Industry Partner BGG will do Research on Double Brick Homes

Press Release:

For Immediate release: July 3, 2013

By Greg Labbé

Upgrading old homes can affect durability

Toronto firm to study impacts of upgrading old brick homes

Toronto, ON – Many Toronto homes built between the wars have uninsulated walls. As home owners look to make their homes more comfortable and cheaper to operate, they may be unwittingly causing long-term damage to their vintage homes by insulating them without air sealing them.

The large number of solid double brick homes still in use today is a testament to their durability. By virtue of being uninsulated, the walls and structure of these homes were continuously dried by the warm conditioned space radiating and leaking massive amounts of warmth outwards drying the building. The heat leaking out kept mould out of the wood structure and the bricks from degrading. However, when the home’s envelope is improperly insulated or air sealed, it can lead to unwanted deterioration.

Greg Labbé, co-owner of BlueGreen Consulting Group Inc. (BGG) has seen many examples of homes insulated with good intention, but having disastrous effects on the building shell. “Few homeowners understand that though insulation is sorely needed to bring these buildings up to modern performance levels, air sealing trumps insulation” Labbé says. Over the past 14 years he’s been in countless attics where the roof sheathing is falling apart because the warm conditioned air leaks make it past the needed insulation but is stopped by the cold attic as the vapour turns to liquid causing mould and premature rotting of the wood structure. “Our limited testing has shown that as much as 25% of a semi detached home’s air leakage can come from the party wall. With this study, we aim to get a better understanding of the significance and potential impact this air leakage may have on heat loss and unwanted moisture getting trapped in the attic.”

The semi-detached double brick home is the most prevalent in Toronto and Labbé feels there’s an urgent need to start studying all aspects involved in the techniques to properly retrofitting these homes as more and more homes get Deep Energy Retrofits (DER).

The project is being funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Applied Research and Development program allowing BGG to hire students from Humber College’s Sustainable Energy and Building Technology program to complete the study. The students along with community volunteers at Project Neutral  will test homes in the Junction and Riverdale neighbourhoods of Toronto this summer.

BGG will work with professor Russell Richman from the Department of Architectural Science and Graduate Program in Building Science at Ryerson University to characterise the level of air leakage specifically in semi-detached homes and they hope to find predictive ways to estimate air leakage through the porous party wall by testing a number of semidetached units simultaneously. “Heat loss in the form of air leakage to the party wall can be a significant energy penalty and needs to be controlled in these homes.” and Mr. Labbé hopes that by quantifying the level of air leakage, his group can draw attention to the issue which many contractors are unaware of when they renovate homes. Labbé adds “If you live in a semi-detached or row house and would like to volunteer you and your neighbour’s house give us a call!” saying the test takes less than an hour and is free of charge.


For more information please check out our web site  or to schedule an interview, please contact Greg Labbé at 416.799.0408 from 9AM-5PM Monday to Friday. To take part in the study



 Humber  PN  BGG