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high performance building

Interview with Graeme Stewart of ERA Architects

Graeme Stewart is a principal of ERA Architects which was the lead architect of the Ken Soble Tower transformation, one of the largest EnerPHit-certified projects in the world. www.eraarch.ca

1. How did ERA Architects become involved in the Ken Soble Tower project?

ERA Architects had been working for over a decade on the Tower Renewal Project, a strategy for the revitalization of Canada’s aging postwar apartment neighbourhoods, through which we gained experience on tower retrofits. As part of the Hamilton City Housing portfolio of buildings, the Ken Soble Tower was in a distressed, abandoned condition. Based on our experience, we were brought in to do an assessment of what to do: tear it down or retrofit.

2. Deciding to do an EnerPHit transformation was a bold decision. How did you arrive there?

I am pleased to say that the decision was largely made for us by Hamilton City Housing CEO Tom Hunter. He came from the health care sector and said that we build world-class hospitals and need to do the same for our public housing. He understood the long-term benefits of doing an EnerPHit transformation, and the project moved ahead from there.

3. Once the project was a go, how did the process work of coordinating the various disciplines in the team?

When Hamilton City Housing decided on pursuing EnerPHit the intent from the start was to achieve certification. This kept everyone ‘honest’. It was crucial to have a fully co-ordinated team which we assembled based on our experience. The team included: Entuitive, JVM Consulting, Transsolar, Reinbold Engineers and the certifier from PHI in Germany among others. At every step – during design development, review of assemblies, costing reviews – the team always asked if we were meeting PHPP targets. We then worked with PCL on construction mock-ups that would meet the criteria of EnerPHit and serve as the standard should alternate details or products be suggested by the trades. Through this process we arrived at a tight ‘specs package’ such that the project met performance and was ultimately certified.

4. What did you learn from this first project about what worked and what could be improved?

As far as we know, this is the largest residential EnerPHit project in the world. The precedents for this type of work come from Europe but we realized that we need solutions that meet North American practices, products and trade familiarity. Our design made this its focus. The construction manager PCL was critical in the strength of their quality control regime, but some trades wondered early on if the PassiveHouse was overkill.  Yet as testing procedures became easier the consensus was these were key practices for use in future projects, Passive House or overwise.

There are two other observations. We would love to have trades more familiar with high-performance retrofits, and a supply chain that can provide more of the types of products for this type of work. But the evolution will happen. Since we went to tender three years ago, many more suitable products have become available.

5. Is the Ken Soble Tower transformation a practical template for the many similar towers in our building stock?

A resounding yes. The project gave us a lot of elbow room to try things because it was empty. We can apply the lessons learned to an occupied building. It was cheaper by half to renovate the Ken Soble Tower rather than tear it down and replace. The economics will improve further as the supply chain and trade skills improve. The incentive is an improved quality of life in revitalised buildings that are quiet, more comfortable, and more economic to operate in the long term. 

Hockey, Peacekeeping and HFO

Carbon reduction innovation in closed-cell foam insulation

By Rocky Boyer

Canada has been a leader in two of the most important and influential global topics for the past 60 years—Peacekeeping and Hockey.  While these two subjects are still important to its identity, Canada is now emerging as a world leader in the sustainability, climate change, and resiliency movement.

Some key facts about Canada is that it has the second largest land mass in the world (9.9 million m2), is ranked as one of the coldest countries in the world, but what may come as a surprise is that Canada accounts for only 2.0% of annual fossil fuel emissions (Figure 1). 

As Canadians, we are blessed with approximately 900 million acres of forests with each 2.5 acres of forest absorbing six  tons of CO2 per year.  While the country benefits from the natural carbon sequestration systems, Canada’s government and its citizens are working hard to reduce emissions even further.  One of these major carbon reducing actions falls within the construction industry and, more specifically, thermal insulation.

Thermal insulation, whether traditional or high performing, all require energy and fuel to extract, produce and transport. Only when this insulation is installed in a thermal application (not acoustic or aesthetic) can the energy and carbon savings occur. I define traditional insulation as insulation that uses trapped air (batt insulation) for its thermal performance, and high-performance insulation as insulation that uses trapped gas (sprayed polyurethane foam, board stock foam) for its performance in conjunction with an air, or air/vapour retarder system.I hear all the time, although not technically correct, that “insulation saves energy!” Not all insulation reduces energy consumption when you consider products such as acoustic panels or aesthetic tiles.

