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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 44 / Winter 2022

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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 44 / Winter 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 44 / Winter 2022

  1. 1. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 Leslieville Laneway Project Air Leakage in Houses Can Ontario Build More Than 1.5 Million Homes in 10 Years? Retooling for Greener Builds Indoor Air Quality and Occupant Health, Part II TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF CLIMATE CHANGE FUTURE PROOFING
  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 44 | WINTER 2022 13 1 22 ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. Cover: istockphoto 484104042 16 FEATURE STORY 16 All That Glitters Is Not Gold An enthusiastic client allowed new ground to be broken with a Leslieville laneway LEED Platinum project. by Rob Blackstien PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 Look with Common Sense to See the Future by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 It’s Not “No” – It’s Just “Not Now” by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 4 The Mechanisms and Measurement of Air Leakage in Houses by Gord Cooke INDUSTRY NEWS 9 The Province Aims to Build 1.5 Million More Homes in 10 Years. Can It Be Done? by Paul De Berardis SITE SPECIFIC 13 Retooling for Greener Building by Marc Huminilowycz SITE SPECIFIC 22 Now It’s Personal by Alex Newman INDUSTRY EXPERT 26 Helping Builders Reach High Performance and Affordability by Marc Huminilowycz FROM THE GROUND UP 29 Indoor Air Quality and Occupant Health – Part II An excerpt from the upcoming book From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge) by Doug Tarry 9
  4. 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 Look with Common Sense to See the Future I do not have access to a crystal ball that can predict the future. However, I do like to think I have common sense to help traverse the world’s many uncertainties. We are approaching an era of unprecedented challenges with climate change, lack of affordable housing, shortages of skilled labour, political division and finger pointing. Common sense and clear thinking may be our biggest asset. It has been said that common sense is anything but common. We identify best practices when we try them out. The challenge is choosing paths that result in success. Simple solutions are few and far between. Futureproofing requires targeting attainable goals and building in those features which incrementally help us reach those aspirations. Ontario’s Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, promises quicker and cheaper approvals for housing units with secondary suites. On the surface, it seems like a simple fix that could literally double available housing units with each house constructed. But not so fast! Basement apartments require two means of egress, as well as complete fire separations with separate HVAC systems. How do we futureproof these homes for higher occupancy? Here’s where common sense kicks in, with four futureproofing rough-ins that could be sold as upgrades: 1) Install a combination heating system to accommodate multiple forced air HVAC systems after closing. 2) Rough-in a radiant floor with an R-10 insulated layer that acts as a soil gas barrier for radon, allowing basement to be a separate heating zone. 3) Finish-ready the basement in lieu of an insulating blanket. Install non- combustible, continuous insulation (R-5) against the basement wall and frame a 2x4 stand-off wall with R-20 or R-22 batts ready for wiring, which could be drywalled after closing. 4) Rough-in for a future energy recovery ventilator (ERV) with two six-inch vent terminations in the basement header area for a separate ventilation zone. For more on Bill 23, head over to page 9, where Paul De Berardis reviews the bill’s promise, potential and associated challenges for building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years. Our feature article, “All that Glitters Is Not Gold” (page 16), revisits the laneway house introduced in the last issue. Learn about the many hurdles, happy accidents and innovative solutions that went into the construction of this LEED Platinum house, which could be a look at homes of the future. Lou Bada challenges the dream of home ownership (page 3). Meanwhile, on page 4, Gord Cooke discusses the history and importance of airtightness, outlining a simple implementation for universal air testing. Lastly, Doug Tarry reminds us that occupant health is dependent on indoor air quality. On page 29, Doug helps us understand all of the factors that go into making a house healthy for its occupants. Forward thinking is different from fortune telling. Intentional action, combined with forward thinking, is what creates the future – because we are the authors of what happens next. 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 44 | WINTER 2022 SECOND UNIT OTHER UNIT bedroom bedroom common area and creates more housing. Here is the proverbial “killing two birds with one stone” scenario. Currently, there are no incentives for builders to build secondary suites or futureproof houses for that eventuality. We have offered our customers the option to futureproof their homes for secondary suites by suggesting upgrades such as separate basement entrances (walk-up basement stairs), egress windows and combination heating systems with zoning that can be configured easily to accommodate a separate basement unit (and save 30% on the gas bill at the same time). We can also offer to properly insulate and frame a basement upon request for a future basement suite. Some builders offer an entirely finished basement. These options are expensive upcharges for our homes and we sell a few (walk-up stairs are most popular). However, the future rental income a homeowner may get is often not incentive enough, especially with rising interest rates. There must be a W hen I was a teenager day­ dreaming about all the things I wanted to have and couldn’t afford, I would tell myself “Not now, but someday!” As it turns out, my dreams changed, but I still tell my older self the same thing. Admittedly, it’s less about affordability and buying things and it’s more about time. I think it’s time to stop dreaming. Affordability, or the lack thereof, has been front of mind for a long time. Our industry has been screaming it from the rooftops for many years. We’ve seen the tsunami coming, and the current Ontario government has finally decided to make some welcomed changes with Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022. Increasing supply will help with affordability. Of interest in the new bill is the realization that there has to be an incentive (for example, reducing development charges) to make housing more affordable. There also needs to be accountability if growth targets aren’t met. Municipalities can recover the shortfall in development charges if they hit the targets. In this vein, there should also be more incentives or credits for sustainability. Secondary suites in basements within single-family homes are inherently sustainable and make housing more affordable. Better or more intensive use of what we already build makes sense in reducing our carbon footprint. The potential for an additional income from a secondary suite makes homes more affordable greater incentive to make these options available to homeowners. How would we calculate a reasonable incentive? We now have the ability to measure the carbon reduction impact of any measures that we implement with the RESNET CO2 rating index. This will facilitate meaningful sustainability incentives. Honest and logical measure­ ment standards can inform reasonable incentives or credits. The previous plan of regulating everything that moves hasn’t addressed housing affordability and actually has done the opposite. Let’s give our prospective home­ owners the ability to dream that – not now, but maybe in the future – they can have a secondary suite which is both affordable and sustainable. 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). 3 thebadatest / LOU BADA BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 It’s Not “No” — It’s Just “Not Now”
