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Why customer service matters / 18 Excelling at it is no easy task, but experts agree it has become much more than simply giving customers what they want.
Deciphering the code / 22 The National Building Code is being reconstructed and you need to know how it will reshape your work.
Moulding magic / 25 They can quickly improve a roomâ€™s design, but homeowners need to be educated to recognize their value.
Smart ideas / 33
NEWS WATCH / 5 CIL colour forecasts for 2016 PRODUCT SHOWCASE / 7 New and improved products
The Internet of Things has created smart homes, but they require different thinking.
Shut the window on energy waste / 36 The latest Energy Star criteria could affect how you and your customers choose windows.
In the bag / 42 The hand tools every interior contractor needs.
SMART MONEY / 12 Bill 168 & Ontario contractors BUSINESS STRATEGIES / 14 Creating culture of productivity LEARNING CURVE / 17 Small business growth Cover photo: Metrie
November/December 2015 Vol. 20 No. 6
Editorial Director Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. Jennifer Mercieca Managing Editor Paul Barker Art Director Mary Peligra
Castle Building Centres Group Ltd., with building supply outlets in every province, is Canadaâ€™s leading supplier of lumber and building materials to professional contractors, builders and renovators. Publications Mail Agreement #40006677 Return undeliverable Canadian Addresses to: 100 Milverton Drive, Suite 400 Mississauga, Ont. L5R 4H1
Contributors Nestor E. Arellano Eric Bloom Lawrence Cummer Stefan Dubowski Susan Hodkinson David Chilton Saggers John G. Smith
Advertising Enquiries Vendors whose products are carried in Castle Building Centres stores have the opportunity to advertise in
For more information or to reserve space in the next issue, contact: Jennifer Mercieca Director of Communications Phone: 905-564-3307 Fax: 905-564-5875 E-mail: email@example.com
Published and designed exclusively for Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. by AnnexNewcom LP Material Contact: Steve Hofmann 416-510-6757 Copyright 2012
Congratulations! 2015 Castle Scholarship Winners
Lucas is entering the Bachelor of Science Program at University of Victoria. He hopes to specialize in neuroscience and genetics, hopefully developing effective treatments or cures for diseases. Music balances Lucas’ academic and day-to-day life, taking part in concerts held at the local Kelowna Community Theatres. Lucas has also been involved in Taekwondo (second degree black-belt), teaching him self-discipline, determination and focus. He also teaches Taekwondo, and is a positive role model to younger children. Sponsored by Coast Distributors (Kelowna) Ltd. Kelowna, British Columbia
Christopher will be entering the Geomatics Engineering Program at the University of New Brunswick, hoping one day to own his own business. Throughout high school, Chris enjoyed playing numerous sports, taking a leadership role as captain in hockey and cross country. He was involved with Special Olympics swimming, and was a counselor at a specials needs day camp. Chris learned about the monumental challenges many families face, making him appreciate what many take for granted. He belongs to a volunteer fire brigade, volunteers at the local Nursing Home, and is involved with choir, debate, musical cast, youth parliament, and the School Advisory Counsel. Sponsored by Masstown Hardware Ltd. Masstown, Nova Scotia
Emily is going into the General Studies Program at Memorial University in St. John’s with interests in either Optometry or Pharmacy. Emily was involved in virtually every sport in school, winning Female Athlete of the Year for six years in a row. She was a volunteer coach, worked as a lifeguard, was in the senior high band and on the student leadership team. She won athletic and academic awards, and was the President of her 2015 grad class. Throughout everything she has achieved, Emily has demonstrated leadership and compassion with a special ability to connect and inspire younger athletes. Sponsored by Warr’s Castle Building Centre Springdale, Newfoundland
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PHOTOS: CIL PAINTS
Castle’s 3rd Annual Scholarship Program was open to Castle members, employees, staff and their families. The $1,500 scholarships recognized students’ academic excellence, and passion to lead and inspire positive change in their communities. Here are this year’s recipients:
CIL forecasts warm colours for 2016 The top paint colours for the year ahead will be warm and down-to-earth, according to paint vendor CIL Paint.
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PHOTOS: CIL PAINTS
rown-hued neutrals, beachy dri wood tones, natural brights, cloudy transluscents and so pastels that promote a sense of serenity will be popular, according to Alison Goldman, brand manager for CIL, a brand of PPG Architectural Coatings. “We’re seeing a move away from the saturated greys, blacks and acidic brights that were popular the last few years,” Goldman explained. “The warmer 2016 tones deliver a more modern and livable colour scheme that translates beautifully into any living space.” The hoest colour of them all will be pink, Goldman said, citing Chemise Pink as the company’s Colour of the Year. “So blush pink will be incorporated in all elements of home décor in 2016, from walls to furnishings to accessories,” she said, adding that the new pink works particularly well with so green, pale brown, chalky grey and slate. Other colours topping the list of CIL paint trend colours for next year are: Swiss Coffee pale cream, Lily Pond pastel green, Sweetwood so brown, Great Grey light charcoal, Espadrille chocolate brown, Antarctic Ice muted grey, Winter’s Silence tan, Fuchsia Berry fuchsia and Peacock’s Plume teal. The inclusion of hues such as moss green, charcoal grey and brown-bagtoned shades, all reminiscent of military fatigues, contribute to the palee’s protective feel, according to Goldman. “There is a relaxing vibe to this palee, which coordinates with all things delicate and so , such as buery leather and liquidlike glossy finishes,” she said. “At the same time, it has the flexibility to be big and bold with the presence of a few deeper
accent tones, including gentle indigo and berry red that add a sense of depth and sophistication to a neutral living space.” When decorating with the 2016 colours, Goldman recommended adding trendy, gold-toned metallic finishes, which are “equally warm and make gorgeous accents to this palee.” Gold metallic paint, in particular, can be featured on traditional elements in the home, from furniture, crown moulding and ceiling medallions, to wainscoting and fireplace mantels. It can also be used to give the ombré paint technique (a colour scheme that transitions from a lighter to darker shade) to accent walls, with gold highlights adding a touch of glam as warm colours graduate from light to dark. More information on the 2016 paint palette by CIL paint can be found at www.cil.ca.
Housing start trends reach a high in September The trend measure of housing starts in Canada was 202,506 units in September compared to 195,804 in August, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “The trend in housing starts is at its highest point since January 2013, as a result of the launch of some major rental housing projects as well as continued strength in condominium construction,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist. “As a result, trend activity is now above the projected annual pace of around 190,000 new households. This underscores the continuing need for inventory management to minimize the number of completed but unsold units.”
The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts. CMHC uses it to complement the monthly SAAR of housing starts in order to account for considerable swings in monthly estimates and obtain a more complete picture of the state of Canada’s housing market which can be misleading. The standalone monthly SAAR was 230,701 units in September, up from 214,255 units in August. Urban starts increased by 7.7% in September to 216,194 units. Multiunit urban starts increased by 10.5% to 157,919 units in September and the singledetached urban starts segment increased by 0.8% to 58,275 units. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased in Québec, the Prairies, Atlantic Canada and B.C., but decreased in Ontario. Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14,507 units.
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Innovative Products for Today’s Renovators FASTMAX MEASURING TAPE HAS DETACHABLE HOOK
The FatMax Premium 25’ and 35’ Tape Rules from Stanley have a 13’ standout for greater reach and an exclusive, detachable hook for more convenient measuring. On the jobsite, the 13’ standout helps where time is limited and maximum performance is a must, the company says. The Tape Rules are sold with a separate over-sized hook aachment that can be added for framing applications or removed for standard applications. The detachable hook slides into a small slot on the Tape Rule for convenient storage. The FatMax Tape Rules also feature an Air-Lock that acts as a shock absorber to protect the Tape’s slide lock when dropped. Should that occur, the Air-Lock will flex (due to the hole in the slide lock) and absorb the impact. Also, the flex of the Air-Lock and the rubber over-moulds provide some “give” and “traction” when using the slide lock mechanism, providing added comfort. The FatMax Tape Rule blades are coated in Mylar and features BladeArmor coating for durability and 10 times longer blade life. The 25’ FatMax Premium Tape Rule (FMHT33502) retails
at approximately $32.99 and the 35’ FatMax Premium Tape Rule (FMHT33509) for approximately $42.99. A 26’/8M FatMax Premium Tape Rule (metric version) will also be available for $32.99. Visit www.stanleytools.com for more information.
