a better-­­­performing ­product; and • Enercare: a long-time Minto partner which “came through big on this project,” by donating some of the mechanical systems for this house, including the iFlow air handler and tankless water heater. The most important partner But perhaps the most important partner Minto had for this year’s CHEO home was Panasonic, which had supplied its WhisperValue exhaust fan for previous versions of Minto’s charity houses, but in 2022 raised its participation to a whole new level – one that could very well spark a much deeper alliance for the two companies going forward. Panasonic recently started mar­ keting its Breathe Well campaign, an indoor air quality initiative that Sonny Pirrotta, Panasonic Canada’s national sales manager – IAQ solu­ tions, says is the first of its kind. The campaign – which includes a marketing com­ ponent designed to increase consumer awareness and provide education on the importance of indoor air quality, and channel programs for builders, contractors and distributors – is showcased prominently in this year’s CHEO house. Each program features its own set of benefits, including loyalty rewards, special pricing and marketing colla­ teral. Pirrotta helped spearhead the Breathe Well campaign, which Pana­ sonic began working on about six months before the pandemic hit. It was certainly serendipitous timing as interest in improving indoor air quality skyrocketed as a direct result of COVID-19. For the CHEO home, which will be designated and co-marketed as a Breathe Well home, the following Panasonic air quality solutions (on top of the other equipment listed above) will be featured: • Whisper Air Repair, a spot air purifier located in the gym, recreation room, guest room and all bedrooms; • Intelli Balance 200 ERV; and • Swidget controls for monitoring and automation, located in various locations throughout the house (see “Behavioural Studies” in the winter 2021 issue, page 16). This technology played a key role in the 2022 CHEO home, which scored an air tightness result of under one change per hour with the help of AeroBarrier. Panasonic’s differentiator Pirrotta, a 20-year industry veteran who understands the entire HVAC supply chain given his experience working for a contractor and a distributor before joining Panasonic five years ago, says it is probably the only manufacturer that can provide a solution featuring heating, cooling, ventilation, filtration and smart controls. While Whisper Air Repair – a ceiling-mounted air purification pod featuring Nano X technology – is Panasonic’s most recent innovation, the company will not rest on its laurels. Navien tankless hot water heater with iFlow smart air handler reduces gas consumption by 20% compared to conventional furnace and hot water tank. Franklin Menendez in front of Greyter greywater recycling system. Franklin performs third-party validation for HERSH2O and water savings.
  20. 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 Pirrotta says the company plans to expand its ERV lineup soon, while redesigning the Whisper Comfort so it can fit better into stacked townhomes. Within the next couple of months, Panasonic will address builder demand for more security features by launching an HD camera module for the Swidget. While Panasonic is not known as a homebuilder on this side of the world, PanaHome Corp. has built over one million houses in Japan, so the company does have a sense of what qualities a good builder should have, Pirrotta says. That’s what makes him sure that Panasonic’s partnership with Minto is built to last: “We’re on the same page in terms of what we want to do for our customers.” Bouchard echoes these senti­ ments, stating that Panasonic is “always there for us.” What Pirrotta really admires about Minto is their forward-thinking nature and willingness to try new things. This year’s CHEO home is a great example of this, Pirrotta says. Another example is leveraging the Savings by Design program and the Better Than Code approach. Like so many prominent Ontario homebuilders, Minto recently went through Enbridge’s program for its Brookline subdivision. And similar to virtually every builder that embarks on this, Minto came away inspired in many ways. For instance, Bouchard says, the company’s interest in home energy modelling – something it had dabbled with in the past – was revitalized. The charrette was particularly inspiring, with many internal employees finding it very beneficial. Networking gold The meeting also proved to be a Grade A networking opportunity, he adds, as many of the people they met there are now working on the CHEO home this year. In terms of new techniques learned through the program, Bouchard says some of the basement insulation details are being deployed in this year’s house, but mostly he expects these lessons to manifest themselves in future CHEO homes and the company’s other homebuilding efforts. Bouchard says Minto is doing what it can to combat some of the key issues currently facing Ontario homebuilders, such as municipal overreach, affordability and labour shortages. Minto has also experienced the increasingly common trend of dealing with municipalities that are demanding beyond-Code requirements. It’s a dynamic that many builders have been forced to navigate involving prescriptive guidelines that tend to box developers in (see “Intriguing Developments” in the spring 2022 issue, page 16). The Ottawa market is not 19 While Panasonic is not known as a homebuilder on this side of the world, PanaHome Corp. has built over one million houses in Japan. Panasonic EverVolt battery 11 kwh located in garage. Backup power supply for future blackouts. System stores off-peak electricity for peace of mind. Left: Panasonic ERV 200 exhaust ducted to bathrooms and controlled by Swidget timers and IAQ controls. Above: Pansonic EverVolt inverter in mechanical room. JOHN GODDEN
