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An Overview of Current Alberta Above-grade Walls with Costing Information. presented by Randy Kiez on behalf of SAIT CHBA and PHBIA Builders’ Breakfast April 2012.

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An overview of current alberta above grade walls with costing information

An Overview of Current Alberta Above-grade Walls with Costing Information

presented by Randy Kiez on behalf of SAITCHBA and PHBIA Builders’ BreakfastApril 2012


SAIT Polytechnic - Green Building Technologies Costing Informationwas commissioned byAlberta Treasury Board and Enterprise to look at process and efficiencies for above-grade walls


The report includes

  • 1. A section on the Costing InformationBuilding Science of walls

  • 2. A selection of Wall Tear-Away sheets summarizing various wall / insulation assemblies

  • 3. Case Studies of [extensively experienced] companies focusing on their process(es)

  • 4. Costing Matrix that compares material costs and any savings that could be quantified through efficiencies

The report includes:




Building Science typical Alberta house was used

Walls create a comfortable living space by resisting the flow of heat, air and moisture [vapour or liquid].

Walls define the shape and aesthetic appeal of a home.

Walls are one component of a house but other influences such as geometry and air leakage also affect the overall energy efficiency.




Wall tear away sheets

A selection of industry experts participated in a ½ day information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

This information was compiled into ‘Tear-Away Sheets’ and the walls were rated based on the results.

Wall Tear-Away Sheets


The information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.four walls that the panel assessed were:

Wood frame and variations

Structural Insulated panels (SIPs)

Rigid Insulated Core (RIC)

Insulating Concrete Form (ICF)


  • The information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.five criteria were:

  • Buildability

  • Durability

  • Performance

  • Cost

  • Marketability


Conventional framing

Conventional Framing information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.


OVERVIEW information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • 2x6 or 2x4 wood stud and plate construction

  • Typically 16 or 24 on-centre spacing

  • Cavity can be filled with any type of insulation

  • Buildable on-site or in factory (including insulation)


BUILDABILITY (4 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Workforce familiar with the techniques

  • Flexible to accommodate a variety of style designs

  • Easy to modify


DURABILITY (1 pt) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Lifespan can be affected by assembly of moist materials

  • Can be affected by mechanical system pressurization

  • Exterior finish can severely affect drying ability


PERFORMANCE (1 pt) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Difficult wall to air seal

  • External insulation is a widely used technique to reduce air leakage and thermal bridging but may affect cladding choices

  • Maximum practical achievable insulation levels

  • Recommend window /door installation trade training


COST (4 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Relatively inexpensive to build

  • Site construction subject to weather damage, theft and vandalism

  • Extraordinary professional services generally not required due to wide spread usage and knowledge


MARKETABILITY (1 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Greatest customer demand because of low initial purchase cost

  • Hardest to achieve high energy performance therefore hardest to market as ‘ energy efficient’

  • Cost and common practice does not encourage change or innovation


Buildability 4 durability 1 performance 1 cost 4 marketability 1 total score 11

SCORE - information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.Conventional Framing

BUILDABILITY 4 DURABILITY 1PERFORMANCE 1COST 4MARKETABILITY 1TOTAL SCORE 11


Alternate Wood Framing information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.


OVERVIEW information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Thicker than conventional walls

  • Many types such as staggered stud and truss walls

  • Can be filled with different combinations and thicknesses of insulation for performance tuning

  • Designed to avoid thermal bridging and to accommodate high insulation R-values


BUILDABILITY (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Similar or identical to ‘conventional’ wall framing

  • More time to frame and insulate and heavier to lift

  • Staggered stud has widest usage and shares a heritage with current style apartment walls [8” considered by group easiest and most affordable] and can be factory built


DURABILITY (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Must apply good practice for air and vapour sealing

  • A thick wall may delay detection of water leaks

  • Thick wall can be used to advantage by setting back windows for rain control


PERFORMANCE (4 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Designed to minimize thermal bridging

  • Customizable to any thickness to accommodate high R-values

  • Some insulations can sag, compress or dislodge from the cavity compromising performance


COST (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Extra material costs include additional transport and handling fees

  • Increased labour to assemble and stand

  • May require engineering if outside the bounds of code practices


MARKETABILITY (2 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Increased comfort and reduced energy usage may counterbalance higher upfront costs

  • Could have wide appeal to buyers with environmental concerns especially if combined with bio-insulation materials

  • Reduced interior square footage can be offset with better interior design


Buildability 3 durability 3 performance 4 cost 3 marketability 2 total score 15

  • SCORE - information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.Alternate Wood Framing

BUILDABILITY 3 DURABILITY 3PERFORMANCE 4COST 3MARKETABILITY 2TOTAL SCORE 15


Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.