  6. 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 4 industryexpert / GORD COOKE This requirement was borne out of extensive Canadian building science research started in the mid-1970s, which showed the more insulation in enclosure assemblies, the greater the risk of condensation. Hence, programs such as R-2000 and Passive House, which call for higher levels of insulation than standard Code-built homes, require greater attention to air barrier detailing and validation of air barrier effectiveness through airtightness testing. Air leakage control and airtightness efforts are clearly a building durability measure, although there are other side benefits, including the minimization of drafts, the reduction of dust entry and energy savings. It has only been in the last two OBC cycles that airtightness levels or targets have been mentioned in energy conservation measures. The OBC SB-12 Supplementary Standard, Energy Efficiency for Housing − 2017 set an air change per hour (ACH) level of 3.0 at 50 pascals of pressure (3.0ACH@50Pa) for energy modelling and trade-offs under the Performance Path. If builders can demonstrate 2.5ACH@50Pa or lower after a home is constructed, they can trade off against energy features such as continuous insulation, drain water heat recovery or window performance metrics. The National Building Code (NBC) 2020 also elected for a voluntary airtightness rate for energy modelling but set a lower level at 2.5ACH@50Pa. The International Energy Conser­ vation Code (IECC) in the U.S. has also set 3.0ACH@50Pa as the rate for establishing their energy modelling reference house. In addition, 30 states have adopted a version of the IECC that requires mandatory airtightness testing of every home built, regardless of whether the airtightness is used for energy efficiency targets or not. For those states that have mandatory airtightness targets for compliance, the target is 5.0ACH@50Pa for homes built in climate zones 1 and 2 (Florida and southern Texas) and 3.0ACH@50Pa in all other climate zones. In Canada, only British Columbia requires airtightness testing of all new homes built. In the first years of the B.C. mandatory testing requirement, builders only needed to show the results of the testing without a need to achieve any specific target or level. This was very helpful to the industry. Now, a target of no more than 3.0ACH@50Pa must be achieved in all new homes, and better (lower) airtightness levels can be used for energy performance targets. When considering the responsi- bilities of builders, trade contractors and building officials in safeguarding building enclosures against unwanted air leaks, it may be instructive to recall the mechanisms of air leakage in Canadian homes. There are three mechanisms of air flow across build- ing enclosures. The first would be the impacts of wind on the building enclo- sure – a highly variable and unpredict- able affect. The second is referred to as the “stack effect.” This is an example of convection heat transfer whereby cold, more dense air is falling and warm air is rising. The third is the effects of mechanical systems in houses. This includes exhaust fans, such as bath fans, range hoods and dryers. It also includes the impact of combustion appliances and their venting systems. One of the fundamental build- ing science rules is that air in always equals air out. Consider the impli- cations of the stack effect. In a cold climate, a house can be thought of as a large chimney. It's a column of warm, moist, buoyant air that rises and wants to escape out through holes at the top of a house, and an equal volume of cold air will leak in through penetrations near the bottom of that house. A practi- The Mechanisms and Measurement of Air Leakage in Houses R equirements for the careful control of unwanted air leakage in and through building enclosures have been part of the Ontario Building Code (OBC) since 1990. In the current edition of the Code, the requirements are outlined in Section 9.25.3, Air Barrier Systems, which is very specific about the reasons for air leakage control – that is, to prevent excessive moisture condensation within or on surfaces of walls, floors and ceilings in the heating season. There are three mechanisms of air flow across building enclosures – the impacts of wind, the “stack effect” and the effects of mechanical systems.
  7. 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 BUILDING PRESSURE (PA) BUILDING LEAK AGE (CFM) cal house-as-a-system result of this air leakage pattern is that if warm, moist air escapes into a cold attic in the wintertime, there is the potential for that moisture to condense on the first solid surface it contacts – that is, the underside of the roof sheathing. It can and should be solved by air sealing the attic from the house to not allow the warm, moist air into the attic in the first place. The stack effect is also responsible for cold drafts near the bottom of houses – along base- ment rim boards, and under base- boards and electrical outlets. This adds to the heating loads of rooms on the lower levels of taller homes. The stack effect is the most persis­ tent, consistent air flow mechanism in Canadian houses during the cold winter months. Stack effect pressures are measurable and predictable based on outside temperature, height of the building enclosure and barometric pressure. On a cold Ontario winter day, the stack pressure is in the order of three to four pascals per storey in a house. For a three-storey, slab- on-grade townhome, that pressure would be equal to approximately the pressure of a 12 kph wind. The building science research from 40 years ago demonstrated the value of managing or sealing the holes in the enclosure to minimize the effects of wind and stack pressure and to reduce the potential for condensation within enclosure cavities. Indeed, the historical target of 1.5ACH for R-2000 homes was, first and foremost, a durability measure for homes that had high levels of insulation, such as R-60 in attics. Of course, what were considered very high levels of insulation in the 1980s are now part of many energy code compliance packages. The mechanics and metrics of airtightness measurement The history of quantifying air leakage in Canadian houses dates back to the early 1970s. A large fan (now commonly called a blower door) was installed in an exterior door of the house. It created a pressure difference of 50 pascals across all sides of the house at once. This is roughly equal to the pressure of a 35 kph wind. While a house would never experience this naturally, it does enable simple and accurate leak detection. The fan is calibrated, and the operator records the cubic feet per minute (CFM) that the fan is delivering to create that 50 pascals of pressure (CFM@50Pa). This volume of air per minute is multiplied by 60 to get the volume of air delivered per hour and then divided by the volume of air in the house to find that important ACH metric that is referenced now in codes and energy programs. It is a metric that energy advisors and builders can easily see as the test is done and respond to quickly by sealing the holes where air leaks are felt. As noted, the air leakage rate at 50 pascals is not representative of how air might leak in and out of a house 5 300 200 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 30 40 50 TWO-POINT TEST (CGSB 149) Advantages • Quicker test process and more reliable in windy conditions • Allows for extrapolation down to 4 or 10 Pa to determine “equivalent leakage areas” Procedure • Take readings at 50 and 20 Pa (+/- 3 Pa) • Use time averaging or take multiple readings
