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PUBLICATION
NUMBER
42408014 ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
Missing the Forest for the Trees
Sizing Heat Pumps
Creating Sustainability Standards
Award for ICF Low-Rise Builder
Examining Sustainability in a
Net Zero Energy Home – Part I
The Value of Windows
FINDING THE PATH
BEST
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
13
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ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited.
FEATURE STORY
16
The Wood Whisperer
It’s taken some time, but thanks to education and support from
a government/industry-supported program, Ontario is finally
following B.C.’s lead of creating mass timber mid-rise structures.
by Rob Blackstien
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
2
Understanding the Law
of Diminishing Returns:
The Best Practice
by John Godden
THE BADA TEST
3
When You Can’t See the
Forest for the Trees
by Lou Bada
INDUSTRY EXPERT
5
Sizing Heat Pumps
by Gord Cooke
INDUSTRY NEWS
9
Benchmarking
Low Carbon Homebuilder Coalition
by Paul De Berardis
SITE SPECIFIC
13
Ready for Pine Time
by Alex Newman
SITE SPECIFIC
22
Collaboration and Choice
Pickering Partners
with Builders to Create
Sustainability Standards
by Marc Huminilowycz
BUILDER NEWS
26
Ontario Contractor
Wins Builder Award
for ICF Low-Rise
by Marc Huminilowycz
INDUSTRY EXPERT
28
Why My Net Zero Energy
Ready House Failed
from a Sustainability
Perspective – Part I
by Tyler Simpson
FROM THE GROUND UP
31
Understanding the
Value of Windows
by Doug Tarry
Cover: Shutterstock 328404953
16
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
Understanding the Law
of Diminishing Returns:
The Best Practice
“The law of diminishing returns means that even the most beneficial
principle will become harmful if carried far enough.”
— Thomas Sowell
I
t’s hard to believe Better Builder is in its 11th year. The housing industry has seen rapid
change in that time. Energy performance was introduced under SB-12 in 2012, then again
at 15% better in 2017 and, very shortly, we are expecting harmonization with the National
Building Code (NBC) in March 2024. Currently the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and
Housing (MMAH) is proposing to adopt Tier 3 of the NBC (roughly 8% higher than Package
A1), and policy makers are targeting net zero by 2030.
Two very important questions have emerged in my mind. Firstly, what is the working
definition of net zero energy (NZE)? I am familiar with most of these descriptions and, truth
be told, few have universal consensus and most are authored by special interests.
The second, more important question is: where does the law of diminishing returns kick
in? Ironically, the most popular programs – like Net Zero or Passive House – were conceived
before we started accounting for embodied carbon. Net Zero marketing focuses on reducing
operational carbon at the expense of using more embodied carbon to build those homes.
Building components like triple-glazed windows, certain types of insulation and concrete
can also negate these emission reductions. Early experiences show that electric NZE houses
cost more to operate. Where is the sweet spot? Is net zero a reasonable goal? Time will tell.
In this best practice issue, our contributors acknowledge the law of diminishing returns and
offer carbon-smart best practices. On page 16, we feature Wood WORKS!, a program that
advocates a carbon smart approach. Wood is renewable and, best of all, is a carbon sink.
Trees produce oxygen and absorb CO2. Using wood in large building structures replaces
concrete and steel and thus reduces the largest sources of embodied carbon in buildings.
On page 3, Lou Bada talks about pre-drywall inspections as a way of effectively reducing
air leakage for better performance with attainable ACH targets.
Next, Gord Cooke does the math on sizing heat pumps (page 5). Three-season air source
heat pumps can be used to supplement combination heating systems to reduce the carbon
emissions with the wise use of natural gas at up to a 50% reduction in our climate.
On page 9, Paul De Berardis introduces us to the Low Carbon Home Builders Coalition,
which benchmarks the CO2 emission reductions of participating builders to find the sweet
spot of diminishing marginal returns. This is vital for the industry to offer feedback to
government policy. We also shine a spotlight on the City of Pickering, which demonstrates
a best practice approach for partnering with builders to create workable sustainability
standards by allowing choice. Read about it on page 22.
Lastly, Doug Tarry helps us understand the value(s) of windows on page 31. Triple-
glazed windows could be the last choice depending on a home’s size, orientation and
climate. A low solar heat gain coefficient may be a more important value for comfort and
efficiency than an extra pane of glass.
It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Using more
embodied carbon to save operational carbon is just adding fuel to the fire. With
diminishing time and resources in a period of climate change, finding the point of
diminishing returns is of utmost importance. BB
publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN
2
PUBLISHER
Better Builder Magazine
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PUBLISHING EDITOR
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FEATURE WRITERS
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This magazine brings together
premium product manufacturers
and leading builders to create
better, differentiated homes and
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save water and reduce our
impact on the environment.
PUBLICATION NUMBER
42408014
Copyright by Better Builder
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
with no preset threshold and no pass
or fail, but instead offer an incentive
for builders to discover a method
towards continuous improvement.
We are looking for the big holes – soffit
and rooftop vent terminations for
exhaust fans, ceiling penetrations into
unconditional space and mechanical
penetration, largely in basements –
not wasting cases of acoustic sealant
and red tape. Unfortunately, common
I
’ve always been fascinated why
we strive for more or believe that
bigger is better or biggest is best.
Cars, homes, televisions – you name
it. In this case, I’m wondering why is
more airtightness better, or why are
the tightest homes the best ones? Is
it a competition? Is the goal to build
a home that has the airtightness of a
submarine and insulate it so that it
can be heated with a hair dryer (that
no one can afford)? When is good
enough, good enough? What’s the
goal here?
I digress. When I look at some­
thing as a homebuilder, before I get
to the who, what, when and how,
I need to ask: why? If airtightness
is important – and it is, to a degree
– shouldn’t we be looking at the
optimal level of airtightness, before
we address the how?
Here are a few things to think
about when considering why we
want to achieve the optimal level of
airtightness:
As Clearsphere has correctly
pointed out, there are cost savings
in the operational energy used
in a home. The home is more
comfortable. It helps stop conden­
sation in the wall cavity, making
the home healthier and more
durable. It is becoming more of a
requirement in our building code.
How do we get there, then, and
what is the optimal level? Most
builders are nervous about setting the
bar too high or get into a pass-or-fail
scenario as is done with Energy Star.
A common-sense approach
would involve voluntary air tests
sense is not common in an atmosphere
of fear, where pass or fail can mean no
occupancy permit – but most builders
are better than they think. The
important thing is that everyone would
give it a try.
To this end, we are again partici­
pating in Enbridge’s Savings By Design
(SBD) program for a project of 130
homes in Stouffville, Ontario. We
have chosen to use the Better Than
3
thebadatest / LOU BADA
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
When You Can’t See
the Forest for the Trees
Air tightness results improve with pre-drywall inspections. At the top of
the chart, a higher ACH; and at the bottom, a lower ACH.
AIR TEST RESULTS WITH PRE-DRYWALL INSPECTIONS
PROGRAM LOT NUMBER ACH NLR
BETTER THAN CODE 24 2.75 0.21
BETTER THAN CODE 31 3.13 0.24
BETTER THAN CODE 32 2.02 0.15
BETTER THAN CODE 33 2.73 0.21
BETTER THAN CODE 26 2.52 0.20
BETTER THAN CODE 28 2.63 0.20
BETTER THAN CODE 29 2.67 0.20
BETTER THAN CODE 30 2.09 0.16
BETTER THAN CODE 67 2.42 0.19
BETTER THAN CODE 70 2.35 0.18
2.53 0.19
AVERAGES
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
4
Code approach, which utilizes the
HERS scale to qualify for Enbridge’s
incentives. It will be a simple and
rational way to achieve some desirable
results described above.
Many are familiar with the
program, which involves an integrated
design process (IDP) to find optimal
design choices and reduce operational
energy consumption by at least 15%
better than the SB-12 requirements
of the current building code. The IDP
also helps us consider the embodied
carbon in a newly constructed home.
We’ve found that 2.0 ACH to 2.5 ACH
is a reasonable target and anything
below 2.0 ACH achieves no significant
benefit. Pre-drywall inspections by our
energy rater have helped us achieve 2.5
ACH with little trouble most of the time
by getting at the big holes. Looking
for ACH rates of 1.0 or below, as some
programs strive for, may be excessive.
Is this good enough? Have we
reached our goal?
I believe so. We can throw addi­
tional time, material and resources for
marginal gains, but that doesn’t make
any sense. I believe we’ve reached
the point of diminishing returns
in regard to both operational and
embodied carbon. I also believe that
code changes and related programs
that zealously focus on air change rates
that don’t relate to optimal levels of
airtightness and insulation “can’t see
the forest for the trees.” 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).
Grade 2 insulation installed at pre-drywall inspection.
Insulation is well placed with no compression or voids.
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
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
I
t is hard to overlook the inherent
energy efficiency of heat pump
technology for both space and
domestic hot water heating.
Certainly, we have been well
served by relatively rapid improve­
ments to the efficiency of reliable,
affordable natural gas furnaces
over the last 30 years. At the start of
my career, the commonly applied
furnace technology in most Canadian
new homes was the natural draft
gas furnace with a 60% annual fuel
utilization efficiency (AFUE). Now,
minimum standards are 96% plus
requirements for more efficient fan
motors. In that same time period,
central air conditioning has become
the norm and here, too, the efficiency
has improved from a seasonal energy
efficiency rating (SEER) of 8 to now 14.
However, we are in an era where
we are presented with a challenge to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by
40% by 2030. The heat pump – which
provides both space heating at an
average of two to three times the
efficiency of a gas furnace and space
cooling at higher SEER levels than
typical air conditioners – has to be
part of the solution.
There is no shortage of technical
elements to debate about the appli­
cation of heat pumps in Canadian
homes. In this article, let’s focus on
one subject: how to appropriately
size a heat pump for both new and
existing homes.
Since a heat pump provides
both space heating and cooling,
and considering the capacity of
heat pumps change as the outside
temperature changes, sizing is more
challenging than for a fuel fired furnace
and air conditioner. That said, ground
source heat pumps aren’t as sensitive
to outdoor conditions, since the ground
temperature is more consistent than
air temperatures throughout the year.
Thus, the focus will be on the sizing of
air source heat pumps.
Oddly, the challenge starts with the
fact that heat pumps supply both space
heating and cooling and, historically,
heating loads in Canadian homes have
been significantly higher than cooling
loads. If you sized for the greater of the
two loads, then the cooling capacity
would be far greater than needed, and
this can lead to poor humidity control
in summer months in most parts of
Canada. This can be overcome with
specific dehumidification technology,
but generally it is better to adjust
the sizing of the heat pump to avoid
humidity issues associated with
oversized cooling capacity.
This generates the first rule for heat
pump sizing in most applications for
new and existing homes. Be sure to
conduct a comprehensive heat loss
and gain calculation using the latest
version of the CSA F280-12 (R2021)
Standard − Determining the Required
Capacity of Residential Space Heating
and Cooling Appliances. While this is
standard practice in new construction,
required for most building permit
applications, it is equally important
in any renovation work you are doing
in existing homes. Older heating
appliances were routinely oversized
by over 40% – plus you are inevitably
going to reduce heating loads as you
do renovations. Taking the time to
do a thorough space conditioning
load analysis will pay big dividends
in reducing both the heat pump and
backup heat requirements.
Once you have confidence in the
required heating and cooling capacity,
you can safely size the heat pump
capacity to be 125% of the required
cooling capacity. Let’s start with an
existing home example. My son bought
a very old home with a 10-year-old
high efficiency gas furnace and no
central air conditioner. The furnace
had an output capacity of 76,000 BTUs
per hour. In a heat pump context, that
would be just over six tons (12,000
BTUs per ton). There is no practical
way to put six tons into an old home
with small duct work. A comprehensive
cooling load, accounting for the new
low-e glass he was planning to install,
would be 22,000 BTUs per hour.
Applying the 125% rule, that suggested
a heat pump size of 27,500 or 2.5 tons.
5
Sizing Heat Pumps
industryexpert / GORD COOKE
We are in an era where we are presented
with a challenge to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The heat
pump has to be part of the solution.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
6
Clearly that isn’t enough to heat
the house throughout the coldest
part of the winter, even with a cold
climate heat pump. However, with
the window upgrades, converting the
vented crawlspace to a conditioned
space and doing air sealing work, the
heat loss calculation showed the new
peak winter load would be just 54,000
BTUs per hour. Still not low enough
for a heat pump to carry the load.
That leads to the second element
of heat pump sizing: how much
backup heat is needed, and what
are the options for providing that
backup. In my son’s case, he would
need at least 26,500 BTUs of backup
heat. An electrification purist might
suggest a cold climate heat pump
that would maintain close to that full
27,500 BTU capacity even at design
temperatures of −25 °C and add
the remaining required heat with
electrical resistance elements. That
would require a capacity of at least
eight kilowatts. Even if my son wanted
to do that, the electrical service wasn’t
big enough to support that amount
of electric resistance heat running
with the heat pump. In his case, the
relatively new gas furnace provided a
convenient, reliable backup heat. The
goal, from a greenhouse gas emission
reduction perspective, is to run the
heat pump as much as possible and
then switch to the natural gas furnace
when the heat pump can’t meet 100%
of the load. It is important to note that
in a traditional furnace with add-on
heat pump, the coil for the heat pump
is above or after the furnace heat
exchanger (as shown in picture #1).
As a result, the heat pump can’t be
operating when the furnace is on.
There is another backup heat
option that employs a true heat pump
air handler (like the one shown in
picture #2) and an add-on backup coil.
That coil could be electric resistance
heat or, in what is referred to as “dual
fuel” or “hybrid heating,” a hot water
coil fed from a gas boiler or tankless
water heater could be used. In these
cases, the heat pump can be left to
operate down to colder temperatures,
if it is rated to do so, and the backup
coil can be operated simultaneously to
provide more comfortable discharge
temperatures and better efficiencies.
These same strategies are
applicable in new homes. However, the
advancements in energy efficiency in
most new homes – coupled with rising
design day cooling loads associated
with ever increasing glazing areas and
internal occupancy loads – means
that cooling loads are much closer to
heating loads.
Take, for example, a 2,250 square
foot net zero-ready home we recently
did calculations for. The design day
heating load was just 31,000 BTUs per
Picture 1:
Conventional furnace
with case coil for 3
season heat pump.
Picture 2:
Cold weather heat pump with
heating coil as backup for
cold outdoor temperatures.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
hour and the cooling load was 24,000
BTUs per hour. In this application,
a 2.5 ton cold climate heat pump
would only need a couple of kilowatts
of electric heat to meet all loads. An
alternative would again be to employ
a hybrid approach. A combination
heating system with a heating coil
could provide the extra output when
outdoor temperatures require more
heat than the heat pump can provide.
See picture #2.
