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PUBLICATION
NUMBER
42408014 ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
Alternative
Building Systems
INSIDE
Innovations in Panelized
Framing and Cladding
Insulated Concrete Forms
Building a Legacy
Structural Sustainability
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
16
1
FEATURE STORY
16
An “Inside the Box” Approach to Affordable Housing
Global trade has provided a surplus of shipping containers that can be
re-purposed as living space.
by Marc Huminilowycz
6
ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
On our cover: Rendering of 251 Watkins Street
by John Van Tran of Architectural Visualization.
Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited.
13
22
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
2
Rethinking Brick Houses
(or the Three Little
Pigs, Version 2.0)
by John Godden
THE BADA TEST
3
If the Mountain Will Not
Come to Mohammed,
Mohammed Will Go
to the Mountain
by Lou Bada
INDUSTRY EXPERT
6
Is It Time for Another
Look at Insulated
Concrete Forms?
by Gord Cooke
INDUSTRY NEWS
10
The Winds of Change
Have Begun to Blow
by Paul De Berardis
SITE SPECIFIC
13
Building a Legacy
by Alex Newman
INNOVATION NEWS
22
Less Is More with
Structural Sustainability
A structural engineering firm
is teaching builders how
to avoid over-engineering,
employ more efficient products
and develop techniques
to improve the structural
integrity of their houses.
by Rob Blackstien
FROM THE GROUND UP
30
The Finish-Ready Basement
by Doug Tarry
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
Rethinking Brick
Houses
(or the Three Little Pigs, Version 2.0)
2
PUBLISHER
Better Builder Magazine
63 Blair Street
Toronto ON M4B 3N5
416-481-4218 | fax 416-481-4695
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
PROOFREADING
Carmen Siu
CREATIVE
Wallflower Design
www.wallflowerdesign.com
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
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expressed herein are exclusively
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Better Builder Magazine is
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T
he story “The Three Little Pigs” takes on new meaning in today’s building
landscape. The wolf in our new story is any threat that could diminish the
resiliency of our homes, including wind and water. The first two little pigs
built with stick and straw, which, under current extreme wind conditions, is like
using a one-inch foam-only sheathing, without any bracing system. The third little
pig built their structure differently, with the best technology of the time. We can all
agree that the brick house was the most durable and resilient.
But today, we know that brick, steel and concrete have large carbon footprints,
so brick may not be the best choice for the exterior finish. And in any new home,
one of the largest sources of embodied carbon is concrete. With the current
material shortages and the impending carbon tax (both resulting in increased
material costs), we may need to rethink and build our structures differently. This
issue is about rewriting the “Three Little Pigs” story with today’s choices and
challenges.
Our feature story (page 16) gives us an “inside the box” look at NOW Housing’s
approach to repurposing shipping containers to create affordable, durable housing
across Ontario. Like many consumer goods, this concept has been shipped around
the world.
Lou Bada brings us a mountain of an idea by introducing an exterior insulated
stucco facing system (EIFS) that could eliminate the use of brick veneers (page 3).
And in “Less Is More with Structural Sustainability,” Travis Schiller, a structural
engineer, shows us how to detail structural insulated sheathing with a brick veneer
to stay on an eight-inch poured foundation to reduce embodied carbon (page 22).
The winds of change have begun to blow with proposed National Building
Code changes for Ontario. Paul DeBerardis discusses ramifications for
Code harmonization for wood-framed structures with increased wind load
considerations (page 10).
In our pursuit to reduce carbon and concrete, we need to examine the
appropriate use of materials. Gord Cooke explains how the insulated concrete
form (ICF) building system can make sense when we consider life cycle costing
and extreme winds (page 6).
Lastly, Doug Tarry shares a very timely and deep subject on page 30. Common
construction practice is to use an inexpensive insulating blanket system to meet
Code, but it often causes callbacks for condensation. Doug discusses cost-effective
strategies for finish-ready basements that can be easily completed after closing by
home owners.
Looking forward, with challenges for housing on all fronts, let’s channel the
wisdom of the third pig to find the best innovations for durable low-carbon homes.
Common sense is our best resource in a climate where the winds of change will
always blow. We need to adapt to find a happy ending. BB
publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
members on an 8-inch foundation
wall. The outboard continuous
insulation values for 2-, 3-, 4-, 5- or
6-inch thicknesses range from R-7.4,
R-11.4, R-15.4, R-19.4 and R-23.4,
respectively, for the PUCCS NC system.
An outboard air/water barrier makes
achieving greater airtightness for our
buildings much easier. These qualities
I
f things aren’t going your way, then
you’ll have to change the way they
are. If you can’t go over an obstacle,
you’ll have to go around it or through
it. Innovation begins where the search
for greater efficiency ends.
Panelized framing has gained
ground in the new-home building
industry. Finding efficiencies in this
innovative field are always ongoing.
So, what’s next for panelization?
And what products are new and
innovative for home builders? Can we
marry them and have a sustainable
honeymoon?
I have an idea. I’ve been familiar­
izing myself with a new cladding
system from DuROCK Alfacing
International Limited: PUCCS NC
Rainscreen Exterior Insulated Finish
System (EIFS) (check out www.
youtube.com/watch?v=kHlkwOt91Y4).
Based in Woodbridge, Ontario,
DuROCK has developed a National
Resource Council-tested, Canadian
Construction Materials Centre-
evaluated, non-combustible,
continuous insulation system that
incorporates an air/water resistive
barrier and mineral wool insulation.
It’s a rainscreen system that has
a defined drainage cavity on the
backside and an integral alkali-
resistant fibreglass mesh on the
frontside. It has a reinforced base
coat and a primer, and it comes in a
multitude of finishes. (Detail at right.)
Now for the best part! A builder
can achieve an R-27 wall using 2x4
wall framing members or up to an
R-37 wall with 2x6 wall framing
also contribute to better construction
detailing and to building more resilient
homes. It’s an excellent choice for a
high-performance building envelope.
PUCCS NC is also excellent for energy
retrofit applications for exterior walls
in high-rise or low-rise buildings.
Bonus: as a non-combustible cladding,
it can be used for reduced side and rear
3
thebadatest / LOU BADA
If the Mountain Will Not
Come to Mohammed,
Mohammed Will Go to the Mountain
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
2" x 4" WOOD STUDS FRAMING @
12" OR 16" O.C. WITH R-14 INSULATION
GYPSUM SHEATHING (BY OTHERS)
DuROCK AIR/MOISTURE BARRIER
DuROCK MOISTURE BARRIER/ADHESIVE
2" DuROCK PUCC-ROCK INSULATION BOARD
WITH INTEGRAL REINFORCING MESH
DuROCK REINFORCING MESH
EMBEDDED IN DuROCK BASE COAT
DuROCK BASE PRIMER
DuROCK BRICK FINISH COAT
DuROCK MECHANICAL FASTENER
FIBRE MESH TAPE AT SHEATHING
AND CONCRETE INTERFACE
WRAP INSULATION EDGE WITH
REINFORCING MESH, TERMINATE
BASE COAT AT DRAINAGE TRACK
DuROCK UNI-TRACK
DRAINAGE WITH LIP
CONCRETE FOUNDATION
(MINIMUM 6" THICK)
T.O. GRADE
MIN. 200MM (8")
DuROCK SYSTEM: PUCCS-NC WITH BRICK FINISH
CO
U
RT
ESY
D
U
RO
C
K
A
LFAC
I
N
G
I
N
T
E
R
N
AT
I
O
N
A
L
LI
M
I
T
E
D
A
RC
H
I
T
E
C
T
U
R
A
L
F
I
N
I
S
H
I
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G
SYS
T
E
M
S
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 5
If you can use 20%
less material (8 inches
of concrete rather
than 10 inches, for
instance) and it’s locally
produced, you’ve
really got something!
for the PUCCS NC system in a panel
framing plant? I haven’t seen it yet, but
panel producers have overcome more
difficult challenges and are always
looking for ways to add value to their
products.
One of the most refreshing parts
of our business is interacting with
the great people I’ve met who are
yard applications where the Ontario
Building Code requires a non-
combustible veneer.
The ability to use an 8-inch foun­
da­
tion wall cannot be understated.
Aside from the cost implications, an
important consideration for choosing
a sustainable building material is the
amount of embodied energy/carbon
in its manufacture and shipping.
Concrete, brick and manufactured
stone have a great deal of embodied
energy, and if you can use 20% less
material (8 inches of concrete rather
than 10 inches, for instance) and it’s
locally produced, you’ve really got
something!
Now, how about this: Can we
do some of this installation work
the innovators in our industry. They
are open-minded, creative and
committed, and they meet challenges
head-on by looking for alternatives.
They go through mountains. Our
panel supplier (H+ME Technology)
and DuROCK are excellent examples of
this. I am going to try for an arranged
marriage between them and hope that
they live happily ever after. BB
Lou Bada is vice-
president of low-rise
construction at Starlane
Home Corporation
and on the board of
directors for the Residential Construction
Council of Ontario (RESCON).
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
6
industryexpert / GORD COOKE
At every session, however, some­
one will inevitably ask “what about
insulated concrete forms (ICF)?” My
answer is always “yes, of course, ICF
construction is an excellent way to
achieve the goals of high-performance
construction.” Typically, the person
who has asked the question will go on
to explain that they have been using
ICF for years and are surprised that
more builders don’t choose to use
them. That same questioner will often
ask if I would use ICF for my own home.
Up until last year, I would explain
that while I felt ICF was an excellent
technology, the two homes that had
been built for us over the last 30 years
were wood-frame construction.
However, when my brothers and I
finally decided to go in together on
a new family cottage, I felt like there
were at least three things about the
project that were perfectly suited for a
whole-home ICF build.
To start, there can be little debate
about the characteristics of an
ICF home with respect to the five
high-performance attributes that
we always repeat: simultaneously
(1) safer, (2) healthier, (3) more
comfortable, (4) more durable
and (5) more energy efficient.
The durability and strength of a
concrete structure, the continuity
and thickness of the insulation, and
the inherent airtightness of how the
forms link together checked off a lot
of performance boxes. There was no
question that the project would be
qualified under the Canadian Home
Builders’ Association Net Zero Energy
program.
In the energy modelling, it was
determined an effective R-value for
the walls needed to be at least R-27.
The typical ICF products are based
on two 2.5-inch layers of expanded
polystyrene foam (EPS) for an effective
R-value of approximately R-22. The
leading manufacturers of ICF, however,
now have options for either extra foam
inserts or simply thicker foam to create
the form. We chose the Amvic Plus 3.30
block, where each side of the form is
3.25-inch thick EPS. That ensured an
effective R-value of R-26 for the foam
itself and also got us nicely over the
R-27 we needed when interior drywall
and exterior cladding were added. The
measured airtightness of the building
was just over 1.0 ACH50Pa without any
additional air sealing work. We knew
we were going to apply the AeroBarrier
technology to the home, so I wanted to
see how the ICF did on its own without
any added effort. When we applied
AeroBarrier, the airtightness dropped
to under 0.1 ACH50Pa. Thus, energy
efficiency requirements for even a net
zero energy home can be met with this
one technology.
Now, I mentioned in a previous
article the almost comically ferocious
windstorms on the shores of Lake
Huron throughout the winter. It is
on these occasions where the ICF
performance really shines. “So quiet,”
“so secure” and “so comfortable” are
the descriptors expounded by the
rotation of five families that have
found the cottage to be a great safe
haven during the pandemic. The ICF
experience has been so markedly
different for each of them: one from
a grand but creaky century home,
one from a downtown condo, one
Is It Time for Another
Look at Insulated
Concrete Forms?
D
uring education sessions I do on high-performance home construction,
there is definitely a focus on wood-frame construction. And that’s
warranted, given that wood-frame construction makes up over 90% of
low-rise residential construction in North America.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
and cost comparisons: the apples-to-
apples of full-height basement insula­
tion costs and challenges to make it a
truly livable space, and more recently,
the true cost and challenge of getting
insulated sheathing on wood-framed
structures to meet ever higher effective
R-values now and as we move towards
net zero–ready in the next 10 years.
For this particular project, think
about the cost and the investment
calculation. Consider the increasingly
rare lakefront property, for an extended
from a typical suburban brick-clad
1990s home, and two from those
small, quaint post-war bungalows.
This was the second reason why I
felt this project was ideally suited
for the ICF technology. The entire
family has noticed and relished the
lifestyle difference when a home truly
performs without compromises.
Certainly, the professional
builders reading this article will be
wondering about the costs. I have
heard countless times the debates
family where three generations are
already enjoying the home. While
many think about incremental costs
over a 30-year mortgage, you can easily
imagine amortizing this investment
over many generations. Indeed, we
brothers made many decisions in this
project where the key determinant was
resiliency. The ICF decision was easily
rationalized on this count.
It was my experience in this project
that the primary reason more builders
don’t choose ICF is the requirement
for the significant process change in
design and building. In the design
phase, the slight dimensional changes
in wall thickness and heights were
noted. In early site work, there are
the logistics of dealing with large
skids of foam. Then, you have to find
the right trade to erect the forms
and gain acceptance from plumbers,
electricians, drywallers and finishing
contractors – both interior and exterior
– to adjust to the ICF forms.
Fortunately, there are strategies to
quickly offset these process changes.
My good friend Robert Rawlings, who
has been building with and training
others to use ICF for 20 years, provides
the following advice: Choose an
ICF supplier that provides on-site
training and support or enlist the
services of someone who has used
ICF. Indeed, I was pleased that our
builder hired Robert for our project.
Give the designer or architect a few
extra weeks on your first project so that
they can consult with the ICF supplier
to consider and adjust for those
small dimensional changes. Invest in
proper bracing, which is extremely
important. Spend extra time ensuring
7
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
the bracing and reinforcement is
complete around windows, doors and
corners in particular. Double- and
triple-check all reinforcement and
bracing before you pour, even going
beyond the manufacturer’s bracing
requirements.
