Episode 4 – Brandon Gemme (RJC) – Curtain Wall Conversations
By Sean | Blog
July 11, 2022
Curious what kind of conversations happen behind the scenes at one of the world’s leading curtain wall manufacturers? In our new video and podcast series, GlasCurtain Managing Director Peter Dushenski will share an inside perspective on this fascinating industry through a series of in-depth conversations with industry leaders. Together, we’ll explore new ideas of what’s possible with glazed facades. Join us for Curtain Wall Conversations!
In Episode 4, Peter dives deep with Brandon Gemme. Brandon works at RJC Engineers in Toronto as a Building Science Engineer. Prior to working at RJC, Brandon has worked at OHE Consultants and Build Max Limited. He holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Toronto and is a certified Professional Engineer and Building Science Specialist, as well as a Certified Passive House Designer. We recently met Brandon in-person at the Passive House Canada conference in Victoria, BC, where he presented his research paper comparing North American Fenestration Standards to the Passive House standard and European standards that Passive House references. This paper was written for the Canadian Conference on Building Science and Technology (CCBST) and is scheduled to be published in advance of their October 2022 conference. Brandon welcomes any questions about the research paper and can be reached at email@example.com .
We had a great time chatting with Brandon about the differences between North American and European modeling software and how their respective assumptions impact real-world projects, what boundary conditions are and how they differ internationally, what “hygiene” is in the context of Passive House, air tightness requirements in building codes, and so much more! We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.
Check out our previous episodes:
Episode 1 with Phil Parker from Integral Group
Episode 2 with Alex Worden from StudioTJOA
Episode 3 with Chad Howden from Blackcomb Facade Technology
This episode is also available as a podcast! Check it out on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
- Intro [00:00]
- Boundary Conditions [9:35]
- Relative Humidity [22:52]
- Passive House ‘Hygiene’ [31:04]
- Air Tightness Requirements in Building Codes [34:46]
- Canadian Building Codes [39:04]
- Wrapping Up [42:53]
Hi there, I’m Peter, Managing Director of GlasCurtain. We’re a Canadian manufacturer of fibreglass-framed curtain wall systems for triple-glazed applications. And today, we have episode 4 in our Curtain Wall Conversations series where we talk to industry experts to explore new ideas of what’s possible with glazed facades. In today’s episode, we’ll dive deep with Brandon Gemme. Brandon has worked with RJC Engineers in Toronto since 2019, where he works as a Building Science Engineer and Certified Passive House Designer. We recently met Brandon in-person at the Passive House Canada Conference in Victoria, BC, where he presented his research paper, comparing the North American fenestration standards to the European Passive House standards. And that’s what we’ll be focusing on in our conversation today. We had a great time chatting with Brandon about the differences between the North American and the European modeling software, and how their prospective assumptions impact real-world projects. We also spoke about what Boundary Conditions are and how they differ internationally, what “hygiene” is in the context of Passive House, air tightness requirements in building codes, and so much more. We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.
PETER: I guess Brandon, thanks very much for joining us on Curtain Wall Conversations today. This is episode 4. Today, we’re going to be talking about what we were both talking about recently at the Passive House Conference in Victoria. Maybe you can just give our audience a quick outline of who you are, what you do, and what your presentation in Victoria was about and we can dive into some details after that.
