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Building Efficiency TAC

BETAC Research

Sensor Installation in Skilled Trades and Technology Centre (2017-18)

December 14, 2017

A team of researchers at the Building Envelope and Technology Access Centre (BETAC) partnered with SMT Research to monitor the structural health of the Skilled Trades and Technology Centre (STTC) being built at Red River College.


Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) of bridges and heritage buildings are essential to ensure modern rehabilitation techniques and materials continue to perform as expected. SHM systems also play a key role to ensure new buildings perform as expected with respect to energy efficiency and durability.

Our Research

  • The BETAC and SMT Research team installed a substantial network of sensors embedded throughout the new STTC.
  • A total of seven different building envelope types have been instrumented throughout the exterior building envelope as well as the roof and green roof assemblies.
  • The measurements from these sensors can be compared to controlled tests performed on mock-up test walls in the Dual Environment Test Chamber located in the Centre for Applied Research in Sustainable Infrastructure (CARSI) at Red River College.
  • Field analysis will be performed in real-time during normal building occupancy throughout the temperature extremes inherent to Winnipeg.


A paper on our work was presented at the 8th International Conference on Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructure in Brisbane, Australia, in December, 2017.

The paper focused on the application of advanced sensor networks and data visualization techniques on a building instrumented as a ‘living lab’ located in Winnipeg, Canada.

Thermally Broken Concrete Balconies Project

August 14, 2017

This project focuses on developing cost-effective systems for the implementation of thermally broken concrete slabs for residential mid/high-rise construction.


Traditionally, concrete balconies in mid/high-rise residential buildings are designed as an extension to the floor slab, constructed as a one or two-way reinforced concrete slab cantilevered out past the building’s exterior wall.

Without a thermal break, the balcony easily conducts heat, causing a significant amount of heat loss in the winter, leaving the floor slab and window-wall assembly considerably cooler than the interior temperature, and resulting in condensation.

If not properly controlled, materials eventually start to degrade, reducing the integrity and safety of the structure, and even compromising the indoor air quality from mold growth.

Our Research

  • This project includes experimentally investigating different forms of thermal insulation materials and different types of rebar and then performing thermal testing and analysis, and structural testing on these materials. BETAC is providing the laboratory space for casting samples and the environmental chambers needed for the thermal testing.
  • The main project team includes the College, the University of Manitoba, Crosier Kilgour & Partners and SMT Research.


The first phase of this project started in June, 2016, and is due to complete in August, 2017. The completion of phase two is to be determined.

Energy Efficiency Technology Assessment: Drain Water Heat Recovery Evaluation

July 14, 2017

The objective of this project is to investigate and assess the energy efficiency, effectiveness, and performance of vertical, sloped and horizontal DWHR systems for MURB applications. BETAC will be working with Gary Proskiw, Manitoba Hydro, and Manitoba Housing on this project.


Drain-water heat recovery (DWHR) systems recover heat from a building’s wastewater and use it to preheat the fresh incoming water, thereby reducing the overall domestic hot water (DHW) load.

All new Part 9 (residential) construction in Manitoba, as part of the province’s review of Section 9.36 of the National Building Code (other than for houses with slab-on-grade or crawl space foundations), now require a DWHR system. Their introduction into mid/high-rise multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) has been extremely limited.

Our Research

The majority of information and testing available for DWHR performance was developed for vertical installations. However, the accessible portions of the drain lines in MURBs are predominately horizontal or sloped at 45°.

  • Therefore, BETAC will conduct a series of laboratory trials to evaluate the heat recovery performance of typical DWHR units installed in vertical, horizontal and sloped (45°) configurations with the use of Red River College’s plumbing workshop.
  • Surface temperatures and in-line temperatures will be monitored to permit better correction between the two variables for use in future field screening applications.

Twin Building Case Studies

July 14, 2017

For this project, BETAC is working with Manitoba Housing on three case studies for three sets of “twin MURBs” (pairs of multi-unit residential buildings that have identical size, floor area and floor plans) located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


One building from each pairing has undergone an extensive building retrofit and the other building pairing remains in its original condition.

Our Research

These case studies will document the pre- and post- retrofit energy performance of the buildings, as well as review each set of buildings to identify the extent of the renovations to each building, and their associated timelines.

Whole Building Energy Performance Assessment of Deep Energy Retrofit

July 14, 2017

This project involves BETAC working alongside Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Housing to monitor the energy usage of Donwood Manor – a 119-unit personal care home located in North Kildonan that recently completed major upgrades to its building envelope and mechanical systems (heating, cooling and ventilation).

Our Research

  • Energy models for both the pre-retrofit and post-retrofit design were developed to determine how the new building changes would contribute to the overall building energy profile.
  • Sensors, meters, and gauges will be installed this summer to monitor, measure, and verify the energy and water performance of the building for at least one continuous year.
  • Finally, a comparative analysis of the modelled energy usage and the actual energy usage of the building will be performed.


Findings from this project will be of benefit to others in the building industry; therefore, a presentation of these results will be developed to share at industry association meetings, seminars, and speaking engagements (e.g. Manitoba Building Envelope Council, Building Energy Management Manitoba, Manitoba Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council, ASHRAE Manitoba Chapter), and events such as the annual Better Buildings Conference in Winnipeg.

