Ontario Home Builder - Winter 2020

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right on the money: some expert advice during these taxing times P.40 upping the ante in bathroom design P.15

an all-in-one approach to marketing P.47

paint trends P.50

where is the comfort factor in Heating and cooling? P.57

ohba.ca Winter 2020 | $5.00

vIsiON Our economic forecasters spell out the year ahead p.24

growing up Are vertical forests finally taking root?

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32 Branching Out The growth of vertical forests is looking up


40 Taxing Times Some savvy advice to protect your earnings and avoid costly mistakes

24 2020 Vision

Three economic experts predict the year ahead for builders 9 One Voice OHBA looks within to formulate a three-year strategic plan.

15 Inside Storey Improving modern bathroom design with Ramsin Khachi.

11 Ontario Report New high school program will focus on trades, EnerQuality turns on the TAP, Steve Paikin highlights Waterloo event and your 2020 local association presidents.

19 Trending Hot products for the home include Duravit’s heated round mirrors, Ford’s Transit, a wifi deadbolt from Schlage, a tilt-and-turn window from Mondo and a Cambridge Elevating experience.



47 Building Buzz Molinaro Group goes Live, a smart-home package from Reliance, more disclosure from Tarion, REM and Fantech team up, and more. 62 Frame of Mind Washington State shows us a blueprint for a car-less community.

57 Comfort Zone The rise of radiant heating and a healthier home environment


Cityzen Development Group’s 22-storey Designers Walk condo will mark Canada’s first vertical forest.

ontario home builder WINTER 2020


The official publication of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association WINTER 2020 | Vol. 36 Issue 1


Ted McIntyre ted@laureloak.ca associate editor

Norma Kimmins, OHBA art director

Erik Mohr assistant art director

Ian Sullivan Cant Graphic design

Marikha Saira copy editor

Barbara Chambers contributors

Avi Friedman, Tracy Hanes, Nick Krewen, Joe Vaccaro advertising

Tricia Beaudoin, ext. 223 tricia@laureloak.ca Cindy Kaye, ext. 232 cindy@laureloak.ca publisher

Sheryl Humphreys, ext. 245 sheryl@laureloak.ca

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Ontario Home Builder is published six times per year (Winter, Early Spring, Late Spring, Summer, Fall, Awards). All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher © 2020 For address corrections please email info@laureloak.ca or phone: (905) 333-9432.


Single copy price is $5.00. Subscription Rates: Canada $12.95 + HST per year, USA $29.95 USD. Order online at http://ohba.ca/subscribe-or-buy-past-issues




ontario home builder Winter 2020






Coming together. Building together. You’re building more than a home, you’re building your reputation. That’s why Dow and DuPont have come together as DuPont Performance Building Solutions – so you’re covered top to bottom, inside and out on every job. And, the unprecedented portfolio of products from two of the foremost leaders in the building industry provides the freedom, flexibility and confidence to make every house you build home worthy.

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One Voice

looking within Modernizing OHBA’s organizational structure through a regional focus We begin the new decade with

a positive and optimistic outlook about what lies ahead. That confident viewpoint is due, in part, to the hard and sometimes tedious work of modernizing our organization—an exercise that we embarked upon early in 2019, with an eye to incorporating changes in 2020. You spoke and we listened! I am confident that this new direction will better serve our members, as we move to put into action what we heard from you. A lot has changed in our industry and our province. So it was essential that we respond to those changes through the development of a three-year strategic plan, followed by the revision of OHBA’s bylaws. One key feature to these changes is to incorporate regional representation within the 23-member Board of Directors. There will be four regions in the province—North, East, Central and Southwest—with local associations represented within the respective geographic regions. ohba.ca


“A co-operative, co-ordinated approach will be of great benefit to local associations.” Why the change? In a nutshell, it’s because our industry and province has evolved. More and more, we are recognizing that provincial issues that concern and impact our members are quite regional in nature. How a provincial housing policy may work in a larger urban area like Toronto is very different from how it might work in Sudbury. As well, provincial issues that are of concern in Niagara may not be a priority in Belleville. But often there are similar issues and perspectives within geographical regions of Ontario. This new regional framework will

empower local associations to pool resources and be more successful in getting their viewpoints heard and considered. No more working in silos—it’s expected that a co-operative, co-ordinated approach will be of great benefit to local associations and their members within a region. What’s very exciting is that this approach will allow OHBA to deliver on better service and be more responsive to members. It’s taking all the advocacy work OHBA does every day and advancing it into the local environment with more relevance. What will that look like? Increased connection and support for our members, stronger local associations and a renewed sense of teamwork within our provincial association—and it’s a vision that has been embraced enthusiastically by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, member volunteers and local association Executive Officers from across the province. These members also wholeheartedly accepted the massive responsibility of developing a strategic plan and revamping bylaws with patience and perseverance, and always working in the best interests of OHBA. A big thank you to everyone involved for your support and commitment to our industry and associations! Our modernized direction would not have been possible without the harmonious approach we have witnessed among our membership, who have worked in concert in pursuit of this goal. OHBA certainly can’t achieve success without members’ continual engagement, participation and input. The health of the regional groups will signal success for OHBA. The more connected and represented members are, the better served our association will be. OHB

joe vaccaro is the CEO of the ontario home builders’ association

ontario home builder WINTER 2020


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Ontario Report Clarifying Ontario’s

Growth Plan

OHBA President Bob Schickedanz and CEO Joe Vaccaro joined Ontario high school students for the announcement by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce that the Specialist High Skills Major program would be expanded in Ontario. Joining the group at the announcement were Parliamentary Assistant to the Education Minister Sam Oosterhoff and the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton.

Promoting Skilled Trades in High Schools Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce recently announced a record level of investment to support expansion of the province’s Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program to include an additional 122 new programs aimed at encouraging more high school students to enter the skilled trades. It is estimated that by 2021, one in five new jobs in Ontario will be in tradesrelated occupations, with employers already facing a shortage of workers in key sectors. ohba.ca


For years, OHBA has advocated for a stronger commitment to building the skilled trades force in Ontario. Ontario is expecting that 2.6 million more people will live in the province by 2031, which means more homes are urgently needed to accommodate this growth. Ontario will need to hire, train and retain close to 104,000 new skilled trades workers over the next 12 years to replace the 91,100 trained workers set to retire (representing 21.5% of the current skilled trades

workforce). OHBA looks forward to working with the government to introduce the skilled trades to the next generation as a great career path. At the OHBA 2019 Conference, President Bob Schickedanz issued a challenge to all local HBAs and members to be part of the solution to close the skills gap in Ontario. If you have any projects or programs that you are working on involving growth the skilled trades workforce, please let us know about it at OHBA.

In November 2019, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark clarified two specific provisions in the updated 2019 Growth Plan (A Place to Grow), designed to assist municipalities in their efforts to achieve conformity and support increased housing supply objectives. In a letter to municipalities, the Minister noted that “to ensure that we continue to meet our commitment to build more homes faster, our government has taken the position that municipalities may choose to take a phased approach to their municipal comprehensive review through multiple official plan amendments,” and that “providing municipalities with the choice of phasing their municipal comprehensive review or achieving conformity as part of one single new official plan or plan amendment is responsive to the needs of local communities.” The Minister also outlined provisions related to settlement area boundary expansions up to 40 hectares, indicating that the government has taken the position that as long as municipalities are meeting applicable Growth Plan policies, “there is no limit to how often a municipality can undertake the settlement boundary expansions of up to 40 hectares that take place outside of the municipal comprehensive review,” and that this expansion can either be municipally or privately initiated. These new developments support OHBA’s and the 11 impacted local HBAs (BILD, Niagara, HaldimandNorfolk, Brantford, Hamilton-Halton, Waterloo Region, Guelph & District, Greater Dufferin, Simcoe County, Durham Region and Peterborough & the Kawarthas) and our members’ continued advocacy efforts. The Minister’s directive also reiterated that municipalities do not have to wait until the next municipal comprehensive review to implement planning changes to help immediately increase housing supply.

CORRECTION In the Awards edition of Ontario Home Builder, we inadvertently included an incorrect website for the Project Image and Advertising category’s Low-Rise Project Logo Branding winner, Treasure Hill Homes’ Charbonnel, designed by 52 Pick-up Inc. The correct website for the Charbonnel project is Charbonneltowns.com.

ontario home builder WINTER 2020


Ontario Report


BILD Bluewater Brantford Chatham-Kent Cornwall Greater Dufferin Durham Region Grey-Bruce Guelph & District Haldimand-Norfolk Haliburton County Hamilton-Halton Kingston Frontenac Lanark-Leeds London Niagara North Bay & District Greater Ottawa Peterborough & Kawarthas Quinte Sarnia-Lambton Simcoe County St. Thomas–Elgin Stratford & Area Sudbury & District Thunder Bay Waterloo Region Windsor Essex

Cheryl Shindruk (Chair) John Hickey Jennifer Stuart Jon Rumble Alex Markell Paul Janssen Johnathan Schickedanz Bryden Hamilton Tom McLaughlin Len Herrewynen Keith Thomas Robert Molinaro Kyle Nielissen Andy Cockburn Toby Stolee Tony Alfieri Robert Miller Roy Nandram Rick Coker John-Ross Parks Scott Henderson Peter Brewda Richard Cox Montana Wilson Karla Colasimone John Simperl Maria Kyveris Ryan Lane

EQ’s Net Zero TAP is Up and Running! EnerQuality recently announced its latest venture within its many residential green-building programs. Net Zero TAP (Technology Adoption Program) focuses on builders adopting one, two or three net-zero technologies in at least one discovery home to test a variety of technologies without having to commit to building a full net-zero house. Manufacturers collaborate with each builder to install and test each technology, quickly building capacity and increasing comfort. Special thanks to participating builders: Acorn Homes, Ballantry Homes, Cardel Homes, Corvinelli Homes, Coughlan Homes, Country Homes, Empire Communities, FarSight Homes, Glen Rouge Homes, Great Gulf Homes, Jeffery Homes, Lakeview Homes, Mattamy, Minto Group, Remington Group, Sean Snider Construction, Sorbara Group, Tamarack Homes, Tartan Homes, Times Group and Yorkwood Homes. And an additional thanks to participating manufacturers: AeroBarrier, AeroSeal, Amvic Systems, A.O. Smith, DNM Solar, Dorken, Eyedro, GREE, iGEN Technologies, JELD-WEN, Lifebreath, Mitsubishi, Owens Corning, Panasonic, Rheem, Rockwool, Switch Energy and MPower Energy Solutions. And save the date of April 14 for this year’s EnerQuality Awards at the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel. The event will include the new HBA Award, recognizing outstanding green building leadership. For information, visit enerquality.ca. 12


Johns Claims Women in Industry Award Congratulations to Terri Johns, president of T. Johns Consulting (pictured right). Johns is the inaugural winner of the Women in Industry (WIN) Award, which recognizes women who set an example and demonstrate leadership on a professional and personal level. Terri received the honour at the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Association’s second annual Women in Industry Luncheon held in Burlington. The award recognizes Johns’ mentorship to women in the home building sector as well as her contribution to her community. Under the leadership of the committee’s chair, Carla Agostino (pictured above left), and HHHBA CEO Suzanne Mammel, the group’s mission is to support and encourage women to grow and succeed in non-traditional roles. “We want to introduce the construction industry and the trades to younger generations,” says Agostino. “We find that there aren’t many women exposed to the possibility of a career in this industry.” The HHHBA founded the Women in Industry Committee in 2018 and it is the first group of its kind within any builders’ association in Canada.