BRANDON: Absolutely. So, I’m Brandon Gemme. I’m a Building Science Engineer at RJC Engineers in Toronto. Mostly working with our Building Science team. Working on mainly restoration of existing building projects, we do some new construction as well, in my team, but most of what we do is renovating existing buildings. We were in Victoria about a month ago, presenting at the Passive House Canada Conference. And Passive House is something I have an interest in, in general. Trying to figure out how to design and construct better, more comfortable, more energy-efficient buildings, is something that is interesting to me and I’m passionate about. So, I started on this journey of educating myself in Passive House. But, interestingly enough, when I started writing this presentation and the article associated with it, I had minimal actual Passive House project experience. So a lot of it is based on research, right? So I guess to give the history of that presentation, how it started, I was actually at a webinar with Andrew Peel from Peel Passive House. He was giving a webinar talking about TCHC, which is the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, I believe, and their program that they were implementing…basically they were retrofitting their portfolio of buildings and part of that was they wanted to implement best practice designs for each stage of the renovation. And they had identified that windows was one thing that was easy enough for them to do in all their buildings that would have a significant impact. And they brought on Andrew, this was a while ago, maybe I’m misremembering some of the details, but they brought Andrew on as a Passive House Consultant at that time to consult. Because it wasn’t EnerPHit per se, Passive House’s retrofit standard, so they weren’t going for EnerPHit Certification but they were using the same principles of the EnerPHit standard for their projects. We were at the webinar and someone had made the comment, talking about…Andrew was presenting the air tightness requirements for windows in the EnerPHit standard, and someone had asked, “What would be the equivalent in NAFS?” And when I heard that, I had already been thinking of some research article ideas for the Canadian Conference for Building Science and Technology. They had published a call for abstracts and I was trying to think, couldn’t come up, and this kind of just lit the lightbulb, and I started my research based on that. So that’s what I did. I was basically interested in trying to understand what the…just to provide an overview of A: the North American fenestration standards that apply, and then also the Passive House Standard. Give an overview of those and then try to compare them to see, “Are Passive House requirements more stringent compared to North American requirements?” And really what I was thinking was if I can understand both standards well enough, maybe it’s possible for us to…instead of having to adopt the Passive House standard, maybe I can identify certain levels in NAFS that would be sufficient in order to be equivalent. Right? So that’s kind of where I started, but then getting into it, relatively quickly realized that that was going to be more difficult than I had expected, because basically the NAFS references, for the most part, several North American NFRC, AAMA, types of standards. Whereas in the Passive House standard, they mostly reference European standards. And the reference standards that NAFS and Passive House each use are very different in terms of how they model and measure and calculate the performance of fenestration products. So, pretty much realized trying to compare it apples to apples wasn’t going to work. So, what I tried to do was give an overview, kind of paint the landscape of what all of the differences are. I did that in 4 categories. So, the 4 categories that I looked at when comparing the North American and European standards was 1: classification and rating for fenestration products, that’s mostly covered in NAFS. So you have your AW, your CW, your R type windows, and also your performance grades. Unfortunately, I mostly focused on NAFS, which doesn’t cover curtain walls. So, maybe you’ll know more about the classification of curtain walls. I don’t know if there is an equivalent classification. I believe it’s in the AAMA CWM, the curtain wall manual, I think that’s the main thing that it references. So, the first thing was classification and rating of fenestration products, second was energy performance requirements, which includes things like heat-transfer coefficient, your U-value, your U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient, and visible transmittance. And then the third category was hygiene criteria and condensation resistance. And then the fourth was air tightness criteria. Which again, this is covered in NAFS, so wouldn’t really apply for curtain wall, but numbers 2 and 3, the energy performance and the hygiene criteria, those are covered in the Canadian standards for curtain walls, so we can maybe talk more about those specific items if we’re trying to keep it relatively related to curtain wall specifically. And then it’s just kind of an overview. I looked at each of those 4 categories in pretty good detail and tried to basically identify, as best as I could, all the main important differences between them. We can go over some of those differences if we’re interested, but I think that the main thing to take away about the fact that there are so many differences between the standards is that we can’t rely on, let’s say testing or data that comes out of Europe let’s say and assume that’s going to be sufficient or equivalent when we’re trying to identify the requirements based on North American standards. So that’s why it’s important to use, ideally, manufacturers located in North America because they’ll have already designed the products to meet those local requirements as well as modeled it according to the European standards in most cases, in order to get their Passive House certification, right? So they’ve already done the work of needing to certify in both areas so we might as well use those products, right? The issue more comes when let’s say you want to import a German window or something like that that’s Passive House certified because for a long time there weren’t that many North American options to use. That’s when you need to be careful. You need to also make sure that you’re not missing some of those local requirements as well.