One important advancement
in the realm of using a dual fuel
approach is that there is a new
breed of thermostats able to look in
real time at current electricity and
natural gas prices as well as outdoor
temperatures (for calculating heat
pump time-variant efficiency and
capacity) to make hour-by-hour
decisions on whether to run the
heat pump or the furnace. One such
thermostat has been developed by a
Toronto-based company, BKR Energy.
Co-founder Nima Alibabaei helped
apply the technology in a successful
hybrid heating pilot program offered
by the Government of Ontario and
Enbridge Gas in cooperation with the
local electricity distributor in London,
Ontario in 2021. Alibabaei notes that
“the BKR fuel-switching technology
makes homes more resilient to energy
rate fluctuations in the short term and
rising costs in the future.”
The more I look at the direction the
industry is going and the availability
of great new equipment and controls,
I can say this with confidence: in 2023
and beyond, stop selling or installing
air conditioners. Switch to offering
heat pumps, slightly bigger than the
cooling load, and provide controls that
match the type of backup heat you
are offering. Even if they don’t use the
heat pump during the heating season
right now while natural gas is still so
cost effective, it will be a win-win for
everyone as we strive for that 40%
greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. BB
Gord Cooke is
president of Building
Knowledge Canada.
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
While there is merit to both sides
of the argument, this must also be
viewed from the lens that homes are
ultimately sold to consumers, who
are typically constrained by financial
budgets – especially considering the
rising trend in mortgage interest rates
– so more may not always be better
for everyone. There also needs to be
consideration for constructability
and embodied carbon, as homes
become more complex to construct
through increasing regulatory
requirements and take more time
and resources to build. Government
policies are pushing homebuilders to
ramp up operations and build more
homes than ever to address housing
affordability, yet there is a declining
workforce of skilled trades, and
building regulations are only getting
more onerous (counterintuitive, to
say the least).
There is a lot of rhetoric and
public sentiment that building
codes represent the bare minimum
and deliver lacklustre performance
when it comes to energy efficiency.
However, this is simply untrue when
it comes to the Ontario Building
Code (OBC). Earlier in 2022, the
“progressive” model National Building
Code of Canada (NBC) was released,
which introduced energy performance
tiers for houses, namely Tiers 1
through 5. In March 2024, the next
edition of the OBC will be released,
and to prevent Ontario from regressing
its current technical requirements
on energy efficiency, it is slated
that Ontario will leapfrog to Tier 3
requirements of the NBC (Tier 3 and
beyond of the NBC prescriptive path
aren’t even developed yet; they are
currently marked as “Reserved”). So,
homes in Ontario are and will continue
to be built to a significantly higher
standard than those across the rest of
Canada.
But the story doesn’t stop there,
even though Ontario already has the
most rigorous efficiency requirements
for new homes. There is a large
majority of homebuilders who also
further exceed OBC requirements.
Whether it be builders who wish to
voluntarily set themselves apart,
or builders who are operating in
municipalities that regulate more
stringent efficiency requirements
through “green standards” or
sustainable development programs,
there is no acknowledgment or data
of the impressive efforts achieved
by Ontario homebuilders. To add
insult to injury, not only is Ontario
producing some of the most energy
efficient homes across Canada,
but the province is also producing
the most housing, with Ontario
building more than double the
overall new housing, and triple the
volume of new detached homes,
over runner-up British Columbia.
Enter the Low Carbon Homebuilder
Coalition (LCHC), a strategy to bench­
mark and aggregate the performance
achievements of homebuilders in
Ontario. While the federal government
is responsible for developing the
model National Building Code, which
is intended to meet the objectives
of the Pan-Canadian Framework on
Clean Growth and Climate Change,
the Ontario government is working
to reduce variations and harmonize
the OBC in lockstep with the NBC,
9
Benchmarking
Low Carbon Homebuilder Coalition
industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS
W
hen it comes to climate change and reducing emissions, public
perception is mixed regarding the homebuilding industry in Ontario
and whether it is doing enough. In my role at RESCON, I am regularly
dialoguing with a broad range of individuals working within the residential
building sector. I am also engaged with outside entities such as representatives
from all levels of government, environmental advocacy organizations and various
policy think tanks.
There are always two sides to every story, but the general consensus is that
individuals working within the residential new home industry feel they are doing
their part to address climate change, whereas external organizations always feel
more can and should be done.
The idea behind the
LCHC is to annually
benchmark as many
homes as possible to
see how progress in
new home construction
is stacking up against
federal commitments
– a type of report card
for residential builders.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
10
and municipalities have their own
policies for uniquely regulating
green building practices. With all
the variation between the NBC, OBC,
municipally mandated green building
requirements and builders voluntarily
striving for energy efficient home
construction, there is no aggregated
performance assessment of just how
well industry is stacking up against
the Pan-Canadian Framework
requirements on emission reductions.
The idea behind the LCHC is to
annually benchmark as many homes
as possible to see how progress in
new home construction is stacking
up against federal commitments – a
type of report card for residential
builders. This information can then
be shared with governments to inform
their decision making and timing of
building code updates. Currently, there
is no available data to benchmark
where our industry stands, and
this is a major problem as we have
governments making policy decisions
without understanding the current
industry landscape.
The LCHC would provide an
industry voice, defining a standardized
approach to benchmarking high-
performance homes. To facilitate
this broad benchmarking effort of
the LCHC, it will be based off ANSI/
RESNET/ICC 301 − Standard for the
Calculation and Labeling of the Energy
Performance of Dwelling Units Using
an Energy Rating Index. Using this
standard, realistic estimates can be
used to derive the operational carbon
from a home. Currently, approximately
30 GTA builders are using this
approach to aggregate the impact of
their efforts through the LCHC.
Expanding the LCHC will seek to
educate not only governments, but
also homebuyers on their decisions, as
energy efficiency can be expressed as
LOW CARBON BUILDERS ESTIMATED CO2 REDUCTIONS AND SAVINGS FOR HOMEOWNERS COMPARED TO TIER 1
BUILDER
AVERAGE %
BETTER THAN
CODE
*ESTIMATED COST
SAVINGS FOR
HOMEOWNER ($)
# OF HOUSES
TOTAL ENERGY
SAVINGS PER
YEAR ($)
TOTAL
CO2 REDUCED
TONNES
CARS OFF
THE ROAD
BROOKFIELD 32% 836.88 195 163,192 163.2 55
CAMPANALE 35% 915.34 62 56,751 93.7 19
COUNTRY 31% 810.73 27 21,890 36.1 7
EMPIRE 35% 915.34 751 701,167 1157.4 231
DIETRICH 42% 1098.41 22 24,165 39.9 8
HEATHWOOD 35% 915.34 145 132,724 219.0 44
ICON 31% 810.73 32 21,079 34.8 7
LINDVEST 37% 967.64 117 113,214 227.0 45
MINTO 29% 758.42 18 13,652 22.5 8
ROSEHAVEN 32% 836.88 136 113,816 187.9 38
ROYAL PINE 39% 1019.95 75 76,496 126.3 25
REGAL CREST 37% 967.64 27 26,126 43.1 9
STARLANE 24% 627.66 7 4,394 7.3 1
TRIBUTE 36% 941.49 65 61,197 101.0 20
TOBEY 42% 1098.41 26 28,559 47.1 9
2022 TOTAL 1705 $1,558,420 2506.3 527
* Based on a comparison to NBC Tier 1
using the OBC SB-12 2017 reference house
calculating with REMRate v.16.0.2
The Low Carbon Builder Coalition is collectively responsible
for taking 527 cars off the road and saving home buyers over
$1.5 million dollars in energy costs on 1705 houses in 2022.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
operational carbon reduction (tonnes
of CO2 reduction) or equivalent
“cars off the road.” In the current
environment where misunderstood
catchphrases like “zero carbon”
and “net zero” are constantly being
thrown around, the coalition hopes
to create practical benchmarks
for moving forward. We know the
various levels of government aren’t
tracking these metrics when it comes
to housing and energy efficiency, and
realistically don’t have the capacity
to do so, leaving it up to industry
to gather this data and inform the
narrative to start giving credit where
credit is due.
With the rapidly evolving
landscape driven by the federal
commitment to adopt a “net-zero
energy ready” model building code
by 2030 and the ongoing patchwork of
municipal “green standards,” the years
ahead will be challenging. It is my
hope that industry can use the LCHC
to help provide a distinct viewpoint
to policymakers and better inform
the narrative and future regulatory
roadmap.
Builders interested in learning
more about the LCHC and having
their portfolio of homes added to the
benchmarking process are welcome.
Having as many engaged builders as
possible will help leverage industry
accomplishments and demonstrate
the impressive progress Ontario
homebuilders have made. BB
Paul De Berardis is
RESCON’s director of
building science and
innovation. Email him at
deberardis@rescon.com.
11
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Where misunderstood
catchphrases are
constantly being
thrown around, the
coalition hopes to
create practical
benchmarks for
moving forward.
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 45 / Spring 2023
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
the builder. “When people are happy
with their homes, your next project is
an easy sell.”
Pine Valley has several projects in
various stages of development. The
Urban Green Towns in Woodbridge
has sold out, the site in Wasaga Beach
is in the municipal approvals stage
and their Beaverton site is under
construction. All are designed to be
better than code.
As Slack points out, “the cost differ­
ential between building a house to
code and building one better than
code is not all that significant. But the
big advantage is developing a branding
strategy that will translate into higher
profits for the company in the long run.”
Woodbridge, he says, was a
“pioneering” project with plenty of
learning curves for trades, owners and
salespeople. “But it’s one that will put
Pine Valley on the map.”
With 1,960 square feet spread
over three storeys, each townhome
required a beefed up heating system:
a zoned high-velocity air distribution
system; an upgraded boiler system,
which has helped them move toward
zero energy ready (HERS 46); and the
exterior BP Excel sheathing came with
integrated house wrap, which reduces
air leakage. Further, a high-efficiency
energy recovery ventilator (ERV)
with electrically commutated motors
(ECM) provides ventilation with
exhaust ducting to the bathrooms.
With respect to water conservation,
L
ooking ahead has always been
Ken Slack’s approach. As Pine
Valley Estates’ construction
manager, he’s doing just that by
preparing the company and its
principals to get ahead of the build­
ing code curve.
“If you get out in front of the code
now, you’ll be ahead when changes
are forced on you,” he says.
That’s what he’s doing at Pine
Valley now – helping the principals,
sales staff and trades prepare for
building homes at better than code.
Using Savings by Design and the
Home Energy Rating System (HERS)
score rating, Pine Valley offered
111 townhomes in Woodbridge to
homeowners who are “tickled pink,”
Slack says.
They’re happy, he adds, because
they have lower energy bills and a
better built home. But the hidden
benefit is the trust they now have in
13
sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN
Construction manager Ken Slack
of Pine Valley Estates. Above, a
rendering of one of Pine Valley’s
Urban Green Towns in Vaughan.
Ready for Pine Time
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
a circulating pump on the hot water
delivery piping and a water-efficient
Energy Star front-loading washer result
in a water savings of 20%, verified by
the HERSH2O standard.
The combination heating system,
comprised of a boiler and air handler,
provides domestic hot water plus space
heating. The combination approach
has been studied by Enbridge and
results in a minimum 25% reduction
in natural gas compared to a
conventional furnace.
The Wasaga project is a little differ­
ent because of the demographics.
“Wasaga people are buying for cottages
or rental or for retirement, and price
point is very important,” Slack says.
“Nobody in the area is building better
than code because of that. And so
our schedule A is already an upgrade
compared to other local builders. But
we’re doing this for the long-term gains
in building our reputation.”
To determine what features to
incorporate, Slack recommends energy
modelling using the HERS system. “The
advantage of this information is trad­
ing off between measures that create
the most energy savings,” he explains.
“Overall, the home is more efficient, but
you’ve made the choice where to save
money and where to spend it.” Lastly,
a home energy monitoring system
(HEMS) has been provided so that the
homeowner can see where electrical
energy is wasted in the house.
Why Better Than Code and not
Energy Star? “Energy Star is good,
but to get us in the right direction for
code changes, Better Than Code works
better because you can adapt it to your
builder’s brand,” Slack says. “HERS
software used by Better Than Code
allows us to reduce occupancy loads,
which currently accounts for 52% of
the home’s energy usage.”
Enbridge incentives sweeten the
pot, naturally. That helped Slack “sell”
the idea of Better Than Code to the
owners of Pine Valley. As the houses
were presold before permitting, the
money was used to upgrade to 20%
better than code.
Education, though, is even more
important. While Slack has been
building his knowledge base for many
years, he definitely recommends
arming yourself with as much knowl­
edge as possible and getting help
where it’s offered – like the full-day
workshop offered by Clearsphere in
conjunction with Enbridge and various
subject matter experts, including
manufacturers.
Slack and some of Pine Valley’s
office staff attended. “It was great,”
Slack says. “It provided a lot of info
on how Savings by Design works,
along with HERS scores, and how
you can build better than code
without breaking the bank. It was also
encouraging to see how we’re getting
closer to true net zero.” BB
Alex Newman is a writer,
editor and researcher at
alexnewmanwriter.com.
14
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“HERS software
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15
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16
THE WOOD
WHISPERER
Top: Rendering of the Ontario
Secondary School Teachers’
Federation headquarters at
60 Mobile Drive, by Moriyama
Teshima Architects.
Bottom: Photo of 60 Mobile
Drive under construction,
March 2023, by John Godden.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
N
early a decade has passed since the Ontario Building
Code was amended to allow for the use of wood in the
construction of six-storey buildings, yet adoption has
been slow – especially compared to British Columbia.
However, given the recent spate of such structures
recently built or currently under construction within the
GTA, that trend is changing. And much of the credit for
helping increase the popularity of this building form has to
go to the Wood Whisperer.
Better known as Steven Street, he’s the executive director
of Ontario’s branch of Wood WORKS! (WW), a government/
industry-funded program that operates under the Canadian
Wood Council umbrella with the goal of increasing the
adoption of wood within the non-residential, mid-rise and
tall building sectors across the country.
Street’s love of wood is partially hereditary and partially
serendipity. His grandfather, a road engineer who built
bridges in Burma in World War II, instilled an appreciation
for wood into him when Street was a child. “He taught me
very early on that it was almost the only building material”
worth using, Street says. He recalls his grandfather would
often find old pieces of wood, take the nails out and declare
it ready for reuse.
Flash forward to the awful recession in the early ’90s,
when Street was doing some construction and contracting
work, but was uncertain when his next project was coming.
17
buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN
It’s taken some time, but thanks
to education and support from a
government/industry-supported
program, Ontario is finally
following B.C.’s lead of creating
mass timber mid-rise structures.
Steven Street, executive director, Wood
WORKS! (photo by Juliana Saunders).
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
18
A family friend approached him at
a party, told him about his wood
component manufacturing company
and it turned into “one of those
moments,” Street says.
The next day, Street met him for
lunch and toured the Ayr, Ontario-
based firm, which made prefabricated
walls, floor systems, roof trusses, etc.
He was intrigued by the fact that they
were pioneers in prefabrication, so
he took his friend up on a job offer to
run the engineered wood products
division and, after being “dumped
in at the deep end,” proceeded on
a crash course in all things wood
construction related.