Robert also noted that the
concrete pump truck operator needs
to be experienced with pumping into
ICF to ensure they have the proper
reducing attachments and the right
size (1¼-inch head) concrete vibrator
ready to go. The concrete mix should
be optimized for ICF (typically a
slump of five to seven inches is best
for pouring). All of these hints are to
acknowledge that there are process
changes needed to make your first
ICF project successful; learn from
the mistakes of others and use their
experience.
Clearly, our project had compelling
elements that led us to consider ICF.
The energy efficiency, quality of life
and resiliency that were important
to us would also be common to
many projects you are working on.
In fact, they will undoubtedly rise in
importance over the next few years
as energy efficiency requirements,
climate change considerations and the
rising cost of land compel home buyers
and planners to have a longer-term
vision for homes.
A close friend of mine just described
a home investment he made with
his daughter where careful thought
was given to the location, design and
ownership so as to be suitable not
only for this generation, but for his
grandchildren as well. In my opinion,
ICF construction will be a helpful
technology in responding to the ever-
increasing expectations of codes and
consumers. Builders should be looking
for opportunities to try it and work
through the process changes to have
success with it now and in the future. BB
Gord Cooke is
president of Building
Knowledge Canada.
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
10
industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS
Some of you may be asking why you
should be concerned with proposed
changes to the NBC here in Ontario,
where construction standards are
governed by the Ontario Building
Code (OBC). Well, the short answer
is that the federal and provincial
governments have committed to
harmonizing construction standards
across Canada, so changes to the NBC
will now be a lot more relevant and
influential in Ontario.
Many of the significant changes
relating to energy efficiency have
already been covered in past
articles – but equally as notable,
changes are proposed in relation to
wind and seismic loads affecting
structural lateral resistance in homes
traditionally designed under Part 9.
Changes have been made to seismi­
city values assigned for locations
across Canada. The impact in some
regions will require more stringent
prescriptive solutions under Part 9 due
to the higher spectral hazard values.
Additionally, there will be more regions
that will now fall outside the limits of
the prescriptive solutions in Part 9 and
require Part 4 structural design.
The threshold for the 1-in-50-years
hourly wind pressure (HWP), above
which wind needs to be considered in
Part 9 of the current NBC 2015, is 0.8
kPa. The analysis used to establish
new prescriptive provisions for the
higher seismic hazards proposed for
NBC 2020 suggested that the existing
minimum trigger of 0.8 kPa was too
high, and that braced wall bands
would be justified for lower triggers of
HWP than are currently set in Part 9.
It was indicated in the documentation
associated with the proposed change
that the 0.8 kPa trigger reflected wind
speeds similar to those associated
with EF2-level tornadoes. However,
based on my own estimates, a 0.8 kPa
HWP correlates with wind speeds of
approximately 130 km/h or 80 mph,
which is actually categorized as an EF0
tornado – so it seems like there was a
bit of embellishment incorporated to
support the proposal.
The justification for the proposed
change cites market trends in new
home construction, such as shifting
to open concept layouts (having
fewer interior partition walls), larger
windows and narrower lots/houses.
Therefore, the once-expected built-in
redundancy characteristic of light-
frame wood construction is becoming
less. As such, lateral loads resulting
from earthquake and wind could
negatively affect houses in low seismic
zones, which currently are not required
to be specifically braced to resist these
loads. To exacerbate matters, other
proposed changes relating to escalating
The Winds of Change Have Begun to Blow
M
any of you regular Better Builder readers are likely aware by now of
the ongoing review of proposed changes for the next edition of the
National Building Code (NBC) of Canada, as discussed in past articles.
Like all things affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting the many national
task groups, standing committees and Canadian Commission on Building and
Fire Codes (CCBFC) meetings virtually has delayed the process, so the much-
anticipated next edition of the NBC (originally intended for 2020) likely won’t be
ready until the end of 2021.
energy efficiency requirements will
push builders to replace structural
wood sheathing products with various
types of foam-insulated sheathing,
reducing lateral restraint.
The proposed change attempts to
reduce the large gap between Part 9
and Part 4 provisions with respect to
wind loads, and it introduces minimum
requirements for lateral design to
resist wind loads for all regions in
Canada. Considering the reported
increasing trend of rare wind events,
and the decision to require a minimum
consideration for lateral resisting
elements for all seismic levels, it was
deemed appropriate to provide similar
minimum requirements for wind loads.
An impact analysis was performed
to act as some sort of cost–benefit
evaluation for this proposed change
and, like many other bureaucracy-
derived theoretical cost estimates, you
can take it with a grain of salt, as you
will see below. These cost justifications
remind me of those TV shopping
channel advertisements where they
try to entice shoppers by advertising
that purchases can be paid for with six
low, easy monthly payments of $49.95,
which seemingly make any purchase
more palatable. For this proposed
change, only a single home archetype
was used to inform the impact analysis
– a 1,383-square-foot, two-storey
detached home with an attached
garage, supposedly representing a
common suburban home design –
considering wind and seismic design
parameters for 15 separate locations
across Canada. A combination of
RSMeans 2019 costing data for braced
wall panel assemblies (represented
in U.S. dollars, then converted to
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
Canadian dollars with an assumed
exchange rate) and Altus Group 2018
square footage construction costs was
used to determine that the proposed
changes would lead to a cost increase
in each location analyzed, “but still
remains small with a difference in
cost of 0.64% in Toronto.” So, if these
proposed changes are adopted, all
you builders remember to hold your
framing contractors and lumber
suppliers to a mere 0.64% cost
increase, because that’s what the
National Research Council of Canada
(NRC) said it will cost.
All joking aside, the proposed
changes with respect to lateral
bracing to resist seismic and wind
loads will have a notable impact
on design and construction
considerations. The prescriptive
path includes changes to framing
practices such as limiting sheathing
material options, increased quantity
and size of fasteners (nails and
anchor bolts), and greater usage of
braced wall bands and braced wall
panels. These new lateral bracing
considerations will further pose
additional material specification
and construction challenges when
considering the usage of insulated
sheathing products. The proposed
change will also create instances
where wind and seismic factors will
not permit the usage of prescriptive
design considerations, necessitating
engineered Part 4-based structural
solutions for low-rise, single-family
home applications.
The proposed prescriptive require­
ments for bracing to resist lateral
loads are limited and do not explore
other possible solutions outside of
braced wall panels and bands. For
example, depending on the sheathing
used, other options could include
wood 1x4 let-in bracing or diagonal
metal bracing (flat strapping, T-profile
or L-profile strapping), and inset shear
panels could be specified. There are
also various laminated insul-sheathing
products which also possess structural
properties for lateral bracing that were
not given any consideration. There
should be more prescriptive options for
such products and methods to resist
lateral loads, especially in low-seismic
and low-wind zones.
While RESCON took part in the
review and consultation on proposed
changes to the winter 2020 NBC
Codes Canada process, submitting
feedback in opposition to this parti­
cular proposed change, there appears
to exist a certain momentum in
this highly bureaucratic process to
seemingly push ahead with many
of the proposed changes, despite
prevalent expert and industry oppo­
sition. This particular proposed
change seemed to represent a govern­
ment make-work project to keep the
researchers at the NRC occupied.
While I agree with the concepts
presented by Travis Schiller in the
article “Less Is More with Structural
Sustainability,” this proposed change
will ultimately propagate the trend
in over-engineering wood-framed
structures, leaving less space for
insulation to achieve increasingly
stringent energy efficiency require­
ments. With lumber pricing and
supply still being adversely affected
by the pandemic, the ability to use
wood fibre/foam insulation composite
sheathing products has been
welcomed by builders – so a possible
code change that limits the choice
of sheathing products would be a
challenge for the building industry.
While I am not optimistic about
the likelihood of this proposed change
being reconsidered at the NBC level,
I remain hopeful that when it comes
time for the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Housing in Ontario to
consider this proposed change for
harmonization, they don’t adopt it
as-is and instead allow more design
flexibility. BB
Paul De Berardis is
RESCON’s director of
building science and
innovation. Email him at
deberardis@rescon.com.
11
braced
wall band
braced
wall panel
9.23.13.4.(1)(a)
braced wall band
full storey height
9.23.13.4.(1)(b)
braced wall band
max. 1.2m wide
9.23.13.4.(1)(d)
braced wall band
aligned with braced
wall bands on storeys
above and below
Braced wall bands in an example building section
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
Shannon Bryant and Brian Couperthwaite
on their custom infil site in Markham.
Her mother, Robin, oversaw the
interior design. And that’s the route
Bryant took after high school. “The
design aspect really influenced me –
I loved seeing the changes transpire
over a period of weeks or months,”
Bryant says.
For the past 10 years, the 41-year-
old single mother of two, has drawn
on both influences – design and
construction – while working for
a company whose main focus is
building and renovating funeral
homes across Canada.
When her father found a lot to
build his dream cottage in 2014 – after
looking for about 30 years – she got
involved in the project. “He finally
found the perfect lot he’d been looking
for. When he showed me the drawings,
I made some improvements like
redesigning the kitchen and master
ensuite layout to comply with the
engineered architectural drawings.
From there, my parents hired me to
do the interior design which my mom
and I did together. My dad saw what
I was capable of doing professionally
and kept me in mind for this family
business idea he had.” She also
learned a lot of the structural side of
things from that cottage project.
Once the cottage was complete,
Couperthwaite retired in 2018. It
was something he loved “for about a
second,” until he decided he wasn’t
ready to retire. He developed a busi­
ness plan for his own home building
company, BK Couper Custom Homes.
He discussed various options with
Bryant, who had finished a certificate
in project management from the
University of Toronto. With COVID-19
came the opportunity to transition
from working for someone else to
be in a partnership with her father.
“Everything aligned at the same time.
It just fell into place,” Bryant recalls.
The skills Bryant had spent nearly
a decade developing in her previous
role were a perfect fit for the family
business, where she now oversees
construction, working on site with
trades. She also oversees interior
design drawings and finishes to get
the right outcome. “It’s the best of both
worlds,” she says.
The intention was always to
involve other family members too,
and while Bryant’s siblings aren’t
involved in daily operations, they
work peripherally – her older brother
Jesse Couperthwaite’s water treatment
company is part of the later process,
and her sister Krysta’s husband,
Andrew Pinguet, has a framing
carpentry business. Robin, Bryant’s
mother, does all the bookkeeping and
accounts. (The last sibling, Adam, is an
actor living in Manhattan.)
The company develops on a smaller
scale: seven homes in Markham,
five homes in Richmond Hill and a
one-off custom build in Port Perry,
13
Building a Legacy
“I
grew up either living in a renovation or in a rental while my dad built us our
next home,” says Shannon Bryant. “So building and housing is in my blood.
It’s all I know.”
It’s also what her father, Brian Couperthwaite, knows best. Custom building
their family home was the side hustle to his day job with a home builder. “But, you
know: with construction, 9 to 5 just doesn’t exist,” she adds.
sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
14
with several more in the works. This
allows them to keep strict control over
construction quality as well as the
energy-efficient components that the
homes are packed with.
Every Markham home promises
to be 20% better than code and will
be evaluated using the Home Energy
Rating System (HERS). This is a
recognized method of evaluating
and scoring the energy efficiency of
a home and deemed more effective
than other rating methods. Every new
BK Couper home will be certified 20%
better than code via the HERS score.
In order to achieve that, each
custom home has been packed with
extras, such as a high-performance
weathertight envelope rated and
tested by an independent third party.
Features include Building Products
of Canada’s R-5 XP structurally
insulated sheathing made from 98%
recycled content, an exterior air
barrier system including flashing
windows, air sealing on all HVAC,
ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD™ 80 to
reduce basement moisture, and high-
performance windows with passive
cooling to reduce heat gain in the
summer.
Each has a high-efficiency, right-
sized, two-stage furnace for maximum
air distribution while using 50% less
electricity with an electronically
commutated motor (ECM) blower, as
well as a drain water heat recovery
system. Whole-house ventilation guar­
antees a minimum energy recovery of
75%, while the right-sized 15 seasonal
energy efficiency ratio (SEER) air
conditioning yields 23% higher cooling
efficiency than standard.
To reduce water usage, toilets
are ultra-low water consumption. In
addition, a HERSH2O water conservation
label will be provided for each house,
showing the impact of water use-
reducing features.
While this seems a very high level of
green, it’s just part of the commitment
to quality that Bryant and her father
have always considered standard
in their business. “My approach to
building has been developed since
childhood, watching my parents work
– first what my mom was willing to do
to help my dad, and then working with
my dad in construction and seeing how
he wasn’t willing to compromise his
integrity. He wouldn’t cut corners. My
father has my respect for that,” Bryant
explains.
That kind of quality takes time and
effort, though: “Everything he’s done
is because he was willing to put in
the time and do the work. He’s always
taught us you don’t get things handed
to you, and that we will appreciate
everything so much more when we
work hard for them.”
When we asked Bryant what the
company stands for and what their
message to clients is, she summed it
up by saying: “We want you to take as
much pride living in your home as we
have building your home. We want you
to smile when you walk into that home,
because we’ve been able to take your
vision and bring it into reality.” It’s clear
that BK Couper Custom Homes, and its
clients, have much to take pride in. BB
Alex Newman is a writer,
editor and researcher at
alexnewmanwriter.com.
Contact your Air Solutions Representative for more information:
suppport@airsolutions.ca | 800.267.6830
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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 37 / Spring 2021
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
16
featurestory / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ
An“Inside the Box”Approach
W
hen affordable housing professional
Thomas Fischer retired following a
distinguished 15-year leadership career
with Habitat for Humanity, he had no idea that he
would be spending much of his time now preparing
a multitude of requests for proposals (RFPs) for a
new and innovative housing product.
Fischer, who has a long-time passion for
providing housing for people in need, served first
as the executive director of the Brampton/Caledon
branch, then, following an amalgamation, as
vice president of the Greater Toronto Area branch
of Habitat for Humanity – a non-governmental
organization that helps people in communities
around the world build or improve places they
can call home. He has a track record of successful
affordable housing builds in Peel Region.
“I retired, but I soon realized that there is a
huge need to supply housing to those people who
can’t afford it, especially these days,” says Fischer.
