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Building Genius Special Edition

Icynene at Architect@Work

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Welcome to this special edition of Building Genius, a podcast from Icynene.


In this special edition, we’re visiting Architect@Work, an exclusive event in Toronto, Canada, focusing on innovations for architects, interior designers and specifiers. The event, which took place May 17 and 18, is popular in Europe and Asia. This event was the first for Architect@Work in North America.  


Many products exhibited were new to North America. You will hear from suppliers of green roofs to high-end custom wood floors to hardware for frameless glass doors. Plus you will hear from Icynene’s Code & Standards specialist and our Commercial Market Representative. You’ll feel like you’re at the Architect@Work show, at least for a few minutes.

Peter Birkbeck:                                     Hi, I'm Peter Birkbeck, Codes and Standards Specialist with Icynene.

Interviewer:                         Peter, you are here at the Architect at Work show, which is the first year for the show. Why is Icynene here this year?

Peter Birkbeck:                   Well, this is the first iteration of this show in North America. This is our headquarters locally to this show. We've been close by. We have our origins in Mississauga over 30 years ago now, but we have business all over the world. This show has traveled all over the world in the past. We wanted to experience, first hand, what this show is like, actually being here on site as an exhibitor.

Interviewer:                         You have a nice booth here, so if someone were to walk by and they weren't familiar with Icynene or with Icynene ProSeal and they said to you, "Hi, Peter. What are you all about at Icynene?" What would you say?

Peter Birkbeck:                   We're all about innovation, in terms of sprayed polyurethane foam insulation, and we're all about offering the designer, and specifier, design flexibility. If you look around us today, you can see examples of design flexibility. Complex shapes seems to be a trend in the architectural community. Projections, cantilevers, curved shapes on building exteriors. This insulation is high R-value insulation that's versatile, able to be applied quickly with usually a minimum of other collateral materials to achieve a solution that is a ... For the product that we are exhibiting here today, which is Icynene ProSeal, that's a high R-value insulation, it's a vapour barrier, it's an air barrier and it's a water-resistive barrier.

Interviewer:                         So those are the special features. What would be the benefits of using Icynene ProSeal?

Peter Birkbeck:                   Icynene ProSeal, we're in the top tier, in terms of R-value, for a product of its type. Additionally, this is the product that is the newest in our line. It has the most collateral approvals. It has a GREENGUARD Gold Product Emissions Certification, which is the highest standard you can achieve in GREENGUARD; it has an Air Barrier Association of America approval. It achieves a vapour barrier at very, very little thickness in terms of inches or millimeters, and the same for air barrier. A very low air leakage rate for a material of its type.

Scott  Ruffett:                       Hi, my name is Scott  Ruffett. I'm Commercial Market Representative for Icynene.

Interviewer:                         Can you talk a little bit about the presence of Icynene at this show, since it is the first time this trade show is here, in Toronto?

Scott  Ruffett:                       Well, we're excited to be here. This is a new concept for a show in Canada. The process to be included in the show is extensive. We have to put forth an application to see if we can actually be here to exhibit. It's not just a matter of us choosing to come, so it is that there's some exclusivity to it. We have a premium product, which fits nicely with the other products that are being presented at the show.

Interviewer:                         So far, what are your impressions of the show and the people that you've met?

Scott  Ruffett:                       Very high. It's been excellent. I think the format is quite unique and I really like it. It seems the visitors to our booth are spending more time exploring and talking to us about our products and what we have to represent.

Interviewer:                         Is there anything about Icynene and Icynene ProSeal that surprises the people that you’ve talked with? Any kind of comments that you've heard?

Scott Ruffet:                            Yeah, a little bit. I guess we're highlighting ProSeal's low-emitting qualities too. It is a GREENGUARD Gold registered product, and some of the people we've talked to today were surprised to hear that. They're always thought spray foam was a product that had a lot of off-gassing to it and that type of thing, and that's not true with ProSeal.

Interviewer:                         So, part of your job here today is myth busting.

Scott  Ruffett:                       Yeah, that's a good way to put it. Yeah, absolutely.

