Canadian Contractor

Kaitlin Secord   

Building Knowledge Canada and CHBA tackle hot industry topic at annual Spring Training

Canadian Contractor

The three-day advance building science and practical application event was a tactical and educational experience for attendees.

Building Knowledge Canada held their annual Spring Training from April 16 to 19, 2023 in Stratford, Ont. This year’s camp saw CHBA join in, putting on their Net Zero Summit.

This year’s camp saw a number of speakers touch on topics like understanding and expanding net zero, exergy, air-to-water and air source heat pumps, climate resiliency, understanding carbon emissions and much more.

Day one 

Day one kicked off with a welcome message from Building Knowledge Canada’s Gord Cooke and Andy Oding, CHBA’s Sonja Winkelmann and Tex McLeod of The McLeod Associates. The group explained the purpose behind this year’s joint event was to collaborate to tackle the ultimate building science challenges – resiliency, carbon, energy, affordability, and health.

The first session of the day was on exergy, by Robert Bean, ASHRAE Fellow. Bean explained that “society has an intuitive understanding of energy.” He touched on the difference between energy efficiency and exergy efficiency, acknowledging that conservation is flawed when it comes to exergy.

Next up, John Siegenthaler of Appropriate Designs spoke to attendees about air-to-water heat pumps. Referred to as the “new frontier of heating, cooling and domestic hot water,” these pumps are a lesson in the importance of future-proofing homes and their heat distribution systems. Siegenthaler noted that trends support an emerging market for these pumps, stating that “they don’t have the liability associated with fossil fuels, they’re less expensive and disruptive than geothermal.”

Attendees heard from Brad Carr, CEO of Mattamy Homes Canada next, about the road to high performance homes and the lessons Mattamy has learned along the way. Carr posed the question of “how are we going to achieve sustainability and affordability across different housing mediums?” and linked affordability as it related to equity, not to owners who can carry a mortgage.

Through lunch, Doug Tarry of Doug Tarry Homes took the stage to talk about his book, From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge. Tarry touched on decarbonizing HVAC, off-gassing and VOCs through products installed in homes and grid vulnerability.

Bringing us back to heat pumps, Gary Proskiw of Proskiw Engineering Ltd., Dr. Nima Alibabaei of BKR Energy Company and Maxime Savard from NRCan took part in a panel presentation on testing and in-field performance of air-source heat pumps. Proskiw touched on the results of these pumps as observed using HOT2000. He noted that these pumps are seeing issues of inadequate airflow, excessive cycling, and incorrect cut-off temperatures. Savard told attendees that NRCan has released a toolkit for air source heat pump sizing and selection and several provinces have established heat pump cost calculators.

Trevor Trainor, president of Bawating Building Science’s presentation followed, touching on deep energy retrofitting of old or historic masonry. Trainor noted that new construction accounts for 40 per cent of embodied carbon in carbon emissions, and that revamping and making these older homes more comfortable reduces this carbon footprint. “The greenest building is the one that is already built,” said Trainor. His presentation also spoke on exterior versus interior installation, EIFs and over-cladding retrofitting and touched on updates to come in the 2025 building code for older homes and building upgrades.

Gord Cooke & Nigel Watts of RHEIA wrapped up day one with a conversation on advance air distribution systems for low-load homes. Watts noted the benefits of small ducts equalling steady airflow, more options for vent placement and in turn, improved air placement. The pair demonstrated these findings using a mock-up ventilation system to show the difference in airflow.

Day two

Day two started off with another greeting from Gord Cooke, Winkelmann, and Andy Oding. Winkelmann reminded attendees that “we all have to climb the mountain so let’s do it together and make sure no one gets left behind.” With new contractors and crews comes a new need for accountability and open-mindedness. As the new wave of leaders, they should be met with guidance, consistency and understanding.

Dr. John Straube of RDH Building Science Labs covered the topic of carbon reduction and resiliency as it relates to building science. He noted a new focus on carbon emissions from embodied carbon, or those that are from within materials and their production. He reiterated that renovations have a lower carbon footprint by a minimum of 50 per cent but they need to be brought up to code so this reduction remains. Straube noted that the contractor and builder industries must continue to flex and change, moving toward future proofing not only homes but trade involvement as well.

Straube was joined by Clarice Kramer of NRCan’s LEEP team, where she shared information on their new wall construction training videos and new collaboration program with CHBA to bring LEEP sessions to builders through HBAs.

Straube, Gord Cooke and the Building Knowledge team presented their variety of wall mock-ups, discussing stipulations of high-performance walls and enclosures.