  21. 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 20 immune as the city has enacted its High-Performance Development Standard. As always, what makes an otherwise good-intentioned situation frustrating for builders is “the lack of consultation with the industry,” Bouchard explains. Still, he does understand what local governments are trying to do here and believes that some good does come from this practice. “Municipalities need to push construction companies to do better in certain regards,” Bouchard concedes. He says the industry in general can be hesitant to change, and he’s experienced that situation from time to time. But then there’s that whole prescriptive thing that we’re increasingly hearing about. Builders require flexibility “I’d like to have the flexibility to do what I can to build the same house that performs as well without having to do it [their way],” Bouchard adds. To address affordability issues, Minto is trying to revamp some of its products to introduce lower price point types of houses “to support that first-time homebuyer,” Bouchard says. That’s where they’re seeing “the dramatic drop-off” in sales, as inflation is having less of an impact on those who have significant equity in their homes. The company plans to introduce new products this fall to target first-time homebuyers. In an effort to overcome labour shortages, Minto has shifted to prefab­ rication of all three-storey products for walls and floors, a technique offering huge benefits schedule-wise, and one which requires fewer framers. The company is also banking that its high school outreach programs to help introduce students to the industry will help spark interest in the trades. They’ve also been working with one school to build a tiny house to expose students to the construction industry “and get them hands-on training with some tools,” Bouchard explains. Go ahead and add more good karma to Minto’s file. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca Scan for more product information gsw-wh.com • Flexible installation - saving time and money • Energy Efficient - .90 UEF = $ savings • Outstanding condensing performance - providing continuous hot water* Take the guesswork out of hot water! Introducing the GSW Envirosense® SF *2.8 GPM based on 65̊ temp rise.
  22. 22. Our easy-to-install Intelli-Balance Energy Recovery Ventilators feature a BOOST function that increases airflow on demand, helping to combat air quality challenges in both multi-family and single detached homes. With the flip of a switch, two ECM motors with Smart Flow™ technology BOOST air exchange to provide healthier indoor environments. FV-20VEC1 BALANCED Expel stale polluted air while supplying fresh, filtered air for healthy, comfortable homes Build healthier, more efficient homes with Panasonic ERVs EFFICIENT Provide consistent, predictable airflow & reduce heating & cooling loads with ‘set it and forget it’ operation, saving energy & money VERSATILE Meet the latest codes and standards and exceed homeowner expectations Panasonic ERVs and Swidget Smart Devices are Holmes Approved and part of Breathe Well, The Only Complete Air Quality Solution™. Learn more at PanasonicBreatheWell.com FV-10VE2 FV-10VEC2 20/40/60 Dry Contact Timer Switch S16008WA
  23. 23. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 22 buildernews / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ You might say that home energy efficiency is old hat for Brighton, Ontario builder Gordon Tobey Developments. In the early 1980s, the company was one of Canada’s original R-2000 builders – a decision, according to owner Stephen Tobey, that was partly the result of a sluggish economy at the time. “The economy was the pits, and we thought that focusing on sustainable building would be a good way to differentiate ourselves from the competition and turn things around. It was kind of like going to church and finding something that you believe in,” he says. Since that time, Gordon Tobey Developments has set the standard for delivering energy-efficient, high- quality homes to their buyers and building a solid brand based on holistic and sustainable practices. The company’s efforts have paid off over the years, garnering numerous local, regional and national awards – including from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, EnerQuality, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Tarion, Natural Resources Canada and others dating as far back as the 1990s – for the quality, design, energy efficiency and customer satisfaction of their builds. “Housing awards are loosely based A Legacy of Building Better O ntario’s homebuilding industry has come a long way in making homes more sustainable – so much so that our Building Code, with respect to energy efficiency, is considered to be one of the most advanced in North America. Meanwhile, municipalities across the province are pledging to make their homes and buildings greener, and Natural Resources Canada has introduced a tiered net zero energy-ready model building code, with the goal of adoption by provinces and territories by 2030. Gordon Tobey Developments' model home in Brighton, Ontario.
