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Where Food and Culture Meet

May 5, 2022

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Western Food Processor magazine.

Where Food and Culture Meet: Prairie Research Kitchen at RRC Polytech

Canada celebrates cultural diversity in a number of ways — especially through food. Manitoba is one of the leading provinces for cultural and food diversity, an apt location for the Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK) at RRC Polytech’s downtown campus at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute.

From 2018 to 2020, immigration to Manitoba has primarily been made up of people from Africa, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions, accounting for between 80‐85 per cent of immigrants each year, according to data from the Province of Manitoba.

“Our diverse population is reflected in the new products and restaurants available here,” says Mavis McRae, director of PRK. “We are lucky to be a resource for bringing those ideas to market.”

Food processing businesses contribute to the diversity of food options available to Manitobans. Often, members of visible minorities seek foods from their own culture for ‘new’ product ideas and many such foods are either not available or only at a price premium.

“Our team works well with new product ideas and ingredients,” says McRae. “We’ve worked with over 70 companies from Manitoba to B.C. and have generated over 120 product ideas. Many of these have roots in global cuisine.”

PRK infuses their myriad of services with a foodservice perspective, serving clients seeking to adapt a recipe for many needs — like reaching a broader population or for larger scale production. One of three Technology Access Centres at RRC Polytech, they are funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

“We work with many new companies who look to their own cultures for food product ideas,” says Jeff Fidyk, business development specialist, Manitoba Agriculture. “PRK’s services offer timely, practical solutions to help these companies bring their products to grocery and foodservice markets.”

Their modern facility offers a bevy of research services from rapid prototyping and ingredient applications to consumer research trials and customized training with flexibility to meet any companies’ innovation needs. They also work with companies to identify research focused funding resources for eligible organizations.

The diversity of companies is not where equity, diversification and inclusion ends for PRK. The college is committed to building strong relationships with various communities in Manitoba and fostering reconciliation between Indigenous and non‐Indigenous Peoples.

“Since inception we have recognized the connection between culture and food,” says McRae. “We have built a diverse team through staff, instructors and students. We are fortunate to be in an environment that recognizes the benefits of providing diversity education. We are committed to our responsibilities toward Truth and Reconciliation actions.”

Staff at PRK have completed the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation course, developed by Reconciliation Education, offered in partnership with RRC Polytech and First Nations University of Canada, as well as several courses related to respectful workplace, anti-racism and gender diversity. The result is a talented group of food specialists backed by a plethora of expertise committed to bringing the best of all cultures to market.

RRC Polytech is making plant-based impacts across the country, from the Prairies to Big Mountains

April 22, 2022

Pictured from left to right: Bill Greuel, CEO of Protein Industries Canada, Hailey Jefferies, President and Co-Founder of Prairie Fava, Parm Bains, MP for Steveston Richmond East, Jasmine Byrne and Kimberly Chamberland, President and CEO of Big Mountain Foods, and Mavis McRae, Director of RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen

A new high-protein, plant-based food product will soon be available to Canadians, thanks in large part to RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen and Protein Industries Canada (PIC).

On April 21, PIC announced a major investment that will enable Big Mountain Foods, a Vancouver-based innovator of plant-based consumer packaged goods, and Prairie Fava, the leading Canadian grower and ingredient supplier of fava beans, based in Glenboro, Manitoba, to bring more fava-based consumer products, including fava tofu, to market. The Prairie Research Kitchen has worked with both companies as a product development partner.

“We are thrilled to have played a part in the development of this exciting new project. This is a perfect example of how the Prairie Research Kitchen team can lend our expertise in food sciences and culinary arts, as well as our experience in pulse products, to work with companies to develop new products for consumers,” says Mavis McRae, Director, Prairie Research Kitchen.

The Prairie Research Kitchen has partnered with Prairie Fava since 2016, starting with research on fava flour, a protein rich gluten-free flour that can be used in baking and conventional recipes. In 2019, the Prairie Research Kitchen began collaboration with several research and industry partners to develop value-added platform technologies using Manitoba-grown plant proteins. This led to the base knowledge of how various protein sources function in a tofu platform, as well as showcased value-added applications for the co-products of tofu production. Prairie Fava was an industrial partner in this project, as well as an ingredient supplier.