OVERVIEW information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Foam board or liquid foam sandwiched

  • between sheathing material

  • Held together by glue bonds between the foam and sheathing

  • Various sheathing materials available

  • Produced in a factory


OVERVIEW information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Two variations:

  • ‘Stressed skin’

  • Limited dimensional wood in the cavity

  • Large panels of up to wall size lifted by crane

  • No CCMC evaluations at time of report writing

  • ii. ‘Internal structural’

  • Dimensional wood in the cavity as per CCMC

  • Smaller panels which can be manhandled

  • Some CCMC evaluations at time of report writing


BUILDABILITY (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Can be stood quickly by trainable labour

  • Takes a commitment to understand product characteristics such as assembly at the connections points

  • Heavily dependant upon quality at the factory level


DURABILITY (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Requires conventional air sealing and product specific sealing techniques at the joints

  • Controlled thermal bridging reduces likelihood of condensation

  • Have a fifty year history of use and durability


PERFORMANCE (4 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Substantially reduced thermal bridging when compared to ‘conventional’ built walls

  • High potential for air leakage control

  • Monolithic core minimizes heat loss due to convection


COST (2 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Each install incurs engineering fees

  • Minimal theft due to uniqueness, size and just-in-time delivery

  • Depending on type must be craned into place


MARKETABILITY (2 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Good performance without compromising interior space

  • May face concerns that product is glue bonded and not mechanically bonded

  • Lower upfront cost


Buildability 3 durability 3 performance 4 cost 2 marketability 2 total score 14

  • SCORE - information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.Structural Insulated Panels

BUILDABILITY 3 DURABILITY 3PERFORMANCE 4COST 2MARKETABILITY 2TOTAL SCORE 14


Rigid Insulating Core panels (RIC) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.


OVERVIEW information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Load bearing framing members imbedded internally in a core of foam insulation

  • Minimized thermal bridging

  • Produced in a factory


OVERVIEW information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Two variations:

  • ‘Wood framed’

  • Fully code compliant wood framed assembly

  • Foam board insulating core used as a framing jig

  • Large panels of up to wall size lifted by crane

  • ii. ‘Steel framed’

  • Commercial grade structural galvanized steel studs of engineered gauge and spacing pushed into a foam insulating core

  • Can be easily manhandled


BUILDABILITY (4 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Can be stood quickly

  • Some RIC manufacturers may supply their own stand-up crews

  • Wood RIC suitable for volume builders


DURABILITY (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Requires conventional air sealing and product specific sealing techniques at the joints

  • Controlled thermal bridging reduces likelihood of condensation

  • Standing quickly avoids potential for weather damage


PERFORMANCE (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Reduced thermal bridging when compared to ‘conventional’ built walls

  • High potential for air leakage control

  • Monolithic core minimizes heat loss due to convection


COST (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Minimal theft due to uniqueness, size and just-in-time delivery

  • Requires extra cost of a crane to lift into place

  • Minimal on-site waste to manage


MARKETABILITY (2 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Reduced lock up times means quicker possession

  • Thermal performance better than ‘conventional’ walls

  • Wood RIC code compliant which may be more appealing to buyers than alternative walls


Buildability 4 durability 3 performance 3 cost 3 marketability 2 total score 15

  • SCORE - information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.Rigid Insulating Core panels

BUILDABILITY 4DURABILITY 3PERFORMANCE 3COST 3MARKETABILITY 2TOTAL SCORE 15


Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.


OVERVIEW information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Essentially a concrete wall that uses a cribbing system of manufactured foam forming (polystyrene blocks)

  • Intrinsic insulation and structural combination


BUILDABILITY (3 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Relatively simple but requires training and experience

  • Fully code compliant

  • Can be good choice in remote locations


DURABILITY (4 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Proper concrete mix and pour techniques are critical

  • Excellent fire and structural durability

  • Good moisture control but still requires proper detailing at window, doors and cantilevers


PERFORMANCE (4 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Substantially reduced thermal bridging when compared to ‘conventional’ built walls

  • High potential for air leakage control

  • Monolithic core minimizes heat loss due to convection


COST (1 pt) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Higher overall cost

  • Use in party walls may reduce conventional cribbing costs for this application

  • May require engineering stamp


MARKETABILITY (2 pts) information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.

