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Fenestration Forum – October 2015

A Canadian opportunity

October 16, 2015  By Brian Burton

Along with two other interested parties I recently completed a literature survey and report on the potential impact of climate change on Canadian buildings and infrastructure. The report was more like speculation than hard-core research because we didn’t test any of our conclusions or suggestions.

After we submitted the preliminary report I received several responses from members of the association that sponsored the survey. In particular one design professional disputed the fact that climate change was occurring at all – in any form – and in Canada in particular. Whether any climate change is occurring is not really the main issue since the subject remains a concern for the construction, insurance and financial sectors. I personally sustain an interest in Canadian environmental conditions, not because our climate might be changing but because Canada is a global leader in the research and implementation of severe weather construction and construction technology. specifically with regard to fenestration components as well as the building envelope. I highlight this leadership role because it is been suggested on occasion that Canadians are modest to a fault. I’ve heard this comment on numerous occasions and it appears to be built into our national character.

I would stress two points about our leadership role. The first of being that construction is Canada’s largest industry and our nation’s largest employer. Second, that as a nation we spend more on construction than virtually any country on the planet with the exception perhaps of Norway and Iceland. Both these facts are worth considering. In my experience the value of our built assets is rarely discussed in real terms but I can assure you that the amount we have invested over the last 50 years is significant, to say the least.

I would point out that severe climate is a term that describes extreme cold, heat and humidity. In addition we could probably add strong winds, rapid alterations in the conditions of our rivers and lakes and other weather effects too numerous to mention. When it comes to severe climate conditions Canadians have seen it all and continue to do so.


This brings to mind a personal recollection that I heard from a former president of Fenestration Canada. He told me he had traveled the world extensively in his role as president and virtually everywhere he went people took the time to tell him that Canada made the best windows in the world.

It’s also worth noting that the construction industry is not the only sector with a vested interest. The government, insurance and financial sectors also have a stake in how we respond. There are also more than buildings involved in that our infrastructure should also be included in the list of our capital assets.

So instead of debating the technical issues relating to climate change allow me to suggest that preparing for severe weather is well worth the effort and investment.

The validity of any suggestion that our climate may be changing, the cause of any possible changes or whether we can have any effect on what may be occurring is not the main issue. What’s really important is Canada’s economic well-being. Construction is our largest employer. Any growth creates new jobs and makes existing ones more secure.

My contention is that we should be exporting and capitalizing on our leadership in the field. Our built environment has always been constructed with severe weather conditions in mind. If the conditions change, who better than Canadians to lead the way? If climate conditions are not changing, we still benefit because our investment in buildings is very large and that is not about to change.

What should we do in light of these facts? Promote our expertise, market our capabilities and develop and exploit our technology as well as our knowledge.

In effect we have a considerable investment in the research and formal testing of construction technology. It is good business practice to at least seek a return on the long-term investments we have made.

Brian is involved with an innovative multidisciplinary firm that specializes in technical business writing: Award Bid Management Services ( The firm assists companies interested in selling goods and services to governments and institutions. He can be reached at

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