“The Prairie Research Kitchen has been instrumental in our product development since day one,” says Hailey Jefferies, President and Co-Founder of Prairie Fava. “The Prairie Research Kitchen team brings a unique blend of skills and creativity to applied research. Their input has expedited our product development in the early days when we were investigating the use of fava flour and provided us with valuable information as we grew the company. We appreciate the team’s support, responsiveness and advice over the years.”

The Prairie Research Kitchen started working with Big Mountain Foods in 2020, initially conducting product and process validation work on a new process the company was trying to replicate. This grew into an ongoing partnership, and the Prairie Research Kitchen team became Big Mountain Foods’s product development partner. This work established the groundwork for a new product development project for Big Mountain to coincide with the investment the company was making into tofu manufacturing capabilities.

“The technical knowledge provided by the Prairie Research Kitchen team was crucial to our product development,” says Jasmine Byrne, President of Big Mountain Foods. “From many refinement trials to on-site troubleshooting, their expertise helped guide us to achieve the results we’d been looking for.”

Tofu production

Big Mountain Foods will produce the fava bean tofu at the world’s first allergen-free tofu factory. The company aims to produce 15 million units a year.

The product is anticipated to hit grocery shelves in Manitoba next month.

Prairie Research Kitchen plays key role in development of soon-to-be-commercialized non-allergen tofu product

April 21, 2022

Today, Protein Industries Canada announced a major project that enables Big Mountain Foods, a Vancouver-based innovator of plant-based consumer packaged goods, and Prairie Fava, the leading Canadian grower and ingredient supplier of fava beans, based in Glenboro, Manitoba, to bring more fava-based consumer products, including fava tofu, to market. The Prairie Research Kitchen has worked with both companies as a product development partner.

Prairie Fava and Big Mountain Foods are joining forces to create a new line of fava-based food products, such as non-allergen tofu. This partnership will result in more healthy food options for Canadians produced in a next-generation manufacturing facility purposely designed to meet and exceed sustainability requirements.

Read more on Protein Industries Canada’s website.

Applied learning in action: ACE Project Space students work to innovate visual care

March 31, 2022

Our eyes are the primary way we see the world and navigate daily life. They also are an important means to diagnosing unseen neurological changes, due to injury (concussion), stroke, or other neurological disorders.

Students from RRC Polytech’s ACE Project Space are at the cutting-edge of innovative technology development with researchers at Neuroptek, a new start-up headed by Drs. Neda Anssari and Behzad Mansouri.

“The Neuroptek project has been the backbone of my entire program,” said Navdeep Kaur Sran, student team lead. “It has given me firsthand experience at how to integrate and apply all the skills I’ve learned throughout my courses.”

The researchers’ vision was sparked by their experiences delivering eye exams to children in rural areas of Ontario several years ago. Anssari is a neurologist and concussion subspecialist, Mansouri is a neuro-ophthalmologist and neuroscientist.

“The team had to pack up equipment and travel for hours in order for us to get to the remote area,” said Anssari. “It’s very difficult to reach some remote areas with all the equipment. Add to that the Canadian winter weather challenges, we saw the need for a more sustainable solution.”

Anssari expanded on the importance of access for children. Refractive errors are very common in children and play a significant role in their literacy, especially in preschool ages, kindergarten and elementary levels.

Their new technology is called EyeMirage. It realizes their vision to put eye care in the hands of the public, making it available virtually via an easily downloadable app. Additional versions of the app are available for use in clinical settings and by elite athletes and training programs.

“I’ve been working in the field of concussion for a few years now. The major challenge that I see happening in our day-to-day practice is that we do not have a readily available objective measure to diagnose concussion and early diagnosis is important,” said Anssari.

RRC Polytech students were on the ground floor over the course of two terms, working with the two researchers and Samantha Phrakonkham, Project Manager for Neuroptek.

Pictured from the back row from left to right is Naidong Zhang (RRC dev), Justin Horton (RRC dev), Kuldeep Kaur Sandhu (RRC Information Security), Biniyam M Mezgebo (Neuroptek AI dev), Daniel Leclaire (Neuroptek dev). Pictured in the front row from left to right is Samantha Phrakonkham (Neuroptek Project Manager), Dr. Neda Anssari (Neuroptek, CEO), Dr. Behzad Mansouri (Neuroptek, COO), and Arsalan Alizadeh (Neuroptek, CMO).

