EIFS Council Bullish on Times

Don Procter

May 2009

The once-smug faces of Toronto’s business elite have turned sour. The days when they gathered the media to tell tales of how America’s recession wouldn’t sink deep into the province—long considered the "economic engine” of Canada—are over. With media reports spelling deep troubles for GM and Chrysler plants in Ontario, to news of the end of the condo construction boom in Toronto, there isn’t much good news anywhere.

But in suburban Toronto John Garbin, president of the EIFS Council of Canada, is feeling bullish about his industry’s future. With the council poised to launch its Quality Assurance Program—slated to be the first for any building cladding in North America—he has reason to feel confident. The QAP will be rolled out in Ontario this summer, with plans to follow in other provinces in the fall. The council will run the program under the trademark EIFS Quality Assurance Program Inc. (EQI).

Even before that happens, however, a "beta-type test” is being done at a seniors’ residence under construction in Gravenhurst, Ont. Many elements of the EQI are being incorporated into the four-story, 100-unit complex that will feature about 17,000 square feet of exterior insulation and finish system. To ensure the elements the architect incorporated into the specs are fulfilled during EIFS installation, it will be under the watchful eye of the EIFS Council.

The project is by Kitchener-based Robert J. Dyck Architect & Engineer Incorporated. The architect has designed about 60 retirement complexes (many with EIFS) in Southern and Eastern Ontario.

Robert Dyck has been quick to take an interest in the program because it lays out a controlled process to ensure consistent and proper design and installation. That gives him confidence that a project’s contractor (regardless of where the job is in Canada) is qualified to complete the project to the EQI’s stringent specifications.

The EQI will make life easier for architects largely because of its design, installation and inspection requirements. Furthermore, only contractors certified under the program will be able to bid EQI contracts.

The EIFS must be designed in accordance with the EQI’s design specifications. At the tendering stage the program assists owners, architects and the general contractors in prequalifying certified contractors to suit the scope of the project. During installation an EQI auditor will inspect the EIFS regularly to ensure it complies with predetermined requirements, Garbin says.

The council anticipates that eventually all or most of the EIFS jobs in Canada will be certified under EQI, and those that are not will, at the very least, be guided by the program’s philosophy and expectations. The mandate is to get all EIFS manufacturers, contractors and industry stakeholders aligned, Garbin explains.

The QAP gives the EIFS Council additional strength going into the tough economic times. "With the stars being in alignment for EIFS in terms of current building science trends, we find ourselves in an excellent position to increase our market share, even though the overall construction market is dropping,” he points out.

More good news, Garbin suggests, is that not only will the EQI raise the bar for EIFS, it will impact competitive cladding materials. "Owners and architects will take note of our EQI when they are using other cladding materials and begin to view EQI as a benchmark.”

A number of manufacturers operating on both sides of U.S.–Canada border support the EQI, he says, adding at various industry-related speaking engagements he’s attended in the United States. Contractors and suppliers have shown a strong interest in it. Times ahead, indeed, look good for the EIFS industry.

Don Procter is a free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.