Jelle Vonk:                             My name is Jelle Vonk. I'm with ZinCo Canada, and we are a green roof provider, and we supply various green roof systems for various applications, flat roofs and sloped roofs, as well as on parking decks and podium plazas.

Interviewer:                         So what is it about your roof systems that would make it something that an architect or an architect design firm would want to specify?

Jelle Vonk:                             Well, the product that we have to show here at Architect at Work is a combination of green roofs and solar panels. Quite often, we are fighting for the same roof space, and this way you can actually combine the two sustainable products. We have done some research on this where we put a photovoltaic panel on a black waterproofing membrane, as well as on a green roof, and that has shown that a green roof's actually cooling down the photovoltaic panel. Which means that the photovoltaic panel has a better output that way. Over a year, you can have a better output of about 4% more than when you put it on a normal waterproofing membrane. And for the rest, we supply various green roof systems as well to grow other type of vegetation, so you can do urban farming like a lawn on a roof or just like a normal garden on top of the roof, so we are a really versatile product line with various green-roof applications.

Interviewer:                         Would you say that you're seeing more interest in having green roofs and solar panels these days? Is this definitely a trend that will continue?

Jelle Vonk:                             There is definitely a trend in green roofs, especially with the city of Toronto. They have a bylaw that green roofs are mandatory on all the new buildings that are going up, and connected to that an incentive program, so that definitely pushes the green roof market right now. Also, you see a lot of stormwater issues in the cities like flooding with the heavy rainfall, and green roofs are definitely a tool to help with that as well.

Paolo Sbalzer:                     My name is Paolo Sbalzer, and I represent Colcom International Group. That is a company that manufactures glass hardware specifically for frameless glass doors.

Interviewer:                         Now, what is it about your products that would encourage people, architects, and architectural designers to specify this type of hardware?

Paolo Sbalzer:                     I would say probably the fact that we do have an innovative hydraulic system that basically replaces the traditional door closer. That means that instead of you breaking the floor to install the door closer, you no longer have to do that, because the same kind of mechanism is within the hinge itself.

Interviewer:                         That's innovative.

Paolo Sbalzer:                     That is very innovative. As a matter of fact, we patented it, including in Canada. North America in general, Mexico, Brazil, other countries. However, speaking of Canada, it is patented here. We've seen pretty good results in the sense that we've been selling the product for quite a few years so far throughout the country, and it has been very well accepted, and that's why we're here exhibiting at this show.

Interviewer:                         What kind of reaction are you getting when people come through the show floor and see this display?

Paolo Sbalzer:                     From the architects and interior designers' standpoint, they were very, very curious at first, and then the more I get into explaining the product itself, they feel like they do have a product that they can actually spec in their projects, because it saves a lot of time in the installation part. Just to give you an example here: If you have to go with a regular – I'm not going to mention any brands here – with a regular door closer, you actually have to take two days, because first of all, you have to break the floor, wait for the construction worker to install it, the cement or concrete has to dry out, and the following day, the glazier comes in to put on the glass door. Whereas with this system, you only take two hours, because you do all the prep in the shop, and then you go to the location and mount the door.

Interviewer:                         And that would make a big difference, especially on a big project.

Paolo Sbalzer:                     Absolutely. Just imagine how much it would be cut up, as far as the labour cost is concerned; so instead of having to pay workers for two days, you only pay a worker for two hours, and you have the same results and the same door, working the right way, basically.

Interviewer:                         It looks like you have another product here to talk about, Paolo.

Paolo Sbalzer:                     Yes. This is a different product, although it pertains to the same group of companies, in the sense that Sadev, it is the sister company of Colcom. Sadev is from France, Colcom is from Italy, and the difference between the two companies is the fact that Colcom deals with interior design, whereas Sadev deals with the exterior part of the hardware. That entails spiders, tension rods, balustrades, railings, that kind of hardware for the exterior.

Interviewer:                         What are the benefits of this concept?