2. BOUNDARY CONDITIONS
PETER: I think one that really stood out and was related to a question/comment you had during my presentation, was boundary conditions. And I think this is a super interesting area of exploration. In sort of trying to understand, what is an apples-to-apples comparison? What is an apples to orange comparison? So tell us more about some of the differences in your research in terms of boundary conditions. And what is a boundary condition? What is a boundary condition?
BRANDON: Yeah, so basically the boundary conditions are what is assumed in the modeling for when they model the performance of a fenestration product. So, for example, in the Passive House standard, they reference some ISO standards, they reference…I don’t want to get the exact number wrong so I won’t say it just at this moment. (PETER laughs) But in either case, they reference ISO standards and one important thing to note about that is that those ISO standards typically assume an exterior temperature of 0 degrees Celcius, when they do the modeling for the performance, right? This is different than in North America where we use CSA A440.2, that’s the standard that is used for the calculation and measurement of energy performance values related to fenestration products. In that CSA standard they reference NFRC 100 and NFRC 200 for modeling. So one thing to note, the difference, and it’s an important difference, is, like I said, the European standard assumes an exterior temperature of 0 degrees, whereas the NFRC standard assumes an exterior temperature of -18 degrees when they do the modeling. And so the larger temperature difference has a direct impact on the calculated R-values in the equation. So that actually ends up having a significant impact on the modeling results, and it has some pretty interesting implications. Some of which I think I went into in the presentation. One interesting one is, when you model the optimal air space for your IGUs, according to the NFRC standard, you get approximately, in general, for most situations, an optimal air space of half an inch. And that’s what we typically see in the market here. But, when you model it according to the 0-degree exterior temperature, the optimal air space between panes of glass actually becomes greater and it’s closer to 18mm. And I don’t work in Europe so I have to go based on what I read, but, apparently, that’s pretty common to see about an 18mm gap between your glass panes.
PETER: That’s exactly what we saw in our modeling as well. I’ll just throw in our experience. And we started with the standard half-inch 13mm air space when we started our Passive House journey towards certification. And we ended up with 19mm. Right? 19mm air spaces for exactly that reason. Because that European software just priveledges those larger air spaces. Where in the North American software there would be a slight penalty. But there’s a slight benefit in the European software and every little .01W/m² Kelvin matters when you’re trying to be the first in the world to do cold climate. Or even just to certify to cool temperate climate. It’s such a granular exercise that every little mm here, every little .01 W/m² Kelvin there matters. So yeah we ended up with 19mm spacers for our certified system as well. But is that what we would install in North America? Right?
BRANDON: And that’s the question everybody asks. Sorry to interrupt you…
PETER: (laughs) Yeah!
BRANDON: ..but that’s the question everyone wants me to answer is, “which standard is better, Brandon?”
PETER: Right? (Laughs)
BRANDON: It’s not an easy question to answer. Everybody obviously wants me to say the North American standards are better, (PETER laughs) but it’s not really a matter of better or worse, right? It’s about the standards were developed for a particular area of the world and are well suited, in general, for where it was originally come up with. One thing that’s interesting related to this exterior temperature issue is some of the research papers that I cite in my presentation and paper, they suggest that the -18 exterior temperature might be a little bit too conservative. Because unless you’re in the coldest parts of Canada, we’re not sitting at -18 for most of the year. So what they suggested was -18 might be best for calculating peak heat load requirements. Where you’re trying to determine how much heat transfer you’ll have through the envelope during the coldest day of the year let’s say. But that the 0-degree exterior temperature is more appropriate when you’re trying to estimate energy use throughout the entire year. Because it’s a more representative exterior temperature than -18, which you might only have for a couple % of the year, right? So that’s one thing that one paper by RDH that I cite brought up that I thought was an interesting point. And it just goes to what I was saying. It’s all kind of about…
PETER: Yep. Right.
