Ontario Investing $100 Million to Create Jobs and Help Homeowners

Though short on details until a news release expected in the coming weeks, Ontario’s Ministry of Energy will be investing $100 million to create jobs and help homeowners save energy.

It’s unclear whether this program is an extension and expansion of existing low-income programs offered in partnership with Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas. The program is expected to help about 37,000 homeowners conduct energy audits to identify energy-saving opportunities and then complete retrofits, such as replacing furnaces, water heaters and upgrading insulation.

Full program details, including program start date, eligible project details and amounts, will be available in the coming months.



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A New Deal for Canada: Retrofitting US Buildings a $20 Billion a year Industry

As Canadians scratch their heads trying to figure out how to diversify the economy, south of the 49th, a $20 billion industry is sprouting around energy conservation. With a 9th place standing on the International Energy Efficiency Score card and with fresh commitments made at COP21, Canadians have to hustle if we’re going to meet our targets.


In this 2014 international energy ranking, Canada was behind countries like China, Japan and most of Europe.

A new report put out by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund suggests that though Toronto’s GHG emissions went down 24% from 1990 baseline to 2013 (likely due to closures of large manufacturing plants and coal generation in Etobicoke) and surprise surprise, the bad news is that emissions actually rose 1.6% between 2012 and 2013As TAF suggest “..bold new actions will be required to achieve the City’s climate targets.” So what’s it going to be Toronto?

Bloomberg News recently ran an article by James Nash titled “Fixing Drafty Old Buildings Becomes $20 Billion U.S. Industry” Nash says in his article, “A decade of progressively stricter laws aimed at reducing energy use and consumer desire to lower costs have already bred a $20 billion-a-year industry in the U.S., according to [Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation]. Consultants guide property owners through the regulatory maze and help them file paperwork. Contractors retrofit old ventilation systems and fixtures, replace drafty windows, doors and roofs, and install state-of-the-art environmental controls.”

The article goes on to say “Most of the focus has been on new construction, but now people are really taking a look at existing buildings,” said Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation, a Washington nonprofit that promotes more efficient buildings. “If you really want to move the needle on climate change, you can’t ignore the 99 percent of buildings that are already there.”

The article didn’t go into detail about what measures are typically mandated by Code Green, but it is likely based on regional priorities driven by climate. In the state of New York for example, buildings over 50,000 gross square feet have to comply to a list of energy performance demands. One of the key drivers in building efficiency is knowing how much energy your neighbours consume and to that end, Columbia University has created the map below.


Knowledge is key “This map will enable New York City building owners to see whether their own building consumes more or less than what an average building with similar function and size would,” said Vijay Modi, a professor of mechanical engineering, quoted in The New York Times Green blog.

Columbia University’s energy density map is amazingly detailed and interactive. The map represents an estimate of the total annual building energy consumption at the block level and at the tax lot level for New York City, and is expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh) per square meter of land area. A mathematical model based on statistics, not individual building data, was used to estimate the annual energy consumption values for buildings throughout the five boroughs. To see the percentage break down of the estimated end-uses, hover over or click on a block or tax lot. The tax lot level data shows how much energy an average building of that size and type would use. Toronto’s 2030 District is looking to move the needle on the densely populated core of the city, but hard details on how remain to be seen and experience show that both carrots (incentives) and sticks (legislation) work best to effect real change.


City of Toronto Emissions vs Targets (Mt) show a disparate picture.

We keep our fingers crossed that the 2017 building code drives for more efficiency, but more than likely, municipalities will have to take the bull by the horn and enact by-laws. The building code is not retroactive and cannot compel a building owners to increase building efficiency especially not with historically low natural gas prices. Brave new investments in creating skilled careers in conservation may be the best prescription to a sputtering economy and with fresh new leadership federally, this could be Canada’s New Deal that brings substantive change for a brighter, cleaner future.



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The Root of All Evil for Buildings: Air Leakage

Today,  Joel Schlesinger wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail titled “Pushing the envelope to make buildings greener” and he interviews the most experienced large building testers in Canada; Kevin Knight and Gary Proskiw.

We know reducing air leakage in buildings is important for durability, health, energy savings and comfort – but when will it be mandatory in Canada? “Retrofitting old buildings and making new buildings more air tight, can have  significant mitigating impact on climate change.” says Mr. Knight.

