While many sectors of the building industry have suffered through the worst year in more than 15–20 years, Canada’s EIFS industry has not been among the recession’s biggest victims. Certainly a number of EIFS contractors and manufacturers have struggled a little, but overall the industry has fared better than expected and its future looks bright.
According to the most recent stats from the EIFS Council of Canada, the EIFS volume of work across Canada hadn’t dropped by as much in 2009 as the council had forecast at the beginning of 2009. "We are down approximately 7 to 9 percent less than what we anticipated,” says John Garbin, president of the council. Ontario, the largest EIFS market, felt the biggest impact, with some downsizing at the contractor level. The council uses 2007–2008 as a comparator, a high-water mark period for the industry in Canada.
As for 2010, the council forecasts better times. Over the longer term, the outlook is even better, partly because EIFS fits so nicely into the requirements of the new Model National Energy Code.
"We’re eagerly anticipating the new energy code to make its way through the various building codes in Canada because it will drive even more architects and owners to our (EIFS) door,” points out Garbin.
Meanwhile, the council has been busy in 2009 with a number of initiatives that will help prepare the industry for significant market share gains anticipated over the next few years. Chalk that rosy forecast up to EIFS’s energy efficiency and other enviro-friendly merits.
To meet that rapid growth, the industry must continue to deliver and execute high-performance wall cladding standards, Garbin says. The new EIFS Quality Assurance Program Inc., set up in 2009, helps make that objective possible. The EQI, which outlines design, installation and inspection requirements, underwent a successful beta-test early last year at a 100-unit seniors’ residence in Gravenhurst, Ont. The design, installation and follow-up auditing procedures have been "first rate. It will be a good benchmark to showcase for other projects,” Garbin says.
Since last summer the EIFS Council has been working in earnest on the EQI registration and certification of manufacturers, contractors and their mechanics plus auditors. Garbin says by the spring there will be sufficient numbers of contractors and mechanics registered to tackle many of the new EQI projects tendered at that time.
To ensure that the building industry is familiar with the EQI, the council will continue to present a series of cross-Canada educational seminars on EQI. They address not just designers, but also general contractors because they are an integral cog in the success of the EQI, Garbin says. "The focus is getting both of those users to fully understand where this program and industry is headed.”
On another front, the council expects to complete a national standard for EIFS by late winter—in time for submission as a 2011 amendment to the 2010 National Building Code. The national EIFS standard (called ULC S-716) will include three parts: materials, installation and design. Even though the standard won’t be enforced under the National Building Code until the 2011 amendment, it will provide practical guidelines for designers and installers. Calling it a "major step forward,” Garbin says it may offer provincial code officials an opportunity to adopt the standards, possibly even prior to the implementation in the NBC.
2009 also brought the development of the council’s new EIFS Best Practice Guide. The guide will give architects and owners opportunities to go beyond the minimum design standards as laid out in building codes. The BPG is supported by a new National Master Specification, which will offer generic EQI specifications for architects and general contractors on EIFS projects.
It’s been a busy year for the EIFS Council, but its hard work looks like it is paying off.
Don Procter is a free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.