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Toronto Looking for Chief Resiliency Officer?

The 100 Resilient Cities Challenge seeks to find 100 cities that are ready to build resilience to the social, economic, and physical challenges that cities face in an increasingly urbanized world. Is Toronto ready to show some leadership on resilience?

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We can’t predict the next disruption or catastrophe. But we can control how we respond to these challenges. We can adapt to the shocks and stresses of our world and transform them into opportunities for growth. If your city applies for the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, it could be one of 100 cities eligible to receive funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer, assistance in developing a resilience strategy, access to a platform of innovative private and public sector tools to help design and implement that strategy, and membership in the 100 Resilient Cities Network.

The deadline to apply is November 24, 2015.

Toronto, its time for leadership, let’s ignite the urban resilience movement and take a stand!

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We’re Working with the Best

 

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To the outsider, it may not be clear, but BlueGreen Group has its finger on the pulse of all high performance designers and builders in central Ontario. Take the 2015 Summer Edition of ecoHouse magazine for example; BlueGreen Group was involved in two of the residential projects published:

Beechwood Deep Energy Retrofit

For this project, we were consulted on early in the planning phase by joining Greening Homes, Open Architects, Sustainable Edge and the home owners for the Integrated Design Process.  For this project, we were called to the house to do a pre-renovation energy audit by the home owner and a construction phase pre-drywall air tightness test and to also 3rd party air tightness test the house upon completion.

Renewed 90-year old Tudor-style home gets big energy cut

For this project, we were called to the house to do a pre-drywall air tightness test and to also do a final 3rd party air tightness test.

 

If you’re looking to build new or renovate to a higher performaing standard – we can help guide you! Give us a call, we’ll share our insights on who’s actually doing high performance building in this province!

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BGG Getting More Good Press… Again!

If it’s not BlueGreen Group gracing the pages of the Globe & Mail a few weeks ago, it’s the Toronto Sun this week! Yes, we’re playing the best man, or to put it more metro-sexually – the best supporting actress – to our business partners and it sure is nice to be appreciated… again! Check out what Manny Neves of Hardcore Renos had to say about working with us!

Hardcore Write up Sun 2015

 

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Don’t wait till 2030 to Start!

Architecture’s 2030 Challenge is industry’s voluntary response to urgently needed solutions for our changing climate. The challenge proposes new building designs be carbon neutral by 2030. That’s less than 15 years away, yet architects are still getting away with building dysfunctional expensive art and condos that are nearly 100% glazed. These buildings will saddle future generations with civic infrastructure that looks cool but performs badly and is maladapted to our changing climate. We believe in the value of civic pride and pushing design but in the end buildings need to be loved and need to be functional – both can be had with careful planning.

Friends don't let friends take art

Architect Daniel Libeskind’s evocative design was supposed to bring more visitors to the ROM, but attendance is still lower than Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The origami-like shape is not conducive to energy efficiency.

The only way Canada will achieve the 2030 Challenge goals is through better planning and physical testing. Specifically, very few buildings in Canada have their performance optimised in the planning stages using a computer energy simulation, and fewer buildings still are air tightness tested to meet a minimum air leakage standard.

ROM Upclose (Custom)

The ROM’s git shop having a bad snow day. The Crystal’s design ignores the reality of our current climate and as storms are predicted to get more intense, this design will surely mean more snow days for the ROM’s gift shop.

So, how does Canada stack up internationally? Did you know that Qatar, Latvia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic have air tightness minimums for new residential construction? Did you know that Estonia, India, Lithuania and Scotland all have air tightness minimums for new commercial construction. Canadian architects require very little in their specifications when it comes to future resiliency and meeting the 2030 challenge. Better buildings require better planning and site testing and as time marches on, its become apparent that industry won’t do it voluntarily, it might have to be dragged kicking and screaming as mandated by building codes.

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Are we Close to the Tipping Point?

200 blog posts into our 3rd year of incorporation and we’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure we’ve got bonnie Prince Charles, Pope Francis teamed-up with secularist Naomi Klein, the ‘leader of the free world’ Obama and even China pulling up its socks. Heavy-weight economists like Sir Nicholas Stern saying “The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming.” We’re living in dire, yet exciting times with all the change happening.