When he heard about NOW Housing, he was
intrigued. NOW Housing is a Cambridge, Ont.-
based company that uses steel shipping containers
and converts them into clean, comfortable, fully
furnished and affordable modular homes. Two
years later, as vice president of partnerships, he
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 17
to Affordable Housing
is being contacted by non-profit organizations,
government departments and private developers.
“The process starts with our containers, which
are surplus, manufactured overseas and sourced
from local suppliers, mostly in Toronto,” says
Fischer. “The only containers we buy are called
‘one-trippers,’ meaning they are used once to
ship things like furniture and electronics from
overseas. The magic happens in our factory, where
the containers – all 9’6” tall ‘high boys,’ 8 feet wide
by 20 or 40 feet long – are modified to create high-
quality, permanent housing in a variety of sizes
and models,” Fischer explains.
Finished units come in a variety of configura­
tions, depending on the requirements of clients.
They include: the space-efficient Studio, which
contains a separate bedroom, bathroom with
ensuite laundry and a full kitchen with a dinette
set; the larger Single bedroom unit, comprised of
containers connected side-by-side, which offers
a spacious living room; the Duo Suite, with two
separate adjoining suites containing a bedroom,
bathroom and kitchen; and the Multi-Bedroom,
which is multiple containers wide and offers a
common living/dining area and shared bathrooms
(including laundry), best suited to individual
Staggering top and bottom units at the rear forms
access and porch at the front of the structure.
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families or several tenants sharing
common spaces. All units can be built
barrier-free with accessibility features
for people with disabilities, including
lower countertops, larger bathrooms
and wider access doors.
Far from being spartan, NOW
Housing homes come with a
number of modern, comfortable and
maintenance-free features to make
the spaces feel like home, such as
hardwood kitchen cabinets, granite
countertops, separate heating/
cooling systems, quality furnishings,
large windows (and sliding glass
doors in some units) for natural
light, wiring for internet and cable
connectivity, and scratch-proof/
water-resistant panel system walls
and vinyl flooring.
“Because our units are made
of solid steel, they can stand up
to almost anything our Canadian
climate can throw at them. Inside,
we use non-organic and mould-
resistant materials to make cleaning
and maintenance easier and provide
quick turnover timetables between
tenants,” says Fischer.
“Our units can be stacked multiple
storeys high, creating contemporary
multi-unit designs with entrance
and balcony overhangs to form
affordable housing complexes in
single-development areas,” Fischer
adds. “Through our quality-controlled
production line process, which
promotes optimal efficiency, we can
produce affordable units faster, in
greater quantity and at lower cost than
any competitor.”
As for the construction of its homes,
NOW Housing takes great care in
sourcing environmental, economical
and durable materials to ensure the
highest level of comfort. Inside its
Cambridge factory, unit interiors are
fitted with steel studs (separated,
according to Code, by a “thermal
break” from the exterior steel walls)
and insulated in between with two-
pound closed cell spray foam. Instead
of conventional drywall, a more
durable and maintenance-free wall
panel system is installed.
“When you have small spaces
where people live closer to walls and
windows, energy efficiency has to
be better. The Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation (CMHC) requires
efficiency to be significantly improved
for modular ‘in situ’ buildings – by at
least 25%. All of our units are certified
CSA-A277 at the factory,” says Fischer.
To ensure the highest possible level
of energy efficiency and comfort, NOW
Housing consulted with home and
heating system designer John Godden
to build in the latest energy recovery
ventilation (ERV) technology and
state-of-the-art air source heat pumps.
All windows are high-performance
triple-glazed designs. On the outside,
areas that require extra sealing, such
“Our units can be
stacked multiple
storeys high, creating
contemporary multi-
unit designs with
entrance and balcony
overhangs to form
affordable housing
complexes in single-
development areas.”
Two containers form a single unit 16 feet wide and 40 feet long.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
as seams, are insulated as needed.
Finally, exterior cladding (siding
or brick) is applied according to
the exterior appearance desired by
the client. Completely finished and
furnished units are installed by crane
on site in a matter of hours.
Today, in addition to building a
steady supply of affordable modular
homes, Fischer and the company are
keeping busy applying for contracts
from municipalities across Ontario
who are eager to provide affordable
housing to their middle-class,
student and vulnerable citizens.
Thanks to the federal government’s
recent release of the Rapid Housing
Initiative (through the CMHC), $1
billion is available to create up to
3,000 new permanent, affordable
housing units across Canada: a major
cities stream component of $500
million in immediate support for
pre-determined municipalities, and
a projects stream of $500 million for
projects based on applications from
provinces, territories, municipalities,
Indigenous governing bodies and
organizations, and non-profit
organizations.
An October 27, 2020 news release
regarding the initiative stated:
“Everyone should be able to find a
place to live, raise their families, and
build their future ... since 2015, the
Government of Canada has helped
more than 1 million people have a
safe and affordable place to call home.
This work is more important than ever
as communities across the country
continue to deal with the impacts of
COVID-19. By investing in affordable
housing, we can create jobs and
grow our middle class, build strong
communities, fuel our economic
19
Above: Individual shipping containers are modified and
married together to form spacious and affordable floor plans.
Below: High density polyurethane foam is blown with a stand-
off wall system to provide thermal comfort and air tightness.
recovery, help reduce homelessness
and support vulnerable Canadians.”
“At NOW Housing, our mission
is to work towards a sustainable
environment for future generations
– by reducing landfill waste and our
carbon footprint; practicing reduction,
re-use and recycling; and producing
unique and environmentally friendly
structures,” says Fischer, noting
that the company’s market has been
focused on smaller-space projects
(typically rentals), sized at 480 square
feet including living area, bathroom
and kitchen.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
20
“Our aim is to positively
influence the stability and quality of
community living by providing an
improved housing solution to change
the landscape of communities,
allowing everyone to maintain their
independence and dignity. Through
co-operative endeavours with
agencies, organizations, municipal
and regional governments, and
private and non-profit organizations,
our goal is to be the largest builder of
affordable housing in Ontario (and
eventually Canada) by continuing
to deliver cost-conscious solutions,”
Fischer explains.
As he completes yet another RFP
for a municipal affordable housing
project, Fischer reflects on the process:
“I truly wish that helping people could
be easier. I may sometimes complain,
but really, my affordable housing
journey has been well worth the
effort.” BB
Marc Huminilowycz
is a senior writer. He
lives and works in
a low energy home
built in 2000. As
such, he brings first-hand experience
to his writing on technology and
residential housing and has published
numerous articles on the subject.
IT’S OUR NATURE
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SHOP AND SAMPLE NOW:
Global trade has provided a
surplus of containers to be
re-purposed as living space.
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innovationnews / ROB BLACKSTIEN
A
ttention: Builders. Read on if
you’re interested in making
homes that are more struc­
turally sound, are safer during the
construction process, are built to last
longer, are more efficient, employ
better (and sometimes cheaper)
materials and have lower embodied
carbon – all without being over-
engineered.
Not intrigued? That’s okay…
Surely there’s some dinosaur racing
on TV somewhere.
Over-engineering of houses has
been a challenge with some builders,
typically occurring when the units
are designed by engineers who excel
in structural steel and reinforced
concrete but lack the same level of
comfort using wood. These designs
will invariably include a “fudge factor”
– extraneous materials included to
overcompensate for a perceived lack
of confidence that the home will be
structurally sound.
However, this practice goes
against the very essence of structural
sustainability, which is to optimize the
home’s structure without significantly
increasing costs. Ultimately, it’s a
less-is-more approach that uses just
the right amount of materials, thereby
increasing efficiency (by leaving more
room for insulation) while lowering
material and labour costs.
It’s a paradigm that’s been adopted,
A structural engineering firm is teaching builders how to avoid over-engineering, employ more
efficient products and develop techniques to improve the structural integrity of their houses.
This practice [including
extraneous materials
to overcompensate
for a perceived lack of
confidence in structural
soundness] goes against
the very essence of
structural sustainability,
which is to optimize
the home’s structure
without significantly
increasing costs.
Less Is More with Structural Sustainability
Travis Schiller, Schiller Engineering Ltd.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
perfected and evangelized by Travis
Schiller, principal of Mississauga,
Ont.-based Schiller Engineering Ltd.
A 2012 graduate of the University
of Ottawa’s civil engineering program
(which is where he learned about
wood engineering), he got his start
working with two larger firms
(Aecom and Cole Engineering) before
founding his own company four years
ago to provide structural engineering
services to developers, small builders,
renovation contractors, architects
and designer firms across Ontario.
Value differentiator
What differentiates the company is
that its team of architectural techno­­
logists and engineers acts as a one-
stop shop by offering city coordina­
tion/planning, construction drawings
and structural engineering for custom
homes and renovations. “Everything
that we’re doing helps builders get
their permits,” Schiller says.
“With our extensive knowledge of
architectural design and detailing, we
don’t only think of structural impli­
cations when providing engineering
services. We also take into account
architectural implications which lead
to more efficient and problem-free
construction execution,” he adds. At
its heart, structural sustainability is
about finding balance: “You want to
put in the least amount, but get the
most out of the building,” he says.
Over-engineering results in more
wood members taking up space in
the interior wall cavities, leaving less
space for insulation and, ultimately,
less efficient walls, which means more
energy will be required to heat and
cool those homes.
Schiller understands the reticence
of some engineers when designing
with wood, given that there are
higher safety factors with the product
compared to manufactured building
materials like concrete and steel. Wood
has cracks and knots, so not every
piece will be identical from a strength
perspective. Combine that with the
fact that wood shrinks and shifts and
has pores in it that will have different
moisture content throughout the year,
and it’s easy to see why some aren’t
comfortable with it.
The result? “They’ll add in the
fudge factor because they’re afraid that
if [they] don’t add additional safety
factors, it won’t be strong enough,”
Schiller explains. As a formula, design
x fudge factor = $$$.
Code misinterpretation
Another area of concern is how the
current Building Code can be mis­
interpreted in regards to the use of
rigid insulation instead of structural
exterior sheathing, leading to
numerous homes collapsing during
construction [see photo above].
Schiller explains that the way the
Code change to structural and energy
efficiency standards was written is
causing some builders to interpret it to
mean that, in low seismic and low wind
zones, exterior structural sheathing
can be replaced by rigid insulation, as
long as the interior side of the studs are
finished with a panel-type material
such as gypsum board.
Where problems arise is that during
construction, homes can be fully
framed and sit for a long time before
the interior drywall is installed. Mean­
while, Schiller explains, the home is
not structurally sound, and in many
instances homes have collapsed in
windstorms based on this Code inter­
pretation. He says the Code needs to be
corrected to ensure a safe, structurally
sound work site for the complete con­
struction period. “There’s been enough
of them that it’s just a ticking time
bomb. Someone’s going to die in one of
these homes,” Schiller warns.
23
Extreme winds require more lateral bracing than foam
sheathings without drywall installed on the inside.
PAU
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
24
TYVEK WRAPPED
MINIMUM 4" UP
INSIDE FACE
OF STUD WALL
BRICK VENEER
1" AIRSPACE
1-3/16" BP R-5-XP
INSUL-SHEATHING PANEL
2"x6" WOOD STUDS @ 16" O.C.
R-22 BATT INSULATION
6 MIL. POLYETHYLENE AB/VB
1/2" GYPSUM BOARD
TYVEK BUILDING WRAP
1" R-4 ROCKWOOL
COMFORTBOARD
80 DRAINAGE PLANE
1/2" AIRSPACE
CAPILLARY BREAK
APPLIED FLASHING/
VENEER WEEP HOLES
BATT INSULATION
WITH 6 MIL.
POLYETHYLENE AB/VB
8" POURED CONCRETE
FOUNDATION WALL
6CI ROCKWOOL
COMFORTBOARD 80
+ R14 BATT INSULATION
POLYETHYLENE AB/VB
SILL GASKET
6 MIL.
POLYETHYLENE AB/VB
Thanks to Schiller Engineering,
Clearsphere, BP Canada and
Rockwool International for a
collaboration on this detail.
8" FOUNDATION WALL SECTION AT FIRST FLOOR WITH BRICK VENEER 3 = 1'0
moisture in the walls).
Similarly, the government is
considering changes to the Building
Code that would alter the structural
requirements for lateral loading from
wind. Such a change, Schiller explains,
would shift Ontario from the low to
moderate wind loading category,
thereby creating a requirement for
builders to complete lateral designs
and add extra reinforcements on
low-rise residential projects. “Builders
would be forced to install braced wall
bands as required throughout the
structures, which would create issues
Even in instances when the home
remains standing, if there isn’t proper
exterior structural sheathing during
construction, a windstorm can twist
and pull on the nails, potentially
weak­
ening the connections and
thereby compromising the home’s
structural integrity. A home built to
last 50 years may only be 35 years
old before interior damage – like
windows cracking or drywall shifting
and popping – occurs. That’s going to
have an effect on the sustainability
of the house because “if you can
add 20 or 30 or 40 years to a house,
its carbon footprint is going to be
reduced based on the amount of effort
that went into tearing it down and
building a new one.”
Schiller’s advice? Add some
struc­
tural sheathing – be it oriented
strand board (OSB), plywood, wood
fibreboard, exterior dense glass or
exterior weather-proof gypsum.
Perhaps the best option, he suggests,
is the wood fibre/rigid insulation
combination product, which allows
the home to breathe so it has better
drying potential than OSB (which
doesn’t dry well and can trap
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
with use of wood fibreboard, exterior
rate gypsum panels, etc.,” he says.
Ontario is currently a low seismic
zone and a relatively low wind load
area compared to other places in the
country, so if the province is shifted
into the moderate zone, Schiller says it
will have “design implications, where
a lot of the subset that is currently
viewed in the Code by builders would
no longer be acceptable.”
Schiller says this proposal has
sparked pushback – specifically from
suppliers of materials that would no
longer be deemed acceptable under
the change – so it may or may not be
approved. In fact, he says an online
search shows no current information
about the proposal.
However, regardless of whether
the Code changes or not, the sug­
gested techniques should probably
be adopted by builders as part of a
best practices approach.