Waterloo’s Industry Luncheon Draws a Crowd

From left to right: WRHBA Events & Membership Services Coordinator Chrissy Kumornik, Steve Paikin (host of TVO’s The Agenda), Angie Hill (host of The Angie Hill Show on 99.5 KFUN and MC of the luncheon) and WRHBA Executive Officer Marie Schroeder.

Over 450 people joined members of the Waterloo Region Home Builders’ Association (WRHBA) and TVO anchor and senior editor of The Agenda, Steve Paikin, who hosted the local’s 29th Industry Luncheon in November. The well-known journalist, author, documentary film producer and Canadian television personality regaled the audience with his views on current events and the state of the media and

communications in our world. WRHBA’s Industry Luncheon is the association’s most prestigious event and it is the largest annual industry networking luncheon in Waterloo Region, hosting on average over 500 attendees. The luncheon brings together community leaders and industry stakeholders from all sectors within the residential development and construction industry. ohba.ca


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Inside Storey best they can possibly be. In my view, this is the hottest trend—lifestyle trend, that is. Fashion trends come and go, but lifestyle trends grab hold of us and change the ways in which we live in our homes.” OHB: what does thaT mean for the bathroom?

“Over the past several decades, our bathrooms have transformed from a routine functional space into retreats where we can escape from our busy lifestyles and clutch a few moments of bliss at the start or end of each busy day. This emergence of bringing ‘out-of-home’ experiences into our personal space has brought about tremendous change in bathroom design. We are moving away from the typical tub/shower combinations and creating more elaborate settings. Requests for spalike retreats, contemporary styling and especially low maintenance have soared, and the desire to be creative and think outside the box is now the standard in design.”

better bathroom Design should evolve with a changing philosophy By Ted McIntyre with designer ramsin khachi

“tODAY’S GENERATION is rapidly reinventing the home, and the bathroom is front and centre of that changing philosophy,” observes Ramsin Khachi. Celebrating over 25 years of success in the GTA, Oakville-based Khachi Design Group has become renowned for generating creative solutions to problems facing the modern-day client. Noted for his timeless and customized spaces, Ramsin ensures that inventiveness, sensibility and sophistication are the foundations to his design philosophy. But design, of course is dependent upon new products and technology, and that includes the sanctuary of the bathroom. ohba.ca


“This once-impractical space that we’ve struggled to keep pristine is now our haven,” Khachi says. “It’s a place where we strive to live, love and enjoy with family and friends. We’re transforming our homes into personal spaces where we regularly indulge in experiences that we, at one time, ventured outside the house to find. “As the catchphrase goes, ‘the insperience’ occurs in rooms such as home theatres, home gyms, highdesign kitchens and craft rooms, and the list goes on,” Khachi adds. “We’re not only creating these specialized rooms to give us admission to in-home experiences, we’re also taking everyday rooms and making them the

What new products are being incorporated into the design?

“In the past, luxurious design elements have typically been the up-sell on a project and sometimes unattainable by most. Today, these luxuries are typically standard features, from in-floor heating systems such as Schluter’s Ditra Heat or NuHeat’s nVent membrane system, to some very elaborate storage solutions. Other progressive features include new porcelain tile and slab surfaces such as Fiandre for countertops and wall cladding, striking computer-cut mosaic details, elaborate electronic shower systems such as Kohler’s DTV or Grohe’s F-Digital Deluxe system with steam, light and sound modules, and incredible in-wall storage cabinets by companies like Robern. We want bathrooms that are both stylish and functional, with usable and welldesigned components.” ontario home builder WINTER 2020


what are the ramifications for the newhome builder?



“With the advances in style and design of these rooms, we also need to embrace evolutions in new technologies as they apply to their construction. While there have been some changes to the building codes, we’ve had technological evolutions that far surpass these bare minimums. Most builders and contractors are still using methods that have been used in bathroom construction for more than 50 years. The rubber liner system is one example that is still the system of choice for most showers. That system was adequate when daily demands on showers were, at most, one or two uses per day. Today, the performance demands on these spaces are far greater than ever before. We need more reliable, long-lasting forms of construction that require minimal preservation.”


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“Comprehensive waterproofing systems from companies such as Schluter are now recognized as superior methods of waterproofing that offer no-leak guarantees when installed properly, protection against mould and mildew, and they deliver non-stop performance. Add to this an entire suite of complementing products such as metal trim details, slim-line shower shelves that fit into grout lines and even colourmatched drains and accessories that make companies like Schluter a go-to for today’s contractors and designers.”

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should products or installation methods be upgraded for toilets? “Although there are several offsets

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and installation standards available today, I think it makes little sense to offer more. However, updating height, bowl size and accessory standards does make sense. Traditional toilets were set too low and are uncomfortable to use. Building toilets at more comfortable heights is much more practical. I also think that extension kits should be made available to increase the height of the toilet without having to add unsightly accessories such as ohba.ca

ontario home builder WINTER 2020

B1402 Euroline Homebuilder 1/3 Page Beige Vertical.indd 1

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raised seats. We currently manufacture custom extension kits that form to the base of a toilet and raise the mounting height to the desired level. These are ideal in homes where clients have difficulty getting up from a sitting position. What is practical is that the extension piece can easily be removed to return the toilet to the original installed height.”



11:48 AM

Say Goodbye Gravel. Builders today choose CCMC-approved Radon Guard™ and Radon Block™.

Is the open wet area here to stay?

“I don’t love painting everything with a ‘single idea’ brush. There are applications where a wet area scenario is ideal, especially in bathrooms with small footprints. However, other solutions do exist such as the Duravit Open Space B shower enclosure that folds in on itself, allowing for more usable floor space when the shower is not in use. I believe creativity and innovation are paramount in creating ideal functional spaces today.”



are there any inexpensive upgrades you can think of that can make an impact?



Several! Remove that small mirror mounted directly on the wall with clips and install a larger mirror mounted onto a ¾” MDF backer as a cleat system that allows the new mirror to appear as though it floats off the wall. A simple upgrade with large impact. Also, use commercial vinyl wallpaper for a large but economic impact. You can also replace the cheap plastic exhaust fan cover with a piece of ¼” MDF, mounted using standoffs and painted to match the ceiling.”


Ontario Home Builders’ Association

Hello Warm Slab + Healthier Home.



do you feel consumer expectations are changing?

“I’m finding that more and more consumers are demanding value, and that’s a word defined not just by price, quality and service, but also by being left with a feeling whereby one does not reflect on what they paid for something. The concept of buying the cheapest has gradually changed to finding a reasonable deal for the best available products—products that work and last.” OHB ohba.ca




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very cool!

Fisher & Paykel’s flush-fitting fridges p. 22

Round and Round They Go According to Pinterest, searches for round mirrors are up 36% year over year internationally. Duravit’s Happy D.2 Plus collection by Sieger Design answers the call. The model can be fitted with a sensor switch featuring dimmable light, different colours and optional heating (to avoid fogging after a shower). When purchased in a set of two, the mirrors are synchronized so that they pair seamlessly. Duravit.com ohba.ca


ontario home builder WINTER 2020



TAKING YOUR BUSINESS TO NEW HEIGHTS…AND LENGTHS The Ford Transit continues to redefine what a van can do with new features including work-ready cargo capacity, new powertrains delivering more power and improved efficiency, drive assist technologies and new available all-wheel drive. With the most vehicle configurations in its class, including a choice of three engines, body lengths and roof heights, it’s no surprise Transit is up to the task. Ford.ca

Better Than Code Unlike any other smart lock available on the market, the new Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt ($349.99 retail) features built-in wifi connectivity, eliminating the need for an additional smart-home hub. With up to 100 programmable codes, it’s the perfect keyless solution for vacation property owners, those with elderly parents who need to grant access to healthcare providers or homeowners renovating their home who have contractors coming in and out daily. Schlagecanada.com 20

ontario home builder WINTER 2020

Asian Tub Design Comes Full Circle Taizu is Victoria + Albert’s first collaboration with renowned Hong Kong-based designer Steve Leung. The opulent circular tub has been inspired by the fine porcelain designs of the Song Dynasty. The gently sloping sides are softened by a chamfered edge and sculpted detail at the base. With a diameter of 59", Taizu is a spa-style centrepiece that is at home in the most luxurious bathrooms. VandAbaths.com

TURN FOR THE BETTER Made in Toronto, Mondo Manufacturing’s Tilt & Turn model offers two openings in a single highquality window. Featuring German Roto hardware, steel reinforcement, the world’s finest spacer and premium security with a multi-point locking system, the window’s tilt feature allows for easy venting and added security. Privacy glass and 12 standard frame colours are among the many options, with 1” doublepane and 1 3/8” (or 1 ¾”) triplepane insulated glass also standard. Mondowindows.com




hiding in plain site Fisher & Paykel has expanded its integrated refrigeration options, offering a range of solutions that are designed to fit flush with kitchen cabinetry. That includes the Integrated Column Refrigerator and Freezer. The modular vertical units, available in 24”, 18” and 30”, can be mixed and matched with different sizes, finishes and installation either side by side or individually. Columns are equipped with Fisher & Paykel’s foodcare technology. Fisherpaykel.com/ca

Vanities Worthy of a Toast Native Trails’ Chardonnay and Cabernet Floating Vanities reuse winemaking materials from the heart of California’s wine country. Both vanities are made from straight, flat wine-stained oaking staves that were used to flavour wine during the fermenting process, creating an authentic weathered finish, while infusing it with tannins, aroma and a natural colour from the grapes. This finish is enhanced by hand-waxing to bring out the colour and protect the wood. Nativetrailshome.com

No Time Down the Drain Here! Now featuring a snap-off test cap and an asymmetrical deck plate designed not to interfere with a faucet rough-in, OS&B’s Island Tub Drain allows for the connection of the freestanding tub drain to the p-trap below at the rough-in stage, eliminating the need for access below the fixture at the trim stage— meaning there’s no need for a last-minute call to drywallers and painters to close the ceiling below and do the finishing! Osb.ca 22

ontario home builder WINTER 2020

Predicting the Future is on the Rise Cambridge Elevating’s innovative Remote Monitoring system caters to homeowners’ desire for 21st century technology by instantly notifying its service department when preventative maintenance is required or in the event of a system alert. Should an alert occur, a diagnostic test can be performed remotely, better preparing the technician in advance of the service call or over the phone. Smart Elevators for today’s smart homes! CambridgeElevating.com ohba.ca


DO NOT EDIT! CASE STUDY Builder: Project: Location:

