October 29, 2012

Quality Assurance Program yet to reach full potential


The Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFS) Council of Canada’s Quality Assurance Program has been rolled out to Western Canada, but could benefit from more architect and owner adoption. Projects, such as the River Rock Casino (above), use an EIFS cladding system.

The Quality Assurance Program by the Exterior Insulation Finish Systems Council of Canada (QAP) was well-received in B.C., but some say that architects and owners still have to get on board for the program to deliver the full scope of its intended results.

QAP came west earlier in the year, certifying manufacturers, contractors, installers, and auditors in most major centres between Manitoba and B.C.

The certification program was designed and is delivered by the council’s not-for-profit arm, the EQI Quality Assurance Program (EQI).

In B.C., certification was hosted by the B.C. Wall and Ceiling Association (BCWCA) in its Surrey headquarters.

Participants were issued a manual ahead of time and wrote the exam in about two hours.

Contractors, project supervisors and technicians are tested on different material specific to their role in the EIFS process.

The test boasts a 75 per cent pass or fail marker for contractors, and an 80 per cent marker for manufacturers and auditors.

Murray Corey, executive director for BCWCA said the program was well received by association members looking to get an edge on their service offering.

“I think the next or biggest challenge will be to get the architects, builders and design community to buy in,” he said.

“(It’s about) getting the architects and developers to decide they want to try the program out and that it eliminates the risk.”

A number of BCWCA members saw the value in certification. However, there may not yet be enough specifications requiring the certification to warrant the expense.

“If jobs named the QAP in the specs, then these contractors would be ahead and only people with the certification could bid on the job,” said Corey.

“Someone who builds at a high level may buy in as they see it as a way to reduce the risk of having that application on their building. And there has to be people able to do it. It has to fit together.”

Ken Logue, owner of Logue and Bridges Stucco Ltd. obtained the certification along with three of the company’s installers.

He said he believes in the EIFS product and thinks licensing is a step in the right direction.

“If you do (EIFS) right it works well, so having licensing isn’t a bad thing,” he said.

“Roofers have licensing and it makes for a better job.”

The test was suitably challenging and the EIFS Council was open to feedback on certain questions if they posed any ambiguity, said Logue.

The fee to maintain certification might be a thorn in the program’s side, he added.

“The fees are high, especially to pay every year in an unstable market,” he said.

Logue and Bridges has only encountered one job that made reference to quality assurance in the specs.

“If it helps get the information about EIFS out there that it is a better, cheaper system than most, then I think it’s a good thing,” he said.

‘I’ve seen bad jobs done in all claddings, so there’s always room to improve.”

Logue agreed that the industry still has work to do to convince architects about the benefits of using EIFS.

“Some of them are still making decisions based on information from a study in North Carolina in the mid-90s. There have been studies since that prove EIFS is a good product if it’s done right, and performs better than brick or siding.”

QAP extends beyond certifying installers (EIFS mechanics, according to the guidelines) and encompasses a project certification process that grants architects and owners support from EQI during the EIFS portion of a project.

Once a project is slated for certification, ECC notifies pre-qualified EIFS contractors and general contractors, who have met criteria that deem them an appropriate match for the scope of the project.

“It levels the playing field because certified contractors will only be bidding against other certified contractors,” said Garbin.

EIFS contractors are pre-qualified and rated in one of four levels according to scope, capabilities, certification and training, and by a financial instrument that ensures they are matched with appropriately sized projects.

EQI supports the bid through a third-party warrantee.

The program comes at an ideal time, said Garbin.

“The new energy code calls for continuous insulation,” he said. “We want to make sure there are enough qualified people to respond.”

Under a certified project, there must be one QAP certified mechanic for each non-certified installer on scaffold.

More than 700 mechanics, manufacturer reps, and building science inspectors have taken the certification.

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