  24. 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 on things like aesthetics,” says Tobey. “For us, it has really been a matter of creating homes that are designed well and making them energy efficient. One begat the other. Take the use of natural light, for example. It accomplishes two things – bright living spaces and passive solar heating – with overhangs designed to keep certain spaces cool in the summer months. These design features help to create a better product overall.” According to Tobey, his company’s approach to customer satisfaction begins with recognizing that its buyers expect energy efficiency as one of the primary must-haves in their home. “It’s much like considering fuel economy as well as other features when buying a car. With a home, there could also be a hot tub in the mix,” he says, adding that customers enjoy numerous energy-saving features as standard, such as sub-slab basement floor insulation. The energy efficiency odyssey of Gordon Tobey Developments has been a journey of mutual support over many years with leading insulation manufacturer Owens Corning Canada. In 2000, the collaboration resulted in the building of an R-2000 EnviroHome in Brighton, Ontario, which incorporated a list of energy-saving elements to lower utility bills while creating a comfortable and healthy living space. These included using Owens Corning Pink Thermal Wall insulation, VOC- and toxin-free materials, Lifebreath heat recovery ventilators with HEPA filtration and hydronic in-floor heating. “Our company and Owens Corning have always supported each other. We like the product and its durability on site,” says Tobey. “For example, their CodeBord Air Barrier System that we use on the interior of basement walls before they get studded and insulated holds together better than any other product. And, looking at the home as a system, Owens 23 “For us, it has really been a matter of creating homes that are designed well and making them energy efficient.”
  25. 25. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 24 Corning provides valuable instruction on how to put its products and systems together to ensure long-term performance.” Gordon Tobey Developments is committed to using Owens Corning products in the construction of their energy-efficient homes, which include CodeBord wall sheathing, Pink Next Gen Fiberglas batt insulation, Pro Pink attic insulation, Foamular sub-slab insulation and QuietZone Acoustic Insulation. “Many of their products are GreenGuard certified for indoor air quality. Owens Corning Pink fibreglass insulation has one of the highest recycled content in the industry, and that’s a bonus,” says Tobey. He also appreciates Owens Corning's brand visibility. “Our cus­ tomers recognize it, and that makes them feel confident in their purchase,” he adds. Currently, Tobey homes offer 25% better energy efficiency than Building Code, according to the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). With zero energy-ready being talked about these days, does the company have plans to build to that level of performance? “We are continually striving to make our homes more and more energy efficient,” says Tobey. “We may consider adopting the zero energy-ready standard, but we’re not concerned about the latest tech buzzword, and we don’t necessarily want to push something that may be too much for our customers.” “For us, it’s about the issue of affordability and predictable utility bills, which involves not only the initial cost of an energy-efficient home, but also the longer-term operating and maintenance costs of the equipment,” Tobey adds. “Our goal is to offer our customers the biggest bang for their buck – a house as a system, with dollars allocated where they’re needed, and the icing all the way across. I think we’ve found the sweet spot.” 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. The EnviroHome Build A cooperative build with Owens Corning, November 10, 2000. From left to right at the R-2000 EnviroHome in Brighton, Ontario: Joan and Mayor Bill Pettigill; Stephen Tobey, Project Supervisor, Gordon Tobey Developments Ltd.; EnviroHome owners Ron and Lucy Roy; and Gordon Tobey, President and owner of Gordon Tobey Developments Ltd.
