Tag Archives: Richard Lyall

THE COUNCIL: Keeping the trades satisfied

Keeping the trades satisfied: Labour crunch leads to survey

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Keeping the trades satisfied: Labour crunch leads to survey

Labour crunch leads to survey to learn how to keep construction workers happy on the job.

Ontario construction is facing a labour crunch in the next 10 years with almost 90,000 trades workers set to retire during that time, according to BuildForce Canada.

Learning about that figure triggered a conversation that led RESCON to join forces with Job Talks, an organization with a strong track record in academia and in construction. Together with the Ontario Residential Council of Construction Associations, they have launched a survey to learn what satisfies trades professionals day-to-day as they build Ontario.

“We’re thinking about the future,” said Andrew Pariser, vice president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). “We’ve seen labour shortages on and off in different trades for more than a decade. We must prepare for how this will affect all construction sectors including residential and infrastructure and how it will impact our ability to build in the future.

“Our goal is to better understand how we can retain current workers, recruit new workers, and build a labour force to match tomorrow’s needs. If we recruit the right people and provide them with the right opportunities, we can greatly improve all training and apprenticeship initiatives.”

The academically-based survey analysis will be carried out by Job Talks. Recent Job Talks projects include a national survey of workers in Red Seal trades and a complementary interview series on YouTube, as well as a national study that reveals new distinct segments of Canada’s working population.

“It takes at least 20 minutes and is open to any person who works on tools or owns a pair of safety boots in infrastructure and residential trades in Ontario,” said Jon Callegher of Job Talks. It has multiple choice and open-ended questions that “help us understand how construction workers really feel about their jobs and to gauge their happiness on the job.”

The results of the survey will inform a report on retention and job satisfaction of trades workers in construction. It is available here.

For more information, email dibe@rescon.com.

Richard Lyall is the president of RESCON.

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Women In Skilled Trades (WIST)

Women are breaking barriers

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Women are breaking barriers

Tiffany Morin loves to solve puzzles. In fact, the new graduate from the Women In Skilled Trades (WIST) program says she considers every house she works on to be a puzzle.

“If that door isn’t closing right, you have to fix the puzzle – you have to find the missing piece,” said the 21-year-old from Baden (near Kitchener). “You see something that’s not working, you re-evaluate what’s wrong and try the first solution, then the next solution.”

Morin recently graduated from the program at the Centre for Skills Development in Burlington. It is an important cog to train and educate women to join the male-dominated construction trades.

“We’re chipping away every year to change the gender makeup of the trades,” says instructor Lawrence Farrell.

Among 19 women in the 22-week program, Morin was considered one of her class’s top problem-solvers. She has taken those skills and her new education with her to a job in Kitchener with Timeline Journey Renovations.

“It’s going really great. So far, we’ve put in a few doors, bathroom vents and a fence job where we replaced all of the old posts with new ones. Every day, I learn something new,” Morin says.

Farrell was not surprised to learn Morin was hired the Monday following her graduation in September.

“Tiffany is a very capable worker, and is an excellent problem solver with an eye for detail,” Farrell says. “She excelled in theory and was admired for her ability to grasp concepts quickly and apply what she learned for hands-on use. She is a leader, and that will shine through as she develops in her career in the trades.”

Because she excelled in leadership skills, academics and technical ability, Morin joined classmate Nico Varkevisser of Hamilton in being awarded with a $500 bursary from the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON).

Morin describes Varkevisser, a former daycare worker, as a quiet leader. “She was always so patient. All of the students got frustrated at different points but we all understood where people needed to take a second to catch their breath; no one was good at everything,” Morin says.

“Nico was definitely the most patient and understanding of all of us. She was always level-headed and if she ever got frustrated, it didn’t show.”

While she has plenty of patience, Varkevisser says she’s focused on improving her professional qualities. “I have a whole skill set that I didn’t have six months earlier, and I have the confidence that I can learn different skills if I didn’t learn them before.”

Varkevisser, 25, says that while it’s intimidating to be a woman stepping into construction, it shouldn’t be. “I think it needs to be more normalized so that women can be seen as being just as efficient as men in the construction world.” Couldn’t agree more.

Richard Lyall is president of RESCON.


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THE COUNCIL: Bill 148 and new homebuyers

THE COUNCIL: Bill 148 and new homebuyers

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THE COUNCIL: Bill 148 and new homebuyers

For hard-working people who have scraped together a downpayment for a new home over the course of many years, Bill 148 is a tough pill to swallow.

by Richard Lyall
RESCON

For hard-working people, including millennials, who have scraped together a downpayment over the course of many years – extending their planned purchasing date by years – Bill 148 is a tough pill to swallow.

Also known as The Fair Workplaces, Better Job Act, 2017, Bill 148 was an omnibus labour bill introduced and passed by the provincial Liberal government. It was proposed to solve labour market issues outlined by the changing workplace review in Ontario’s service and retail sectors and assist vulnerable workers in the province’s emerging “part-time gig economy.”

