Developing water-tight solutions for Quebec’s construction industry
But when the product required an updated approach to match new industry standards, the company relied on the fresh perspective of a Mitacs Accelerate intern from the Université de Sherbrooke to take it to the next level and enhance their competitiveness for entry into Canada-wide markets.
As a result of the “Leaky Condo Crisis” of the 1990s, regulations enacted in the early 2000s stipulate the method of construction that best keeps condensation from seeping into buildings, particularly those with stucco exteriors. Companies like Les Enduits STEF stepped in to fill the gap by developing water-tight membranes and coatings that could be applied to a house’s exterior during construction. But by 2014, their flagship membrane product was losing ground in the marketplace due to technical issues that made it less desirable for construction companies to use. In need of a research-based solution, the company was introduced to a postdoctoral fellow from the Université de Sherbrooke to do the job.
Under the supervision of Professor Richard Gagné in the Department of Civil Engineering, Arnaud Proteau-Gagné was tasked with analysing the existing membrane product and developing solutions to make it more effective at moisture-proofing for buildings with stucco exteriors. However, what began as a simple problem-solving task turned into something much bigger.
Arnaud saw room for improvement not only in the coating formulation, but in the consistency, colour, and other factors that would make the product more appealing to construction contractors. He also uncovered more effective methods of producing the membrane and ensuring that it met the industry’s stringent performance standards in Quebec and across Canada. Furthermore, the new liquid membrane product received approval for use in wood-framed buildings, an emerging market demand that Les Enduits STEF would now be able to fill.
The benefits of partnering with this researcher were clear: Arnaud has a keen ability to problem-solve along with his aptitude to understand all aspects of the product’s use and development cycle. Not surprisingly, Les Enduits STEF hired Arnaud full-time as their research and development chemist.
CEO Dominic Francoeur praised working with Arnaud through Accelerate.
We are a small Quebec company, and it is very costly to do research and development. Arnaud really took initiative and accelerated the pace of our projects, and now we’re looking at developing new revenue streams as we take our product to market across Canada.”
For his part, Arnaud is proud to be making a difference for a local company, and he’s thankful for the opportunity to develop a career in Sherbrooke. “For me, the Mitacs Accelerate internship helped me to gain independence and professionalism in my research, and to connect to a company that needed my expertise. I am turning my passion for research into a career, and I am finally able to establish my life here in Sherbrooke.”
Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence's Industrial Research and Development Internship Program, the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of Mitacs Accelerate.