  26. 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 T here’s a home being built on a vacant laneway in the Toronto downtown neighbourhood of Leslieville that is tackling indoor air quality in a unique way. As houses become more airtight for better energy efficiency, the air quality issue of radon gas – a potentially toxic substance that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in the earth – is becoming more of a concern. The owners of the Toronto property decided to not only mitigate the radon threat, but to also build a home to LEED Platinum standard – a showcase of sustainable building and the latest energy- efficient technology. “An opportunity presented itself with a Queen Street property on a laneway that we own, and we asked ourselves, ‘What can we do with this?’” says Jesse Davidson, principal at Skye Mainstreet Properties Ltd., a Toronto developer whose core business is main street retail property. “So, we made the decision to create something out of nothing and build a house there.” According to Davidson, the decision to build to LEED Platinum came from a meeting with Toronto builder Barbini Design Build, who introduced his company to sustainable building consultant John Godden of Clearsphere. “Our eyes were opened up to the many advantages of LEED building, which costs more but comes with numerous benefits that far outweigh the costs: a superior product with an envelope that’s 50% better than code, marketability, huge support and state- of-the-art products from suppliers and, of course, a radon mitigation system.” Amedeo Barbini, who is building the laneway home, is no stranger to sustainable construction. His company has long focused on energy efficiency, having built LEED and Energy Star homes in the past, and incorporating elements from its own 21-item green building features list. The list includes high-efficiency windows, sub-slab insulation, superior air sealing, drain water energy recovery, an energy recovery ventilator (ERV), HEPA air filtration, high-performance wall assemblies, a heat pump hot water heater, an energy monitoring system, bamboo flooring and xeriscape landscape design features. “This project is unique compared to other homes we’ve built, which have been as large as 8,000 square feet – it’s got solar and batteries, a superior envelope, heated floors and natural gas,” says Barbini. Running a gas line to the laneway was cost prohibitive. He says: “We’re using all state-of- the-art technologies, including Panasonic products and a sub-slab radon ventilation system from Amvic 27 industryexpert / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ Better Air Quality, from the Ground Up Good things come in small packages: 3 storeys on a 25-foot-square building lot. CHRIS BARBINI
  27. 27. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 28 Building System integrated with radiant floor heating. It’s a complete holistic package moving the project toward LEED Platinum.” The Amvic system is integral to the laneway project’s success in meeting a prerequisite and garnering 18 LEED points for indoor environmental quality (see chart on facing page). According to Patrick McMahon, Amvic’s vice president of sales, marketing and business operations, consumers these days are becoming more aware of two considerations in the built environment: (1) the building envelope and (2) radon, which he says is a concern “pretty much in all of southern Ontario.” “The traditional approach to sub-slab is gravel, then poly, then concrete,” he says. “The Amvic system we’re using in this project is two-tiered. Our Amrad R12 in-slab vapour mitigation and insulation application allows for the building of an insulated concrete slab that meets radon Building Code requirements and improves the indoor air quality. Its grid pattern moves radon gas in channels in the board, away from the basement to the outside. And our SilveRboard high- density, continual reflective insulation on the inside of the foundation wall improves thermal comfort.” Davidson is excited about his laneway project (which he hopes will become the first of five such model homes across Canada) and delighted to be working on it with Barbini. “Every LEED feature inside is state-of-the- art,” he says. “With no drafts, constant temperature, incredible air quality and so many other benefits, it’s a showcase for the latest technology. The home carries the Panasonic ‘Breathe Well’ moniker. Many suppliers, like Amvic, Building Products of Canada and Panasonic are giving us their best products and their time to make it all happen.” 