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Book smarts – An exclusive sneak peek inside the CHBA’s new renovators’ manual – Apr/May2019

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Book smarts – An exclusive sneak peek inside the CHBA’s new renovators’ manual – Apr/May2019

As you know from previous columns, CHBA has a Renovators’ Manual in the works. Similar to CHBA’s best-selling Builders’ Manual, the Renovators’ version applies building science to renovations. Existing buildings are going to be important as Canada takes steps to limit climate change. This month we offer a small sample of what readers can expect from the new book, when it is released to the public.

Canada has more than 14 million existing houses. Over half of these were built before 1980. That’s important because these older homes were not built to be anywhere near as energy efficient as houses being constructed today. In fact, a house built today is 47% better in terms of energy efficiency than a house built in 1985.

Building Codes are addressing the energy efficiency of new houses. Current plans are for new houses to reach Net Zero Ready levels of energy efficiency by about 2030. Currently, builders are constructing approximately 200,000 housing units per year. This number has been quite consistent in recent years, although it is expected to slowly drop in the face of an aging population. Some simple math shows us that over the next 10 years, building at the anticipated rate, we can expect between 1.8 and 2 million more houses to be created. While these will be far more efficient than the houses we have now, there is no scenario for reducing the total amount of energy used by homes without addressing the existing housing stock.

The Renovators’ Manual will help with those renovations as renovators are asked to significantly improve the energy efficiency of existing houses. Looking a little deeper, this means that renovators will be asked to “apply” the building science they know to existing houses. This is not as easy as it might seem, since applying building science to the materials and systems that are already installed is quite different than starting with a clean slate when designing a new build. The process also involves combining new materials with the existing structure they are renovating.

Net Zero Ready houses are typically being constructed with R-65 ceilings, R-40 walls, triple-glazed windows, R-35 basement walls, and R-10 under the basement floor slab. They will also have air tightness of less than 1.0 air change per hour at 50 Pa of depressurization (ACH50). Even the most ambitious renovation of an older home would find these performance characteristics difficult to match, but renovators will want to know how close they can come, and how to avoid technical problems in doing so.

The challenge will come from the correct “application” of the building science. The houses that need the most work are expected to be the older ones. Many of these have little to no insulation. Even if these houses have been renovated previously, it is unlikely that the renovation will have added a significant amount of insulation. It will be useful to review the most likely starting condition of the house, for example;

  • 2×4 wood frame or masonry structural exterior walls
  • Little or no insulation in the walls
  • Little insulation in the ceiling
  • Little or no insulation on basement walls or under the basement floor
  • Poor airtightness characteristics (i.e. drafty)
  • Large humidity swings – low in winter and high in summer
  • Large furnace and/or air conditioner
  • No heat recovery ventilator – bathroom fans or windows for ventilation
  • May have a wood-burning fireplace
  • Poor drainage around foundation
  • Double-glazed windows

Other important considerations are the climate where the house is located, and the characteristics of the occupants of the house. A maritime climate has different characteristics than a prairie climate. A house with two seniors has different operational characteristics than a house with young children. As renovators, we can’t change the occupants, so we need to provide a home that suits their specific lifestyle and needs.

In the case of the house described above, lets look at what has been happening over the years since it was built.

  • The house has had little insulation so large amounts of energy has been flowing though the building envelope.
  • The house has numerous holes and air leaks that result in large heat losses, however the benefit of such high air exchange rate is better, if uncontrolled, indoor air quality. If there is a wood-burning fireplace, these typically allow large amounts of house air to exhaust through the open chimney. Even with “tight-fitting doors or flue dampers, the fireplace chimney is generally a huge energy (and air) loss source for the building.
  • Relative humidity in the house is expected to have been low in the winter, due to the high air exchange rate and high in the summer, for the same reason. This would lead to the house being hard to heat and cool, but also uncomfortable.
  • Windows, in particular in the “wet” rooms such as the bathrooms and the kitchen, were likely subject to condensation on the glass in the winter and the shoulder seasons.

When looking at such a typical existing house the first step is to examine the decisions that need to be made. In this case, let’s pick a traditional war-time, Victory Home which are common in many cities across the country.

Blown opportunity: most older homes have little to no insulation in the wall cavities, an obvious first step to improving energy efficiency.
Blown opportunity: most older homes have little to no insulation in the wall cavities, an obvious first step to improving energy efficiency.

General

The renovator will need to decide on the building science features which need to be addressed.

  • If the drainage is poor, this needs to be fixed, regardless of what the house is made of.
  • The basement floor is uninsulated. This will not be a comfortable floor without insulation. It is unlikely that removing the basement floor, adding insulation, and then re-installing a concrete floor makes sense unless the existing floor is in poor condition. Therefore, insulation can only be added to the top of the floor. This will be limited by the basement ceiling height.
  • New triple-glazed windows will be needed to improve the envelope.
  • The wall thickness will need to be increased to accommodate the increased insulation.
  • The key building science features needed:
    • Weather barrier
    • Rain screen
    • Thermal barrier
    • Air barrier
    • Vapour barrier
Historic victory: across the country, many WWII-era victory homes, originally built as temporary housing for industrial workers, are still standing as permanent but inefficient homes.
Historic victory: across the country, many WWII-era victory homes, originally built as temporary housing for industrial workers, are still standing as permanent but inefficient homes.