MILWAUKEE TOOL PLANER CONTAINS A POWERFUL MOTOR
Milwaukee Tool’s new M18 3-1/4” Planer for its M18 Cordless system features a powerful motor that delivers up to 14,000 RPMs and a two-blade design for powerful stock removal and depth control. With 20 locking positions for versatility and accuracy, the new tool has an adjustable depth of 0 to 5/64” (0 to 1.2 mm.). Eliminating the need to re-zero between cuts, the depth dial locks from 0 to 5/64” (0 to 1.2 mm) to increase productivity and minimize downtime. The M18 3-1/4” Planer also features a rabbet depth of up to 27/64” (1.07 cm) and an innovative adjustable chip ejection feature. This allows users to eject chips on either the le or right side, keeping chips out of their line of site. Compatible with the entire M18 System, the planer is a
part of Milwaukee’s cordless system that now includes more than 70 cordless Lithium-Ion products. Visit www.milwaukeetool.com for more information.
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INSIST ON CGC SHEETROCK® BRAND ULTRALIGHT PANELS. Unlike imitations that claim lightweight, only CGC Sheetrock® Brand UltraLight Panels deliver on the exacting standards you’d expect from The Leader in Lightweight Innovation™. Our patented lightweight products feature proprietary core and paper technologies, resulting in superior quality and the lightest gypsum panel of any manufacturer. If you’re using other lightweight gypsum panels, you’re putting the job and your business at risk. Choose to install CGC Sheetrock® Brand UltraLight Panels so callbacks never leave a bad taste in your mouth. See why all lightweight is not created equal at cgcinc.com/sheetrock-ultralight
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Innovative Products for Today’s Renovators
GROUT REMOVAL BLADE CUTS COSTS
EAB Tool Company’s three-in-one 2-3/4” grout/mortar removal blade is an industrial quality oscillating tool that eliminates the need to purchase a tungsten carbide rasp, segment saw blade and finger rasp, saving time and expense. The blade features an industrial quality tungsten carbide Riff coated sanding plate for removing mortar and tile adhesive, complete edge and face carbide coating for material removal into corners and tight edges, and the combination of rounded, flat and pointed cuing edges allows for precise joint routing of wall and floor tiles. An OIS 12-point mounting system provides precise handling and efficient power transfer. Visit www.eabtool.com for more information.
BRUSHLESS HAMMER DRILL KIT FEATURES HIGH TORQUE
Makita’s ½” 18V Lithium Brushless Hammer Drill Kit (DHP481RTE) features 21 clutch seings that deliver 1090 inchlbs. of torque. The brushless DC motor has a high power-to-weight and size ratio and generates less heat buildup. Featured eXtreme Protection Technology (XPT) offers protection against dust, debris and liquids for optimal performance in extreme conditions. The hammer drill kit’s baery fuel gauge indicates approximate remaining power, while its baery protection system provides over-discharge, temperature and circuit protection for enhanced performance, baery cycle life and overall baery life. All metal gears provide more efficient power transmission. The kit includes two 18V (5.0 Ah) Li-Ion baeries, a rapid charger that takes only 45 minutes per charge, baery cover and side handle, as well as two double-ended bits, a bit
holder, depth gauge, hook and plastic carrying case. Visit www.makitatools.com for more information.
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Innovative Products for Today’s Renovators
XPS FOAM INSULATION AN ALL-IN-ONE SOLUTION
Styrofoam Cladmate CM20 extruded polystyrene foam from Dow Building Solutions is a Type 3, 20 psi, multi-purpose rigid foam insulation that can be used in all residential and agricultural construction applications both above and below grade, under slab and in interior and exterior wall applications. Currently available in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, the insulation is designed with builders and contractors in mind, providing them with one solution regardless of the application. It provides a continuous layer of insulation to help reduce thermal bridging and energy loss, consistent indoor temperature and protection from moisture intrusion. Cladmate CM20 insulation provides a high R-value of R-5 per inch, reduces potential for condensation in wall cavities and is durable to help protect home value. Visit www.building.dow.com for more information.
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Bill 168 & Ontario Contractors
An amendment in effect since 2010 extends the OHSA to include other less visible aspects of protection for workers. BY SUSAN HODKINSON
he Occupational Health and Safety Act imposes significant obligations on Ontario employers and employees to promote the safest workplaces possible. Policies, training and regular inspections all help to ensure that workers can feel secure and that businesses operate in a safe and efficient manner. The construction industry, in particular, has a high level of inherent risks, which makes strict adherence to the OHSA essential. Such dangers as machinery, hazardous chemicals and working at heights are obvious, and prompt careful aention is essential at all work sites. Work environments also need to address other, less visible, aspects of protection for workers. Bill 168, an amendment to the OHSA, came into effect in 2010. Similar to existing legislation in several other provinces that address harassment and violence in the workplace, Bill 168 addresses violence in the workplace, workplace harassment, and bullying. As the excerpt from the Act sets out below: Workplace violence means: • The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker • An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that
“This amendment to the OHSA supports the view that every employee has the right to work free of violence and harassment.” could cause physical injury to the worker • A statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace that could cause physical injury to the worker Workplace harassment means: • Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome • Workplace harassment may include bullying, intimidating or offensive jokes or innuendos, displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials, or offensive or intimidating phone calls This amendment to the OHSA supports the view that every employee has the right to work free of violence and harassment. As a part of the OHSA, the
Susan Hodkinson, is leader of the HR Consulting Group at Crowe Soberman LLP. With over 20 years of experience in HR and Management, Susan has assisted businesses in the construction industry to manage their HR risks, understand legal requirements under Ontario Health and Safety Act Bill 168, the Employment Standards Act and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and to develop appropriate policies. 12
same requirements (establishment of a policy, assessment of risk, training and inspections) apply. Organizations with as few as five employees must dra and publish a workplace violence and harassment policy, conduct training sessions for all employees, and conduct risk assessments to determine if the workplace has any issues with respect to the areas covered under Bill 168. Establishing a safe workplace with respect to issues rooted in interpersonal relationships can be challenging. Bill 168 is not meant to interfere with the natural exchanges that result from performance management, for example. Providing feedback with respect to the work of an employee is essential. Delivering it in a respectful and positive manner is also necessary to maintain strong workplace morale and avoid potential issues regarding harassment under Bill 168. Under the OHSA, workplace visits by an inspector can happen at any time. Inspectors will not limit their review to containment of physical hazards required under the OHSA, but will also review the workplace violence and harassment policy,
and establish that the appropriate training and risk assessments have taken place. To ensure that they are Bill 168 compliant, organizations should ensure that they have the appropriate policies in place and make sure that risk assessments are done and duly recorded. Risk assessments seek to determine if there are any issues about mistreatment or bullying at play in the organization. More than simply adhering to a checklist of requirements, however, management must make a commitment to ensuring that at every worksite and office location, the purpose of Bill 168 is upheld. This requirement can result in difficult conversations at times. We all bring differing perspectives to the workplace. Each of us could define “bullying” or “verbal abuse” in a way that is unique to us and our experiences. It is important to have frank discussions about the code of conduct, values and culture that are important to the organization. Many
“The construction industry, in particular, has a high level of inherent risks, which makes strict adherence to the OHSA essential.” times, comments that are made may be unintentionally offensive to someone. Providing training sessions that discuss respectful workplace treatment can be very helpful, especially in organizations that are culturally diverse, which so many now are. Workers are also protected under Bill 168 from bullying and mistreatment by individuals outside the organization with whom they may come into contact in the context of their work. Examples of these contacts could include customers, vendors,
trades and sub-trades, government officials and inspectors. Ensuring that interactions between employees, and between employees and management, respect the spirit of Bill 168 is more straightforward since a common policy and training program can be followed and enforced. Dealing with other people’s employees, however, can be more challenging. The legislation requires that if an employee reports harassment in the context of his work from an individual outside of the organization, that appropriate steps are taken. These steps would include an investigation, and might involve accommodating the situation by ensuring that the individual employee is not required to work with the party involved, or even deciding that the relationship with the outside individual should be terminated entirely. Ensuring that this important amendment to the OHSA is given thoughtful consideration by management in all organizations is crucial.