Molinaro Group Illumina Condo Burlington, ON

Services Provided: Overview PRIMARY LOGO (w/ LINES to be used whenever possible) Molinaro Group enjoys a great working relationship and long history with NEEZO Studios, cemented by the fact that NEEZO offers a truly one-stop creative studio (many production houses claim one-stop services...and then outsource to NEEZO). Molinaro was impressed by their award-winning work and that NEEZO has an in-house render farm with dozens of artists, conveniently situated in the Toronto GTA. 3D Interactive The Molinaro Group and NEEZO Studios realized it would take more than one season to sell a 22 storey condo with 160 units. NEEZO creatively incorporated visual effects to create all four seasons in the interactive application. Complementing the all-seasons effect, NEEZO added a weather simulator, so homebuyers could see just how dramatic the condo will look against Mother Nature’s canvas. It’s these types of unexpected user PRIMARY LOGO SPACING LOGO SPACING experiences (UX) that distinguish a project PRIMARY nurtured by NEEZO. When the time came to pick a suite, the entire building lit up in a futuristic, fluorescent turquoise, signifying users could select the unit of their choice. Homebuyers were faced with dozens of condo floor plans to choose from. NEEZO provided the

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3D Renderings, Scale Model Aerial Photography Real-Time Interactive (LiveSiteTM) Web Application SECONDARY LOGO (w/ LINES to be used whenever possible)

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2019-12-13 9:39:07 AM

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ontario home builder WINTER 2020



Ontario housing market is on the rebound By N i c k K r e w en




n January 2018, the federal Liberal government introduced the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) Mortgage Stress Test to cool down an overheated housing market. With household debt increasing drastically, the test required homebuyers to place a 20% down payment to cover their payments at 2% above their actual mortgage rate. Combined with former Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Fair Housing Plan that included a 15% Foreign Buyers Tax, the measures proved effective. Starts on single-detached homes, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Housing Market Outlook/Ontario 2019, housing starts dropped an estimated 4,386 units from the year previous, while multiple housing unit starts fell by an estimated 9,656 units. But as a new decade kicks off, there’s optimism in the air. “We’re actually forecasting somewhat of a rebound in activity, particularly for 2020 and somewhat towards 2021,” says Dana Senagama, Managing Economist of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “There are encouraging signs where we’re actually picking up in the largest centres in Ontario, particularly Toronto and Hamilton, where there’s renewed interest or buying activity in multi-unit housing, in condo apartments and in townhouses. They tend to be affordable and the demand has been very strong.” With CMHC forecasting an

expected hike of as many as 1,500 single-detached homes and 3,600 multi-units in 2020, Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets Inc., describes the current Ontario housing market stature as a “correction and convergence.” Because of the Mortgage Stress Test, Tal says many builders stopped construction in 2017 and 2018 and “were simply sitting on their inventories.” Claiming that sales in the detached housing market were off by 20%-22%, he says that things have evened out due to government policies. “Now if you look at the price of condos, row-housing and semidetached, they’re all more or less the same—they’re all converging and in equilibrium relative to time and relative to price,” Tal says. “To me, that’s a very healthy situation.” Douglas Porter, BMO’s Chief Economist and Managing Director, is also bullish on the Ontario market. “If I had to summarize it, Toronto specifically, but Ontario more generally, went through a bit of a challenging period for a couple of years, but then stabilized and began to improve through 2019. We see the momentum gradually improving further in 2020.” Porter says the main drivers leading to this conclusion include interest rates, which were initially expected to be raised by the Bank of Canada a few times in 2019 to 2.5%, but instead veered the other direction, sitting at 1.75% as of early December. “We’ve seen long-term interest rates

ontario home builder WINTER 2020




Canada Starts 250,000 200,000

50,000 0


201 8

1 (F

201 8




201 6

0 (F

201 6








(F )






201 0

Canada MLS® Sales 600,000 500,000 400,000 300,000 200,000 100,000

202 1 (F



0 (F

(F )

published 2019 CMHC Mortgage Consumer Survey, which revealed the mindset of 1,385 first-time and repeat homebuyers across Canada. Nine out of 10 buyers were “happy” (47%) or “excited” (39%) about purchasing a home, while 87% of the those surveyed were confident in the long-term financial prospects of homeownership. Among the factors contributing to the health of the market is unprecedented population growth. “Very strong population flow is a Canada-wide story, but it applies even more in Ontario,” says Porter. “We’ve had some of the strongest growth rates and raw numbers that we’ve seen in decades. We’ve actually not seen these kind of increases before in Canada’s population.” According to CMHC’s Fall 2019 Housing Market Outlook, Ontario’s population will have added 133,000 to its 2019 total in 2020, followed by another 134,000 in 2021. Those comprising the jump in numbers will also include students.



Chart courtesy: CMHC


tumble over the past year. It looks as if they’ve bottomed out and started coming back a bit, but I think the main message is that the rates are not a headwind for the market anymore.” CMHC’s Senagama echoes Porter’s sentiment, despite global political uncertainty and an impending U.S. election. “Given their volatile nature, interest rates are determined by what’s going on around us and outside of Canada as well,” she explains. “We’re living in precarious times. There’s so much uncertainty with the U.S. election, Brexit—so many other geopolitical situations or issues that would necessitate for interest rates to stay low and not increase at any rapid pace. (So) we don’t anticipate rates to increase— perhaps a few basis points, maybe a quarter-point, maybe half a point, but nothing major to have a dampening impact on (new-home sales).” The optimism shared by the trio of experts is also reflected by consumers, according to the recently



201 0

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9 20 0 8 20 0 7 20 0



9 20 0 8 20 0 7 20 0

While the Ontario housing market is showing vigour, the rest of Canada isn’t doing so badly either. “It’s looking like a pretty good year for housing, both on the demand and supply side,” observes TD Economist Rishi Sodhi. “We’re forecasting housing starts to remain at about 200K in 2020, so fairly solid home building is certainly expected.” The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation 2019 Housing Market Outlook offers the numbers to back him up, with projected new starts across the country moving from a high of 196,000 for 2019 to a predicted 204,300 this year, with a modest increase to 206,300 pegged for 2021. Although our other experts expect interest rates to hold their ground, with only fractional increases possible, Sodhi believes the cost of money might actually see further decline this year. That, coupled with strong population growth—influxes averaging 356,000 new citizens annually over the next two years, according to CMHC—are the primary drivers for his rosy forecast. While the Ontario, B.C. and Quebec markets have generally been on fire of late, there are also signs of recovery from flat provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan, notes Sodhi. “Part of it is continued economic growth, which will translate into continued job growth and continued income growth. And in recent years, Canada has seen extremely robust population growth. Overall, we think that builds are more likely to go up than down in 2020 based on the healthy fundamentals.” Still, affordability remains a challenge: Only 60% of homebuyers bought the highest-priced home they could afford, according to the 2019 CMHC Mortgage Consumer Survey—down from 78% in 2018. “The affordability constraints kind of place a natural limit on the rate of growth that can be experienced in sales and different prices in markets in Ontario and B.C., so that will restrain the rate of growth and housing demand that we see and report,” says Sodhi. “But overall, we should see some positive growth in housing markets across the country.” Sodhi sees home prices on an annual average basis increasing 6% in Ontario alone in 2020. For B.C.., he’s looking at an average price increase of 5%, 4% in Quebec and only 1% in Alberta. “In Alberta, we’ve got price growth that’s very modest, but at least we think it will be positive, after a couple years of declines,” Sodhi explains. “In terms of Quebec, we have a steady 4% gain forecast amid ongoing economic growth.” Aside from population contraction in Newfoundland and Labrador, Sodhi notes that the Atlantic Region has seen “pretty strong gains” in terms of sales and that Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have enjoyed strong population growth for the past four years, “which has pushed up home sales by quite a bit. It has coincided with the federal government raising their immigration targets, and that has put upward pressure to help support housing demand and prices from a supply/demand perspective.”

Ontario Forecast summary 2016 2017 2018




(L) (H) (L) (H) (L) (H)

New Home Market




44,873 49,410 54,956 43,800 45,300 46,500 48,900 45,900 52,300

Starts - Total

74,952 79,123 78,742 62,600 64,700 66,200 69,800 65,800 74,700

Resale Market

MLS Sales

MLS Average Price ($)

Economic Overview







18,800 19,400 19,700 20,900 19.900 22,400

195,800 199,300 204,200 213,800 207,200 222,800

541,282 593,027 576,864 582,200 595,000 614,000 633,700 659,200 682,800

Mortgage Rate (5 year) (%)

4.66 4.78 5.27 5.20 5.30 5.40 5.50 5.60 5.60

Economic Overview

Population 13,945,524 14,153,806 14,411,424




Annual Employment Level 6,999,600 7,128,000 7,242,400




Real Personal Disposable Income (%) 1.0% 3.4% 1.9%

“The single-family home has become a much smaller share of overall starts”


As Porter notes, “students have to live somewhere and that does help support the housing market at the very least.” Although he predicts a conservative number of starts in 2020, he remains hopeful that builders may exceed expectations in meeting the increasing demand. “When all is said and done, we’re going to have seen about an 11% decline in the Ontario housing starts in 2019,” Porter admits. “It looks like it’s going to come in at just over 70,000 this year and we actually see it holding around that level in 2020. “Back in ’17 and ’18, it was closer to 80,000, so we have taken a step back. If there’s a ‘restore order’ in the forecast, I would actually shade it to the high side. I think we’re more likely to be surprised to the positive rather than the negative on that call for 2020.”


Porter says the reasons for his optimism are based on how housing starts tend to be delayed in correlation with whatever





activity is occurring on the resale side. “The resale market tends to be a bit of an early indicator,” Porter explains. “If resales are strong, it tends to lift prices, and if resale prices are strong, buyers will tend to consider other options like new homes or condos, and builders will tend to be encouraged to build more units. “Looking at Canada-wide resale activity in 2019, sales were up a bit more than 5% and average prices are up a bit less than 2% for the full year, which I would describe as modest gains for both,” he continues. “If we look at resale activity in Ontario alone, sales were up almost 9% and average prices were up about 6% for all of 2019. And, if we zoom in on just the increase from the lows earlier this year, sales in Ontario are up 15-20%, an upswing late in the year.” Porter says that the “relentless shift” towards Ontario housing starts being dominated by multi-family units and condos is overshadowing the construction of single-family homes by a wide margin. “The single-family home has become

ontario home builder WINTER 2020


The Mindset

of Future Buyers While the very concept of homeownership in the GTA is going the way of the dinosaur for many young Canadians, given the myriad of affordability obstacles, what is the mindset of immigrants? “It depends on where they’re coming from and what they’re used to,” explains André Kutyan, sales representative for Toronto-based Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd. “If I look at the Asian community, in China, if you look at the ratio of homeowners versus renters, 90% own their homes—they’re programmed to buy a house. “Eastern Europeans may have grown up in places where there have been generations of renters, (so) it might be more normal for them to rent.” With regard to potential foreign owners, who are subject to former Premier Wynne’s 15% non-resident tax under the Provincial Liberal Fair Housing Plan, Kutyan wants to clear up a misconception. “More than 95% of ‘foreign’ people who are purchasing a property here have permanent resident status or a student visa or a work permit,” he notes. “They’re not just walking off an airplane and purchasing a property without any status in Canada. That was never the case.” Complicating matters is the fact that countries like China and Iran are limiting the amount of money that emigrants can take out of the country. “That’s had a big effect on the market here in Toronto,” Kutyan says. On the domestic front, the 2019 CMHC Mortgage Consumer Survey revealed that the highest proportion of first-time homebuyers live in Ontario and are in between 18-34 years old, while the percentage of first-time homebuyers who had rented a home with family and friends before buying a home vaulted from 28% in 2018 to 44% in 2019. Kutyan feels that millennials in particular may be losing out in their choices. “Freehold homeownership in the traditional sense in Toronto proper has become a pipe dream for many millennials,” he says. “If they are not getting help from the bank of mom and dad, they will either be permanent tenants, live in condos instead of homes in the city or purchase homes in the outlying cities surrounding the GTA (e.g. London, Hamilton, Barrie, etc.). They’ll rely on regional transit to work in Toronto.”


ontario home builder WINTER 2020

a much smaller share of overall starts,” he notes. “I don’t see that shifting anytime soon.” In its 2019 Housing Market Outlook/ Ontario Forecast Summary, CMHC is in line with Porter’s 2020 assessment, looking at a range between 66,200 and 69,800 Ontario overall housing starts (19,700-20,900 single-detached homes and 46,500-48,900 multiple units) for this coming year. In 2021, the growth will continue with a range of total housing starts predicted between 65,800 and 74,700. According to CMHC’s Senagama, there has been one significant trend that could assist buyers worried about affordability. “The positive side in all of this is that there has been a construction shift in demand for multi-unit housing sectors,” Senagama explains. “Row houses have become the substitute for single-family homes. So from that perspective, there will be product that’s affordable, but it’s all subjective. “In Toronto, even a townhouse, on average, is $800,000 to $900,000. That’s not really affordable for the first-time homebuyer trying to get in on the market, whereas if you’re in St. Catharines, or KitchenerWaterloo, we’re looking at different price points.” On the mortgage rate front, fiveyear rates are expected to remain somewhat consistent, according to CMHC stats, rising from 5.3% in 2019 to 5.4% and 5.5% this year and capping at 5.6% for 2021.


