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THE COUNCIL: Construction industry targets red tape

THE COUNCIL: Construction industry targets red tape

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THE COUNCIL: Construction industry targets red tape

by Richard Lyall, RESCON

There is no reason why Canada should be ranked 54th out of 190 countries measured by the World Bank for a routine building approval.

The year 2018 will be marked for big steps in cutting red tape and speeding up the development approval process.

Frankly, there’s no excuse that a wealthy country like Canada should be ranked 54th out of 190 countries measured by the World Bank for a routine building approval (construction permitting for a warehouse in Toronto).

I feel that this was an important topic for our debut contribution to the Builder Bites Newsletter as this is an unacceptable statistic for Toronto, Ontario and Canada that you should know about.

That’s why approvals are being targeted by both the builders council that I represent – RESCON (Residential Construction Council of Ontario) – as well as the cross-sectional construction organization that I’m proud to chair this year – CDAO (Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario).

This is a continuation of a lot of good work that RESCON and other CDAO members – including BILD and OHBA – took part in through the provincial Development Roundtable Action Plan. The 14-point plan unveiled last April includes implementing the use of e-permitting as well as streamlining development processes to boost the supply of new housing.

So, what does that mean for a new homebuyer? It’s simple; we’re trying to get more supply on the market to slow down the increasing costs of new housing. Supply inventory in the GTA has dropped to less than half of what it was 10 years ago while more than 100,000 people move into the region every year.

But there is no silver bullet to the GTA’s supply issue. It will take a multi-pronged approach to help free up supply for new homebuyers, including building with innovative new practices (including tall wood), off-site construction and panelization.

All three building practices will continue to grow in 2018 as pieces of panelized homes are constructed in a factory then shipped to sites around the GTA like massive bits of Lego. The actual on-site assembly time is reduced by months and this can save new homebuyers a lot of time.

Back to development approvals: read this space this spring when RESCON will write more about its latest published report on best practices to streamline and improve Ontario’s development and approvals process. The report will have three themes: streamlining routine planning and applicable law approvals; expanding e-permitting in Ontario; and enhancing the role of professionals in regulatory compliance.

The red tape problems we are looking for include those related to excessive delays; excessive costs; problems with accountability and corporate culture within regulatory agencies; unnecessary or unclear procedures, processes and requirements; as well as last-minute/surprise requirements.

Richard Lyall is the president of RESCON and has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991.

Reach him at media@rescon.com or @RESCONprez.

Thanks for reading yet another great product by HOMES Publishing Group.


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25 Leonard Avenue

25 Leonard Avenue

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25 Leonard Avenue

Condo and homebuilders join forces to help house the homeless

(CNW) — As the weather turns cold for Toronto’s homeless population, the city’s Kensington Market neighbourhood is seeing construction begin on Toronto’s first purpose-built homes for homeless people in more than 10 years.

An excavator broke ground earlier this week in preparation for spring construction on the small strip of land beside St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society’s existing building at 25 Leonard Avenue, just east of Bathurst Street. This unique three-storey, 22-unit project was backed by neighbours and made possible with government and private sector support.

St. Clare’s construction partners — including home and condo builders, unions and construction associations — are stepping up to the plate in a $1 million fundraising effort.

The corporate donors are Aspen Ridge, Brown Group, Great Gulf, Greenpark, Heavy Construction Association of Toronto, Laurier Homes, Liberty Development, Lindvest, LiUNA Local 183, LiUNA Ontario Provincial District Council, Mattamy Homes, Menkes, Ontario Formwork Association, Silvercore, Tridel and Yorkwood.

Through its Open Door Program, Toronto is assisting the project with a $500,000 capital grant and waiving municipal fees and development charges.

“This was a must-do project for St. Clare’s. We are relieved to finally be through a two-year planning process and are grateful for the support of RESCON, Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, Councillor Joe Cressy and our very supportive neighbours, said Andrea Adam, St. Clare’s operations manager.

“I applaud the hard work and vision of St. Clare’s to make this innovative project a reality,” said Bailão, chairwoman of Toronto’s affordable housing committee. “St. Clare’s is a model that works. Their partnership-based approach has created new opportunities for those seeking a safe, clean, affordable place to call home.”

“Ensuring access to safe and affordable housing for all our friends and neighbours is critical,” Cressy added. “We have a housing crisis in our city, and the new affordable homes at 25 Leonard Avenue are a crucial and welcome addition to our community.”

