New building panels could speed multi-family construction
July 12, 2021
Manufactured panels snap into place. | Nexii Building Solutions
A new building wall panel developed in Saskatchewan and now being rolled out across Canada could potentially speed up and reduce the construction of multi-family buildings, according to the former mayor of Vancouver.
Gregor Robertson, who joined Nexii Building Solutions Inc. as executive vice-president of strategy and partnerships in 2020, said construction of a nine-storey hotel this year in Nanaimo, B.C. will be the first major test of the system.
Nexii, a start-up company now based in Vancouver and known for the fast construction of quick-food restaurants, will deliver the exterior building envelope for the new 172-room Marriott hotel in Nanaimo.
The hotel is being developed by U.S-based PEG Construction with the Marriott hotel chain.
Nexii will deliver 140 wall panels to the Nanaimo site from its recently completed 90,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Squamish, B.C. The Nexii system uses precision-fitted structural panels that, Robertson says, are more thermally efficient and less carbon-intensive than concrete.
The panels are a sandwich of solid insulation wrapped in a half-inch of Nexitte, which becomes both the exterior and interior finishing.
Nexitte, a hard-surface proprietary material “is our secret sauce,” Robertson said. “It basically replaces drywall on the inside and concrete or other siding on the outside of the building. Nexitte is fire and water resilient, like concrete, but it is lighter weight and has reduced carbon emissions.”
According to PEG, using Nexii for the building envelope will trim the hotel’s construction timeline by eight to 10 weeks.
Robertson suggests the real potential for Nexii is in the construction of multi-family rental, condominium and social housing projects, because these could be completed faster and cheaper than either stick-frame or concrete construction.
“What drew me to Nexii is the combination of speed to build, the cost savings with that, along with the reduced impact on the environment. We know we need to decarbonize our buildings but we need solutions that are cost-effective and increase the affordability, rather than the opposite,” he said.
He noted that many cities and provinces are mandating energy savings into building requirements, and added national building codes are moving towards higher environmental standards.
Robertson pointed out the immediate cost savings in labour and materials are the real draw for big clients like PEG and Marriott.
“There is significant savings, including financing and insurance, in getting a building completed faster,” he said, “It means the business can open sooner and start bringing in revenue.”