Victory Home

This house will be wood-frame. It is unlikely that the exterior of the house is historically significant, and therefore the renovator has options. The insulation can be added to the interior or the exterior of the building. While working on the inside of the home is easier, the Victory Home is a modest size and the owners may be reluctant to reduce their floor area. To accommodate this, the decision may be made to add thickness to the exterior. The method of increasing the thickness of the wall studs will be the most problematic decision. This can be done in a number of ways and an architect should be consulted for a suitable solution. Typically, the frame of the existing house is structurally sufficient enough to allow the extensions to be “hung” from the existing walls. If that decision is made, then several items fall into place.

The weather barrier is the exterior cladding. Unless an air space is incorporated into the cladding by the nature of the cladding itself, it needs to be installed on strapping to provide an air space.

The rain screen is the air space between the cladding and the house wrap or the insulation installed over top of the studs.

The thermal barrier could be selected to do “double-duty” by selecting foam insulation which also has air barrier properties.

The selection of the vapour barrier is required. Keep in mind that vapour diffusion is a relatively weak process for moving moisture and is dependent on the surface area covered. If 90% of the surface is covered, then 90% of the vapour diffusion is prevented. Moving air is the primary transport mechanism for moving moisture. If the air barrier feature is being handled by another material, the vapour barrier can be a vapour retardant paint (if the interior drywall was not removed, the vapour barrier may already be in place with the existing, multiple coats of paint). If the walls were opened, there is an opportunity to install a sheet-type vapour barrier. This can be polyethylene, or it can be one of the materials where the vapour permeance changes with humidity. This will allow any moisture which happens to get into the wall due to poor flashing details or poor window installation to dry.

The ceiling can be sealed by removing the existing ceiling insulation and applying two or three inches of spray foam insulation to provide the air barrier properties. The desired amount of insulation can then be blown in on top of this to provide the thermal barrier function.

The basement walls and rim joist space decisions will generally be based on the type of foundation present. The most likely options are concrete block or poured concrete. Poured concrete is considered an air barrier, while concrete block is not. If poured concrete, spray foam insulation may be the best solution for connecting the air barrier in the walls, the rim joists, and the basement wall. If concrete block was used, an alternative such as airtight drywall, a vapour permeable, air barrier sheet material or spray foam insulation against the concrete block wall. Typically, drainage is poor in these older houses so a mechanism to allow these walls to dry to the inside is preferred. A provision must be made to ensure that the air barrier is connected to the concrete floor as well. How to do this detail will depend on the method chosen to provide the air barrier for the basement wall.

Now, with the house better insulated, with better windows and more airtight, the air conditioning and heating systems will be over-sized. If left as-is, oversizing will lead to short cycling and this may lead to inadequate distribution of heat and cooling in the house. Also be aware that with the improved air tightness, mechanical ventilation will be required to eliminate cooking odours and to control humidity levels. Therefore, the renovation should include an upgrade to the heating and cooling equipment as well as adding a heat recovery ventilator.

Hopefully this example highlights some of the challenges that renovators might expect and demonstrates the role the new CHBA Renovators’ Manual will play in helping renovators with the decisions they will be making to improve the energy efficiency of housing across the country.

Gary Sharp, CHBA

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Lowrise Feature: Lucchetta Homes

Lucchetta Homes is Niagara’s award-winning builder

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Lucchetta Homes is Niagara’s award-winning builder

Davis Heights is one of Niagara’s finest new addresses by Lucchetta Homes, featuring a limited selection of bungalow/bungaloft custom towns, backing onto a lush ravine and the Niagara escarpment.

The LUXE Collection is custom-curated by the renowned interior design firm – Raphael Gomes Interiors. The Versailles model home is now open for viewing, and features a vertical glass wine-cellar embedded in the staircase and filled with local wines.

Occupancies are scheduled for late 2019, and into 2020. Interiors include double masters with ensuites, a panelled library, 15-foot vaulted ceilings in the living room, gourmet kitchens with two-tone cabinets, and an oversized island. The lower-level features a spacious guest suite, a games room, a wet-bar, a great room with a home theatre, and a personal gym. Every detail has been considered on these homes that range from 1,530 to 2,600 square feet, priced from the $744,900s.

Join Lucchetta Homes on May 25th for their Sip and Savour charity event. Lucchetta will be matching all donations and presenting the proceeds to Wellspring Niagara. At the event, guests will be treated to an oyster bar, hor d’oeuvres, local wine, craft beer, and live entertainment, while viewing the new releases. Davis Heights is currently 60 per cent sold.

Riverside

As part of Riverside‘s grand opening special at Hunter’s Pointe, new home buyers will receive $10,000 in upgrades with the purchase of a luxury, single-detached bungalow. Walkout, waterfront lots, single detached lots, and award-winning bungalow towns, are priced from $499,900, with occupancy scheduled for April 2020. Move-in-ready homes are available with 30-, 60- or 90-day closings.

