Construction investment up in February

Investment in residential building construction, seasonally adjusted.
Investment in building construction increased 1.3 per cent to $15.9 billion in February, the fourth consecutive month-over-month growth. Gains were reported in all components of residential and non-residential investment.
On a constant dollar basis, investment in building construction increased 1.1 per cent to $13 billion. Investment in residential construction rose 1.4 per cent to $10.7 billion in February. Single-unit construction increased 1.9 per cent to $5.2 billion. The rate of growth surpassed that observed in the multi-unit component due to major projects in the Vancouver area. Gains in British Columbia outweighed declines in seven other provinces.
Non-residential investment was up 1.2 per cent to $5.1 billion. Ontario and Quebec reported the largest gains, while Alberta continued to decline, down 0.7 per cent to $678.9 million.
The commercial component represented the majority of growth in the non-residential sector, up 1.5 per cent to $3 billion nationally. Ontario and Quebec, again, contributed the most to the gains, which more than offset the declines reported in six provinces. Meanwhile, investment tin construction for the industrial and institutional components also increased month over month.

Ont. workers get extra year to renew working from heights certificate

The Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is giving workers in the construction sector an extra year to renew their mandatory working at heights certification.
It is anticipated that more than 120,000 workers are due to have their certificates expire over the next six months. However, many training providers have either cancelled classes or shut down due to COVID-19. The extension will apply to workers who successfully completed their working at heights training between February 28 and August 31, 2017. The certificates, normally good for three years, will now expire in 2021.
“The extension will ensure affected workers can continue to work when possible,” according to the Ontario website.

CIPH cancels 2020 annual conference

It wasn’t all business at the 2019 CIPH ABC. Members participated in several fun activities including a scenic bicycle ride.
The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) has cancelled its 2020 annual business conference (ABC) scheduled for June 28-30 in Mont Tremblant, Que.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the association decided to cancel the conference as a precautionary measure to protect industry members from any further risks associated with the virus, said organizers. Refunds are being sent to those who registered, and hotel rooms will be cancelled.
CIPH will hold its 2020 annual general meeting online on June 16 at 11 a.m. (EST), followed by a keynote session titled “Distribution will Shift Again, But Not Back to Normal,” by Ian Heller, an author with Distribution Strategy Group, Longmont, Colorado.
The next annual business conference will take place in St. Andrews, N.B. June 27-29, 2021. CIPH will hold its 2025 conference in Mont Tremblant.
For more information, please visit www.ciph.com.

COVID-19-related IAPMO codes now free

One day Mark Evans and associate Chuck Popp, pictured, were called upon to install a new pump, two-stage float switch and high-level alarm in a sewage pit after the existing equipment had been destroyed when a previous contractor tried to “snake out the drain” without understanding the system.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) has made standards and codes that relate to COVID-19 free of charge for the duration of the pandemic.
several of their standards available free of charge due to the pandemic. These include performance and installation requirements for plumbing and mechanical systems.
“Because we know the challenges many in our industry now face include financial uncertainty, IAPMO is temporarily providing free remote access to the standards most vital in dealing with such viral threats as COVID-19,” said IAPMO CEO Russ Chaney. “IAPMO understands we are all working together to combat COVID-19; access to codes and standards should not represent a roadblock in that battle.”
The codes are available at https://www.iapmo.org/code-standard-development/covid-19-resources and include, ASSE 1044 – trap seal primer-drainage types and electric design types, ASSE 1072 – barrier type floor drain trap seal protection devices, ASSE 6000 – infection control risk assessment for all building systems, ASSE 12000 – infection control risk assessment for all building systems, ASSE 13000 – service plumber and residential mechanical services technician, ASSE 15000 – inspection, testing and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems, ASSE 16000 – inspector and plans examiner, IGC 127 – combined hand-washing systems, IGC 156 – wash fountains and lavatory systems with or without water closets, IGC 278 – concealed type waterless urinals, IGC 289 – portable sealed personal showering systems, IGC 305 – ABS and PVC horizontal backwater valves with lifting devices, IGC 316 – self-cleaning water closets, IGC 361 – flexible corrugated drain connectors for lavatories and sinks, Uniform Plumbing Code, Uniform Mechanical Code, and uniform swimming pool, spa and hot tub code.
By granting free access, IAPMO hopes to enhance public understanding of how the proper functioning of these systems protects the health of the people they serve.
Guidelines for plumbing professionals working under the threat of COVID-19 was also published by IAPMO. For more information, visit http://plumbingandhvac.ca/plumbers-urged-to-take-precautions-against-covid-19-virus/.