  • Appealing to ‘peace of mind’ decisions

  • A conscious choice by purchasers for ICF

  • Highly durable and comfortable


Buildability 3 durability 4 performance 4 cost 1 marketability 2 total score 13

  • SCORE - information gathering session at SAIT and asked to share their knowledge of various wall systems based on five pre-established criteria.Insulating Concrete Forms

BUILDABILITY 3 DURABILITY 4PERFORMANCE 4COST 1MARKETABILITY 2TOTAL SCORE 13


Case studies wood frame

Framing by wood has a multitude of potential variations from site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

Other wall systems such as ICF have a natural systematic ‘built-in’ process.

Case Studies (wood frame)


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

  • Have done on-site prefabrication for 15 years province wide

  • Study subject in FPInnovations “Build Alberta – Frame the Future” comparing their method with conventional methods (video available on-line)

  • Systematic framing lends itself nicely to multi-family development


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

  • A people and process orientated system

  • Process: assembly line framing outdoors adjacent to the site

  • People: willing to train in their system choosing workers who can ‘hustle’


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

  • Equipment

  • Framing tables made of dimensional lumber

  • Standard carpentry tools

  • Land and building

  • Small plot adjacent to current site

  • No permanent buildings


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

  • Personnel

  • Mix of experienced and non-experienced workers

  • Start at framing tables and as workers gain experience buy into the system they move to the stand-up crews

  • Pay scale

  • $12 - $15 / hr pre-fabrication crew; $18 – $28 / hr stand-up crew; $16 – $30 / hr supervisors


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

  • Output

  • 12 – 22 sq ft of enclosed wall area / man hour / shift

  • 2 weeks for a crew of 8 to built and stand 19,000 sq ft apartment with floors

  • Efficiencies

  • 15% lumber savings (sheathing and 2x scraps reused)

  • 3 - 4 week savings in a multi-family development


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

Cut list marked on the plans

Stud cutting station


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

Framing table at ergonomic height

Partition walls


  • LTC Framers site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    On-site standup framing with efficiencies

Stacked walls ready for stand-up

Organized yard is safe and efficient


  • Giusti site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery. Wall Tech

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Have been building panelized walls for 7 years serving Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC and the Yukon

  • Factory in Calgary

  • Identified panelization as way to save time, labour and waste

  • Tailor to framers with a precisely made wall

  • Target multi-family but will do single family


  • Giusti site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery. Wall Tech

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Equipment

  • Specialized equipment from Intelligent Building Systems USA

  • $400,000 – 500,000 fully scalable

  • Good software is key to successful operation

  • Land and building

  • 4 acres for 19,000 sq ft building

  • Large yard for raw lumber and finished wall storage


  • Giusti site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery. Wall Tech

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Personnel

  • Semi-skilled on the machinery

  • Office staff include experienced framers who can troubleshoot; two designers and a manager

  • Substance abuse testing and safety training

  • Pay scale

  • $15.17 / hr factory floor workers


  • Giusti site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery. Wall Tech

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Output

  • 8 apartments per day (equivalent to 2 – 3 houses)

  • Efficiencies

  • Software controls precise cutting, purchasing lumber in correct sizes to reduce cutoffs, training staff in efficiencies, optimizing wood usage on design software

  • 72 apartments can be stood in 8 weeks


  • Giusti site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery. Wall Tech

    Partially automated framing factory

Stud cutting station

Framing table


  • Giusti site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery. Wall Tech

    Partially automated framing factory

Panel saw

Sheathing bridge


  • Giusti site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery. Wall Tech

    Partially automated framing factory

Waste from stud cutting saw

Raw and finished product in the yard


  • D and B Lumber site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Lumber yard manufacturing wall panels for over 4 years

  • Started panelization in response to builders who are anticipating trade shortages

  • Understand that framers need a product that they can use in confidence with ease and speed

  • Single and multi-family walls

  • Factory in Calgary


  • D and B Lumber site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Equipment

  • Specialized equipment from a variety of suppliers

  • $250,000 used - fully scalable

  • Design software

  • Land and building

  • 10,000 sq ft building

  • Large yard for raw lumber and finished wall storage


  • D and B Lumber site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Personnel

  • 7 – 8 semi-skilled on the machinery

  • 3 office staff directly support the factory operations

  • Pay scale

  • $18.00 / hr factory floor workers


  • D and B Lumber site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Partially automated framing factory

  • Output

  • 300 – 400 houses per year

  • Efficiencies

  • Mill direct purchasing of optimized wood sizes, pre-cut OSB, 6’ jack studs and 2” x 10” lintels in 6’, 8’ and 10’

  • Direct sourcing lumber and stockpiling when ‘on sale’

  • Training staff

  • Optimizing wood layout on in-house design software


  • D and B Lumber site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Partially automated framing factory