It was here that Street learned
how the industry worked, the
method to build these homes and the
supply process, while first forging
relationships with the suppliers and
companies that now support WW.
Ultimately, based on his work at
this company and the connections
he developed, he was hired by WW in
2007 with a basic but lofty mandate:
develop the mass timber construction
market in Ontario.
Sure, that sounds simple, but there
were plenty of hurdles.
While B.C. had already seen the
light when it came to mass timber
construction, “Ontario was really
behind on its acceptance of combust­
ible construction as opposed to
the West Coast,” where it was very
prevalent, he explains.
Finally, around 2010, the first
seeds of change began to sprout in
Ontario, when Street says he started
to see larger builders like Great Gulf
and Mattamy Homes investing in
prefabrication processes. He says these
companies could see the writing on the
wall and they realized that adopting
these techniques would reduce their
reliance on site-built processes that are
subject to scheduling impacts due to
weather – particularly considering the
growing scarcity of traditional skilled
homebuilding tradespeople.
After all, with so much of the work
done in a factory, you only need a small
team for assembly. While that’s just
one of myriad advantages to using
wood, there’s also a learning curve,
and that’s where the Wood Whisperer
comes into play.
Whether it be questions about
partnering with the right suppliers,
aligning yourself with engineers and
architects that understand how to
properly use the product, or navigating
any insurance-related issues that are
unique to this building technique, WW
can help. The program has developed
documentation to help developers
properly manage risks related to mass
timber construction.
WW’s raison d’être is to act as an
advocate to “increase the use of wood
products in construction projects.” The
program operates in British Columbia,
Alberta, Ontario, Quebec (a similar
program known as Cecobois) and the
four Maritimes provinces.
“It gives us a really good snapshot
and analysis of what’s happening
across the country,” Street says.
“Why are some building codes more
advanced than others?”
The educationally focused program
offers a variety of services, including
lunch-and-learn sessions within design
and architecture offices. Because
of the relevance of the information
80 Atlantic project case study.
(Photo by Younes Bounhar,
Doublespace Photography)
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
presented, and alignment with the
Ontario Association of Architects’s
(OAA’s) continuing education require­
ments, architects are able to report
attendance at WW events under
their con-ed program. Participants
receive credits for attending learning
sessions. The program also offers
industry experts and other guest
speakers to discuss trends in wood
construction for OAA conferences.
WW also acts as a platform to
showcase inspiring examples of
Canadian wood projects through
case studies and annual awards. The
education transfer here is “a key part
of it,” Street says. “It’s one thing show­
ing people pretty pictures of build­
ings, but now we need to know how
to do it. How do we apply the code?”
One of the most valuable tools he
co-created with Veronica Madonna
(of Studio VMA) is The Canadian
Guide to Mid-Rise Wood Construc-
tion, a 252-page document released
in February 2022 that shepherds
developers through the entire pro-
cess, from early considerations
(including planning) for opti-
mized designs to technical design
and architectural considerations.
In addition to hosting live
educational events, the program has
a library of recorded educational
seminars available on-demand in its
e-learning centre, and free technical
support is available on a case-by-
case basis to project teams pursuing
wood construction, says Sarah Hicks,
WW Ontario’s communications and
outreach manager. This runs the gamut
from help desk assistance with code
or product inquiries to providing an
in-office presentation on a requested
topic such as EMTC (encapsulated
mass timber construction), mid-rise,
mass timber or prefabrication. She
adds that WW will periodically be
asked to attend meetings with project
teams to help address questions about
the use of wood posed by building
departments and authorities having
jurisdiction (AHJs).
But perhaps the jewel of its services
is the Wood Solutions Conference,
which launched in 1994 and is held
each year not only in Toronto, but also
in several other Canadian cities and
19
Project at Queen St.
East, Toronto (photo
courtesy R-Hauz).
is presented by WW’s other regional
offices. Hicks says the goal here is
to allow industry experts to transfer
information to practicing professionals
– “the people who need to know what
products and systems are available
and how they can be used under
the Building Code.” It’s also a great
networking opportunity for design
and construction professionals to find
the team members required to help
develop wood buildings.
The support and education WW
provides has helped spur several
completed and ongoing GTA-based
projects, notably 60 Mobile Drive
in North York, a three-storey office
building designed by architects
Moriyama & Teshima (MTA) that will
act as the new headquarters for the
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’
Federation.
Carol Phillips, a partner with MTA
and key figure in this project, explains
that her company is a big believer in
mass timber construction. “There are
many benefits, the most significant
of which is the carbon sequestering
nature of the material along with the
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
20
renewability,” she says. Employing
a natural material had a profound
impact on her as a designer, really
connecting her “to the place the wood
came from, how it was harvested,
the material characteristics and
qualities.”
Another benefit Phillips extolled
is that because the process is mostly
prefabricated, construction can be
sequenced in a manner that is quieter
and less problematic or disruptive
for the job site and neighbouring
community.
The project, which is targeting
LEED Platinum certification, will offer
an impressive cadre of sustainability
features, including:
• a ravine restoration plan that
re-introduces plants that are
unique and indigenous to the Don
Valley;
• a stormwater management plan
that includes large planting beds
in the parking areas filled with
plants and trees that thrive in
wet environments to take up and
naturally process the stormwater
run-off; and
• a natural ventilation system that
includes a solar chimney to use
minimal fan energy to vent the
building.
Phil Silverstein, a principal at
MTA, says they plan to achieve net
zero carbon emissions requirements
through a 72 borehole geoexchange
heating and cooling system, daylight
harvesting strategies and the solar
photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof.
The project will feature a high-
performance building envelope,
including a triple-glazed window
system within an R-32 thermally
broken rainscreen wall supported by
vertical cross-laminated timber (CLT)
panels, all designed to reduce the size
of the mechanical plant.
Each floor will have two decoupled
energy recovery ventilators (ERVs)
to distribute air through a ductless,
raised access floor (RAF) system to
swirl diffusers, he adds. This system
allows MTA to create an environment
that will fully expose the beautiful
wood structure above while allowing
effective air displacement to all spaces.
Street says there are several other
noteworthy mass timber construction
projects ongoing around the GTA,
including:
• Limberlost Place: another MTA
project, Limberlost at George
Brown College will be the first tall
wood building in Ontario. He says
this “groundbreaking” 10-storey
building, on Queen’s Quay, will be
the tallest academic tower in North
America;
• Centennial College Block A
Expansion Project: This academic
project built by EllisDon will be one
of the first mass timber, net-zero
carbon post-secondary educational
facilities; and
• Hines, known for its T3 (timber,
transit and technology) concept
structures, most notably in Min-
neapolis, is currently working on a
couple of Toronto-based projects:
an 11-storey office building in the
Bayside development on Queen’s
Quay and an eight-storey office
development on Sterling Road.
Street echoes a concept that’s been
stressed many times in these pages:
while the industry has focused on
reducing operational carbon, the next
frontier has to be embodied carbon,
where wood holds a tremendous
advantage over concrete.
“I think we’re really nailing the
whole operational side of buildings,”
he says, so now it’s time to shift
gears towards the construction
material choices we’re making. In
fact, he believes that soon this may be
mandated. “We’re heading towards
a time when builders will have to
account for building material choices
when something more sustainable is
available,” Street suggests.
He does understand that construct-
ing a building with mass timber isn’t
necessarily business as usual for devel-
opers. This could mean aligning your-
self with different partners. “You may
have to change the consultants that
you typically do buildings with,” Street
advises. It’s not just the structural
engineer you use that he’s referring to,
but also code consultants.
Ultimately, he believes the tide
is turning in wood’s favour, with an
assist from the pandemic, which
“dramatically affected” off-shore
supply of building materials. “I think
this new era is now starting the
awareness of rapid industrialization,”
Street maintains. He asserts that
domestically supplied materials will
be in greater demand, leading to “a
dramatic shift from site-built, old
ways of tendering and bidding to more
design-build integrated design and
factory-built methodologies.”
This trend will also be driven by
changing building codes, housing
shortages, a declining workforce and
the evolving ways in which we work
– not to mention global and national
sustainability targets to reduce carbon.
While Street is sure that his work
is never done, it’s clear that the Wood
Whisperer’s message to the industry is
not falling on deaf ears. BB
Rob Blackstien is a
Toronto-based freelance
writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca
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22
sitespecific / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ
One municipality, the City of
Pickering, Ontario, has opted to
engage the local building industry in
collaboration and dialogue to create
its own green building program titled
Integrated Sustainable Design Stan-
dards (ISDS), launched on January 1,
2023. The main difference between
Pickering’s sustainability initiative
and those of other municipalities is
that it is performance-based, allow-
ing builders and developers to build
their new homes greener in whichever
method they choose, so long as they
meet certain building standards that
help the City realize its sustainability
objectives.
According to Pickering director of
city development and chief building
official Kyle Bentley, the City has a
long tradition of engaging builders
and developers every step of the
way throughout the permit process.
“Ours has been a collaborative
approach, beginning with an initial
pre-consultation meeting to facilitate
discussions on what the applicant
wants to build and how they plan to
do it, to identify upfront challenges,
assist with code requirements and
suggest ways to streamline the permit
process. Sometimes it’s an iterative
process,” he says.
The City of Pickering has made
sustainability a longstanding priority,
implementing a set of Sustainable
Development Guidelines in 2007, and
honouring community leaders in this
area at its annual Civic Awards.
“Sustainability is one of our corpor­
ate priorities, and we continue to
pursue initiatives and partnerships
that help balance our social, environ­
mental and economic goals,” says
Chantal Whitaker, the City’s manager
of sustainability and strategic environ­
mental initiatives. “In partnership
with developers, we are able to make
meaningful strides toward a more
sustainable future, creating a healthy
community for generations to come.”
Whitaker and Bentley offer several
examples of cooperation between
the City and local developers: ICON
Homes, which, despite having building
permits for its Pickering project issued
in 2018 and units already sold, decided
to pause and re-examine how its
buildings could be constructed in a
more sustainable manner; Geranium
Homes, which created a North
America-first subdivision including
greywater recycling and other energy-
saving features; and Marshall Homes’
microgrid “energy island” community
that includes EV charging stations.
Pickering’s newly adopted ISDS is a
shining example of the municipality’s
longstanding commitment to greener
building. It is a two-tier system based
on sets of performance criteria, with a
Tier 1 minimum level of achievement
of performance elements required for
all new developments, and Tier 2 with
an optional, higher level of criteria.
Performance measures are geared
toward seven sustainability principles:
education (for homeowners); energy
and resilience (energy efficiency
and renewables); neighbourhood
(accessibility and safety); land use and
nature (protection and conservation);
transportation (sustainable modes);
waste management (recycling and
diversion); and water (water efficiency
and stormwater management). Tier 1
checklists specify plans, drawings or
reports required from applicants to
demonstrate how they will achieve the
performance criteria.
In recent years, builders and devel-
opers have expressed concerns about
municipal overreach – municipalities
pushing through their prescribed
“green” measures or brands in order
to achieve their sustainability targets.
True to its tradition of collaborating
with builders and developers through-
out the permit process, the City of
Pickering went above and beyond to
involve the local building industry at
all stages of formulating its ISDS.
“When we put our standards
together, we first looked at the experi-
ences of other municipalities,” Bentley
Collaboration and Choice
Pickering Partners with Builders to Create Sustainability Standards
W
ith the world in climate crisis, municipalities across the country are
scrambling for ways to become more sustainable by reducing their carbon
emissions and conserving their water resources. Some have opted for
stringent prescriptive standards for new building and development, often drawing
the ire of builders who prefer to follow their own chosen paths to sustainability.
The main difference
between Pickering’s
sustainability initiative
and those of other
municipalities is that it
is performance-based.
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 45 / Spring 2023
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
24
the public, community groups, devel-
opers and industry stake­
holders, who
first off wanted to see an alignment
with the sustainability activities of
other municipalities, which we accom-
plished,” she says. “We appreciated
their thoughts and the constraints they
were facing as we developed iterations
of the performance criteria. Their level
of insight was very helpful. At the end
of the day, the process allowed us to
create a set of green standards that
represented our community’s vision of
what sustainability looks like.”
As the introduction of the Province
of Ontario’s Bill 23 illustrated, even
the best-laid plans are often subject
to change. “When the bill was
introduced, it was pretty impactful,
and there was an initial concern that
our sustainability strategy could be
at risk,” says Bentley. “However, after
hearing from municipalities, building
owners and design professionals, the
Province amended Bill 23 to maintain
important Planning Act provisions
related to sustainable design to provide
municipalities the option to require
green building construction through
the site plan process. Thankfully,
this clarification from the province
respects the great work completed with
our sustainability standards.”
Bentley and Whitaker admit that,
while the ISDS offers a solid framework
for their City’s vision of sustainability,
it is a strategy that will be reviewed
every four years, embedded with
flexibility that allows for consideration
of changing market demands and
technology. “We would hate to see down
the road that there’s a great solution that
we never considered, and we wanted
to enable consideration of alternatives
within the standards,” says Bentley.
“We continually monitor advances in
green technology and track changes to
the Building Code. Flexibility will allow
us to balance any new developments in
sustainability to our core objectives.”
Whitaker concurs. “A couple of
years from now, we will review the
performance criteria and have these
conversations all over again,” she says.
“We expect to see a lot of growth in
Pickering in the coming years, and we
will continue our partnership with
our builders to help us create better
communities for people to live in.
Everybody has a role to play.” 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.
explains. “Our goal next was to reach
out to local builders, as key stakehold-
ers, to best inform the development of
the standards. So, a building advisory
panel was convened, made up of a
cross-section of all types of builders
(low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise)
– especially those who had already
built in Pickering or were about to – as
well as representatives from our local
homebuilders’ association and BILD.”
Bentley notes that much of the
early work on the ISDS was guided by
the comfort levels and visions of sus-
tainability of individual corporations,
which shaped objectives into a frame-
work that they could use: “We got great
feedback from our builder partners
and developed an appreciation for the
practical challenges and opportunities
in sustainable building construction,
based on their actual experience.”
Pickering’s supervisor of building
permits, Peter Furnell, offers his own
perspective on the process: “The
builders we were dealing with already
had their approach and technical
staff, and they shared the ground-level
details. This really helped us to see eye
to eye on what was coming,” he says.
The formulation of Pickering’s
ISDS was a strategic and careful pro-
cess every step of the way, according
to Whitaker. “There was a comprehen­
sive engagement strategy involving
FEATURE TIER 1 MANDATORY CRITERIA TIER 2 OPTIONAL CRITERIA DOCUMENTATION
Water Efficiency Implement TWO of the following:
• Use WaterSense®
labeled water fixtures.
• Use a non-potable watering
system for irrigation purposes.
• Install a drain water
heater recovery unit.
• Install a hot water recirculation
pump with an integrated
adjustable timer or auto-
adaptive controls to shut
off during periods of low/
no hot water use.