“Working with the RRC Polytech students has been very exciting and rewarding,” said Phrakonkham.

Initially, in spring and summer 2021, the first team of five students were tasked with developing an app to perform eye examinations.

“This wasn’t an easy task, given that none of the students had any mobile application development experience, which means they had to build this app from scratch. An experience that the majority of students that graduate from a postsecondary program would not have.”

For the fall 2021 term, a new four-student team have focussed on refining those eye examination tests to ensure that they meet the criteria for Clinical Standards.

“Currently, the students are making headway, but they do have a long road ahead of them, since most of the work is to improve the functionality of the app,” added Phrakonkham. “The most noticeable difference between this term and the last is our focus on quality control and engineering practices, in order to better prepare the students for the workforce.”

This synergistic partnership with RRC Polytech brings Neuroptek closer to their mission, while providing valuable industry experience for the students.

Phrakonkham noted, “Students have hands-on experiences with processes and tools they are likely to encounter in industry. They have had to move out of their comfort zone, adapt to the changes that might arise and take on duties that are not part of their existing skill set.”

Their days are structured to reflect the standard workflow of industry, like daily stand ups, road mapping, sprints, one-on-ones and brainstorming sessions.

“They gain practical experience using common tools, adopting common practices in the use of those tools, while providing them an agile work environment similar to agile software development processes in the industries they will seek employment with, post-graduation.”

RRC Polytech leading the charge on zero-emission vehicle awareness project

March 2, 2022

RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre (VTEC) will continue to lead the charge on the shift to zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), thanks to support from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

The federal government, through NRCan recently announced a $225,000 grant for Enhancing Workplace Charging across Canada’s Prairie Region through Emphasizing Strategies for Cost-Effective Adaptation of Charging Infrastructure (Enhancing Workplace Charging), an initiative RRC Polytech will lead alongside partners Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech). This grant was provided along with funding for 22 organizations across Canada to undertake ZEV awareness projects.

Through this partnership, the College is extending its reach from Manitoba to throughout the Prairies to build public awareness of charging options for electric vehicles (EVs).

“Our VTEC team at the College is excited to build on the momentum of EV projects we’ve completed over the last decade. This initiative is particularly important because it addresses a major challenge of making the shift to EVs on the individual level, and how organizations can support charging infrastructure for the general public,” says Jojo Delos Reyes, Research Program Manager, VTEC.

The overall aim of the collaborative initiative is to address one of the most significant barriers to EV adoption, “range anxiety” due to lack of access to charging infrastructure. RRC Polytech and project partners have identified that the Prairie region presents a major opportunity to implement charging stations to meet workplace charging needs. Throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, there are numerous existing plug-in-points (nearly 500,000 in Manitoba alone) due to the cold climate, which can be adapted in a cost-effective manner for Level 1 charging.

To support EV adoption, RRC Polytech’s VTEC team, NAIT and Sask Polytech will leverage collective expertise to research and distribute informational material to build awareness of charging options and how to adapt current infrastructure for Level 1 workplace charging.

RRC Polytech is a founding member of Accelerate and member of Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2), and the Enhancing Workplace Charging project goals directly align with the mandates of these alliances to support a greener future, highlighting the College’s commitment to sustainability.

In addition, the project will help build a future workforce trained for clean-tech jobs, through student participation in applied learning. RRC Polytech researchers, technicians, and students will also help build the College’s capabilities for new zero-emission technology initiatives.

RRC Polytech remains on the leading-edge of the drive to zero-emission vehicles, growing the province as a hub for EV innovation and adoption. To learn more about the College’s past vehicle technology projects, visit rrc.ca/vtec

RRC Polytech to participate in virtual meetings with Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery

February 10, 2022

RRC Polytech is pleased to participate in virtual meetings being led by the Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) with federal parliamentarians on February 10, 14 and 15, 2022.

C2R2 members will be meeting with federal parliamentarians to ensure they understand that Canada’s colleges, cégeps, institutions, and polytechnics play a critical role in preparing workers for a changing economy. C2R2 committed to working with the government and parliamentarians of all political stripes to ensure workers are prepared for the employment opportunities that are emerging in every region of the country, and that they fully benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy.

