Fenestration Review

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Online FenCan event surprises with high engagement


June 5, 2020
By Patrick Flannery


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So your live event has been cancelled by the pandemic and you’re bummed out that you won’t be getting together with your friends in the industry for your annual chance to reconnect and have some fun at a great destination. You dejectedly plan an online event, hoping something is better than nothing.

And then nearly double the live event attendees log in.

Online events really can’t replace the experience of getting together in person, but if Fenestration Canada’s Online Spring Conference, held this week Monday through Thursday, is any indication, the format can deliver a lot of the value of a full conference and possibly even expand the reach of the event to people who would not usually travel to attend.

The online conference started each day at noon and ran through the afternoon, with four Zoom meetings. Registered attendees got individual notifications for each meeting and could choose which ones to log into. So much for the notion that you have to trap people in a hotel ballroom to get them to sit through a session. The sessions were a combination of education and code talk, supplier presentations and committee meetings. A social event rounded out the program at the end of the day Thursday with East Coast mixologist Shane Beehan guiding the group through making an expert Tom Collins, followed by a game of industry trivia won by Adam Hess, technical manager at Van Isle Windows. Apparently you don’t have to be together to get drunk together.

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Notable from the education sessions was Kimberly Curran, chief of standards development for the equipment division, who updated on the progress of Natural Resource Canada’s Market Transformation Roadmap that aims to guide the Canadian window industry to 0.80 U-value windows by 2030. It’s clear the group has learned a lot since it started this project. The word “aspirational” now gets thrown around a lot with regard to the goals. Curran was firm in pointing out that the Roadmap is not considered a platform for regulation. NRCan has also realized the importance of the renovation market to this effort, since any change that only addresses new build will fail to impact the vast majority of Canada’s building stock for decades. This is leading NRCan in another controversial direction, as its Generation Energy Council (an expert advisory group) has recommended building code ammendments that would require “major renovations” to achieve “significant energy performance improvements.” Of course, a renovation that requires a building permit would have to meet all the provincial energy codes anyway, so maybe this is part-and-parcel of the general code tightening that has already been discussed. The devil with renovation standards is always enforcement, and Curran spoke about house labelling and requirements for houses to hit energy targets before being sold. She also spoke about regulating windows at point-of-sale, though any federal law of this nature would only apply to products exported or shipped across provincial borders.

“As much as I would have loved to see all of our members in person, we are pretty excited about what this event turned out to be,” commented Stephane Labelle, FenCan executive director. “The 2020 Online Spring Conference exceeded our expectations. We practically doubled our regular seminar attendance and I have never seen more engagement during webinars. We answered 43 questions in one of them. Sometimes in person we get two or three questions after a presentation. Our presenters and sponsors are very pleased with the result and I feel we delivered important quality content to our attendees.”

“A few months ago we at FenCan shared our concerns in numerous conversations on how we could provide our members continued value during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Terry Adamson, FenCan president. “A new world faced us that created so many challenges and questions on what we could do that our members would accept and engage in. Our group came together with a wide range of ideas; the positivity I heard from everyone assured me we would make it through. The last few days reinforced our conviction that we can overcome our current state and remain a strong and relevant association. The participation from our people, from our members and our sponsors surprised all of us I think. A resounding success is what I heard all around, we are very pleased and commit to continue to provide support and leadership to our industry through the coming months and years. SOCIABLE!!”