• Use Energy Recovery
Ventilation in lieu of
conventional humidifier.
Implement THREE of the following:
• Use WaterSense® water fixtures that
obtain a minimum 30% better than the
Ontario Building Code baseline.
• Use a non-potable watering
system for irrigation purposes.
• Design 25% of the dwelling units/
buildings to be “greywater ready” (i.e.,
plumbing and infrastructure roughed
in, adequate utility room space).
• Install a hot water recirculation pump
with an integrated adjustable timer
or auto-adaptive controls to shut off
during periods of low/no hot water use.
• Use Energy Recovery Ventilation
in lieu of conventional humidifier.
• Plan(s), drawing(s), or other
documentation demon­
strating implementation
of target element(s).
• Plumbing fixtures specifica­
tions or other documentation
demonstrating WaterSense®
labeling and flush/flow rates.
OR
• Third party verification
of water reductions with
systems e.g., Home Energy
Rating System H2O or
WaterSense® labeling.
Pickering
residential
low-rise
sustainability
checklist
allows for
choice
(adapted
from original).
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 45 / Spring 2023
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
26
buildernews / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ
W
hen it comes to homeowner
comfort, building
envelope performance,
durability and ease of installation,
ICF (insulated concrete forms) walls
stand above the rest.
Recently, Ontario contractor
Greystone Construction received an
award from ICF Builder Magazine
for its low-rise condominium, The
Tom, in Huntsville. The project was
built using award-winning ICF block
by Amvic Building System, a wall
product that incorporates structure,
insulation, air barrier, vapour barrier
and a finish (drywall) attachment.
“Our ICF product offers many
advantages to homeowners, builders
and building owner-operators,” says
vice-president, sales and marketing
Patrick McMahon of Alleguard (Amvic’s
parent company). “The EPS (expanded
polystyrene) insulation we use in
conjunction with reinforced concrete
placed inside the form creates a high-
performing wall system that manages
heat and cold very well, creating a
monothecal airtight wall assembly. The
combination of sound perform­
ance,
controlled air quality and strength
provide an exceptionally comfort­
able
environment for occupants.”
According to McMahon, Amvic ICF
also gives occupants peace of mind
knowing that the ICF wall provides
a three-hour-plus fire rating and
will withstand high wind loads. ICF
is a very sustainable and resilient
construction method to build walls.
There are several examples of ICF
homes withstanding fires, hurricanes
and tornados.
Using ICF will provide a cost-
effective structure for both short-
term operational costs and long-term
maintenance requirements. This is
not only of interest to homeowners
but is also a major reason why owner-
operators of commercial buildings –
such as hotels, long-term care homes,
residences, schools and many other
examples – choose to use ICF to build
their projects.
Builders benefit from the product’s
flexibility and speedy installation.
Because it’s lightweight (compared
to concrete and brick), it is perfect for
challenging jobsites in inaccessible
Ontario Contractor Wins
Builder Award for ICF Low-Rise
The Tom, a low-
rise condominium
built with insulated
concrete forms
(ICF) by Greystone
Construction.
The Tom under construction in Huntsville.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
areas. Their fit-together design and insulation
properties allow contractors to complete projects in
less time, improve momentum at the construction
site and reduce labour requirements, meaning
builders can keep more money in their pockets.
An ICF form brings five steps into one product:
insulation, wall structure, air and vapour barrier,
plus internal framing. This will maximize the
efficiency of construction and remove many steps
required in a traditional build.
Jon Morton, chief operating officer at Greystone,
notes another significant advantage of Amvic
ICF over concrete forms and concrete block
construction: “When we were building The Tom, we
were able to pour concrete into the ICF in sub-zero
temperatures and cover them with an insulated
tarp, which allowed us to accelerate our building
schedule,” he says. “When the weather turned
warmer, we could quickly add exterior cladding on
the outside and drywall on the inside.”
McMahon acknowledges Greystone as a leader
in ICF construction, lauding their dedication to
bringing superior construction projects to the
community. “It takes not only knowledge and
understanding to choose ICF as their method of
building but also courage and conviction to make
the right choice. This is why Greystone has always
had successful projects and have created living
spaces for all the occupants far beyond what is
required.” 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
ICF forms bring five steps
into one product: insulation,
wall structure, air and vapour
barrier, plus internal framing.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
28
industryexpert / TYLER SIMPSON
F
resh out of university, I landed
a challenging and exciting role
with a leading global insulation
manufacturer. Through almost a
decade with the company, I learned
a tremendous amount that helped
shape my career in terms of my values
and the voice for change that I wanted
to have in the construction industry.
A few years into the role, my wife
and I had the opportunity to build
a new home with a medium-sized
production builder in Ontario (cold
climate zone 5, heating degree days
of 3,460). I thought this was an
amazing opportunity to implement
my building science and enclosure
knowledge and leverage the skills
I had recently learned while
participating on the ecoEII Net Zero
Energy Housing Demonstration
Project with the National Research
Council of Canada (NRCan).
The ecoEII Net Zero Energy
Housing Demonstration Project
gathered five production home
builders from across Canada to build
net zero energy market-ready homes
with off-the-shelf technology. At the
conclusion of the project, the builders
constructed 11 net zero energy (NZE)
single-family dwellings, one four-
unit NZE row house, one NZE multi-
unit residential building (MURB)
consisting of six units and five net
zero energy ready (NZER) houses.
The houses constructed represented
an important step towards the
broader adoption of low operational
carbon houses and provided critical
insight into how these homes could
be constructed cost-effectively.
The complete findings of the
demonstration project can be found
here: Net Zero Energy and Net Zero
Energy Ready Housing – Lessons
learned and key findings (nrcan.gc.ca).
The recipe for an NZER or NZE
house includes a building enclosure
that incorporates optimized levels
of insulation that limit thermal
bridging, achieves exceptional
levels of airtightness, engages
fenestrations that have a low U-value
and implements high-efficiency
mechanical equipment. With this
recipe in mind and the support of
the builder, my NZER house (which
was constructed in 2014) featured the
attributes noted in Table 1 (below).
With the parameters noted in Table
1, an energy model was developed
in HOT2000 to approximate the
house’s annual energy consumption,
which revealed a utilization of 61
gigajoules (Figure 1, facing page). If
this house was built to the minimum
Why My Net Zero Energy Ready House
Failed from a Sustainability Perspective – Part I
TABLE 1 : BUILDING ENCLOSURE AND MECHANICAL SYSTEMS OF THE
NZER HOUSE (COLD CLIMATE ZONE 5, HEATING DEGREE DAYS 3,460)
COMPONENT DESCRIPTION
CEILING INSULATION R60 BLOWN INSULATION
ABOVE GRADE WALLS R10 XPS FOAM + R24 BATT INSULATION
BELOW GRADE WALLS R10 XPS FOAM + R24 BATT INSULATION
BASEMENT SLAB R10 XPS FOAM
WINDOWS
HIGH PERFORMANCE DOUBLE GLAZED
W/ LOW E ARGON
AIRTIGHTNESS 1.0 ACH@50PA
HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEM
DETTSON CHINOOK FURNACE (NATURAL GAS)
+ ALIZE AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP (ASHP)
The houses constructed represented an important
step towards the broader adoption of low operational
carbon houses and provided critical insight into how
these homes could be constructed cost-effectively.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
requirements of the 2017 SB-12
Supplementary Standards from the
Ontario Building Code (OBC), it would
consume an additional 36 gigajoules
of energy per year. Further modelling
in HOT2000 revealed additional
measures that could have been taken
to further reduce the NZER house’s
61 gigajoules of energy consumption,
including the inclusion of triple-
glazed windows and an air source
heat pump hot water tank. These
two measures would have reduced
the annual energy consumption by
another 10 to 15 gigajoules a year.
Based on the information so
far, you may be thinking, “How or
where does this house fail from a
sustainability perspective?” Before
getting into that, how is sustainability
defined? In my opinion, sustainability
consists of fulfilling the needs of
the current generation without
compromising the needs of future
generations. The NZER house that
I constructed has low operational
carbon; however, at the time, an
analysis of the embodied carbon
was not completed. For a building
to be truly sustainable, both the
operational and embodied carbon
must be low to ensure a limited
negative impact on the environment.
The three materials driving a high
embodied carbon value for my NZER
house include concrete foundations,
the brick cladding and XPS insulation.
To reduce the embodied carbon of
concrete, there are alternative mixes
available such as supplementary
cementing materials (SCMs). The
SCMs replace a portion of the
Portland cement, which improves the
environmental footprint of concrete
by a reduction in the greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions and air pollutants.
Often SCMs are by-products from
other industrial processes, so by
utilizing these materials in concrete
mixes, materials are diverted from
landfills. Bricks are also improving
their environmental footprint with
the introduction of manufactured
bricks that do not require high-
temperature firing and limit the use of
materials such as Portland cement in
the manufacturing process. If low-
carbon bricks aren’t available in your
market, alternative cladding options
include fiber cement panels or carbon-
capturing products such as wood or
wood composite claddings (Figure 3).
Recapping Part 1 of this article,
industry stakeholders should have
a clear and concise understanding
that an NZER house has been
optimized for the future inclusion of
29
FIGURE 1 : COMPARATIVE
ENERGY CONSUMPTION
MODELLING OF NZER HOUSE
USING HOT2000 (“THIS HOME”
REFERS TO NZER HOUSE)
SPACE
HEATING
ELECTRICAL
LOAD
WATER
HEATING
SPACE
COOLING
VENTILATION
45.5
36.0
6.9
31.5
31.5
30.2
24.4
20.4
19.6
6.1
6.2
1.7
2.9
2.8
1.6
THIS HOME
CONSUMPTION
61 GJ
2017 OBC
CONSUMPTION
97 GJ
2012 OBC
CONSUMPTION
110 GJ
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
30
a renewable energy technology and
an NZE house engages a renewable
technology for its energy demand.
In terms of the recipe of how the
house should be constructed, it
depends on the climatic zone – but
generally the house should feature
optimized levels of insulation that
limit thermal bridging, exceptional
levels of airtightness, fenestrations
that have a low U-value and high-
efficiency mechanical equipment.
Implementing good building science
practices into the recipe will further
enhance long-term durability and
occupant comfort.
The second takeaway is under­
standing the differences between
operational carbon and embodied
carbon. Operational carbon
references the actual energy
consumption of the house, while
embodied carbon refers to the
materials used in the construction of
the house. Often embodied carbon
is not considered in the design and
construction of a low-energy building.
To achieve sustainable residential
building practices, both operational
and embodied carbon must be
considered and implemented into
projects. Stay tuned for Part II. BB
Tyler Simpson is a
Certified Passive House
Designer and founder
of TWS Building
Science, offering
building enclosure representation
and building science and enclosure
consulting services.
CLADDING EMISSIONS
kg CO2e/100m2
The cladding category had the third
highest emissions impact, with 2,575 t
CO2e representing 12.8 percent of the
total MCE in the study. Figure 13 shows
the relative emissions for the cladding
options included in the BEAM tool.
Cladding is a relatively straightforward
material category, with each option
available in the BEAM tool having met
all testing requirements for the purpose
and most having long histories of
use in the region, which should make
direct substitutions a viable option.
However, cladding is a material with a
high aesthetic impact for a home – as
well as major differences in durability
and maintenance – and substitutions
on the basis of emissions alone may
not overcome decisions based on the
desired visual appearance of the home.
Builders for Climate Action & Passive Buildings Canada • Emissions of Materials Benchmark
Assessment for Residential Construction
B
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Y
L
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C
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
I
f I asked you to spend an extra 10%
to 15% on windows, would you? Not
before calling me crazy, and that
would be fair if you’re simply looking
at price.
What if it provided greater custo­
mer comfort? What if I said it would
lower the size of the AC, that the
ducts (and bulkheads) are right-sized
(smaller) for both heating and cooling,
that you could build a more durable
wall with less potential for water leaks,
that you would have fewer window
failures and that your client would be
more comfortable? What if I added
that the total cost is between 0% and
5% more than what you currently
spend on your windows?
That’s the difference between
buying based on cost vs. total value
contribution, the latter being a con-
cept I discuss in my upcoming book,
From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge:
A Builder’s Guide to Net Zero Homes.
Though more effort, using total value
contribution and a holistic design
approach in your purchasing deci-
sions can help you provide a better
overall product while maintaining
your competitive pricing.
There are four specific performance
measurements on the label of every
window manufactured in Canada:
Energy Rating (ER): Demonstrates
total performance of a window,
including the added benefit of high
solar gain for wintertime heating
of the home. The higher the ER, the
better the window (supposedly). It also
means higher solar heat gain from the
sun to warm the building in winter.
Energy Star Zone: The zone in which
the window complies. In Canada,
it’s heavily weighted by the ER. It’s
extremely important to understand that
the Energy Star Rating label is mislead-
ing – it favours heat gain in winter (ER).
Windows don’t differentiate between
summer and winter. Intermittent heat
gain is heat gain, no matter the season.
(I use a window that doesn’t comply in
the zone we build in – those windows
don’t work in the homes I build.)
U-value: This is the inverse of
R-value and measures energy flow
through the window. The lower the
number, the better the window.
Solar heat gain co-efficient (SHGC):
Measures solar energy gain through
the glass. The higher the number, the
more solar gain.
Looked at collectively, an Energy
Star-rated window in Canada will
have a high ER and SHGC and a decent
U-value. It’s not a very good window,
but that looks awesome on an Energy
Star Zones sticker.
Measuring total value
contribution
My book describes the two command­
ments (water management and
airtightness) and four principles of
modern design (carbon reduction,
indoor air quality [IAQ], occupant
comfort and climate resiliency).
The total value contribution
method examines whether the
selection specified addresses one
or more of the commandments or
principles. Under this method, we have
a different ranking for purchasing our
windows (Table 1, below).
31
Understanding the
Value of Windows
fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY
TABLE 1 : TOTAL VALUE CONTRIBUTION OF WINDOW SELECTIONS
RANK SPECIFICATION ADDED VALUE
1
INTEGRATED
NAILING
FLANGE
• WATER MANAGEMENT DETAIL TO TIE INTO THE
WATER-RESISTIVE BARRIER
• BACKSTOP ROUGH STUD OPENING (RSO) SEALING
(AIRTIGHTNESS)
• CLIMATE-RESILIENT DETAILING
2
LOW SOLAR GLASS
(SHGC OF UNDER 0.25)
WITH LOW U-VALUE
• REDUCED OPERATIONAL CARBON AT PEAK
SUMMER LOAD
• REDUCED OPERATIONAL CARBON/WINTER HEATING
THROUGH BETTER WINDOW PERFORMANCE
• IMPROVED OCCUPANT COMFORT
3
MEMORY FOAM
WINDOW
SPACERS
• IMPROVED IAQ (LESS WATER BUILDUP/MOLD)
• IMPROVED OCCUPANT COMFORT
• LONG-TERM EMBODIED CARBON REDUCTION
(WINDOWS LAST LONGER THAN ‘U’ CLIP SPACER)
4
TRIPLE-GLAZED
WINDOWS (BUDGET
PERMITTING)
• CARBON REDUCTION
• IAQ
• OCCUPANT COMFORT
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
32
Triple-glazed windows check three
of the four principles and do so better
than the low solar glass and memory
foam window spacers above. But why
the low ranking? They’re expensive,
have more embodied carbon and
need to last a really long time to fully
realize their value. If you look only
at energy, you’ll jump to triples fairly
quickly – but a triple-glazed window
installed in a wall that fails, or that
heads to the landfill because the seal
broke, is not providing enough to the
total value contribution.