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Creating a Culture of Productivity Six cultural attributes must be embraced to enhance productivity and maximize profits, market share and growth. BY ERIC BLOOM
hat does productivity mean to you? To many, it means more time, money and resources to get other things done. For example, if you have five people working toward the completion of a specified task and can find a way to complete it using only four people, you can have the fi h person working on something else. Productivity is the art of doing more with the time, money and resources you have at your disposal. Make no mistake, productivity requires change. If your organization views the ability to change as an important business aribute, then ongoing productivity improvement can be the status quo. If your company is set in its ways, refuses to streamline its processes and shuns innovation, then productivity improvement is not required. Given today’s business environment, a company that does not progress will soon stagger under its own weight and fade away. If you are working at or own this type of firm, the best way for you to be productive is by updating your resume. Conversely, an internal productivity culture that continually strives for optimal efficiency gives your organization the op-
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Albert Einstein portunity to enhance its market position, maximize its profits, increase its market share and positions it for future growth and success. There are six cultural aributes needed to give your organization the ability to accept the small and sometimes large changes that productivity enhancements require.
1. Cultural awareness
One of the most important business aributes of people leading the productivity charge is cultural awareness. This is the ability to understand your organization’s internal politics, idiosyncrasies, strengths, weaknesses and how it gets things done.
Eric Bloom is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, and author of the forthcoming book Productivity Driven Success: Hidden Secrets of Organizational Efficiency. He is also a syndicated columnist, certified executive coach and an adjunct research advisor. More information can be found at www. ManagerMechanics.com and on Twitter at @EricPBloom.
To make maers more complicated, organizations have multiple cultures, called subcultures. Before moving forward with a productivity initiative, you must first ask yourself the question “Does this organizational change require cultural change first?” The answer may be yes or may be no, it will depend on whether the changes being made are aligned and consistent with the current organizational culture.
2. Innovative mindset
Innovative opportunities to enhance productivity come in many forms. It could be the successful creation, implementation, reuse and/or improvement of an existing IT or business process that reduces costs, enhances productivity, increases company competitiveness or provides other business value. Finding these innovative solutions requires a willingness to look at your existing operational processes with a
critical eye, even if you were the one who originally designed them. Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” That is to say, you must think about your processes from different perspectives if you wish to improve them.
3. Management focus
Like all organizational initiatives, productivity related projects must have management support. If not, they most likely will not get funded. If they do get funded, they will eventually wither on the vine. If you are the project’s executive champion, great! If not, you must find one that can provide you with the resources and political clout needed to move your productivity innovation from idea to ongoing business practice.
4. Employee communication
Virtually all productivity enhancements are a form of change, this change must be communicated to those affected by it in the following ways: • Be clear in your own mind about what you want to say • Be consistent over time in your messaging • Be aware that varying audiences have different needs and worries • Explain rationale in a way that listeners can best relate to the issue • People are persuaded more by human dimensions than statistical facts • Showing your genuine passion and enthusiasm has potential to create similar feelings in your listeners
5. Self and organizational learning Organizational learning is born through a combination of formalized education and business experience, both of which are driven (or suppressed) by the organi-
Productivity drives change and change drives conflict. The ability to minimize this conflict helps facilitate change, which in turn, drives productivity. zation’s internal culture. Educationally, different employees need different types of training in order to grow. Technologists need to learn new technologies. Senior executives need to keep abreast of industry trends and corporate best practices. Lastly, all employees need to maximize their interpersonal skills, business skills and emotional intelligence. These skills collectively help IT employees of all levels to not only identify organizational efficiencies, but also provide the business savvy to make it a reality. Professional curiosity in both individuals and organizations cause them to be introspective and more aware of their external environment. Introspection causes people to ask the question, “How can I improve?” External awareness causes people to ask the question, “What can I learn from my surroundings that can help me and/or my company successfully move forward?” Both of these questions lead to innovative thought and help drive productivity.
6. Conflict avoidance and resolution Productivity drives change and change drives conflict. The ability to minimize this conflict helps facilitate change, which
in turn, drives productivity. Your personal and organizational ability to deal effectively with conflict can make or break your ability to enhance organizational productivity. A good thing to remember if your project is being slowed or stopped by a specific individual is that 99% of the time people are not against you, they are for themselves. This means that if you can understand the reason behind someone’s objections, you can very o en turn a presumed adversary into an ally. When you gain an understanding of your company’s internal culture with respect to these six cultural aributes, you can enhance your entire organization’s productivity. With this knowledge in hand, analyze the impact these factors are having on your organization’s ability to foster innovation, communicate internally, expand corporate knowledge and implement change. Lastly, where appropriate, devise a plan to slowly move toward a true productivity culture. This culture, in turn, will be your steppingstone toward continuous improvement, change management and full utilization of the time, money resources make your organization needs to grow and prosper.
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Small Business Growth Two books look at how to better leverage two of your most precious resources: customer evangelists and family employees. ROCKET: EIGHT LESSONS TO SECURE INFINITE GROWTH McGraw-Hil A new book from McGraw-Hill educates readers on how to turn their customers into brand ambassadors so a business can take off like a shot. Rocket: Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth tells the story of how sixteen remarkable business leaders created strong brands with customers who serve as their “apostles” and how those super-fans drive growth exponentially. Every organization can have customers who are loyal evangelists. They are what Rocket’s authors, business experts at The Boston Consulting Group, call “apostles” due to their faithfulness and inspired storytelling to their friends and family. Still, developing such customers does not just happen overnight; it is a science, art and a business.
The book Rocket brings you the latest practical techniques for knowing your customers’ desires and behaviours in order to deliver rewarding experiences every time, including: • Creating a “demand space” map and predicting how big a share of it you can win with the proper mix of emotional and functional benefits that satisfy the aributes of that space • Determining a strategic direction for where to place investment bets, identifying which brands are best suited to win and which are most responsive to investment • Maintaining a long-term vision to continuously quantify and modify for ongoing improvement, while using your successes to convert more champions along the way With Rocket, the authors say you can rise into a cycle of renewal, energy and power that can launch start-ups to phenomenal success.
HUMAN RESOURCES IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS Palgrave Macmillan The tricky issues faced by family businesses are o en centered on people, both in and out of the family, and involve multiple, complex, interrelated systems with many nuances. How these situations are addressed will dramatically influence the enterprise’s culture and performance, as well as family relationships now and into the future. Human Resources in the Family Business: Maximizing the Power of Your People shows how HR practices can help family firms achieve their values-driven goals as a family and a business. Filled with case studies, frameworks and practical tools, this book addresses how to successfully anticipate and manage people issues and opportunities including: • How to maximize the value of the HR function as a strategic business partner with family owners • How HR can build on a conscious culture of success
from the family owners’ vision and values • How to employ family members in the business in a way that works best for the family, business and individuals • When and where HR should interface with the family and how that is best accomplished • How to recruit, interview and hire the best talent, balancing the needs of both family and nonfamily members • How to manage employee exits eﬀectively, especially those of family members • How to handle sensitive issues such as underperforming family employees, compensation, substance abuse, etc. Perhaps more than in any other type of company, a thoughtful, holistic approach to human resources in the family business (and its continuous evolution) is a critical contributor to long-term success, say the authors. Both books are currently available from www.amazon.ca and www.chapters.indigo.ca.