According to Michele McMaster, affordable housing consultant of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, “CMHC has investigated St. Clare’s operating model and found it to be replicable and scalable. We are delighted that St. Clare’s is inspiring private developers, and we hope to encourage more in the future.”

“We chose to support this project because we believe the construction industry should give back. St. Clare,s is a caring and effective organization that we respect, and we know that they have the right leadership to steer this project to success, said RESCON chairman emeritus Phil Rubinoff.

This latest intensification of the site follows the award-winning 2006 addition of 26 apartments to the roof of the building at 25 Leonard.

St. Claire’s is a charitable foundation and landlord responsible for 413 rental units in five buildings across Toronto to help get the homeless and hard-to-house into their own home to give them privacy and dignity.

RESCON is the non-profit association that represents more than 200 of Ontario’s residential builders. Its members build highrise, midrise and lowrise homes, including rental apartments and social housing.

stclares.ca



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Mikey Network one example of how homebuilders give back

Mikey Network one example of how homebuilders give back

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Mikey Network one example of how homebuilders give back

by Andrew Pariser
RESCON

Every February is heart month and with it comes the annual heart health campaigns from various groups, including the Mikey Network. While their slogan is “The Beat Goes On,” their message is of awareness and preparation.

In construction, two important health and safety principles are awareness and prevention.

By studying near misses we can gain valuable information, which can be used to prevent future accidents or respond in the most effective way possible when an emergency situation occurs.

That’s why it is important to talk about a program like The Mikey Network, which provides portable defibrillators for all kinds of public spaces, including construction sites. It’s a registered charity that has distributed about 2,200 easy-to-use units across Canada, with 1,600 of those in GTHA schools, hockey rinks, golf courses, apartment buildings and shopping centres. We we even have one at RESCON headquarters.

Many in our industry have heard of Mikey and how it began after beloved Heathwood Homes marketing VP Mike Salem, 56, died in 2002 at the Bigwin Island golf course on Lake of Bays after suffering a cardiac arrest. That led Heathwood Homes’ founder Hugh Heron to spring into action.

However, few realize that 35 lives have been saved by Mikeys, including Archer Hackett of Renfrew, Ont.

In January 2015, Archer was three months old and suffering from an abnormal heart rhythm. His parents were driving him to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa when they had to pull over on the side of the road after he suffered a cardiac arrest. They put the pads on his tiny chest and re-started his heart.

Morty Henkle of the Mikey Network donates four Mikeys to the Halton Region Police Service.
Morty Henkle of the Mikey Network donates four Mikeys to the Halton Region Police Service.

“That is the youngest person that we have had the good fortune to have saved,” says Morty Henkle, executive director of the Mikey Network.

Archer was one of eight lives saved in 2015, the highest number in one year throughout the 12 years of the program.

Reading a letter from Archer’s parents, Henkle said the couple “cannot express how grateful we are. Archer wouldn’t have survived without your help. We’re so thankful to have him home.”

Henkle says saving Archer’s life was a big moment for the Mikey Network.

“I was truly amazed that we were so lucky to have placed a Mikey with a family that was able to save this child’s life,” Henkle says. “Every save is a big save. We’ve had teenagers, we’ve had young children, a person in their 70s, but when you can actually save a child that’s just coming into the world, it’s a pretty awesome feeling.”

Heathwood Homes president Hugh Heron admitted he got emotional when he heard Archer’s story.

“A three-month-old baby. Just imagine. There were tears in my eyes – just for a child to be given a second chance, it’s fantastic,” he said.

About 230 children in Ontario carry a Mikey – donated to families by the Network –Heron said. The Mikey Network also has a close relationship with both the Peel District School Board and the Toronto District School Board.

Heron said the Network is trying to put Mikeys in as many public spaces as possible, and he believes defibrillators should be on every residential construction site in the GTHA. “Builders owe it to their staff to have defibrillators. Everywhere there is fire extinguisher there should be a defibrillator. We want to make this a cardiac-safe city.”

Heathwood’s Bob Finnigan – president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – agrees.

“When you’ve got a site with 100-plus people and it’s hot and they’re working hard, it’s important to keep them safe. Highrise builders should look at having those kinds of stations on every second or third floor.

“You look at those 35 direct saves, and who knows how many of those people would have had direct access to a defibrillator.

“It’s a tangible asset that gives you a chance to survive if you’re in cardiac arrest. There’s 2,200 places in Canada that are a whole lot safer than they would be without one.”