Veteran building scientist and engineer Mr. Proskiw goes on to say air leakage though a building envelope carries great liability, “When you have air moving through a building envelope, it takes with it moisture – basically the root of all evil for buildings,” Mr. Proskiw says. “But it’s not just water; it’s water freezing in the walls in the winter… You end up with a situation where you have a 1,000-pound piece of the wall held together by steel connectors that are rusting apart, and at some point they let go.”

“Mr. Proskiw says. “We figure there’s probably a few hundred million dollars of damage just here in Manitoba.” Winnipeg alone has several high-profile examples of buildings with outer shells that are at risk of shedding slabs from high above: the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the RBC Convention Centre and even its Public Safety Building (the soon-to-be decommissioned old police headquarters).”

Stunning to see such  a scientifically well written, topical piece in the Globe and Mail.



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George Brown College has Amazing Building Science Equipment

Over the years, we keep getting invited back to George Brown College to share stories from the front. Amazingly, I never had the chance to check out the laboratory facilities at the Casa Loma campus; what a treasure trove for budding building scientists!

I was invited by the Building Science Lab co-ordinator, Dr. Dahai Zhang, to tour the facilities. Between two labs, they had everything it seems to do some amazing research and I wouldn’t be surprised if this college becomes a centre for some exciting research in the coming years. If it wasn’t the guarded box for doing R-value testing on samples, it was the climate simulator below. Take a tour if you have a chance!

GB Testing Chamber

The climate simulator above was made by Building Science Labs in Waterloo. Essentially, the apparatus is shown separated in the above photos. You can see the lapped siding on the left of an experimental wall section. The two corrugated metal halves can be rolled together and sealed. On each side of the wall, precise temperature and relative humidity settings can be set to measure anything your heart desires about air leakage, dew points, condensation…

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Air Leakage Testing the Evergreen Brickworks

At the behest of Ryerson University’s Graduate Building Science Program, we were approached by master’s student Thomas Moore to test the new Evergreen Brickworks.

The Centre for Green Cities and the Younge Welcome Centre form one building that is LEED Platinum rated.  The vintage 1950 parts include the multi-wythe brick structure The Young Welcome Centre, some program rooms and a commercial kitchen. The addition to the main floor is at the back, the BMO Atrium and the upper floors for meeting and office space. We tested the two sections of building all together as part of this study.

Using industry standard metrics to estimate expected leakage, we set up 8 fans – moving 4900 cfm each – praying the building science gods would not fail us. Thankfully, we only needed 7 fans to depressurise and pressurise the building. Results will be published with Thomas’ thesis so stay posted!


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Two fans were set up on in Meeting Room 1.

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Three fans were set up on the ground floor.

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We set up the control centre and 3 fans in the door way of Meeting Room 2. We were projecting the results live from TECLOG on the screen with one computer collecting data from each fan and manometer while also controlling the fan speed. Results were good with an R square of 1.000 for each the pressurisation and depressurisation tests.





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RDH’s Al Jaugelis Nails his NAFS Workshop

In a raspy, hoarse voice, RDH’s Al Jaugelis did a masterful job at shedding light on the NAFS standard.We were pleased to host at our Spadina Ave office and most in attendance agreed that Al’s insights on the standard were very valuable.Thank you for making the trip to Toronto!

For those of you who missed this presentation, please check out Al’s NAFS Blog. There you’ll find a good deal of information that was covered in and information that supports the presentation given in Toronto.

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Sounding like a rough and tumble gangster, Al gives a crowd of about 40 GTA architects and engineers the low-down on the NAFS standard and the histrionics behind it. Yeoman’s work Al!


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“Bring out your Manometers!…. Bring out your Manometers!”


Is your digital micro-manometer out of calibration? Typically, a calibration interval will be set by the manufacturer. In our experience, most micro manometers don’t get factory calibrated. Ever.

We do get our manometers factory calibrated and it’s a risk (lost damaged in the mail) and expense (postage, shipping insurance, service fee, and high US exchange rate) we’d like to minimise.

If you have manometers that need to be certified, we’d be happy to offer our technical services by doing a 5 point check on both channels in both negative and positive pressure ranges. If the manometer doesn’t need to be factory repaired, we’ll issue a traceable certificate valid for 2 years and you’ll get a report of results for your records and we’ll issue a sticker for the manometer indicating compliance with our calibrated manometer. If we identify any errors that are not withing the manufacture’s acceptable range, we’ll notify you at once so you can send it to the manufacturer for repairs.