Pandemic silver lining
Schiller and his firm offer several
recommendations to make low-cost
structural sustainability improve­
25
Advanced framing
A key component of structural sustainability, advanced framing consists
of stripping out all non-essential lumber in home construction. Basically, it
involves changing the wood stud and joist spacing from 12 or 16 inches to
24 inches apart, with the joists stacked directly in line with the studs.
Doing so allows double top plates to be reduced to a single plate and
three-stud corners to be trimmed to two. Even with the reduction of wood,
this technique can still provide adequate backup with special clips or
blocking to support the drywall.
By reducing the wood in the walls, there’s more space for insulation,
thereby increasing the wall’s overall R-value [see chart above].
Schiller explains that advanced framing is ideal for larger, wider homes
that have ample wall sections, but is not recommended for smaller, infill or
townhouses that are generally narrow and three to four storeys tall. “It’s an
interesting concept and I think there’s certain home types that it works really
efficiently in, while it’s not so efficient in other types of projects,” he says.
EFFECTIVE R-VALUE OF SB-12 WALLS
WALL CONSTRUCTION FRAMING CENTRES EFFECTIVE R-VALUE
2x6 STUD R22 BATT 16 O.C. 17.03
2x6 STUD R19 + R5 BATT 16 O.C. 20.32
2x4 STUD R14 + R7.5 BATT 16 O.C. 18.62
2x6 STUD R22 + R5 BATT 16 O.C. 21.4
2x6 STUD R24 BATT 24 O.C. 19.24
Going to 24 centres improves the effective R-value of the
wall by 13% (framing factor goes from 23% to 19%).
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Take the guesswork out
of sealing the envelope
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
that calls for an inch of rigid exterior
insulation, which has increased the
foundation wall from its traditional
eight inches to 10 inches based on the
typical details builders employ.
This has created problems with
carbon footprint, given that concrete
is the largest carbon producer of any
building material, and with carbon
tax increases on the way, “they’re
going to get taxed basically to death,
and the builder’s going to pay the
price,” he says.
To combat this, Schiller’s firm has
come up with a solution allowing
builders to go back to an eight-inch
wall and still enjoy all the positives
of having more efficient walls above.
They’ve simply bumped up that one-
inch air gap, which normally ends at
the concrete wall, so it’s now flush to
the top of the floor, pulling in the walls
¾ of an inch to recapture that space.
[See diagram on page 24.] “So it’s just a
very slight change in the details, which
literally costs nothing to the builder –
but they save two inches of concrete
and keep header areas warm and this
reduces condensation in those areas.”
Given how important a topic carbon
emissions will be for builders going
forward, this is a vital component of a
carbon reduction strategy. “I think the
single most important way a builder
can lower their carbon emissions is to
lower the material amount used for the
largest producer of carbon emissions,
which is concrete,” Schiller advises.
26
LowCostCodeCompliancewiththeBetterThanCodePlatform
This rating is available for homes
built by leading edge builders
who have chosen to advance
beyond current energy
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This Platform helps Builders with Municipal Approvals, Subdivision
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ments, but the key is “getting builders
away from construction methods that
they’ve been used to for decades.”
For instance, OSB has been typic­
ally employed as exterior sheathing in
residential construction, but one silver
lining of the pandemic is that material
shortages have forced builders to seek
alternatives. Fibreboard is an excellent
option in low wind and seismic
areas and offers many advantages,
including adding R-value to increase
energy efficiency, lower cost, easier
installation because it’s so light, and
good drying potential so no moisture
is trapped inside the walls because of
its higher vapour permeance.
Another of Schiller’s recommend­
ations relates to the Code change
EcoVent™
—The fan
that meets designed
airflow requirements.
For true performance under the hood,
install Panasonic EcoVent™
with Veri-Boost.
™
Ideal for new residential construction,
EcoVent is the perfect solution for home
builders looking to meet designed airflow
requirements the first time and avoid the
hassle of replacing underperforming fans.
EcoVent is a cost effective ENERGY STAR®
rated
solution that delivers strong performance. If you need
to bump up the CFM output to achieve airflow design,
simply flip the Veri-Boost switch and increase the
flow from 70 to 90 CFM and you’re good to go!
Learn more at Panasonic.com
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
28
Raise the roof
Schiller also recommends an
inexpensive alternative for anchoring
the roof system to the walls. Going
to a raised heel truss, where the
profile is higher at the edge of the
building, addresses the concern that
there’s a very small pocket to provide
insulation where the roof meets the
exterior walls. That was a real issue
given that it’s at the edge and was
a very high heat loss point because
heat rises. Raising the roof profile not
only allows for more insulation in
that location, but with the sheathing
now overlapping into the actual
raised truss, it will act as a strap,
thereby strengthening the connection
between the roof and walls and
adding structural stability to the
building [diagram at right].
The bottom line
In the end, let’s ignore for the
moment the sustainability and
structural integrity advantages that
value engineering offers and simply
focus on the bottom line. Given the
relatively low cost of wood, what may
not seem like a big deal can have a
huge impact when you look at the big
picture, Schiller warns.
“When you add up these low costs
multiple times per house in a new
housing development – a few hundred
or thousand dollars of extra building
material multiplied by hundreds of
homes – it adds up to a very substantial
amount of money and profits lost to the
builder, which then in turn can drive
the costs of homes up for the end user,”
he explains. BB
Rob Blackstien is a
Toronto-based freelance
writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca
Online Zoom Webinar
April 22, 2021at 10:30am
Led by Structural Engineer
Travis Schiller
Participants must register to receive log on details – visit sustainablehousingfoundation.org
ENERGY-HEEL
TRUSS
FIBREGLASS
R60 22
BP R5 XP
ENERGY-HEEL TRUSS
(VENTILATION BAFFLES
NOT SHOWN FOR CLARITY)
NAIL SHEATHING
TO TOP PLATE
AND TRUSS HEELS
INSULATION
CELLULOSE
R60 16
ANCHORING RAISED HEEL TRUSSES
Proper lapping and nailing of
exterior sheathing can provide
ample anchoring for roof systems
in lieu of hurricane straps.
Check out our website at www.gsw-wh.com
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
30
fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY
The Finish-Ready Basement
In an attempt to reduce costs,
the majority of production builders
achieve Ontario Building Code (OBC)
compliance for full-height basement
insulation by using a double layer
of bag wrap insulation, otherwise
known as the “diaper.” Why do
leading builders refer to it as “the
diaper” and avoid its use? Because bag
wrap insulation traps moisture and
that makes it get wet. Then it collects
things like mould and, eventually,
that smell you get in the basement
is much the same as changing the
grandbaby’s dirty diaper. And it’s
about as healthy for the occupant to
be continually breathing that in.
It may be the cheapest way to
meet Code, but it lacks value, both
from an actual insulative value (wet
insulation doesn’t have much in the
way of R-value) and in occupant
value (you can’t finish it as is). If so
many builders are using this method,
why bother changing it? Besides the
glaring concern for occupant safety,
it’s simply a waste of materials in
the long run. A customer wanting to
finish their basement will need to
build a stud wall in front of it, run the
electrical needed for Code and then
finish with drywall, all while leaving
that poorly performing health hazard
in place. More often than not, they
get rid of “the diaper” and start over
– meaning the product lasts a very
short time before it is transported to
its final destination, the landfill.
So how do we create a basement
that is healthier, more comfortable and
ready for the home owner to finish? By
taking a more holistic, future-proofed
approach to our basement details.
Personally, I am a big proponent of
installing closed cell underslab spray
foam insulation with rigid foam
insulation against the wall. Correctly
installed, this will be your air, vapour
and soil gas barrier, meaning it will
greatly reduce the chances of radon
entering into the home.
Now that foam plastics have
changed from a hydrofluorocarbon
(HFC) blowing agent to a hydro­
fluoroolefin (HFO) blowing agent, their
carbon footprint has been significantly
reduced. It is still an issue when
looking at embedded carbon, but it is
much improved, and the other benefits
make it a strong choice to consider.
And the floor is warmer and drier,
making the space far more comfortable
for the occupant. While not a Code
requirement, we’ve found it is very cost
effective to spray the header at the
same time as we spray the basement
floor. This will reduce your home’s
overall air leakage by about 1.0 ACH, a
significant improvement.
For the walls, consider 1.5 to 2 inches
of rigid insulation against the concrete
wall, with your header wrap taped to
the top of the insulation. In southern
Ontario, the 1.5 inch rigid acts as the
vapour barrier and the taped joints will
meet the air barrier requirements.
Next up is to build a stud wall in
front of the rigid insulation. While I
am personally a fan of wood stud walls
for their carbon reduction, current
market conditions would indicate that
it may be necessary to use steel studs.
In an unfinished basement setting, the
protection of foam plastics required by
the Code would be met by installing an
R-22 mineral wool batt. Roughing in
the electrical prior to installing the batt
insulation saves an additional step for
the home owner, but is not necessary
if the interior partition walls are not
installed before closing. Note that
since the rigid insulation is now acting
as both the air and vapour barrier, the
use of poly on the basement walls is no
longer a requirement. The only reason
to apply poly in this situation is to limit
the potential for the batt insulation
to particulate into the air, where the
occupant might breathe it in. To limit
this possibility, the poly only needs
[Bag wrap insulation]
may be the cheapest
way to meet Code,
but it lacks value,
both from an actual
insulative value (wet
insulation doesn’t
have much in the
way of R-value)
and in occupant
value (you can’t
finish it as is).
G
iven the rapid rise in home prices throughout Ontario over the last year,
it is even more imperative that we consider housing affordability. While
there will be those who feel the best approach is to “dumb down” their
specs in order to hit a specific price point, there is an alternative that could be
considered – the creation of a “finish-ready basement.”
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
to be stapled in place – no taping, no
excessive sealing details. That work is
now all done behind the stud wall.
We also provide home owners
with a basement layout showing the
mechanical room, bathroom, family
room and at least one bedroom.
That makes it much easier for the
customer to finish the basement. We
also use this basement design to do
our HVAC heating and cooling loads
on a room-by-room basis, which we
then use to install the supply lines
into the rooms as if they are finished,
with a centralized basement return.
It’s fairly cost effective and eliminates
the challenge of an HVAC contractor
showing up on site and telling your
client the system is undersized. That
happens far more frequently than it
should, as many HVAC contractors
are not familiar with the smaller load
requirements of even a Code-built
home meeting the current OBC.
While the cost of these additional
materials will vary based on location
and product used, it would not be
31
MOISTURE
STAYS
OUTSIDE
GRADE
EXISTING
FOUNDATION
R4-R6 1 RIGID
INSULATION, VAPOUR
IMPERMEABLE
R22 5.5 MINERAL
WOOL WITH 2x6
16 O.C. WOOD
STUDS
VAPOUR BARRIER
TAPED AND SEALED
DRYING
POTENTIAL
TO THE
EXTERIOR
2x4 STAND-OFF
WALLS COULD
SAVE MATERIAL STAGE 1 — R5-SilveRboard used as a continuous insulation and
moisture barrier layer against basement wall.
STAGE 2 — 2 x 4 studs comprise a standoff wall (2 inches) to create a
cavity for R22 batts.
AMVIC
BUILDING
SYSTEM
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
32
unreasonable to consider the added cost above the bag
wrap insulation to be in the $7,000 to $8,000 range. I’m
sure you will be asking yourself, “But how can we afford
to add another $7,000 to $8,000 to the house price?”
Here’s a thought: reduce the square footage of the floor
space above grade to offset this added cost. At roughly
$200 per square foot, you’d need to reduce the home
size by about 40 square feet. So a 1,100 square foot home
would reduce to 1,060 square feet – and let’s be honest,
not many builders are building a 1,100 square foot home
nowadays.
Redirecting where some of the home construction
cost is allocated opens up the possibility of another 900
square feet of finished basement (allowing for a generous
mechanical room) that can be finished by the home
owner when their budget permits. More importantly,
the cost to do so is only about 20% ($40 per square foot)
of the cost of the home itself, and that’s where the true
value lies.
One last point to consider. It’s well worth adding one
egress window to the basement at time of construction
in order to provide a true “finish-ready basement.” I
recently completed a basement renovation of an older
1979 bungalow that had half-height basement insulation
and smaller basement windows. It was a real chore to
cut in an egress window. Instead of $1,000 extra, it ran
closer to $3,000, and the rear yard got torn up to complete
the installation of the window and window well. From
first-hand experience, it is way better to simply include
one egress window in a new build. But it does show that
the same concept (minus the sub-slab insulation) can be
completed in the renovation of an older home.
As builders, we have the opportunity to improve
customer affordability by providing a “finish-ready
basement.” It also provides the opportunity for a
significant high-profit upsell for builders that will help
meet their customers’ needs and budget. And that is
a win-win-win all the way around: the customer, the
builder and the environment. BB
Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at
Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario.
AMVIC AMDECK
MODULAR ONE-WAY
CONCRETE SLAB
ICFVL FLOOR LEDGER
CONNECTOR SYSTEM
ELECTRICAL
OUTLET
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
Trailblazer
Matt Risinger
Builder and building
science expert
COMFORTBOARD™
has received ICC-ES validated product acceptance as continuous
insulation for multiple applications. For more information visit rockwool.com/comfortboard
Continuous stone wool insulation that improves thermal performance
Trailblazing requires confidence, expertise and a desire
to do things right. Matt Risinger uses non-combustible,
vapor-permeable and water-repellent COMFORTBOARD™
to help wall assemblies dry to the outside, keeping clients
comfortable inside. It cuts down on heat loss and
improves energy efficiency so that what you build
today positively impacts your business tomorrow.
3773
* HST is not applicable and will not be added to incentive payments. Terms and conditions apply. To be eligible for the Savings by Design
Residential program, projects must be located in the former Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. service area. Visit savingsbydesign.ca for
details. © 2021 Enbridge Gas Inc. All rights reserved.
Savings by Design | Residential
Designforenergyefficiency
and sustainability
—
Savings by Design gives builders free access to industry experts, energy modelling
and financial incentives to help build the high-performance and sustainable homes
that buyers want.