We are proud to say our office is one of them, and that the builder making the GTHA a safer region is a member of RESCON.

 FIVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MIKEY

  • Cardiac arrest has no respect for age – whether someone is three months old or 80, anyone can suffer one.
  • If someone suffers a cardiac arrest, they will be unconscious. Here’s what to do: Call 911, then open the defibrillator unit. The machine gives simple, verbal instructions, monitors the person’s heart and assesses whether to shock it.
  • The Mikey portable defibrillator can jolt the heart back into a rhythm with up to 360 joules.
  • The unit can be used two to three times, but the battery and pads must be replaced after each use.
  • If the Mikey sits unused, the pads must be replaced every two years, and the battery must be replaced every five. The unit will last 10.

Learn more about this terrific program at mikeynetwork.com.

Andrew Pariser Andrew Pariser is the vice-president of RESCON and chair of the RESCON health and safety committee.

Reach him at pariser@rescon.com.


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Wood is good for Ontario construction

Wood is good for Ontario construction

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Wood is good for Ontario construction

by Richard Lyall
President, RESCON

We’ve said it for years and we’ll keep saying it – wood is good.

There are a lot of great reasons to build with wood. It’s a quieter, quicker and more flexible building process, and it reduces a construction site’s carbon footprint, especially when panelized, by a factor of eight.

As for the occupant, there are studies – including out of the University of British Columbia – that say living with visual wood surfaces in a room “lowered sympathetic nervous system activation.” It also improves emotional state and self-expression, and lowers blood pressure and stress levels.

There are many reasons we need to catch-up with the rest of the world with a readily available, under-utilized, home-grown resource.

After seeing the success of wood construction in many parts of Europe as well as the United States, British Columbia approved building five- and six-storey wood buildings in 2009 and has engaged in hundreds of projects since. That’s the same year the Ontario residential construction industry — beginning with RESCON, the Canadian Wood Council and Wood WORKS! — began a five-year mission to advocate to raise the limit of wood-frame construction within the Ontario Building Code (OBC) from four to six storeys.

That mission’s goal was realized on January 1, 2015, when the OBC was changed. As I expected, Ontario has been slow to the change with only a handful of projects built or underway.

So what’s the big deal with adding two storeys to buildings?

We were catching up with the rest of the world, which is surprising given we have a forest industry in distress.

But look around Canada and the world, and you’ll see wood-frame projects rising well above six storeys:

80 storeys: Still waiting for approval, but big plans have been unveiled for the world’s first wooden skyscraper in London (some feel this will never happen). telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/09/first-look-at-wooden-skyscraper-planned-for-london/

20 storeys: Four buildings of this height were approved in March to tower over an old harbour in Stockholm, Sweden. dezeen.com/2015/03/23/tham-videgard-wooden-high-rise-apartments-stockholm-waterfront/

18 storeys: The structure of the Brock Commons student residence at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia was completed in the fall. news.ubc.ca/2016/09/15/structure-of-ubcs-tall-wood-building-now-complete/

18 storeys: In March, this residential cross-laminated timber residential and office project was approved for Bordeaux, France. It’s a trio of towers fitting in three blocks, including 18-, nine- and seven-storey buildings. globalconstructionreview.com/news/frances-first-wooden-towers-b7e-bu7ilt-bordea7ux/

14 storeys: A completed apartment block in Bergen, Norway. timberdesignandtechnology.com/treet-the-tallest-timber-framed-building-in-the-world/

12 storeys: It’s actually a 13-storey condo tower, with 12 to be made of wood, in Quebec City. theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/property-report/quebec-firm-takes-on-wood-high-rise-challenge/article26453443/

10 storeys: A residential condo is planned for Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighbourhood. untappedcities.com/2016/01/29/shop-architects-to-bring-nycs-first-wooden-high-rise-building-to-chelsea/

So, if all of these different jurisdictions are dwarfing our midrise revelation, what is holding us back from building up to six?

As you know, Ontarians live in a culture of fear of the unknown and over-regulation. I’m going to address the fear in this space with the help of Lloyd Alter. The former architect is a freelance writer, editor for TreeHuger.com — a website promoting sustainability as well as green news and solutions — and teaches sustainable design at Ryerson University’s School of Interior Design. He recently addressed the Toronto Wood Solutions Fair with a fascinating presentation that hit the bull’s-eye concerning the myths of building with wood.

