Building permits stats released for Feb. and estimates for March

Total value of building permits
The total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased by 7.3 per cent to $8.6 billion in February – driven by the residential component. Declines were reported in five provinces, with the largest decrease reported in British Columbia. Alberta reported the fourth consecutive monthly growth, up 4.2 per cent to $1.1 billion.
The value of residential permits decreased by 7.3 per cent to $5.3 billion, mostly due to a significant decline in permits for multi-family dwellings. Permits for multi-family dwellings were down 18.1 per cent to $2.8 billion, with the largest decrease originating in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Vancouver, down $841 million. This was due to an increased number of permits being issued in January to pre-empt an increase in local development fees. At a national level, the value of permits for multi-family dwellings rose 10.3 per cent, in February.
The total value of permits for single-family dwellings increased by 8.3 per cent to $2.6 billion. These gains were driven by housing developments in Ontario, bringing the value of permits in the province to its highest level since December 2017.
In February, the value of non-residential permits was down 7.3 per cent to $3.2 billion. This decrease was largely due to declines in the value of industrial permits (down 25.3 per cent to $514 million), mainly in Quebec.
The value of institutional permits declined by 4.5 per cent to $705 million. This was largely due to decreases in Alberta (down $74 million) and British Columbia (down $62 million). The total value of commercial permits was down 2.2 per cent to two billion, with declines reported in six provinces.
COVID-19 shrinks March permit estimates
Statistics Canada has released a “preliminary flash” estimates of building permits for select regions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The estimates are based on open-source building permit reports for 23 large municipalities, as well as municipal building permit reports submitted to Stats Canada by April 2.
On a year-over-year basis, the value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities fell 23.2 per cent to $1.4 billion when compared with March 2019. Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec had the strongest declines, likely reflecting provincial measures put in place mid-month to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Municipalities in central Canada showed the largest declines, as both Ontario and Quebec declared emergencies in mid-March to combat the virus. In Montreal, the number of permits filed declined 37.6 per cent in March compared with the same period a year earlier. In Ontario, the value of building permits issued fell by 50.5 per cent compared with March 2019.
Outside of central Canada, investment intentions in the Maritime provinces showed resilience with building permits in Halifax surging 153.1 per cent, as both the residential and non-residential sectors increased compared with March 2019. Additionally, the number of permits in Charlottetown increased by 31.6 per cent from a year ago.
In Western Canada, the value of building permits declined 3.2 per cent to $861 million as the fall in investment intentions for British Columbia offset gains made in Alberta. As B.C. reported many of the earliest cases of COVID-19 in Canada, construction intentions likely slowed earlier than in the rest of Western Canada. As noted, the change in development fee costs in January for Vancouver may also have pulled some permits forward as builders avoided cost increases by submitting permit applications earlier than usual.

WaterSense program specifications will remain unchanged

The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that no changes or updates will be made to the WaterSense program specifications. The announcement was made April 7, after the Trump administration originally wanted to end the program.
This follows a review as directed by “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018,” which includes language officially authorizing the program in perpetuity. The law required the EPA to “consider for review and revise, if necessary, any WaterSense performance criteria adopted before Jan. 1, 2012.”
“By maintaining the existing WaterSense specifications, EPA is ensuring responsible conservation of our nation’s water supply without adding unnecessary specifications or creating undue burdens on the economy,” said Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator.
The EPA plans to engage with WaterSense stakeholders and the public. “The industry realizes the importance of the WaterSense program,” said Dain Hansen, executive vice president of government relations for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). “The program has garnered support from manufacturers, environmental advocates, SDOs, associations and professional societies across the country. To know that the program will continue is welcome news and we, along with the industry, will continue to be strong supporting partners of the WaterSense program and the entire EPA.”
The program is also supported by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating (CIPH) and its members.
The WaterSense program for plumbing is modelled after the Energy Star program for HVAC equipment. For more information about the WaterSense program, visit www.epa.gov/watersense.

