Benney and Perilstein Go Head to Head on the NFRC Non-Res Certification Program

Jim Benney, National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) executive director, and Max Perilstein from Arch Aluminum & Glass, shared their views of the NFRC's proposed non-residential certification and rating program in a point-counterpoint discussion at the IGM/FW show yesterday in Boston.

The debate began with Benney, who provided an overview of what the NFRC is and why he feels it is an important organization. He stressed that the NFRC is not a trade association, but is a 501c(3) organization that is "dedicated to serving the public and satisfying the needs of private sector partners …" The group was formed because there was a need for a national standard to determine the energy performance of fenestration systems.

Benney explained that NFRC's standards and its product certification program have addressed commercial applications since 1991 and in 1999 the group developed its current site-built program. Now, NFRC is working on developing a new method for rating and certifying products used in commercial applications, which it is calling a Component Modeling Procedure.

"This [procedure] was approved by the [NFRC board of directors] in 2004," said Benney. The task now is communicating and validating this information to the industry. The procedure requires that someone, a responsible party, "signs off" on the project that it meets the requirements. "We're pulling [those members of the industry] together to come up with the system that works."

Perilstein's presentation followed Benney's opening remarks.

"I agree with a lot of what Jim said," began Perilstein. He said he believed, that as an industry, development of a whole system product calculation for fenestration performance is vital. "A whole system calculation would be valuable," he said. "What we're against is the money. What we disagree with is NFRC's apparent attempt to profit from third party verification on the calculation for a whole system fenestration performance."

The obstacle Perilstein cited in this regard involves the action of the NFRC board of directors. Perilstein said the structure of the NFRC's board and its bylaws give board members ultimate authority over the efforts and recommendations of task groups and subcommittees.

"My prediction, is that once the program is complete, none of it will matter because the NFRC board of directors' history has shown that the board can do whatever it chooses," said Perilstein in defense of the efforts of task group and subcommittee members working for the industry's best interest.

Perilstein also said that the NFRC's board of directors "continue to grossly oversimplify and manipulate the facts," including how it "protects" itself by its 501c(3) status.

Benney responded, "The 501c(3) status is often misunderstood. We are not a trade association; we are here to benefit the public, not the industry. Members of these groups don't get much say. The board is responsible for making sure NFRC meets its mission: the public needs. They [the public] need to know they are getting what they are buying."

Established in the residential industry, Benney explained that the NFRC is now trying to learn about the commercial market. "It's the board's responsibility, that if there's a program, we verify that it's correct," said Benney. "The NFRC does not certify. We set up procedures so that manufacturers can certify and validate that what they're doing is correct."

Perilstein again commented that he opposes the fact that it will be costly for the "responsible party," which will likely be the glazing contractor. While he agrees that the whole system calculation can be a valuable design tool for all stakeholders, he feels that the validation and certification portions of the program are not necessary and only add cost to the program.

Benney responded that a "paper trail," which comes from the validation, certification and inspection, is necessary to confirm the performance of the system used on a building's design and construction.

The bottom line for the industry, according to Perilstein, still comes down to cost.

"The line in the sand is the third-party certification," he said. "I just don't see where we need the last two steps."

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