  8. 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 TABLE 1 – AVERAGE BLOWER DOOR TEST RESULTS FOR MULTIPOINT VS 2 POINT VS 1 POINT TEST ON 100 HOUSES RATER NUMBER SAMPLE NUMBER AND SIZE DOOR FAN NUMBER OF HOUSES ACH MULTIPOINT ELA MULTIPOINT 2PT ACH ELA 2PT TEST 1PT ACH @50PA IN2/100SQFT @50PA IN2/100SQFT @50PA 1 & 2 1 (20 TESTS) RETROTEC 20 2.36 79.43 2.33 79.88 2.33 3 2 (10 TESTS) MINN BD 10 2.13 107.37 2.12 107.35 2.13 4 3 (11 TESTS) MINN BD 10 2.49 162.17 2.33 160.53 2.46 5 4 (10 TESTS) MINN BD 10 1.90 113.32 1.90 114.86 1.90 6 TO 10 5 (47 TESTS) MINN BD 52 1.98 80.10 2.35 94.80 2.33 AVERAGE 98 TESTS 2.17 108.48 2.21 111.48 2.23 Note: Multipoint vs 2 point tests ELA varies by 2.7% and ACH varies by 1.8% 6 on a typical day or over a season or year. To assess the energy impact of air leakage, Canadian researchers created an air leakage algorithm, called the Alberta Infiltration Model (AIM-2), that is used in most Canadian energy simulation and heat load calculation software programs. This algorithm calls for an extrapolation of the measured air leakage down to a pressure of 10 pascals (a pressure that is typical of the stack pressure experienced by houses on a cold day in Canada). This extrapolation is considered most accurate when a range of pressures and airflows is recorded during the blower door test. This is called a “multi-point” test, and the Canadian General Standards Board standard CGSB-149-2019, Determination of the Airtightness of Building Envelopes by the Fan Depressurization Method, calls for air flow readings to be taken at eight pressure points from 50 pascals to 20 pascals. While useful for energy modelling in estimating typical natural infiltration, this eight- point test adds very little value to builders, trades and building officials looking to simply verify that the required airtightness of the Code or an energy program has been met. For the purposes of simple site verification, the CGSB-149 standard offers options for both a single-point test at 50 pascals and a two-point test at 50 pascals and 20 pascals. In a single-point test, multiple pressure and airflow readings are taken and averaged at 50 pascals. The resulting volume of air in cubic feet per minute (CFM) can then be used to quickly calculate one of two normalized test metrics. Mentioned above, the ACH metric normalizes the results based on the volume of air within the heated envelope of a house. This has been the historical method of comparing results from a full range of sizes of homes. A second useful metric is to normalize the air flow at 50 pascals against the surface area of the thermal enclosure, which is called the normalized leakage rate (NLR). This metric has always been used in the commercial and institutional building sector and, in the opinion of most energy professionals, it better reflects the challenges and efforts in creating tight enclosures in ever more complicated building designs. Fortunately, both the OBC and all major energy programs allow the NLR for compliance verification. It is calculated by simply dividing the volume of air needed to create that 50 pascals of pressure by the square footage of the total thermal enclosure (floors, walls and ceilings). When testing, the single-point test offers the quickest and most relevant feedback for builders and trades when comparing air barrier system performance. The two-point test is a simplified way to allow some measure of extrapolation for energy modelling, whereby a line can be drawn between the 50-pascal and 20-pascal air flow data points and extrapolated down to the 10-pascal point used for estimating natural infiltration in energy modelling (see graph on page 5). CRESNET, an association that represents the interests of energy raters, undertook a study of the three CGSB-149 listed test methods – multi- point, single-point and two-point testing – to demonstrate the accuracy and repeatability of the test methods. The table above shows the comparison of the three test methods applied by 10 different energy raters on 98 homes. Note that, on average, the air changes per hour at 50 pascals varied by less than 3% between the three test methods and that the single-point test produced a slightly more conservative result than the multi-point test. This demonstrates that the simpler and less complex single-point test method is a reliable and helpful metric for builders
  9. 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 who are taking steps to continually improve the performance of their air barrier systems. One final metric that is referenced in codes and programs is called the equivalent leakage area (ELA@10Pa). Technically, this is a calculated, extrapolated number down at 10 pascals used again for energy modelling. For the purposes of this article, think of it as the size of a theoretical hole in a wall if you combined all the airflow from leakage points in a house into one spot at a pressure of 10 pascals. This metric allows for a simplified communication to homeowners as to the size of a hole in square inches – better than trying to imagine CFMs of air flowing through multiple small leaks. In a 2,000-square-foot house that met 3.0ACH@50Pa, the ELA@10Pa could be expected to be less than 80 square inches of leakage – a hole 10 inches in diameter. Knowing the history of both air leakage research and airtightness testing and seeing the trends in both codes and energy initiatives, it is clear that builders and trade contractors should be working to make homes ever more airtight to improve both the durability and energy efficiency of homes. Homebuyers benefit as well from better air quality control, quieter homes and lower energy bills. Airtightness testing is an important tool as part of the construction process. The experience in jurisdictions across North America demonstrates that encouraging testing, even without requiring specific thresholds of performance, empowers continuous improvement for builders and their trade partners. CRESNET currently offers a one-day workshop on airtightness testing, as well as a challenge test and mentoring for accreditation. Interested parties can inquire at cresnet.ca. 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
  10. 10. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 8 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
  11. 11. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 The housing supply shortage is a Canada-wide problem, with many factors – such as climbing interest rates, supply chain challenges, construction cost escalations, rising inflation and labour shortages – all adding to the crisis. In fact, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Cor­ poration (CMHC) recently released a report identifying how many new homes each province needs to build to restore housing affordability, with Ontario topping the list at 1.85 million new homes by 2030, eclipsing the provincial government’s target of 1.5 million new homes over 10 years. The CMHC report indicates Ontario’s housing stock has not grown fast enough to keep up with growing population trends, and this can be attributed to the loss of affordability over the last 20 years. In February 2022, the Province released the report of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, where a panel of industry experts put forward 55 recommendations to make new housing a priority. With house prices in Ontario having almost tripled in the past 10 years – growing much faster than incomes – home ownership has pushed beyond the reach of many across the province, with rental options also proving unaffordable. The system is not working as it should, and up until now, governments have only focused on solutions to “cool” the housing market. It is apparent there aren’t enough housing options to meet the needs of Ontarians today, and we are not building enough to meet the needs of our growing population. In March 2022, Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act, was introduced by the provincial government as a piece of legislation aimed at supporting its Housing Supply Action Plan. While Bill 109 provided more of a roadmap to increasing housing supply, Bill 23 specifically addresses how the province aims to achieve this goal. While the goal of building more homes has been acknowledged by the federal government, and even all provincial political parties, their views on how to operationalize the building of more homes may differ. While Bill 23 has been labelled as a significant piece of legislation aimed at addressing Ontario’s housing crisis, it has been highly controversial due to the sweeping nature of the changes it will impose, which will impact all types of development in the province. Municipalities have raised alarm bells regarding the reduction in the amount of development charges, parkland dedication and community benefit charges, and what the impact will be 9 The Province Aims to Build 1.5 Million More Homes in 10 Years Can It Be Done? industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS The system is not working as it should, and up until now, governments have only focused on solutions to “cool” the housing market. I n October 2022, the Government of Ontario tabled Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act – an omnibus bill proposing sweeping changes to the province’s land use planning legislation and policy. This bill is focused on the provincial government’s goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years by reduc­ ing bureaucratic costs and delays in housing development approvals, promoting housing near transit and facilitating a range of attainable housing options.
