high-performance capital of the world

5 Things We Learned from the High-Performance Capital of the World

  1. High-Performance is not complicated: By developing good processes, diligent planning, and buy-in from all stakeholders, it becomes really easy to build better. This type of approach has better quality control and is less reliant on the boots on the ground. In North America, we spend as little time/money/effort on design as possible (and when I say design, I mean building science and constructability). We then figure it out on-site during a build phase, which often lasts 10-14 months. What we saw in Europe was different – it’s normal to spend 2-3 times the amount of time/money/effort on design in order to get everything figured out and send the design off to a pre-fabrication facility that builds the floor, wall, and roof assemblies off-site. They then load the panels on flatbeds and deliver them to the site. Common on-site timelines are 2 weeks for site work, 1 week to erect/assemble the pre-fabricated building, and 2 months for trade partners to finish off the interior. 3-4 months on site is all it takes to build a home.
  2. Continuous learning and innovation have to be part of the regular routine: At Frontiers we have been doing this for a long time. All too often do we see local builders and tradespeople that are doing things the way they did them 30-40 years ago. Sure ‘tried and true’ is a thing… However, the world around us is changing with updated building codes, performance targets, new mechanical systems, new insulation, and air-tightness products, and this requires adaptation. 
  3. Collaboration and industry transparency is the ticket: To move the needle, and build better homes (and more homes), we have to come together as an industry and collaborate. It’s human nature to be competitive, but let’s harness that competitive nature by acting as a team that wants to overcome the macro challenges, as opposed to thinking that we are in some sort of rat race against each other. 
  4. Defining “quality”: Ask any builder, contractor, or tradesperson about their services, and you will surely get a list of two or three terms that often include quality, professionalism, communication, trust, and hard work. Focusing on “quality” – what does that mean? Straight and plumb walls? Granite countertops? Floating staircases? … This term gets very subjective, very quickly. At Frontiers, we define “quality” as resilience and performance. How long will the building last before needing substantial work? At what level of energy performance, comfort, and health is the building providing the occupants? This seems to be more in alignment with the European approach that we saw. In North America, we seem to have gotten a bit carried away with maximizing the size of the house and maximizing the luxury finishes we put in it. 
  5. Our industry is still young: I very much had the perception that I was looking into a crystal ball of the future while in Europe. This makes a lot of sense – in general, these countries have had centuries to figure out how to design cities, neighborhoods, and homes. Of course, they have not figured it all out, but it seems as though they are a little further along in the journey than North America. Narrowing the view a little bit closer to home, we do have areas in North America that are emerging as leaders. Take BC for example: Being proactive with a stepped building code and embracing a niche industry of Passive House within the Vancouver area. If Europe is 10-20 years ahead of us, then BC might be 5-10. This gives me great encouragement and comfort in knowing that there is a roadmap for us in Ontario to take cues from. Let’s not sit back and rely on ‘how it’s been done for the last 30 years’, but take cues from those who are blazing the path, and inject lots of innovation of our own.

Contact us today to get started on your next High Performance project.