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
Customer Service Matters Excelling at it is no easy task, but experts agree it has become much more than simply giving customers what they want. By David Chilton Saggers
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hat is customer service? It is difficult to say, because it means different things to different people. To the executive it means one thing; to the employee it means something else. To the customer it is different again. Still, there is enough crossover from all three points of view that a working description of the practice is possible. For Shahan Fancy, corporate sales development manager at Superior Cabinets in Saskatoon, SK., it is delivering on a company’s or product’s brand promise. In other words, says Fancy, “Say what you are going to do for the customer then do what you said you would do.” Amy Morrell, chair of marketing, entrepreneurship and fashion studies at Centennial College in Toronto, says it is about adding value. She uses the example of the Starbucks coffee shop chain to make her point. When it came to Canada, she says, service was slower than in coffee shops already here, but there was more of it. “You felt you were geing more for your money,” Morrell says, who has extensive experience in retail at Canadian Tire and the LCBO, Ontario’s provincial liquor monopoly. Others, such as Ken Parson, president of the Customer
Service Association of Canada in Vancouver, have yet another take on customer service. He says it is an area of business unto itself, like human resources, and for those who deliver it the best it is the driving force of their enterprise. Common aspects of customer service include greeting customers as they enter the retail space, asking them what they are looking for and being polite. Less common are comprehensive product knowledge, good communications skills and problem solving abilities. “Anybody can learn facts and sell product, but you cannot teach empathy.” The salesperson becomes a trusted advisor. “You go back to him or her. It is about selling confidence,” says Stephanie Brown, sales manager for kitchens and baths at Cabinetsmith in Barrie, ON. In other words, it is brand messaging, trust, empathy and service that combine to put the customer at the heart of customer service: they create a relationship that will endure and, as Brown underlines, will keep customers coming back. As crucial as these qualities are, they do not exist in limbo, but are delivered by frontline staff. They are at the sharp end; they interact with customers
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day in and day out. Yet these same employees are o en young or part-timers in entry-level positions that sometimes pay well and sometimes not. How does the owner-contractor keep them adding value, promoting the company or its brand and recognizing how important their contributions are? One key is training, a consideration that Morell calls “incredibly important.” Another is recognizing how valuable frontline employees are and how they need to feel empowered. However, Morrell notes that there is so much executive control these days that employees do not feel as though they can make the most common sense decisions on their own. Fancy too emphasizes the importance of empowering employees. “Everyone needs to be empowered to achieve corporate goals,” he says, recalling a U.S. health food firm that gave its employees permission to offer customers credits or other rewards of up to $50, no questions asked. Empowerment can come from the top, but where does the training come from? Parson says there are two courses at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s campuses in Vancouver and elsewhere in the province, and there are private and public colleges across the country that offer customer service training, as well many sites where on-line instruction is available. Easy access to such education is one thing, but as Parson points out, access without employees having the motivation to pursue it is something else again. Motivation is a tricky beast. At Superior Cabinets, for example, one way the company got its employees to buy into its customer service goals was to embrace complete corporate transparency. “You have to be transparent from the day-to-day to full financials,” says Fancy. Beyond being open and honest with staff, there is another way, an old-fashioned way, to motivate them. It is money, whether in cold hard cash on payday or in bonuses twice a year. “Humans are driven by incentives no maer what,” says Fancy. If that is the case, then company owners also have a clear incentive in front of them: acknowledge the 10-80-10 principle. As Morrell explains it, 10% of employees are pleased to come to work, are engaged in their jobs, and so on. The next 80% take their cues from that 10% and will eventually align themselves with that group at the top. The boom 10% will not fall in with that 80% and will remain a drag on the company. Still, as Parson notes, the lowest 10% of any company tends not to stick around too long. So, it has been established that to deliver customer service companies need trained, empathetic staff that are quick on their feet, and authorized to make decisions themselves, rather than refer every problem or query to someone above them. Or as Brown puts it: “Process o en gets in the way of common sense.” What then about that old retailing slogan that the customer is always right? Is the customer always right? Brown puts it this way: “What the customer needs is always right, and you need to find a way to meet that need if you can.” Parson agrees. He points out that saying the customer is always right is a good slogan, but what is beer than that is always puing the customer first. Fancy tweaks his opinion just a bit differently. He says the customer is always right, if the customer is right for the product or service a company provides. When maers go awry, companies should learn to recover well from their mistakes, he adds, because that too is part of first class customer service.
Customer Service Talk Ken Parson is president of the Customer Service Association of Canada in Vancouver. The Association began in 2010 and has 600 members. Q. Is there a working definition of what customer service actually is? A. Customer service is an old term that used to mean: take care of your customers and give them what they want, serve them what they ask for. Then it progressed quite a bit to customer experience management, then customer relationship management. Now it has become a business area of its own, much like HR, marketing and sales. Q. What are some of the defining characteristics of customer service? A. Being attentive to the customer, trying to help them, asking what they are looking for, what projects are they working on and seeing the customer through the entire process. They may be considering renovations and they are looking at flooring or carpeting, so walk them through the entire project. Q. To deliver customer service, it has to come from the employees. How do they do it? A. The key point is creating a relationship with the customer, which in turn translates into profit. I think a lot of companies still see customer service as the pyramid. We have got the CEO at the top and he runs the organization like the army. More progressive companies invert that pyramid so you have got the CEO on the bottom. Q. How do you get employees, who are the public face of the company, onside and to deliver ever-better customer service? A. That is a million dollar question. A component of that is training, and where does a customer service person get training? There are not many training courses around. At the British Columbia Institute of Technology they have two customer training courses, and there are lots of programs on the Internet, but first of all you have to motivate staff to take training. On the other hand some large corporations have an in-house customer service training program, although it is more directed towards product training. There is more to it. It is an attitude. Some people are really good at customer service and they make a real good connection with the customer. I think it is more people skills than training. Q. What can you do through customer service to keep customers coming back? A. One association member greets you right at the door, and asks, “How can I help you? What are you working on?” Staff is instructed to approach customers and to take them over to the relevant department. All that is, is to build a relationship, so when customers need more paint they come back to the same store. Q. Is the customer always right? A. That is a good slogan, but that is not the real world. The real world is: how are we going to handle this situation to achieve the best outcome for the customer; so the customer goes away feeling satisfied and will be willing to return to business with the company. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Building Code is being reconstructed and you need to know how it will reshape your work. By John G. Smith
Few documents influence a contractorâ€™s work more than building, plumbing, energy and fire codes. Their pages govern everything from product choices to dimensions, dictate how structures take shape and determine how the assembled pieces should perform. They are also being reconstructed. While provincial and local codes carry the weight of law, the national codes on which they are modelled are scheduled to introduce no fewer than 560 revisions this December. The National Building Code will include 358 changes of its own. Another 97 are in the National Fire Code, 28 in the National Plumbing Code and 77 in the National Energy Code. The 2015 edition of the building and plumbing codes will even introduce references to sustainable building practices and water use. Reaching this point was no small feat. Proposed changes emerged over several years and had to be reviewed by nine standing commiÂ†ees including volunteers from different
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regions and with different areas of expertise. “Anyone can put in a code change request,” says Frank Lohmann, senior technical advisor with the National Research Council. Each fall, the commiees distributed proposed ideas along with rationales, costs and enforcement challenges. Comments were collected. Further changes were made. Now we have arrived at the 2015 edition, which will replace its 2010 predecessor and begin to reshape codes at the provincial and local levels. Look no further than the rules governing stairs, ramps, handrails and guards for an example of how sweeping some of the reforms will be. The steps inside dwelling units now require minimum runs of 255 mm, compared to 210 mm. The maximum runs have been deleted altogether. It is a maer of public safety. Stair dimensions are believed to contribute to 314 deaths and 100,000 injuries a year as people lose their footing. “The larger run dimension will increase the likelihood that you will be able to catch yourself before you fall,” Lohmann explains. “There are so many things we cannot address as building code writers, but in the end the run dimension was the single-biggest effect we could make to mitigate any fall that happens. There were also some changes on hand rails, hand rail design and where hand rails start.” If this makes such a difference, why not adopt the 280 mm runs required of public stairways? Builders pushed back with arguments about the required space, design changes and cost. Counter arguments focused on the productivity lost through injuries. The end result was the compromise that the editing process was designed to support. Maybe it was more than that. “Some people call it compromise. Other people call it effective regulation,” Lohmann says. “What is it that we need to achieve here, and does the change achieve a smart regulation that is cost-effective and achieves the benefit?” “Both the step dimensions and the guards, these were very polarizing issues… between builders and contractors on one side and public health advocates on the other side. One side was saying it was not enough, we can still do beer, and on the other side they were saying that you are really increasing the
cost and making this intrusive,” he says. Lohmann describes the conversations about stairs as long, detailed and circular. Circular in more ways than one. Spiral stairs, which have not traditionally been in the Building Code’s Part 9 that governs small buildings, are also being introduced. “They are not allowed to be exit stairs, but they generally follow the design rules that were already required in other codes,” Lohmann says, referring to the National Fire Protection Association Code and selected local bylaws as examples. Stair guards also need to be difficult to climb at elevations above 4.2 m. The level of soundproofing between different dwellings is being updated, too. While the Building Code has traditionally required the walls and floors between dwelling units to have minimum acoustic ratings, another layer has been added to the rules to consider how walls, floors and ceilings connect different units and contribute to “flanking” noise. New calculations and design methods are being introduced for architects and engineers, while builders are geing prescriptive requirements that identify different separating assemblies and show how the junctions between separating and flanking walls need to be constructed. “If you have a multi-unit residential building with a couple of suites on top of each other or beside each other, you now will have to consider whether you put the joists that support the floor parallel to separating walls between the dwelling units, or whether you can afford to run them across. If you had a design where the joists run across two different dwelling units, you would have a much higher sound transmission because you have a connection there. If you change the design of that building to emphasize fewer structural connections between the dwelling units, including all the flanking walls and floors, you would have a beer result. That is what the requirements are asking for,” he says. “Now you need to also look at how you connect them. How do I build the structural connection of my flanking wall? Does it help if I put and extra layer of gypsum board? What do I do if there is a concrete floor? It just requires a bit of thinking.” Other changes involve updating old reference standards. Roofing and waterproofing rules included about 40 of those,
“In one case, when we talked about the application of waterproofing material, we actually put requirements into the code because we could not find any other standards that would require that.”