If that’s not enough, the dashing Robert Redford’s covering our back while both Shell and BP are pushing for a carbon tax. Not to be outdone, the Dutch have successfully sued their government for greater action on Climate Change. Meanwhile Canadians keep trundling along like there’s no big hurry; a symptom of a resource rich country with nothing to lose. Enter stage left, the Saudi’s flick a switch cutting oil prices in half, and who would have predicted Alberta voting in a majority NDP government?

As I write this, California’s nearly out of water, Texas was flooded, Alaska’s burning, heat waves killed thousands in India and Pakistan, now Europe is baking in the sun. What will it take to spur action?

Before he passed away, Jim Flaherty naively admonished corporations for not re-investing profits into infrastructure, but asking industry to do more voluntarily is like pushing on a string. Industry unfortunately has to be goaded through regulation and Canada has a lot of catch up to do regarding energy conservation in the building sector. Here’s hoping we’re close to the tipping point!

 

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Honourable Mention in EcoHouse Magazine!

Riding on Solares Architecture‘s coat-tails, BlueGreen Group was mentioned in SAB Magazine’s residential off-shoot Canada EcoHouse:

 

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Solares Makes Headlines… Again!

A big congratulations to Solares Architecture for making headlines in the Globe and Mail yesterday. Once again, Solares shows that they are singularly focused on producing beautiful high performance homes and BlueGreen Group is proud to collaborate on the energy detailing for their projects.

In a day and age where art trumps functionality, it’s increasingly hard to get any press, but Solares manages it in this awkwardly titled article “Under the skin: How investing in the mechanics of the home will save money“. I say awkwardly, because, Solares tends to emphasise superb envelope detailing and de-empahsise mechanical systems. They do that knowing moving parts in mechanical systems breakdown, but a well built building envelope has few moving parts to breakdown aside from operable doors and windows. Writer John Bentley Mays might be catering to a high brow audience that he suspects craves art at the expense of functionality, sustainability and durability when he goes on to suggest “The office now needs to get busy with the art.”

We do a lot of diagnostics on building failures and I’d love to spend a day with Mays to talk about and show him how often ‘art’ fails, often dramatically, leaving really rich homeowners having to repair complex envelopes. I hope going forward he understands that complex envelopes require superb planning and detailing – which Solares excels at – and that the builder needs to be at the top of their game when assembling. It’s too bad that Mays didn’t talk to the client who commissioned the project in question or he would have quickly realised the client didn’t want art, they wanted performance.

Good work Solares!

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Thank you TSA and Daniels

BGG was invited by the Toronto Society of Architects to give two Technical Series Lectures June 9 and 16th which were held at Daniels Faculty of Architecture. We’re pleased to report that both lectures were very well received – thank you to the wonderful audience of architects who welcomed us and to TSA for inviting us!

If you missed it, both lectures were recorded and at the very least the slide deck will be made available to those attending.

The topics covered:

High Performance Building – The devil’s in the details: Brings theory and real life experience together in a visually rich presentation that comes from years of field testing buildings. Served with a side of building science, this presentation will draw attention to the building details that work and some that don’t work when it comes to high performance building assembly and design.

Building Resiliently – Adapting building design for a changing climate: The science is in and climatologist predict an increase in storm intensity, will your buildings stand the beating? This lecture will focus on how making small adjustments in the design specifications and construction processes can mean the difference between a family living in their home through a severe storm event or having to live at a shelter while parts of the home are rebuilt.

 

 

The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design

TSA - Toronto Society of Architechts

 

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When Spray Foam Cracks

When spray foam is applied too thickly in one pass – or ‘lift’ in industry parlance – tension can build and things can start to smell fishy. Unlike nearly all other building materials and components that are manufactured in a controlled environment – like a highly regulated ISO9000 factory – and brought to the job site to be assembled, spray foam is not. Spray foam is manufactured in situ and for this reason that the OBC references the following standards , the first for the product itself, the second or the manufacturer & installer:

•CAN/ULC-S705.2-05, “Standard for Thermal Insulation – Spray Applied Rigid Polyurethane Foam, Medium Density – Application.”

