Pandemic and climate crisis helps raise awareness and customers
Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 – BRANDON, MANITOBA – Builders from the Arctic to the Bahamas are hiring a Brandon, Manitoba-based company to help them build homes and offices that will cut their energy bills in half. In fact, Greenstone Building Products have been so successful here and abroad that sales and staff have doubled in just six months.
“Post COVID, people want to know the air they’re breathing is healthy,” said Rod Penner, Greenstone’s sales manager. “And with a rise in awareness of climate change they want to know the buildings they live and work in can positively impact generations to come. And that’s what we’re offering.”
Greenstone creates, designs and builds unique Insulated Composite Envelope (ICE) panels that replace framing, fiberglass and vapour barrier in easy-to-install sections. The frames do not produce off-gases, they reduce the risk of mold and they reduce energy use from 30 to 50 per cent. The parts of the ICE panels – galvanized steel and expanded polystyrene – can all be recycled, are competitive with wood and fiberglass construction costs and drastically cut down construction time, Penner added.
Since launching in Brandon, Manitoba ICE panels have been used to build everything from a beach house in the Bahamas and a three-storey commercial building in Iqaluit, Nunavut to a church in Alberta and private homes from Manitoba to South Carolina. And now a new four-storey apartment building in Greenstone’s hometown of Brandon is close to completion, said Penner.
Tilda Fortier, Greenstone’s business manager, says she relies on the courses she took from the World Trade Centre in Winnipeg throught its Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) to help her keep on top of the changes in building trends around the world to help Greenstone expand. She first enrolled in the Winnipeg-based course in 2019 while planning for Greenstone’s planned growth in the Bahamas. When she graduated she had an entire export plan, the size of a binder, ready to use.
“I’d heard of the TAP program a few times before signing up,” Fortier said. “The WTC staff are very strategic about networking; they bring everyone you need into the room for you. We have lots of connections with builders here and increasingly around the world, thanks to the World Trade Centre’s advice.”
“The WTC staff are global experts. Everyone is in a global crisis. Greenstone offers a global solution,” Fortier adds.
WTC Winnipeg President Mariette Mulaire says from her world view she can see that as building requirements change to deal with the climate crisis, businesses with environmentally sound solutions will have to improve the way they navigate the global market.
“People are constantly looking for ways they can help offset the climate crisis. Canadian businesses with solutions, like Greenstone, are needed on the global market,” Mulaire said. “The demand for environmentally friendly products is huge. Our staff at WTC Winnipeg can help Manitoban businesses connect with the people who are looking for them, around the world.”
In addition to wanting to save money in the short term, Greenstone’s Penner predicts that as Canada and more countries in the world tighten energy conservation rules, building codes will start to require more products like Greenstone’s and that requires some long-term thinking.
“Our clients know they won’t have to empty their pockets for big upgrades in the years to come as building codes change because we’re already thinking about future requirements in energy efficiency,” said Penner. “For investors and developers it’s a sure win. If you’re not keeping up with building trends, you’re falling behind before you even start to build,” said Penner.
Greenstone’s Fortier also knows that with climate change comes extreme weather, so the Greenstone team was proud to see that the Bahamas home built with Greenstone withstood a hurricane while surrounding structures toppled.
“Planning for the future now means planning for extreme weather,” Fortier said.
Every Greenstone contract starts with Greenstone’s technical design team working with the project’s architects and engineers to provide a schematic of unique panels that match the original blueprints.
Greenstone’s ICE panels are then produced on their Greenstone “presses” in Brandon. The steel framed panels are filled with expanded polystyrene and come numbered, so the builder installs the panels following paint-by-number style directions. There’s no framing or vapour barrier stages, saving weeks of labour, added Fortier.