  12. 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 10 on their bottom line – yet government fees, taxes and charges generally make up 25% or more of the cost of a new home. Bill 23 aims to address the housing crisis by reducing government fees and addressing systemic development approval delays that slow new housing from coming to market, whereby delays increase costs. The provincial government has assigned 29 of Ontario’s largest municipalities hous­ ing targets, and the bill represents a significant shift in land use planning approvals that will impact various stakeholders with often opposing interests, such as developers, property owners, municipalities and conservation authorities. However, industry experts acknowledge building 1.5 million homes over 10 years is no easy task, considering the housing crisis was decades in the making. With housing affordability deteriorating to where we are now, the solution cannot easily be fixed, and it is for this reason the provincial government is attempting to take extreme action to remedy the situation. With Bill 23 focused on stream­ lining and expediting the development approvals process, especially at the municipal level, the flip side to this equation lies with the ability of the construction industry to deliver on building 1.5 million new homes over 10 years. Faced with rising construction costs and a constrained labour market, the building industry needs more skilled workers to hit the ambitious target. Ontario needs to increase the 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. Industry experts acknowledge building 1.5 million homes over 10 years is no easy task, considering the housing crisis was decades in the making.
  13. 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 flow of skilled immigrants coming into the province (which RESCON is advocating to the federal government) as well as increase the uptake of young people starting careers in construction. In 2021, Ontario had more than 100,000 housing starts – the highest level since 1987 and well above the annual average of 67,500 starts over the past 30 years. In the provincial budget, the government projected 84,000 housing starts in 2023 and 87,300 the following year. Now, it has updated that forecasting to 76,900 and 77,800, respectively, considering the current sales slump in the new housing market. To meet the goal of 1.5 million homes over 10 years, housing starts need to further increase. It is imperative to bolster the development approval process for new homes so construction can quickly ramp up when interest rates stabilize and pent-up homebuyer demand resurfaces. To build upon 2021’s record housing starts of 100,000 homes, the building industry needs to deal with the shortage of skilled labour – especially those in concrete and drain, bricklaying, concrete forming and the finishing trades. Most of the changes proposed by Bill 23 are scheduled to come into force on the day it receives Royal Assent, while certain changes will come into force on January 1, 2023. However, considering growing pushback, it has yet to be seen if the provincial government has the fortitude to advance this housing policy or if it succumbs to resistance. One thing remains clear: the housing crisis will not solve itself without drastic policy changes. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at deberardis@rescon.com. 11 Don’t just breathe, BREATHE BETTER. As the industry leader in Indoor Air Quality systems, Lifebreath offers effective, energy efficient and Ontario Building Code compliant solutions for residential and commercial applications. To learn more about our lineup of products contact us today. lifebreath.com Visit Lifebreath.com tolearnmore! orcallusat 1-855-247-4200
  14. 14. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 Y ou might say that building energy-efficient homes is in the DNA of Ottawa-area homebuilder Longwood Building Corporation. The company’s founder, Guy Whissel, was born and raised in Ottawa, studied architecture and learned the ropes with major city builders in the late 1970s and 1980s before starting Longwood Building Corporation in 1988 with a simple promise to homebuyers: “a great product at a great price.” Whissel’s company began small, but quickly gained a share of the Ottawa market, building 75 to 100 new homes per year. Since then, Longwood has built more than 1,250 single-family homes, bungalow communities and condominiums for growing families and people downsizing. A top priority for Longwood from day one was energy efficiency, according to Guy’s son, Simon Whissel, construction manager at Longwood. “One thing the company included in our homes was upgraded insulation – a huge leap back then,” he says. Following in his father’s footsteps, Simon is leading his company today into the next chapter, merging its signature unique and thoughtful designs (based on one-to- one consultations with homeowners) with the latest in energy efficiency and sustainability. Guiding Longwood’s evolution to even better sustainability is Savings by Design from Enbridge Gas, a program that Whissel describes as “more important than ever” in the building industry. “It offers 13 Retooling for Greener Building Ottawa Builder Steps Up Sustainability sitespecific / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ Simon Whissel, Construction Manager at Longwood Building Corporation, and Chelsey Pigeon, Project Coordinator.
  15. 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 14 education, assembly instruction and ways to reduce our carbon footprint, incorporating tools like superior insulation, insulated exterior sheathing, airtightness measures, combination fuel systems and third- party air testing,” he says. Longwood Building Corporation had been offering homebuyers its proprietary Green Solution energy- saving features since the 1990s. Now, through its participation in Savings by Design, the brand has been revitalized and elevated, with many more components available. “Our Green Solution is more relevant than ever. It puts a whole new focus on the benefits of energy efficiency,” says Whissel. He lists the following features: • Increased insulation R-value in ceilings and walls • Super-tight window and door sealing • Blower door testing • Combination heating system that uses heat from the hot water tank (cutting gas con­ sumption by up to 20%) • Home electricity usage monitoring system • Home Energy Rating System (HERS) third-party energy consumption calculator that allows builders to make the best energy choices for their particular designs, materials and construction methods Other Green Solution options include hardwood flooring from certified renewable sources and low- to zero-VOC paints, carpeting and other materials. Whissel’s own home in a Longwood neighbourhood includes all of these features. Key to Longwood’s Green Solution offerings is insulation, and the com- pany is using Owens Corning products exclusively: R-60 blown fiberglass in the attic, R-24 batt in the walls and continuous R-20 batt on the inside of basement walls for warm below-grade living spaces. “Owens Corning PINK insulation gives us great products with an added benefit of the ‘Pink Panther’ brand awareness in the neighbour- hood,” says Whissel. “Other benefits important to us are the attributes of Owens Corning products: GREEN- GUARD Gold certification for better indoor air quality [and] an average of 73% recycled content in their batt products, which helps to reduce both operational and embodied carbon.” In addition to fiberglass ceiling and interior wall insulation, a unique wood fibre sheathing is applied to outside walls to provide extra insula­ tion and retain indoor humidity, while preventing rain and snow melt from penetrating wall cavities. According to Longwood’s website, Enbridge Gas estimates that all the components of Longwood’s Green Solution save homeowners an average of $718 per year in energy costs and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,300 kilograms (about as much as a single car produces over nine months). As to the price of retooling for greener building through Savings by Design, Whissel claims that the program’s incentives, such as research and marketing support, help to offset the added costs. “It’s a small price to pay, and Enbridge is doing its part to help builders achieve better energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. Whissel believes that the biggest change in the building industry over the past years has been an evolution from simply building houses to building sustainable houses. “People are looking for energy-efficient homes these days. While builders are asking ‘What can we do to be more energy efficient, and how do we do it and still be affordable?’ , Savings by Design is helping us do this, and everybody is hopping on board,” he says. Currently, Longwood homes are being rated at 20% better than Code using HERS. Can the company do even better? “Zero energy-ready is the direction we’re headed,” says Whissel. “With every new project, we ask ourselves what else we can do. We’ve seen lately how expensive homes are to build and buy, and if we can make the operation of homes less expensive, that’s good news for homeowners. And helping our buyers reduce their carbon footprint means we’re doing our part in fighting climate change.” 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. Longwood’s Green Solution saves home­ owners an estimated average of $718 per year in energy costs and reduces their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,300 kilograms.