Insulation has the potential to save energy and carbon when installed in an application where there is resistance to the transfer of heat provided by a heat source. This article will focus on the carbon reduction innovation within the closed-cell foam insulation market which includes spray polyurethane foam insulation and board stock, as this is the area where we saw the biggest technological advancement in the insulation industry in decades.

To understand the innovation and advancement in high performing insulations, we must dive into the evolution of the main component—blowing agent gases. The first-generation blowing agent gases used in thermal insulation were very effective and had high R-value potential. The downside of these agents was their negative environmental impact.  The CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) had an ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential) of 1 and a startling GWP (Global Warming Potential) of 8000.  A GWP of 8000 is essentially 8000 times worse than the environmental impact of carbon dioxide.

Rockford Boyer, B. Arch. Sc., MBSc, BSS, is a building science leader at Elastochem Specialty Chemicals and brings over 20 years of technical knowledge in sustainable building design. Regarded as an expert in the field of building performance, Rockford works closely with architects using energy modelling technology to implement sustainable design strategies.

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825 Pacific Street Artists Hub

New residential space provides public amenity and top performance

By Padraig McMorrow

With more than 2,000m² of affordable production spaces, independent studios, exhibition space and offices, 825 Pacific provides a vital injection of dedicated artist space into the City of Vancouver. The tallest Passive House building in Vancouver, 825 Pacific represents the Community Amenity Contribution made by the developer to the City of Vancouver, in exchange to permit the construction of rezoning an adjacent property for a high-rise residential tower. Because the City would take over the project, it was required to be constructed to the Passive House standard.

The seven-storey building stands next to the historic Leslie House, one of the oldest remaining single-family homes in Downtown Vancouver. To acknowledge the small scale and cultural importance of its neighbour, the ground floor of 825 Pacific, which will be a publicly accessible gallery, is set back to create a small entrance courtyard between the two buildings.

This is a core and shell project, with only the washroom and storage areas on each floor enclosed; the remainder awaiting subdivision by the tenants.The structure of the seven storey plus basement building comprises conventionally reinforced concrete walls, columns, floor slabs and roof slab. The stair cores located at the rear of the building provide the necessary lateral resistance.

Envelope

The slab on grade and basement walls are insulated with 125mm expanded polystyrene (XPS) which provides an effective thermal resistance of R-27. The roof, with 230mm of XPS laid on the slab, provides an effective thermal resistance of R-43 for the green roof. The ground floor concrete walls are insulated with 203mm mineral wool, which provides an effective thermal resistance of R-32.

The walls of the upper floors are steel stud with 152mm mineral wool batt insulation between the studs; with an additional 203mm of continuous semi rigid mineral wool insulation, supported by the thermally broken stainless steel brackets used to secure the metal cladding.

This wall assembly provides an effective thermal resistance of R-44. To mitigate thermal bridging, heavy gauge studs were used to reduce the number of brackets required; together with non-metallic through wall flashings.

Project Credits

  • Developer   Grosvenor Group
  • Owner  City of Vancouver
  • General Contractor  Ledcor Group
  • Architects  ACDF Architecture and Arcadis IBI Group
  • Building Envelope Consultant and Energy Modeller  Morrison Hershfield
  • Structural Engineer  Dialog
  • Mechanical and Electrical Engineer  Integral Group

Three shades of metal panels create a dynamic exterior pattern, and staggered windows from one floor to another contribute to the rhythm of the facade. The overall effect is that of a pixelated beacon to attract the public. EJOT® CROSSFIX® stainless steel thermal clip brackets attach the facade to the building structure to maintain thermal performance.

Padraig McMorrow Architect (Ireland) MRIAI, CPHC, Associate – Manager, Architecture Arcadis IBI Group Vancouver Office.

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SoLo House

Off-grid design a learning experience for larger projects

By Aik Ablimit, Alysia Baldwin and Cillian Collins

SoLo house is a 380m2, self sufficient, off-grid home with a 40m2 ancillary building, sitting lightly on a forested knoll overlooking the spectacular Soo Valley north of Whistler in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. Reflecting the client’s expressed intention to ‘set a new benchmark for environmental performance, health and well-being’, SoLo is not a typical alpine home.

Rather, we designed a prototype that demonstrates a unique approach to building off-grid in a remote environment where every choice has consequences. Challenging conventions in both aesthetics and construction, the prototype acts as a testing ground for low-energy systems, healthy materials, prefabricated and modular construction methods, and independent operations intended to inform the approach to larger projects.

The house includes living space and a master bedroom suite on the main level; linked to a sauna and storage space in the adjacent ancillary building. The upper level includes two more bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Given the valley’s extreme climate, it was critical to have an ‘enclosure-first’ approach to ensure energy efficiency and outstanding comfort. With the goal of Passive House certification, we devised a two-layer solution to the enclosure: an outer heavy timber frame acting as a shield to resist the weather, and the heavily insulated inner layer acting as the thermal barrier.

To ensure the house functions with exceptional thermal performance and air tightness, we conducted detailed thermal modelling of each weather condition. With the addition of double-height glazing opening the home up to the valley’s incredible views, SoLo has achieved PHI Low Energy Building Certification.

PROJECT CREDITS

  • Owner/Developer  Delta Land Development Ltd.
  • Architect  Perkins&Will
  • Structural Engineer  Glotman Simpson
  • Consulting Engineers
  • Mechanical and Electrical Engineer  Integral Group
  • General Contractor  Durfeld Constructors
  • Building Envelope Consultant  RDH Building Science
  • Code Consultant  GHL Consultants
  • Photos  Latreille Photography

AIK ABLIMIT, AIA, NCARB, CPHD, LEED AP® BD+C, RELI AP; ALYSIA BALDWIN, ARCHITECT AIBC, CPHD, LEED AP® BD+C; AND CILLIAN COLLINS, MRIAI, CPHD, LEED® AP BD+C , ARE ALL WITH PERKINS&WILL.

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THE PUTMAN FAMILY YWCA

New community neighbour combines energy efficiency and affordable housing

By Irene Rivera and Esther Van Eeden

The Putman Family YWCA is Hamilton’s first affordable housing residence for women and children. The six storey building comprises four floors of apartment units above a ground floor and basement podium that opens to a community garden on one side. The interconnected ground and basement levels provide community services to residents and the greater community, while the sixth floor provides community and amenity spaces for residents.

Of the 50 apartment units, 15 were reserved for women living with developmental challenges. Priority for all units was given to women from marginalized and Indigenous communities who have experienced domestic violence and homelessness. 

Designed to fit naturally into the city’s artistic Crown Point community, the building breathes new life into the disused site of YWCA’s swimming pool. Using local materials and manufacturers where possible, the project aspired to reflect the tradition and aesthetic of Hamilton as a Steel Town. The brick clad podium mirrors the scale and materiality of the surrounding buildings and creates a tangible, visual connection between the streetscape and the community programming offered by the YWCA.

Background

In 2021, rent prices in Hamilton skyrocketed more than 14%, leaving many with the impossible choice of either paying for shelter or paying for food. Hamilton’s waiting list for social housing is over 6,000 people. Women face unique barriers in securing safe and affordable housing and are the most vulnerable to homelessness. Safe and secure housing provides a haven for many women and children, where they are protected from abuse and given the ability to start dreaming of a brighter future.

The decision to pursue Passive House certification is consistent with that of other providers of supportive housing across the country, as it significantly reduces operating costs, while providing a high level of indoor environmental quality for residents. These attributes align with the YWCA’s core mission to provide comfortable, healthy, secure, resilient, and safe housing for women.

Construction Approach

The YWCA wanted a robust building constructed of a secure material that would signify strength and a place of safety for the community they serve. They also wanted to create a building whose material expression reflected its location in a historic manufacturing town. Cast in place concrete was initially considered, but discarded in favour of precast when the manufacturer demonstrated it could meet all the design requirements with the added benefits of precast construction.

Project Credits

  • Client YWCA Hamilton
  • Architect/Architecte  Kearns Mancini Architects Inc.
  • Structural Engineer  RJC Engineers
  • Contractor  Schilthuis Construction Inc.
  • Passive House Consultant  Kearns Mancini Architects Inc.
  • Precast Concrete Supplier  Coreslab Structures (ONT) Inc.
  • Photos  Simon Tingle, Craft Architecture Photography (photos 1, 3 and 5), Industryous Photography (photos 2, 4 and 6)
  • Drawings/ Dessins  Kearns Mancini Architects Inc.

The building orientation was determined by the site location, height and program area required. Triple-glazed windows were sized according to their orientation using passive design strategies. Detailing to maintain the thermal performance of the envelope includes the use of SIGA tapes Fentrim 430 grey around the windows, Fentrim 230 grey on the bolt connections, Fentrim 20 (or IS20) at building envelope joints, and Wigluv on the ground floor and on the elevator roof.

Irene Rivera is an Associate Architect, and Esther Van Eeden is Director of High Performance Buildings, both with Kearns Mancini Architects in Toronto with Kearns Mancini Architects.

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The Ken Soble Tower

EnerPHit transformation lights the way to new retrofit model

By Graeme Stewart

The project is not only the first such retrofit in North America but, at 18 storeys and more than 7500 m2, it is one of the largest EnerPHit1 certified projects in the world. In the Canadian context, it is also arguably the most successful to date in meeting the goals of the Federal government’s National Housing Strategy Repair and Renewal Fund.

The modernization of the building has reinstated 146 units of affordable seniors’ housing, while reinvigorating community spaces and outdoor gathering areas, enabling aging-in-place throughout, and barrier-free living in 20% of suites.

Background

The Ken Soble tower was originally constructed in 1967 and by the start of this project had fallen into a state of disrepair and was uninhabitable. One of the considerations at the outset of this project was whether to demolish the existing structure and build new, or to complete a retrofit and restore the building to a serviceable condition, consistent with today’s standards of durability and performance.

Ultimately, the team decided to retrofit which extended the life of the existing building’s cast-in-place concrete frame and part of the existing masonry envelope. The environmental impact and embodied carbon of the original construction were not wasted, nor unnecessarily duplicated in a new building.  Through the Passive House level retrofit, the ongoing operational carbon emissions were drastically reduced and will support an extended service life.

Retrofit Strategies

Operational carbon reductions are achieved using a high-performance envelope, with nearly twice the insulation value required by Code, drastically reducing heating and cooling demand. The envelope upgrades include R-38 effective over cladding, passive-house certified windows and air sealing details to achieve 0.6ACH @50Pa airtightness.

Project Credits

  • Owner/developer  City Housing Hamilton
  • Architect  ERA Architects
  • General Contractor  PCL Constructors
  • Landscape Architect  ERA Architects
  • Electrical Engineer  Nemetz & Associates
  • Mechanical engineer  Reinbold Engineering
  • Structural Engineer  Entuitive Corp
  • Commissioning Agent  CFMS West Consulting Inc
  • Passive House Consultant  JMV Consulting
  • Passive House Certifier  Herz & Lang Gmt
  • Building Envelope Consultant  Entuitive Corp
  • Photos  Doublespace Photography

The renovated tower offers a built example to improve dramatically the performance of the thousands of similar apartments across North America. The AlphaGuard™ liquid-applied roofing system by Tremco Roofing helps to maintain the integrity of the building envelope.

The finished façade with new Juliette balconies. EJOT® CROSSFIX® stainless steel thermal clip brackets in the facade system help to maintain thermal performance.

Graeme Stewart is a principal at ERA Architects.

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Habitat For Humanity House

A pilot project for modular and sustainable affordable housing

By Joe Scrocco

The Willowdale Street house in the County of Brant came about from a telephone call which Makers (https://makers.to/), a Toronto-based Producer collective, received from Habitat for Humanity asking for help with a campaign launch in the Brant Norfolk region. In response Makers went further by creating Project Upstart, a modular and sustainable affordable housing system in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, the County of Brant, The School of Architecture at Waterloo and architectural firm PH43, who specialize in Passive House design.

The Upstart house on Willowdale Street is a pilot project for the Habitat Heartland Ontario Brant-Norfolk Chapter; a chance to try a new building process and learn from the experience. It’s also the first time Habitat for Humanity has built to Passive House standards in Canada.

The home sits close to the Grand River and the Brantford Conservation Area on a 1,000-square metre lot. Its location in a residential neighbourhood, within walking distance to schools, parks, and a grocery store, helps a family become part of the community around them.

The design utilizes prefabricated components for much of the construction. This approach lowers the cost of materials and simplifies the building process for Habitat volunteers, who are mostly non-trades people.

The placement of the house on the Brant County lot was carefully considered to maximize the seasonal solar gain, and to use the sun strategically to heat and cool without the need of air conditioning. With an airtight and thermally efficient envelope, along with high-efficiency appliances, heating demand should be reduced by up to 75% for an energy bill of between $11 and $25/month.

Special thank you to:

Many skilled and knowledgeable volunteers and these companies:

  • Better Bin Company for garbage disposal and recycling/repurposing
  • Ark Electric
  • Hunter Plumbing and Excavating
  • East Elgin Concrete
  • Simple Life Homes
  • Jackson Roofing
  • Turkstra Lumber
  • Town & Country
  • Fantech
  • Moduloc Fencing
  • Franke Kindred
  • B.N.C. Crane Service
  • CleanShot
  • Home Depot
  • AMA Drywall
  • Ferrell Builders Supply
  • Fraser Locksmith
  • Grandbridge energy
  • VerBeek kitchens
  • VETTA Windows

Joe Scrocco is Director of Build Services, Habitat for Humanity Heartland and Brant Norfolk Chapter.

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Builders are going to shape the future. Here’s how.

By: Chris Ballard

We are pleased to participate in the Passive House issue of SABMag. Builders, and the building industry, have a crucial role to play in the struggle to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, and I foresee that Passive House is going to play a big part in addressing that struggle.

Our built environment is a major contributor to climate change. In large urban areas, emissions from buildings contribute over 50 per cent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and over 30 per cent globally. As governments set ambitious targets to reduce GHGs, builders are going to be increasingly called upon to deliver higher performance buildings.

At the same time, Canada is grappling with a national housing crisis. In Ontario alone, the provincial government has promised no less than 1.5 million new homes by 2031. We know we can’t build our homes to previous standards because of climate change – and governments at all levels are beginning to insist new buildings be built to increasingly high-performance standards. Still, it’s those on the ground — architects, contractors, skilled trades and developers, as well as lenders — who will ultimately become the gatekeepers for better, low energy consumption builds.

Industry players are key to educating homeowners and the public as to the standards that will deliver on the promise of high-performance buildings that achieve net-zero or near net-zero carbon without relying on carbon offsets or renewable energy add-ons. We see “green” standards everywhere, and there are numerous claims as to the efficiency of each.

While I’m not here to make claims for or against other standards, I will say that “green washing” is a major problem — and not just our industry. Still, it is an issue we need to address head on, and tackle collectively, through education and verification.

There are, currently, enormous burdens on our power grids. As extreme weather events escalate, our cities and towns face ever greater risks of blackouts and grid failures. We need to enter this into the equation and build homes that will reduce those burdens by ensuring cooling and heating loads are minimized through good design and construction. We need buildings that can keep people safe and comfortable at home, even in the event of power outages, or extreme heat and cold. Passive House provides one such solution. The alternative is stark. Take, for instance, the horrifying situation arising from B.C.’s 2021 heat dome, which caused the deaths of 619 people. 

People in our industry are often stymied due to the very simplicity of the Passive House standard, because it advocates for passive energy consumption — through airtight building envelopes, superior ventilation, and other passive conservation techniques. Buildings that consume far less to heat and cool than the average home, rather than more, can be a difficult concept to grasp, but that is precisely what Passive House delivers.

We now have nearly 50 years of science-driven data to back up these claims, and Passive House has been recognized as the standard to meet for affordable, high-performance buildings.

And, as our industry moves further into discussing the role of operational carbon and embodied carbon, Passive House is likewise evolving. The Passive House community can employ a new PHRibbon tool that helps calculate embodied carbon over the life of the building, a tool which also models future increases to average temperatures.