C2R2 members are working to ensure that its members are at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon future by:

  • Rapidly implementing and scaling curriculum initiatives focused on training workers for a resilient recovery to meet federal targets
  • Demonstrating new and existing research expertise and facilities to innovate technology, techniques and products to drive the low-carbon transition and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Utilizing the C2R2 pan-Canadian network to collaborate and expand the reach of training and research abilities to better support women, underrepresented populations, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples

C2R2 is a coalition of highly aligned institutions from across Canada with an established commitment to sustainability, that have come together as a driving force, providing the skills required to transition to a clean economy in Canada.

RRC Polytech is committed to C2R2 and has embedded its priorities into a number of ongoing projects, including:

  • Energy Advisor micro-credential – developed in partnership between RRC Polytech (BETAC) and the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association (MEIA) to meet the need for Energy Advisors (EAs) to help deliver the one million EnerGuide rating services for eligible homes in Canada, as per the federal government’s Greener Homes initiative.
  • Diagnostic Support Worker (DSW) program works in partnership with Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc. to deliver a suite of micro-credentials to enhance the accessibility to health care services for remote communities. Focused in community, students are provided with the opportunity to learn and practice clinical skills close to home. The program works with Indigenous Link to find candidates that wish to pursue careers in nursing stations within their own communities. The program allows students to add the skills their nursing station and its equipment requires.  
  • EV Tundra Buggy prototype – RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology and Energy Centre helped support the validation of converting diesel-powered Buggies to battery electric. Frontiers North Adventures launched the first EV Tundra Buggy in November 2021, with the goal of converting its fleet of 12 Buggies by 20230. It’s estimated that converting the entire fleet to battery electric will reduce GHGs by 3600 tonnes over the course of 25 years. The conversion will also open up opportunities for new clean tech jobs.

For more information about the virtual meetings visit: https://resilientcolleges.ca/

Industry Training Opportunity: 5-Axis CNC Machining Programming and Operation

January 28, 2022

RRC Polytech’s Technology Access Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing (TACAM), is offering a new industry training opportunity. This course is designed for individuals working as CNC machinists. It will provide participants with the knowledge and skills required to setup and operate 5-axis milling machines as well as 3+2 and simultaneous programming. Participants will learn to use tool centre control point, dynamic work offset and cutting angles, and be able to independently set up and run a 5-axis CNC machining project.

Training Details

Available Dates*:

  • May 3 – May 21, 2022
  • Sept 6 – Sept 24, 2022

*Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays (4:00 – 8:00 p.m.) and Saturdays (8:00 a.m. – 4:00 pm)

Venue: RRC Polytech’s Smart Factory – 2055 Notre Dame Avenue, Winnipeg

Class Size: 4 – 6 participants

Total Hours: 40

Price: $2,500 CAD + GST per participant

Registration: Please contact Allan Pomanski – apomanski@rrc.ca

Cancellation policy: Notice of withdrawal from the course must be given at least seven days before the course start date to get a refund.

TACAM supports the aerospace and manufacturing sectors by providing access to RRC Polytech’s technological assets, specialized facilities and equipment and subject-matter expertise.

Industry benefits through applied research, support for product development, technology evaluation and demonstration, technical support, knowledge and technology transfer and specialized training.

To learn more about starting a project with TACAM, visit https://www.rrc.ca/tacam/how-to-get-involved/

Industry Training Opportunity: Project Management for Technology Innovation

January 28, 2022

Project Management for Technology Innovation is a course that is primarily designed to introduce managers, engineers, technical leads, skilled personnel, professionals, and other industry participants to project management best practices within organizations implementing technologies as part of their improvement strategies. The course adapts the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) as part of the best practices, making it useful for participants who may want to further build on their knowledge to pursue PMI certification.

This course runs through the tools and techniques required for project planning, executive and client engagements, cost and schedule control, risk management, and more. The course will introduce participants to common organizational structures, the project players, and the nature of various technology projects. The course ends with an introduction to the skills required for managing projects within an Industry 4.0 system and other areas of emerging technologies.

Training Details

Available Dates*:

  • May 24 – June 9, 2022
  • Sept 6 – Sept 22, 2022

*Classes will be held on Microsoft Teams on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays (4:00 – 8:00 p.m.)

Class Size: 10 – 15 participants

Total Hours: 36

Price: $675 CAD + GST per participant

Registration: Please contact Allan Pomanski – apomanski@rrc.ca

Cancellation policy: Notice of withdrawal from the course must be given at least seven days before the course start date to get a refund.