BRANDON:..what’s the purpose of what you’re trying to use the standard for…
BRANDON: ..and you know just trying to have a better understanding of it overall. So that you’re not just using the U-value and assuming…
PETER: Right. (Laughs)
BRANDON: ..that’s the actual U-value. It’s based on a standard, right? It’s based on these boundary conditions.
PETER: Assumptions. Assumptions. And it’s based on a set of assumptions and I think that’s an interesting point you raised actually, that I hadn’t thought of before. Is there a simulation testing for the worst-case scenario? Or are we testing for the average? Right? And that’s a big difference, that’s a big philosophical difference. Because one is, on average maybe that’s the 0-degree condition, boundary condition, cold temperature. Maybe on average, in a calendar year, the average temperature outside is 0 degrees. But the coldest, in Canada at least, is definitely much closer -18. In Europe, there’s not a lot of places, in Germany at least, that are getting to -18. But, in Canada, 99.9% of the country will see temperatures approaching that at least in some point of the year. At least for a day. There’s this old aphorism it’s like, “never walk into a river that’s on average 4 ft deep.” Because you don’t know (laughs), you know is it
BRANDON: On average 4 ft deep… (laughs)
PETER: What does average mean? You know, it could be 80% of it is 1ft deep and you’re fine, and then 20% of it you’re in Mariana’s Trench or something. And so, I think that’s an interesting philosophical debate to have. And they’re both valid, right? They both tell you something different about your system. And what does that mean in a world of increasingly fluctuating temperatures? Is the average as important when we’re seeing bigger swings on the extremes?
PETER: And I think there’s a good case to be made that the extremes are what define the distribution. The tails of the distribution are what define the characteristics because if you have something that works very well at that 4ft deep average, 0-degrees. But then completely fails (laughs) at -18 and you’re going to see -18, or completely fails at +40 and you’re going to see +40, the average doesn’t always tell us what those extremes are like. So I think there’s something there.
BRANDON: And that’s something I think a lot about in terms of what I do in engineering, right? Things tend to fail on a bell curve, right? You’ll subject a beam to a load and most of the time it’s gonna fail at let’s say, 100 Kilonewtons. But some of the times it’s fail at 95 and some of the times it’ll fail at 105. But, you’re not gonna risk it and hope that your beam (PETER laughs) isn’t gonna fail between that 95 to 100%, right?
BRANDON: So that’s why we design with a safety factor as well, right?
BRANDON: And then just related to this boundary condition issue, you know we’ve been talking about one boundary condition this whole time. The exterior temperature.
BRANDON: But that’s one variable out of many, right?
BRANDON: And the variables change. So they assume different interior temperatures, different surface film conductances,”>
BRANDON: And the variables change. So they assume different interior temperatures, different surface film conductances, and the surface film conductance also varies based on the position of the glazing or the fenestration product as well. You have different relative humidity assumptions, or ranges that you’re allowed to when you’re doing the testing.
PETER: Right. (Laughs)
BRANDON: So each of these also impacts it. And obviously, I can’t go…my research paper for the CCBSC was 10 pages and I’m one person and I have to work a full-time job as well.
PETER: Right. (Laughs)
BRANDON: So I don’t have the resources to view each of those differences in great detail, but in the paper I do include a table that summarizes all of these together. So, hopefully, that is helpful for future research. I frame it as a literature review paper. I’m reviewing what’s currently out there and trying to make some conclusions where I can. But for the most part I’m leaving it up to others, maybe people smarter than me who are in universities and have PhDs and want to do some more research about this. But I think for us as practitioners and people who are working in the industry we just need to be aware that there are these differences. So that we can be informed enough to ask the questions, “oh your Passive House window, has it also been tested according to the NFRC standards and can we get those numbers as well so that we can make sure that we’re meeting our compliance.” Because these standards are called out in the building codes.
BRANDON: So technically we need to make sure that we’re meeting those requirements as well.