Get free expert help and up to $
100,000* in incentives
Why participate?
Improve energy
performance.
Avoid costly changes
during construction.
Enhance comfort,
health and wellness.
Future-proof for
a changing climate.
Reduce
environmental impact.
Meet buyers’
changing needs.
Visitsavingsbydesign.ca
togetthemostoutofyournextproject.

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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 37 / Spring 2021

  • 1. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Alternative Building Systems INSIDE Innovations in Panelized Framing and Cladding Insulated Concrete Forms Building a Legacy Structural Sustainability The Finish-Ready Basement
  • 2. 209 Citation Dr. Unit 3 & 4 Concord, ON L4K 2Y8 905-669-7373 · glowbrand.ca Models C95 & C140 Condensing Combination Boiler Glow Brand C95 and C140 instantaneous combination ASME boilers for heating and on-demand hot water supply. The ultra-efficient compact design combination boiler has an AFUE rating of 95%. These units are fully modulating at 10 to 1 and 2 inch PVC venting up to 100 feet. Canadian Made
  • 3. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 16 1 FEATURE STORY 16 An “Inside the Box” Approach to Affordable Housing Global trade has provided a surplus of shipping containers that can be re-purposed as living space. by Marc Huminilowycz 6 ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 On our cover: Rendering of 251 Watkins Street by John Van Tran of Architectural Visualization. Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. 13 22 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 Rethinking Brick Houses (or the Three Little Pigs, Version 2.0) by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 If the Mountain Will Not Come to Mohammed, Mohammed Will Go to the Mountain by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 6 Is It Time for Another Look at Insulated Concrete Forms? by Gord Cooke INDUSTRY NEWS 10 The Winds of Change Have Begun to Blow by Paul De Berardis SITE SPECIFIC 13 Building a Legacy by Alex Newman INNOVATION NEWS 22 Less Is More with Structural Sustainability A structural engineering firm is teaching builders how to avoid over-engineering, employ more efficient products and develop techniques to improve the structural integrity of their houses. by Rob Blackstien FROM THE GROUND UP 30 The Finish-Ready Basement by Doug Tarry
  • 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Rethinking Brick Houses (or the Three Little Pigs, Version 2.0) 2 PUBLISHER Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 416-481-4218 | fax 416-481-4695 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 PROOFREADING Carmen Siu CREATIVE Wallflower Design www.wallflowerdesign.com This magazine brings together premium product manufacturers and leading builders to create better, differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 Copyright by Better Builder Magazine. Contents may not be reprinted or reproduced without written permission. The opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the authors and assumed to be original work. Better Builder Magazine cannot be held liable for any damage as a result of publishing such works. TRADEMARK DISCLAIMER All company and/or product names may be trade names, trademarks and/or registered trademarks of the respective owners with which they are associated. UNDELIVERABLE MAIL Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 Better Builder Magazine is published four times a year. T he story “The Three Little Pigs” takes on new meaning in today’s building landscape. The wolf in our new story is any threat that could diminish the resiliency of our homes, including wind and water. The first two little pigs built with stick and straw, which, under current extreme wind conditions, is like using a one-inch foam-only sheathing, without any bracing system. The third little pig built their structure differently, with the best technology of the time. We can all agree that the brick house was the most durable and resilient. But today, we know that brick, steel and concrete have large carbon footprints, so brick may not be the best choice for the exterior finish. And in any new home, one of the largest sources of embodied carbon is concrete. With the current material shortages and the impending carbon tax (both resulting in increased material costs), we may need to rethink and build our structures differently. This issue is about rewriting the “Three Little Pigs” story with today’s choices and challenges. Our feature story (page 16) gives us an “inside the box” look at NOW Housing’s approach to repurposing shipping containers to create affordable, durable housing across Ontario. Like many consumer goods, this concept has been shipped around the world. Lou Bada brings us a mountain of an idea by introducing an exterior insulated stucco facing system (EIFS) that could eliminate the use of brick veneers (page 3). And in “Less Is More with Structural Sustainability,” Travis Schiller, a structural engineer, shows us how to detail structural insulated sheathing with a brick veneer to stay on an eight-inch poured foundation to reduce embodied carbon (page 22). The winds of change have begun to blow with proposed National Building Code changes for Ontario. Paul DeBerardis discusses ramifications for Code harmonization for wood-framed structures with increased wind load considerations (page 10). In our pursuit to reduce carbon and concrete, we need to examine the appropriate use of materials. Gord Cooke explains how the insulated concrete form (ICF) building system can make sense when we consider life cycle costing and extreme winds (page 6). Lastly, Doug Tarry shares a very timely and deep subject on page 30. Common construction practice is to use an inexpensive insulating blanket system to meet Code, but it often causes callbacks for condensation. Doug discusses cost-effective strategies for finish-ready basements that can be easily completed after closing by home owners. Looking forward, with challenges for housing on all fronts, let’s channel the wisdom of the third pig to find the best innovations for durable low-carbon homes. Common sense is our best resource in a climate where the winds of change will always blow. We need to adapt to find a happy ending. BB publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN
  • 5. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 members on an 8-inch foundation wall. The outboard continuous insulation values for 2-, 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-inch thicknesses range from R-7.4, R-11.4, R-15.4, R-19.4 and R-23.4, respectively, for the PUCCS NC system. An outboard air/water barrier makes achieving greater airtightness for our buildings much easier. These qualities I f things aren’t going your way, then you’ll have to change the way they are. If you can’t go over an obstacle, you’ll have to go around it or through it. Innovation begins where the search for greater efficiency ends. Panelized framing has gained ground in the new-home building industry. Finding efficiencies in this innovative field are always ongoing. So, what’s next for panelization? And what products are new and innovative for home builders? Can we marry them and have a sustainable honeymoon? I have an idea. I’ve been familiar­ izing myself with a new cladding system from DuROCK Alfacing International Limited: PUCCS NC Rainscreen Exterior Insulated Finish System (EIFS) (check out www. youtube.com/watch?v=kHlkwOt91Y4). Based in Woodbridge, Ontario, DuROCK has developed a National Resource Council-tested, Canadian Construction Materials Centre- evaluated, non-combustible, continuous insulation system that incorporates an air/water resistive barrier and mineral wool insulation. It’s a rainscreen system that has a defined drainage cavity on the backside and an integral alkali- resistant fibreglass mesh on the frontside. It has a reinforced base coat and a primer, and it comes in a multitude of finishes. (Detail at right.) Now for the best part! A builder can achieve an R-27 wall using 2x4 wall framing members or up to an R-37 wall with 2x6 wall framing also contribute to better construction detailing and to building more resilient homes. It’s an excellent choice for a high-performance building envelope. PUCCS NC is also excellent for energy retrofit applications for exterior walls in high-rise or low-rise buildings. Bonus: as a non-combustible cladding, it can be used for reduced side and rear 3 thebadatest / LOU BADA If the Mountain Will Not Come to Mohammed, Mohammed Will Go to the Mountain BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 2" x 4" WOOD STUDS FRAMING @ 12" OR 16" O.C. WITH R-14 INSULATION GYPSUM SHEATHING (BY OTHERS) DuROCK AIR/MOISTURE BARRIER DuROCK MOISTURE BARRIER/ADHESIVE 2" DuROCK PUCC-ROCK INSULATION BOARD WITH INTEGRAL REINFORCING MESH DuROCK REINFORCING MESH EMBEDDED IN DuROCK BASE COAT DuROCK BASE PRIMER DuROCK BRICK FINISH COAT DuROCK MECHANICAL FASTENER FIBRE MESH TAPE AT SHEATHING AND CONCRETE INTERFACE WRAP INSULATION EDGE WITH REINFORCING MESH, TERMINATE BASE COAT AT DRAINAGE TRACK DuROCK UNI-TRACK DRAINAGE WITH LIP CONCRETE FOUNDATION (MINIMUM 6" THICK) T.O. GRADE MIN. 200MM (8") DuROCK SYSTEM: PUCCS-NC WITH BRICK FINISH CO U RT ESY D U RO C K A LFAC I N G I N T E R N AT I O N A L LI M I T E D A RC H I T E C T U R A L F I N I S H I N G SYS T E M S
  • 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
  • 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 5 If you can use 20% less material (8 inches of concrete rather than 10 inches, for instance) and it’s locally produced, you’ve really got something! for the PUCCS NC system in a panel framing plant? I haven’t seen it yet, but panel producers have overcome more difficult challenges and are always looking for ways to add value to their products. One of the most refreshing parts of our business is interacting with the great people I’ve met who are yard applications where the Ontario Building Code requires a non- combustible veneer. The ability to use an 8-inch foun­ da­ tion wall cannot be understated. Aside from the cost implications, an important consideration for choosing a sustainable building material is the amount of embodied energy/carbon in its manufacture and shipping. Concrete, brick and manufactured stone have a great deal of embodied energy, and if you can use 20% less material (8 inches of concrete rather than 10 inches, for instance) and it’s locally produced, you’ve really got something! Now, how about this: Can we do some of this installation work the innovators in our industry. They are open-minded, creative and committed, and they meet challenges head-on by looking for alternatives. They go through mountains. Our panel supplier (H+ME Technology) and DuROCK are excellent examples of this. I am going to try for an arranged marriage between them and hope that they live happily ever after. BB Lou Bada is vice- president of low-rise construction at Starlane Home Corporation and on the board of directors for the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). Don’t just breathe, BREATHE BETTER. As the industry leader in Indoor Air Quality systems, Lifebreath offers effective, energy efficient and Ontario Building Code compliant solutions for residential and commercial applications. To learn more about our lineup of products contact us today. lifebreath.com Visit Lifebreath.com tolearnmore! orcallusat 1-855-247-4200
  • 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 6 industryexpert / GORD COOKE At every session, however, some­ one will inevitably ask “what about insulated concrete forms (ICF)?” My answer is always “yes, of course, ICF construction is an excellent way to achieve the goals of high-performance construction.” Typically, the person who has asked the question will go on to explain that they have been using ICF for years and are surprised that more builders don’t choose to use them. That same questioner will often ask if I would use ICF for my own home. Up until last year, I would explain that while I felt ICF was an excellent technology, the two homes that had been built for us over the last 30 years were wood-frame construction. However, when my brothers and I finally decided to go in together on a new family cottage, I felt like there were at least three things about the project that were perfectly suited for a whole-home ICF build. To start, there can be little debate about the characteristics of an ICF home with respect to the five high-performance attributes that we always repeat: simultaneously (1) safer, (2) healthier, (3) more comfortable, (4) more durable and (5) more energy efficient. The durability and strength of a concrete structure, the continuity and thickness of the insulation, and the inherent airtightness of how the forms link together checked off a lot of performance boxes. There was no question that the project would be qualified under the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Net Zero Energy program. In the energy modelling, it was determined an effective R-value for the walls needed to be at least R-27. The typical ICF products are based on two 2.5-inch layers of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) for an effective R-value of approximately R-22. The leading manufacturers of ICF, however, now have options for either extra foam inserts or simply thicker foam to create the form. We chose the Amvic Plus 3.30 block, where each side of the form is 3.25-inch thick EPS. That ensured an effective R-value of R-26 for the foam itself and also got us nicely over the R-27 we needed when interior drywall and exterior cladding were added. The measured airtightness of the building was just over 1.0 ACH50Pa without any additional air sealing work. We knew we were going to apply the AeroBarrier technology to the home, so I wanted to see how the ICF did on its own without any added effort. When we applied AeroBarrier, the airtightness dropped to under 0.1 ACH50Pa. Thus, energy efficiency requirements for even a net zero energy home can be met with this one technology. Now, I mentioned in a previous article the almost comically ferocious windstorms on the shores of Lake Huron throughout the winter. It is on these occasions where the ICF performance really shines. “So quiet,” “so secure” and “so comfortable” are the descriptors expounded by the rotation of five families that have found the cottage to be a great safe haven during the pandemic. The ICF experience has been so markedly different for each of them: one from a grand but creaky century home, one from a downtown condo, one Is It Time for Another Look at Insulated Concrete Forms? D uring education sessions I do on high-performance home construction, there is definitely a focus on wood-frame construction. And that’s warranted, given that wood-frame construction makes up over 90% of low-rise residential construction in North America.
  • 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 and cost comparisons: the apples-to- apples of full-height basement insula­ tion costs and challenges to make it a truly livable space, and more recently, the true cost and challenge of getting insulated sheathing on wood-framed structures to meet ever higher effective R-values now and as we move towards net zero–ready in the next 10 years. For this particular project, think about the cost and the investment calculation. Consider the increasingly rare lakefront property, for an extended from a typical suburban brick-clad 1990s home, and two from those small, quaint post-war bungalows. This was the second reason why I felt this project was ideally suited for the ICF technology. The entire family has noticed and relished the lifestyle difference when a home truly performs without compromises. Certainly, the professional builders reading this article will be wondering about the costs. I have heard countless times the debates family where three generations are already enjoying the home. While many think about incremental costs over a 30-year mortgage, you can easily imagine amortizing this investment over many generations. Indeed, we brothers made many decisions in this project where the key determinant was resiliency. The ICF decision was easily rationalized on this count. It was my experience in this project that the primary reason more builders don’t choose ICF is the requirement for the significant process change in design and building. In the design phase, the slight dimensional changes in wall thickness and heights were noted. In early site work, there are the logistics of dealing with large skids of foam. Then, you have to find the right trade to erect the forms and gain acceptance from plumbers, electricians, drywallers and finishing contractors – both interior and exterior – to adjust to the ICF forms. Fortunately, there are strategies to quickly offset these process changes. My good friend Robert Rawlings, who has been building with and training others to use ICF for 20 years, provides the following advice: Choose an ICF supplier that provides on-site training and support or enlist the services of someone who has used ICF. Indeed, I was pleased that our builder hired Robert for our project. Give the designer or architect a few extra weeks on your first project so that they can consult with the ICF supplier to consider and adjust for those small dimensional changes. Invest in proper bracing, which is extremely important. Spend extra time ensuring 7 AMVIC R30 ICF BLOCK INCREASED WALL ASSEMBLY AIR TIGHTNESS THERMAL MASS CONTINUOUS INSULATION R30 WALL ASSEMBLY APPARENT SOUND TRANSMISSION CLASS (ASTC) RATING 47+ ICF forms provide structural stability for open concept houses with large window areas in localities with extreme wind conditions.
