Building Efficiency TAC


Building Envelope Design – Medicinal Marijuana Grow Operation

February 14, 2016

The requirements to become a licenced to grow operation for medical marijuana in Canada are governed by the Federal Minister of Health Controlled Substances and Tobacco Directorate Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch.

A Guidance Document titled the Building and Production Security Requirements for Marijuana for Medical Purposes has been published.

The Regulatory Provisions are related to securing the site, monitoring and detection, access control, intrusion detection and air filtration. While the Guide addresses security and health issues, it offers no information or guidance on the design and construction of the building housing the growth operation.

Services Provided

This project entails the development of a best practices guide which addresses the requirements for the building envelope of medical marijuana production facilities in cold climates.

The nature of growing marijuana involves operating in conditions of high temperature and humidity. The building envelope must be capable of supporting the controlled interior environment during the winter months, meet the production facilities service life expectations and be compliant with all Government regulations.

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.

The Globe and Mail covers BETAC: Pushing the envelope to make buildings greener

January 12, 2016

BETAC_logo-for_webRed River College’s Building Envelope Technology Access Centre was recently featured in the Globe and Mail’s Property Report.  This NSERC-funded centre is focused on improving large buildings’ energy performance, durability and occupant comfort by conducting applied research, as well as testing, and training related to a building’s envelope.

Pushing the envelop to make buildings greener

Written by Joel Schesinger
Published on Jan. 11, 2015 in the Globe and Mail


At FortWhyte Alive, squirrels are frequent stowaways on its “mother ship.”

“I often jokingly explain we have as many squirrels working in the building as we do staff,” says Bill Elliott, president of the environmental education facility in Winnipeg.

For the most part, the puffy-tailed rodents go unnoticed in FortWhyte’s interpretive centre, referred to affectionately by staff as the mother ship.

Yet recently on an unusually mild afternoon, a team of experts from Red River College in the city, using infrared technology, reveal the squirrels’ negative impact on the building’s energy efficiency.

“That’s the biggest hole we’ve seen today,” says Rob Spewak, manager of the college’s Building Envelope Technology Access Centre (BETAC), aiming a hand-held detector at a corner of the wood-framed ceiling.

Read the full article

Fort Whyte Alive – Air Leakage Testing

December 14, 2015

The objective of this applied research project is to conduct airtightness testing on the interpretive centre at Fort Whyte Alive, located in southwest Winnipeg.


The interpretive centre will be undergoing a major envelope upgrade that is projected to take place in 2016.

Services Provided

  • The project will involve the testing of the existing building prior to the renovations as well as comparative testing after the work has been completed.
  • During the pre-renovation test, major leakage paths will be identified through the use of diagnostic tools such as smoke machines and infrared thermography.


  • The results of the pre-renovation testing, which was completed in December 2015, will help guide the scope of work for the retrofits.

An article about the pre-renovation testing was published in the Globe and Mail.

BETAC picks up where SITRG left off

October 26, 2015

Red River College’s (RRC’s) Building Envelope Technology Access Centre (BETAC) is set to pick up where the Sustainable Infrastructure Technology Research Group (SITRG) left off.

The new BETAC was born with a $1.75-million grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Technology Access Centre program, which is intended to enhance the ability of local companies, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to readily access college expertise, technology, and equipment.

SITRG was also an NSERC-funded initiative, but one that was more broadly focused on enhancing the energy performance of large commercial buildings.

“Through the SITRG initiative, our industry consultations and research partnerships led us to focus much of our research activities on building envelopes,” said Rob Spewak, the Centre’s manager. “This resulted in the development of a research and advisory team with deep technical and commercial understanding in this area, leading us to the creation of BETAC.”

The envelope of a building can significantly impact its construction cost, durability and appearance, maintenance and repair expenses, occupant comfort and health, as well as energy use.

And with Manitoba’s climatic extreme’s many of these challenges become amplified and more difficult to navigate.

“Increased building complexity, new standards and code requirements, and increased pressure to reduce energy use are just a few of the other challenges faced by Manitoba’s construction sector,” said Spewak. “With BETAC, our goal is to support the sector’s building envelope related productivity and innovation needs.”

More specifically, BETAC will support the needs of those involved in the design, construction, renovation, commissioning, and maintenance of a building’s envelope.

BETAC’s support will come in the form of the following:

  • Technical Services, including facilities and related advisory services for testing performance of mock-ups and assemblies during the design phase and prior to their construction, as well as pre-certification testing of product prototypes.
  • Applied Research, to accelerate innovation in new building materials, products and assemblies, and diagnostic tools, as well as monitoring and assessment of the performance of individual building envelope components and complete assemblies.
  • Specialized Education and Training related to testing methods, protocols and standards to address building materials assemblies and whole building performance.

BETAC, like SITRG, will be based out of the Centre for Applied Research in Sustainable Infrastructure (CARSI), RRC’s first applied research lab established in 2007.

While still ramping up, BETAC is open for business and welcomes calls for interest, proposals, and partnerships.

Note: BETAC was formerly known as CBEP (the Centre for Building Envelope Performance). Check out the CBEP video to see what BETAC is all about.

For more information:

Rob Spewak, Centre Manager
Building Envelope Technology Access Centre
Red River College

Phone: 204-632-2357

Ecole Noel Ritchot – Air Leakage Testing

October 14, 2015

This objective of this applied research project is to conduct airtightness testing on Ecole Noel Ritchot, located in St. Norbert, Winnipeg.


Ecole Noel Ritchot will be undergoing a major envelope upgrade in 2016. Also, a planned expansion of approximately 30,000 sq.ft. will be added to the school around the same time.

Services Provided

  • The project will involve the testing of the existing building prior to the renovations and expansion as well as comparative testing after the work has been completed.
  • The tests will be designed to enable the pre- and post-renovation air leakage rates of the existing portion of the school independent of the new addition.
  • Post-renovation testing will also provide air leakage rates for the new, larger building as a whole.


Pre-renovation tests were completed during the summer of 2015.

  • The Public Schools Finance Board has expressed interest in collaborating with RRC to further the research activities on large building air leakage 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

Peter Van Loan and Lawrence Toet celebrate investment to build new technology access centre for construction sector at Red River College

July 8, 2015

(L-R): Rick Marshall, Bird Construction; David Stones, CBEP Advisory Board Chair; Lawrence Toet, MP for Elmwood-Transona; David Rew, interim President of Red River College; Hon. Peter Van Loan, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

(L-R): Rick Marshall, Bird Construction; David Stones, CBEP Advisory Board Chair; Lawrence Toet, MP for Elmwood-Transona; David Rew, interim President of Red River College; Hon. Peter Van Loan, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Lawrence Toet, Member of Parliament for Elmwood–Transcona and the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Leader of Government in the House of Commons, and on behalf of Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), were at Red River College on July 7, 2015 to highlight a new investment to build a construction research centre that will spark partnerships with Winnipeg’s construction industry.

Red River College is receiving a Technology Access Centres Grant of $1.75 million—allocated over five years under the College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program—to build the Building Envelope Technology Access Centre. Red River College will work with the local construction industry to support innovation in building envelope design and construction, conduct applied research, and provide specialized education and training.

The CCI Program is managed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Read More →

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