Now open, and designed by Wendi Pelfrey, is the award-winning, Net Zero Ready Lancaster model. Addressing the needs of those new home purchasers who are downsizing, everything is meticulously designed and accessible. The Lancaster was recently nominated as the Best Home in Ontario and in Canada by both OHBA and CHBA. It also won Best Kitchen and Best Sales Team by the NHBA in 2019.

This resort-style, adult community includes world-class amenities and services. “Buying a home here is a fraction of the cost of comparable homes in the GTA,” says Kim Kopyl, director of sales and marketing for Lucchetta Homes. “And the quality of life is far superior.”

Celebrated builder

Ugo Lucchetta started the company more than 60 years ago. Sons, Robert and Ed, carry on the traditions started by their father. Their hard work has paid off with ongoing appreciation and word-of mouth praise from their loyal customers.

In 2018, alone, Lucchetta Homes won, or were nominated for, more than 30 awards by all levels of builders’ associations – local, provincial and national. Most recently, they won Community of The Year by CHBA and EQ’s Energy Star Builder of The Year. In addition, they received the Excellence in Green, and Community of The Year, by the NHBA (2019).

Lucchetta Homes was the only builder in Ontario this year to have been selected as a finalist by the CHBA National Awards in five categories, including Best Detached Home (one-storey bungalow); Best Attached Home (under 1,500 sq. ft.); Best Print Ad (Riverside); Best Attached Home (1,500+ sq. ft.); and Best Brochure (Davis Heights). “Just to be nominated amongst the very best in the industry in Canada is a tremendous achievement, and a testament to our entire team,” says Kopyl.

Robert and Ed Lucchetta commented on the fact that it’s very prestigious to be considered for national awards as a boutique builder. They build every home as if they would live in it themselves, and constantly reinforce their mantra – legendary luxury. They not only build homes, but sustainable foundations to live your best life.

lucchettahomes.com


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THE MARKETER: Innovative technology a game changer

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THE MARKETER: Innovative technology a game changer

Innovative technology a game changer
By Vicki Griffiths
Vicbar Marketing

Imagine building a house as easily as you connect Lego pieces. Granted, the pieces are much larger, but Quebec company BONE Structure has made building a snap with its innovative steel construction technology. And that’s just part of the beauty of BONE Structure; its houses can be designed to fit on any lot, can be reconfigured and readapted to fit homeowners’ changing needs, and are highly energy efficient.

BONE Structure was founded in 2005 by Marc A. Bovet, who had worked in upper management at aerospace and transportation manufacturer Bombardier. While having his own house built, he found conventional building methods lacking. He figured there was a better way to build and recruited engineers, architects, industrial designers and interior designers to develop the BONE Structure system, which combines the advantage of post and beam building system with superior energy efficiency.

Similar to the technology used to make parts for cars and airplanes, the 11-gauge steel components are designed using 3D software and laser cut with surgical precision. The homes don’t have any interior load-bearing walls, so each home offers great design freedom. The high-performance integrated design thermal building envelope is an excellent integrator when building Net Zero Ready or Net Zero homes and the houses can easily achieve LEED or PassivHaus certifications.

While there are examples of BONE Structure’s work in Ontario (the company also has buildings all across Canada and in California), most have been one-off custom home projects. Now that Fourteen Estates, an award-winning Pickering builder best known for luxury custom homes, is moving into the production home realm with its Eden Park development in Newtonville, it recruited BONE Structure as its building partner. The 28 luxury contemporary homes on three-quarter-acre lots at Eden Park will be a hybrid between custom and production homes. With BONE Structure providing the production work, the homes will be completed in a much shorter time frame than with conventional home building methods. Fourteen Estates will put the finishing on the homes with its signature craftsmanship and attention to detail.

“This is likely the first modern-design and high-performance subdivision of its kind in Ontario,” said Bovet. “The homes will have large open spaces, will be very energy efficient, thanks to our high-performance building envelope and patented steel structure construction system.”

The Eden Park homes will be Net Zero Ready, potentially saving homeowners up to 90 per cent in energy costs and with the addition of solar panels and can become fully Net Zero (producing as much energy as they produce). The steel system makes it easy to reconfigure the homes to adapt with homeowners’ changing needs, including adding more rooms, removing or moving walls, or modifying a floorplan.

The system has benefits for builders, too, who want to stay within budget. The integrated design, production and construction approach takes the guesswork out of what costs will be and each component of a BONE Structure house, down to the number of screws, is itemized. Construction is not complicated and there is no cutting, piercing or welding required. The technology is patented in 42 countries and Bovet wanted to develop a system that could be used in almost any country around the globe and could be assembled even by workers without in-depth construction knowledge.

With a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmentally friendly building, BONE Structure is ahead of that curve, too. It uses non-toxic building materials to ensure indoor air quality, it’s just-in-time delivery system results in minimal waste on job sites and the steel frames are fully recyclable. Is steel the new wood? It just might be.

Vicki Griffiths is the co-founder and director of Vicbar Marketing.

http://www.vicbarmarketing.com/marketing/

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