  • 10. Save more. Worry less. Professionals who install Uponor PEX plumbing, radiant floor heating, and fire sprinkler systems report faster installation times, fewer callbacks and greater peace of mind. Exceptional products, tools and support. Uponor. Tested in the lab. Proven in the field. Connect with Uponor. Connect with confidence. PEX PLUMBING FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS RADIANT HEATING & COOLING PRE-INSULATED PIPE Find your solution at www.uponor.ca
  • 11. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 the bracing and reinforcement is complete around windows, doors and corners in particular. Double- and triple-check all reinforcement and bracing before you pour, even going beyond the manufacturer’s bracing requirements. Robert also noted that the concrete pump truck operator needs to be experienced with pumping into ICF to ensure they have the proper reducing attachments and the right size (1¼-inch head) concrete vibrator ready to go. The concrete mix should be optimized for ICF (typically a slump of five to seven inches is best for pouring). All of these hints are to acknowledge that there are process changes needed to make your first ICF project successful; learn from the mistakes of others and use their experience. Clearly, our project had compelling elements that led us to consider ICF. The energy efficiency, quality of life and resiliency that were important to us would also be common to many projects you are working on. In fact, they will undoubtedly rise in importance over the next few years as energy efficiency requirements, climate change considerations and the rising cost of land compel home buyers and planners to have a longer-term vision for homes. A close friend of mine just described a home investment he made with his daughter where careful thought was given to the location, design and ownership so as to be suitable not only for this generation, but for his grandchildren as well. In my opinion, ICF construction will be a helpful technology in responding to the ever- increasing expectations of codes and consumers. Builders should be looking for opportunities to try it and work through the process changes to have success with it now and in the future. BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. 9 Meet the new AI Series! The most advanced Fresh Air System available. Your work just got a lot easier! Contact your Air Solutions Representative for more information: suppport@airsolutions.ca | 800.267.6830 We Know Air Inside Out. You won’t believe how easy the AI Series is to install. Quicker set-up – save up to 20 mins on installs Consistent results – auto-balancing and consistency in installs for optimal performance 20-40-60 Deluxe – wireless Wi-Fi enabled auxiliary control with automatic RH dectection Advanced Touchscreen – using Virtuo Air TechnologyMD Compact – smallest HRV and ERV units delivering the most CFM
  • 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 10 industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS Some of you may be asking why you should be concerned with proposed changes to the NBC here in Ontario, where construction standards are governed by the Ontario Building Code (OBC). Well, the short answer is that the federal and provincial governments have committed to harmonizing construction standards across Canada, so changes to the NBC will now be a lot more relevant and influential in Ontario. Many of the significant changes relating to energy efficiency have already been covered in past articles – but equally as notable, changes are proposed in relation to wind and seismic loads affecting structural lateral resistance in homes traditionally designed under Part 9. Changes have been made to seismi­ city values assigned for locations across Canada. The impact in some regions will require more stringent prescriptive solutions under Part 9 due to the higher spectral hazard values. Additionally, there will be more regions that will now fall outside the limits of the prescriptive solutions in Part 9 and require Part 4 structural design. The threshold for the 1-in-50-years hourly wind pressure (HWP), above which wind needs to be considered in Part 9 of the current NBC 2015, is 0.8 kPa. The analysis used to establish new prescriptive provisions for the higher seismic hazards proposed for NBC 2020 suggested that the existing minimum trigger of 0.8 kPa was too high, and that braced wall bands would be justified for lower triggers of HWP than are currently set in Part 9. It was indicated in the documentation associated with the proposed change that the 0.8 kPa trigger reflected wind speeds similar to those associated with EF2-level tornadoes. However, based on my own estimates, a 0.8 kPa HWP correlates with wind speeds of approximately 130 km/h or 80 mph, which is actually categorized as an EF0 tornado – so it seems like there was a bit of embellishment incorporated to support the proposal. The justification for the proposed change cites market trends in new home construction, such as shifting to open concept layouts (having fewer interior partition walls), larger windows and narrower lots/houses. Therefore, the once-expected built-in redundancy characteristic of light- frame wood construction is becoming less. As such, lateral loads resulting from earthquake and wind could negatively affect houses in low seismic zones, which currently are not required to be specifically braced to resist these loads. To exacerbate matters, other proposed changes relating to escalating The Winds of Change Have Begun to Blow M any of you regular Better Builder readers are likely aware by now of the ongoing review of proposed changes for the next edition of the National Building Code (NBC) of Canada, as discussed in past articles. Like all things affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting the many national task groups, standing committees and Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) meetings virtually has delayed the process, so the much- anticipated next edition of the NBC (originally intended for 2020) likely won’t be ready until the end of 2021. energy efficiency requirements will push builders to replace structural wood sheathing products with various types of foam-insulated sheathing, reducing lateral restraint. The proposed change attempts to reduce the large gap between Part 9 and Part 4 provisions with respect to wind loads, and it introduces minimum requirements for lateral design to resist wind loads for all regions in Canada. Considering the reported increasing trend of rare wind events, and the decision to require a minimum consideration for lateral resisting elements for all seismic levels, it was deemed appropriate to provide similar minimum requirements for wind loads. An impact analysis was performed to act as some sort of cost–benefit evaluation for this proposed change and, like many other bureaucracy- derived theoretical cost estimates, you can take it with a grain of salt, as you will see below. These cost justifications remind me of those TV shopping channel advertisements where they try to entice shoppers by advertising that purchases can be paid for with six low, easy monthly payments of $49.95, which seemingly make any purchase more palatable. For this proposed change, only a single home archetype was used to inform the impact analysis – a 1,383-square-foot, two-storey detached home with an attached garage, supposedly representing a common suburban home design – considering wind and seismic design parameters for 15 separate locations across Canada. A combination of RSMeans 2019 costing data for braced wall panel assemblies (represented in U.S. dollars, then converted to
  • 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Canadian dollars with an assumed exchange rate) and Altus Group 2018 square footage construction costs was used to determine that the proposed changes would lead to a cost increase in each location analyzed, “but still remains small with a difference in cost of 0.64% in Toronto.” So, if these proposed changes are adopted, all you builders remember to hold your framing contractors and lumber suppliers to a mere 0.64% cost increase, because that’s what the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) said it will cost. All joking aside, the proposed changes with respect to lateral bracing to resist seismic and wind loads will have a notable impact on design and construction considerations. The prescriptive path includes changes to framing practices such as limiting sheathing material options, increased quantity and size of fasteners (nails and anchor bolts), and greater usage of braced wall bands and braced wall panels. These new lateral bracing considerations will further pose additional material specification and construction challenges when considering the usage of insulated sheathing products. The proposed change will also create instances where wind and seismic factors will not permit the usage of prescriptive design considerations, necessitating engineered Part 4-based structural solutions for low-rise, single-family home applications. The proposed prescriptive require­ ments for bracing to resist lateral loads are limited and do not explore other possible solutions outside of braced wall panels and bands. For example, depending on the sheathing used, other options could include wood 1x4 let-in bracing or diagonal metal bracing (flat strapping, T-profile or L-profile strapping), and inset shear panels could be specified. There are also various laminated insul-sheathing products which also possess structural properties for lateral bracing that were not given any consideration. There should be more prescriptive options for such products and methods to resist lateral loads, especially in low-seismic and low-wind zones. While RESCON took part in the review and consultation on proposed changes to the winter 2020 NBC Codes Canada process, submitting feedback in opposition to this parti­ cular proposed change, there appears to exist a certain momentum in this highly bureaucratic process to seemingly push ahead with many of the proposed changes, despite prevalent expert and industry oppo­ sition. This particular proposed change seemed to represent a govern­ ment make-work project to keep the researchers at the NRC occupied. While I agree with the concepts presented by Travis Schiller in the article “Less Is More with Structural Sustainability,” this proposed change will ultimately propagate the trend in over-engineering wood-framed structures, leaving less space for insulation to achieve increasingly stringent energy efficiency require­ ments. With lumber pricing and supply still being adversely affected by the pandemic, the ability to use wood fibre/foam insulation composite sheathing products has been welcomed by builders – so a possible code change that limits the choice of sheathing products would be a challenge for the building industry. While I am not optimistic about the likelihood of this proposed change being reconsidered at the NBC level, I remain hopeful that when it comes time for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in Ontario to consider this proposed change for harmonization, they don’t adopt it as-is and instead allow more design flexibility. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at deberardis@rescon.com. 11 braced wall band braced wall panel 9.23.13.4.(1)(a) braced wall band full storey height 9.23.13.4.(1)(b) braced wall band max. 1.2m wide 9.23.13.4.(1)(d) braced wall band aligned with braced wall bands on storeys above and below Braced wall bands in an example building section SO U RC E : N RC CO D ES C A N A DA P U B LI C R E V I E W 2020
  • 14. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021
  • 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Shannon Bryant and Brian Couperthwaite on their custom infil site in Markham. Her mother, Robin, oversaw the interior design. And that’s the route Bryant took after high school. “The design aspect really influenced me – I loved seeing the changes transpire over a period of weeks or months,” Bryant says. For the past 10 years, the 41-year- old single mother of two, has drawn on both influences – design and construction – while working for a company whose main focus is building and renovating funeral homes across Canada. When her father found a lot to build his dream cottage in 2014 – after looking for about 30 years – she got involved in the project. “He finally found the perfect lot he’d been looking for. When he showed me the drawings, I made some improvements like redesigning the kitchen and master ensuite layout to comply with the engineered architectural drawings. From there, my parents hired me to do the interior design which my mom and I did together. My dad saw what I was capable of doing professionally and kept me in mind for this family business idea he had.” She also learned a lot of the structural side of things from that cottage project. Once the cottage was complete, Couperthwaite retired in 2018. It was something he loved “for about a second,” until he decided he wasn’t ready to retire. He developed a busi­ ness plan for his own home building company, BK Couper Custom Homes. He discussed various options with Bryant, who had finished a certificate in project management from the University of Toronto. With COVID-19 came the opportunity to transition from working for someone else to be in a partnership with her father. “Everything aligned at the same time. It just fell into place,” Bryant recalls. The skills Bryant had spent nearly a decade developing in her previous role were a perfect fit for the family business, where she now oversees construction, working on site with trades. She also oversees interior design drawings and finishes to get the right outcome. “It’s the best of both worlds,” she says. The intention was always to involve other family members too, and while Bryant’s siblings aren’t involved in daily operations, they work peripherally – her older brother Jesse Couperthwaite’s water treatment company is part of the later process, and her sister Krysta’s husband, Andrew Pinguet, has a framing carpentry business. Robin, Bryant’s mother, does all the bookkeeping and accounts. (The last sibling, Adam, is an actor living in Manhattan.) The company develops on a smaller scale: seven homes in Markham, five homes in Richmond Hill and a one-off custom build in Port Perry, 13 Building a Legacy “I grew up either living in a renovation or in a rental while my dad built us our next home,” says Shannon Bryant. “So building and housing is in my blood. It’s all I know.” It’s also what her father, Brian Couperthwaite, knows best. Custom building their family home was the side hustle to his day job with a home builder. “But, you know: with construction, 9 to 5 just doesn’t exist,” she adds. sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN
  • 16. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 14 with several more in the works. This allows them to keep strict control over construction quality as well as the energy-efficient components that the homes are packed with. Every Markham home promises to be 20% better than code and will be evaluated using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). This is a recognized method of evaluating and scoring the energy efficiency of a home and deemed more effective than other rating methods. Every new BK Couper home will be certified 20% better than code via the HERS score. In order to achieve that, each custom home has been packed with extras, such as a high-performance weathertight envelope rated and tested by an independent third party. Features include Building Products of Canada’s R-5 XP structurally insulated sheathing made from 98% recycled content, an exterior air barrier system including flashing windows, air sealing on all HVAC, ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD™ 80 to reduce basement moisture, and high- performance windows with passive cooling to reduce heat gain in the summer. Each has a high-efficiency, right- sized, two-stage furnace for maximum air distribution while using 50% less electricity with an electronically commutated motor (ECM) blower, as well as a drain water heat recovery system. Whole-house ventilation guar­ antees a minimum energy recovery of 75%, while the right-sized 15 seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) air conditioning yields 23% higher cooling efficiency than standard. To reduce water usage, toilets are ultra-low water consumption. In addition, a HERSH2O water conservation label will be provided for each house, showing the impact of water use- reducing features. While this seems a very high level of green, it’s just part of the commitment to quality that Bryant and her father have always considered standard in their business. “My approach to building has been developed since childhood, watching my parents work – first what my mom was willing to do to help my dad, and then working with my dad in construction and seeing how he wasn’t willing to compromise his integrity. He wouldn’t cut corners. My father has my respect for that,” Bryant explains. That kind of quality takes time and effort, though: “Everything he’s done is because he was willing to put in the time and do the work. He’s always taught us you don’t get things handed to you, and that we will appreciate everything so much more when we work hard for them.” When we asked Bryant what the company stands for and what their message to clients is, she summed it up by saying: “We want you to take as much pride living in your home as we have building your home. We want you to smile when you walk into that home, because we’ve been able to take your vision and bring it into reality.” It’s clear that BK Couper Custom Homes, and its clients, have much to take pride in. BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at alexnewmanwriter.com. Contact your Air Solutions Representative for more information: suppport@airsolutions.ca | 800.267.6830 Tankless just got even better. Dual venturi - provides a higher turn down ratio up to 15:1 Easy to use Set-up Wizard 2” PVC up to 75 ft. Optional NaviCirc™ - easy to install with no recirc return loop needed Better never looked so good. High efficiency up to 0.96 UEF Built in Hot Button™ on-demand system Meet the all NEW NPE-2!