  16. 16. 15 BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 Homeowners, contractors, and builders rely on ROCKWOOL® for dependable insulation solutions. More than a rock, ROCKWOOL stone wool insulation is made from natural stone and recycled material. In addition to being inherently non-combustible, the products resist fire, repel water and absorb sound - releasing the natural power of stone. www.rockwool.com What it’s made of makes all the difference. ROCKWOOL Comfortbatt® An exterior insulation product for use in both new residential construction and renovations where wood or steel studs are used. ROCKWOOL Safe’n’Sound® A residential insulation product for interior walls constructed with wood or steel studs, where superior fire resistance and acoustical performance are required. ROCKWOOL Comfortboard® An exterior non-structural insulation sheathing that provides a continuous layer of insulation around the building envelope. THANK YOU FROM SKYE MAINSTREET PROPERTIES LTD. We value our partnerships and would like to thank you for helping us build a LEED Platinum home. Accuflo Plumbing AeroBarrier Alpha Comfort Control Ltd. Amvic Barbini Design Build Building Products of Canada Castlemore Electric Clearsphere DesignWorks Studio Gaggenau Appliances Greyter Water Systems InLine Fiberglass John G. Williams Limited Moen Panasonic RenewABILITY ROCKWOOL Scavolini Swidget Please visit www.leslievillelaneway.com to learn more about our house. SkyeMainstreetPropertiesLtdThanksYou.indd 4 SkyeMainstreetPropertiesLtdThanksYou.indd 4 2022-12-13 11:47 AM 2022-12-13 11:47 AM
  17. 17. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 16 buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN All That Glitters Is Not Gold An enthusiastic client allowed new ground to be broken with a Leslieville laneway LEED Platinum project. W hat happens when your client buys in on sustain­ ability to the degree that they won’t settle for anything less but an absolute top tier product? This very dynamic recently led to a model home that is currently being built under the LEED Platinum 4.1 certification – a first for Barbini Construction, John Godden of Clear­ sphere and client Jesse Davidson, a principal at development firm Skye Mainstreet Properties. The fact that Davidson’s company was working with a residential pro­ perty was an outlier to begin with, as Skye’s portfolio mainly consists of 20-foot main street retail properties with apartments above each. But a few years back, the company bought a building on Queen Street East, in Toronto’s trendy Leslieville neigh­ bourhood, and it came with a detached garage located in the laneway behind. The 25' x 25' lot actually had a separate title, so Skye wasn’t sure what to do with it, ultimately opting to build a house.
  18. 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 That’s when red tape stalled the project. In fact, it took Skye four years from the time it started working on the concept until it finally got a building permit. The issue? It wasn’t technically a laneway house based on the City definition, and because the plan had them building right to the edge of the lot on all four sides, zoning variances were required for height and all the lot coverage ratios, Davidson explains. “So as a right, none of this was permitted. All of it had to be done at Committee of Adjustments,” he says. Planning consultant Louis Tinker of Bousfields Inc. – who apparently knows everyone in the planning department – was brought aboard. And “he worked his magic,” Davidson says. Our eyes were opened up After Amedeo Barbini was hired to build the home, he brought Godden in to consult on the project. With that experience, Davidson says (see “Better Air Quality, from the Ground Up” in the fall 2022 issue, page 27), “our eyes were opened up to the many advantages of LEED building.” Yes, the cost was higher, but Davidson explained that the benefits made it worth it, including a vastly better envelope, marketing opportunities, a radon mitigation system and tremendous support from suppliers (see below for more). Obtaining LEED Platinum certification is a lofty goal – one that involves following a very detailed scoring system checklist to secure enough points. These points are accrued through categories such as innovation and design process, the home’s location relative to amenities and transportation, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor air quality. Davidson says there are many things being done on this house that wouldn’t normally be considered. “Your typical homebuilder is only looking at what’s the most cost- effective way to get this house built and sold,” he says. But Davidson and the many con­ tributing suppliers have “all been intrigued by the challenge of trying to see how many amenities and luxuries we can cram into this small shoebox of a house.” Because this home was being created as a model, Davidson says he didn’t want to miss out on any feature that was possible. In fact, striving for near perfection is one of his personal traits that has very much come into play on this project. “Once you start down that path, you’re very reluctant to say ‘no, it doesn’t need to be that good,’” he explains. 17 Framing stage. Exterior finishes. Matthieu Danis of Building Products of Canada – almost complete.
  19. 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 18 The hurdles continued Unfortunately, the hurdles this project faced did not finish with the permit issue. Because of how far the house was from the main gas distribution, the quote to attach the line was around $55,000. Davidson balked at that and instead decided to spend that money on solutions – like solar panels and battery storage – that would enable the home to be powered without any fossil fuels. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? The best part? Davidson says this decision “made it easier to get the LEED Platinum certification.” To say that suppliers were jump­ ing at the opportunity to add their products to this model home is an understatement. In fact, many vendors offered up their solutions for free or for vastly reduced cost, given how badly they wanted to be able to leverage this house as a demonstration platform. “Everyone was using this as an oppor­ tunity to showcase their latest and greatest,” he says. Key among these suppliers were Panasonic, Building Products of Canada Corp. (BP) and ROCKWOOL. Panasonic was a major sponsor of this project, providing zoned heat pumps, solar panels with battery storage, high-efficiency ventilation and indoor air quality controls to the home. Its Breathe Well campaign (see articles in the fall 2022 issue) was featured front and centre. Key suppliers “Panasonic’s been amazing; they’ve given us a number of products, [and] they’ve substantially discounted others,” Davidson says. BP supplied its R-5 XP wood fibre Insul-Sheathing panels, a solution that does not require additional bracing or let-in bracing, explains product manager − wood fibre Matthieu Danis. He says that when the panels are installed with the XPS facing the exterior – using proper flashing details – they not only provide an effective weather-resistant barrier, but can also be integrated into the air barrier system. “The builders appreciated the panels due to their strength and light weight, combined with the fact that the product offered a higher permeance, allowing any trapped humidity to easily escape to the exterior of the wall assembly,” Danis adds. BP’s sheathing earned a point towards LEED certification because it’s comprised of 98% recycled content. Both the XP sheathing and ROCK­ WOOL’s stone wool insulation are products which reduce CO2 emissions through their manufacturing processes. “ROCKWOOL is a fantastic product,” Barbini enthuses. “It doesn’t burn.” Scoring LEED points The fact that it’s made just outside of Toronto using Canadian materials really helped with the LEED low- carbon impact requirements, he says. By using ROCKWOOL in the wall cavity and flat roof, the home scored another LEED point for recycled con­ tent – but that wasn’t the only way this product helped get the home certified. “In indoor environmental quality, ROCKWOOL batt insulation makes up 90% of the cavity insulation and receives two LEED points for its GREENGUARD Gold certification for low-emitting products,” says Sarah Southwick, ROCKWOOL’s Ontario regional manager. Other suppliers include: • Greyter, which supplied its grey­ water recycling system (see “Shades of Grey” in the spring 2020 issue, page 16). This project is being included in the Canadian WaterSense pilot; • Amvic Building System offered up a sub-slab radon ventilation system that’s integrated with radiant floor heating, Barbini says. Amvic’s Carbon-smart R-5XP insulated sheathing. Outlet for sub-slab radon venting system. ROCKWOOL batts receive 2 LEED points for GREENGUARD Gold certification for low emitting products.
