Tag Archives: Canadian Renovators Council

Building Codes

Proposed ‘Alterations to Existing Buildings’ will change the way building codes apply to renovations

Latest News


Proposed ‘Alterations to Existing Buildings’ will change the way building codes apply to renovations

In some parts of Canada, renovation work is required to follow the current building code that’s in effect. In other parts of the country, renovations only need to meet the “code of the day” – the requirements that were in effect when the house was originally built. This could all change with a new policy coming from the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes on “Alterations to Existing Buildings,” which could spell new requirements for renovations to existing homes.

Renovating for the Future

Canada has committed to significantly reducing its greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2030. The target is to achieve levels 30% lower than what we had in 2005 – a substantial undertaking. Canada has 14 million residential residences, and approximately 49% of the current housing stock was built before 1980. Most of these older buildings are far behind new homes when it comes to energy efficiency. Even if all the new homes built from now until 2030 (about 180,000 per year, or 1.8 million total) were built to “net-zero” energy efficiency, we still wouldn’t hit our target.

The only way the goal can be achieved is if we renovate the existing housing stock to make it more energy efficient. Canada has 7 million homes that were built before 1980. That’s a lot of opportunity for renovators.

The New Plan: “Alterations to Existing Buildings”

All levels of government are serious about meeting the GHG targets by 2030. To get us there, they have only two methods: they can persuade, or they can regulate.

Persuasion comes in the form of grants, low-interest loans, or tax credits. It makes the offer too enticing for a building owner to refuse. Regulation, on the other hand, removes the element of choice. It mandates minimum levels of performance and enforces it through inspections. A combination of both persuasion and regulation is considered in the draft CCBFC policy paper “Alterations to Existing Buildings” to drive improvements in the energy efficiency, accessibility, seismic resistance, structural integrity, and fire safety of existing homes.

The Roll Out

The policy paper proposes that when new requirements for renovation are adopted, they will not immediately apply to all existing buildings. In other words, homeowners will not get a notice from government to renovate their residences for energy efficiency. Instead, it is proposed that new requirements will come into play only once they have been “triggered.” What will trigger the new code requirements? First, the change to the building must be a voluntary decision by the building owner. Then, depending on the scope of the work and the changes being made, the building code will specify if the changes being made “trigger” the new requirements. If they do, the code will also specify which aspects of that building will need to be upgraded. The extent to which the home needs to be upgraded will fall somewhere between its existing state and minimums of the current code.

For example: Let’s say an owner decides to alter, upgrade, or change the function of a building. This could trigger improvements to the energy efficiency, accessibility, seismic resistance, structural integrity, or fire safety to meet the current code. That scope will obviously mean more work than the owner had originally intended, so to fund this extra work there will need to be persuasive tools such as incentives, grants, and/or tax credits.

What are the Triggers?

At this stage everything about “Alterations to Existing Buildings” is “proposed”. Nothing has been approved or decided upon. The following content is intended to provide you with information, but please note that any of this can – and likely will – change before it is finalized.

Not a trigger:

  • Cost The recommendations at this time clearly indicate that the cost of the change should not be a trigger. Costs change over time and vary across the country.
  • Involuntary changes For example, if a home is damaged by something typically covered by home insurance (for example, a hurricane), alteration requirements would not apply, because the repair is not deemed to be voluntary. Building owners will be able to repair their properties after a natural disaster without triggering requirements.
  • Normal wear and tear If a building owner is doing maintenance or repairs due to normal wear and tear, or replacing a component with something similar, they will be exempt from alteration requirements. Examples of this could include re-roofing or replacing an old furnace with a new one.

What could be a trigger:

“Alterations to Existing Buildings” proposes that the following voluntarily changes may trigger requirements:

  • A system(s) upgrade
  • Space reconfiguration
  • Change of occupancy
  • Addition, and/or
  • Other change (yet to be defined)

In these cases, the significance of the change will drive the requirements of what needs to be done. If the work is deemed to be a “minor” change, requirements will be applicable only to the area being changed. However, if the work is deemed to be a “major” change, requirements will be applicable to all directly affected systems. The criteria to differentiate between minor and major changes will be important, as well as the consistent interpretation of this criteria by building officials across the country.

“Alterations to Existing Buildings” will have a significant impact on the renovation industry in Canada. The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) is actively involved at all levels of the Association providing input to the discussions on behalf of the industry. Much of this work is being done by CHBA’s Technical Research Committee and the Canadian Renovators’ Council.

As a renovator, your expertise is both needed and welcome. If you’re not a member of CHBA, impending code requirements for alterations to existing buildings should be the “trigger” that gets you to join. If you want to be “in the know” and get involved, talk to your local home builders’ association (HBA). Find a local HBA near you by looking on our website at CHBA.ca.

Stay tuned for more on this important issue in the future.

Gary Sharp
Gary Sharp

SHARE  

Featured Products


PEER Review - Introducing the Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit Methodology

PEER Review – Introducing the Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit Methodology

Latest News


PEER Review – Introducing the Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit Methodology

As Canada’s existing housing stock ages, more and more homes will need to be renovated – not only to update their looks and adapt to how people use their homes today, but for increased energy efficiency. Our country has 14 million residences, and approximately half of that stock was built before 1985. Given that a home built to code today is 47% more efficient than one from 1985, if Canadians truly want to address climate change within the housing sector, we’re going to have to get innovative.