  • 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 16 featurestory / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ An“Inside the Box”Approach W hen affordable housing professional Thomas Fischer retired following a distinguished 15-year leadership career with Habitat for Humanity, he had no idea that he would be spending much of his time now preparing a multitude of requests for proposals (RFPs) for a new and innovative housing product. Fischer, who has a long-time passion for providing housing for people in need, served first as the executive director of the Brampton/Caledon branch, then, following an amalgamation, as vice president of the Greater Toronto Area branch of Habitat for Humanity – a non-governmental organization that helps people in communities around the world build or improve places they can call home. He has a track record of successful affordable housing builds in Peel Region. “I retired, but I soon realized that there is a huge need to supply housing to those people who can’t afford it, especially these days,” says Fischer. When he heard about NOW Housing, he was intrigued. NOW Housing is a Cambridge, Ont.- based company that uses steel shipping containers and converts them into clean, comfortable, fully furnished and affordable modular homes. Two years later, as vice president of partnerships, he
  • 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 17 to Affordable Housing is being contacted by non-profit organizations, government departments and private developers. “The process starts with our containers, which are surplus, manufactured overseas and sourced from local suppliers, mostly in Toronto,” says Fischer. “The only containers we buy are called ‘one-trippers,’ meaning they are used once to ship things like furniture and electronics from overseas. The magic happens in our factory, where the containers – all 9’6” tall ‘high boys,’ 8 feet wide by 20 or 40 feet long – are modified to create high- quality, permanent housing in a variety of sizes and models,” Fischer explains. Finished units come in a variety of configura­ tions, depending on the requirements of clients. They include: the space-efficient Studio, which contains a separate bedroom, bathroom with ensuite laundry and a full kitchen with a dinette set; the larger Single bedroom unit, comprised of containers connected side-by-side, which offers a spacious living room; the Duo Suite, with two separate adjoining suites containing a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen; and the Multi-Bedroom, which is multiple containers wide and offers a common living/dining area and shared bathrooms (including laundry), best suited to individual Staggering top and bottom units at the rear forms access and porch at the front of the structure. J O H N VA N T R A N , A RC H I T E C T U R A L V I S UA LIZ AT I O N
  • 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 18 families or several tenants sharing common spaces. All units can be built barrier-free with accessibility features for people with disabilities, including lower countertops, larger bathrooms and wider access doors. Far from being spartan, NOW Housing homes come with a number of modern, comfortable and maintenance-free features to make the spaces feel like home, such as hardwood kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, separate heating/ cooling systems, quality furnishings, large windows (and sliding glass doors in some units) for natural light, wiring for internet and cable connectivity, and scratch-proof/ water-resistant panel system walls and vinyl flooring. “Because our units are made of solid steel, they can stand up to almost anything our Canadian climate can throw at them. Inside, we use non-organic and mould- resistant materials to make cleaning and maintenance easier and provide quick turnover timetables between tenants,” says Fischer. “Our units can be stacked multiple storeys high, creating contemporary multi-unit designs with entrance and balcony overhangs to form affordable housing complexes in single-development areas,” Fischer adds. “Through our quality-controlled production line process, which promotes optimal efficiency, we can produce affordable units faster, in greater quantity and at lower cost than any competitor.” As for the construction of its homes, NOW Housing takes great care in sourcing environmental, economical and durable materials to ensure the highest level of comfort. Inside its Cambridge factory, unit interiors are fitted with steel studs (separated, according to Code, by a “thermal break” from the exterior steel walls) and insulated in between with two- pound closed cell spray foam. Instead of conventional drywall, a more durable and maintenance-free wall panel system is installed. “When you have small spaces where people live closer to walls and windows, energy efficiency has to be better. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) requires efficiency to be significantly improved for modular ‘in situ’ buildings – by at least 25%. All of our units are certified CSA-A277 at the factory,” says Fischer. To ensure the highest possible level of energy efficiency and comfort, NOW Housing consulted with home and heating system designer John Godden to build in the latest energy recovery ventilation (ERV) technology and state-of-the-art air source heat pumps. All windows are high-performance triple-glazed designs. On the outside, areas that require extra sealing, such “Our units can be stacked multiple storeys high, creating contemporary multi- unit designs with entrance and balcony overhangs to form affordable housing complexes in single- development areas.” Two containers form a single unit 16 feet wide and 40 feet long.
  • 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 as seams, are insulated as needed. Finally, exterior cladding (siding or brick) is applied according to the exterior appearance desired by the client. Completely finished and furnished units are installed by crane on site in a matter of hours. Today, in addition to building a steady supply of affordable modular homes, Fischer and the company are keeping busy applying for contracts from municipalities across Ontario who are eager to provide affordable housing to their middle-class, student and vulnerable citizens. Thanks to the federal government’s recent release of the Rapid Housing Initiative (through the CMHC), $1 billion is available to create up to 3,000 new permanent, affordable housing units across Canada: a major cities stream component of $500 million in immediate support for pre-determined municipalities, and a projects stream of $500 million for projects based on applications from provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous governing bodies and organizations, and non-profit organizations. An October 27, 2020 news release regarding the initiative stated: “Everyone should be able to find a place to live, raise their families, and build their future ... since 2015, the Government of Canada has helped more than 1 million people have a safe and affordable place to call home. This work is more important than ever as communities across the country continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19. By investing in affordable housing, we can create jobs and grow our middle class, build strong communities, fuel our economic 19 Above: Individual shipping containers are modified and married together to form spacious and affordable floor plans. Below: High density polyurethane foam is blown with a stand- off wall system to provide thermal comfort and air tightness. recovery, help reduce homelessness and support vulnerable Canadians.” “At NOW Housing, our mission is to work towards a sustainable environment for future generations – by reducing landfill waste and our carbon footprint; practicing reduction, re-use and recycling; and producing unique and environmentally friendly structures,” says Fischer, noting that the company’s market has been focused on smaller-space projects (typically rentals), sized at 480 square feet including living area, bathroom and kitchen.
  • 22. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 20 “Our aim is to positively influence the stability and quality of community living by providing an improved housing solution to change the landscape of communities, allowing everyone to maintain their independence and dignity. Through co-operative endeavours with agencies, organizations, municipal and regional governments, and private and non-profit organizations, our goal is to be the largest builder of affordable housing in Ontario (and eventually Canada) by continuing to deliver cost-conscious solutions,” Fischer explains. As he completes yet another RFP for a municipal affordable housing project, Fischer reflects on the process: “I truly wish that helping people could be easier. I may sometimes complain, but really, my affordable housing journey has been well worth the effort.” BB Marc Huminilowycz is a senior writer. He lives and works in a low energy home built in 2000. As such, he brings first-hand experience to his writing on technology and residential housing and has published numerous articles on the subject. IT’S OUR NATURE craftfloor.com 1 877 828 1888 hello@craftfloor.com CRAFT is dedicated to creating uncommonly beautiful wood floors that are as kind to the planet as they are luxurious. SHOP AND SAMPLE NOW: Global trade has provided a surplus of containers to be re-purposed as living space. S H U T T E RS TO C K 1275 4 0523
  • 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 R A P H N O G E L P H OTO G R A P H Y 22 innovationnews / ROB BLACKSTIEN A ttention: Builders. Read on if you’re interested in making homes that are more struc­ turally sound, are safer during the construction process, are built to last longer, are more efficient, employ better (and sometimes cheaper) materials and have lower embodied carbon – all without being over- engineered. Not intrigued? That’s okay… Surely there’s some dinosaur racing on TV somewhere. Over-engineering of houses has been a challenge with some builders, typically occurring when the units are designed by engineers who excel in structural steel and reinforced concrete but lack the same level of comfort using wood. These designs will invariably include a “fudge factor” – extraneous materials included to overcompensate for a perceived lack of confidence that the home will be structurally sound. However, this practice goes against the very essence of structural sustainability, which is to optimize the home’s structure without significantly increasing costs. Ultimately, it’s a less-is-more approach that uses just the right amount of materials, thereby increasing efficiency (by leaving more room for insulation) while lowering material and labour costs. It’s a paradigm that’s been adopted, A structural engineering firm is teaching builders how to avoid over-engineering, employ more efficient products and develop techniques to improve the structural integrity of their houses. This practice [including extraneous materials to overcompensate for a perceived lack of confidence in structural soundness] goes against the very essence of structural sustainability, which is to optimize the home’s structure without significantly increasing costs. Less Is More with Structural Sustainability Travis Schiller, Schiller Engineering Ltd.
  • 25. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 perfected and evangelized by Travis Schiller, principal of Mississauga, Ont.-based Schiller Engineering Ltd. A 2012 graduate of the University of Ottawa’s civil engineering program (which is where he learned about wood engineering), he got his start working with two larger firms (Aecom and Cole Engineering) before founding his own company four years ago to provide structural engineering services to developers, small builders, renovation contractors, architects and designer firms across Ontario. Value differentiator What differentiates the company is that its team of architectural techno­­ logists and engineers acts as a one- stop shop by offering city coordina­ tion/planning, construction drawings and structural engineering for custom homes and renovations. “Everything that we’re doing helps builders get their permits,” Schiller says. “With our extensive knowledge of architectural design and detailing, we don’t only think of structural impli­ cations when providing engineering services. We also take into account architectural implications which lead to more efficient and problem-free construction execution,” he adds. At its heart, structural sustainability is about finding balance: “You want to put in the least amount, but get the most out of the building,” he says. Over-engineering results in more wood members taking up space in the interior wall cavities, leaving less space for insulation and, ultimately, less efficient walls, which means more energy will be required to heat and cool those homes. Schiller understands the reticence of some engineers when designing with wood, given that there are higher safety factors with the product compared to manufactured building materials like concrete and steel. Wood has cracks and knots, so not every piece will be identical from a strength perspective. Combine that with the fact that wood shrinks and shifts and has pores in it that will have different moisture content throughout the year, and it’s easy to see why some aren’t comfortable with it. The result? “They’ll add in the fudge factor because they’re afraid that if [they] don’t add additional safety factors, it won’t be strong enough,” Schiller explains. As a formula, design x fudge factor = $$$. Code misinterpretation Another area of concern is how the current Building Code can be mis­ interpreted in regards to the use of rigid insulation instead of structural exterior sheathing, leading to numerous homes collapsing during construction [see photo above]. Schiller explains that the way the Code change to structural and energy efficiency standards was written is causing some builders to interpret it to mean that, in low seismic and low wind zones, exterior structural sheathing can be replaced by rigid insulation, as long as the interior side of the studs are finished with a panel-type material such as gypsum board. Where problems arise is that during construction, homes can be fully framed and sit for a long time before the interior drywall is installed. Mean­ while, Schiller explains, the home is not structurally sound, and in many instances homes have collapsed in windstorms based on this Code inter­ pretation. He says the Code needs to be corrected to ensure a safe, structurally sound work site for the complete con­ struction period. “There’s been enough of them that it’s just a ticking time bomb. Someone’s going to die in one of these homes,” Schiller warns. 23 Extreme winds require more lateral bracing than foam sheathings without drywall installed on the inside. PAU L LOW ES
  • 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 24 TYVEK WRAPPED MINIMUM 4" UP INSIDE FACE OF STUD WALL BRICK VENEER 1" AIRSPACE 1-3/16" BP R-5-XP INSUL-SHEATHING PANEL 2"x6" WOOD STUDS @ 16" O.C. R-22 BATT INSULATION 6 MIL. POLYETHYLENE AB/VB 1/2" GYPSUM BOARD TYVEK BUILDING WRAP 1" R-4 ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD 80 DRAINAGE PLANE 1/2" AIRSPACE CAPILLARY BREAK APPLIED FLASHING/ VENEER WEEP HOLES BATT INSULATION WITH 6 MIL. POLYETHYLENE AB/VB 8" POURED CONCRETE FOUNDATION WALL 6CI ROCKWOOL COMFORTBOARD 80 + R14 BATT INSULATION POLYETHYLENE AB/VB SILL GASKET 6 MIL. POLYETHYLENE AB/VB Thanks to Schiller Engineering, Clearsphere, BP Canada and Rockwool International for a collaboration on this detail. 8" FOUNDATION WALL SECTION AT FIRST FLOOR WITH BRICK VENEER 3 = 1'0 moisture in the walls). Similarly, the government is considering changes to the Building Code that would alter the structural requirements for lateral loading from wind. Such a change, Schiller explains, would shift Ontario from the low to moderate wind loading category, thereby creating a requirement for builders to complete lateral designs and add extra reinforcements on low-rise residential projects. “Builders would be forced to install braced wall bands as required throughout the structures, which would create issues Even in instances when the home remains standing, if there isn’t proper exterior structural sheathing during construction, a windstorm can twist and pull on the nails, potentially weak­ ening the connections and thereby compromising the home’s structural integrity. A home built to last 50 years may only be 35 years old before interior damage – like windows cracking or drywall shifting and popping – occurs. That’s going to have an effect on the sustainability of the house because “if you can add 20 or 30 or 40 years to a house, its carbon footprint is going to be reduced based on the amount of effort that went into tearing it down and building a new one.” Schiller’s advice? Add some struc­ tural sheathing – be it oriented strand board (OSB), plywood, wood fibreboard, exterior dense glass or exterior weather-proof gypsum. Perhaps the best option, he suggests, is the wood fibre/rigid insulation combination product, which allows the home to breathe so it has better drying potential than OSB (which doesn’t dry well and can trap
  • 27. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 with use of wood fibreboard, exterior rate gypsum panels, etc.,” he says. Ontario is currently a low seismic zone and a relatively low wind load area compared to other places in the country, so if the province is shifted into the moderate zone, Schiller says it will have “design implications, where a lot of the subset that is currently viewed in the Code by builders would no longer be acceptable.” Schiller says this proposal has sparked pushback – specifically from suppliers of materials that would no longer be deemed acceptable under the change – so it may or may not be approved. In fact, he says an online search shows no current information about the proposal. However, regardless of whether the Code changes or not, the sug­ gested techniques should probably be adopted by builders as part of a best practices approach. Pandemic silver lining Schiller and his firm offer several recommendations to make low-cost structural sustainability improve­ 25 Advanced framing A key component of structural sustainability, advanced framing consists of stripping out all non-essential lumber in home construction. Basically, it involves changing the wood stud and joist spacing from 12 or 16 inches to 24 inches apart, with the joists stacked directly in line with the studs. Doing so allows double top plates to be reduced to a single plate and three-stud corners to be trimmed to two. Even with the reduction of wood, this technique can still provide adequate backup with special clips or blocking to support the drywall. By reducing the wood in the walls, there’s more space for insulation, thereby increasing the wall’s overall R-value [see chart above]. Schiller explains that advanced framing is ideal for larger, wider homes that have ample wall sections, but is not recommended for smaller, infill or townhouses that are generally narrow and three to four storeys tall. “It’s an interesting concept and I think there’s certain home types that it works really efficiently in, while it’s not so efficient in other types of projects,” he says. EFFECTIVE R-VALUE OF SB-12 WALLS WALL CONSTRUCTION FRAMING CENTRES EFFECTIVE R-VALUE 2x6 STUD R22 BATT 16 O.C. 17.03 2x6 STUD R19 + R5 BATT 16 O.C. 20.32 2x4 STUD R14 + R7.5 BATT 16 O.C. 18.62 2x6 STUD R22 + R5 BATT 16 O.C. 21.4 2x6 STUD R24 BATT 24 O.C. 19.24 Going to 24 centres improves the effective R-value of the wall by 13% (framing factor goes from 23% to 19%). 519-489-2541 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.