Thermal Testing of Polycarbonate Windows for Local Manufacturer

May 14, 2017

The objective of this project was to compare and evaluate the thermal performance of two samples of a polycarbonate glazing, which behave similarly to Insulated Glass Units (IGU), provided by a local window manufacturer to the Building Envelope Technology Access Centre (BETAC) at Red River College.

Research and Services Provided

  • BETAC used the Red River College’s dual environmental chambers in the Centre for Applied Research in Sustainable Infrastructure lab (CARSI) to compare the thermal performance of the two samples using a benchmark from a material with a known thermal resistance.
  • The polycarbonate samples each had different thicknesses, and heat flux sensors were used to measure the thermal transfer across the samples under a set temperature differential, which followed a specific ASTM Standard.


Results of this test can be used for further research and development of the manufacturer’s products.

Collaboration: Red River College and ft3 Architects

June 14, 2016

As more research is being performed and more knowledge is being shared about the importance of managing and controlling air leakage within the building envelope, leaders in the building design industry are stepping forward to collaborate with BETAC to ensure their structures are performing as they are meant to.

One of these leaders is ft3 Architects, who partnered with us on two projects.

Cornerstone Life Lease Estates

A seniors housing facility in northeast Winnipeg, consisting of 52 units for both independent and assisted living. The facility was designed by ft3 Architects, who are interested in monitoring the performance of the building and using the results to inform future designs and specifications for future projects.

Our Research

  • BETAC, through its Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) funding, installed sensors within the buildings’ heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
  • The data is gathered on an ongoing basis, allowing them to monitor the energy performance characteristics of the building.

St. Matthews Church

The church was newly renovated in 2014 and now serves a different purpose to the community. The worship and office spaces were transformed into 26 new housing units for families in the inner city neighborhood. They also created smaller worship areas for numerous congregations and a drop-in centre. The building is now referred to as the WestEnd Commons. During the renovation, the building envelope was modified with the addition of interior insulation to the brick structure.

Our Research

  • BETAC installed moisture and temperature sensors within the wall sections (through NSERC funding), to monitor and compare the moisture and temperature levels against the performance levels generated from the computer model, and to ensure excess moisture is not accumulating over time within the brick façade.

Data will be provided to ft3 on an ongoing basis, as this information may serve to better inform design

Building Product Commercialization Roadmap

January 14, 2016

The development of new products for the construction industry can be a very long, expensive and daunting process. Adding to the complication, almost all products used in the construction industry have to comply with one or more technical standards which define the minimum requirements the product must meet. Entrepreneurs and businesses who are developing or considering developing new products need to understand this process.

For that reason, BETAC is developing a “Building Product Commercialization Roadmap” which explains the regulatory hurdles that must be met to bring a new construction product to market.

The roadmap will also provide insight into the product development process and how BETAC can provide contract services for new product development to assist with research, evaluation and testing.

Multi-Unit Residential Buildings – Air Leakage Testing

August 14, 2015

The research project described in this report was carried out to explore some of the unique problems associated with performing airtightness tests on occupied Multi-Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs).


Current airtightness testing methods and standards are predicated on the assumption that the testing agency has complete control over the building and its operation during the test period.

With unoccupied buildings, this is seldom a problem. However, if the building is an occupied MURB, then major issues arise. Occupant access has to be limited during certain critical portions of the testing, interior doors must be kept open and suite windows have to be kept closed. These last two issues (interior door and suite window positions) were the main focus of this project.

Our Research

Using two unoccupied and four occupied MURB’s, ranging in size from 8 to 124 units, a series of airtightness tests were conducted to determine if reliable results could be obtained with interior suite doors closed and a limited number of windows partially open.


  • The results of this work indicated that conducting an airtightness test with occupied suites and closed doors is indeed possible by applying a correction factor; however all windows must be kept closed during testing.
  • It was found that building owner cooperation and participation during the test is essential.

See the final project report

Large Building Airtightness Testing

June 14, 2015

There is a growing recognition of the need to establish performance targets for the airtightness of buildings either through regulations or voluntary programs. Before this occurs, further research is required to establish baseline air leakage rates and appropriate building airtightness targets (and, for specific building types/uses such as schools).

Our Research

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

Overall, they represented a fairly diverse sample of Manitoba’s commercial construction:

  • 18 (69%) were situated in the City of Winnipeg
  • They ranged in age from one to over 100 years
  • Floor areas varied from 150 m2to 19,788 m2 (1,615 ft2 to 212,918 ft2)
  • Building heights ranged from one to 16 stories

Five of the structures were owned by Manitoba Hydro who also provided financial and in-kind support for the project. The rest were occupied by a variety of private and public owners. An effort was also made to include a few buildings that were undergoing, or had recently completed, a major building envelope retrofit.


  • While RRC’s work in this area has greatly expanded the knowledge in this area, the number of large buildings tested is still quite small especially when compared to low-rise residential dwellings.
  • The following three projects illustrate RRC’s ongoing efforts in this area through BETAC: See the final project report