PETER: That’s right. The North American standards are not optional just because we’re importing products.
PETER: It’s like “oh no it’s okay” and it gets even more complicated as I was talking in our last, episode 3, we talked with Chad Howden from Blackcomb Glass and we were talking about importing doors that have different kind of panic bar requirements. And it came to be the case where the authority having jurisdiction didn’t really have an option if they wanted to achieve Passive House standards on this building type they had to accept a DIN standard for a building.
PETER: And that’s fine in that case because fire is kind of universal (laughs). You know? The way fire behaves is kind of universal. The way temperatures are and the way climates are isn’t as universal, right? Fire will behave across the planet the same way, and you could make a logical case that if it’s safe for a fire in one place, it’s safe for a fire in another place.
3. RELATIVE HUMIDITY
PETER: I think relative humidity is an interesting one too. Did you have much chance to research that? Or do you have interest in researching relative humidity more in the future?
BRANDON: Yeah, oh absolutely. It’s very important for what we do as Building Envelope Engineers. Was there a specific question related to relative humidity that you’re thinking about?
PETER: Oh, yeah, just in terms of like, in the post-Covid world, there was some pretty solid research coming out saying that places with higher relative humidity were fairing better. In terms of reducing infection risk and reducing infection spread. And I could see a world where especially places like healthcare environments, whether it’s hospitals or long-term care facilities or what have you, are specifying higher relative humidity than they were before. But then really the limitation there is how good can the glazing components be because you risk condensation, risk frost and you risk failure, ultimately, of the building envelope. And you know, maintenance headaches galore. So that’s sort of what I’m thinking right now, if we’re going to see a world where specs are 40 and 50% relative humidity in cold climates in particular, most of Canada. Maybe lower Mainland or Vancouver Island notwithstanding, but most of the country if you’re trying to do 40-50% interior relative humidity, what does that do to your envelope? And what does your envelope need to do?
BRANDON: Yeah, absolutely. So this is something I do look at in the paper. I don’t specifically look at the implications of higher relative humidity, although that is interesting. But where this does come up in my paper is in regards to the discussion about condensation resistance. And the hygiene design considerations that are given in the Passive House standard. It’s actually interesting because in the Passive House standard you have what’s called the “temperature factor” the FRSI value and that’s a requirement for all portions of the building envelope. So if you’re playing around with the interior relative humidity that would impact what your FRSI values need to be. But yeah, like you’re saying, when you get into a cold climate and you have that relatively warm, relatively moist air on the interior and now you have this very cold, very dry exterior, and you’re increasing the amount of humidity on the interior, you are definitely increasing the opportunity for condensation to happen in your windows, in your wall assemblies, and it becomes extra important to make sure you’re designing with continuous, well-constructed vapour barriers inside of our insulation. And then related specifically to windows, so I already talked about the temperature factor and the Passive House standard. In the North American standard and the CSA A440.2 standard, they also specify a method for calculating condensation resistance or temperature index, it’s kind of referenced differently, but basically a factor that is trying to give you a number that is basically an indication of how likely the window is to form condensation. And the way that this is determined in the Passive House versus North American standard is extremely different. In North America, it’s temperature index or condensation index, is determined using a physical test.
BRANDON: You have to actually put your specimen of a window in the hot box and you’re testing it with warm or cold air on either side.