FortisBC sets up pandemic fund to support residents and small businesses

Fig. 2: Propane is an effective refrigerant that meets GWP targets but, obviously, is highly flammable.
A COVID-19 Customer Recovery Fund will be implemented by FortisBC with interim approval from the B.C. Utilities Commission. The program will provide new support measures for residential and small business natural gas, electric and propane customers that are facing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Since the crisis started, our customers’ safety and well-being has been our top priority. These new measures are the result of ongoing evaluation of the situation and listening to the concerns of the many customers who have reached out to us,” said Dawn Mehrer, vice president of customer service and information services for FortisBC.
“These conversations have been invaluable in developing an approach that provides the immediate relief customers need today and a flexible path forward that directs further support to the customers that need it most.”
Residential customer that have signed up for the fund will automatically have their bill payment deferred from April 1 to June 30. A repayment schedule, free of interest or additional fees, will be set up and payments can be spread over a full year after June 30, lessening the monthly impact.
For small businesses that have been forced to close, bill credits will be issued to offset any charges to their account while they’ve been unable to continue operating their business as usual. Businesses still open, but facing a slowdown in revenue, will not receive bill credits but can also receive bill deferral for the same 90-day period as residential customers. These measures are in addition to the previously announced suspension of late fees and stopping service disconnections for any financial reason.
As impacts of COVID-19 are ongoing, additional one-on-one support to customers who may need more assistance with repayment. This additional support could include extending interest-free payment arrangements, providing bill credits or even payment forgiveness.
“Our Customer Recovery Fund will help our customers in the short term and will provide the flexibility for customers when they start on the road to recovery. Taking this approach will allow us to provide effective support to those who need it most and minimize the rate impacts on all of our customers,” said Roger Dall’Antonia, president and CEO of FortisBC.
Applications can be made at any time as there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
Residential applicants will need to confirm that they have lost their job or livelihood or have been forced to take a voluntary leave due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and agree to a payment arrangement for their deferred balance.
Small businesses applying for bill credits will need to confirm that they were forced to close and provide the date of closure.
Applicants can enrol by visiting fortisbc.com/recoveryfund, calling FortisBC’s Customer Contact Centre or emailing COVID19Recovery@fortisbc.com.

Mitsubishi Electric recognizes Ontario net-zero project

Terada-san, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada, left, presents Cora Group COO Adrian Conrad with Mitsubishi’s Building of the Year award for the Evolv 1 net-zero building in Waterloo, Ont.
Mitsubishi Electric Canada has awarded the Evolv1 building, Waterloo, Ont., and the Cora Group – developers on the project – the company’s Sustainable Building of the Year award. The building was the first office building in Canada to receive the Zero Carbon Building-Design certification from the Canada Green Building Council.
The certification means the project modelled a zero-carbon balance for future operations, incorporated an efficient energy and ventilation system to meet a defined threshold for thermal energy intensity, and included onsite renewable energy systems capable of providing a minimum of five per cent of building energy consumption.
The building was designed to produce 108 per cent of its energy on its own. With this mandate, all components needed to be energy-efficient, including the HVAC system.
Mitsubishi Electric’s City-Multi water-source VRF heat recovery system was chosen to supply 100 per cent of the heating and cooling. Thirty-six outdoor units and 148 indoor units were used in the 104,000 sq. ft. building.
A full feature on the Evolv1 project appeared in the July/Aug, 2018 issue of Plumbing and HVAC. Please see http://plumbingandhvac.ca/energy-positive-project-shines-bright.

Kitchen and bath design contest announced

The 2020 Kitchen & Bath Show was held, again, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Design and Industry Awards are now open for submissions from plumbers, designers, architects, etc. The deadline for entries is July 3 and NKBA members receive one free entry if submitted before May 31.
The winners will be announced on Feb. 8, 2021, at the NKBA Kitchen and Bath Design and Industry Awards, Orlando, Florida, as part of the NKBA kick-off to the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) 2021.
Each year the NKBA recognizes the year’s most exceptional kitchen and bath designs. This year’s competition includes more than $60,000 in cash prizes and winners will also be featured in their Luxe Interior and Design magazine, Kitchen and Bath Business magazine, and the official NKBA publication.
The categories for the 2021 show are:
Contemporary Kitchen: Small/Medium (Under 250 sq. ft.)
Contemporary Kitchen: Large/Extra-Large (More than 250 sq. ft.)
Traditional Kitchen: Small/Medium (Under 250 sq. ft.)
Traditional Kitchen: Large/Extra-Large (More than 250 sq. ft.)
Contemporary Bathroom: Small/Medium (Under 55 sq. ft.)
Contemporary Bathroom: Large/Extra-Large (More than 55 sq. ft.)
Traditional Bathroom: Small/Medium (Under 55 sq. ft.)
Traditional Bathroom: Large/Extra-Large (More than 55 sq. ft.)
Outdoor Kitchen
Living in Place
To be eligible, all project entries must have been installed between Jan. 1, 2019 and July 3, 2020. The competition is divided into two rounds. In round one, all entries must include two high-resolution photographs, a completed entry form and entry payment.
“We understand it’s been an extremely unusual year and there may be many designers who were anticipating having their projects professionally photographed, but haven’t been able to do it because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Suzie Williford, employee value proposition and chief strategy officer of NKBA.
“Good design is good design, whether it’s professionally photographed or not. Don’t let that discourage you from having your work recognized. The cameras on smartphones have come a long way. Our judges will take these unusual circumstances into consideration as they are evaluating the entries.”
Round two finalists will be announced on July 15. As part of this round, all finalists will be required to upload additional material to their submission folder.