Labour, particularly the information technology sector, will continue to drive housing activity in Ontario’s most sizzling markets: Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa. “One of the biggest, positive surprises has been the professional scientific and technical category,” says BMO’s Porter, who also identifies Windsor as a hot market. “It’s a pretty broad category, but that one has seen growth of over 7% in terms of the number of jobs over the past year,

which by far and away is the fastest growing sector. “Education, health care and the public sectors in general have been strong as well. Even things like construction and manufacturing have seen moderate job gains in the past year, so it’s been relatively broadly based. But definitely the big pleasant surprise—and this is an Ontario story—has been the tech sector.” Porter also likes the fact that Kitchener-Waterloo and Windsor are so reasonably valued and that they have been “attracting a lot of new retirees from Toronto and even investors.” The employment picture isn’t ideal everywhere, however. Work stoppages, resumptions and a possible plant closure at GM Oshawa, which employs about 4,000 people, has Senagama’s attention. “Employment is a direct driver of housing demand. If you’re going to have a high unemployment rate—if fewer people are working—they can’t afford to pay for their homes and that will result in demand coming down. “There are pockets of concern, but overall, as a region, Ontario is the largest recipient of net migrants into Canada—not just Toronto, but also Kitchener-Waterloo and some other areas as well. And the more people that come and settle, (the more it) generates jobs,” Senagama notes. “That’s really been the positive driving force behind the kind of growth we’ve seen economically in this region. In Toronto alone, we get close to 100,000 people coming in every year. They need a place to live and the services to keep up with them.” As the housing market improves, however, affordability—which CMHC survey responders listed as one of their three priorities when considering a home purchase: price/ affordability (80%), number of rooms (73%) and the proximity to public transit (67%)—will continue to be a concern in 2020 and 2021. “Prices are expected to increase at a steady pace,” says Senagama. “We’re not going to see the kind of growth we saw three years ago, but we’re still



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“Very strong population flow is a Canadawide story, but it applies even more in Ontario”


ontario home builder WINTER 2020

going to see growth, nevertheless. You’re still going to pay higher than what you were accustomed to five or 10 years ago.” In Ontario, those looking for affordability, especially when it comes to single homes, won’t find too many opportunities in Toronto, Senagama says. “The trend has been that the markets that border the GTA have seen the highest activity. High house prices in Toronto tend to drive demand for homes in those neighbouring communities, so the further you move away from the GTA but the closer you are to the border, the higher the demand. And if the housing market heats up, there is always a possibility for policymakers to take measures to balance the market.” “We’re also dealing with a lot of big question marks on economic outlook,” Porter concedes. “Let’s face it—we’ve got a very volatile character in the White House (and if he’s not impeached), one never knows if he’s going to do something rash, especially on the trade front. We also don’t know exactly which direction the federal government is going to take (after our recent election), although I think we all have a pretty good idea. But there could be some policy surprises over the next year with a minority government.” Porter says an economic downturn would also be dangerous, and if things stabilize, interest rates could rise again. “I think we’re a long way away from the Bank of Canada raising interest rates, but there is the possibility that long-term interest rates could start forging higher again if the conventional view is that the global landscape is much more positive. “The main point is that there’s a lot of uncertainty in this economic environment, especially as we head into the U.S. election.” The recent re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals—as the dominant federal party, albeit in a minority capacity—seems to indicate that government policies concerning the

housing industry will hold, with the exception of the First-Time Homebuyers’ Incentive. There are whispers that the Liberals might favour an increase to a couple of thresholds, namely family income to $150,000 and the maximum value of the home that could qualify for the program rise to $800,000 in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. Even though the 2019 CMHC Mortgage Survey revealed that the highest proportion of first-time homebuyers live in Ontario and are aged between 18-34 years old, CIBC’s Benjamin Tal thinks the incentive program itself has little bearing on the housing scene. “The bottom line is that it’s so small that it’s hardly a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination,” he explains. “It’s roughly $420 million a year for the entire country. That’s 0.03% of new mortgage originations.” Tal sees more impact in the Ontario provincial election’s majority victory for Doug Ford’s Conservatives. “We see more initiative toward releasing land more quickly—which is good for the market—and the removal of rent control on new construction, which is extremely beneficial to the purpose-built segment of the market,” Tal explains. “We need to see an alternative to ownership and I think that’s the direction we are going with rising build activity. We’re not building even close to enough rental units. We have to monitor it all very closely.” Tal predicts the rental market, when it comes to Ontario housing, is the wave of the future. “With immigrants, non-residents and foreign students being a huge factor, there’s major, major demand for rental activity,” he notes. “I think we’re seeing more and more builds geared towards rental units and it’s going to be the most important trend over the next 10 years. We are at the peak of ownership and you’ll see a lot more rental activity: that’s the big story when it comes to the housing market in Toronto and Ontario.” OHB




ontario home builder Winter 2018


Branching Out Is there room to grow for Toronto’s vertical forests? By T r ac y H a n e s


ithin the next few years, a forest will rise from the concrete and asphalt along Davenport Road and Bedford Road in Toronto’s upscale design district. Instead of sprawling horizontally along the street, the trees will be integrated with the structure of Cityzen Development Group’s 22-storey Designers Walk condo to create the first vertical forest in Canada. The mixed-use boutique building will resemble a sloping urban hillside, hosting 450-plus trees on its large, angled balconies. It’s designed by architect Brian Brisbin of Toronto firm Brisbin Brook Beynon, who was inspired by Milan’s Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), a prototype for a growing global trend. Brisbin had been intrigued by the Bosco Verticale and found a likeminded visionary in Cityzen and its president Sam Crignano. The developer is also behind Mississauga’s iconic “Marilyn Monroe” curving towers, so it doesn’t shy away from forwardthinking architecture. Designers Walk is a leap ahead of what’s required under Toronto’s Green Roof Bylaw. In 2009, the city became the first in North America to adopt a bylaw requiring green roof requirements on new developments or additions with 2,000m² or more in gross floor area, representing a range of 20-60% of available roof space of a building. Since it was adopted, about 500 green roofs have been created in Toronto on new commercial, institutional and residential buildings. Eleven years prior to the bylaw, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) pioneered one of Toronto’s first green roofs on its King Street West store; it covered 10,000 square feet with grasses and wildflowers. Lloyd Alter, retired architect, sustainability writer and adjunct professor at Ryerson University School of Interior Design, says green roof

ontario home builder WINTER 2020


Green building practices are getting a literal interpretation with the emergence of King Toronto (previous page), Designers Walk (right) and The Plant (below).

design has evolved since then. “MEC didn’t even put a stairway to its green roof. You had to get to it by an access ladder,” he notes. “Nobody thought of it as an amenity and there was no bug or bird habitat.” Since then, developers have realized that people enjoy spending time on green roofs and they are now “a very much considered public amenity,” says Alter. Designers Walk residents won’t have to venture to the roof to enjoy trees or greenery; they’ll just have to walk out to their balconies. Growing trees in the sky isn’t easily achieved, however. “Structurally, the building has to be designed to accommodate the trees and there has to be consideration of their maintenance, pruning and replacement,” says Crignano. “When someone is sitting in their suite, you want to make sure light penetrates into the unit. There are so many aspects that we are still considering and we are far from complete in terms of design.” Crignano says a lot of science and technology is involved in creating the Designers Walk vertical forest, including elaborate watering and feeding systems controlled by computer. “We’ve always done terraces with some minimal landscaping, and green roofs are something most of our buildings have, but that’s the extent of it. There is nothing remotely close to this.” Each tree will have an individual identification that the computerized offsite system will monitor. Sensors will track irrigation and nutrient levels, as each tree’s needs will vary, depending on their floor and orientation. Cityzen is looking at planting a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees so the balconies and building stay green year-round. Cityzen is finalizing the site plan approval with the city, with the goal to go to market in mid-2020. The building will be 22 storeys high but the unit count has not been finalized. “I think at the political level there was an embracing of the idea, but when it gets to the technical side, it took a while to bring everyone around. There are good sound reasons why we should be doing this,” says Crignano.