  • 28. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 that calls for an inch of rigid exterior insulation, which has increased the foundation wall from its traditional eight inches to 10 inches based on the typical details builders employ. This has created problems with carbon footprint, given that concrete is the largest carbon producer of any building material, and with carbon tax increases on the way, “they’re going to get taxed basically to death, and the builder’s going to pay the price,” he says. To combat this, Schiller’s firm has come up with a solution allowing builders to go back to an eight-inch wall and still enjoy all the positives of having more efficient walls above. They’ve simply bumped up that one- inch air gap, which normally ends at the concrete wall, so it’s now flush to the top of the floor, pulling in the walls ¾ of an inch to recapture that space. [See diagram on page 24.] “So it’s just a very slight change in the details, which literally costs nothing to the builder – but they save two inches of concrete and keep header areas warm and this reduces condensation in those areas.” Given how important a topic carbon emissions will be for builders going forward, this is a vital component of a carbon reduction strategy. “I think the single most important way a builder can lower their carbon emissions is to lower the material amount used for the largest producer of carbon emissions, which is concrete,” Schiller advises. 26 LowCostCodeCompliancewiththeBetterThanCodePlatform This rating is available for homes built by leading edge builders who have chosen to advance beyond current energy efficiency programs and have taken the next step on the path to full sustainability. BetterThanCode This Platform helps Builders with Municipal Approvals, Subdivision Agreements and Building Permits. Navigating the performance path can be complicated. A code change happened in 2017 which is causing some confusion. A new code will be coming in 2022. How will you comply with the new requirements? Let the BTC Platform – including the HERS Index – help you secure Municipal Subdivision Approvals and Building Permits and enhance your marketing by selling your homes’ energy efficiency. 45 BetterThanCodeUsestheHERSIndextoMeasureEnergyEfficiency TheLowertheScoretheBetter–MeasureableandMarketable OBC 2012 OBC 2017 NEAR ZERO 80 60 40 20 betterthancode.ca Email info@clearsphere.ca or call 416-481-7517 ments, but the key is “getting builders away from construction methods that they’ve been used to for decades.” For instance, OSB has been typic­ ally employed as exterior sheathing in residential construction, but one silver lining of the pandemic is that material shortages have forced builders to seek alternatives. Fibreboard is an excellent option in low wind and seismic areas and offers many advantages, including adding R-value to increase energy efficiency, lower cost, easier installation because it’s so light, and good drying potential so no moisture is trapped inside the walls because of its higher vapour permeance. Another of Schiller’s recommend­ ations relates to the Code change
  • 29. EcoVent™ —The fan that meets designed airflow requirements. For true performance under the hood, install Panasonic EcoVent™ with Veri-Boost. ™ Ideal for new residential construction, EcoVent is the perfect solution for home builders looking to meet designed airflow requirements the first time and avoid the hassle of replacing underperforming fans. EcoVent is a cost effective ENERGY STAR® rated solution that delivers strong performance. If you need to bump up the CFM output to achieve airflow design, simply flip the Veri-Boost switch and increase the flow from 70 to 90 CFM and you’re good to go! Learn more at Panasonic.com
  • 30. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 28 Raise the roof Schiller also recommends an inexpensive alternative for anchoring the roof system to the walls. Going to a raised heel truss, where the profile is higher at the edge of the building, addresses the concern that there’s a very small pocket to provide insulation where the roof meets the exterior walls. That was a real issue given that it’s at the edge and was a very high heat loss point because heat rises. Raising the roof profile not only allows for more insulation in that location, but with the sheathing now overlapping into the actual raised truss, it will act as a strap, thereby strengthening the connection between the roof and walls and adding structural stability to the building [diagram at right]. The bottom line In the end, let’s ignore for the moment the sustainability and structural integrity advantages that value engineering offers and simply focus on the bottom line. Given the relatively low cost of wood, what may not seem like a big deal can have a huge impact when you look at the big picture, Schiller warns. “When you add up these low costs multiple times per house in a new housing development – a few hundred or thousand dollars of extra building material multiplied by hundreds of homes – it adds up to a very substantial amount of money and profits lost to the builder, which then in turn can drive the costs of homes up for the end user,” he explains. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca Online Zoom Webinar April 22, 2021at 10:30am Led by Structural Engineer Travis Schiller Participants must register to receive log on details – visit sustainablehousingfoundation.org ENERGY-HEEL TRUSS FIBREGLASS R60 22 BP R5 XP ENERGY-HEEL TRUSS (VENTILATION BAFFLES NOT SHOWN FOR CLARITY) NAIL SHEATHING TO TOP PLATE AND TRUSS HEELS INSULATION CELLULOSE R60 16 ANCHORING RAISED HEEL TRUSSES Proper lapping and nailing of exterior sheathing can provide ample anchoring for roof systems in lieu of hurricane straps.
  • 31. Check out our website at www.gsw-wh.com
  • 32. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 30 fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY The Finish-Ready Basement In an attempt to reduce costs, the majority of production builders achieve Ontario Building Code (OBC) compliance for full-height basement insulation by using a double layer of bag wrap insulation, otherwise known as the “diaper.” Why do leading builders refer to it as “the diaper” and avoid its use? Because bag wrap insulation traps moisture and that makes it get wet. Then it collects things like mould and, eventually, that smell you get in the basement is much the same as changing the grandbaby’s dirty diaper. And it’s about as healthy for the occupant to be continually breathing that in. It may be the cheapest way to meet Code, but it lacks value, both from an actual insulative value (wet insulation doesn’t have much in the way of R-value) and in occupant value (you can’t finish it as is). If so many builders are using this method, why bother changing it? Besides the glaring concern for occupant safety, it’s simply a waste of materials in the long run. A customer wanting to finish their basement will need to build a stud wall in front of it, run the electrical needed for Code and then finish with drywall, all while leaving that poorly performing health hazard in place. More often than not, they get rid of “the diaper” and start over – meaning the product lasts a very short time before it is transported to its final destination, the landfill. So how do we create a basement that is healthier, more comfortable and ready for the home owner to finish? By taking a more holistic, future-proofed approach to our basement details. Personally, I am a big proponent of installing closed cell underslab spray foam insulation with rigid foam insulation against the wall. Correctly installed, this will be your air, vapour and soil gas barrier, meaning it will greatly reduce the chances of radon entering into the home. Now that foam plastics have changed from a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) blowing agent to a hydro­ fluoroolefin (HFO) blowing agent, their carbon footprint has been significantly reduced. It is still an issue when looking at embedded carbon, but it is much improved, and the other benefits make it a strong choice to consider. And the floor is warmer and drier, making the space far more comfortable for the occupant. While not a Code requirement, we’ve found it is very cost effective to spray the header at the same time as we spray the basement floor. This will reduce your home’s overall air leakage by about 1.0 ACH, a significant improvement. For the walls, consider 1.5 to 2 inches of rigid insulation against the concrete wall, with your header wrap taped to the top of the insulation. In southern Ontario, the 1.5 inch rigid acts as the vapour barrier and the taped joints will meet the air barrier requirements. Next up is to build a stud wall in front of the rigid insulation. While I am personally a fan of wood stud walls for their carbon reduction, current market conditions would indicate that it may be necessary to use steel studs. In an unfinished basement setting, the protection of foam plastics required by the Code would be met by installing an R-22 mineral wool batt. Roughing in the electrical prior to installing the batt insulation saves an additional step for the home owner, but is not necessary if the interior partition walls are not installed before closing. Note that since the rigid insulation is now acting as both the air and vapour barrier, the use of poly on the basement walls is no longer a requirement. The only reason to apply poly in this situation is to limit the potential for the batt insulation to particulate into the air, where the occupant might breathe it in. To limit this possibility, the poly only needs [Bag wrap insulation] may be the cheapest way to meet Code, but it lacks value, both from an actual insulative value (wet insulation doesn’t have much in the way of R-value) and in occupant value (you can’t finish it as is). G iven the rapid rise in home prices throughout Ontario over the last year, it is even more imperative that we consider housing affordability. While there will be those who feel the best approach is to “dumb down” their specs in order to hit a specific price point, there is an alternative that could be considered – the creation of a “finish-ready basement.”
  • 33. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 to be stapled in place – no taping, no excessive sealing details. That work is now all done behind the stud wall. We also provide home owners with a basement layout showing the mechanical room, bathroom, family room and at least one bedroom. That makes it much easier for the customer to finish the basement. We also use this basement design to do our HVAC heating and cooling loads on a room-by-room basis, which we then use to install the supply lines into the rooms as if they are finished, with a centralized basement return. It’s fairly cost effective and eliminates the challenge of an HVAC contractor showing up on site and telling your client the system is undersized. That happens far more frequently than it should, as many HVAC contractors are not familiar with the smaller load requirements of even a Code-built home meeting the current OBC. While the cost of these additional materials will vary based on location and product used, it would not be 31 MOISTURE STAYS OUTSIDE GRADE EXISTING FOUNDATION R4-R6 1 RIGID INSULATION, VAPOUR IMPERMEABLE R22 5.5 MINERAL WOOL WITH 2x6 16 O.C. WOOD STUDS VAPOUR BARRIER TAPED AND SEALED DRYING POTENTIAL TO THE EXTERIOR 2x4 STAND-OFF WALLS COULD SAVE MATERIAL STAGE 1 — R5-SilveRboard used as a continuous insulation and moisture barrier layer against basement wall. STAGE 2 — 2 x 4 studs comprise a standoff wall (2 inches) to create a cavity for R22 batts. AMVIC BUILDING SYSTEM
  • 34. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 32 unreasonable to consider the added cost above the bag wrap insulation to be in the $7,000 to $8,000 range. I’m sure you will be asking yourself, “But how can we afford to add another $7,000 to $8,000 to the house price?” Here’s a thought: reduce the square footage of the floor space above grade to offset this added cost. At roughly $200 per square foot, you’d need to reduce the home size by about 40 square feet. So a 1,100 square foot home would reduce to 1,060 square feet – and let’s be honest, not many builders are building a 1,100 square foot home nowadays. Redirecting where some of the home construction cost is allocated opens up the possibility of another 900 square feet of finished basement (allowing for a generous mechanical room) that can be finished by the home owner when their budget permits. More importantly, the cost to do so is only about 20% ($40 per square foot) of the cost of the home itself, and that’s where the true value lies. One last point to consider. It’s well worth adding one egress window to the basement at time of construction in order to provide a true “finish-ready basement.” I recently completed a basement renovation of an older 1979 bungalow that had half-height basement insulation and smaller basement windows. It was a real chore to cut in an egress window. Instead of $1,000 extra, it ran closer to $3,000, and the rear yard got torn up to complete the installation of the window and window well. From first-hand experience, it is way better to simply include one egress window in a new build. But it does show that the same concept (minus the sub-slab insulation) can be completed in the renovation of an older home. As builders, we have the opportunity to improve customer affordability by providing a “finish-ready basement.” It also provides the opportunity for a significant high-profit upsell for builders that will help meet their customers’ needs and budget. And that is a win-win-win all the way around: the customer, the builder and the environment. BB Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario. AMVIC AMDECK MODULAR ONE-WAY CONCRETE SLAB ICFVL FLOOR LEDGER CONNECTOR SYSTEM ELECTRICAL OUTLET
  • 35. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 37 | SPRING 2021 Trailblazer Matt Risinger Builder and building science expert COMFORTBOARD™ has received ICC-ES validated product acceptance as continuous insulation for multiple applications. For more information visit rockwool.com/comfortboard Continuous stone wool insulation that improves thermal performance Trailblazing requires confidence, expertise and a desire to do things right. Matt Risinger uses non-combustible, vapor-permeable and water-repellent COMFORTBOARD™ to help wall assemblies dry to the outside, keeping clients comfortable inside. It cuts down on heat loss and improves energy efficiency so that what you build today positively impacts your business tomorrow. 3773
  • 36. * HST is not applicable and will not be added to incentive payments. Terms and conditions apply. To be eligible for the Savings by Design Residential program, projects must be located in the former Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. service area. Visit savingsbydesign.ca for details. © 2021 Enbridge Gas Inc. All rights reserved. Savings by Design | Residential Designforenergyefficiency and sustainability — Savings by Design gives builders free access to industry experts, energy modelling and financial incentives to help build the high-performance and sustainable homes that buyers want. Get free expert help and up to $ 100,000* in incentives Why participate? Improve energy performance. Avoid costly changes during construction. Enhance comfort, health and wellness. Future-proof for a changing climate. Reduce environmental impact. Meet buyers’ changing needs. Visitsavingsbydesign.ca togetthemostoutofyournextproject.