Wrapping up the morning was Frank Lohmann of CHBA, Dr. Marzieh Riahinezhad of the National Research Council Canada, Dan Sandink of ICLR and Chirs Chopik. This group of speakers touched on integrating resiliency, explaining that adaptations and resilience go hand-in-hand; adapt for future, be resilient to recover faster and in turn, increase survivability. There is the question of ‘what to prioritize? Who will prioritize it? And do we know where its needed?’ Sandink went on to explain that property value is in a new era of value and vulnerability due to climate change. He said experts say not enough is being done in the way of resiliency fast enough; we know what to do and we have the data to do it but we don’t have the context of ability to know where.

Lunch saw a presentation from Matt Cable from Enbridge Gas on new technologies for low carbon community development. He discussed the company’s development pilots of hybrid heating and smart controls, which aim to minimize greenhouse gases and maximize grids. These pilots looked at how electrical and thermal technology integrate.

After lunch, attendees were met with a presentation by Carl Pawlowski from Minto Group, Stefanie Coleman of Doug Tarry Homes, Phillip Santana from Mattamy and Alex Ferguson of CanmetENERGY (NRC). This panel, hosted by Andy Oding of Building Knowledge, covered carbon reduction strategies for home builders and were posed four questions, which they answered through their presentations.

  1. Why undertake decarbonization?
  2. What is your one year, five year and 10-year plan?
  3. What first steps would you recommend to other builders?
  4. What are some strategies you undertook to reduce operational and embodied carbons?

Ferguson noted that there is a key difference in scopes of carbon emissions that need to be considered when thinking in terms of reducing or decarbonizing as a company.

Pawlowski of the Minto Group stated that setting and defining a baseline for your expectations should be the first step for any builder, no matter how big or small. Santana from Mattamy echoed this sentiment and explained that by having this understanding, you expand your business’ access to buyers and hireable talent. Santana explained that Mattamy has seen an increase in questions and interest from both buyers and prospective employees about the company’s decarbonization plans.

Coleman from Doug Tarry Homes said that they have a motto “leave your campsite cleaner than you found it,’ that they use to set the stage for their decarbonization plan. To date, Doug Tarry Homes has built the most net zero labelled homes in Canada, at around 30 per cent.

Next up was Home Builder Night in Canada with Mike Memme of Mountainview Building Group and Andy Oding. Memme went over the top 10 things that keep him up at night. They are: flashing, air tightness, framing mis-steps, new product types, swimming upstream/ doing things differently, safety, fire, people, making the same mistakes and government.

Day two wrapped up with a group affirmation/ hopes for what to accomplish for Spring Training 2024. Topics included air-source heat pumps, net-zero and green retrofitting, air-to-water pumps and load management, reframing post-secondary trades programs, pushing beyond the envelope for shading, in-home energy conservation and exergy.

Day three

The third and final day of Spring Training started off with an energy and carbon codes update with Frank Lohmann from CHBA.

Lohmann spoke on the harmonization of codes and the switch to government officials and decision makers and industry and stakeholder as guidance/ advisors.

The process of finalizing codes for 2025 are currently undergoing public review, seeing proposed changes in airtightness, thermal bridges, alterations to existing buildings, potential consequence of high-performance homes and greenhouse emission.

The proposed changes to alterations to existing buildings will not force mandatory renos, focus on energy efficiency only and exempt repairs, as these lead to complications, aggressive timelines and limited scope as seeing a house-as-a-system is a challenge when the focus is on energy efficiency.

Coleman, chief sustainability officer for Doug Tarry Homes touched on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and what it means for business owners. She noted that buildings are currently responsible for 39 per cent of global energy related to carbon emissions – 28 per cent operational emissions and 11 per cent from embodied. There is a need for regulation, as “construction is the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to carbon emissions. Coleman went to explore disruptions and innovations in home construction, including building information modelling, offsite manufacturing like modular homes, 3D printed homes and robotic-assisted building.

The first half of the day wrapped up with a presentation from Leigh St. Hilaire and Aidan Brookson of Volta Research, Patric Langevin, Lucas Coletta and Ferguson from NRCan, Andy Oding and Scott Schrier from Building Knowledge Canada, and Dan Sinclair of Sinclair Homes. The presentation touch on Volta’s SNAP tool and its expansion to the current HOT2000 application.

Ferguson told attendees that HOT2000 V11 allowed home design data to now be portable, making it readable to other programs like HTAP, CBAT MCE2 and the third-party application Volta SNAP.

Volta SNAP allows users to access and establish data like operational hourly emissions, peak loads, electric vehicles, load shifting and net zero. The team acknowledge a hiccup of “how do we evaluate efficiency, emissions and affordability metrics using energy focused software?” The program is in its beta testing and is offering free training to those who are interested in providing feedback about the program.

After lunch, attendees who did not head out on the morning’s CHBA net zero and net zero ready homes tour chose between two concurrent interactive workshops. One on energy, cost, and carbon optimization tools and another on adaptation, resilience, climate risk disclosure and ESG. Results and findings from these workshops are under review. Stay tuned!

This year marked another successful Spring Training and first-ever collaboration with CHBA’s Net Zero Summit.




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