SUSTAINABLE BUILDING Two other proposed Toronto projects are innovating how trees, shrubs and other plants can be incorporated into vertical 34

ontario home builder WINTER 2020



Featuring a greenhouse/canning kitchen and in-suite micro herb gardens, The Plant is based on the One Planet sustainability philosophy.

developments. They include The Plant on Queen Street West, a mixed-use 10-storey building by Windmill Developments and Curated Properties, and KING Toronto, which will integrate old buildings with new construction in a man-made ‘mountain village’ inspired by Moshe Sadfie’s Habitat 67 in Montreal. The Plant, with its 78 residential suites (that have sold out), retail and office space, is based on the One Planet framework that follows 10 sustainability principles. The framework was created in 2003 by charity and social enterprise Bioregional, developed from planning the BedZED eco-village in London, England. The residences’ balconies will be oversized rooms for people to garden and grow vegetables, says Alex Spiegel, partner in charge of Windmill’s Toronto office. “Because big square balconies would block sunlight to the units below, The Plant’s are angled and cut back to let light in.” The suites will include in-kitchen micro-gardens to grow fresh herbs. The Plant’s green roof will feature planter boxes stocked with flora to attract birds and butterflies and an exterior accent wall with vertically growing plants. “We approach (the green roof) as a wonderful amenity that serves many purposes,” says Spiegel. “It collects stormwater, it will attract birds and bees, and it’s good for mental health.” The green roof and vertical feature wall are components of The Plant’s integrated sustainable design and ‘Terrace to Table’ theme, with a focus on healthy living and ohba.ca


Getting to the Root of the Issue

Prior to working out the specs for Cityzen Development Group’s Designers Walk project, architect Brian Brisbin of Toronto’s Brisbin Brook Beynon travelled to the home of the vertical forest movement: Stefano Boeri Architetti’s Bosco Verticale project in Milan, Italy (pictured above). Unable to tour the maintenance system and inner workings of Bosco Verticale, Brisbin took to Airbnb and temporarily moved in. “I started pulling apart all of the panels in the floor, everywhere, to find out where all

the systems were and how they did it,” he told the Globe & Mail. “Back home, a team was gathering around the Toronto project, including Paul Offierski, of the major nursery PAO Horticulture, and Marc Vanden Bussche of Vanden Bussche Irrigation,” the Globe writes. When Brisbin showed his findings to the team, Vanden Bussche “just started laughing,” Brisbin conveys. “He said, ‘None of that stuff’s from [Italy.] It’s entirely from Canada and the U.S.’ In other words, the inner workings were readily available.” ontario home builder WINTER 2020


urban agriculture. In addition to the balconies, there will be communal garden areas and a communal kitchen that doubles as a greenhouse, the latter of which will cultivate seeds and start new plants during the winter, as well as serving as a place where residents can prepare and preserve the vegetables they grow. King Toronto will change the urban landscape, literally and figuratively, along King Street West between Spadina Avenue and Portland Street. It is a reimagining of the community-building potential of Habitat 67 in Montreal—a project that fascinated Westbank founder Ian Gillespie—and updates the glass and light innovations of Paris’s Maison de Verre. The 16-storey mixed-use development is still selling and marks a collaboration between Vancouverbased luxury real estate developer Westbank, Allied Properties and avant-garde architect Bjarke Ingels of Denmark’s BIG. On his website, Ingels describes the condo as rising “sets of pixels extruded upwards,” while avoiding the footprint of the existing heritage buildings. Each “pixel” is the size of a room and will be rotated 45 degrees from the street grid to maximize light. Its oversized balconies will be landscaped and provide tenants with the type of green space usually found in suburbs, with some common areas having potential use for urban farming. Irrigated planters of various sizes on the terraces have been designed and curated for their location and altitude. A cable trellis system will attach to the building in specific areas to facilitate vine growth on top of the exterior facade. As cool as these types of projects are, they don’t come cheap. Vertical forests don’t make economic sense yet for many condo buildings because of the associated cost, says Crignano. Because the terraces need to be larger and specialized structural components and systems are required to accommodate the trees, added cost will be about $20 million to Designers Walk. But a boutique project such as that in a prime location in the upscale Annex and Yorkville neighbourhoods will be able to attract the type of buyers who can afford to pay a premium. “A lot of buyers selling big homes with big front yards still want to maintain some outdoor space and do a bit of gardening,” says Crignano. “They want a place to step outside and not be confined to the indoors. We’re responding to market demand that’s been there for some time.” 36

ontario home builder WINTER 2020

Austrian architect Chris Precht has conceived of Toronto’s Tree Tower (pictured) and Farmhouse, both of which emphasize a need to grow our own food.

The Ultimate Tree House “We have enough steel, concrete and glass towers in our cities. But if you walk through the city and suddenly see a tower made of wood and plants, it will create an interesting contrast,” says Chris Precht of the Austriabased architectural firm of Precht. While it has no firm development plan as yet, Precht’s dramatic Toronto Tree Tower design symbolizes an ecological system for wooden high-rises worldwide. Precht hopes the building will “be seen as a catalyst for future residential buildings that are more efficient to construct and more ecological to our environment than common construction methods.” Also inspired by Montreal’s Habitat 67, the 18-storey, cross-laminated timber project employs a modular building process, where prefabricated and precut CLT panels are assembled to modules off-site at an indoor facility. Once the foundation, ground floor and base core are complete, all modules, including

fixtures and finishes are delivered to the site and craned into place. Large terraces would be planted with trees, shrubs and vegetable gardens. Precht has also developed another fully prefabricated modular structure called Farmhouse, “an attempt to reconnect people in the city with the process of growing our food,” the company notes. “In the next 50 years more food will be consumed than in the last 10,000 years combined, and 80% will be eaten in cities. It is clear that we need to find an ecological alternative to our current food system. “Buildings already create a large amount of heat, which can be reused for plants like potatoes, nuts or beans to grow,” Precht adds. “A water-treatment system filters rainand greywater, enriches it with nutrients and cycles it back to the greenhouses. The food waste can be locally collected in the building’s basement, turned into compost and reused to grow more food.” ohba.ca


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Raising the Roof The Green Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab) at the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design investigates the environmental performance associated with green roofs, green walls and photovoltaic arrays. The GRIT lab’s state-of-the-art facility is a leader in green-roof research, with 33 test beds, three green walls and a weather station. Sensors—270 of them connected to 5,000 linear feet of wiring—collect data on rainfall, humidity, flow rates, soil moisture, temperature, solar and wind every five minutes. This type of

research has helped overcome early green-roof problems such as plants dying or green roofs turning brown due to a lack of irrigation, plant choice or design, or a combination of these. GRIT’s Phase 1 covers 350 square metres of the Daniels Faculty roof. It tests and evaluates green-roof construction standards in line with Toronto’s Green Roof Bylaw with respect to stormwater retention, evaporative cooling, biodiversity and lifecycle cost. The test beds compare growing media type, depth, vegetation and irrigation regimes. Phase 2 explores the synergistic relationship between green roofs and PV arrays.

Other green roof facts:

The National Research Council of Canada estimates a green roof can reduce air-conditioning use in a building by as much as 75%. They also help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. A green roof typically has several layers, including a waterproof membrane, root barrier, drainage layer, growing medium and plants (soil is too heavy to be used as a growing medium). S ince Toronto’s Green Roof bylaw was enacted on January 31, 2010, about 640 green roofs, covering more than 5 million square feet collectively, have been built.


ontario home builder WINTER 2020

But Alter is not convinced that vertical forests or green roofs are the best solution to greening our cities. “They are a very high-maintenance item and they are heavy, so you have to put in more concrete and steel to support them,” he says. “They do help with the heat island effect and keep everything cooler, but I don’t believe they’ve lived up to the hype.” That said, vertical forests are changing architecture, he admits. “Buildings used to be designed from how they’d look from the ground up. Now with drone and airplane views, roofs have become the nicest face of the building. Architects have started designing so buildings bend over and touch the ground and you can walk on them. Architects are now employing green wrapping in the way they used to use mirrored glass.” Alter is not a fan of Milan’s Bosco Verticale, though, because “it takes a huge amount of concrete and steel to build the balconies needed to hold up those trees. One ton of cement puts out a ton (1.25 tons to be exact) of CO2 annually, while trees collect about 40 pounds of CO2 a year. It takes a very, very long time for a tree to justify its existence.” There are other issues with vertical forests, he adds. “You have to have specially trained gardeners who can rappel down the building to look after them.” There’s also the danger posed if a limb breaks off and plummets to the street below. However, Alter acknowledges there are psychological benefits to green roofs and vertical forests. “People who live in buildings with them love them. It is soothing; it does make you feel good. There’s no question that in terms of architecture and the comfort of people inside, they have been a huge success.” Beyond trees and balcony gardens, what else could be done to make condominiums more green? “I would cover buildings with mesh and let vines grow,” Alter says. “You plant them in the ground, they are low-maintenance and look fantastic. We should be designing to accommodate vines. They keep buildings cool in summer when they have leaves, and warm in winter, as the leaves fall off and the sun can hit the building. And contrary to belief, vines don’t damage buildings.” For many, the concept has been a long time coming. Where, after all, would a vertical forest fit better than in a concrete jungle? OHB ohba.ca


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Tips from the experts to help you save on your 2019 returns By T ed M c I n t y r e




obody wants to pay the Canada Revenue Agency any more than they have to. But what you can and can’t deduct isn’t always clear. Sure, there’s the obvious stuff, such as advertising expenses, your cell phone, business travel and the company vehicle. Then there’s the less obvious stuff, such as residential utility fees for those who have a home office, or the depreciation on tools and equipment (or even on more significant assets like buildings and cars), as well as repairs and maintenance. And there are deductions on wages you pay yourself or your partner. Or the deductions on workers’ insurance premiums, life insurance, car insurance, fire insurance and theft and loss insurance. But the first piece of advice, particularly for new business owners, is to keep your accounting in order, cautions James Buckley, a senior tax manager with Golden Horseshoebased DJB Chartered Professional Accountants. “I cannot stress this enough, quality record-keeping is so important for first-time contractors or smaller contracting and renovation firms,” Buckley notes. “Our staff have seen this a lot—receipts in a shoebox

or losing/misplacing their business number as assigned by the CRA after incorporation/registration.” “I see a lot of sloppy records with contractors,” echoes Anthony M. Cusimano, a chartered professional accountant and president of Toronto’s Cusimano Professional Corporation. “As your business grows, being fully aware of the various financial aspects becomes increasingly difficult. Properly maintained accounting software is a must-have for small business owners—even something like QuickBooks or Sage. If set up and utilized properly and to their full potential, these and other programs become immensely powerful tools, as they’ll help to generate accurate, timely and meaningful management information, which will help manage and grow the business.” It is no small irony that the same warnings contractors and renovators share with their homeowning clients—‘Beware of cash deals and avoid just looking for the cheapest option’—are the exact same complaints CPAs often encounter when dealing with renovator/ contractor clients. “When you’re going looking for cheap accountants, paying, say, $500 or some other low rate on accounting fees for year-end financial statements and tax returns,

ontario home builder WINTER 2020


you’re not doing yourself justice,” Cusimano warns. “With someone like a practising qualified CPA with university training and ongoing professional development, you could receive a more comprehensive approach for the accounting, financial and credit protection advice. You’re also potentially receiving more accurate financial statements and tax returns and avoiding potential timely and costly CRA audits. The difference can be like night and day. Any extra fees could pay for themselves many times over.” “Having a competent bookkeeper is crucial, but that will cost money,” Buckley says. “However, the costs of errors such as late filing, late remitting and missing input tax credits can really add up. These errors can also trigger reviews and audits from the Canada Revenue Agency. Unfortunately some bookkeepers don’t really understand the HST and income tax aspects when it comes to renovators, contractors or developers. Make sure you’re using a bookkeeper and accounting firm that has a specialty or at least experience in dealing with this market segment.” But even established businesses are not immune to hamstringing themselves when it comes to something simple like their bookkeeping. “The bigger the business, the bigger the problems down the road if the bookkeeping is not being done correctly,” says Buckley. “Sometimes it’s worth outsourcing as opposed to endlessly trying to find a full-time staff bookkeeper.”


While all of our tax experts say they understand the existence of cash deals in a competitive industry plagued by labour shortages, they warn of the domino effect when engaging in such practices when it


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comes to everything from taxes to valuating your company. “I’m sure some contractors think that a cash deal is good because they see an opportunity to avoid income tax. However, one must keep in mind that the implications of showing less revenue on paper, such as trying to get approved for a mortgage or whether or not you will be able to acquire financing so you can bring on staff or buy a business,” says Buckley. “Aside from it being illegal, it could significantly limit the ability for contractors to grow their businesses.” There is also a challenge if the business owner wants to sell the company. “You need to plan years in advance for that,” says Cusimano. “If you tell a potential buyer, ‘I’ve also been doing an extra cash business,’ good luck to you. He/she will likely not pay a single extra penny to you if you can’t prove it. And the risk is even higher—and hence the business selling price lower—if you’re selling shares of a company that could have hidden CRA audit risks.”


