Last week’s Construction Tech featured a presentation by Jeff Langford of JDL Homes Vancouver, an award-winning full-service design/build firm. Jeff’s talk focused on a project in Burnaby, BC, where the owners wanted a house with really good bones and a modest interior that was durable enough to survive life with several small children. This allowed them to reduce costs on finishes and to focus instead on building an extremely efficient, but relatively straightforward box that utilized SIPs [structurally insulated panels] by West Eco where possible and an ICF [insulated concrete form] foundation by Nudura with bag footing. As Jeff noted, some of the benefits of using an ICF include:
Thermally broken foundation
No stripping of forms
Minimal lumber requirements
Ease of rebar placement
1x4 pour strips
Concrete is a secondary air barrier
Meanwhile, the benefits of using SIPs are that they are extremely airtight, they are lightweight, and the entire floor shows up at the same time. This can mean very quick construction. As Jeff mentioned, the SIPs that made up the roof were all lifted by crane and screwed into place within a single day.
Ultimately, the home achieved a Level 5 on the BC Step Code. Within the Step Code, Level 5 is the highest level of energy efficiency for new construction and falls just shy of the Passive House standard. What’s so unique in this case is that Jeff and his team had not planned on building to this level. The team had wanted to build with high-performance materials to a Level 3 but discovered that their design was exceeding expectations midway through the project. When they offered to make a few upgrades to enhance the performance, the owners were more than happy to comply.
In most cases these were seemingly minor improvements with respect to budget, but had a significant impact on performance. For example, the cost of changing from double pane to triple pane windows was less than $2,000. Given that their initial budgetary goal was set at around $300/ft2 (for a project total of over $800,000), this seemed like a no-brainer.
The takeaway here is that once you take a solid design and use high-performance materials, the additional steps needed to go from Step 3 to Step 5, or even to Passive House, are not that extreme.
To watch Jeff’s full presentation: