Oh, Canada!

With the 2014 conference and trade show season drawing to a close, the team at 475 caught a glimpse of new horizons while fraternizing with our neighbors to the north last week at the 2014 Construct International trade show in Toronto, Ontario. Loaded with models, samples, and enthusiasm to show off our Pro Clima products at a German-sponsored booth alongside Lüder Herms, head of R&D at Pro Clima, Floris and I took to the open road on Monday for the long drive from Brooklyn.

We started by attending a few speaker events, learning about importing to Canada and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC)’s Canadian Construction Material's Centre (CMCC) certification for new products. As you might have guessed, we were there with hopes to see a strong interest for building airtightness and energy efficiency from Canadian builders and architects and to learn more about doing business in Canada.  Day 1’s events were limited, so we spent the rest of the afternoon working from our Airbnb apartment in downtown Toronto, enjoying Texas-style barbecue and local beers at a spot nearby (wait, didn’t we drive north?), and planning for the first day of the exhibition.

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Lüder speaks with Canadian builders at Construct International.

The first day of the exhibition gave us considerable confidence about the opportunities for Pro Clima and 475 in Canada. Even though our booth wasn’t in an ideal section of the show, we had a well-sized space and spoke to a constant flow of builders, architects, students, and others, all of whom seemed very interested to see these new products focusing on airtightness. A walk around the rest of the trade show enlightened us as to the relatively few exhibitors who were even vaguely advocating airtightness and Passive House, though the conversations we had proved that professionals wanted to see more of this across Canada.

Floris speaking with Jesse Matthews.

Floris was originally scheduled to take a break from the trade show to give a talk at Ryerson University, though due to the time of year and the students’ finals schedule, he decided to reschedule for sometime in the coming months. His contact there, a progressive building science professor, did get a chance to stop by the booth with a few of her students.  Floris also got the chance to meet local builder Jesse Matthews, who let us know that Lloyd Alter was around, but unfortunately he had had to leave and didn’t get a chance to stop by.  Sorry we missed you Lloyd, maybe next year!

Lüder and John Staube get into the fine print.

With feet tired and the day drawing to a close, I got caught up in a conversation with a knowledgeable building science expert who I immediately recognized (once he turned over his nametag) as John Straube of the University of Waterloo, a thought leader in Canada’s building science community that most readers here may already know of. Soon Floris and Lüder had joined in a lively discussion about wall assemblies, and all of a sudden it was an hour and change after the trade show was over and we found ourselves being politely asked to leave by security.  Thanks for the stimulating debate, John.

Floris and I ended the day with an evening at the Emmet Ray, where I joined some old friends on stage with my saxophone for the bar’s 5th anniversary, while Lüder stayed behind, claiming “jetlag”, though we later found out he was running WUFI simulations for what he thought were some contentious claims about wall assemblies in Canada that were brought up during the day.

Pro Clima's certificate of participation, proudly displayed.

The conclusion: stretching the limits of the insulation R-value ratio interior and exterior of the interior vapor retarder or sheathing might be possible in colder climates where relative interior humidity stays low, but then high performance building should never be focused on the minimal amount of protection required.  The 1/3:2/3 rule of thumb - emphasizing the need to keep 2/3 of the insulation value exterior of the vapor control layer (membrane or sheathing) to keep it warm enough to prevent moisture accumulation on the its interior face - is the safer way to avoid moisture problems in your wall assembly.

During day 2 of the exhibition, we saw many new faces and continued to have interesting conversations with various members of the high performance building community in Ontario. Floris and Lüder attended a few talks, while I held down the fort, and even helped a builder with his first ever 475 order, for some Intello, Tescon Vana, and Tescon Profil.

After navigating our way from one to another rather loud restaurant filled with Toronto’s banking crowd, we were able to grab a table and watch some hockey at a steakhouse with a friend of Floris’s, Andrew Peel, with whom we chatted about the rise of Passive House in Canada and his mission to create more unity in the Passive House movement in Ontario.

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Floris with Ryan Kelley and his tiny house, built with DB+ and Gutex.

With an early rise and plenty of gas to get us back across the border, Floris and I hit the road again on Friday morning, looking forward to a couple of stops along the way home to check out some projects using 475 products. Outside of Rochester, we met with Ryan Kelley, an amateur builder who used Gutex Ultratherm on his tiny house, a work in progress that will soon also incorporate Lunos decentralized HRV fans and Pro Clima DB+ as an interior air barrier covering mineral wool batt insulation.

Closer to Gotham, we decided to stop at the masonry home Floris is currently renovating, providing an opportunity to the see the progress of electrical, plumbing, and split-system HVAC system work, as well as going over some connection details.

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Inside Floris' retrofit project in Saugerties, NY

Floris is using a variety of 475 products on this project, including Intello Plus as an interior smart vapor retarder; Tescon Vana, Contega Solido Exo, Contega Solido SL, and Extoseal Encors tapes for membrane overlaps and window connections; Solitex Mento Plus as a WRB and roof underlayment; Gutex Multitherm for exterior insulation in walls and on the roof. More on that project soon!

After our stop at Saugerties and a stop at the office, where we arrived too late to find anyone still around, I finally let Floris have the keys for the last few miles of the trip. Sinterklaas awaited him and I was looking forward to a weekend of reflecting and relaxing.

Though I was born in Canada, it wasn’t the Canadian in me that was excited for what the future may hold for 475 in Canada – it was the reflection of the genuine enthusiasm we saw in Canada, and the unquestionable opportunity for the continued growth of Passive House and high performance building in Canada. An added plus – an overwhelmingly positive email from Lüder early Tuesday morning confirming Pro Clima’s interest to work with 475 as their exclusive partner in Canada – what a way to end a great week.  Oh, Canada here we come!

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