One of the first—and most important—discussions tax consultants have with new renovators and contractors concerns the merits of incorporation. “Often people who are starting any type of business may think that they have to be incorporated but that is not always the case,” Buckley notes. “When you are incorporating, there are two main issues you have to think about up front: income tax and legal liability. Does what you’re doing have an element of risk in it that would impact your personal assets? Sometimes that’s reason enough to incorporate. However, in other cases it may make sense to hold off incorporating until there are more profits in the business. It’s more along the lines of just educating clients on it

“sometimes it’s worth outsourcing as opposed to endlessly trying to find a fulltime staff bookkeeper.”



so they know why they’re making the decision to incorporate. “From an income tax perspective, it is important to ask, ‘Are the dollars you’re earning needed to live your life?’ For example, if you’re a small painting firm that doesn’t take on much risk and all the money you’re generating is needed to live your life, then the only thing you’re gaining by incorporating are extra professional fees to a lawyer and accountant. Otherwise, you can just run it as a proprietorship on your personal tax return— T2125 Statement of Business or Professional Activities, which is like a truncated income statement for a corporation.” But if you’re making enough money, there are tax dollars to be saved. “First and foremost, besides potential limited liability, from an income tax perspective, incorporation allows the deferral of income taxes on net profits retained within the company,” notes Cusimano. “If a business in Ontario is unincorporated, the business owner would pay personal graduated marginal tax rates ranging from 20.05% to 53.53% (once personal taxable income exceeds $220,000). “The small business deduction is a reduced corporate tax rate offered to Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (CCPC) on any income received as a result of active business income earned in Canada,” Cusimano explains. “The normal income tax rate on a CCPCearning active business income in Ontario is 26.5%, while the small business deduction permits the company to only be taxed at a 12.5% rate on the first $500,000. That’s a 14% or $70,000 savings on the first $500,000 of profits. “This small business corporate income tax rate allows the business owner to defer personal income tax on the income earned until the profits are distributed to the shareholder(s),” Cusimano continues. “The tax deferral is close to $4,103 for every $10,000,



assuming an individual is at the top marginal rate versus a company paying low corporate tax rates. These additional savings allow the company to retain additional needed cash, which would otherwise be paid in income taxes, to help grow their business, buy assets, fund working capital or pay for otherwise nondeductible expense items like life insurance or legitimate meals and entertainment expenses!” While the benefits of maximizing your small business tax rate is obvious, “to avoid a misuse, the CRA requires the $500,000 to be allocated between ‘associated companies’ (a defined concept in the Income Tax Act),” Cusimano notes. “But there may be ways in which various members of the same family with more than one company can have separate small business deductions if the company shareholdings are properly structured. These strategies, combined with implementing optimal combinations of salaries and dividends, can minimize your overall corporate and personal taxes for the family unit. But every situation is different.”


The biggest tripping point at tax time for those filing? “For contractors and renovators on a smaller scale, HST is always a pain point. It can be complicated and confusing,” Buckley says. “I suggest consulting a professional.” Barry Sacks, a real estate expert and partner at MNP LLP’s Markham office, meanwhile, cites smaller firms attempting to write off expenses that aren’t deductible as a precarious practice. “Most little guys put everything through, thinking, ‘If worse comes to worst, they just won’t let me deduct it.’ But that’s not necessarily the case—the penalties are very high.” When it comes to a cautionary


for First-Timers

For self-employed builders and renovators that are just starting their business, it’s important to understand the small supplier threshold for HST purposes. A taxpayer is considered a small supplier during a particular calendar quarter and following month if the amount of their revenue over the previous four calendar quarters does not exceed $30,000. This means that HST registration is not required and therefore the taxpayer is not required to collect or remit HST. This would also prevent a taxpayer from claiming HST paid, and any HST paid would be considered a cost. HST registration is required at the beginning of the following month once the small supplier threshold amount of $30,000 is exceeded. However, the smaller supplier threshold resets every four quarters, and once the threshold is exceeded, HST registration is required from that point forward indefinitely. We find this can become an issue when a taxpayer was required to register for HST but failed to do so and the Canada Revenue Agency doesn’t audit until an extended period of time has passed. This can result in significant amounts owing to the CRA that may not be recoverable from your clients anymore. There are certain restrictions when claiming some HST amounts. Half of your HST paid on meals and entertainment expenses are permitted to be claimed, with the other 50% being required to be included in expenses. HST paid on passenger vehicles is generally capped at a capital cost of $30,000 (e.g. $30,000 x 13% = $3,900). However, there are specific exceptions in certain circumstances for vans and pick-up trucks. HST paid on home office expenses can only be claimed when the home office is your exclusive place of work. Keeping documentation is required when claiming HST amounts paid. One of the first things the CRA requires during an audit is paperwork to prove the HST was paid. Credit card statements are not sufficient documentation—complete receipts are required. —Cory Prince, CPA/CA, Taxation Manager, Durward Jones Barkwell & Company LLP.

ontario home builder WINTER 2020



tale among larger firms, Cusimano warns companies to beware of the penalties of improper employee classification. “Some businesses prefer to classify their workers as ‘self-employed’ in order to avoid employer obligations such as CPP and EI, or Employment Standards Act and WSIB,” Cusimano says. “The CRA and WSIB, however, evaluate individuals using set criteria. Should they assess selfemployed individuals as employees, the business will be charged the premium, as well as compounded interest from the first year of improper classification. This penalty can quickly spiral out of control, with multiple employees each being incorrectly classified for a number of years.” These are just a few examples of why it’s important to have an experienced professional advising you along the way, Cusimano stresses—particularly given everchanging CRA guidelines. “In the last few years, there have been huge changes in the Income Tax Act regarding small business taxes, intercorporate fees between related companies, earning passive income along with active business income, estates created upon the death of business owners and ‘dividend sprinkling’ among family members (known as Tax on Split Income or TOSI),” Cusimano highlights. “The documentation requirement threshold and risk levels have greatly increased! And the new rules are extremely complex. There’s still a lot of ambiguity and, hence, potential litigation with the CRA that may happen in the future.”

MOST OVERLOOKED WRITEOFF? If you’re looking for a tax tip, Sacks suggests you consider a new CRA opportunity when it comes to charitable contributions. “One thing people often overlook is on the philanthropic side,” says Sacks. “For

4 4

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those looking to make donations to their charities, most of these folks have portfolios with shares. People might, for example, make $100, then take $50 out of the company to donate, and then get back maybe $25 after they file their return. One of the things you’re allowed to do now is donate your shares. Previously, if you have a $100 share, you have $100 capital gain on it and you’d pay tax on it. Then you’d tag the money for donation. But now you can actually donate shares and they’ll waive the capital gains tax. So you therefore have the whole $100 to donate to charity and get the $50 receipt. So the charity gets more and you get more back. I do it every year.” If there’s an element of accounting that concerns Sacks moving forward—particularly with larger firms—it’s the threat of cyber attacks. “Cyber security—protecting your digital records—has become a priority,” Sacks says. “We have a whole branch at our firm devoted to it. So many have been hacked, including many you wouldn’t think would be vulnerable: banks, Amazon, Google. And not only is there the associated financial loss, it’s the damage to your reputation from those who don’t trust you anymore and the resulting loss of future income. It can have an incredible impact. The smaller firms—the ones doing things by the seat of their pants—don’t keep as many records online and are often safer from such threats.” If there’s a universal opinion about accounting and income tax, it’s that every client is unique, the experts note. “There are very few things that work for everybody. Even buying an RSP doesn’t work for everybody,” Sacks notes. “And there’s always the question: ‘If you have an extra $10,000, is it better to pay down the mortgage or buy an RSP?’ The best thing people can do is talk to (one hopes) a smart accountant who can tell you what’s best for you.” OHB





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Building Buzz N E W S A N D M OV E S F RO M T H E I N D U S T RY

Neezo Studios founder Marvin Maalouf (left) with Molinaro Group CFO Sam DiSanto.


Burlington condo project sees advantages in new one-stop shop approach BY T E D M c I N T Y R E

Modern technology is allowing for more interactive experiences at presentation centres for prospective buyers, but making those various tools available to the consumer is not always the most convenient process for builders. The Molinaro Group, however, believes it has solved the puzzle with a new platform for its upcoming Illumina condo project in downtown Burlington. Seven years in the making, Neezo Studios’ LiveSite interactive sales experience is being launched in ohba.ca


conjunction with Illumina. The package includes supplying the usual project model and brochures, but steps it up when it comes to the tech side, with an in-house imagerendering farm, aerial photography and 3D interactive experiences. In order for the marketing story to remain relevant throughout the year and so that purchasers could relate to the building during the time of year they were looking to purchase, Neezo incorporated visual effects to emulate all four seasons in the interactive application so

homebuyers could see how the condo will look against Mother Nature’s varied canvas. From a homebuyer standpoint, the offerings include dozens of condo floor plans, with the option to compare units side by side and to zoom in on a particular plan to read its measurements more easily. Users can filter units by inventory, floor, bedrooms, square footage, orientation, floor plans, building amenities and features/finishes. The software also provides the sales staff with back-end knowledge, real-time ONTARIO HOME BUILDER WINTER 2020


stats and reports of what has been sold and how much inventory is left to be sold. Users can also explore transit routes, as well as the distance to get to various local amenities. “Our renderings sell the lifestyle, but it’s our 3D interactive technology that sells the product,” says Neezo Studios founder Marvin Maalouf, whose software benefits from his company’s video and visual effects division gaming engines. Sam DiSanto, Chief Financial Officer at Molinaro Group, loves the one-stop shop aspect of the format. “It’s very convenient for us—as a marketing tool, as a tool for our sales staff, for consumers or clients coming in, the reality of seeing what a unit will really look like, the 3D imaging, seeing the different seasons and different times of day. It’s soup to nuts,” says DiSanto, who worked with Neezo on Molinaro’s Paradigm project. And the reaction of those walking in off the street? “Everyone loves it,” DiSanto says. “It’s very easy to use. You have a model to look at and 2D brochures, but then you also get the 3D visualization. People become really engaged. It clarifies any questions they have, like, ‘What’s my view going to look like?’ ‘Where’s the road?’ ‘Where’s the front door?’ If you have an educated consumer who understands, it makes the sale process easier.” TRENDS

NEW-HOME BUYERS WANT SMART HOMES Reliance Home Comfort is packaging some smart-home equipment for residential home builders. Its Smart Home Builder Bundle includes a Google Nest Learning Thermostat, Hello Doorbell, x Yale Lock (which unlocks the door remotely and gets smart phone alerts whenever the door is locked or unlocked) and the Protect Smoke and CO alarm (which tests itself automatically, shuts off circulation and sends smart phone alerts to manage situations from home or away). 48


There’s also a mix-and-match option which includes additional equipment from the Google open platform, such as Nest Outdoor and Indoor Cams, Google Nest Hub and wifi, among others. The bundles promise to provide builders with smart-home solutions that homeowners are looking to have professionally installed in their new home. Additionally, every homeowner will receive a free Google Home Mini. After move-in, a smart-home advisor will set up the equipment’s wifi connection and provide an in-home demonstration. The package also includes 24/7/365 call support and guaranteed service from smart-home technicians, with no upfront costs, charge repairs or replacement fees. NEW- HOME POLICY