BRANDON: Versus Passive House standard where it’s all done with computer modeling. Obviously, the computer model and the real-life scenario, we try to make it as close as possible. But how often does it actually work out that way? And one big reason why the physical test doesn’t always match what we get in the modeling. You might think “oh the physical test is going to be more accurate.” And yes, it might be, but you have to also account for human error with the testing. Also, where they take the temperature measurements for the coldest temperature on the window, which is how condensation index is determined, they do it using thermal couples that they put on the window and then put it in the test assembly. But those thermal couples can’t go right on the corner of the glass. They have to be placed 15mm or however man, away from the edge of the glass. And that affects your temperature reading. Because the temperature would be a little bit colder a little bit closer to the edge near your spacer, but you can’t actually place your thermal couple there. So that is one consideration as well. You want to do the modeling, but it’s also nice to verify with some testing as well when you can. But, it’s just interesting. And it is also worth noting I am placing these as two measures of condensation probability for each of the different standards. But they’re actually calculated the exact same way. The coldest temperature on the interior surface of the window subtracted by, I believe, the exterior temperature. And then that’s divided by the interior air temperature minus the exterior air temperature. So it’s a fraction, and you’re basically calculating the temperature difference between the coldest part of the window in the exterior and the air on the interior and the exterior. And it’s that ratio that gives you that likelihood of probability. And then just the last thing I’ll say about condensation resistance and hygiene criteria is that, this is all directional. It’s all giving you an idea that under these typical conditions or under these test conditions what the likelihood of condensation is. It doesn’t tell you much about what the actual condensation likelihood is for your specific project that you’re working on, right? Cause it doesn’t take into account the installation details, especially if you’re doing the standard test method like in the North American standard. So you have to realize that your project conditions might also have an implication on this. If you have a big piece of metal under your frame as well and that’s conducting heat into the frame, then that’s going to increase thermal bridging and increase the likelihood of condensation. So that’s where doing some modeling for the specific conditions you’re working on can be very helpful. And then just monitoring it once it’s been installed and making sure everything is good as well.
PETER: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more, especially on that in-situ monitoring and verification. That’s a luxury that I think a lot of us would like to have on projects to compare.
4. PASSIVE HOUSE “HYGIENE”
PETER: Rewinding just a brief second. You mentioned hygiene. And that’s something we hear a lot in the Passive House vocabulary. But for those of us who don’t spend our life in the Passive House world, hygiene sounds like just “clean”.(Laughs)
BRANDON: Mm-hm. Yeah.
PETER: So what is Passive House hygiene criteria or what is the Passive House hygiene rating? And how does it relate to what we do in North America normally and the language we’re used to?
BRANDON: Yeah so, hygiene criteria in the Passive House standard basically when I think of Passive House, I think of energy eficiency, comfort, and health.
BRANDON: Healthy buildings, right? And this hygiene criteria is kind of that last part of the tripod. The healthy building part. The idea is that, with regards to the building envelope, it needs to be designed such that it will, specifically related to the hygiene criteria, not allow condensation to be occurring inside of the wall where we can’t see it. I’ve been on projects, like I said, I do restoration projects, where I see some pretty gnarly conditions where…the thing is with condensation, it’s slow and it takes forever. And you don’t see it often until it’s too late. So the idea is that you design with a minimum FRSI value for all of your components. And that reduces the likelihood of condensation happening inside of your building envelope. And then all of the potential negative things that could be happening with that. Like, it’s not my area of expertise, but you could have mould development as well. If you’re having exposure to condensation for too long of a period. And that has, obviously, negative health impacts on the occupants of the building. What we’re doing in North America, honestly, I guess it’s kind of similar, we have the condensation resistance portion of the CSA A440 standard. A440.2 standard. But, it’s worth noting, that’s an optional requirement of that standard. It’s not a mandatory requirement. And they don’t specify minimum psi-values based on your climate zone like Passive House does.
BRANDON: So maybe certain jurisdictions are specifying minimum condensation requirements.
BRANDON: Or maybe more progressive building standards may be considering more things like that. But, and I’m not too sure what the Ontario building code says about it specifically, which is where I work, but I don’t think it says anything as far as I’m aware. I’ll have to check in on that to be 100% certain, but it’s not given as much emphasis as it is in the Passive House standard. What’s great about the Passive House standard is, yes it’s difficult to achieve, if you haven’t done it before, if you don’t have the experience in doing it, but it’s pretty holistic in what it tries to accomplish. It’s mostly an energy standard, but it’s also a comfort and health standard. And that’s important as well.