When you get to the point of
selecting a triple-glazed window, you
should have already included the first
three items in your specifications,
and they must be included with the
triple-glazed windows you select in
order to optimize their total value
contribution.
One last note about window
selections. Once you’ve worked with
your energy advisor and selected a
good quality window that provides for
total value contribution, it’s import­
ant
to take two additional steps.
The first is regarding energy
modelling. The HOT2000 program uses
window algorithms that are in need
of an update, and it’s imperative your
energy modeller enter the actual SHGC
into the modelling to get the reduced
AC and duct sizing benefit.
The second is this: don’t let
anyone talk you out of this selection.
Not the window rep, the site super,
the energy modeller, the cleric, the
building inspector or the customer,
and especially not the estimator/
purchaser. It’s too darn important,
and you’ll end up with overheating
challenges if the mechanicals are sized
for less intermittent heat gain, and
your estimator swaps out for a cheaper
window with a high Energy Rating. BB
Doug Tarry Jr is
President of Doug
Tarry Homes in St.
Thomas, Ontario.  
WINDOW COMPARISON
USING THE REFERENCE
HOUSE – PACKAGE A1
WINDOW
TYPE
ENERGY
PERFORM-
ANCE
RATINGS
ANNUAL
ENERGY
USAGE
(KWH)
HIGH PER.
DOUBLE
PANE
U=1.31
SHGC=0.27
32038
TRIPLE
PANE
U=1.20
SHGC=0.4
31523
1.6%
SAVING
High Performance Double Pane
window (HPDP) at U=1.3 vs
building code window at U=1.63.
Looked at collectively,
an Energy Star-rated
window in Canada will
have a high ER and
SHGC and a decent
U-value. It’s not a very
good window, but
that looks awesome
on an Energy Star
Zones sticker.
1.6% saving for triple pane windows
vs HPDP windows is not cost effective
and not common knowledge.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 45 / Spring 2023

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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 45 / Spring 2023

  • 1. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 Missing the Forest for the Trees Sizing Heat Pumps Creating Sustainability Standards Award for ICF Low-Rise Builder Examining Sustainability in a Net Zero Energy Home – Part I The Value of Windows FINDING THE PATH BEST PRACTICES
  • 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. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 13 1 26 ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. FEATURE STORY 16 The Wood Whisperer It’s taken some time, but thanks to education and support from a government/industry-supported program, Ontario is finally following B.C.’s lead of creating mass timber mid-rise structures. by Rob Blackstien PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 Understanding the Law of Diminishing Returns: The Best Practice by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 5 Sizing Heat Pumps by Gord Cooke INDUSTRY NEWS 9 Benchmarking Low Carbon Homebuilder Coalition by Paul De Berardis SITE SPECIFIC 13 Ready for Pine Time by Alex Newman SITE SPECIFIC 22 Collaboration and Choice Pickering Partners with Builders to Create Sustainability Standards by Marc Huminilowycz BUILDER NEWS 26 Ontario Contractor Wins Builder Award for ICF Low-Rise by Marc Huminilowycz INDUSTRY EXPERT 28 Why My Net Zero Energy Ready House Failed from a Sustainability Perspective – Part I by Tyler Simpson FROM THE GROUND UP 31 Understanding the Value of Windows by Doug Tarry Cover: Shutterstock 328404953 16
  • 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 Understanding the Law of Diminishing Returns: The Best Practice “The law of diminishing returns means that even the most beneficial principle will become harmful if carried far enough.” — Thomas Sowell I t’s hard to believe Better Builder is in its 11th year. The housing industry has seen rapid change in that time. Energy performance was introduced under SB-12 in 2012, then again at 15% better in 2017 and, very shortly, we are expecting harmonization with the National Building Code (NBC) in March 2024. Currently the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) is proposing to adopt Tier 3 of the NBC (roughly 8% higher than Package A1), and policy makers are targeting net zero by 2030. Two very important questions have emerged in my mind. Firstly, what is the working definition of net zero energy (NZE)? I am familiar with most of these descriptions and, truth be told, few have universal consensus and most are authored by special interests. The second, more important question is: where does the law of diminishing returns kick in? Ironically, the most popular programs – like Net Zero or Passive House – were conceived before we started accounting for embodied carbon. Net Zero marketing focuses on reducing operational carbon at the expense of using more embodied carbon to build those homes. Building components like triple-glazed windows, certain types of insulation and concrete can also negate these emission reductions. Early experiences show that electric NZE houses cost more to operate. Where is the sweet spot? Is net zero a reasonable goal? Time will tell. In this best practice issue, our contributors acknowledge the law of diminishing returns and offer carbon-smart best practices. On page 16, we feature Wood WORKS!, a program that advocates a carbon smart approach. Wood is renewable and, best of all, is a carbon sink. Trees produce oxygen and absorb CO2. Using wood in large building structures replaces concrete and steel and thus reduces the largest sources of embodied carbon in buildings. On page 3, Lou Bada talks about pre-drywall inspections as a way of effectively reducing air leakage for better performance with attainable ACH targets. Next, Gord Cooke does the math on sizing heat pumps (page 5). Three-season air source heat pumps can be used to supplement combination heating systems to reduce the carbon emissions with the wise use of natural gas at up to a 50% reduction in our climate. On page 9, Paul De Berardis introduces us to the Low Carbon Home Builders Coalition, which benchmarks the CO2 emission reductions of participating builders to find the sweet spot of diminishing marginal returns. This is vital for the industry to offer feedback to government policy. We also shine a spotlight on the City of Pickering, which demonstrates a best practice approach for partnering with builders to create workable sustainability standards by allowing choice. Read about it on page 22. Lastly, Doug Tarry helps us understand the value(s) of windows on page 31. Triple- glazed windows could be the last choice depending on a home’s size, orientation and climate. A low solar heat gain coefficient may be a more important value for comfort and efficiency than an extra pane of glass. It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Using more embodied carbon to save operational carbon is just adding fuel to the fire. With diminishing time and resources in a period of climate change, finding the point of diminishing returns is of utmost importance. 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. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 with no preset threshold and no pass or fail, but instead offer an incentive for builders to discover a method towards continuous improvement. We are looking for the big holes – soffit and rooftop vent terminations for exhaust fans, ceiling penetrations into unconditional space and mechanical penetration, largely in basements – not wasting cases of acoustic sealant and red tape. Unfortunately, common I ’ve always been fascinated why we strive for more or believe that bigger is better or biggest is best. Cars, homes, televisions – you name it. In this case, I’m wondering why is more airtightness better, or why are the tightest homes the best ones? Is it a competition? Is the goal to build a home that has the airtightness of a submarine and insulate it so that it can be heated with a hair dryer (that no one can afford)? When is good enough, good enough? What’s the goal here? I digress. When I look at some­ thing as a homebuilder, before I get to the who, what, when and how, I need to ask: why? If airtightness is important – and it is, to a degree – shouldn’t we be looking at the optimal level of airtightness, before we address the how? Here are a few things to think about when considering why we want to achieve the optimal level of airtightness: As Clearsphere has correctly pointed out, there are cost savings in the operational energy used in a home. The home is more comfortable. It helps stop conden­ sation in the wall cavity, making the home healthier and more durable. It is becoming more of a requirement in our building code. How do we get there, then, and what is the optimal level? Most builders are nervous about setting the bar too high or get into a pass-or-fail scenario as is done with Energy Star. A common-sense approach would involve voluntary air tests sense is not common in an atmosphere of fear, where pass or fail can mean no occupancy permit – but most builders are better than they think. The important thing is that everyone would give it a try. To this end, we are again partici­ pating in Enbridge’s Savings By Design (SBD) program for a project of 130 homes in Stouffville, Ontario. We have chosen to use the Better Than 3 thebadatest / LOU BADA BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees Air tightness results improve with pre-drywall inspections. At the top of the chart, a higher ACH; and at the bottom, a lower ACH. AIR TEST RESULTS WITH PRE-DRYWALL INSPECTIONS PROGRAM LOT NUMBER ACH NLR BETTER THAN CODE 24 2.75 0.21 BETTER THAN CODE 31 3.13 0.24 BETTER THAN CODE 32 2.02 0.15 BETTER THAN CODE 33 2.73 0.21 BETTER THAN CODE 26 2.52 0.20 BETTER THAN CODE 28 2.63 0.20 BETTER THAN CODE 29 2.67 0.20 BETTER THAN CODE 30 2.09 0.16 BETTER THAN CODE 67 2.42 0.19 BETTER THAN CODE 70 2.35 0.18 2.53 0.19 AVERAGES
  • 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 4 Code approach, which utilizes the HERS scale to qualify for Enbridge’s incentives. It will be a simple and rational way to achieve some desirable results described above. Many are familiar with the program, which involves an integrated design process (IDP) to find optimal design choices and reduce operational energy consumption by at least 15% better than the SB-12 requirements of the current building code. The IDP also helps us consider the embodied carbon in a newly constructed home. We’ve found that 2.0 ACH to 2.5 ACH is a reasonable target and anything below 2.0 ACH achieves no significant benefit. Pre-drywall inspections by our energy rater have helped us achieve 2.5 ACH with little trouble most of the time by getting at the big holes. Looking for ACH rates of 1.0 or below, as some programs strive for, may be excessive. Is this good enough? Have we reached our goal? I believe so. We can throw addi­ tional time, material and resources for marginal gains, but that doesn’t make any sense. I believe we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns in regard to both operational and embodied carbon. I also believe that code changes and related programs that zealously focus on air change rates that don’t relate to optimal levels of airtightness and insulation “can’t see the forest for the trees.” 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). Grade 2 insulation installed at pre-drywall inspection. Insulation is well placed with no compression or voids. 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
  • 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 I t is hard to overlook the inherent energy efficiency of heat pump technology for both space and domestic hot water heating. Certainly, we have been well served by relatively rapid improve­ ments to the efficiency of reliable, affordable natural gas furnaces over the last 30 years. At the start of my career, the commonly applied furnace technology in most Canadian new homes was the natural draft gas furnace with a 60% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). Now, minimum standards are 96% plus requirements for more efficient fan motors. In that same time period, central air conditioning has become the norm and here, too, the efficiency has improved from a seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) of 8 to now 14. However, we are in an era where we are presented with a challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The heat pump – which provides both space heating at an average of two to three times the efficiency of a gas furnace and space cooling at higher SEER levels than typical air conditioners – has to be part of the solution. There is no shortage of technical elements to debate about the appli­ cation of heat pumps in Canadian homes. In this article, let’s focus on one subject: how to appropriately size a heat pump for both new and existing homes. Since a heat pump provides both space heating and cooling, and considering the capacity of heat pumps change as the outside temperature changes, sizing is more challenging than for a fuel fired furnace and air conditioner. That said, ground source heat pumps aren’t as sensitive to outdoor conditions, since the ground temperature is more consistent than air temperatures throughout the year. Thus, the focus will be on the sizing of air source heat pumps. Oddly, the challenge starts with the fact that heat pumps supply both space heating and cooling and, historically, heating loads in Canadian homes have been significantly higher than cooling loads. If you sized for the greater of the two loads, then the cooling capacity would be far greater than needed, and this can lead to poor humidity control in summer months in most parts of Canada. This can be overcome with specific dehumidification technology, but generally it is better to adjust the sizing of the heat pump to avoid humidity issues associated with oversized cooling capacity. This generates the first rule for heat pump sizing in most applications for new and existing homes. Be sure to conduct a comprehensive heat loss and gain calculation using the latest version of the CSA F280-12 (R2021) Standard − Determining the Required Capacity of Residential Space Heating and Cooling Appliances. While this is standard practice in new construction, required for most building permit applications, it is equally important in any renovation work you are doing in existing homes. Older heating appliances were routinely oversized by over 40% – plus you are inevitably going to reduce heating loads as you do renovations. Taking the time to do a thorough space conditioning load analysis will pay big dividends in reducing both the heat pump and backup heat requirements. Once you have confidence in the required heating and cooling capacity, you can safely size the heat pump capacity to be 125% of the required cooling capacity. Let’s start with an existing home example. My son bought a very old home with a 10-year-old high efficiency gas furnace and no central air conditioner. The furnace had an output capacity of 76,000 BTUs per hour. In a heat pump context, that would be just over six tons (12,000 BTUs per ton). There is no practical way to put six tons into an old home with small duct work. A comprehensive cooling load, accounting for the new low-e glass he was planning to install, would be 22,000 BTUs per hour. Applying the 125% rule, that suggested a heat pump size of 27,500 or 2.5 tons. 5 Sizing Heat Pumps industryexpert / GORD COOKE We are in an era where we are presented with a challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The heat pump has to be part of the solution.
  • 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 6 Clearly that isn’t enough to heat the house throughout the coldest part of the winter, even with a cold climate heat pump. However, with the window upgrades, converting the vented crawlspace to a conditioned space and doing air sealing work, the heat loss calculation showed the new peak winter load would be just 54,000 BTUs per hour. Still not low enough for a heat pump to carry the load. That leads to the second element of heat pump sizing: how much backup heat is needed, and what are the options for providing that backup. In my son’s case, he would need at least 26,500 BTUs of backup heat. An electrification purist might suggest a cold climate heat pump that would maintain close to that full 27,500 BTU capacity even at design temperatures of −25 °C and add the remaining required heat with electrical resistance elements. That would require a capacity of at least eight kilowatts. Even if my son wanted to do that, the electrical service wasn’t big enough to support that amount of electric resistance heat running with the heat pump. In his case, the relatively new gas furnace provided a convenient, reliable backup heat. The goal, from a greenhouse gas emission reduction perspective, is to run the heat pump as much as possible and then switch to the natural gas furnace when the heat pump can’t meet 100% of the load. It is important to note that in a traditional furnace with add-on heat pump, the coil for the heat pump is above or after the furnace heat exchanger (as shown in picture #1). As a result, the heat pump can’t be operating when the furnace is on. There is another backup heat option that employs a true heat pump air handler (like the one shown in picture #2) and an add-on backup coil. That coil could be electric resistance heat or, in what is referred to as “dual fuel” or “hybrid heating,” a hot water coil fed from a gas boiler or tankless water heater could be used. In these cases, the heat pump can be left to operate down to colder temperatures, if it is rated to do so, and the backup coil can be operated simultaneously to provide more comfortable discharge temperatures and better efficiencies. These same strategies are applicable in new homes. However, the advancements in energy efficiency in most new homes – coupled with rising design day cooling loads associated with ever increasing glazing areas and internal occupancy loads – means that cooling loads are much closer to heating loads. Take, for example, a 2,250 square foot net zero-ready home we recently did calculations for. The design day heating load was just 31,000 BTUs per Picture 1: Conventional furnace with case coil for 3 season heat pump. Picture 2: Cold weather heat pump with heating coil as backup for cold outdoor temperatures.