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. LEED POINTS FOR HVAC (INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY) CATEGORY POINTS COMMENT ENHANCED LOCAL EXHAUST 1 SWIDGET ENHANCED WHOLE-HOUSE VENTILATION 1 ERV HUMIDITY CONTROL 1 MAIN CONTROL PREOCCUPANCY FLUSH 1 AT BALANCING GARAGE EXHAUST 1 WHISPER GREEN MOTION MERV 10 FILTRATION 1 ERV MULTIPLE ZONES 1 4 ZONES DUCTLESS HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEM (SUPPLY AIR FLOW) 1 NO DUCTWORK PRESSURE BALANCING 1 TEST REMOTE ACCESS THERMOSTAT 1 PROGRAMMABLE 3 ZONE ALL HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEMS ARE DUCTLESS (STATIC) 1 QUIET HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEMS 1 MEASURE DECIBELS LOW EMITTING PRODUCTS (90% OR MORE) A) PAINTS AND COATINGS 1 NO VOC PAINT B) FLOORING 1 ENGINEERED HARDWOOD C) INSULATION 2 STONEWOOL GREENGUARD EA (ENERGY AND ATMOSPHERE) REFRIGERANT SELECTION 1 R410A REFRIGERATION MECHANIC PORT 1 ASHP COMMISSIONING TOTAL 18
  28. 28. Trailblazer Continuous stone wool insulation that improves thermal performance Trailblazing requires confidence, expertise and a desire to do things right. High performance Builders use 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. ROCKWOOL Comfortboard® 80 is a Type 1 CCMC product, complying with CAN/ULC S702 and has CCMC validated product acceptance as continuous insulation for multiple applications. For more information visit rockwool.com/comfortboard
  29. 29. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 So how do we meet these increas­ ing complexities and still make a profit? It starts with a better under­ standing of what indoor air quality is and how we can better manage our trades and specifications. Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings/structures, especially as it relates to occupant health and comfort. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce risk of indoor health concerns. Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or possibly years later.1 Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is an integrated study of an occupant’s response to the built environment – one’s ability to sense and perceive quality of air, thermal, sound, light, odours and vibrations. It also includes a study of imperceptible elements such as asbestos, radon or carbon monoxide.2 In years past, the usual suspect around poor IAQ was mould. Generally speaking, customers react more to what they see than what they don’t. Mould can grow in a leaky basement wall with poly over the insulation, or from condensation on a windowsill in winter from indoor heat meeting cold glass. Concerns surrounding IAQ were on the rise prior to COVID-19 – not just with mould, but also radon and microscopic particles you can’t see. Some were even becoming concerned about volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The focus was mostly on carbon dioxide and some known allergens but, here in North America, we weren’t really paying much attention to what we put on our walls or what we constructed our homes with, unless there was a family member with a severe allergy to specific products. Since the pandemic, IAQ has become top-of-mind for home buyers. Besides the usual suspects, there’s now a whole host of bacteria and virus concerns we are bombarded with in the media, which can feel overwhelming. Arming ourselves with some basic information will go a long way to reducing the anxiety of our customers and employees. The benefit? A more satisfied homeowner. Andrew Guido (formerly with ERTH Homes) at EMPIRE Communities in Toronto has studied the field of household chemicals and our exposure to them.3 For instance, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned only five chemicals, while the European Union has banned over 2,000. Andrew notes that we are now exposed to more chemicals in 30 days than our grandparents were in a lifetime. The four main processes for improving IAQ were originally developed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) several decades ago. They are: 1) Remove the pollutants Selecting products to limit VOCs and other harmful chemicals is a critical step in reducing dangerous 31 Indoor Air Quality and Occupant Health – Part I (Excerpted from the upcoming book From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge: A Builder’s Guide to Net Zero Homes) fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY W e are being asked to build ever more complicated housing, both from increasing Code requirements and rising client expectations that include better indoor air quality since COVID-19. While aware they want something better, customers often have difficulty articulating what they want beyond a healthier home. Since the pandemic, IAQ has become top- of-mind for home buyers. Besides the usual suspects, there’s now a whole host of bacteria and virus concerns … which can feel overwhelming. 1 United States Environmental Protection Agency. epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality#pollutants 2 Robert Bean 3 Reference research by Andrew Guido
