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Canadian Wood Council: Effective R-Value Web Application

We designed, developed, and launched the first effective R-Value calculator and durability rating Web Application for walls. The online application allows designers to easily identify climate zone-appropriate insulated wall assembly options and compare these options with national and provincial energy efficiency prescriptive provisions.

This tool is very important to help designers to continue to have a high level of comfort in specifying wood wall assemblies, especially as walls become more airtight with higher amounts of insulation and with less potential to dry if the materials in the wall are not appropriate for the climate. It is the only reliable calculator available.

Zachary May | Office of Housing and Construction Standards, Province of British Columbia


The Canadian Wood Council approached us to help create an educational resource for the building industry. Building Codes across Canada were moving away from prescriptive nominal R-values to effective R-values. This meant that builders, building officials, designers, architects, and building product manufacturers would need to begin calculating the effective thermal resistance of an entire envelope assembly (considering the affects of thermal bridging or advanced framing). This was a significant change for the industry and there was no reliable resource available at the time. We engaged over 20 stakeholders in the industry that would be affected by this change and conducted numerous interviews to better understand the needs of the industry. Mock-ups of potential resources were developed and shown to stakeholders to experience (e.g. an indexed book of wall components, excel calculator). Working with these stakeholders in this explore phase helped us to identify 3 design principles for the educational resource: evergreen, accessible, and reliable.  


The stakeholders were assembled into a steering committee for the Canadian Wood Council to help inform the design of the educational resource. Stakeholders were situated across the country and we facilitated an online workshop to help ideate and co-design the first iteration of the resource. After numerous discovery workshops, user engagement interviews, and prototypes, we landed on a web application that would mimic a ‘shopping’ or item selection experience online as the final solution.  


With the design principles and workshop feedback gathered from our explore and discover initiatives, we moved ahead to the transformative implementation phase. In April 2013, we launched the first ever Effective R-Value calculator accompanied by durability ratings in Canada. The calculator was hosted on the CWC website and was being referenced by industry stakeholders at conferences and workshops almost immediately. At buildABILITY we recognize that transformation only signifies the end of an iteration. As new building products emerge, as building codes change, and as the industry adopts new technologies, we recognize that a ‘reliable’ resource today may not be a ‘reliable’ resource tomorrow. To address the ‘evergreen’ design principle, we continue to engage users and gather feedback from stakeholders every year to improve the web application. Visit it today to see our latest iteration and don’t hesitate to tell us how to make it better!  


Number of walls launched in 2013


Number of walls to date (2017)


Users per Month