Panelized building envelope system claims to achieve Net Zero Ready energy savings at reduced carbon cost

Ontario Construction News staff writer

A Kingston-based company is finding a market for a panelized building envelope system that it says makes it easier for residential builders to achieve Net-Zero Ready energy consumption efficiency standards at competitive construction costs.

Representatives of 15-employee Feris BuildTech outlined their Harmonic Advanced Building Envelope Technology system at a Construction Specifications Ottawa Chapter event on Oct. 26.

The company manufacturers pre-fabricated panels containing Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) insulation within a light steel framework. The panels can be custom-designed to various thicknesses and sizes, and economically shipped to the job site for assembly.

Speaking to about 20 people at the gathering, Charlie van Waarden says the system is “sustainable, lightweight, durable, quick to install and precision-manufactured to leave less waste.”

“The building industry at the moment is mostly stick frame and fibreglass (insulation) buildings, with the expectation that we’ll meet NetZero by 2030,” he said. “The potential problem with that is that we won’t be able to sustainably meet these new high performance standards with current building standards.”

Charlie van Waarden speaking with the CSC Ottawa audience

But is the Net Zero van Waarden describing really “net zero” from a greenhouse gas/carbon cost perspective?

The answer to that question is complicated, acknowledged company president Scott McCready.

Scott McCready. with a demonstration model
Scott McCready. with a demonstration model

Early data from a soon to be published Life Cycle Assessment study of a Harmonic building project in Norther Ontario suggests that the “carbon cost” in producing steel frame and EPS structures is less than conventional wood frame buildings, he said in a statement, correcting earlier remarks during a question-and-answer session at the meeting that the life-cycle payback might require upwards of 50 years in other circumstances.

Potential savings may vary depending on the building type, climate zone, methods of transportation, construction speed and efficiency, waste reduction, and most importantly, in the lifecycle energy cost of the highly durable buildings developed with the system.

The system becomes increasingly competitive for both builders and homeowners as building code requirements become more stringent and the 2030 Net Zero deadline approaches, where the net energy consumption of a residential structure must be zero.

Despite inflationary pressures – and the fact the business started manufacturing in February, 2020 – just before the COVID-19 pandemic started causing severe economic disruptions – McCready says the Harmonic system is becoming increasingly competitive at an average building cost of about $75 per square foot installed.

The system works well for homes and multifamily buildings up to three stories tall, and if it is incorporated within other systems, can be effective for larger buildings as well. Although Feris Build Tech is focusing on the residential market, the technology can be applied for commercial and other non-residential buildings as well, McCready said.


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