  20. 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 contribution, which includes the Amrad R-12 in-slab vapour miti­ gation and insulation application (which allows for the building of an insulated concrete slab that meets the radon requirements of the Building Code), helped the project score 18 LEED points for indoor environmental quality; • Third-party Better Than Code label with a HERS 41 at 45% better than code, garnering 28 LEED points for energy; • Moen, which contributed all the faucets and low-flow plumbing fixtures for free; • Scavolini, an FSC-certified company, did all the kitchen cabinetry; • Gaggenau supplied low-energy appliances; • An energy-efficient washer/heat- pump dryer came from Miele; and • InLine high-performance, double- glazed windows from Fiberglass Windows & Doors. The benefits of LEED Platinum The benefits of a LEED Platinum home are plentiful, but boil down to four interconnected areas: Low carbon Davidson says this is “definitely one of the benefits” in a home that is 45% better than code. This is achieved through the envelope, energy efficiency and using less embodied carbon: “That whole program will take the home lower and lower in terms of carbon footprint,” Barbini says. Using locally sourced materials plays a role here, but it’s also the specifications that are employed, he adds. The home uses less energy, aided by solar panelling (3.6 kW) for renewable energy, which really reduces the carbon footprint. LEED also takes into account the home’s location relative to amenities, shopping and local transportation. High performance Barbini explains that “in one way, these are all parallel paths,” meaning that it’s holistic and “everything feeds into everything else.” But mostly this is focused on the energy side, where there’s lower heating and cooling requirements (which positively affects utility costs). The Swidget controls (see “Behavioural Studies” in the winter 2021 issue, page 16) allow for the use of energy only when required, and the renewables to charge the battery system help fuel the home so you don’t require peak-time electricity. He says the hydronically heated floors in the basement, first floor and the garage concrete floor help maintain the desired temperature, so the heating systems aren’t always turning on and the radiant floor also stores off-peak electricity as heat. Healthy Panasonic’s Breathe Well products (including an energy recovery ventilator [ERV] and six strategically placed Whisper Air Repair pods) play a big role here, as does Amvic’s radon mitigation solution. Barbini was so impressed with the Breathe Well products that he’s going to put them in his office. “I always like to experience something before I start recommending it.” Durable Davidson explains that because this home is so well sealed and insulated, its heating and cooling requirements are dramatically reduced, which should allow the equipment to last longer. Barbini says this house is built to stand the test of time, and even the home exterior helps in this regard as no painting or maintenance is required. 19 519-489-2541 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.
  21. 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 20 Davidson is so inspired by this project that he hopes to use it as a template to build several more model homes over time. Of course, that raises the question of how well this will sell. Barbini has no doubt there will be a demand for this type of product, and he can even see it being done on a production level within a few years. Gone are the days when it was hard to justify a 10% increase in a better built home that features what he always describes as “stealth comfort,” because “nobody saw it.” The scales have tipped Prospective homeowners traditionally were wooed by marble and hardwood, not comfort and health. But in the last 10 to 15 years, Barbini says that environmental issues have become a bigger factor – especially for younger people – that the scales have tipped, and it’s now a key consideration. Having a home with better air quality and a lower carbon footprint are now valued. What could really sway the industry in this direction is having larger developers and politicians latching on, he says. Barbini is adamant that builders shouldn’t wait until these techniques are mandated. “You don’t have to be told to do better; if you’re actually interested in improving, do it now.” He maintains that there are too many builders that make beautiful, marble-adorned 7,000-square-foot homes, “but behind the walls, it’s garbage.” Everyone on this project will come away with valuable experience and know-how that can be applied in the future, but perhaps no one will be more indelibly changed than Davidson. For him, this process will become standard fare. Every time he works on a commercial construction project, he’s going to incorporate some of the Better Than Code building strategies because “you end up with a way better product,” he says. “I wouldn’t touch any construction anywhere again without involving John and Amedeo because they’ve introduced me to a whole new world that I didn’t even know about.” BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca
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  23. 23. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 22 sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN After discussing the situation with John Godden, Chau – who is a build­ ing energy consultant at Clearsphere – “decided it made sense” to do an upgrade. That meant investing in a combina­ tion system, one that integrated space and hot water heating, and thermal envelope improvements. It’s some­ thing Chau had been focusing on since he started with Clearsphere in 2008, right after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in architectural science from Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). The system is used a lot in town­ homes, but it works equally well in a single detached home, Chau says. “People think that detached homes are too big for this kind of system, but my own house is proof that’s not true. And it makes sense, especially when you’re getting ready to change an older furnace.” Clearsphere conducted a study a few years ago comparing conventional furnaces to combination systems, Chau says. “We found that, on average, the combo saves about 20% on natural gas consumption, when compared to a separate furnace and hot water tank.” While that’s the major reason for going with the combo system, there are other benefits – such as improving air quality and air flow distribution, as well as getting rid of the hot water heater if it’s old and much less efficient. Another major incentive, Chau admits, was Enbridge’s home efficiency rebate program. “Enbridge basically provides a list of items and, the more you choose, the more rebate you get,” he explains. “Items such as basement and attic insulation, air sealing, replac­ ing the hot water heater and installing an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) got us over $3,000 back. And they paid the energy audit costs.” The Chaus made all of these improvements. On the mechanical front, the furnace was replaced with an AIRMAX air handler with a high- efficiency electronically commutated motor (ECM). Instead of installing a tankless water heater, though, they opted for a 50-gallon condensing tank, Now It’s Personal T he timing was right. Howard Chau and his wife, Dalin Vornn, had recently purchased an all-original, 20-year-old subdivision home. Everything needed replacing on the 1,800-square-foot home, from mechanical systems to thermal improvements. Howard Chau and his integrated space and hot water heating system. Small is beautiful.