Myth No. 1: Using wood is bad for the environment

“As an environmentalist, we should all be promoting wood,” Alter told the crowd. “We have a problem with pine beetles chomping through forests through the country, so we should be chopping more and more of this and stockpiling CLT (cross-laminated timber) panels of a standard size. We should be turning it out like toothpaste to use up this wood.”

The biggest reason we should all be promoting wood, Alter adds, is that 5 to 7 per cent of the carbon dioxide produced in the world is from making cement.

“It’s a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide when they heat the limestone. Fifty per cent of the carbon is given off by the heat, and 50 per cent is given by the reaction.”

He said that 200-million cubic metres of new wood from the new growth of trees could be harvested every year in North America and Europe without harming the forests. That is enough to build 150,000 typical offices per year.

Myth 2: Wood isn’t a durable material

A lot of misinformation is put out there by supporters of concrete. Some people wonder why we can’t we build the way the ancient Romans did, after all, the Pantheon is 1,900 years old and made of Roman concrete. But that ancient concrete is made of pozzolana, created out of the ash from Mount Vesuvius’s volcanos, which lasts longer than modern-day concrete, Alter says.

“The Romans and the Italians knew something about wood, too,” Alter said, noting that he visited a building in Bologna that had been built in 1350 and the original beams were still holding up the masonry.

In fact, Alter said, wood is the most suitable material to handle earthquakes because it is lighter “its sheer strength across the grains.”

Myth 3: Wood burns and isn’t safe

This is probably the biggest myth of all. There have been campaigns on both sides of the 49th parallel by big concrete to scare people out of their desire for wood construction for fear of fires. This is simply not true.

“Construction fires are not an indictment of wood construction. The province obviously knew this when they brought in the new wood rules, with instructions and recommendations on what to do when you’re building with wood,” Alter said.

“In the U.K., where they’re doing a lot of very big wood products, there’s one company (Intelligent Wood Systems) that’s actually treating the wood with Borax, a preservative and a flame retardant that’s healthy and natural. It has nothing to do with the code; it’s entirely to prevent the construction fires that are the great majority of the wood fires that we have,” Alter said.

One fire in a New Jersey municipality in 2014 was cited in a media campaign by the concrete industry to hammer home this myth. It was an occupied building of 620 units. Alter said that there was a delay before the fire department was notified and it was at least a 30 minutes before they arrived. The important part of this story, Alter said, is that “every person got out. And I believe that’s the point of fire ratings — not to save every part of the building but to last a long enough time to get people out.”

In a fire, many people don’t realize that heavy timber used in larger wood structures are protected by charring, which actually insulates the inner core against the heat effect, Alter said.

But before we start looking at wooden skyscrapers like London’s proposal, Alter said Ontario needs to embrace more midrise buildings, such as the project at Dovercourt and Queen Streets, and Hamilton’s purpose-built rental apartments called the Templar Flats.

Alter said the Flats builder used wood because it was light, the builder could adjust for flexibility needed for walls, and he could more easily fit it into an infill lot.

“We can keep infilling, moving the density out of the core and onto the main streets, out into the suburbs – into Scarborough, onto Eglinton and into North York. The ability to build six storeys in wood is a huge opportunity, I believe, right across the city.

“We need concrete. Concrete is very important. We’re always going to have concrete. But with the carbon situation that we have, it’s almost an obligation to do everything we can to use the lowest carbon alternatives that there are, which for construction, is wood.”

Wood is good. Let’s embrace it, and then go higher than six.

Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. Contact him @RESCONprez or at media@rescon.com.


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Innovation Nation: Forcing net zero could harm Ontario economy

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Innovation Nation: Forcing net zero could harm Ontario economy

By Paul De Berardis and Michael de Lint, RESCON

Global warming and associated climate change resulting from man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a reality. Global action is necessary to reduce the impact of climate change and Ontario needs to make a substantial contribution to that effort.

But there’s a problem that is currently the talk of Ontario’s new housing industry: the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP).

Here’s the plan’s ambitious recommendation regarding energy-efficiency requirements for new construction, specifically lowrise and midrise housing and other small new buildings:

“The government intends to update the Building Code with long-term energy efficiency targets for new net zero carbon emission small buildings that will come into effect by 2030 at the latest, and consult on initial changes that will be effective by 2020. Ontario will consult on how to best achieve these targets through Building Code improvements.”