  30. 30. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022 chemicals. Occupant behaviour and education can also play a key role in improving IAQ. 2) Control the source Air barriers, water-resistant barriers (WRBs) and soil gas barriers (SGBs) all play a role in limiting dangerous toxins from either growing or accumulating in the home. 3) Ventilate Replacing stale indoor air with clean outdoor air on a regular basis greatly improves IAQ. Cooking, bathing, pets, cleaning products and other sources can accumulate indoors. 4) Filter A ducted mechanical system can be used to capture the particulate that floats in the air. Use a minimum of a MERV 11 filter, understanding that both ASHRAE and EPA’s Indoor airPLUS recommend a minimum of a MERV 13 filter. Ensure your HVAC system is designed accordingly to manage the increased pressure drop. Since the original CMHC guidelines were released, the wider Canadian homebuilding industry has done little with this basic knowledge. In the U.S., however, dealing with radon has been much more broadly accepted, and numerous leading-edge builders are enrolled in the EPA’s Indoor airPLUS program, a great add-on piece for their Energy Star Certified Homes program.4,5 To truly provide an affordable, healthy home, we must take a people- centred point of view and focus more on those who will live, work and play in our built environments. To success­ fully do this, we must transition from healthy products to healthy people – teach them why burning scented candles, using a gas stove without run­ ning the rangehood and plugging in air fresheners can all contribute to poor IAQ and diminished IEQ. BB Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario.   32 4 Filtration and Disinfection FAQ (ashrae.org) 5 Indoor airPLUS Technical Bulletin Filtration (epa.gov) 1 epa.gov/tsca-inventory/how- access-tsca-inventory 2 epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri- program/what-toxics-release-inventory 3 govinfo.gov/content/pkg/ CHRG-111shrg21160/html/ CHRG-111shrg21160.htm 4 i0.wp.com/sitn.hms.harvard.edu/ wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Slide2.png 5 entrepreneur.com/business- news/4-principles-for-building- a-100-year-home/389541 6 eeb.org/the-great-detox-largest-ever- ban-of-toxic-chemicals-announced- by-eu/#:~:text=The EU has banned around,such as cosmetics and toys 7 gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2022/2022- 05-14/html/reg2-eng.html 8 sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/ documents/dsd/dsd_aofw_ni/ni_pdfs/ NationalReports/canada/Chemicals.pdf 86,631 770 200 5 Chemicals are banned in the U.S. We are exposed to more chemicals in 30 days than our grandparents were in a lifetime5 Chemicals registered in the United States1 ~1,000 new chemicals added per year Chemicals have been tested for threats to human health and safety3 3.5 years to complete risk evaluations Chemicals monitored through the U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory2 The EPA has not banned a chemical in over 30 years4 Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) (1978) Halogenated Chlorofluoroalkanes (CFCs) (1978) Dioxin (1980) Asbestos with more restrictive limitations (1989) and then partially overturned (1991) Hexavalent Chromium (1990) The EU has banned 2,000 chemicals in the last 13 years.6 In Canada, there are currently 26 substances (including groups of substances) prohibited from the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale and import under the Regulations of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).7 In 2006, Canada became the first country to have systematically examined approximately 23,000 existing substances known to be in commerce domestically at that time.8 ADAPTED FROM G R APHHIC BY ANDRE W GUIDO
  31. 31. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 43 | AUTUMN 2022
  32. 32. “Energy efficiency built right into the heart of the home.” Savings by Design | Residential Visit enbridgegas.com/SBD-residential to get the most out of your next project. * Projected savings based on energy modelling simulations from the Savings by Design Integrated Design Process workshop. Terms and conditions apply. Visit enbridgegas.com/SBD-residential for details. © 2022 Enbridge Gas Inc. All rights reserved. ENB 822 06/2022 Success Story | Poetry Living Angelo Moscillo, Director, Low-Rise Residential, Poetry Living Bycollaboratingwith Savings by Designexperts,PoetryLiving wasabletodesigntheirEllisLanehomestomaximizeenergy andenvironmentalperformance.Improvedwallinsulationandair sealing,high-efficiencywaterheaters,andotherenhancements willhelpbuyerssaveenergyandlivecomfortably. By the numbers — Projected annual natural gas savings 26% Projected GHG reduction* 23% Ellis Lane | Caledon, ON —

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