Paolo Sbalzer:                     The benefits, I would say the quality of the material itself, so when we talk about the raw material with which a product is made of, it is very different than buying a product from Asia, for instance; and also, all the assembly things are done entirely in France. Nothing is done in Asia. But there is the downside, so to speak, in the sense that the price is higher. However, the quality is better.

Interviewer:                         That usually happens, doesn't it?

Paolo Sbalzer:                     Yes, it does. Yeah.

Jannis Meng:                        Hello, my name is Jannis Meng, and I am with the German wood manufacturer Schotten & Hansen.

Interviewer:                         So why is it, Jannis, that someone would want to specify your beautiful product?

Jannis Meng:                        Apart from the beauty, which you're already mentioning, people usually specify our products when they're looking for a product to last them a lifetime, so we do about 50% of our projects are residential projects, and the other half are commercial projects, because our products, starting from flooring to wall paneling, furniture, they're built and constructed to last for many generations. Very easy maintenance. Hotel lobbies don't have to close down to do maintaining, you don't have to sand the floors, so these are just some of the benefits that come along with our products.

Interviewer:                         What kind of feedback are you getting from people at the show when they see your display?

Jannis Meng:                        The feedback here is very similar to the feedback that we usually get in Canada. Everybody loves the product. Price point is definitely an issue, because we're at the very high end of the line when it comes to pricing, but obviously, you're getting a very, very high value for it; and when you look at the time that these products will last you for, the price definitely makes sense in that way. The problem that we have in the North American market in the residential area is that people move houses so often, so, often people will just look for products that will look nice for a couple of years and don't think in the long term, so we're trying to get people in Canada, or, especially at the show, to understand that it's important to have a quality, natural product in order to live in an healthy environment at home.

Interviewer:                         So to take that long-term, green view, then?

Jannis Meng:                        Exactly, yeah. All our products are completely built with only natural ingredients. All our cleaning materials are 100% natural, so if you have these products in the house, they will benefit to having a healthier room climate.

Interviewer:                         I understand that your product is popular with certain segments of consumers in the U.S.

Jannis Meng:                        Yes, and not only the U.S, everywhere in the world, since we're such a high-class, some might say luxury, product. We do get a lot of orders from famous celebrities out of Hollywood, athletes, and those kinds of people, yes; so I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention any names. If you go to our website, I'm sure you'll see some houses with names to them of people that you will recognize.

Interviewer:                         Why would someone, then, choose your product? Now, obviously, budget is not so much a consideration for someone like that, but what else is it about your product that appeals to them?

Jannis Meng:                        There's many different aspects. One aspect is certainly that people who are wanting to buy something green. They want a natural product, they want a product where they can even choose ... We even invite people to come to Germany, go to the forest, and choose the trees in the forest that will, later on, be their bedroom floor or whatever, so we're very particular about where our wood comes from. Every board is selected individually. Every board goes through 40 to 50 pairs of hands before it is shipped. Every order is a custom order, so ... Colours, we have more than 800 custom colours, so basically, we can have your entire house in matching colours, and the client or his designer can pick everything along the way, so we don't have anything on stock. We do everything custom, and anything is possible that you can produce out of wood.

Drew Mandel:                     My name is Drew Mandel, and the firm is Drew Mandel Architects, and we were encouraged to come here because we had sourced a product that is not typically available in Canada, and we understood that the company was being represented at this trade show, but we didn't know much else about the trade show, and it's a pleasant surprise. It takes itself a bit more seriously. There are no booth girls and other distractions from other shows. There's diminishing returns on those other shows after you go year-in and year-out, and you find one or two items only, and this show seems to have unique materials and products that we work hard to find. And so it's a pleasure and great convenience for us to see it all showcased in one place in a more serious and sophisticated environment; so it's been a pleasure, and I'd come again.


Thanks for listening. To learn more about Icynene, available in more than 30 countries worldwide, you can visit our website at While at our website, take a minute to subscribe to our “Building Genius Blog.” If you have a specific project in mind, talk to your local Icynene contractor.


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Please note that the views and opinions expressed herein may not necessarily be the views of Icynene. All comments, opinions and views expressed are of a general nature and should not be considered as advice to purchase or to sell mentioned products.