Passive House Canada is likewise poised to support the building industry, as financial institutions and governments more and more make investment decisions based on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) policies of the developer, and of its design, engineering and construction companies. Passive House is perfectly suited to address the “Environment” in ESG, and we would be delighted to explain how.

Resilient buildings which keep people safe and comfortable should be the norm, not the exception, and that is precisely where I want to leave this thread. As builders, you have enormous power to transcend building policies and their real-world impacts. Get educated. If you haven’t already been trained and certified in Passive House, I urge you to do so. If price is an issue, know that government grants are available, and we offer competitive pricing for Passive House members.

Become an advocate of better buildings. Educate your clients, your manufacturers, and your government. Insist on high performance projects that live up to their promise — not just in five years, but in 25 or 50. Finally, I urge each of you to simply build better. We’ll all feel better, and live better, for your efforts.

www.passivehousecanada.com

Chris Ballard is a former minister of both housing and environment and climate change for Ontario, and is currently the CEO of Passive House Canada, a national non-profit professional association that advocates for high-performance buildings using the Passive House standard.

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Insurance Pricing For Mass Timber Buildings Compared to Concrete/Masonry

Sponsored by Frank T. Came and associates

By Frank Came

It has long been known that insurance costs for wood frame buildings are higher than the rate for comparable structures built with masonry, concrete, or other non-combustible materials. The cost differential could be seven to ten times higher for low to midrise wood buildings.

Questions have arisen as to whether the same pricing differential exists for ensuring taller buildings constructed with more advanced engineered wood products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) or glue-laminated timber (glulam) are promoted as being more robust and more fire-resistant than concrete or steel.

Tall mass timber buildings, some approaching skyscraper heights, have been constructed in various parts of the world to demonstrate that building with wood can be faster, less costly, and more environmentally friendly than comparable concrete or steel structures.

Extensive research has been undertaken to test the real-world performance of these structures in terms of resistance to extreme weather events and their ability to withstand fire or water damage in times of emergency. In several jurisdictions, fire and building codes have been adjusted to accommodate the greater use of engineered wood products in the construction sector.

And while efforts have been made to have mass timber reclassified for insurance purposes as a building product distinct from conventional wood frame construction, insurers have been doubtful about moving in this direction.

While it is accepted that tall mass timber structures represent a distinct segment in the construction market and that new technologies are involved, from an insurance perspective, the risk factors are viewed as higher than for buildings constructed with concrete or steel.

Recent research in the Canadian construction sector suggests insurance the costs to insure tall wood buildings could range from five to seven times higher than for comparable structures built with non-combustible materials. Not only are premiums higher, but securing full coverage for mass timber structures is more complex, as underwriters are reluctant to assume total exposure to the risks involved.

The simple fact that wood burns and will continue to do so until extinguished introduces safety and property protection issues that must be accounted for. Despite tests demonstrating that mass timber walls and beams provide fire resistance performance comparable to concrete or steel is of little consequence to underwriters.

Allowing a building’s occupants time to escape is essential, but from the underwriter’s perspective, the question is what happens beyond that escape window. Will the fire extend through compartment walls, service ducts or other spaces and consume different parts of the building, adding to the extent and costs of property damage? What measures are in place to extinguish fires, not simply contain them?

These issues are difficult to quantify, and the golden rule of insurance is that you cannot insure what you can’t quantify. Factors influencing the pricing differentials go far beyond the combustibility issue. Mass timber buildings involve new technologies in building materials and designs, as well as just-in-time construction methodologies and skill sets that are not as widespread as conventional construction methods.

While underwriters will look at combustible void protection, fire suppression and extinguishment measures, they will also look at water exposure risks not only from fire fighting but also from flood and extreme weather perils. Indeed, water damage remains the most significant risk factor affecting insurance pricing, followed by risks of damage from fire, extreme weather events, or other incidents such as earthquakes.

Other factors considered are the scale of the building and the extent of material damage to property or from business interruption exposure; design features that could affect access or egress and the spread of water; and the location of the building relative to first responders’ capabilities. Also considered by underwriters are the track records of building contractors or property managers in building construction and post-construction operations.