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and some were so old that labs would no longer test the related materials, Lohmann says. Situations like this actually created a business risk for anyone who followed the code. A product that was fine for the U.S. and had an ASTM label might not meet the standard actually required in Canada’s Building Code. “The building would still be waterproof or damp-proof, but just not with the material that would be referenced,” he explains. In most cases, those changes involve using pre-existing international standards, but there are exceptions. “In one case, when we talked about the application of waterproofing material, we actually put requirements into the code because we could not find any other standards that would require that.” A new generation of building materials is also being introduced. Exterior Insulating Finish Systems (EIFS), cladding that looks like stucco and includes insulation, now includes prescriptive requirements that reference material, design and installation standards published by ULC. This eliminates the need to request an engineering leer or Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) evaluation any time you want to use it. Structural safety, meanwhile, is being enhanced when it comes to resisting lateral loads from earthquakes. The predicting model was improved last year, determining what the actual load would be on structures across Canada, complete with references to the swings that could be expected in particular locations. There are beer design procedures and prescriptive requirements for low-rise buildings, which refer to connections and the way framing is secured against lateral loads. The Plumbing Code will include new rules for water efficiency, such as maximum flow rates for fixtures, similar to the rules already in place for Ontario. Eventually, the focus on sustainability could look at the way grey water and rainwater are handled, Lohmann adds.
Now it is a maer of waiting for the codes to make their way into laws, and this takes time; a lot of time. Alberta, for example, adopted the 2010 code only as recently as last year. “In the last five years they have had three elections, two floods and, I think, a drought, and all of these issues have, I think, stifled the ability to present a bill in the legislature to adopt building codes. Essentially, other things were always more important or when they had elections they had to start over,” Lohmann says. “We have 10 provinces and three territories, and we probably have as many different adoption and adaptation processes.” There is no guarantee that all of these changes will be adopted by each jurisdiction, but there is a good chance that they will be. Every province and territory had a seat at the table during discussions. The standing commiees are overseen by the 36-member Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, which is advised by a policy and advisory commiee from the provinces and territories. Alberta has even become one of the jurisdictions to change the way future codes are adopted. Rather than reviewing codes to decide what to adopt through legislation, there is now an automatic reference to the updated rules. “Whenever there is a new national model code, it will be in effect a year later,” Lohmann says, with one exception: because it adopted the 2010 code only last year, the latest round of changes is scheduled to be introduced in two years. Delays in adopting such changes carry a cost, particularly for builders who work in more than one jurisdiction or manufacturers who are trying to introduce products that can be used in more than one location. It is why Lohmann hopes more jurisdictions follow Alberta’s example, and adopt codes by referencing the most recent national versions. “The industry can play a role in telling provinces that you are not doing us a favour by waiting longer,” he says.
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“Delays in adopting such changes carry a cost, particularly for builders who work in more than one jurisdiction or manufacturers who are trying to introduce products that can be used in more than one location.”
They can quickly improve a room’s design, but homeowners need to be educated to recognize their value.
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By Lawrence Cummer
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lile bit of millwork can go far towards transforming a room or home. Still it o en gets short shri , overlooked in lieu of upgrades such as hardwood floors or new stainless steel appliances. Experts say this is changing, but in order for it to really happen demands work around consumer education by contactors and vendors alike, so homeowners can beer understand millwork’s value, says Jon Dickinson, senior director of national accounts and business development at Metrie. Contractors who do can help their clients turn their rooms from functional into a thing of beauty. “Mouldings and millwork were almost like an a erthought before,” Dickinson says. “They were not being seen as one of the core finishings of a house. He adds that, despite their “dramatic” impact on design, a builder focus on function over form has been partly to blame for this homeowner aitude. “Millwork was just installed to be practical. ‘By the way, we’ve got to fill all those 6’8” holes throughout the house, we need some doors; we’ve got to cover that crack between the floor and the drywall, so we beer buy some baseboard.’” “Doors and mouldings were bought for functional reasons versus aspirational ones, but now they are being seen as much
more than just practical.” Homeowners can also become flabbergasted by the sea of white they get lost in while walking the mouldings and trim isles of their local retailer, Dickinson says. Here, of course, is an opportunity for contractors well-versed in millwork options and application to add greater value. “It is a very overwhelming process for the homeowner, and there is not a lot of education out there. That has been identified and what we are doing at Metrie is making investments in educating the consumer around how much millwork increases the value of their homes.” It is not just the homeowner that must be educated on that value, though, but contractors, builders, developers, designers and architects. “Even realtors need to be added to that mix,” Dickinson says. “I bought a house a couple years ago, and we went to 45 homes and I would ask every realtor what the mouldings were made out of and nobody could tell me, but ask them what kind of floors are they, the answer comes immediately.” Of course, if homeowners and builders pay greater aention to the function of millwork, it is likely because the origins for many types of it are rooted in their practical purposes: baseboards to resist shoe scuffs; chair rails to protect walls; door and window trim to block both dra and insect invaders. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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Marianne Thompson, vice-president of sales and marketing at Alexandria Moulding echoes the need to beer educate consumers and contactors around the major design value millwork affords. “The challenge we have with moulding is it is a functional product, so if it is actually doing its job, why does a consumer change it?” she rhetorically asks. By analyzing the buying and shopping trends of its consumers, Alexandria has concluded a few things are driving homeowners to replace specific mouldings; one of them being other renovations, particularly flooring. “The number one item that people search for from us is baseboards,” she says. “The reason for that is that a lot of people are finding it very economical to upgrade their floors lately, and flooring touches baseboards. This presents a question for homeowners when upgrading floors, ‘Should we leave it or should we change it?’” Flooring contractors hired to install that stylish hardwood floor may therefore find it the perfect time to talk with homeowners about adding a baseboard upgrade, or other matching mouldings and trim as well. In fact, some flooring contractors have begun the practice of throwing in new baseboards as an easy value-add, but this may be a case of buyer beware, Thompson warns.
“We have friends who were going to have their flooring installed and they said, ‘Oh, and we get baseboards with the floor.’ I said, ‘You do? what kind of baseboards?’ ‘I don’t know, they are 4”,’ she replied.” The contractor gave the homeowner absolutely no options, Thompson says, and the “homeowner was not even being educated on the extra value, if any, they were receiving.”
Skip the rip and replace One thing that vendors and contractors can educate homeowners on is the fact that existing millwork may not need to be ripped out and replaced to be improved. Instead the potential to build on it can be looked at. For example, Thompson says to consider leaving a small gap above a baseboard and running a simple panel trim across the wall; once the gap and millwork are both painted the same colour it will appear as one larger more elaborate piece. “It creates the visual effect that it is one solid piece of baseboard, but at a fraction of the cost.” The same build-up effect can be applied around the room to other areas of trim or moulding. For a crown that is too small for a room, Thompson suggests a 2” gap and a line of chair rail positioned both below the moulding and on the ceiling creates CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
a dramatic effect. She adds that once you start combining pieces the sky is the limit to this sort of cost-effective upgrade. To help homeowners avoid becoming overwhelmed by options, many experts recommend you bring not only photos of past work, but small examples of the build-ups you have created, so clients can beer visualize them and their dimensions. Even for simple jobs, Thompson recommends that homeowners see a single piece of millwork in their home before a full purchase, so it can be seen in all three-dimensions in its final location. Of course, it may be even beer if you can bring customers to a show room to see the millwork in use.
Style by collections To further help builders, contractors and homeowners to navigate the high number of options available, Metrie a few years ago worked with the Design Council to launch a series of interior finishing collections that combine doors and mouldings matching different styles. These five collections (Fashion Forward, True Cra , Prey Simple, French Curves and Very Square) are designed to take the guesswork out of combining doors, mouldings and trims. In addition, the company produced a short online quiz (hp://metrie.com/style-quiz/) that contractors can direct homeowners to as a fun way to help inspire them or give them an idea of their design leanings. The availability of completely painted MDF moulding lines, such as those offered by Alexandria, is another important product evolution. It is a significant development from the earlier days when raw MDF was even difficult to prime. “We now not only have product offered pre-primed, but also pre-painted. It makes it easier for the contractor to install, especially if they are usually flooring or windows installers,” says Thompson.
From a design trend perspective, experts say homeowners today are leaning toward contemporary (or transitional) designs over more traditional ones. Contemporary designs are sleek and simple and feature a lot of horizontal lines and use of texture, where traditional designs tend to feature a rich, heavier look with more wood tones. Transitional is, as the name suggests, at a stage between the two; a style seen in examples such as shaker doors. Contemporary designs can create visual tension, according to some experts, causing some homeowners to find transitional designs more comfortable. “There is definitely a trend towards the transitional and contemporary kind of looks,” says Nicole Webster, designer at Elizabeth Metcalfe Interiors & Design out of Mississauga, Ont. “A lot of inspiration is coming from hotel design, so in the way things are finished, there is a lot less heavy trim work being done creating a cleaner more contemporary look. “A lot of wall paneling with reveals, but we are also seeing a lot less heavy recessed paneling work happening;
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it is a lot more sophisticated and quiet.” Metal is making resurgence in high-end renovations, Webster says, both in the form of custom jobs adding metal elements to millwork, but also lacquer finishes that can give wood the appearance of metal. “It works really well, and instead of paying the high price for custom metal work, sometimes we are geing the same effect from a lacquer.”
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More than moulding Of course millwork incorporates more than crown and baseboard mouldings. “Another trend we are seeing is the addition of backband applied to a window casing,” Thompson says. “It is almost like creating a picture frame around the window and a huge aesthetic upgrade to the home.” Adding new moulding or trims to cabinetry can be costeffective upgrades during a kitchen or bathroom renovation, again, without the full rip-and-replace. “A very simple way to dress up an existing cabinet is by adding crown moulding to the top of it or panel mould to the face of the door. There are lots of ways to enhance something already existing,” she adds.
Of course, custom cabinets, like those Webster tends to have built for her high-end clientele, created by a top-notch cabinet maker, are an option when budget exists, and not always a huge difference in cost. Stairs are another place millwork is becoming more popular, through the addition of stair treads and risers. “There is a huge trend for homeowners to get that dirty carpet off their stairs and transform it with a tread,” Thompson says. To that end, Alexandria has developed its SimpleTread stair tread cap and riser system to fit over existing stair systems and quickly convert them to either an oak or maple hardwood. Wall treatments are trending as well, according to Dickinson. “One of the things people have started to recognize is there are more ways to decorate your walls than just art. You can use wainscot moulding or decorative moulds or chair rails to create whatever look you are trying to achieve.” In most cases, the products in question are not new, he points out. “It is just that people are now saying, ‘I can actually use that in my den or library.’ So now they are just being thought of more o en, and a lot of that goes back to people being educated.” CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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The Internet of Things has created smart homes, but they require different thinking. By John G. Smith
ny fan of infomercials will recognize the Clapper. The sound-activated switch can be controlled from anywhere in a room. Just put your hands together and see if you can resist singing the jingle. “Clap on. Clap off. The Clapper.” It is hardly the only tool that helps homeowners control environments. Programmable timers activate everything from stoves to sprinklers. Thermostats vary interior temperatures depending on the time of day. Motion sensors trigger lamps whenever someone enters or leaves a particular space. Increasingly, however, the devices can also be controlled from afar.
The so-called Internet of Things now makes it possible to connect everyday objects by exchanging data. Smartphones are responsible for much of the interest, shi ing controls from mounted screens and desktop computers into a pocket. “Wherever you go, your home is with you,” says Rasel Miah of AV Expert, which installs smart home systems around Oawa. “You can almost program the way you think into a smart device.” “Smart phones have really changed the game,” agrees Bill Richardson, vice president of marketing and sales at Rainforest Automation. “In the past, if you look at systems like Control4, they all had some kind of touch screen that you had to install in the wall or your table. Those things cost $500 to $1,000 or CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
and use the power of LEDs to produce millions of colour hues. That level of control is particularly interesting to Richardson’s wife. “She thinks that fluorescent lights are a cosmetic crime.” Smart features also involve more than looks alone. Sensors in a utility room can send warnings through a phone if a water tank begins to leak or a sump pump fails. Electronic locks make it possible to secure every door with the tap of a single key. “It is all really helping people who are disabled,” adds Miah, referring to the sense of independence that can be realized if people can more easily control home appliances. Piles of remotes can also be replaced with a single device, and security systems will generate two-way video links to homeowners as soon as someone presses a doorbell. Few features have captured the public’s consciousness more than the promise of security. Results of a North American survey published in iControl State of the Smart Home 2015 found that 90% of homeowners say security is the top reason for a smart home system. Cameras and sensors warn about intruders, and smart locks activate simply when someone approaches with a properly programmed smart phone. Garage door openers can send alerts when le open and give homeowners the power to close the doors from afar. No more need to turn the car around and check to see if everything was locked up tight. Still, a poorly designed smart home can actually introduce security issues. A recent report by HP noted that devices with weak passwords or other loopholes could lead to breaches elsewhere in a network. It recommends considering security when looking at various features, and choosing strong passwords whenever the option is available. That means something other than 1-2-3-4. As convenient as smart home devices can be, contractors can enhance the experience by pre-programming all the related controls. Integrated audio-video systems offer some of the
you had to have a computer you were not using. Now it is an app on your phone, and it is free, and you already have the screen and you already have the phone.” Even beer, some of the devices can reprogram themselves. Nest Labs developed a learning thermostat that combines information on temperatures and personal schedules, and adjusts temperatures accordingly. The advanced versions can control everything from humidifiers to dual-fuel systems that combine heat pumps and furnaces. When it comes to interest in smart homes, that was one of the biggest game changers of all, Richardson says, but not because of the functionality or the promise to save energy bills. “They made the thermostat an object of desire. It was like an iPhone,” he says. “That was the genius. Finding something that was aractive to put on the wall. It was art.” Perhaps there should be lile wonder that Nest’s co-founders were once Apple engineers. “In the past, people always tried to make products that were more cost-effective,” Richardson says. Even his own company embraced that focus when providing its first energy control systems. The sales pitches that work for building managers and industrial users, however, o en fail to pique the interest of homeowners. This is why he suggests homebuilders should focus on emotions when promoting “smart” options. “It is really a toy for people who have much more money, and they do not want the cheap stuff,” he says, referring to factors that drive early adopters. Want to know which customers might be swayed by related devices? Look for those who are installing dedicated areas for home theatres, or building custom homes. Smart homes can adjust “temperatures” in more ways than one. Products such as Philips Hue bulbs, for example, give people the chance to control the tone and contrast of lights,
most common examples of available options. Want to activate the right number of components to watch a movie or play a video game? Need to adjust the volume or close the blinds? No problem. A smart home system is about more than controlling a single system. A large-scale automation project in a new home could run $30,000 or more, Miah says. One of his recent projects involved integrating controls for security; an AV system with a pair of speakers in each room, and home theatre in the basement; lighting inside and outside the house; thermostat; garage door opener; and water system. “Imagine the wires you have coming into one location.” Yes, even given the growth in Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth devices, there is still a case to be made for well-planned physical connections. There is a science to wiring homes for the added controls, Miah says. Cameras, for example, tend to need a higher grade of wiring than audio speakers. This is an area where building contractors can help their customers prepare for the future. When Richardson built his home about 15 years ago, he ensured that each room had two coaxial cables, Cat6 wires and fibre, all feeding through a single wiring closet. “When you are building it, if you can run one wire or 20 wires, it is all the same labour price,” he says. “A lot of people now are puing in structured wiring systems. Rather than pulling one cable through the walls they are running conduit through the walls, or a bunch of dark cable that is not connected to anything yet.” “A lot of the product that comes out is wireless, but it is wireless because it is intended to drop into an existing home. If you have an opportunity to put it in the house, why would you go wireless when you can have the wires there? The performance
is going to be beer,” he says. Then the wireless features can be introduced to enhance the overall system. Temperature and motion sensors are o en most effective when integrated with touch-screen controls mounted around the house. “The complex wiring still exists in terms of sensors and panels that need to be there, but the Bluetooth helps to communicate between the devices,” Miah explains. He also makes a case for redundant wiring, which can save valuable time if any wires are cut or nicked during a home’s finishing. “How do you run it from the second floor to the basement without cuing holes in the wall?” he asks. The solution can be as simple as running 2” conduit from the aic to the basement. “That should be done in every home.” Success is simply a maer of planning. “The biggest challenge is actually designing it,” says Miah, referring to smart homes. Careful assessments with a client will help to establish a vision about what they hope to accomplish. It all helps to make the case for integrating smart controls as far down the line as a power meter. Richardson, for example, refers to the capabilities of smart panels, which make it possible to monitor every circuit. “It is possible you could get remote control of every breaker, circuit by circuit, which is kind of cool.” When it comes to all the controls, meanwhile, the most coveted options are highly integrated. “Everybody has an app now and you have 20 apps on your phone, and you have to switch apps in order to do anything,” Richardson says. Rainforest offers the single screen. Soon, USB sticks will be plugged into gateways to control everything from lightbulbs to smart plugs and thermostats. “We have a whole range of products we have integrated with,” he says. There are more systems to come. Companies like Belkin have even introduced smart Crock Pots. It seems that wherever a power source exists, a new level of control is possible. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
window on energy waste The latest Energy Star criteria could affect how you and your customers choose windows. By Stefan Dubowski
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
n the past, only your most green-minded clients would specify Energy Star-rated windows for their new-build or renovation work. How things change. Today, Energy Star is not just a nice-to-have option. It is practically required. “In many markets, the building codes say windows must have a U-value of 1.6 or lower,” notes Allan Doyle, general manager of Global Windows and Doors in Richibucto, N.B. That number, 1.6, coincides with the U-value (also known as U-factor) level at which a window must perform for the product to qualify for the Energy Star program. “If you have a building inspector looking for labels on the product, they will want to make sure the windows meet the requirement.” That is one of the reasons you should seriously consider installing only Energy Star-rated windows. You know they will pass muster with the inspectors. Keep in mind the fact that your clients are increasingly energy conscious, too. “I think energy efficiency is more top of mind than it ever has been,” says Tracy Nadiger, director of marketing with All Weather Windows in Edmonton. “The general consumer expects an energy efficient product when purchasing anything these days, from appliances to windows or doors.” So what is Energy Star all about? Read on to learn the details of this environmentally-focused program and how it might affect your next window installation project.