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Our Next High Performance Design meets Boots on the Ground

Mark your calendars! On Thursday March 3rd, we’ll be hosting our 5th semi-annual High Performance Design meets Boots on the Ground event at our office in the Robertson building on Spadina. As the event matures, we’re honoured to be surrounded by a core of the GTA’s most progressive and aggressive architects and builders who are truly pushing the envelope on building performance. It’s a rich learning and networking event for the professionals involved and we look forward to seeing you again!

The line up of speakers this spring is great ranging from veterans in the high performance sector to research and the timely issue of making money by lowering construction cost while increasing energy performance. For this last point, we’ll hear from custom home builder Melinda Zytaruk from Fourth Pig who is going to talk about making money while adhering to the triple P bottom line: people, planet, profit. The concept of the “2nd mortgage” is one of the many arrows in her quiver she’ll be introducing us to.

To that end, we’re going to hear from SustainableTO’s Kelsey Saunders  about results of their test hut where a simplified wall assembly  based on the REMOTE Wall system which is less labour intensive than double stud construction making it more cost effective. It also solves potential moisture issues and is forgiving for the trades who are prone to make holes in air barriers. As pointed out by two recent RDH studies on fastener thermal bridging issues and mechanical effects of thick cladding, the word is “yes!” for outboard insulation!

A success story from veterans Mario Kani and Ellen Allen who’ll talk about their recent collaboration on Monaco Place, an affordable housing build on St. Claire West. In the design of the Monaco Place, the client looked to reduce energy costs and optimize indoor air and thermal quality of the 20 new affordable housing units. Further, the project characteristics demanded efficient, low-maintenance mechanical systems. Ellen will cover the new and heritage aspects of envelope detailing and Mario will talk about the HVAC system which included ceiling radiant.

Greg Labbé of BlueGreen Group will give a crash course on understanding the metrics behind air leakage. Wrapping your head around ELAs and ACH50s, Greg will shed some light on differences between standards and why the metrics differ from houses to very large buildings. He’ll also talk about some recent, surprising air leakage results for a number of high profile LEED buildings.

The event is by invitation only, largely due to venue constraints, but if you’re an architect, builder, specifier or engineer, let us know if you’re interested.


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Are Your Drip Edges Dribbling or Dripping?

We were called to diagnose a water leak in a wall assembly a few months back. We suspect there was a bit of fashion over function as the austere, clean blockiness of this beautiful modern home gave short shrift to flashing detailing. I do cringe when a roof has no overhangs because modern-styled homes with no roof eaves rely so heavily on its wall drainage system, and this house was no exception.

Drip edges play a crucial role in a building’s ability to keep water away from the wall assemblies below them, but did you know that not all drip edges are equal?


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The top of this window frame had no protection from the minimalist head flashing; its edge was hemmed, it only horizontally overhung the window frame below it by 2mm and had no vertical lip protecting the frame below it. The water coming off the wall would likely curl around and sit on top of the wood window frame.

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The lower window sill corresponding to the above picture shows no flashing; only caulking which might even prevent trapped water from draining.

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Working our way down the wall, we come to the transition between the drained above grade wall and the foundation wall. The detail above shows the black metal flashing, the greenish foundation waterproofing membrane and the new cedar deck pushing the flashing against the wall and defeating the pot of the overhang. Again, here, the overhang is minimal, the length of the vertical is merely 3/4″ and the edge is hemmed.


It was clear the flashing detailing on this house had the potential to dribble the water back into the wall assembly. In doing some reading over the holidays, I found this gem on the Waterloo-based Building Science Labs’ web site, I was surprised to learn that hems in the metal weren’t as desirable as I assumed. I also learned that the 45° kickout did just that – kick the water out! Have a read through this excellent paper put out by a great Canadian research group at the link below! Your building’s survival may depend on it!


Dribling of dripping

Effectiveness of Different Drip Edge Designs, Jonathan Smegal, M.A.Sc.

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Understanding the Residential Energy Upgrade Market

The amazing Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) along with Shelton Group have published great info graphics that help convey the salient facts for the North American residential market for energy upgrades. The biggest insight for me was Suzanne Shelton point that “Energy efficiency retrofits are currently sold as a service. And when you buy a service you give a lot of direction/opinion to the service provider, whether you know anything about how to actually accomplish your end goal or not. When you buy a product, you don’t tell the product manufacturer how to make the product … it’s just on the shelf ready to go and you either buy it as is or you don’t buy it. If product manufacturers want to stay in business, they figure out how to make products you want to buy. So what if energy efficiency retrofits were sold as a product … turnkey, complete, baked, ready to buy “off the shelf?””

I’ll assume that Canadian home owners are not much different that US homeowners. The link is included in the images below.





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