  • 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 hour and the cooling load was 24,000 BTUs per hour. In this application, a 2.5 ton cold climate heat pump would only need a couple of kilowatts of electric heat to meet all loads. An alternative would again be to employ a hybrid approach. A combination heating system with a heating coil could provide the extra output when outdoor temperatures require more heat than the heat pump can provide. See picture #2. One important advancement in the realm of using a dual fuel approach is that there is a new breed of thermostats able to look in real time at current electricity and natural gas prices as well as outdoor temperatures (for calculating heat pump time-variant efficiency and capacity) to make hour-by-hour decisions on whether to run the heat pump or the furnace. One such thermostat has been developed by a Toronto-based company, BKR Energy. Co-founder Nima Alibabaei helped apply the technology in a successful hybrid heating pilot program offered by the Government of Ontario and Enbridge Gas in cooperation with the local electricity distributor in London, Ontario in 2021. Alibabaei notes that “the BKR fuel-switching technology makes homes more resilient to energy rate fluctuations in the short term and rising costs in the future.” The more I look at the direction the industry is going and the availability of great new equipment and controls, I can say this with confidence: in 2023 and beyond, stop selling or installing air conditioners. Switch to offering heat pumps, slightly bigger than the cooling load, and provide controls that match the type of backup heat you are offering. Even if they don’t use the heat pump during the heating season right now while natural gas is still so cost effective, it will be a win-win for everyone as we strive for that 40% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. 7 110 to 160 CFM Quickest Set-up With Consistent Results AI Series vänEE introduces its NEW Series with higher CFM NEW HIGHER CFM UP to 230 CFM QUICKER SET-UP CONSISTENT RESULTS PREMIUM ECM MOTORS WITH BUILT-IN SMART TECHNOLOGY
  • 10. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 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. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 While there is merit to both sides of the argument, this must also be viewed from the lens that homes are ultimately sold to consumers, who are typically constrained by financial budgets – especially considering the rising trend in mortgage interest rates – so more may not always be better for everyone. There also needs to be consideration for constructability and embodied carbon, as homes become more complex to construct through increasing regulatory requirements and take more time and resources to build. Government policies are pushing homebuilders to ramp up operations and build more homes than ever to address housing affordability, yet there is a declining workforce of skilled trades, and building regulations are only getting more onerous (counterintuitive, to say the least). There is a lot of rhetoric and public sentiment that building codes represent the bare minimum and deliver lacklustre performance when it comes to energy efficiency. However, this is simply untrue when it comes to the Ontario Building Code (OBC). Earlier in 2022, the “progressive” model National Building Code of Canada (NBC) was released, which introduced energy performance tiers for houses, namely Tiers 1 through 5. In March 2024, the next edition of the OBC will be released, and to prevent Ontario from regressing its current technical requirements on energy efficiency, it is slated that Ontario will leapfrog to Tier 3 requirements of the NBC (Tier 3 and beyond of the NBC prescriptive path aren’t even developed yet; they are currently marked as “Reserved”). So, homes in Ontario are and will continue to be built to a significantly higher standard than those across the rest of Canada. But the story doesn’t stop there, even though Ontario already has the most rigorous efficiency requirements for new homes. There is a large majority of homebuilders who also further exceed OBC requirements. Whether it be builders who wish to voluntarily set themselves apart, or builders who are operating in municipalities that regulate more stringent efficiency requirements through “green standards” or sustainable development programs, there is no acknowledgment or data of the impressive efforts achieved by Ontario homebuilders. To add insult to injury, not only is Ontario producing some of the most energy efficient homes across Canada, but the province is also producing the most housing, with Ontario building more than double the overall new housing, and triple the volume of new detached homes, over runner-up British Columbia. Enter the Low Carbon Homebuilder Coalition (LCHC), a strategy to bench­ mark and aggregate the performance achievements of homebuilders in Ontario. While the federal government is responsible for developing the model National Building Code, which is intended to meet the objectives of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, the Ontario government is working to reduce variations and harmonize the OBC in lockstep with the NBC, 9 Benchmarking Low Carbon Homebuilder Coalition industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS W hen it comes to climate change and reducing emissions, public perception is mixed regarding the homebuilding industry in Ontario and whether it is doing enough. In my role at RESCON, I am regularly dialoguing with a broad range of individuals working within the residential building sector. I am also engaged with outside entities such as representatives from all levels of government, environmental advocacy organizations and various policy think tanks. There are always two sides to every story, but the general consensus is that individuals working within the residential new home industry feel they are doing their part to address climate change, whereas external organizations always feel more can and should be done. The idea behind the LCHC is to annually benchmark as many homes as possible to see how progress in new home construction is stacking up against federal commitments – a type of report card for residential builders.
  • 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 10 and municipalities have their own policies for uniquely regulating green building practices. With all the variation between the NBC, OBC, municipally mandated green building requirements and builders voluntarily striving for energy efficient home construction, there is no aggregated performance assessment of just how well industry is stacking up against the Pan-Canadian Framework requirements on emission reductions. The idea behind the LCHC is to annually benchmark as many homes as possible to see how progress in new home construction is stacking up against federal commitments – a type of report card for residential builders. This information can then be shared with governments to inform their decision making and timing of building code updates. Currently, there is no available data to benchmark where our industry stands, and this is a major problem as we have governments making policy decisions without understanding the current industry landscape. The LCHC would provide an industry voice, defining a standardized approach to benchmarking high- performance homes. To facilitate this broad benchmarking effort of the LCHC, it will be based off ANSI/ RESNET/ICC 301 − Standard for the Calculation and Labeling of the Energy Performance of Dwelling Units Using an Energy Rating Index. Using this standard, realistic estimates can be used to derive the operational carbon from a home. Currently, approximately 30 GTA builders are using this approach to aggregate the impact of their efforts through the LCHC. Expanding the LCHC will seek to educate not only governments, but also homebuyers on their decisions, as energy efficiency can be expressed as LOW CARBON BUILDERS ESTIMATED CO2 REDUCTIONS AND SAVINGS FOR HOMEOWNERS COMPARED TO TIER 1 BUILDER AVERAGE % BETTER THAN CODE *ESTIMATED COST SAVINGS FOR HOMEOWNER ($) # OF HOUSES TOTAL ENERGY SAVINGS PER YEAR ($) TOTAL CO2 REDUCED TONNES CARS OFF THE ROAD BROOKFIELD 32% 836.88 195 163,192 163.2 55 CAMPANALE 35% 915.34 62 56,751 93.7 19 COUNTRY 31% 810.73 27 21,890 36.1 7 EMPIRE 35% 915.34 751 701,167 1157.4 231 DIETRICH 42% 1098.41 22 24,165 39.9 8 HEATHWOOD 35% 915.34 145 132,724 219.0 44 ICON 31% 810.73 32 21,079 34.8 7 LINDVEST 37% 967.64 117 113,214 227.0 45 MINTO 29% 758.42 18 13,652 22.5 8 ROSEHAVEN 32% 836.88 136 113,816 187.9 38 ROYAL PINE 39% 1019.95 75 76,496 126.3 25 REGAL CREST 37% 967.64 27 26,126 43.1 9 STARLANE 24% 627.66 7 4,394 7.3 1 TRIBUTE 36% 941.49 65 61,197 101.0 20 TOBEY 42% 1098.41 26 28,559 47.1 9 2022 TOTAL 1705 $1,558,420 2506.3 527 * Based on a comparison to NBC Tier 1 using the OBC SB-12 2017 reference house calculating with REMRate v.16.0.2 The Low Carbon Builder Coalition is collectively responsible for taking 527 cars off the road and saving home buyers over $1.5 million dollars in energy costs on 1705 houses in 2022.
  • 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 operational carbon reduction (tonnes of CO2 reduction) or equivalent “cars off the road.” In the current environment where misunderstood catchphrases like “zero carbon” and “net zero” are constantly being thrown around, the coalition hopes to create practical benchmarks for moving forward. We know the various levels of government aren’t tracking these metrics when it comes to housing and energy efficiency, and realistically don’t have the capacity to do so, leaving it up to industry to gather this data and inform the narrative to start giving credit where credit is due. With the rapidly evolving landscape driven by the federal commitment to adopt a “net-zero energy ready” model building code by 2030 and the ongoing patchwork of municipal “green standards,” the years ahead will be challenging. It is my hope that industry can use the LCHC to help provide a distinct viewpoint to policymakers and better inform the narrative and future regulatory roadmap. Builders interested in learning more about the LCHC and having their portfolio of homes added to the benchmarking process are welcome. Having as many engaged builders as possible will help leverage industry accomplishments and demonstrate the impressive progress Ontario homebuilders have made. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at deberardis@rescon.com. 11 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. Where misunderstood catchphrases are constantly being thrown around, the coalition hopes to create practical benchmarks for moving forward.
  • 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 the builder. “When people are happy with their homes, your next project is an easy sell.” Pine Valley has several projects in various stages of development. The Urban Green Towns in Woodbridge has sold out, the site in Wasaga Beach is in the municipal approvals stage and their Beaverton site is under construction. All are designed to be better than code. As Slack points out, “the cost differ­ ential between building a house to code and building one better than code is not all that significant. But the big advantage is developing a branding strategy that will translate into higher profits for the company in the long run.” Woodbridge, he says, was a “pioneering” project with plenty of learning curves for trades, owners and salespeople. “But it’s one that will put Pine Valley on the map.” With 1,960 square feet spread over three storeys, each townhome required a beefed up heating system: a zoned high-velocity air distribution system; an upgraded boiler system, which has helped them move toward zero energy ready (HERS 46); and the exterior BP Excel sheathing came with integrated house wrap, which reduces air leakage. Further, a high-efficiency energy recovery ventilator (ERV) with electrically commutated motors (ECM) provides ventilation with exhaust ducting to the bathrooms. With respect to water conservation, L ooking ahead has always been Ken Slack’s approach. As Pine Valley Estates’ construction manager, he’s doing just that by preparing the company and its principals to get ahead of the build­ ing code curve. “If you get out in front of the code now, you’ll be ahead when changes are forced on you,” he says. That’s what he’s doing at Pine Valley now – helping the principals, sales staff and trades prepare for building homes at better than code. Using Savings by Design and the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score rating, Pine Valley offered 111 townhomes in Woodbridge to homeowners who are “tickled pink,” Slack says. They’re happy, he adds, because they have lower energy bills and a better built home. But the hidden benefit is the trust they now have in 13 sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN Construction manager Ken Slack of Pine Valley Estates. Above, a rendering of one of Pine Valley’s Urban Green Towns in Vaughan. Ready for Pine Time
  • 16. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 a circulating pump on the hot water delivery piping and a water-efficient Energy Star front-loading washer result in a water savings of 20%, verified by the HERSH2O standard. The combination heating system, comprised of a boiler and air handler, provides domestic hot water plus space heating. The combination approach has been studied by Enbridge and results in a minimum 25% reduction in natural gas compared to a conventional furnace. The Wasaga project is a little differ­ ent because of the demographics. “Wasaga people are buying for cottages or rental or for retirement, and price point is very important,” Slack says. “Nobody in the area is building better than code because of that. And so our schedule A is already an upgrade compared to other local builders. But we’re doing this for the long-term gains in building our reputation.” To determine what features to incorporate, Slack recommends energy modelling using the HERS system. “The advantage of this information is trad­ ing off between measures that create the most energy savings,” he explains. “Overall, the home is more efficient, but you’ve made the choice where to save money and where to spend it.” Lastly, a home energy monitoring system (HEMS) has been provided so that the homeowner can see where electrical energy is wasted in the house. Why Better Than Code and not Energy Star? “Energy Star is good, but to get us in the right direction for code changes, Better Than Code works better because you can adapt it to your builder’s brand,” Slack says. “HERS software used by Better Than Code allows us to reduce occupancy loads, which currently accounts for 52% of the home’s energy usage.” Enbridge incentives sweeten the pot, naturally. That helped Slack “sell” the idea of Better Than Code to the owners of Pine Valley. As the houses were presold before permitting, the money was used to upgrade to 20% better than code. Education, though, is even more important. While Slack has been building his knowledge base for many years, he definitely recommends arming yourself with as much knowl­ edge as possible and getting help where it’s offered – like the full-day workshop offered by Clearsphere in conjunction with Enbridge and various subject matter experts, including manufacturers. Slack and some of Pine Valley’s office staff attended. “It was great,” Slack says. “It provided a lot of info on how Savings by Design works, along with HERS scores, and how you can build better than code without breaking the bank. It was also encouraging to see how we’re getting closer to true net zero.” BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at alexnewmanwriter.com. 14 519-489-2541 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. “HERS software used by Better Than Code allows us to reduce occupancy loads, which currently accounts for 52% of the home’s energy usage.”
  • 17. 15 BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 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 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.
  • 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 16 THE WOOD WHISPERER Top: Rendering of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation headquarters at 60 Mobile Drive, by Moriyama Teshima Architects. Bottom: Photo of 60 Mobile Drive under construction, March 2023, by John Godden.
  • 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 N early a decade has passed since the Ontario Building Code was amended to allow for the use of wood in the construction of six-storey buildings, yet adoption has been slow – especially compared to British Columbia. However, given the recent spate of such structures recently built or currently under construction within the GTA, that trend is changing. And much of the credit for helping increase the popularity of this building form has to go to the Wood Whisperer. Better known as Steven Street, he’s the executive director of Ontario’s branch of Wood WORKS! (WW), a government/ industry-funded program that operates under the Canadian Wood Council umbrella with the goal of increasing the adoption of wood within the non-residential, mid-rise and tall building sectors across the country. Street’s love of wood is partially hereditary and partially serendipity. His grandfather, a road engineer who built bridges in Burma in World War II, instilled an appreciation for wood into him when Street was a child. “He taught me very early on that it was almost the only building material” worth using, Street says. He recalls his grandfather would often find old pieces of wood, take the nails out and declare it ready for reuse. Flash forward to the awful recession in the early ’90s, when Street was doing some construction and contracting work, but was uncertain when his next project was coming. 17 buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN It’s taken some time, but thanks to education and support from a government/industry-supported program, Ontario is finally following B.C.’s lead of creating mass timber mid-rise structures. Steven Street, executive director, Wood WORKS! (photo by Juliana Saunders).