TACAM supports the aerospace and manufacturing sectors by providing access to RRC Polytech’s technological assets, specialized facilities and equipment and subject-matter expertise.

Industry benefits through applied research, support for product development, technology evaluation and demonstration, technical support, knowledge and technology transfer and specialized training.

To learn more about starting a project with TACAM, visit https://www.rrc.ca/tacam/how-to-get-involved/

The Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference: Driving Innovation in Manitoba

January 21, 2022

In 2019, RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre (VTEC) hosted the inaugural Vehicle Technology Conference. This past December 7 and 8, 2021, VTEC collaborated with industry partner, Vehicle Technology Centre Inc. (VTC), to host the Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference at the Victoria Inn & Convention Centre, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The conference showcased heavy vehicle and tech expertise in the province and aimed to connect key industry players and academic institutions. The overarching goal of the conference is to support Manitoba’s position as a hub for emerging vehicle technology and innovation, through creating new connections and cross collaborations.

“Manitoba is home to a unique concentration of heavy vehicle and equipment manufacturers. We are home to North America’s largest city and highway bus manufacturer, Canada’s only four-wheel drive tractor manufacturer, the country’s largest manufacturers of fire trucks, agricultural equipment, and motorhomes. The province also has a host of businesses manufacturing truck trailers, airport runway cleaning equipment, electric municipal vehicles as well as a supply and academic community that supports our growth,” said Ron Vanderwees, President of VTC, a non-for-profit organization that helps accelerate growth and technology adoption of the local heavy vehicle and equipment cluster.

“Many of us are on a similar technology path and the Conference is a platform to informally share knowledge or formally collaborate to help our cluster stay ahead of the curve and be leaders amongst world-wide competition.”

“RRC Polytech aims to drive growth in Manitoba’s heavy vehicle and equipment cluster by working alongside industry partners to solve real-world challenges. Through applied research projects, we continue to build our capabilities with zero-emission vehicle technology and provide invaluable work-integrated experience for our students, the next generation of innovators,” said Jojo Delos Reyes, Research Program Manager, VTEC.

Day one of the Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference. Pictured on stage: Ron Vanderwees of VTC.

Guests joined the hybrid event in person and virtually through Zoom for forward-thinking sessions from local subject matter experts and presenters joining from across North America. The conference gave a look into “what’s next” in the industry and focused on top-of-mind areas, including hydrogen fuel cell technology, smart, connected and autonomous vehicles, augmented reality to support production, and much more.

Paul Soubry, President and CEO of NFI Group gave the keynote presentation, “Maintaining Product Segment Leadership in Markets with Rapidly Evolving Technology,” followed by a fireside chat with RRC Polytech President and CEO, Fred Meier.

On the second day of the conference, John Gunter, President and CEO, and Tye Noble, Lead Engineer, of Frontiers North Adventures, shared their experiences from the Electric Vehicle (EV) Tundra Buggy prototype, a collaborative electrification project with VTC, VTEC and support from the Government of Manitoba’s Conservation and Climate Fund.

Select presentations from the conference are available to view on vtci.ca under the “Webinars & Technical Papers” section.

The Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference was made possible thanks to the support of our sponsors:

Save the date: The Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference will be returning live from Winnipeg, Manitoba in Fall/Winter 2023. Dates to be announced in early 2023.

For enquiries about the 2023 conference or how your organization can participate, please contact VTEC or VTCI for more information.

Keeping it tight: BETAC is ready to meet the growing need for building air tightness testing

January 6, 2022

Red River College Polytechnic’s (RRC Polytech) Building Efficiency Technology Access Centre (BETAC) is providing a breath of fresh air these days. Using high-powered fans and specialized equipment, researchers are pressurizing and depressurizing buildings of all sizes to find out where they leak, and help builders, engineers and property owners meet rising standards of energy efficiency.

The value of whole building air tightness tests like these have long been recognized for residential properties. New codes, policies and regulations may soon pump up demand for testing on commercial buildings, too – and so far, BETAC is the only organization with the skills, expertise and equipment to offer them in Manitoba.

“We’re looking forward to playing a greater role helping our community make buildings that are more durable and sustainable to operate, especially as we adapt to a future that places higher premiums on energy efficiency,” says Rob Spewak, BETAC’s business development manager.

