Glaziers Speak Out: On the NFRC's Efforts to Create an Energy and Certification Rating Program for Non-Residential Construction

The National Fenestration Rating Council's (NFRC) push to create an energy certification and rating program for the commercial market has not been without debate, discussion and controversy. The NFRC says the program would provide the commercial glazing community with a system for rating fenestration products for thermal performance. Representatives of the commercial glazing industry, however, say the proposed program will only add unnecessary costs and time to a process that is already "regulated" by the way of design specifications.

The NFRC's proposed program would require a "responsible party" to enter into a licensing agreement with the NFRC. The responsible party will be required to take on the costs of certification, inspections and others associated with ensuring the installed product meets all of the NFRC's performance requirements. Commercial glass and glazing companies, including representatives from associations such as the Glass Association of North America (GANA), say this is a huge issue since, in all likeliness, that responsible party title will fall upon the glazing contractor.

Over the past almost two years a handful of representatives of the commercial glazing industry have been working diligently in support of their industry, by speaking out before the NFRC, the Department of Energy and other groups and organizations, but little progress has been made. GANA, in fact, has included the topic as a discussion outlet in most every meeting it has held since the February 2005 Glass Week to try and encourage industry involvement and awareness. Yet few have taken action.

With the understanding that the NFRC's proposed certification and rating system could add more costs and time to already tight schedules and budgets, why aren't glaziers speaking out? For some, the answer is simple-they say they are simply not aware of the NFRC's efforts or the impact the program could have on the industry.

"I don't think anyone here knows much about the NFRC or its energy certification program for the commercial glazing industry," says Marlene Guy, who has served as the controller for Best Glass Inc. in Jeannette, Pa., for more than 23 years. "We already abide by numerous local, state and federal codes in our line of work. Our business is tough enough to make a buck as it is. I am not sure additional cost associated with more codes and standards that would ultimately be passed on to the customer would be well-received or make good sense. I am really not sure why the NFRC would want to take this stance on behalf of our industry."

Scott Miracle, co-owner of J & J Paint & Glass, a small glazing contractor serving both the residential and commercial markets in the greater Kalamazoo, Mich., area, is familiar with NFRC's product certification program for residential applications, but says he is not aware of the organization's efforts to implement something similar for the commercial sector.

"The NFRC's residential rating certification hasn't really changed how we do business in the residential sector other than we only use low-E glass in [those] windows now," says Miracle. "I have no idea why this group would want to take on a similar program for the non-residential sector. I don't think it needs to be done. I believe it's up to the building owners to determine the types of energy-efficient products they want to utilize in their buildings."

"This is not a new issue to glaziers along the west coast," says Kelly Rust, president of Washington Glass & Glazing, a small glazing contractor serving northwest Washington. "Our area [Seattle] was the frontrunner for the NFRC's certification and validation program for whole system fenestration performance. As a matter of fact, we have adopted state codes to this effect and have been operating with this procedure [component modeling] for a number of years."
Rust says he thinks the reason glaziers are not more concerned about the program is because they simply do not have problem with the end result.

"I do understand that this was a change and would certainly be met with some resistance and will be for some time," he says. "We have had meetings, dialogue and the opportunity for compromise, review and revision as the standard was finalized," he continues. "There were aspects that worked in the residential realm that would not work in the commercial glazing arena and this was addressed and resolved. I agree in some respects it looks like a money grab and this did, and still does, bother me somewhat. As with anything that is new it requires doing things differently than has been done in the past, there are headaches and concerns. However, on the practical side, I see the benefits and understand the rationale behind it. Personally, I look at the project at hand and see this as a requirement necessary to complete the project … the costs associated with meeting these requirements are a part of the overall costs and are absorbed by the customer. It's new, there's a learning curve and it's a process that will continue to evolve."

John Heinaman with Lake Forest, Calif.-based Heinaman Contract Glazing Co., recalls being concerned about this issue initially, but does not see how the program is one that is needed by the industry.

"It's an idea that has been bounced around by a group of people. There are so many variables involved within each job at each site that it will virtually be impossible to establish criteria for a measurable standard let alone be enforceable. Presently, architects are creating specifications that comply with energy code requirements. When those specifications are fulfilled, the products that we [glaziers] furnish are very energy efficient and basically comply with the intent of the NFRC. We do not need a new NFRC code to produce energy-efficient buildings for the future--we are already doing that."

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