PHOTO: ALL WEATHER WINDOWS
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Energy Star: launched in the U.S., made for Canada Energy Star is an international standard for energy-efficient products. Devices that carry the Energy Star mark generally use 20 to 30% less energy than non-Energy Star products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy created the standard in 1992. Since then, a number of other countries have signed on, including Canada, which became an international Energy Star partner in 2001. In our country, the federal government, specifically the department Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), oversees the Energy Star program. NRCan develops Canada-specific Energy Star technical specifications for certain products, including windows. These Canadian-made standards account for the fact that our climate makes for substantially colder winters compared to the U.S. Windows are unique from an energy efficiency point of view. They consume no energy, yet they can be a significant source of energy loss. As such, they play an important part in a building’s energy rating. According to NRCan, Energy Star windows can help reduce a household’s energy bills by up to 8%. Looking for the best of the best energy savers? Search for windows labelled Energy Star Most Efficient: they can reduce energy loss by up to 40% compared to standard double-pane windows. The government grants the Most Efficient certification to products that are superior in terms of energy savings within each calendar year. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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Most Efficient or not, all Energy Star windows have the following features: • Double or triple glazing, which means two or three panes of glass with an insulating space between the panes • Low-emissivity (low-e) coating on the glass, which minimizes ultraviolet and infrared light penetration and which, in turn, reduces the amount of heat that gets through the panes • Inert gas such as argon or krypton between the panes; these substances provide more insulation than regular air • Low-conductivity or “warm edge” spacer bars between the panes to reduce air leakage • Insulated frames and sashes
Location maers Energy Star criteria are different depending on the location of the home. Have a look at the colourized map of Canada on the le . It shows the three climate-zone categories into which NRCan places Energy Star windows. Each zone has a specific level of heating degree-days, which is a measure of annual average temperature. The warmest parts of the country are in climate zone 1, which has fewer than 3,500 heating degree-days. Climate zone 2 is cooler, with a heating degree-day
How Energy Star ratings work Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) considers a window’s energy efficiency using two measurements: U-factor and energy rating (ER). U-factor: a measure of the rate of heat loss, expressed in watts per metres-squared Kelvin (W/m2K). The lower the U-factor number, the slower the heat loss. ER: a formula that incorporates a number of measurements, namely U-factor, air leakage and potential solar heat gain, which is heat that makes its way through the window. The higher the ER, the greater the energy efﬁciency. Earlier this year, NRCan updated its Energy Star criteria, which means new U-factor and ER levels for each climate zone. See the chart below [SD1] for the latest requirements.
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range from 3,500 to less than 6,000. Climate zone 3, which includes most of Canada’s geographic area (if not its population), averages more than 6,000 heating degree-days. Since the climate zones are progressively colder from 1 to 3, windows that are Energy Star certified for zone 3 qualify as Energy Star certified for zones 1 and 2. The Energy Star label on the window specifies the zone or zones for which the product is qualified.
Manufacturers know all about Energy Star. Many Canadian companies already build to the program’s criteria. All Weather Windows, for instance, touts the fact that its Apex line is included on NRCan’s Energy Star Most Efficient list. This series employs the company’s VWeld technology, which is a single-frame construction as opposed to a box-to-box construction. “Single-frame construction means the window is virtually air- and water-leak proof as there are no screws holding multiple units together,” Nadiger says. Doyle at Global Windows and Doors says his company’s most efficient window is the Classic Collection casement. It features triple glazing, low-e coatings and argon between the panes. Casement windows are o en available with triple glazing, which usually makes a difference in terms of energy efficiency. In general, those three panes of glass do a beer job of reducing air leakage than doublepane products. Doyle notes that some manufacturers are making triple-glazed windows in other styles as well, increasing the range of options for customers who seek the superior sealing of triple glazing but also want something different from the casement look. Triple glazing is beer in most cases, but it is important not to pay too much aention to the number of panes in the window. Many double-glazed single-hung windows meet the Energy Star criteria and even rival certain casement windows. “Speaking strictly of double-glazed, we have a single-hung product that outperforms our casement product,” Doyle points out. Ed Bremer, owner of DEL Windows and Doors in Stoney Creek, Ont., points to his company’s Fallsview line as an example of high efficiency and practicality. A dual coating of low-e means this double-glazed option in casement, single-hung and other styles performs as well as many triple-glazed products from an energy saving perspective. From a construction point of view, double glazing has certain advantages. “There tend to be more seal failures in a triple-pane window,” Bremer says. Also, taking into account the weight of three panes of glass, triple-glazed products can be hard on their frames. “If people leave the window open at 90 degrees, that can lead to a lot of service issues with the hardware.”
Translate Energy Star ratings into R-values
U-factor and Energy Rating (ER) are the measurements that the government uses to assess whether a window deserves the Energy Star label. Many of your clients may not be familiar with those terms. Customers likely recognize another system of measurement, though: Rvalue, used to convey the degree to which a material is able to insulate a home. Even though manufacturers are not required to provide an R-value for windows, NRCan has a handy chart that converts U-factor into this more common expression of energy efﬁciency. See that chart below[SD2] . Refer to it to translate Energy Star ratings so your customers will have an easier time understanding the energy efﬁciency of the windows they are considering.
A clear view on Energy Star’s future Energy Star ratings are not static. NRCan updates the criteria periodically to push the industry forward and convince window manufacturers to develop even more energy efficient options. The department uses a number of factors, such as the market penetration levels of Energy Star products and the energy efficiency levels required by building codes, to decide when to update the criteria. Ratings updates mean an upswing in energy efficiency. NRCan introduced the first set of Energy Star criteria for windows in 2003. Since then, the department has amended the qualifications multiple times, most recently earlier this year. (See “How Energy Star ratings work” on page 39 for the latest requirements.) A modern Energy Star qualified window is some 25% more efficient than an Energy Star window made back when the system was new. These always-changing criteria keep manufacturers on their toes. All Weather Windows has a testing chamber in its Edmonton facility to continually research and develop ways to meet the new benchmarks. Global Windows and Doors is looking into innovations such as krypton gas between the panes for beer sealing. Krypton is denser than argon, making for beer insulation. DEL pays aention to new technology and the market, noting how other manufacturers use novel materials and construction. As the government continues to push for greater energy savings, it is likely that manufacturers such as Global Windows and Doors, DEL and All Weather Windows will have even more energy efficient products to offer you and your customers in the future. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
Bag The hand tools every interior contractor needs. By Nestor Arellano
Tape measure – Upon arriving at a job site, the first tool most contractors usually pull out is a measuring tape. “The measuring tape is essential for telling the contractor how big the job will be, the size of materials needed and, of course, making the right cut,” says Louise Young, hand tools and storage product commercialization manager for Stanley Black & Decker Canada, which also distributes DeWalt Tools. When shopping for a measuring tape, contractors need to look for the following qualities: Accuracy • Metric and imperial units that are easy to read • Tape and mechanism durability • Standout capability 42
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Measure twice, cut once
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lectrical testers are indispensable to heating ventilation and air condition (HVAC) contractors, plungers are a plumber’s best friend and tile installers rely on their trusty trowel to smooth things out. That is why it is very difficult to come up with a list of must-have tools for contractors. What is essential for one contractor may be inconsequential for another; however, beyond their specialty tools, contractors will need tools deemed vital by their colleagues from other trades. There are, of course, a few hand tools that contractors might need within their grasp at a moment’s notice.
