Ready to market
Yk manufacturer gets national certification for wall system

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 13/99) - Almost 20 years ago, when Manuel Jorge first saw the houses that were being built in the Arctic, he knew there had to be a better way.

"Everything was being brought in from the south. At the time, I thought it would be a good idea to manufacture something here. I also knew I had a lot to learn."

After working for the NWT Housing Corp. in the early 1980s, Jorge moved to Yellowknife where he took on construction jobs.

"In 1983, I started building my dream," he said.

Today, Jorge, manager of Kam Lake-based Energy Wall & Building Products Ltd., is in the process of marketing his own pre-fabricated wall system.

The new energy-efficient system is one of only six -- a patent is pending -- to be evaluated and approved by the Canadian Construction Materials Centre, part of the National Research Council.

The CCMC, located at the Institute for Research in Construction of the National Research Council of Canada, offers the industry a national evaluation service for all types of innovative materials.

"They (the CCMC) gave us the go-ahead to market the wall system in July," Jorge said.

This week, the system is being installed at the Ndilo school.

"Thermally, structurally, this is a high-standard wall," he said.

The wall has an insulating value of R-28 to R-36. Jorge says costs of installing his R-28 wall is cheaper than the cost of a traditional wall with R-28.

"I believe we have one of the best wall systems for the circumpolar market," he said.

"I took all the wall systems I could find and combined them to make them work. I like research and innovation."

The walls consist of wood framing with rigid foam and polystyrene. All the materials are CCMC approved.

Key to the design is the product's continuous thermal quality, Jorge said. There is no route for moisture to get through. This means no condensation or drafts. It also translates into high-energy efficiency.

"We feel this product will speed up construction times. We want to develop a (manufacturing plant) system where we can go anywhere and set up a plant."

Energy Wall's prefabricated walls can be used not only in houses but also institutional buildings up to three storeys and in light commercial situations.

A 1,200 square-foot test house cost under $200 to heat from November through May, he said.

Jorge said the goal now is to market the product more extensively and engineer the Coronation Drive plant into a facility that can produce more of the product. Equipment needs to be designed so this product can be built on an assembly line.

Ideally, Jorge would like to be producing complete specialized building packages and complete housing packages which meet ISO 9000 (International Organization for Standardization) standards. Just five years ago, Energy Wall was the first business in the NWT to manufacture trusses.

"We wanted to come up with something unique, something for the North. We're looking at better housing, lower fuel costs, community involvement, jobs and training," he said.

And if it's designed and built in the NWT, Jorge said a Northern-based company will be better suited to respond to inquiries.

"We don't have to call a Southern company."

Jorge said for pre-engineering work, he turned to Yellowknife architectural firm Ferguson Simek Clark. Thermal analysis of the product was done by an Ottawa firm.