ASHRAE proposes cycling and thermostatic controls for unvented combustion devices

A new proposal has been approved by an ASHRAE working group, with assistance from the Vent-Free Alliance, that includes cycling, thermostatic controls, and information from the ASHRAE Position Document on Unvented Combustion Devices and Indoor Air Quality. It will be submitted to the Standing Standard Project Committee (SSPC) for consideration during their June meeting.
In March 2017, a proposal was submitted to ASHRAE SSPC 62.2, Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Residential Buildings, that would have banned the installation of vent-free appliances in homes designated as 62.2 compliant. The proposal established criteria that was more stringent than the existing ASHRAE Position Document on Unvented Combustion and included an equation that used maximum input with no cycling provisions or consideration of temperature and human comfort.
Many comments were submitted during the proposal period and were not properly considered and resolved in accordance with ASHRAE procedures and ANSI Essential Requirements.
An official repeal and rejection period was established by the ASHRAE board of directors, and the Standards Committee established an ad hoc working group consisting of members, the SSPC, and the vent-free industry.
The result is the new proposal that includes cycling and thermostatic controls.

Rent and additional financial support for small business announced

Justin Trudeau makes an announcement to press concerning updates to COVID-19 support for small businesses.
The Canadian government has announced additional support for small businesses to help them get through the COVID-19 pandemic, including rent support.
“Expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account and making sure businesses can afford their rent is the smart thing to do. Small businesses are the backbone of our communities and will keep our economy strong in this uncertain time,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau April 16.
The new Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program for small businesses will seek to provide loan, including forgivable loans, to commercial property owners who will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses for the months of April, May, and June.
The program will require a partnership between the federal government and provincial and territorial governments, which are responsible for property owner-tenant relationships.
The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) will now include businesses that paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019. The previous range was $50,000 to $1 million.
The CEBA is provided to an organization through that specific organization’s financial institution, which would be providing the loan in cooperation with Export Development Canada. The loan will be interest-free and 25 per cent of the loan is forgivable (up to $10,000) if the organization repays the loan on or before Dec. 31, 2022. If the loan is not repaid by then, the resulting loan terms would be decided by each financial institution.
Since the initial launch April 9, more than 195,000 loans have been approved by financial institutions, adding up to more than $7.5 billion in credit to small businesses.
“We will always be there to support our Canadian businesses. That is why we are working closely with the business community to make sure that our emergency measures are as effective and inclusive as possible,” said Trudeau.
The programs are part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, which has promised more than $107 billion in support to Canadians and businesses.

Survey: industry responds to impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has made things like this planning and safety meeting prior to the installation of a large rooftop unit by Sprint Mechanical in Toronto a few years ago a lot more difficult today.
By Leah Den Hartogh
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11. Since then, the number of cases across the globe has been on the rise. At press time, Canada had over 25,000 cases and 767 deaths.
Every type of business is struggling, and the plumbing and HVAC/R industry is no exception, despite being deemed an essential service. We surveyed our readers in early April and received 485 responses.
Comments from an Alberta contractor expressed what a lot of companies are going through. “There is a lot of uncertainty right now in the Lethbridge area,” he noted. “Some jobs have been put on hold to protect the workplace of our customers’ employees. We have a plumbing business that currently is taking important service calls, but that also has been quiet as far as phone calls go.”
Some respondents criticized the government for leaving job sites open for as long as they have. “It’s disgusting that sites are remaining open, taking personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizer and cleaning supplies to keep the money rolling. It has been made clear to construction workers; we are not essential – we are expendable.”
When asked about how the pandemic has been impacting their business, 38 percent answered “a great deal,” 30 percent answered “a lot,” 23 percent answered “a moderate amount,” seven percent answered “a little,” and only two percent answered, “none at all.”
Facing tough decisions
Those companies that are still operating are having to alter how business is done due to extenuating circumstances. Tough decisions are having to be made. Employees have to be sent home, some workers are not willing to do the work, projects have been postponed, there are material and equipment shortages and some customers are unable to afford maintenance. And then there’s the need to have some employees go into self-isolation.
“We have some bigger jobs that are going on right now that we started before the COVID-19 broke out and should keep us busy for awhile. My main concerns right now are how long this will take? At some point, the restrictions will get tighter if the virus spreads and the number of cases increase. When this is over, what will the economy do? Is it going to pick up right where we left off? As of right now, we look at what we have and focus on that and try not worry too much. I hope that we can keep our employees and come out above water, so to speak, when this is over,” said another reader.
Some contractors have been a bit luckier and have found that business has been typical as the pandemic has coincided with the annual slowdown.
New business practices
Most employers have made changes to how they are conducting business in an attempt to keep employees and customers safe. This includes providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers (71 percent), working more shifts (five percent), social distancing (82 percent), and working from home (52 percent). Only three percent made no changes.
Some businesses have even gone as far as to screen customers before entering their home to ensure their employees remain safe. Some cannot find the proper PPE equipment due to shortages.
Federal and provincial governments have been offering subsidies to help businesses survive the pandemic. We asked our readers if this is helping. It was fairly even across the board on the responses to whether or not the help will make any difference for companies – 12 per cent answered “extremely helpful,” 15 per cent answered “very helpful,” 30 per cent answered “somewhat helpful,” 19 per cent answered “not so helpful,” and 21 per cent answered “not at all helpful.”
Some were not convinced that the subsidy would help business in the long-run. “This is all very nice that the government is willing to help us and give hope for the hard-working businesses with an interest free loan. But what worries me is that nothing is really for free! Our government is creating a deficit so large that our business taxpayers will just have to pay it back eventually.”
One respondent said that the hardest part of the government initiatives is just figuring out whether or not they are applicable to their business as they are vague and unclear. Most are concerned about going into even more debt if they apply for the loans.
Facing uncertainty
In the long run, most don’t know what things will look like. Many expect this year to be one of the worst they have had to go through.
“I think the long-term impact globally could bring us from recession to a depression, economically. Hopefully, people realize the importance of Canada being a more self-sufficient country (i.e. resources, supply chain, energy, etc.),” said one reader.
That doesn’t mean that people aren’t optimistic. “If we are able to survive a sustained impact on our business, I think we will be much stronger coming out, having discovered more effective and efficient methods to operate our business and address challenges that are presented. The impact we have experienced due to service site access in both extended care facilities and hospitals (which represent a large portion of our business) has been substantial. However, as the situation changes, so do the needs of our customers. We are doing our best to try and come up with ways that better suit these needs.”
Only time will tell.