It’s an admirable goal. However, there is no plan to get to net zero and it took only one paragraph to send shivers down the spines of builders across the province to produce new homes that will not produce greenhouse gas emissions.

NET-ZERO CARBON

Why? Because the added cost of making homes net-zero carbon – adding solar panels to the roofs and sides of homes, heavily insulated and nearly air-tight building envelopes, electrically powered space and water heating equipment, and more – will cost an extra $100,000 per home, according to our estimates.

We have heard over and over throughout our industry that, without a logical and gradual step-by-step plan, this is an unreasonable expectation.

Frankly, new housing is an easy target for over-regulation. It isn’t new housing and buildings that aren’t performing up to snuff, it’s the existing stock, especially what was built decades ago.

We should note that the CCAP report acknowledges that the building sector emissions per square metre “improved significantly” between 1990 and 2012.

Actually, Ontario new lowrise housing is ahead of provincial greenhouse gas reductions targets set in accordance with the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change. Using 1990 as the baseline year, Ontario set an overall greenhouse gas reduction target of 37 per cent to be achieved by 2030.

ONTARIO BUILDING CODE

The Ontario Building Code has changed significantly between 1990 and 2017. In fact, Ontario is already a leader in energy efficiency in housing construction. The Ontario Building Code’s Supplementary Standard SB-12 includes very high performance requirements for energy efficiency, making Ontario’s standards among the highest in North America and comparable to those in much of Europe.

As a result of large improvements in the code’s energy-efficiency standards between 1990 and 2017, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from an average house have decreased by 43.5 per cent, while the CCAP’s target was a 15 per cent reduction by 2012, and a 37 per cent reduction by 2030. As you can see, by comparing Ontario’s 43.5 per cent improvement by 2017 to the 15 per cent target by 2020, new construction is already way ahead of the Ontario target.

Teresa Lopez, CEO and founder of Green Energy Money, a green mortgage broker from Texas, who spoke at a recent green building event in Thornhill, said that Ontario and Canada were already well ahead of U.S. building regulation on energy efficiency in housing.

Nonetheless, Ontario should continue to increase energy-efficiency standards in new construction – but this needs to be done in a balanced and rational way.

Also announced in the Climate Change Action Plan is Ontario’s intention to join the cap and trade system under the Western Climate Initiative.

“It limits the amount of emissions that can come from the economy (the cap), and then allows those covered by the cap to trade among themselves (the trade) in a flexible and cost-effective way, thereby creating a price on carbon pollution. Cap and trade allows the market – not government – to set the carbon price. Cap and trade fights climate change by giving polluters an incentive to cut emissions, since they must pay for the pollution they are responsible for.”

SB-12

Considering a new lowrise home constructed in compliance with the 2017 SB-12 Building Code, a reference home was modelled to produce less than four tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions for space and water heating loads. With the cost per tonne of CO2 trading around $13 in September 2016, think of the annual monetary incentive for a new homeowner to adopt a net zero carbon home: $13 times four, or $52!

For context purposes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.

Let’s look at it from a global perspective: with Ontario accounting for only 0.4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and the building stock accounting for only 19 per cent of Ontario’s emissions, if new housing and buildings in Ontario did hit did hit net-zero carbon, they would save the world a negligible 0.0008 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Considering the added cost to homebuyers, the numbers don’t add up.

Like any regulation, building code requirements should be based on evidence and proven construction practices while taking into account cost-benefit analysis – as it stands, the cost-benefit analysis does not support the CCAP’s targets for a net-zero approach to new housing.

We’re not saying that substantial improvements in new home energy efficiency should not be pursued; even net zero may make sense at some point in the future. But we need a roadmap to get there that includes thoughtful public policy to help set out a plan and realistic, gradual targets along the way. It is an exercise in hubris to think that we can predict how technology and policy challenges will play out 15 years from now.

At the same time, government and industry stakeholders have to work together to find new ways of keeping new housing as affordable as possible.

If we don’t do that and housing costs continue to increase too much, Ontario will lose its global competitiveness, leading investors to look elsewhere.

Until the government targets the existing housing stock – as we all know, new housing performs at a much more efficient level now than in previous decades – Ontario is wasting time and money by focusing on new construction.

Paul De Berardis is the director of innovation and building science at the Residential Construction Council of Ontario. Michael de Lint is RESCON’s director of building regulatory reform and technical standards. Email them at deberardis@rescon.com and delint@rescon.com.

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