Stud cutting station

Framing table


  • D and B Lumber site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Partially automated framing factory

Cut sheathing ready for stitching

Sheathing bridge


  • D and B Lumber site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Partially automated framing factory

Corners and posts

Cutoff waste from one set of walls


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

  • Founded in 1977, as a home builder they build single / multi-family, estate, and both low and high rise condos

  • Feel that a competitive marketplace leads to better, more energy efficient and more affordable homes and opened their highly automated plant in Edmonton in 2011 to meet those goals

  • Build insulated wood frame with installed windows to ship to site for assembly


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

  • Assembly line fashion using a combination of automated machinery and manual labour

  • Net-zero orientated

  • Anticipate working with organizations to develop youth and future trades such as solar technicians

  • Edmonton factory open for tours


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

  • Equipment

  • European equipment

  • $7,000,000 new - fully scalable

  • Design software converts 2D CAD to CNC commands

  • Land and building

  • 90,000 sq ft building ($17,000,000)

  • 8 acre yard with space for lumber, window, wall and accessory storage


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

  • Personnel

  • 30 factory workers, trainable, medium skilled

  • 10 support staff and software specialists

  • Pay scale

  • $18.00 – 25.00 / hr factory floor workers


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

  • Output

  • 4 – 5 houses per day including stair cases, plumbing tree, partition walls, cantilevers and ornamental posts

  • 2.6 build cycles per year aiming for 4 cycles

  • Efficiencies

  • 4 – 7 hours to stand the walls onto the foundation including roof and partition walls

  • Cut total trips to build house from an average 480 to 180


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

High speed linear stud saw

Automatic drill for electrical wiring


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

Pneumatic stud lifter

Framing station


  • Landmark Group of Builders site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

    Highly automated wall and floor building factory

Spray foam booth

Installing windows / weather barrier


Costing matrixes

Solicited dozes of suppliers and installers for pricing. site framing in an assembly line manner to automated machinery.

For manufactured walls the cost was to the customer out the factory door.

Baselined performance for each wall type using HOT2000.

Normalized a select set of walls on cost per point of R-value against potential labour savings.

Costing Matrixes


To project potential savings as a result of process efficiencies theNAHB Cycle Time Reduction Worksheetwas used to ‘normalize’ the walls to a Cost / R-Value / Sq. Ft.


A Woodbridge report for the Calgary Region Economic Partnership says that (in the US) homebuilders are committed to adopting systems building in order to reduce labour costs and on-site waste as well as to achieve an edge over competitors in the industry .


Nahb cycle time reduction worksheet

NAHB Cycle Time Reduction Worksheet Partnership says that (in the US) homebuilders are committed to adopting systems building in order to reduce labour costs and on-site waste as well as to achieve an edge over competitors in the industry .


Nahb cycle time reduction worksheet pg 2

NAHB Cycle Time Reduction Worksheet (pg 2) Partnership says that (in the US) homebuilders are committed to adopting systems building in order to reduce labour costs and on-site waste as well as to achieve an edge over competitors in the industry .


NAHB Cycle Time Reduction Worksheet (pg 3) Partnership says that (in the US) homebuilders are committed to adopting systems building in order to reduce labour costs and on-site waste as well as to achieve an edge over competitors in the industry .


Nahb cycle time reduction worksheet pg 3

NAHB Cycle Time Reduction Worksheet (pg 3) Partnership says that (in the US) homebuilders are committed to adopting systems building in order to reduce labour costs and on-site waste as well as to achieve an edge over competitors in the industry .


Thank you to the following companies for their patience in answering our questions and providing numbers

Canecon – ICF and SIP constructor

D and B Lumber – factory panelization

Giusti – factory panelization

Insulspan – internal structural SIP manufacturer

MagWall – magnesium board SIP manufacturer

Omega 2000 – ICF cribber

Planet Panels – RIC manufacturer and assembler (wood frame)

Polycore – RIC manufacturer (steel frame)

SIPSTech – stressed skin SIP equipment manufacturer / SIP installer

Stackit – ICF builder

Techwood – factory panelization


Contacts answering our questions and providing numbers

David Silburn – SAIT Applied Research and Innovation Services

[email protected]

John Leurdyke – Alberta Treasury Board and Enterprise

[email protected]


Green building technologies applied research and innovation services
Green Building Technologies answering our questions and providing numbers Applied Research and Innovation Services

Advanced Envelope Assemblies

Net Zero/ Energy Positive Housing Design

High Performance Energy

Modeling

Architectural Ecology

Home Energy Management and Monitoring

Building Integrated Renewable Energy

GBT Product Commercialization


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