  • 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 18 A family friend approached him at a party, told him about his wood component manufacturing company and it turned into “one of those moments,” Street says. The next day, Street met him for lunch and toured the Ayr, Ontario- based firm, which made prefabricated walls, floor systems, roof trusses, etc. He was intrigued by the fact that they were pioneers in prefabrication, so he took his friend up on a job offer to run the engineered wood products division and, after being “dumped in at the deep end,” proceeded on a crash course in all things wood construction related. It was here that Street learned how the industry worked, the method to build these homes and the supply process, while first forging relationships with the suppliers and companies that now support WW. Ultimately, based on his work at this company and the connections he developed, he was hired by WW in 2007 with a basic but lofty mandate: develop the mass timber construction market in Ontario. Sure, that sounds simple, but there were plenty of hurdles. While B.C. had already seen the light when it came to mass timber construction, “Ontario was really behind on its acceptance of combust­ ible construction as opposed to the West Coast,” where it was very prevalent, he explains. Finally, around 2010, the first seeds of change began to sprout in Ontario, when Street says he started to see larger builders like Great Gulf and Mattamy Homes investing in prefabrication processes. He says these companies could see the writing on the wall and they realized that adopting these techniques would reduce their reliance on site-built processes that are subject to scheduling impacts due to weather – particularly considering the growing scarcity of traditional skilled homebuilding tradespeople. After all, with so much of the work done in a factory, you only need a small team for assembly. While that’s just one of myriad advantages to using wood, there’s also a learning curve, and that’s where the Wood Whisperer comes into play. Whether it be questions about partnering with the right suppliers, aligning yourself with engineers and architects that understand how to properly use the product, or navigating any insurance-related issues that are unique to this building technique, WW can help. The program has developed documentation to help developers properly manage risks related to mass timber construction. WW’s raison d’être is to act as an advocate to “increase the use of wood products in construction projects.” The program operates in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec (a similar program known as Cecobois) and the four Maritimes provinces. “It gives us a really good snapshot and analysis of what’s happening across the country,” Street says. “Why are some building codes more advanced than others?” The educationally focused program offers a variety of services, including lunch-and-learn sessions within design and architecture offices. Because of the relevance of the information 80 Atlantic project case study. (Photo by Younes Bounhar, Doublespace Photography)
  • 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 presented, and alignment with the Ontario Association of Architects’s (OAA’s) continuing education require­ ments, architects are able to report attendance at WW events under their con-ed program. Participants receive credits for attending learning sessions. The program also offers industry experts and other guest speakers to discuss trends in wood construction for OAA conferences. WW also acts as a platform to showcase inspiring examples of Canadian wood projects through case studies and annual awards. The education transfer here is “a key part of it,” Street says. “It’s one thing show­ ing people pretty pictures of build­ ings, but now we need to know how to do it. How do we apply the code?” One of the most valuable tools he co-created with Veronica Madonna (of Studio VMA) is The Canadian Guide to Mid-Rise Wood Construc- tion, a 252-page document released in February 2022 that shepherds developers through the entire pro- cess, from early considerations (including planning) for opti- mized designs to technical design and architectural considerations. In addition to hosting live educational events, the program has a library of recorded educational seminars available on-demand in its e-learning centre, and free technical support is available on a case-by- case basis to project teams pursuing wood construction, says Sarah Hicks, WW Ontario’s communications and outreach manager. This runs the gamut from help desk assistance with code or product inquiries to providing an in-office presentation on a requested topic such as EMTC (encapsulated mass timber construction), mid-rise, mass timber or prefabrication. She adds that WW will periodically be asked to attend meetings with project teams to help address questions about the use of wood posed by building departments and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs). But perhaps the jewel of its services is the Wood Solutions Conference, which launched in 1994 and is held each year not only in Toronto, but also in several other Canadian cities and 19 Project at Queen St. East, Toronto (photo courtesy R-Hauz). is presented by WW’s other regional offices. Hicks says the goal here is to allow industry experts to transfer information to practicing professionals – “the people who need to know what products and systems are available and how they can be used under the Building Code.” It’s also a great networking opportunity for design and construction professionals to find the team members required to help develop wood buildings. The support and education WW provides has helped spur several completed and ongoing GTA-based projects, notably 60 Mobile Drive in North York, a three-storey office building designed by architects Moriyama & Teshima (MTA) that will act as the new headquarters for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. Carol Phillips, a partner with MTA and key figure in this project, explains that her company is a big believer in mass timber construction. “There are many benefits, the most significant of which is the carbon sequestering nature of the material along with the
  • 22. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 20 renewability,” she says. Employing a natural material had a profound impact on her as a designer, really connecting her “to the place the wood came from, how it was harvested, the material characteristics and qualities.” Another benefit Phillips extolled is that because the process is mostly prefabricated, construction can be sequenced in a manner that is quieter and less problematic or disruptive for the job site and neighbouring community. The project, which is targeting LEED Platinum certification, will offer an impressive cadre of sustainability features, including: • a ravine restoration plan that re-introduces plants that are unique and indigenous to the Don Valley; • a stormwater management plan that includes large planting beds in the parking areas filled with plants and trees that thrive in wet environments to take up and naturally process the stormwater run-off; and • a natural ventilation system that includes a solar chimney to use minimal fan energy to vent the building. Phil Silverstein, a principal at MTA, says they plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions requirements through a 72 borehole geoexchange heating and cooling system, daylight harvesting strategies and the solar photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof. The project will feature a high- performance building envelope, including a triple-glazed window system within an R-32 thermally broken rainscreen wall supported by vertical cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, all designed to reduce the size of the mechanical plant. Each floor will have two decoupled energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) to distribute air through a ductless, raised access floor (RAF) system to swirl diffusers, he adds. This system allows MTA to create an environment that will fully expose the beautiful wood structure above while allowing effective air displacement to all spaces. Street says there are several other noteworthy mass timber construction projects ongoing around the GTA, including: • Limberlost Place: another MTA project, Limberlost at George Brown College will be the first tall wood building in Ontario. He says this “groundbreaking” 10-storey building, on Queen’s Quay, will be the tallest academic tower in North America; • Centennial College Block A Expansion Project: This academic project built by EllisDon will be one of the first mass timber, net-zero carbon post-secondary educational facilities; and • Hines, known for its T3 (timber, transit and technology) concept structures, most notably in Min- neapolis, is currently working on a couple of Toronto-based projects: an 11-storey office building in the Bayside development on Queen’s Quay and an eight-storey office development on Sterling Road. Street echoes a concept that’s been stressed many times in these pages: while the industry has focused on reducing operational carbon, the next frontier has to be embodied carbon, where wood holds a tremendous advantage over concrete. “I think we’re really nailing the whole operational side of buildings,” he says, so now it’s time to shift gears towards the construction material choices we’re making. In fact, he believes that soon this may be mandated. “We’re heading towards a time when builders will have to account for building material choices when something more sustainable is available,” Street suggests. He does understand that construct- ing a building with mass timber isn’t necessarily business as usual for devel- opers. This could mean aligning your- self with different partners. “You may have to change the consultants that you typically do buildings with,” Street advises. It’s not just the structural engineer you use that he’s referring to, but also code consultants. Ultimately, he believes the tide is turning in wood’s favour, with an assist from the pandemic, which “dramatically affected” off-shore supply of building materials. “I think this new era is now starting the awareness of rapid industrialization,” Street maintains. He asserts that domestically supplied materials will be in greater demand, leading to “a dramatic shift from site-built, old ways of tendering and bidding to more design-build integrated design and factory-built methodologies.” This trend will also be driven by changing building codes, housing shortages, a declining workforce and the evolving ways in which we work – not to mention global and national sustainability targets to reduce carbon. While Street is sure that his work is never done, it’s clear that the Wood Whisperer’s message to the industry is not falling on deaf ears. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca
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  • 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 22 sitespecific / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ One municipality, the City of Pickering, Ontario, has opted to engage the local building industry in collaboration and dialogue to create its own green building program titled Integrated Sustainable Design Stan- dards (ISDS), launched on January 1, 2023. The main difference between Pickering’s sustainability initiative and those of other municipalities is that it is performance-based, allow- ing builders and developers to build their new homes greener in whichever method they choose, so long as they meet certain building standards that help the City realize its sustainability objectives. According to Pickering director of city development and chief building official Kyle Bentley, the City has a long tradition of engaging builders and developers every step of the way throughout the permit process. “Ours has been a collaborative approach, beginning with an initial pre-consultation meeting to facilitate discussions on what the applicant wants to build and how they plan to do it, to identify upfront challenges, assist with code requirements and suggest ways to streamline the permit process. Sometimes it’s an iterative process,” he says. The City of Pickering has made sustainability a longstanding priority, implementing a set of Sustainable Development Guidelines in 2007, and honouring community leaders in this area at its annual Civic Awards. “Sustainability is one of our corpor­ ate priorities, and we continue to pursue initiatives and partnerships that help balance our social, environ­ mental and economic goals,” says Chantal Whitaker, the City’s manager of sustainability and strategic environ­ mental initiatives. “In partnership with developers, we are able to make meaningful strides toward a more sustainable future, creating a healthy community for generations to come.” Whitaker and Bentley offer several examples of cooperation between the City and local developers: ICON Homes, which, despite having building permits for its Pickering project issued in 2018 and units already sold, decided to pause and re-examine how its buildings could be constructed in a more sustainable manner; Geranium Homes, which created a North America-first subdivision including greywater recycling and other energy- saving features; and Marshall Homes’ microgrid “energy island” community that includes EV charging stations. Pickering’s newly adopted ISDS is a shining example of the municipality’s longstanding commitment to greener building. It is a two-tier system based on sets of performance criteria, with a Tier 1 minimum level of achievement of performance elements required for all new developments, and Tier 2 with an optional, higher level of criteria. Performance measures are geared toward seven sustainability principles: education (for homeowners); energy and resilience (energy efficiency and renewables); neighbourhood (accessibility and safety); land use and nature (protection and conservation); transportation (sustainable modes); waste management (recycling and diversion); and water (water efficiency and stormwater management). Tier 1 checklists specify plans, drawings or reports required from applicants to demonstrate how they will achieve the performance criteria. In recent years, builders and devel- opers have expressed concerns about municipal overreach – municipalities pushing through their prescribed “green” measures or brands in order to achieve their sustainability targets. True to its tradition of collaborating with builders and developers through- out the permit process, the City of Pickering went above and beyond to involve the local building industry at all stages of formulating its ISDS. “When we put our standards together, we first looked at the experi- ences of other municipalities,” Bentley Collaboration and Choice Pickering Partners with Builders to Create Sustainability Standards W ith the world in climate crisis, municipalities across the country are scrambling for ways to become more sustainable by reducing their carbon emissions and conserving their water resources. Some have opted for stringent prescriptive standards for new building and development, often drawing the ire of builders who prefer to follow their own chosen paths to sustainability. The main difference between Pickering’s sustainability initiative and those of other municipalities is that it is performance-based.
  • 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 24 the public, community groups, devel- opers and industry stake­ holders, who first off wanted to see an alignment with the sustainability activities of other municipalities, which we accom- plished,” she says. “We appreciated their thoughts and the constraints they were facing as we developed iterations of the performance criteria. Their level of insight was very helpful. At the end of the day, the process allowed us to create a set of green standards that represented our community’s vision of what sustainability looks like.” As the introduction of the Province of Ontario’s Bill 23 illustrated, even the best-laid plans are often subject to change. “When the bill was introduced, it was pretty impactful, and there was an initial concern that our sustainability strategy could be at risk,” says Bentley. “However, after hearing from municipalities, building owners and design professionals, the Province amended Bill 23 to maintain important Planning Act provisions related to sustainable design to provide municipalities the option to require green building construction through the site plan process. Thankfully, this clarification from the province respects the great work completed with our sustainability standards.” Bentley and Whitaker admit that, while the ISDS offers a solid framework for their City’s vision of sustainability, it is a strategy that will be reviewed every four years, embedded with flexibility that allows for consideration of changing market demands and technology. “We would hate to see down the road that there’s a great solution that we never considered, and we wanted to enable consideration of alternatives within the standards,” says Bentley. “We continually monitor advances in green technology and track changes to the Building Code. Flexibility will allow us to balance any new developments in sustainability to our core objectives.” Whitaker concurs. “A couple of years from now, we will review the performance criteria and have these conversations all over again,” she says. “We expect to see a lot of growth in Pickering in the coming years, and we will continue our partnership with our builders to help us create better communities for people to live in. Everybody has a role to play.” 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. explains. “Our goal next was to reach out to local builders, as key stakehold- ers, to best inform the development of the standards. So, a building advisory panel was convened, made up of a cross-section of all types of builders (low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise) – especially those who had already built in Pickering or were about to – as well as representatives from our local homebuilders’ association and BILD.” Bentley notes that much of the early work on the ISDS was guided by the comfort levels and visions of sus- tainability of individual corporations, which shaped objectives into a frame- work that they could use: “We got great feedback from our builder partners and developed an appreciation for the practical challenges and opportunities in sustainable building construction, based on their actual experience.” Pickering’s supervisor of building permits, Peter Furnell, offers his own perspective on the process: “The builders we were dealing with already had their approach and technical staff, and they shared the ground-level details. This really helped us to see eye to eye on what was coming,” he says. The formulation of Pickering’s ISDS was a strategic and careful pro- cess every step of the way, according to Whitaker. “There was a comprehen­ sive engagement strategy involving FEATURE TIER 1 MANDATORY CRITERIA TIER 2 OPTIONAL CRITERIA DOCUMENTATION Water Efficiency Implement TWO of the following: • Use WaterSense® labeled water fixtures. • Use a non-potable watering system for irrigation purposes. • Install a drain water heater recovery unit. • Install a hot water recirculation pump with an integrated adjustable timer or auto- adaptive controls to shut off during periods of low/ no hot water use. • Use Energy Recovery Ventilation in lieu of conventional humidifier. Implement THREE of the following: • Use WaterSense® water fixtures that obtain a minimum 30% better than the Ontario Building Code baseline. • Use a non-potable watering system for irrigation purposes. • Design 25% of the dwelling units/ buildings to be “greywater ready” (i.e., plumbing and infrastructure roughed in, adequate utility room space). • Install a hot water recirculation pump with an integrated adjustable timer or auto-adaptive controls to shut off during periods of low/no hot water use. • Use Energy Recovery Ventilation in lieu of conventional humidifier. • Plan(s), drawing(s), or other documentation demon­ strating implementation of target element(s). • Plumbing fixtures specifica­ tions or other documentation demonstrating WaterSense® labeling and flush/flow rates. OR • Third party verification of water reductions with systems e.g., Home Energy Rating System H2O or WaterSense® labeling. Pickering residential low-rise sustainability checklist allows for choice (adapted from original).