Breathing new life into old buildings

The need for a more energy-efficient building stock is especially acute in Winnipeg, which boasts a relatively high proportion of heritage buildings. In September, for instance, BETAC completed an air tightness test at Gordon Bell High School, whose building features walls and mechanical systems are more than 50 years old. The results will provide insights into the most cost-effective measures for reducing energy usage when Gordon Bell undergoes an upcoming renovation.

Chris Buzunis, the Province of Manitoba’s Senior Energy Engineer and project manager for the Gordon Bell retrofit, says BETAC’s pre- and post-renovation air tightness testing has proven valuable on many projects like this.

“It helps identify problem areas to address at the start of a project and has also been a fantastic quality control tool when construction is complete. We have identified many deficiencies that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.”

BETAC will perform a post-renovation test on the school to validate the airtightness improvements and identify any problem areas before the building goes back into service. The goal of the renovation is to reduce energy costs by 50 per cent.

“Gordon Bell isn’t that different from many other schools in our city,” says Spewak, “so what we can measure and learn from here will help us devise guides to help other schools retrofit their building envelopes.”

It isn’t just schools BETAC hopes to help, he adds.

“Our goal in the next few years is to reach out to more private sector partners to show them what is achievable with a tighter building envelope. For one thing, the knowledge we provide leads to better decision-making. It’s a simple equation of investing now to save later.”

Putting your building to the test

Buildings that leak air cost more to heat and maintain. Up to 40 per cent of the cost of heating can come from air leakage, “so it absolutely impacts the bottom line.”

But in cold-climate regions, a leaky building envelope can result in up to six months of structural freezing and thawing, rusting metal, rotting wood, and expanding cracks, compromising the building’s durability as well. Even in warmer climates, leakage allows moisture-laden air to infiltrate or exfiltrate a building envelope. Air tightness can also affect noise levels and the comfort of a building’s occupants.

“Sealing the leaks may save you money and extend your building’s lifespan,” says Spewak. “But first you have to find the leaks, which often turn up in unexpected places you can’t find just by looking.”

BETAC offers a variety of non-destructive tests that target specific building sizes and challenges. The process usually starts with a walkthrough to assess door locations, HVAC intake and exhaust grills, power supply, and whether the building can be isolated.

Pictured: Blower door fan setup at Gordon Bell High School.

During the test itself, powerful fans pressurize and depressurize the building, while equipment measures how much air is moved into or out of the building and tracks the corresponding pressure difference across the building enclosure. 

The results of the envelop test speak to the general durability of the building, and the continuity and performance of the air barrier. A second set of tests, conducted with all intentional openings left open, measures the energy performance of the building more directly. At this stage, testers may deploy smoke pencils and infrared thermography cameras to identify specific air leakage pathways.

All together, these tests can take anywhere from several hours to three days, depending on the size and complexity of the building. The results deliver quantifiable data that can help owners of existing buildings locate problem areas and determine the costs and benefits of a retrofit. For new buildings, a final air tightness test can complement air leakage testing performed throughout construction.

A track record of success

BETAC has been researching air tightness and methods of testing it since a 2012 pilot project, which means the partners who turn to BETAC for air tightness testing engage some of the province’s leading expertise in the field.

Between 2012 and 2014, with the support of Manitoba Hydro and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, a total of 26 commercial buildings in Manitoba were tested for airtightness.

BETAC has also completed air testing research projects for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and, more recently, for Fort Whyte Alive, to measure the air tightness of an interpretive centre before and after a retrofit.

This same air tightness testing service used at Gordon Bell High School was also recently completed on the BMO Bank of Montreal building in downtown Winnipeg. BETAC plans on performing this testing for Manitou a bi Bii Daziigae (formerly known as the Innovation Centre project) soon.

Spewak says demand for tests like these will only increase as more cities and governments incorporate air tightness and energy efficiency into their building codes and green mandates. In addition to air leak testing, BETAC has committed to ongoing public outreach efforts to share the findings of its research. The results of BETAC’s work will inform the Province of Manitoba’s Green Building Policy and low carbon initiatives.

The Building Efficiency Technology Access Centre (BETAC) supports the building industry by helping clients address the challenges of designing and constructing durable, energy-efficient building envelopes, components and assembly in an environment with extreme conditions. Its core purpose is to support the needs of those involved in the design, construction, renovation, commissioning and maintenance of a building’s envelope.