Everybody knows this is a bad-news year for many companies and the industries they represent, but one building sector that seems as confidently prepared as any for the downturn is Canada’s EIFS industry.
The EIFS Council of Canada expects a year of "flat growth” but its president, John Garbin, doesn’t see a significant slide in business for his members. "We think that whatever downturn occurs will be more than met by our ability to grow market share,” Garbin says. The council president and others at the organization peg the growth in exterior insulation and finish systems partly to the product’s energy efficiency and its ability to shed moisture.
But that doesn’t mean the council plans to sit on its collective duff in 2009 and wait for business to roll in. The group has big plans, including three major initiatives to strengthen its position in the building industry. One of those is the implementation early this spring of a five-year strategic plan. That’s a new move for the council, which typically has a one- or two-year plan at most.
The idea is to examine the way the council operates from the inside out. "There are no Sacred Cows,” Garbin says, noting that the "look and feel” of the group over the next 10 or 20 years will be established from the five-year plan. The timing couldn’t be better, he says: "With the green movement spreading, you couldn’t find a better time in the last 40 years for the EIFS industry to be positioned for a big step.”
A second initiative will be the roll-out of the Council’s Quality Assurance Program, an initiative that’s been on the books for years. The group has been "extremely cautious” bringing the QAP to market and is currently tweaking it through a "Beta-project” (trial job) that will be completed soon.
Garbin says the EIFS Council has been slow to bring the QAP to market for a number of reasons. There is a lot at stake, including making sure that all the groups with a vested interest are on board. That includes insurers for one, and architects’ associations for another. "We want full endorsement from all of those organizations and others so we don’t receive a negative backlash,” he says.
Another key initiative at the council is the development of a broad range of national standards for EIFS, including an "industry-driven” best practices guide and the insertion of EIFS standards in the National Building Code of Canada. The group is finalizing the NBC S-716 standard for EIFS with hopes it will be published (at least in part) in the National Building Code’s 2010 edition or the amended version in 2011. The standard will be broken down into three parts: installation, materials and design.
Garbin adds that 2009 will also be an important year in training and education because the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario’s newly expanded training center in suburban Toronto has class space for EIFS workers.
"Labor will be a continued part of our growth story.” Garbin says, "and we need ensure that the pipeline is filled with new candidates. We are really encouraged by what they (ISCA) are doing.”
ISCA’s new 27,000 square-foot facility, adjacent to the association’s three-year-old, 56,000 square-foot training center, has the capacity to train several hundred students annually. Along with emphasis on EIFS training, it offers hazardous materials training, such as asbestos and mold abatement.
Don Procter is a free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.