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DeWalt’s premium tape measures come in 16’, 25’, 26’ and 35’ lengths. The blade has a maximum standout capacity of 13’ and is 1¼” wide to avoid wobbling when stretched out vertically. It is Mylar covered with a thermoplastic coating on the first 3” to prevent this delicate spot from breaking and a high-impact resin and rubber housing provides added durability. Laser range finder – Today’s modern alternative to the traditional tape measure is the laser range finder, says Keith Pos, veteran national trainer for Milwaukee Tools. These baery-powered digital devices can calculate lengths, widths and heights of up to 650’ and are generally considered to be accurate within 1/8” when measuring distances of up to 300’. Laser range finders help eliminate the difficulties of measuring high ceilings and hard to reach spaces by projecting a laser beam from one end of the room to another and calculating the distance. Milwaukee’s 2282-20 Laser Distance Meter is powered by two AAA baeries and can measure distances of up to 260’ with an accuracy of 1/16”. The device has a Smart Horizontal Mode that provides a more accurate reading by factoring in the angle at which the device is being held. It is also capable of several different functions for calculating length, area, volume and indirect measurements. Stanley’s TLM99s laser distance measurer is small enough
to fit in a jacket pocket and allows for measuring distance, calculating square footage and cubic footage. It has a range of 4’ to 100’ and an accuracy of 3/32”. The device also has Bluetooth capability that enables it to sync with smartphones and tablets that contain the Stanley Floor Plan App, a mobile application that helps contractors, designers, architects and engineers measure and draw floor plans.
On the level In recent years, laser technology has also been making headway in supplanting the traditional spirit or bubble level. Laser level – Much like a laser range finder, a laser level projects a beam of laser light that can be used like a chalk line to establish a straight and level reference point. Most laser levels come with a self-leveling mechanism. Devices can cost anywhere from $30 to as much as $2,000 for heavy-duty outdoor models used for laying foundations and grading roads. Point generators or dot lasers are among the simplest devices. Prices range from around $30 to $520. Point generators shoot out a laser dot and project a line on a surface to help indicate a level point. Dot lasers project points can be used to not only indicate a level point but also squaring a frame level and for plumbing posts. Line lasers can project several horizontal and vertical laser CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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lines at the same time. Models for indoor use typically include plumbing up and plumbing down capabilities. These tools cost from $80 to $500. The Stanley Cubix Cross Line Laser is a self-leveling device that projects horizontal and vertical lines onto flat surfaces for common leveling and alignment applications. It has a maximum range of 40’ and an accuracy of 5/16”. It has links and brackets to enable mounting onto different surfaces. The device costs around $70. The company’s SPL3 3-Beam Spot Laser projects beams up, down and horizontal to provide an accurate plumb and horizontal point of reference. It has a range 100’ and an accuracy of 1/8”. It also comes with a mounting system. The device sells for around $80.
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Hammer time Claw hammer – A good hammer is like a good friend, “by your side ready to help when you need it,” according to Chris Waldner, director of marketing and product management at Task Tools. In purchasing a hammer, contractors should consider the following: • Head weight – A head weight of 16 oz. is ideal for DIY users and trim jobs; a 20 oz. hammer is for heavier framing work • Rip claw – Handy for ripping out nails • Non-wood handle – Wood handles tend to break or become slippery; fibreglass handles are lighter and transmit less vibration • Head face – Some users prefer a smooth head face because it does not mar surfaces, but most framing carpenters prefer a milled face because it does not slip off nail heads The 16 oz. Elite Series one-piece steel claw hammer from Task is a good example of modern hammer design. It comes with a curved sha for increased hammer strength and a hatchet-
style handle and cushion grip to reduce user fatigue. The hammer head comes with a magnetic nail starter, a magnetic groove that holds a nail to allow users to hammer away with one hand. Task also offers an 8 oz. mini hammer called the Mini Striker. Just over 6” long, the tool is designed for working in tight spots and interior jobs such as sinking drywall anchors, hammering finishing nails and applying trim. Stanley’s 12 oz. and 14 oz. Fat Max high-velocity hammers can produce a striking force equal to those of hammers twice their size, according to the company. The tools also have a curved hammer sha and magnetic nail starters. “Our 14 oz. high-velocity hammer strikes like a 28 oz. hammer, but because it is much lighter it makes for faster swings and result in less fatigue,” Young explains.
Cut and saw Utility knife – “You are bound to see a utility knife in the tool box of almost anyone from a DIYer to a professional contractor,” says Young. Many users tend to go for economy and sele for the Dollar Store variety, but there is an advantage to going for quality. “Look for a knife with a handle that will not slip and a blade that will not easily wear out despite repeated use,” she says. “You also want a blade that will not break and possibly wound you but have sections that you can safely snap off when it becomes dull.” For example, the blades in DeWalt’s Snap-Off knives and blades line are treated with carbide which allows them to last five times longer than ordinary blades and keep their “first-cut” sharpness longer. The blades cost around $10 each or about $38 for a pack of 20 and are ideal for many building applications CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
Multi-cut tool – This scissor-like device is designed to provide its blade with a mechanical action that gives it the force to cut through many tough materials. Employing a razor-sharp blade with an offset pivot point, some multi-cut tools can cut through thick plastic, leather and rubber, corded nylon rope, wood dowels and even high-density polyethylene tubing. Saw – For many contractors working on indoor jobs, cuing through wood, drywall and pipes are a given. Saws that can handle more than one job can help reduce a contractor’s load. For instance, the Milwaukee Rasping Jab Saw not only allows users to quickly cut holes into drywall but it also has rasping holes along the side of its blade for expanding holes and smooth out rough edges. It has a 6” blade that can cut through drywall and plaster. The tool retails for only about $10. The company’s 12½” Compact Hack Saw comes with a detachable, tool-free blade ideal for cuing in close quarters. This $13 tool can cut through copper tubing, small PVC pipes and metal bolts.
One good turn Screwdriver – The market is awash with really excellent power tools that can be fied with a variety of screwdriver heads; however, contractors are bound to face situations where a hand-powered screwdriver is just the tool for the job. Rather than lugging along an assortment of screwdrivers, one alternative is to include a ratchet screwdriver in your tool bag. This tool comes with a ratcheting mechanism that provides higher torque and greater speed in tightening and loosening screws. Examples of this type of screwdriver are the 10-in-1 ECX ratcheting multi-driver bit from Milwaukee, the 13-in-1 ratchet46
ing screwdriver with an aluminum handle from Task and the Stanley FatMax Xtreme multi-bit ratchet screwdriver. Wrench – Contractors have a number of different types of wrenches to choose from to suit their particular needs. For instance, adjustable wrenches have the advantage of being able to fit nuts of different sizes, but non-adjustable and combination wrenches tend to have beer stability and are less likely to slip. Ratcheting socket wrenches offer beer speed and power in loosening and tightening bolts, basin wrenches are designed to reach under sinks and lavatories and strap wrenches are ideal for plumbing fiings that do not have flat faces for a standard wrench to grip. Pliers – A good set of pliers is a must for any decent contractor’s tool box. “Whether it is gripping, cuing, splicing, stripping, fastening or bending, there is a pair of pliers to do the job,” Pos says. For more versatility, he recommends picking up pliers that can do more than one job, like the Milwaukee 6-in-1 combination pliers that have a dual head design for wire stripping and needle-nose functionality as well as a reaming head for smoothing out the rough edges of metal pipes. The tool can cut through #6 and #8 bolts.
Personal preference Assembling the ideal contractor’s tool kit can be a highly personal process that cannot be accomplished with a few trips to the hardware store. What may be essential for one contractor could be just a “nice-to-have” for another. “It is a thing that depends on need as much as on personal preference,” according to Pos who has been building cabinets for nearly 40 years. “It can be an ever-evolving process.”
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