When it comes to big-ticket purchases, consumers want to do their research. Since a new home is one of life’s biggest purchases, today’s homebuyers want to

be equipped with as much information as possible when deciding which home and which builder to choose. In an era where condos are increasingly common in major cities and small towns alike, it’s important that buyers looking into a pre-construction condo have as much information as possible to help them make an informed decision about what can sometimes be a very complex process. Last year, the Ontario government announced a number of new initiatives to better inform and protect purchasers of new condominiums, including enhancing disclosure requirements to ensure that key potential risks of buying a unit in a pre-construction condominium project are made clear to consumers when they enter a purchase agreement. As part of these initiatives, Tarion has introduced a new information sheet that will be a mandatory requirement for any new projects or new phases of existing projects going to market after January 1, 2020.* The information sheet must be included at the front of the purchase agreement and include the following new details and warnings: • Pre-construction condominiums come with the risk that they may never be completed • Early termination conditions that would allow a developer to cancel a project • Information about the status of the development (e.g., formal zoning approval, relevant approval authority and date of commencement of construction) • Information about any restrictions on the developer’s land title that may prevent the project from going forward • A purchaser has an initial 10-day period to cancel their purchase under the Condominium Act, 1998 • The expected date when a purchaser can take occupancy The information sheet will also emphasize the importance of having the agreement reviewed by a ohba.ca


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lawyer familiar with condominium transactions. Such a review will help buyers be better informed of the risks of purchasing a unit in a pre-construction condominium and their rights and obligations. While there are always risks to purchasing something that hasn’t been built, these changes will help buyers make a more informed purchase. To further enhance the information and tools available for new-home buyers, Tarion also recently made the following enhancements to the Ontario Builder Directory:



CONDO SEARCH The new condo search allows buyers to look up condo projects and see how many units are planned, where the project will be located, the name of the project and the person or company building it. Search results will also show the status of a condo project, including whether it has been cancelled. In the case of a cancelled project, the builder’s reason for cancellation will also appear. Search results will include projects from January 1, 2018 onwards.

CONVICTION SEARCH The new conviction search provides 10 years’ worth of data on companies and individuals convicted of building illegally under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. This includes builders who aren’t licensed to build or sell homes and even registered builders who haven’t enrolled the houses they’re building under the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. You can find convictions by searching a number of ways, including the name of a company or individual, for convictions during a specific date range, by the location of the convicted party or where the offence took place. For further details on the information sheet or to try out the new searches on the Ontario Builder Directory, visit Tarion.com. If you have any questions about these initiatives, reach out to your Stakeholder Relations Representative or email us at stakeholderrelations@ tarion.com. 50


It was an emotional farewell for Norma Kimmins, who stepped down at the end of 2019 from her longtime role as OHBA’s Manager of Policy & Communications and Associate Editor of Ontario Home Builder (OHB) Magazine. After obtaining her master’s degree in journalism, Kimmins worked in radio broadcasting in Simcoe, Kitchener and Niagara Falls in the mid-1970s, with her on-air responsibilities ranging from news announcer to documentaries—a rather notable role given the male-dominated nature of the profession during that era. After briefly selling real estate, Kimmins took the position of PR director for the Metropolitan Hamilton Real Estate Board, before assuming the mantle of Executive Officer of the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Association from 1987 to 1990. In 1991, she was named Associate Editor for OHB, one of a number of communications projects she would increasingly tackle for OHBA before eventually becoming a staff member. Kimmins was greatly respected for her editorial skills and integrity.


INKY COBALT 2020 PAINT COLOUR OF THE YEAR Feeling blue? Well, there’s a shade to combat that. Dulux Paints by PPG is highlighting a deep, comforting,

inky cobalt blue as the brand’s 2020 Colour of the Year, citing its stressrelieving property. Under the brand name of Chinese Porcelain, this rich and traditional hue combines the energy and brightness of cobalt blue with a muted, dark navy tone, emitting a feeling of calm, restfulness and hope. “(The colour) brings us closer to natural elements such as the sea and sky, creating lavish serenity in any space,” says Rob McDonald, Senior Brand Manager, Dulux Paints by PPG. According to McDonald, the trending earth-tone aesthetic will be reflected in all facets of home decor in the coming year, highlighted by uncluttered spaces with organic, deep mineral and metallic tones that delight the senses. With natural materials such as wood and rattan dominating this design movement, Dulux has, for the first time, also announced a stain Colour of the Year for 2020: Teak, a warm, semitransparent medium-brown stain that has a 1970s retro vibe.


REM TEAMS UP WITH FANTECH A new strategic partnership between Radon Environmental Management Corp. (REM) and Fantech will strengthen and expand their offering of high-performance radon mitigation ohba.ca


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Canada and the U.S., has expanded its relationship with Alexandria Moulding, a division of U.S. Lumber, as a preferred distributor of Royal Trim & Mouldings and Celect Cellular Composite Siding by Royal across Canada to professional channels. Royal had previously worked with Alexandria in Canada to distribute to retail partners only.

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BOLD PATTERNS AND COLOURS TRENDING IN TILES AND SLABS Move over neutral ceramic and stone. According to industry-leading stone and ceramic products retailer Ciot Inc., the year ahead will see trendy homes outfitted with tiles and slabs that feature bold colours, luxurious patterns, surprising textures, unique shapes, metallic and lacquered finishes, richer veining and floor-to-ceiling wrapping. “No longer are ceramic and stone products solely about functionality and durability, but rather, they have become fashion statements in themselves,� said Kristina Panzera, Senior Buyer of Ciot. Ciot, which has showrooms in Toronto, Vaughan and Mississauga, notes eye-catching colours among the hottest trends in ceramic and stone products for 2020. For tiles, stronger tones add character to any













room, Panzera notes, while warmer pastels remain popular for a more neutral, muted decor. Imitation cement tiles boasting colourful patterns are growing a fan base for their ability to add visual interest in the home, while neutral textures are favoured to bring a touch of Mediterranean heat. Compelling shapes, from fish scales to diamonds and hexagons, are also gaining traction, as are computergenerated 3D effects. And look for tile sizes to continue to grow. The new standard is 60x60 cm, with large rectangular tiles measuring 60x120 cm, says Panzera, whose company also points to metallic finishes, with natural gold, copper and brass highlights creating one-ofa-kind shiny, reflective surfaces that glisten in natural light.


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Among stone trends, we’ll see more wrapping, Panzera notes. “Elegant and sophisticated stone slabs will envelope entire rooms as consumers experiment with all surfaces for an inviting, one-of-a-kind decor.” There will also be a colour infusion, with warm whites no longer monotone and flat, but rather, containing lively ohba.ca


textures. Black is also back in vogue, particularly with white and gold veining that is mysterious, deep and ultra-chic. “And while white marble with light grey veining will always be a classic choice, stronger marble colours with active veins of wine red, emerald green and bright blue are starting to steal the show,” Panzera says. “Rather than hanging expensive artwork, these surfaces are works of art themselves.”



Empire Communities has appointed Tony Pucci (pictured at right) to set up and lead its newly created Product Innovation Division as Senior V.P. of Product Innovation. “Tony has been a trusted leader with Empire Communities for the past 20 years and his professional experience and background in architecture is perfectly suited to this new venture,” a company release noted. “We will now have dedicated leadership researching and evaluating advancements in residential construction and value engineering to enhance our existing and new product.” At the same time, Empire also named Mark Tutton as its new President, Low Rise. Tutton, who most recently served as COO for Camrost Felcorp Inc., has held positions of increasing seniority throughout the course of his career including COO, Plazacorp Investments, SVP of Tribute Communities and VP, Dorsay Development amongst others. OHB ohba.ca


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ONTARIO HOUSING UPDATES Direct to you!!! As the voice of Ontario’s residential construction industry, OHBA informs members and subscribers of the latest news and events relevant to home construction and professional renovation in the province. Subscribe today to receive updates on housing data, expert columns, relevant industry events, awards and advocacy work. Stay current. Sign up now. WWW.OHBA.CA/SUBSCRIBE/



Product Focus I de a s for B u i l de r s & R e n ovat or s

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Concert Properties took advantage of Enbridge Gas’s Savings By Design program in planning Sunnybrook Plaza, a co-venture with RioCan at Bayview and Eglinton Avenue.

Find Your Comfort Zone The trend toward healthier heat and air By Ted McIntyre

OK, let’s clear the air here—literally. It is the industry trend, after all. “There is definitely a movement toward improved indoor air quality in the envelope of the home, right down to the type of drywall and insulation going in—it all goes hand in hand,” says Jason Laskis, sales representative and production manager at Mississauga’s DC Air. “People are paying more attention than ever before to their HVAC system, right down to understanding what kind of filter needs to go in your furnace and what its MERV rating is—the degree to which the product actually filters contaminants from the air that passes through it. The higher the MERV rating, the more it filters. “Now that being said, just because a MERV rating is higher doesn’t ohba.ca


necessarily mean it’s best for your system. It could actually be detrimental if it filters too much, because not enough air is actually passing through it.” Clean air in the home has never more in demand, says Laskis. “A lot of people with asthma or with kids with allergies are now installing HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters as a secondary filter.” For builders and contractors who want to stay on top of current technology and trends in the industry, Laskis suggests they take advantage of courses offered by the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute (HRAI). “HRAI is a leader in setting standards and working with the government, as well as educating people like myself and

other contractors on how to design and install fully functioning systems. Along with indoor air quality courses, including off-gassing in the basement and how to counteract it, they offer a plethora of other courses, such as design, heat-loss/heat-gain calculation, an introduction to equipment used in new residential construction, how to commission a system—basically how to design a house so it has a premium indoor air quality while the system is running at maximum capacity.”

POWER OF KNOWLEDGE “Maximizing energy efficiency starts with design,” echoes Enbridge Gas, whose Savings by Design program was created to help builders design and ontario home builder WINTER 2020


Product Focus construct low-rise residential projects and high-rise multi-residential buildings with three or more floors with higher energy performance, the results of which also provide energy costs savings for homeowners. A green-building initiative facilitated by Sustainable Buildings Canada (SBC), the comprehensive Savings by Design program offers support and financial incentives during the design and construction stages of housing and multi-residential projects. The multi-residential program is available throughout Ontario while the housing program is available in select Ontario areas only. Participants engage in a full-day Integrated Design Process Session workshop with real-time energy modelling and a team of design experts who identify cost-effective strategies to achieve sustainability goals. After the workshop, a final energy model is prepared based on the ECMs selected as well as a report summarizing the discussions of the day. Enbridge Gas provided Concert Properties, a multi-residential developer, with a team of multidisciplinary experts to explore highperformance building energy targets and other environmental objectives, including wellness, low-impact design and water management. “It was very good in terms of helping us evolve our approach with new and emerging issues as well as the tried-and-true sustainability strategies,” notes Dave Ramslie, Concert’s V.P. of Sustainability. Concert, which develops rental apartments, condominium homes and seniors’ communities, benchmarks every building project against LEED and other industry-leading standards of sustainability. The discovery of the Savings by Design program was a fortunate happenstance for Ramslie, who, at the time, was looking for ways to engage Concert’s construction and development teams in a meaningful dialogue on sustainability. “The workshops were a ready-made solution that was relatively easy for 58

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“It was very good in terms of helping us evolve our approach with new and emerging issues as well as the tried-and-true sustainability strategies.” — Dave Ramslie, V.P. of Sustainability, Concert Properties us to put into our project schedule,” he says. “We’re currently developing a new sustainability strategy that will include new standards for our buildings, and this was a great way to test some of those ideas with the input of both our consultant teams and third-party experts.” Concert participated in design sessions for both its new projects: Sunnybrook, a co-venture with RioCan that includes two buildings and over 400 residential suites, and Sherbourne, a 51-storey condo project. Apart from more efficient designs, the program also offers financial incentives for builders—$15,000 when your ‘As Designed’ model achieves 15% greater energy efficiency, and an additional $15,000 when your ‘As Built’ model achieves 15% greater energy efficiency. Enbridge Gas also covers the full cost of the workshops ($30,000).