5. AIR TIGHTNESS REQUIREMENTS IN BUILDING CODES
PETER: Part of the Passive House standard that isn’t a part of a lot of North American building standards, also to the point about, what are we doing once the building is actually complete? Is air tightness. And that was actually kind of controversial recently that Ontario had been considering adding air tightness as a requirement to completed projects. And John Bleasby from Construct Connect magazine, recently had an article on that as well. That we’ll link to in the description. For those of us outside Ontario who are sort of watching from afar, are sort of waiting to see, where are we going to see leadership? And, to your knowledge, are there any jurisdictions in Canada or in North America that are requiring whole building air tightness as part of code? And how are those conversations going in the jurisdictions you’re dealing with?
BRANDON: Yeah, so my understanding is that the British Columbia Step Code requires it. That is currently an optional code…it’s kind of a… it’s either you opt-in or you opt-out. But a lot of people are opting in to that higher step within the B.C. Step Code and they do require full building air tightness testing. RJC has a big presence in Victoria and Vancouver as well, and we have our building performance teams out there. They’re doing a lot of full building air tightness testing. Guarded air tightness testing of specific floors within a building. But, unfortunately, in the rest of Canada, it’s basically nonexistent. As far as I am aware. The Toronto Green Standard Version 4 is requiring it. Which is great because we do work with the City of Toronto on a few of their properties. And so that’s a great opportunity to… it’s not Passive House design but it’s very close.
BRANDON: And actually within the Toronto Green Standard, one compliance pathway is to get Passive House certified. But other than the Toronto Green Standard and the B.C. Energy Step Code there isn’t really much. They’re better in certain parts of the States. I think Washington State has a lot. I was recently at an RDH webinar where they were talking all about air tightness testing and they had all this data they had collected from Washington where it had been in code for, I think, the last 10 or 20 years. But I guess just generally about air tightness, it’s extremely important. As much as I was emphasizing the importance of vapour control through the envelope, air tightness will allow 100x as much moisture through the envelope as vapour or condensation risk will. So, it should be a very high priority for authorities having jurisdiction, homeowners, anyone who is involved in buildings, which is all of us. And the maintenance of those buildings. Maybe not tenants I guess because that’s my life and I don’t get any say on what my building (PETER laughs) is like. But, if you’re owning your property or owning multiple properties, air tightness is something you need to be looking at because it’s gonna impact everything. It’s gonna impact air quality within the building, it’s gonna impact energy use, it’s gonna impact moisture infiltration through the building envelope. So it’s extremely important. I’m happy you brought it up. It’s kind of sad (laughs) that it’s not being developed more quickly here in Toronto, because we need to start having people who can do the air tightness testing of a building and we need to develop that industry here. And the only way to do it is to start requiring it basically and it gets tested.
6. CANADIAN BUILDING CODES
PETER: I think that’s part of the genius of the B.C. Energy Step code is that it provides so much visibility to the industry. It gives you a 15-year time prize and so the industry knows where they’re going and how to sort of scale-up that capacity as you sort of ratchet up, ratchet up, ratchet up, ratchet up. Because otherwise Ontario could just throw up their hands and say “oh well we don’t have enough people to do air testing so we couldn’t possibly require it”. It’s like, if you say, “we’re going to require it for this kind of building in 2 years and require it for this kind of building in 5 years and require it for this kind of building in 8 years, this kind of building in 11 years..” all the way up. I think that’s a really meaningful way for the industry to respond. And for capacities to be built and for entrepreneurs to make the investment that they need to make so that there’s the capacity available when it’s needed. But that’s something that I think the rest of the country will, of course, ultimately get there, eventually. But it’s not like there won’t be some resistance along the way. (Laughs) But hopefully, we can have some visibility. And thankfully we do have leaders. You know, we do have leadership in this country to see what’s possible and thank goodness for that.