Despite indicating that construction would be excluded, there was a decision by the Liberals to include all sectors of the economy – including construction – into the bill.

Numerous associations wrote to the previous government and outlined obvious concerns, including introducing sick days and scheduling requirements. To be direct, the construction industry pays relatively higher wages than virtually all sectors, including manufacturing, with the understanding that outside of vacation pay, workers are paid when they work and not paid when they don’t.

This longstanding agreement – which is reflected in virtually all industry collective agreements and with non-union constructors – has been turned on its head and continues to destabilize the entire industry. Meanwhile, the 2019 round of bargaining is coming up fast: both sides of the table are preparing for another long round of bargaining in the spring when most construction collective agreements will expire.

However, Doug Ford’s newly elected government still has a chance to exclude the construction sector, restore the industry to pre-Bill 148 legislation and begin unwinding the uncertainty it has caused.

Now is the time to act. Let Ford know you want to undo the problems Bill 148 is causing, which will give new homebuyers confidence as they step onto the housing ladder next year. There is simply too much on the line for the GTA’s new housing sector and the Ontario economy it drives.

Richard Lyall is the president of RESCON.

media@rescon.com


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THE COUNCIL: Keesmaat’s 100,000 housing plan doomed to fail

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THE COUNCIL: Keesmaat’s 100,000 housing plan doomed to fail

By Richard Lyall
RESCON

Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat’s goal to build 100,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years is bold but simply unrealistic.

Firstly, there wouldn’t be a shovel hitting the ground for those units for at least five years assuming blazing rollout speed.

Secondly, let’s say Keesmaat’s affordable homes are built after that five-year waiting period. By 2030, all new buildings will have to operate at net zero carbon, as per the C40 Cities agreement that Toronto signed onto last month in London, with another 18 global cities (including Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Paris and Tokyo).

Net zero is sexy but it would put taxpayers on the hook for homes that RESCON estimates would see construction costs rise by at least 15 per cent. This gold plating beyond the building code would be far too costly relative to its benefits. More unnecessary costs and fewer units available would relegate those knocked out of the market to sub-standard housing.

We must focus first on helping a greater number of people, including millennials – a generation we are failing – who struggle to get on the housing ladder.

The region is suffering from a dwindling housing supply chain. The only way you can solve supply issues is by adding to the supply and freeing up developments stuck in approvals purgatory. That’s why our latest report on streamlining the development approval process was released in July. (Go to http://rescon.com/reports/ for more.)

Government has proven incapable of fixing the housing crisis on its own, attempting to temper only demand – the industry stands ready to assist at any time.

One bit of advice I’m happy to provide to anyone: Toronto (representing Canada) can’t stay at 54th in the world for construction permitting, according to the World Bank, when Canada is a vibrant G7 nation.

Ontario has an evolving building code. Let’s stick to it so we can continue to build housing for more people, not create more barriers to housing production.

Richard Lyall is president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). http://rescon.com/

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THE COUNCIL : U.S. tariffs on steel will hurt Canadian real estate

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THE COUNCIL : U.S. tariffs on steel will hurt Canadian real estate

By Richard Lyall
RESCON

The news of the U.S. government tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada is a serious matter for the construction industry and highrise building in Toronto and Vancouver, which uses enormous quantities of reinforcing steel. The tariffs amount to 25 per cent on imported steel, including rebar and construction steel. Trump had announced the tariffs in March (recently citing national security reasons, which as their closest ally, I don’t understand) but gave exemptions to Canada, Mexico and the European Union up to June 1. Other countries – including Argentina, South Korea, Australia and Brazil – are facing quotas or volume limits. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the exemptions for Canada were tied to ongoing NAFTA negotiations, which have taken “longer than we had hoped.” Oddly, he also indicated that there was some potential flexibility on the tariffs. Perhaps the U.S. didn’t buy into Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s recent claims that Canada would make greater efforts to prevent foreign steel from being dumped into the North American market. Not really a big surprise there.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reached out to the provinces that will be hit hardest by these tariffs – including Ontario, Canada’s steel manufacturing heartland – before announcing upcoming tariffs on U.S. imports, including beer kegs, whiskey and toilet paper.

RESCON believes that Canada should have tread lightly and left construction rebar out of any responses that could hurt the Canadian economy. This didn’t happen.

A dramatic, and possibly continued hike in rebar and construction steel costs could have a serious impact on the highrise construction sector, condo projects and housing costs. We’ll have to live with the unintended consequences in highrise construction, whether that’s residential or ICI. And so will our economy, which is driven by construction.

The Canadian government recently provided relief to the drywall industry tariffs to offset injury to homebuyers and construction workers. The same consideration for the same reasons should be given here. We have to put the economy first.

Richard Lyall is president of RESCON. @RESCONprez, http://rescon.com/

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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.

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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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