Handwashing on the increase prior to coronavirus, says survey

The coronavirus pandemic may have helped increase the number of people washing their hands more frequently, reports Bradley Corp., Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, in its annual Healthy Hand Washing survey. In January the company polled 1,005 adults and youth about germs, the flu, colds and handwashing habits.
In 2009, when the H1N1 virus was infecting people around the world, only about 45 per cent of Americans said they washed their hands more frequently or thoroughly in response to the flu virus outbreak. By 2019, the number of flu-fighting hand washers in the U.S. rose to 79 per cent.
This year, the concern about hand hygiene has increased. Today, 60 per cent of Americans are extremely or quite concerned about catching the flu, compared to just 32 per cent who felt that way four years prior.
When the national or international focus shifts towards outbreaks, it has an effect on hand hygiene, with 50 per cent of Americans saying that news coverage of cold and flu outbreaks has a “very large” or “somewhat large” impact on their handwashing behaviour. Women and their handwashing habits are most likely to be impacted by news coverage.
“The steady rise in hand washing diligence in America may, in part, stem from several stand-out flu seasons over the past decade – particularly flu outbreaks in 2009, 2015 and 2018,” said Jon Dommisse, Bradley Corp. director of strategy and corporate development. “Now, the unprecedented spread of coronavirus has placed an even more intense spotlight on the critical nature of thorough handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.”
The survey began 11 years ago and from the findings, it showed that handwashing signage, clean and stocked washrooms, and touchless handwashing fixtures encouraged hand washing in public washrooms.
“Handwashing in America has undoubtedly improved over the past 11 years but coronavirus is a real handwashing game-changer,” Dommisse said. “We must all remember that hand washing is among the most important actions to protect our loved ones, our communities and ourselves.”
For more information, please visit www.bradleycorp.com/handwashing.

Ontario clamps down on non-essential construction

The Ontario government has updated its list of essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of businesses classified as essential has been reduced.
Only critical construction projects have been deemed allowed to continue, including industrial projects such as refineries and petrochemical plants and infrastructure projects such as new hospitals, roads and bridges. New starts in residential projects will stop, while residential construction that is near completion will continue.
The association representing the residential construction industry in Ontario has agreed with the province’s decision and described it as “balanced and appropriate.”
“We are pleased by the government’s decision to keep certain residential construction going,” said Richard Lyall, president of Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). “As the premier has rightly noted, there are many people who are waiting for their homes to be finished in the next few weeks. We already have a significant housing crisis in Ontario and most of these homeowners who have sold their homes are at risk of being left on the street without these measures.”
All businesses not covered by the updated Emergency Order are required to close by April 4 at 11:59 p.m. These new restrictions will be in effect for 14 days, with the possibility of an extension as the situation unfolds.
“We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 and we must do everything in our power to keep everyone safe and healthy and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed,” said Ont. Premier Doug Ford.
“Everyone must do their part to stop the spread and flatten the curve. If you are not an essential business, you need to close your doors, work from home if possible and play a role to help contain this outbreak. This is a matter of life and death.”
The updated list will direct additional businesses to close and restricts specified businesses to providing services by alternate methods such as curbside pick and delivery, except for exceptional circumstances.
For the full updated list, visit www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces#section-10.

IAPMO looking for hydronics committee volunteers

Good design and installation from the beginning reduces troubleshooting later. Dale’s Plumbing, Courtney, B.C., laid down this hydronic slab floor for a storage facility in Parksville, B.C., using 3.55 kilometers of three-quarter inch Vipert oxygen barrier pipe made in Burnaby, B.C. by CB Supplies.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) is asking for volunteers with technical background in hydronic systems and specific knowledge of heat transfer fluid treatment to participate on the Hydronic Standards Committee. The committee will work on the development of IAPMO H1001.1 as an American National Standard. The deadline to submit the application is May 8.
Applications can be completed online at the Standards Development web page.
The scope of the standard is to establish and maintain hydronic system heat transfer fluid quality over the life of the system. The volunteers should be jurisdictional authorities, testing lab and educational facility representatives, or HVAC experts.
“Hydronic heating and cooling systems can reach some of the highest efficiencies of all space conditioning systems available today. However, some hydronic systems fail to reach or maintain their highest potential efficiencies due to poor water quality establishment and maintenance practices,” said an IAPMO release.
The Hydronic Standard Committee members will be responsible for the development of new American National Standards relating to hydronic systems and for the content and processing of public review comments.
For more information, contact Les Nelson at 909-218-8112 or by email at les.nelson@iapmo.org.

Contractor association calls upon Canadian government to support construction sector 

The Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) is calling upon federal and provincial governments to present a united message with regards to how the COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting contracting companies.
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, MCAC states that they are supportive of the measures taken to date to address the outbreak. “As with all industries across Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disruptive effect on Canada’s mechanical contracting sector. Given the important work out members undertake we are committed to ensuring our workplaces and work sites remain safe for employees, customers, partners, and workers,” said the letter signed by Dave Holek, president and chair of MCAC.
MCAC is asking that provincial and national health authorities work closely with subtrade associations to help establish and enforce clear health and safety protocols. In addition, it wants governments to recognize that the pandemic is an event beyond the control of contractors and that any construction delays as a result should be regarded as beyond their control. Or, in other words, contractors should not be held liable for delays and missed deadlines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its related closures.
MCAC is also asking for the federal government to support the mechanical contracting sector by ensuring financial support for those construction firms affected by the closure of construction sites and any project delays as a result of the pandemic.

Ont. working from heights course given extra year to renew

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.