BRANDON: Oh yeah, Canada has a history of excellence in building science. It’s kind of a shame that we haven’t had it in the code for longer, until now even. And to what you were saying about the step-wise way that B.C. is doing it. I will say that the Toronto Green Standard is great in that way, right? Within that they have, I believe 3 or 4 tiers, it was updated in the latest version of the standard. It’s like you said. They’re going to require all buildings to be tier 1 by a certain year. But the requirements for tier 1 are not that bad. They’re better than what they are now, but they’re attainable. It’s just kind of developing the capacity, developing of the market players, need to be a part of the industry for it to all work. And I also just want to give kudos to the City of Toronto, they’re taking a leadership role in this. And they’re requiring that all of their buildings be..any new building or any major restoration project they’re working on, they’re requiring it to be I think either tier 2 or tier 3 of the Toronto Green Standard. So, that’s pretty serious requirements and them taking that leadership it’s gonna help develop all of those vendors that we need and all of the…
BRANDON: ..skilled trades people and everything else that we need to build these buildings. It’ll start with them.
BRANDON: And then it will become more and more popular. And incentives will be introduced, and all of that.
PETER: Absolutely. And that’s why at GlasCurtain we focus on those leaders in those institutional buildings. So it’s typically low rise. I know you guys obviously do a lot more high-rise buildings. But we usually do the more high-performance low rise because that’s usually where institutions, whether it’s levels of government or universities or what have you, are leading by example. So they’re building out a new office building, they’re building out a new community centre, they’re building out a new fire hall, or what have you, or a court building or a hospital. And they’re leading by example. And that’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.
7. WRAPPING UP
PETER: So what’s next for you, Brandon? Where can we expect to see you next? You’ll be at CCBST Conference I suppose, in the Fall. But yeah, if people want to reach out to you going forward, where can they find you?
BRANDON: Yep, so I think that my contact information…if it’s not on the RJC website it’s gonna be on either the Building Science Specialist website, or you can reach out to me on LinkedIn as well. I’m trying to get more active on that and trying to just kind of expand my reach with who I’m connected with. And that’s been really helpful. I was kind of getting more involved with that for the Passive House conference. And then meeting all those people there it really helped to expand my network in that way, so LinkedIn is a good way. But I could share my email as well. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. So any questions or anything or if you are curious about the research or what we talked about today, I’m always happy to answer questions and chat about building science. It’s what I do for most of my week, most of the hours of my work week, so I’m passionate about it. And I think it’s very important, I think it’s necessary and I want to try to help our partners and people that we work with to better understand these issues that we’re talking about. So that they’re informed and when people are informed, they’re going to hopefully, make the better decisions, right? They’re going to start going for higher performance because they’re going to see the benefits. People always think it’s just a cost issue and they don’t see the positive sides of it. They just see the dollar number. And the dollar number will come down, right? The efficiencies will be introduced, the old ways of doing things are getting more and more expensive. So, yeah, I would say reach out to me through email if you’d like or LinkedIn. And then in terms of what’s next just working, I’m in the process of doing a little bit more research-based stuff talking about durability and best practices related to durability. And how durability is important to sustainability. All that/ So that’s sort of where my mind is shifting towards at the moment. But it’s very early now, so I don’t wanna say too much.
PETER: (Laughs) Well we’d love to have you back on maybe in a little while. Durability as a means of sustainability is something we’re definitely passionate about as well. But, thank you very much, we appreciate your passion and sharing a little bit about your research today, Brandon.
BRANDON: Thank you, Peter.
PETER: Thanks for joining us on Curtain Wall Conversations and we’ll talk to you soon.
There you have it, episode 4 of Curtain Wall Conversations featuring Brandon Gemme. We hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as we did. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to stay up to date on new episodes of this new series. Also be sure to check out our Spotify and Apple Podcasts accounts, where this episode and others are now available. If you have any questions about our conversation today, or fibreglass-framed curtain walls in general, feel free to reach out to us via email at email@example.com. Also, feel free to subscribe to our blog for all the latest updates, which we’ll link to in the description below. Thanks very much, we’ll see you next time.