2008: Another Boom Year?

Don Procter

January 2008

Who says the construction boom in Toronto is ending? Over the first 10 months of 2007, the value of building permits issued in the city was nearly $11 billion—better even than the numbers posted in 2006. It is the sixth consecutive year that permits have totaled more than $10 billion in the city.

That is good news for the wall and ceiling industry, which expects the building trend will continue through 2008. As a result of a number of major projects that got under way in Toronto in 2007, the construction economy looks solid in the commercial sector. Three major Class A office towers are under construction downtown and numerous other ICI projects have popped up all over the city, says Hugh Laird, executive director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario.

As long as interest rates remain low, activity in the residential sector is also expected to remain strong, he adds. The hot residential market—particularly condominium development in downtown Toronto—continues to be unphased by the downturn in the residential industry in the United States, and Laird expects good times to continue through to December.

He’s a lot more optimistic than he was this time last year: "A year ago we assumed we would be 5 to 7 percent below last year (building activity), but it looks like 2007 will turn out to be record year.”

The final construction numbers for 2007 weren’t tallied by press time, but Laird projected an increase in work over 2006 by about 5 percent. The association’s members have experienced a construction boom for the past seven or eight years in the Greater Toronto Area.

After posting big numbers in Toronto in 2007, the EIFS industry also sees more of the same this year. John Garbin, president of the EIFS Council of Canada, says that major contractors and manufacturers tell him there is a "good backlog” of work from 2007. About 30 million feet of EIFS is installed in Canada every year. In the GTA, the EIFS market is strong in residential and commercial sectors.

Garbin says another reason to be optimistic about 2008 is that it marks the soft launch of the Quality Assurance Program in Ontario March 31. That’s when architects and specifiers will be able to specify QAP. It will be introduced in other Canadian provinces in the early summer. For an overview of the QAP, visit www.eifscouncil.org.

On another front, for the third year running, ISCA members have set and met safety standards that ensure them of rebates on their insurance premiums. The province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board issued $470,000 in rebates to members of ISCA’s Safety Group, which includes 37 member companies in the association.

Rebates are based on contractors’ meeting specific safety targets set in such areas as hazard recognition/assessment and accident prevention. Contractors are assessed by the WSIB on the number of lost-time injury days, type of accidents and their severity.

Michelle Holmes, WSIB safety consultant, says ISCA members did "phenomenally well” in two areas: As a group the companies had 49 percent less lost time accidents than the average over the three previous years; and, the length of time injured workers were off work was 30 percent less than the average over the previous three years.

If ISCA’s members maintain the solid safety record, they can expect to see insurance premium rebates by as much as $1 million at the end of 2008 because the insurance board is lifting the current rebate cap, adds Ron Johnson, deputy director of ISCA.

About the Author
Don Procter is free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.