Calls made to federal government to create construction relief fund

Construction associations are calling for an emergency COVID-19 construction cost relief program to be established to help contractors with the financial implications of project shutdowns, delays, and losses of productivity due to the pandemic. The Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) and the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) have both called for a relief fund.
“As with industries across Canada, the construction industry and the mechanical contracting sector have been faced with unforeseen challenges and issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dave Holek, president and chair of MCAC. “Whether it is the necessary but added costs of health and safety to protect workers, losses in productivity as we adapt to the changing requirements for jobsites, supply chain and repayment problems as a result of shutdowns or delays, the COVID-19 pandemic has already proven to have far-reaching consequences. Our association supports any measure to help contractors access liquidity or financial support to help contractors work through this crisis.”
On March 30 MCAC sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noting the ways the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted mechanical contractors. Among other requests, MCAC asked that the federal government provide financial support for those construction firms affected by the closure of construction sites.
“To request to establish an emergency COVID-19 construction cost relief program reinforces the fact that contractors across Canada are facing unprecedented challenges,” said Holek. “We are pleased to see any efforts that will help our members through this crisis and beyond.”

Quebec releases amendments to HFC refrigerant regulations

The Quebec government has published its final halocarbon regulation. Amendments include new hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) prohibitions and strengthened refrigerant leak testing requirements for chillers and commercial refrigeration equipment. An English version of the regulation is available on the Ministry’s website.
In an effort to get clarification on the new HFC requirements, the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), along with
the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration, Institute (AHRI), is requesting a meeting with ministry staff. An information session is scheduled for April 22 in French. AHRI and HRAI are requesting that the session also be held in English.
To read all amendments in English please visit the PDF, or the French PDF.

Ont. extends construction hours on essential projects

Project director Cedric Bertrand checks that all is well with the new 850-ton York CYK heat recovery chiller at Laval University Hospital.
Ontario is extending construction hours for essential construction projects, such as critical projects in the health care sector, to 24 hours a day. Work on new hospitals, expansions, and COVID-19 assessment centres will be able to continue any time of the night or day. This will accelerate the construction of these important projects and enable employers to take additional steps to protect the health and safety of workers.
Premier Doug Ford, Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development, and Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, made the announcement April 8.
“During this escalating crisis, we are taking immediate steps to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place, particularly to properly care for those with severe COVID-19 symptoms and other patients who require critical case,” said Ford. “That’s why we’re extending construction hours to allow us to build essential infrastructure faster, while ensuring construction workers can practice physical distancing on worksites to stay safe and healthy.”
Ont. will also temporarily limit local noise bylaws from applying to these construction activities.
“Our government is doing everything in its power to make sure workers on the job are safe during this pandemic,” said McNaughton. “That means more inspections, more inspectors, more phone lines, and more people to take your calls. We have conducted thousands of inspections and investigations across the province in March and we will continue to conduct more this month. We will do everything in our power to keep the essential workers of our province safe.”