Volume 50, Issue 7 - July 2015

Barge Across the Border
What’s Happening and What’s Ahead For the Industry in Canada

by Nick St. Denis

he construction industry has been on a steady road to recovery in the United States since the economic downturn at the end of the last decade.

Canada, meanwhile, has also enjoyed a solid upward trend in growth within the market since 2010.

However, the Great White North has been subject to some unique developments—particularly in the glass and glazing industry—that set it apart from the United States.

The spike in multifamily construction since the start of the decade hasn’t let up, as the well-documented condominium boom, notably in the Toronto area, has helped the number of multifamily dwellings under construction increase by more than a third in the last few years alone.

According to analysis by Deutsche Bank Global Markets Research, multifamily construction continued at record highs from the end of 2014 through the start of 2015.

Meanwhile, nonresidential construction continues to rise modestly, with approximately $2 billion more invested in the nonresidential building sector in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same span in 2010.

The institutional segment in particular has been reliable over the past year, as investment in that area has increased for four consecutive quarters. It edged up 0.1 percent to $3.5 billion from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015.

Commercial makes up the largest share of construction in the nonresidential area, and it has also seen modest growth over the past few years despite two consecutive quarters of decline.

Common Ground

One major thing the Canadian industry has in common with the U.S. is a major shift in the labor market.

BuildForce Canada, an organization that works with the construction industry to provide information and resources to assist with its management of workforce requirements, recently released its “Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward” document, which highlights projections in the industry over the next decade.

According to its labor market information (LMI) system, which tracks measures for more than 30 trades and occupations, national growth in construction employment was 62,400 from 2011-2014, while gains across its 10-year scenario period (2015-2024) project a total of 81,000 jobs.

Looming retirements will add 250,000 hires in “replacement demand,” according to the report, which trumps demand for employment due to growth in construction.

“Meeting these demands from unemployment, moving the workforce across markets and provinces, and attracting Canada’s youth into construction will not be enough,” the summary reads. “An additional 100,000 new workers from outside construction—and likely outside of Canada—will be needed.”

While a shortage in labor may be on the way, the country is already facing another kind of shortage—and one the U.S. has been familiar with over the past year and a half—according to Bruce Butler, general manager of Hartung Glass Canada.

“The biggest challenge for us now is getting glass,” says Butler. “The glass shortage is our number one concern. Particularly getting it on time to meet commitments we’ve made to our customers.”

That obstacle, he says, is even greater in the Western part of the country, as the East enjoys the bulk of the population and has seen a more moderate increase in glass prices.
The construction industry has maintained a steady upward pace in Canada over the last half decade, and the airport sector has been very active. Edmonton, Alberta-based glazier Architectural Glass recently worked on a project at the Edmonton Regional Airport, where Hartung, AGC, PPG and ICD Coatings products were implemented.

In Exchange For…

Bruce Butler, general manager of Hartung Glass Canada, says the economy is good in Canada and that there’s no lack of work in the glass and construction industry.

However, he says the exchange rate has been a key challenge over the past year and has led to an approximate 25 percent increase in cost, in addition to a double-digit percent increase in glass prices.

“The exchange is inescapable,” says Butler, “because no one buys in Canadian dollars.”

Taking a LEED
Outside of the U.S., Canada has etched itself as a leader in the green building community, proven by its growing number of LEED-certified projects. The Canada Green Building Council got off to a strong start in 2015, as it certified 202 LEED projects through the first quarter of the year (January 1-April 30).

A Pass on Big Glass?

Canada is home to the company that makes some of the largest fabricated glass on the continent—Architectural Glass of North America (AGNORA). And AGNORA’s products are extremely popular with the Lower 48.

“AGNORA’s business model is based on providing superior customer service —fabricating both oversize and funky, unusual, challenging glass,” says Kevin Nash, sales and marketing, AGNORA. “Generally, the major U.S. urban markets have both appetite and budget to support their desire for impactful monumental large glass.

“I suspect that perhaps real estate development ‘math’ is different in the Toronto area than it is in a New York, Chicago, or L.A. Although the architect and developer in Toronto may want to make a bold jumbo glass statement, maybe the revenue model does not support their dream.”

Nash says AGNORA has “invested significant effort” in many potential opportunities in Toronto for jumbo glass. “Obviously we would love to provide and see our own oversize glass in our local markets,” he says. “However, the window dimensions are inevitably cut to a fraction of the sizes in the original design intent.” 

New CSA Standard to Put Glass on Guard
Building guard failures, including falling glass infill panels, have been an all-too-often occurrence over the past few years in Canada, particularly in the Toronto area. To address this, Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is developing a standard—A500 Building Guards.

After much back-and-forth, the standard is set to be put out to public review this summer. Paul Gulletson, project manager at the CSA Built Environment Group, says A500 should be approved and published by the end of 2015.

Some typical challenges in glass guard designs, Gulletson says, are issues with fasteners, connections to surrounding structures and connections to glass components.

Responsibilities for the new standard fall on designers and fabricators alike, as it includes considerations of materials and components, design requirements, deflection and geometry. Glass requirements include references to CGSB 12.20 and ASTM E1300 and apply to all types of glass.
Testing requirements include procedures, guard load, impact resistance, post -breakage retention, anchors and fasteners, as well as on-site and documentation.

Committee Still Working on Safety Glazing Standard

A new Canadian safety glazing standard draft that has been in the works since the end of 2013 is expected to be released for public review this fall.

The Canadian General Standards Board’s Committee on Glass reviewed the draft standard at a meeting in May 2015, approving technical requirements, according to Michele LaRose, Policy, Planning and Communications Branch at Public Works and Government Services Canada. LaRose says the board “is now ensuring the standard is written and formatted in accordance with National Standards of Canada requirements.”

Task groups established in the committee were assigned to the categories of laminated glazing, fully tempered glass, organically coated glazing and plastic glazing.

The committee has 32 members representing glass and window manufacturers and associations, engineering firms, architects, building associations, researchers and consultants, as well as government departments and agencies including PWGSC, Health Canada and the National Research Council.

The wired glass standard referenced under the Hazardous Products Act and the National Building Code of Canada was last updated in 1990.

Online Feature

USGlass assistant editor Nick St. Denis recently paid a visit to a local glass shop in Toronto that has been around for half a century. Today, Modernage glass is run by the son-in-law of one of the founders, who fled Communism in Croatia in the mid-20th century, along with his brother. Check out our profile of the company at USGlassmag.com.

the author

Nick St. Denis,
who grew up 20 miles from the Canadian border, is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine. He can be reached at nstdenis@glass.com.

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