  24. 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 24 which provides hot water to both heat the house and supply hot water. Although the hot water tank has a small output, it more than serves the purpose. “For the size of house, we didn’t need anything bigger,” Chau says. Most tankless hot water heaters’ output is too big – 200,000 BTUs is something they were never going to need. Also, a new ¾-inch gas pipe would need to be installed. And after doing the calculations (CSA B-214), Chau could see only about a quarter of that was necessary. So, they investigated the 65,000 BTU GSW Envirosense® tank (see page 10). His home’s heat loss after envelope improvements, he says, is only 32,000 BTUs per hour, and even when factoring in the hot water load, the condensing tank is plenty for what they need, even on the coldest winter day. Another reason for choosing a condensing tank over the tankless hot water heater is that there is no waiting for hot water. He calculated that running the water until it’s hot wastes more water than you save on energy consumption. “Always, you’re weighing the pros and cons of wasting water versus saving energy on heating,” he adds. They installed a vänEE energy recovery ventilator (ERV), which provides fresh air continuously throughout the day. And a drain water heat recovery pipe on the shower stack draws heat out of warm drain water and sends it back to preheat the domestic hot water heater DHWH. With the mechanicals under control, Chau turned his attention to the thermal side of things. Upgrades to the building envelope included raising attic R-values from R-31 to R-60 by blowing insulation into the attic after air sealing penetrations. Torino Drywall did the top up. The basement had half-height R-12 insulation to four feet below grade, and they continued insulating all the way down to the slab using a double layer of ROCKWOOL CB-80 (R-12). In the future, Chau plans to stud the basement, add R-12 batt to bump up the insulation even more before drywalling, and anticipates replacing the existing double-glazed windows, which were code in 2000. “It all depends on budget. Hopefully our cost savings will help us do this in the future,” he says. So far, the house is performing above, expectation. Even with the extreme cold of the 2021/22 winter, the family’s energy costs dropped. Although their gas bill was only 10% lower than the year before, the winter last year was 9% colder than the previous year based on weather data. The family welcomed a new baby in the household just as the new system was installed, significantly increasing hot water usage. And with both of them working from home at least part of the time, energy consumption rose. Taking all these factors into consideration, Chau says the system has likely reduced their bills by almost 25%. In other quantifiable ways, the system has reduced their heating requirements as well. Prior to the renovation, heat loss for the house was 36,000 BTUs per hour; post-reno, it dropped to 32,000 BTUs. Energy performance pre-reno was at HERS 73, and afterward it went down to HERS 53 (current code is HERS 57 for Package A1). That’s a reduction of 27%. The plan is to take a closer look at the bills once the system is a full year old, so they can work out the precise savings, Chau says. “But right now, with about eight months of bills, I’m seeing a 10% savings, even with a much colder winter last year and a second child.” The other bonus was the 33% increase in air flow and heat delivery compared to the old furnace, which made a huge difference in comfort. The air delivery was measured on each floor register before the system was changed and compared to measure­ ments taken after. “My daughter’s room is above the garage and has big windows and was always cold,” Chau says. “Now it’s warm. The before and after measurements show there was a 17% improvement in the airflow due to the AIRMAX air handler.” The plan is to use the house as a case study, with testing to demonstrate how a combination system can work as a retrofit in an older, regular detached home. All these benefits would not have been possible without the hot water tank supplied by AO Smith, the Power- Pipe® from RenewABILITY, the ERV from vänEE, the ROCKWOOL Comfort­ board 80® and the participation of Martino Contracting and AIRMAX. “I am very grateful for the contributions of these companies for helping me upgrade my family’s house and reduce my carbon footprint,” Chau says. BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at alexnewmanwriter.com. The plan is to use the house as a case study, with testing to demonstrate how a combination system can work as a retrofit in an older, regular detached home.
  25. 25. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 26 industryexpert / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ These systems offer some advan­ tages over typical forced air gas furnaces and hot water tanks. They use only one fuel-burning source. Leading the way with combo systems, especially in new multi-unit rental buildings, is Reliance Home Comfort. The company’s director of building markets, Shannon Bertuzzi, is no stranger to home comfort and energy efficiency, having previously worked with Enbridge Gas and Ener­ Quality, Canada’s market leader in residential green building programs. “I have been very fortunate in my career to work in the building industry for over 15 years,” says Bertuzzi. “During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many levels of government, sit on councils, and design and launch programs with the goal of transforming the housing market. My career has always been about energy efficiency. What I set out to do many years ago is now the near future of housing. My experience has allowed me to work hand in hand with builders and industry to drive the adoption of sustainable homes.” Bertuzzi claims that her company is unequaled in providing products, service and a customer relationship experience for builders and, in turn, their homeowners. “As systems become more complicated, there is even more reason to consider renting, as homeowners turn to Reliance for maintenance, service or future repair,” she says. “We are the experts in this field, providing rental and service to over 1.9 million customers across Canada.” A team of dedicated Reliance key account managers and a technical manager help builders each step of the way to ensure that they receive high-end systems at a great value for homeowners. “With housing afford- ability at the forefront and rising interest rates these days, we under- stand what the best products are to go into a home to help move the market towards Net Zero, while keeping homeowner expenses down with a low monthly rental payment,” says Bertuzzi. The Reliance product devel- opment team continually looks for new products to help builders achieve high energy performance housing in an ever-changing landscape. “If we don’t have a particular product, our operations team is open to review, test and provide our recom- mendation,” Bertuzzi adds. “Our team is entrenched in code changes and sits on many councils – including the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) Net Zero council, which pro- vides insight into the systems required for future new home construction – and allows us to provide input from our experience delivering these prod- ucts to the marketplace.” Ontario builder Pine Valley Builders decided to include a tested combi system in their townhouse project in Vaughan, Ontario, where 111 town­ homes have specified a combi system tested under CSA P9-11. At the builder workshop, Jennifer Hurd, Reliance key account manager for builder markets, connected the dots and helped the builder select the appropriate equipment. Included was a hot water recir­ culation pump, which, in combina­ tion with low-flow toilets and faucets, Helping Builders Reach High Performance and Affordability T he days of building a house and simply installing a furnace and hot water tank without any consideration for efficiency or occupant comfort are thank- fully over. In recent years, more and more builders have been opting for energy-efficient combination (or combo) heating systems – hydronic-based mech­ anical systems designed to provide both domestic hot water and space heating. “We know the end goal, and we need to test new systems in the market. A ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work.” Shannon Bertuzzi, director of building markets, Reliance Home Comfort.
  26. 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 was specified to meet the HERSH2O approach to help reduce water con­ sumption. The key accounts manager made arrangements to include this equipment in the builder’s rental contract. Combo systems aside, Bertuzzi emphasizes that her company is not just a water heating company. “Reliance offers so much more. We provide an array of products to help builders of all types of residential buildings, with rentals of water heaters, all HVAC equipment, smart home products, water purification systems, and now EV charging solutions” (for which Reliance pays a generous builder allowance). Bertuzzi observes that the rental business can be tricky. “You’re dealing with builders to satisfy homeowners’ needs for water heating, ventilation, heating and cooling. Reliance does it differently from other companies. We listen to the needs of our builder partners and work to adapt to their evolving vision. When homeowners move in, they enjoy all the advantages of our rental program, including the convenience and peace of mind that comes with lifetime repairs and maintenance.” The end goal of energy-efficient housing, according to Bertuzzi, is the federal government’s Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. “We know the end goal, and we need to test new systems in the market. A ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work,” she says. “This is where energy advisors are a key relationship factor for builders in the design of their homes. They are the drivers in the design of high- performance homes, taking into consideration all aspects of the home and how each component relates to the house-as-a-system approach.” “Without energy consulting at the design stage, builders are taking risks that could have huge consequences down the road,” says Bertuzzi, citing the example of airtightness in a home. “If the house is very airtight, it needs a proper ventilation system, so that we can manage the relative humidity and minimize any condensation and mould in the walls. Reliance works with builders and their energy consultants to specify the appropriate mechanical systems needed for homes of the future.” Bertuzzi believes that innovation is key in the residential construction industry, with builders at the leading edge of trying new systems. “Collaboration between builders, energy advisors, HVAC designers, manufacturers and Reliance is vital to successfully transforming the housing stock,” she says. “We can’t work in isolation. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to drive high- performance homes.” 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. 27 TANKLESS WATER HEATER COLD WATER BRIDGE VALVE PUMP AND FLOW MONITOR RECIRCULATION ON HOT WATER LINES REDUCES WATER USAGE
  27. 27. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 Fresh air matters North Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where concentrations of some pollutants can be up to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.1 Built-up concentrations of stale air, toxins and allergens within the home can result in numerous skin and respiratory reactions, and can ultimately lead to serious health issues like asthma, bronchial infections and, in some cases (such as radon), lung cancer. Organic particulate, off-gassing and VOCs Different particulates impact indoor air quality (IAQ), including bacteria; mold; viruses; dust; pet dander; product preservatives like formaldehyde, methylisothiazolinone (MI) and benzisothiazolinone (BIT); and other chemicals that produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that enter the air from their source. A 2018 study by the American Contact Dermatitis Society states that, of 47 paints tested, all “contained at least one isothiazolinone. MI and BIT were the most common.” 2 Doug Tarry Homes switched to Graphenstone paints (which meet the more stringent European zero VOC standards) a few years ago. It’s not just about reducing VOC levels for custom­ ers; it’s also about limiting long-term exposure of staff, trades and painters within the construction schedule, who may be unaware they’re being exposed to potentially toxic off-gassing. Ventilation: Dilution is a solution Indoor stale air contains high con­ centrations of CO2 and other gasses/ particulates. Replacing it with fresh outdoor air all year long – an important strategy to improving IAQ – provides a healthier living environment. When using a balanced HRV/ERV system, it will supply roughly the same amount of fresh outdoor air as the indoor stale air it’s removing, and is capable of doing this 24/7, all year long. HRV vs. ERV While both systems provide contin­ uous fresh air and recover heat energy to improve the efficiency of the system, heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) don’t deal with moisture. On a hot, humid day, an HRV may dump an excessive amount of humidity back into the home while, in winter, it can over-dry it to dangerous levels. A damp, moldy home increases the risk of asthma by 40%. Ideally, indoor relative humidity during summer should be around 50% +/- 5%; during winter 35% +/- 5%. However, you can maintain a higher winter humidity level if the details and selections (for example, triple-glazed windows) can support it. Moisture load Heat energy is greatly reduced in a high-performance home, while managing moisture energy increases. More insulation, better air sealing and moisture barriers greatly reduce drying potential, but moisture has less area to escape from, and in excess may become a challenge. To be clear, though moisture needs to be dealt with, a tighter home offers a greater opportunity towards becoming a healthier home. Humidity overload The Great Lakes area is a prime climate zone for excess humidity – during about six weeks in spring, six weeks in early fall and in the deep heat of summer. Shoulder seasons see 29 fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY Built-up concentrations of stale air, toxins and allergens within the home can result in numerous skin and respiratory reactions, and can ultimately lead to serious health issues. 1 epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality 2 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6489126 Indoor Air Quality and Occupant Health – Part II (Excerpted from the upcoming book From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge: A Builder’s Guide to Net Zero Homes)
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  29. 29. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 44 | WINTER 2022 32 sporadic heating and A/C usage. If the dehumidification strategy relies on A/C that’s barely running, or if outdoor fresh air has a high relative humidity, the home can get wet and stay that way for weeks. In summer, windows can be closed for days or weeks at a time. Even if deploying a really good strategy of using an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to provide continuous fresh air and the A/C to cool/dehumidify, there can be extended periods of extremely high humidity based on the geographic region. When this happens, the ERV or A/C may not reduce the humidity gains enough to maintain health and comfort. Depending on outdoor conditions (seasonal/geographic), supplemental dehumidification may be necessary. Dedicated humidity control systems In over-dry or cold winter climates, humidity may need to be added. Strategies could include a dedicated humidifier, passive controls, house plants, or running the furnace fan while showering, circulating humidity within the home. Success depends, in part, on the customer’s engagement. The easiest way to dehumidify is with an Energy Star-rated dehumidifier piped directly to the furnace drain while running the furnace fan on low. Advancements in dedicated dehumidifying systems include different wall-mount or in-line dedicated dehumidifiers capable of managing humidity levels. The right solution can vary by region, season, home and occupant. I n conclusion, educating customers is critical to ensuring occupant safety. Mild soap and water, lemon and salt, vinegar – almost all household cleaning can be accomplished with these simple products, which are far less harmful than corrosive chemicals. Chemical solvents have their place, but the home is not one of them. Educate and guide customers to better decision-making and healthier choices. This involves leading by example and following some simple steps: remove, control, ventilate, filter.3 This four-step path will help your customers enjoy a healthier and safer living environment. They – and your bottom line – will thank you. BB Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario.   3 eeba.org/designations/healthier-homes To be clear, though moisture needs to be dealt with, a tighter home offers a greater opportunity towards becoming a healthier home.
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