For houses that achieve a 15% energy reduction target versus OBC 2017 with SB-12, Savings by Design provides: • First-time participants: $2,000 for each qualified home (up to a maximum of 50 homes or $100,000) • Second-time participants: $1,000 for each qualified home (up to a maximum of 100 homes or $100,000) • Third-time participants: $500 for each qualified home (up to a maximum of 200 homes or $100,000).

THE COMFORT FACTOR While the end goal is a more comfortable and energy-efficient environment for homebuyers, “what exactly is comfort?” ponders Patrick McMahon, VP of Sales and Marketing at Amvic Building Systems. “One of the cornerstones is maintaining a consistent heating or cooling environment throughout the

“When you look at in-floor heat, heat will find cold, so you heat the slab and it travels straight up. It’s unidirectional.” —Patrick McMahon, VP of Sales and Marketing, Amvic Building System



Product Focus home,” McMahon says. “When I was a kid in my neighbourhood, there’d be family room additions built onto the back of homes, and it was always challenging to keep it as warm as the rest of the home, since it was the furthest room from the HVAC equipment, with longer ductwork required and maybe a crawlspace with minimal insulation underneath. You could feel the difference as soon as you walked into the new room— very uncomfortable.” It’s why McMahon is a fan of in-floor radiant heating. “It’s a wonderful way to heat,” he says. “You feel the temperature on your feet, it allows for more uniform heat distribution throughout the home without drying out the air and it does not move allergens like forced-air heating. I also believe that when you review both capital and operating cost comparisons, hydronic heating is more cost-efficient, as water carries 30,000 times the heat volume as air. “When you consider the heating cost implications in a tall-wall application—20-30 feet high—in-floor heat can be set where you’re virtually going to be heating anywhere from your feet to your head. You’re not heating the other 20 feet of empty space above,” McMahon continues. “All you have to do is go into some of the buildings today and look at the HVAC ducting on the ceiling and imagine the energy it’s taking to pound down all that heat—heat that is fighting all the way from the direction it wants to go, since it would otherwise gravitate to the attic or rooftop where there’s colder air. As more homeowners and business owners come to appreciate the benefits, you’ll see in-floor grow.” McMahon’s expectations are supported by the recent Global Radiant Heating and Cooling Systems Market Report. Released in October, the report forecasts the global radiant heating and cooling systems market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.14% during the period 2019-2023. “The other driver on this is that our changing demographics are looking at ohba.ca


The ability to use virtually every piece of Amvic’s SilveRboard Graphite results in less waste on the jobsite, while the product’s accompanying film provides a very adhesive surface when taping joints.

different types of homes,” McMahon notes. “If I go back to my grandparents’ day, nobody would live on a slabon-grade home. The bedrooms were upstairs, common areas downstairs. Now I see single-floor, handicap-ready living, with many not even wanting a basement. You’re starting to see more communities really geared for people moving into retirement or making a transition when they’re close to retirement. These individuals are often living on a fixed income, so monthly operating expenses are critical. In-floor heating is well suited to this application, so its popularity will continue to rise with that trend.”

PICKING PEX McMahon has a vested interest, given that Amvic’s Ampex Insulated Radiant Floor Heating Panel is a hot product—particularly when it comes to addressing installation challenges. “One difference compared to every other panel in the marketplace is that we have higher nubs,” McMahon notes. “The benefit of the extra height and bridge design is that when you install your PEX tubing, you want to make sure it’s actually not riding on top of the insulation—you want it resting a little above. It’s common that during installation, before the slabs get poured, there will be a delay. And during that delay, other trades

will be walking on the panel. And it’s incredibly frustrating to come back a day or two later and have to repair the job and reset tubing that’s popped out. “The mushroom nub helps make the PEX tubing even more secure,” McMahon says. “So you have a panel that requires no tying or stapling. The panel’s unique design allows us to use PEX tubing from a diameter of 3/8” to a full 1”.” Maximizing concrete flow through a PEX product can be another challenge, McMahon explains. “The more concrete you get around the tubing, the better the heat transfer up through the slab. And if you’re a homeowner or business owner, you want to ensure that whatever material you choose isn’t going to get in the way of your energy efficiency goal. I would encourage everyone to look at the bridge design between the nubs of any other panel. Some are virtually non-existent. Some have a bead. But if you look at ours, we’re going to raise that tubing 3/4 of an inch off the floor. That helps maximize concrete flow.”

CONTINUOUS INSULATION Amvic is among the companies hoping for continued momentum on the continuous insulation (CI) front. Apart from its material for below-slab, Amvic also features a material for CI to wrap around ontario home builder WINTER 2020


Product Focus the project envelope: SilveRboard. Manufactured through a process of EPS, which boasts a longer life of maintaining R-value performance, the product features a film that provides reflectivity. “If you build your wall with the proper airspace, you’ll get some benefits out of that,” McMahon says. “But the film also really increases the product’s flexural strength. Your corners and edges won’t fall apart. You can cut it and use virtually every piece of it. And I think that’s really important, because we therefore generate less waste on the site. And the film itself has a bondability to it, such that when you tape the joints, it’s an incredibly adhesive surface. And taping is a dream when installing PEX tubing for in-floor heat. “I think most manufacturers are well aware of the movement toward CI around a home—trying to make that home perform better,” McMahon says. “But it’s still a challenging road to get the marketplace to fully embrace it. And without the government driving the mandate, you’ll never get full compliance. You’ll have builders that are always looking to find the most economical way to build a home.” Not that he doesn’t sympathize with builders and renovators. “It’s not always as simple as a material choice.You have to look at all the factors. It might be union agreements you have with some of your trades, and how new products affect those rates. One of the keys to being successful for any builder is to be self-assured when you start a project that all the steps from A to Z are mapped out and will flow seamlessly. Good momentum usually means cost-effective construction.” But you can’t just tell a builder to build differently, McMahon notes. “It’s why we like to sit down and understand the process they’re using, and the different labour rates that are on the table, so we can make sure that rate doesn’t make the addition of CI prohibitive for some builders. 60

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Designed for greater flexibility and quick installation, the vänEE 65H HRV was created to respond to the builder’s and contractor’s needs for new residential construction and regulatory requirements. Mississauga’s DC Air is a big fan of this affordable but extremely reliable Energy Star-qualified model.

“But the industry also needs the trades aligned so that the builder has the flexibility to work with different labour pools and not absorb extra labour costs just because they’re making the right decision on their material choices.”

FUTURE TRENDS The application and installation of heat recovery ventilation is a simpler call for most. “HRVs are now the standard across Ontario,” notes Laskis, whose company’s product of choice is vänEE’s 65H. “It’s a really solid product that’s easily installed, with very few issues. Their ideal and realistic efficiency ratings are effectively the same,” says Laskis, whose company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. DC Air focuses on low- and midrise applications in new-build subdivisions, for which they also have their own sheet metal division. Prior to delivery, residences are roughed in by one of DC’s unionized crews. Once the material is made and delivered, they send a unionized sheet metal

worker to install the ductwork. They then install the required furnace/ air conditioner products, while subcontracting hot water tanks. DC specializes in high-velocity applications, which Laskis sees as gaining huge market share moving forward. “Lennox will be breaking into that space and Redmond Williams already has the Redzone. And Goodman is focusing on coming out with a new air handler. We’ve had recent discussions with Daikin, which owns Goodman. Daikin’s VP came from Japan to sit down with us, discussing high-V systems.” And what of the future of continuous insulation? The trump card is held by the consumer, McMahon says. “If the consumer demands CI around the frame of their home, it will be there. And we’re seeing consumers asking questions that are leading builders to say, ‘I’ve got to figure this one out if I’m going to be a responsible builder to protect our environment with efficient design and to improve the comfort level in the home.’” OHB ohba.ca


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Frame of Mind


would ontario homebuyers be willing to give up their indoor garages or outdoor parking spots in return for a lower cost, while helping the environment? We know that auto usage and its supporting infrastructure, including parking, paved streets and sidewalks, comes with a cost. For example, according to Todd Litman of B.C.’s Victoria Transport Policy Institute, each indoor parking space increases the cost of a home by 12.5%. So what if parking were provided for those who need it, and not as an added cost to those who don’t? Introducing walkable neighbourhoods: a sustainable solution to increasing fuel costs, to say nothing of their power to improve quality of life. Grouped parking spaces offer residents further financial savings. A space that accommodates about 20 cars maximizes flexibility in the arrangement of spots, minimizes construction and maintenance costs and reduces negative impacts of urban heat on the surrounding buildings. Residents in communities with shared lots also regard them as vibrant social meeting places and appreciate 62

ontario home builder WINTER 2020

that they protect the lower carbon footprint of the area. How would it all look? Enter the State of Washington’s Grow Community from the firm of Davis Studio Architecture + Design. Recognized as one of the most sustainable developments in the U.S., the project, located on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle’s business district, offers residents a small-town feel without isolation. The 131-unit neighbourhood was planned with the intention of offering “One Planet Living,” a lifestyle geared toward consuming within the bounds of our earth’s resources, with all amenities located within five minutes from any point in the community. To reduce travel distances and meet this five-minute mandate, the site was located close to many urban amenities, including grocery stores, restaurants, shops and a farmer’s market. In addition, residents are encouraged to take part in local vegetable patches. By significantly chopping the required transportation distances of many of their foods, Grow Community is reducing its carbon footprint. And while the compact nature of group parking spaces allows more

community outdoor/gathering space, walking, biking and public transport are all key aspects of the car-free lifestyle. The community is well connected by a series of bicycle and pedestrian paths. Houses and public gardens are placed along these paths, with private gardens located behind homes. And ferries connecting the island with the Seattle business district leave every hour. Once downtown, workers and visitors can rely on the Seattle public transport system. Grow Community’s intergenerational living has made it a draw for a variety of family units. For young families, children are able to play along paths and open spaces without parents having to be concerned about the dangers of car traffic. The “fiveminute living” mode also ensures that childcare centres are located short walks or drives from the community. It’s safe to say that such accessibility will remain a driving force in this nondriving community. OHB Dr. Avi Friedman is an architect, professor and social observer. He can be reached at avi.friedman@mcgill.ca ohba.ca


PHOTO: David W. Cohen Photography

What would life be like in a car-free neighbourhood?


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