The high costs to repair, remediate, or deconstruct wood structures partially damaged by fire or water are of particular concern to insurance providers. While masonry and concrete structures are relatively easy to assess, processes to verify the structural integrity and other features of mass timers are costly, time-consuming, and sometimes inconclusive.

The fact that wood building projects are more vulnerable to all these risks has prompted some insurance companies to vacate or severely limit their involvement in the wood frame or mass timber markets. This is why most wood construction projects require multiple insurers, each limiting their risk exposure.

Risk exposure policies of the world’s major reinsurance companies are also influenced by losses arising from natural or artificial disasters. In ‘harsh market conditions, local insurance companies have little flexibility to circumvent these industry-wide policies, which contributes to the need for many insurance companies to be involved in providing coverage for tall wood construction projects.

To sum up, insurance is based on indemnifying against risks. Risks and uncertainties are not the same.  Uncertainties stem from a lack of knowledge, and reducing risks involves reducing those doubts. Pricing insurance coverage is based on the probability that certain risks will not occur.

The more significant the chances that such risks will happen, the higher will be the premiums. In this regard, ensuring tall mass timber structures currently involves more uncertainties than conventional construction. Hence premiums will continue to be higher.

Mass Timber Buildings are a niche design practice in today’s construction market, but they are evolving. The trend in several countries suggests more tall timber projects will rise over the next decade. What the next generation of projects will look like depends on what designers and other industry stakeholders can and will do to resolve the insurability and the many other issues discussed in this article. 

References: The findings are an update of research undertaken by Globe Advisors in 2016 entitled Study of Insurance Costs for Mid-Rise Wood Frame and Concrete Residential Buildings. Frank Came was the Project Director for the original study.

Frank Came, Principal, Frank T. Came and Associates, an Independent Consultancy based in British Columbia.

Download the Full Study at: https://www.edchats.ca/fullstudy

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Local 144 administrative office & training centre

Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC

Commercial/Industrial (Large) Award

Jury Comment: This project reflects the client’s remarkable commitment to exemplary building performance and the wellbeing of its employees. Low-carbon materials, a large photovoltaic array, and ultra low water consumption are combined with an attractive atrium, gardens and other social spaces.

This project arose from the desire of the plumbers’ union, the United Association – Local 144, to create a new head office and training facility for its members that would be warm, welcoming and at the same time, achieve the highest possible performance goals across a range of sustainable design criteria.

Located on an infill site in an industrial area at the east end of the Island of Montreal, the project offered both urban improvement and economic opportunities; restoring a former wasteland area and providing training facilities for local trades.

From the outset, the aim was to achieve LEED v4 Platinum certification (a first for an industrial building in Canada), with specific performance objectives including:  an 80% reduction in energy consumption, to be achieved in part by the installation of a 430-panel rooftop photovoltaic array; a reduction of 80% in potable water consumption; a partial wood structure to minimize embodied energy; passive design strategies to harvest daylight; and natural displacement ventilation for energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

The program is divided into two distinct pavilions joined by a footbridge. The differences in major occupancy, together with the required spans and spatial organization, led to the choice of a steel structure for the training centre and a mass timber structure for the administration building.

The central atrium of the Administrative building. Nordic Structures supplied FSC-certified cross-laminated timber slabs for the floor and roof, and glued-laminated timber posts and beams.

Large areas of translucent insulated panels by Kalwall on the south wall provide daylight to the workshop spaces and classrooms while maintaining a high-performance building envelope.

The heat for the radiant floors is produced by an optimized combination of geothermal and a Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada VRF air source heat pump system.

Project Credits

  • Owner/Developer  United Association – Local 144
  • Architect  Blouin Tardif Architectes
  • General contractor  SIMDEV
  • Landscape Architect  Guillaume Henri Hurbain Civil Engineer  NCK
  • Electrical/mechanical engineer  Martin & Roy Associés
  • Structural engineer  NCK
  • LEED consultant  WSP
  • Building envelope  REMATEK
  • Photos  Claude Dagenais, twohumans
  • Project Performance
  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 133 KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under ASHRAE 90.1-2010 = 81%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 1,612 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 81%

Project Performance

  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 133 KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under ASHRAE 90.1-2010 = 81%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 1,612 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 81%