The great irony with any standard referenced in the building code is that few contractors have them.  Standards get updated often and cost money as a consequence, very few spray foam companies have paid for the standard if they have the most recent version, even fewer spray foam installers have ever seen or read through a copy of the above standards.

I always tell people interested in having their projects insulated with spray foam “Don’t hire the company, hire the guy who pulls the trigger.” I realise, its a chicken before the egg type of question, but the person pulling the trigger doesn’t need to be a Rhodes scholar, but they need over a year of field experience and need to know as much about their trade:

    • with a firm grasp of the physics and chemistry effects of time, moisture and temperature on their chemical, the substrate and the finished product,
    • building science of how and where to apply the foam,
    • physical stamina,
    • fastidiousness in keeping clean, clear records,
    • discipline for routine daily cleaning and maintenance of the many  parts of the system,
    • a solid mechanical understanding of generators, proportions and compressors

Medium density spray foam’s chemical is exothermic as it changes from liquid to solid; it makes lots of heat as it cures. To allow the foam to cool, installers limit their ‘lift’ thickness to 2″ per pass. The heat generated is serious and can spontaneously  ignite if applied to thickly and quickly – cooling is key. However, when  the specifications call for 6″ of spray foam, 3 separate passes should be applied which could take 2-3 days of cooling depending on ambient conditions, but time is money…

In reality, the sprayer typically does two 3″ lifts perhaps all in one day, which can lead to a two serious issues; cracking and smelly finished product. As covered in CBC’s Marketplace a few years back, spray foam can smell sickening and chemically and one of the causes they suspect might be due to lifts being applied too thickly and or successive lifts being applied too quickly.

After visiting a job site recently where the builder shared his experience of hearing the loud crack the foam make when it split in the rafter cavity during spray application, I thought I should check in with a deeply talented insulation expert to get his opinion. I explained what I saw to Michael Cerqua of CallRich Eco Services, and he told me “take a core sample of the spray foam, trim the edges and measure the distance between rings. If it’s more than two inches, the lifts were applied too thickly.” The spray foam industry is very competitive and no one wants to be on a job site for any longer than needed, but Mike stresses that sometimes you just have to wait till the foam cools off – you can’t rush quality when it comes to spray foam, the consequences are too dire.

Cross Purlins (Custom)

These 2×8″ rafters were strapped with 2×4″ on the flat side and sheathed. A ventilation chute was installed and the spray foam was applied to the back of the ventilation chute just covering the face of the rafters on the warm side (see below).

The crack backstep (Custom)

Past this knee wall, an orange line (see detail below) can be seen in this 2LBS spray foam filling the rafter cavity. As the sprayer was applying the foam,”You could hear creaking as the foam pulled on the wood framing…” says the builder, “then all of a sudden, with a very loud snap, the foam in the rafter cavity opened up!”

The crack (Custom)

With the blower door running, we detected no air leaks through this 5′ long, repaired (orange can foam) 3/4″ crack in the newly applied 2 LBS spray foam.

 

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Greening Homes Wins Prestigious Canadian Green Building Award

We’re thrilled that Greening Homes recently won the prestigious Canadian Green Building Award in the residential project category for the Beechwood Project – a deep energy retrofit of a post-World War II bungalow in Toronto’s East York area.

This was a collaboration between an informed homeowner, Greening Homes, Open Architects and Sustainable Edge. BlueGreen Group took part in the early IDP process and the final 3rd party air tightness testing, but the heavy lifting was done by Greening Homes who drove the homeowners vision, making this truly amazing deep energy retrofit a reality.

Christopher Phillips and Steven Gray, Greening Homes’ respective President and Construction Manager, accepted the award at the National Conference of the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

 

East York

Pre-renovation: this bungalow had big dreams for a new life. Keep your eye on the garage door…

East York half way there

Mid-renovation: The second story takes shape and the trades at Greening Homes took great pains to air-seal all details.

Beechwood2

Deep Energy Retroit Completed: With a well deserved prize in hand, Greening Homes hands over the finished home to the owners. Congrats for the transformation!

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