CHBA and its leading members have been working hard to pursue energy efficiency innovations for voluntary adoption, staying ahead of the curve while advocating that regulation wait until next levels don’t reduce affordability, both for new homebuyers and Canadians who already own a home. When possible, CHBA works with government to find solutions and offer industry assistance for research and development.

One promising approach that is currently being explored is using modular construction technology in renovations. The Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit (PEER) methodology is being championed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and was recently presented during a meeting of CHBA’s Canadian Renovators Council.

Before
Before

After
After

Using PEER technology in renovations

Applying the PEER technology involves four key steps:

  1. The building is accurately measured.
  2. Large exterior, airtight, super-insulated cladding panels are designed.
  3. The panels are manufactured offsite.
  4. The panels are delivered to the site and installed.

Utilizing PEER methodology will bring Canadian-manufactured housing companies together with renovators to create a market for prefabricated, energy efficient façades which can be retrofitted onto existing buildings.

The pictures (on the facing page) illustrate the potential of the process on a simple construction trailer which NRCan presented as a PEER “Proof of Concept” pilot. This gave the researchers a first-hand opportunity to study the construction retrofit process, assess the opportunities for energy performance potential, and determine the practical implications for construction.

This approach to renovation has several advantages:

  • Speed. Once the industry has experience, PEER has the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to renovate homes and buildings to an improved level of energy performance.
  • Enhanced Performance. The PEER panels can be designed to add significant levels of insulation and improve the overall airtightness of a building. This improves occupant comfort, reduces utility costs, and protects the owner from future escalation of energy fuel costs.
  • Occupant Convenience. Since the renovation is completed largely from the outside, disruption to occupants is minimized. In many cases the occupants are not displaced by the renovation work.
  • Improved Curb Appeal. The renovation provides a complete facelift for the building. With appropriate material selection, the exterior will remain beautiful and maintenance-free for years.
  • No Loss of Floor Area. Many of Canada’s older homes have limited floor space. Occupants will appreciate the fact that the renovation is exterior and does not affect the useable interior floor space.

A Brief Overview of the Process

Measuring the Building

All seasoned renovators understand the importance of accurate measuring. So how close do the measurements need to be? For the position of windows, the window openings (height and width), and the overall building width, each has to be within ¼” (6 mm). Building height from the top of the foundation to the soffit, the average grade to the top of the foundation, and the centerline of building penetrations (including utility meters and service entrances) need to be within 1″ (25 mm).

The options for taking the measurements include:

  • Measuring by hand – This is the lowest cost, but least accurate.
  • Total Station Theodolite – While many of us have never employed this technology, equipment and operators are widely available. It is extremely accurate but does not capture as many points and as much detail as laser scanning. The data is easily imported into CAD drawings.
  • 3D Laser Scanning – This produces detailed datasets but they may be so large they are hard to work with. This approach has a high degree of accuracy. Special software is required to use the data. The scanner has difficulty capturing data from very dark or reflective surfaces.
  • 3D Photogrammetry – This technology uses a high-resolution camera to take pictures of the building, then uses software to calculate the measurements. The accuracy is lower than the theodolite and the laser. This technology is commonly used today for estimating roofing projects using aerial photos taken from planes or drones.

Designing the Panels

The panels include a “squishy” layer for plumbing the panel where it meets the existing building. Panels need to address the insulation requirements as well as airtightness.

PEER Panel Manufacturing

Panels can be constructed up to 24′ (7.4 m) in length. Ideally, panels will be manufactured offsite in a climate-controlled facility.

PEER Panel Delivery and Installation

Completed panels are transported to the site where they are moved into position with a crane. The panel’s weight is supported on brackets attached to the foundation. The panel is then secured to the framing of the existing walls. Panels are supplied as completed insulated wall assemblies including claddings, with windows and doors installed. The old windows and doors in the existing building wall will be removed prior to the PEER panel being installed.

Pilot Projects

The Butterwick Group, a CHBA member company based in Edmonton, is leading a 59-unit pilot project using wood-framed PEER panels to achieve Net Zero Ready. Ottawa Community Housing will also undertake a pilot to retrofit four townhomes to Net Zero Energy using structural insulated panels (SIP) in 2020.

The Time is Right

To address climate change, future renovations will need to involve deep energy retrofits. CHBA members get a leading advantage on new technologies and ways of doing business. And the Association advocates for factors that will hopefully contribute to homeowners’ interest in renovating for energy efficiency, including home renovation tax credits. With the help of government research and development, methodologies like PEER should allow projects to be completed faster, allowing renovators to help more Canadians each year improve their home’s efficiency. It can also help renovators take on larger residential projects that they might otherwise not consider, since PEER is equally applicable to large homes and buildings. All in all, the future looks bright (and energy efficient) for Canadian renovators.

Mark Carver is a Project Leader with the Housing Team at CanmetENERGY, Natural Resources Canada.
Gary Sharp is the Director of Renovator Services at CHBA.

SHARE  

Featured Products