  • 28. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 26 buildernews / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ W hen it comes to homeowner comfort, building envelope performance, durability and ease of installation, ICF (insulated concrete forms) walls stand above the rest. Recently, Ontario contractor Greystone Construction received an award from ICF Builder Magazine for its low-rise condominium, The Tom, in Huntsville. The project was built using award-winning ICF block by Amvic Building System, a wall product that incorporates structure, insulation, air barrier, vapour barrier and a finish (drywall) attachment. “Our ICF product offers many advantages to homeowners, builders and building owner-operators,” says vice-president, sales and marketing Patrick McMahon of Alleguard (Amvic’s parent company). “The EPS (expanded polystyrene) insulation we use in conjunction with reinforced concrete placed inside the form creates a high- performing wall system that manages heat and cold very well, creating a monothecal airtight wall assembly. The combination of sound perform­ ance, controlled air quality and strength provide an exceptionally comfort­ able environment for occupants.” According to McMahon, Amvic ICF also gives occupants peace of mind knowing that the ICF wall provides a three-hour-plus fire rating and will withstand high wind loads. ICF is a very sustainable and resilient construction method to build walls. There are several examples of ICF homes withstanding fires, hurricanes and tornados. Using ICF will provide a cost- effective structure for both short- term operational costs and long-term maintenance requirements. This is not only of interest to homeowners but is also a major reason why owner- operators of commercial buildings – such as hotels, long-term care homes, residences, schools and many other examples – choose to use ICF to build their projects. Builders benefit from the product’s flexibility and speedy installation. Because it’s lightweight (compared to concrete and brick), it is perfect for challenging jobsites in inaccessible Ontario Contractor Wins Builder Award for ICF Low-Rise The Tom, a low- rise condominium built with insulated concrete forms (ICF) by Greystone Construction. The Tom under construction in Huntsville.
  • 29. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 areas. Their fit-together design and insulation properties allow contractors to complete projects in less time, improve momentum at the construction site and reduce labour requirements, meaning builders can keep more money in their pockets. An ICF form brings five steps into one product: insulation, wall structure, air and vapour barrier, plus internal framing. This will maximize the efficiency of construction and remove many steps required in a traditional build. Jon Morton, chief operating officer at Greystone, notes another significant advantage of Amvic ICF over concrete forms and concrete block construction: “When we were building The Tom, we were able to pour concrete into the ICF in sub-zero temperatures and cover them with an insulated tarp, which allowed us to accelerate our building schedule,” he says. “When the weather turned warmer, we could quickly add exterior cladding on the outside and drywall on the inside.” McMahon acknowledges Greystone as a leader in ICF construction, lauding their dedication to bringing superior construction projects to the community. “It takes not only knowledge and understanding to choose ICF as their method of building but also courage and conviction to make the right choice. This is why Greystone has always had successful projects and have created living spaces for all the occupants far beyond what is required.” 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 ICF forms bring five steps into one product: insulation, wall structure, air and vapour barrier, plus internal framing.
  • 30. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 28 industryexpert / TYLER SIMPSON F resh out of university, I landed a challenging and exciting role with a leading global insulation manufacturer. Through almost a decade with the company, I learned a tremendous amount that helped shape my career in terms of my values and the voice for change that I wanted to have in the construction industry. A few years into the role, my wife and I had the opportunity to build a new home with a medium-sized production builder in Ontario (cold climate zone 5, heating degree days of 3,460). I thought this was an amazing opportunity to implement my building science and enclosure knowledge and leverage the skills I had recently learned while participating on the ecoEII Net Zero Energy Housing Demonstration Project with the National Research Council of Canada (NRCan). The ecoEII Net Zero Energy Housing Demonstration Project gathered five production home builders from across Canada to build net zero energy market-ready homes with off-the-shelf technology. At the conclusion of the project, the builders constructed 11 net zero energy (NZE) single-family dwellings, one four- unit NZE row house, one NZE multi- unit residential building (MURB) consisting of six units and five net zero energy ready (NZER) houses. The houses constructed represented an important step towards the broader adoption of low operational carbon houses and provided critical insight into how these homes could be constructed cost-effectively. The complete findings of the demonstration project can be found here: Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Energy Ready Housing – Lessons learned and key findings (nrcan.gc.ca). The recipe for an NZER or NZE house includes a building enclosure that incorporates optimized levels of insulation that limit thermal bridging, achieves exceptional levels of airtightness, engages fenestrations that have a low U-value and implements high-efficiency mechanical equipment. With this recipe in mind and the support of the builder, my NZER house (which was constructed in 2014) featured the attributes noted in Table 1 (below). With the parameters noted in Table 1, an energy model was developed in HOT2000 to approximate the house’s annual energy consumption, which revealed a utilization of 61 gigajoules (Figure 1, facing page). If this house was built to the minimum Why My Net Zero Energy Ready House Failed from a Sustainability Perspective – Part I TABLE 1 : BUILDING ENCLOSURE AND MECHANICAL SYSTEMS OF THE NZER HOUSE (COLD CLIMATE ZONE 5, HEATING DEGREE DAYS 3,460) COMPONENT DESCRIPTION CEILING INSULATION R60 BLOWN INSULATION ABOVE GRADE WALLS R10 XPS FOAM + R24 BATT INSULATION BELOW GRADE WALLS R10 XPS FOAM + R24 BATT INSULATION BASEMENT SLAB R10 XPS FOAM WINDOWS HIGH PERFORMANCE DOUBLE GLAZED W/ LOW E ARGON AIRTIGHTNESS 1.0 ACH@50PA HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEM DETTSON CHINOOK FURNACE (NATURAL GAS) + ALIZE AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP (ASHP) The houses constructed represented an important step towards the broader adoption of low operational carbon houses and provided critical insight into how these homes could be constructed cost-effectively.
  • 31. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 requirements of the 2017 SB-12 Supplementary Standards from the Ontario Building Code (OBC), it would consume an additional 36 gigajoules of energy per year. Further modelling in HOT2000 revealed additional measures that could have been taken to further reduce the NZER house’s 61 gigajoules of energy consumption, including the inclusion of triple- glazed windows and an air source heat pump hot water tank. These two measures would have reduced the annual energy consumption by another 10 to 15 gigajoules a year. Based on the information so far, you may be thinking, “How or where does this house fail from a sustainability perspective?” Before getting into that, how is sustainability defined? In my opinion, sustainability consists of fulfilling the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations. The NZER house that I constructed has low operational carbon; however, at the time, an analysis of the embodied carbon was not completed. For a building to be truly sustainable, both the operational and embodied carbon must be low to ensure a limited negative impact on the environment. The three materials driving a high embodied carbon value for my NZER house include concrete foundations, the brick cladding and XPS insulation. To reduce the embodied carbon of concrete, there are alternative mixes available such as supplementary cementing materials (SCMs). The SCMs replace a portion of the Portland cement, which improves the environmental footprint of concrete by a reduction in the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollutants. Often SCMs are by-products from other industrial processes, so by utilizing these materials in concrete mixes, materials are diverted from landfills. Bricks are also improving their environmental footprint with the introduction of manufactured bricks that do not require high- temperature firing and limit the use of materials such as Portland cement in the manufacturing process. If low- carbon bricks aren’t available in your market, alternative cladding options include fiber cement panels or carbon- capturing products such as wood or wood composite claddings (Figure 3). Recapping Part 1 of this article, industry stakeholders should have a clear and concise understanding that an NZER house has been optimized for the future inclusion of 29 FIGURE 1 : COMPARATIVE ENERGY CONSUMPTION MODELLING OF NZER HOUSE USING HOT2000 (“THIS HOME” REFERS TO NZER HOUSE) SPACE HEATING ELECTRICAL LOAD WATER HEATING SPACE COOLING VENTILATION 45.5 36.0 6.9 31.5 31.5 30.2 24.4 20.4 19.6 6.1 6.2 1.7 2.9 2.8 1.6 THIS HOME CONSUMPTION 61 GJ 2017 OBC CONSUMPTION 97 GJ 2012 OBC CONSUMPTION 110 GJ
  • 32. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 30 a renewable energy technology and an NZE house engages a renewable technology for its energy demand. In terms of the recipe of how the house should be constructed, it depends on the climatic zone – but generally the house should feature optimized levels of insulation that limit thermal bridging, exceptional levels of airtightness, fenestrations that have a low U-value and high- efficiency mechanical equipment. Implementing good building science practices into the recipe will further enhance long-term durability and occupant comfort. The second takeaway is under­ standing the differences between operational carbon and embodied carbon. Operational carbon references the actual energy consumption of the house, while embodied carbon refers to the materials used in the construction of the house. Often embodied carbon is not considered in the design and construction of a low-energy building. To achieve sustainable residential building practices, both operational and embodied carbon must be considered and implemented into projects. Stay tuned for Part II. BB Tyler Simpson is a Certified Passive House Designer and founder of TWS Building Science, offering building enclosure representation and building science and enclosure consulting services. CLADDING EMISSIONS kg CO2e/100m2 The cladding category had the third highest emissions impact, with 2,575 t CO2e representing 12.8 percent of the total MCE in the study. Figure 13 shows the relative emissions for the cladding options included in the BEAM tool. Cladding is a relatively straightforward material category, with each option available in the BEAM tool having met all testing requirements for the purpose and most having long histories of use in the region, which should make direct substitutions a viable option. However, cladding is a material with a high aesthetic impact for a home – as well as major differences in durability and maintenance – and substitutions on the basis of emissions alone may not overcome decisions based on the desired visual appearance of the home. Builders for Climate Action & Passive Buildings Canada • Emissions of Materials Benchmark Assessment for Residential Construction B R I C K A C R Y L I C S T U C C O G A U G E A L U M I N U M P A N E L 5 / 1 5 " F I B E R C E M E N T 2 4 G A U G E S T E E L P A N E L 3 / 4 " L I M E P L A S T E R ( N H L ) 0 . 0 4 0 " V I N Y L 4725 3500 1953 1703 1496 957 538
  • 33. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 I f I asked you to spend an extra 10% to 15% on windows, would you? Not before calling me crazy, and that would be fair if you’re simply looking at price. What if it provided greater custo­ mer comfort? What if I said it would lower the size of the AC, that the ducts (and bulkheads) are right-sized (smaller) for both heating and cooling, that you could build a more durable wall with less potential for water leaks, that you would have fewer window failures and that your client would be more comfortable? What if I added that the total cost is between 0% and 5% more than what you currently spend on your windows? That’s the difference between buying based on cost vs. total value contribution, the latter being a con- cept I discuss in my upcoming book, From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge: A Builder’s Guide to Net Zero Homes. Though more effort, using total value contribution and a holistic design approach in your purchasing deci- sions can help you provide a better overall product while maintaining your competitive pricing. There are four specific performance measurements on the label of every window manufactured in Canada: Energy Rating (ER): Demonstrates total performance of a window, including the added benefit of high solar gain for wintertime heating of the home. The higher the ER, the better the window (supposedly). It also means higher solar heat gain from the sun to warm the building in winter. Energy Star Zone: The zone in which the window complies. In Canada, it’s heavily weighted by the ER. It’s extremely important to understand that the Energy Star Rating label is mislead- ing – it favours heat gain in winter (ER). Windows don’t differentiate between summer and winter. Intermittent heat gain is heat gain, no matter the season. (I use a window that doesn’t comply in the zone we build in – those windows don’t work in the homes I build.) U-value: This is the inverse of R-value and measures energy flow through the window. The lower the number, the better the window. Solar heat gain co-efficient (SHGC): Measures solar energy gain through the glass. The higher the number, the more solar gain. Looked at collectively, an Energy Star-rated window in Canada will have a high ER and SHGC and a decent U-value. It’s not a very good window, but that looks awesome on an Energy Star Zones sticker. Measuring total value contribution My book describes the two command­ ments (water management and airtightness) and four principles of modern design (carbon reduction, indoor air quality [IAQ], occupant comfort and climate resiliency). The total value contribution method examines whether the selection specified addresses one or more of the commandments or principles. Under this method, we have a different ranking for purchasing our windows (Table 1, below). 31 Understanding the Value of Windows fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY TABLE 1 : TOTAL VALUE CONTRIBUTION OF WINDOW SELECTIONS RANK SPECIFICATION ADDED VALUE 1 INTEGRATED NAILING FLANGE • WATER MANAGEMENT DETAIL TO TIE INTO THE WATER-RESISTIVE BARRIER • BACKSTOP ROUGH STUD OPENING (RSO) SEALING (AIRTIGHTNESS) • CLIMATE-RESILIENT DETAILING 2 LOW SOLAR GLASS (SHGC OF UNDER 0.25) WITH LOW U-VALUE • REDUCED OPERATIONAL CARBON AT PEAK SUMMER LOAD • REDUCED OPERATIONAL CARBON/WINTER HEATING THROUGH BETTER WINDOW PERFORMANCE • IMPROVED OCCUPANT COMFORT 3 MEMORY FOAM WINDOW SPACERS • IMPROVED IAQ (LESS WATER BUILDUP/MOLD) • IMPROVED OCCUPANT COMFORT • LONG-TERM EMBODIED CARBON REDUCTION (WINDOWS LAST LONGER THAN ‘U’ CLIP SPACER) 4 TRIPLE-GLAZED WINDOWS (BUDGET PERMITTING) • CARBON REDUCTION • IAQ • OCCUPANT COMFORT
  • 34. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023 32 Triple-glazed windows check three of the four principles and do so better than the low solar glass and memory foam window spacers above. But why the low ranking? They’re expensive, have more embodied carbon and need to last a really long time to fully realize their value. If you look only at energy, you’ll jump to triples fairly quickly – but a triple-glazed window installed in a wall that fails, or that heads to the landfill because the seal broke, is not providing enough to the total value contribution. When you get to the point of selecting a triple-glazed window, you should have already included the first three items in your specifications, and they must be included with the triple-glazed windows you select in order to optimize their total value contribution. One last note about window selections. Once you’ve worked with your energy advisor and selected a good quality window that provides for total value contribution, it’s import­ ant to take two additional steps. The first is regarding energy modelling. The HOT2000 program uses window algorithms that are in need of an update, and it’s imperative your energy modeller enter the actual SHGC into the modelling to get the reduced AC and duct sizing benefit. The second is this: don’t let anyone talk you out of this selection. Not the window rep, the site super, the energy modeller, the cleric, the building inspector or the customer, and especially not the estimator/ purchaser. It’s too darn important, and you’ll end up with overheating challenges if the mechanicals are sized for less intermittent heat gain, and your estimator swaps out for a cheaper window with a high Energy Rating. BB Doug Tarry Jr is President of Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario.   WINDOW COMPARISON USING THE REFERENCE HOUSE – PACKAGE A1 WINDOW TYPE ENERGY PERFORM- ANCE RATINGS ANNUAL ENERGY USAGE (KWH) HIGH PER. DOUBLE PANE U=1.31 SHGC=0.27 32038 TRIPLE PANE U=1.20 SHGC=0.4 31523 1.6% SAVING High Performance Double Pane window (HPDP) at U=1.3 vs building code window at U=1.63. Looked at collectively, an Energy Star-rated window in Canada will have a high ER and SHGC and a decent U-value. It’s not a very good window, but that looks awesome on an Energy Star Zones sticker. 1.6% saving for triple pane windows vs HPDP windows is not cost effective and not common knowledge.
  • 35. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 45 | SPRING 2023