Members of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) are gathered at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., this week for three days of back-to-back educational and committee meetings. The event began yesterday with a warm welcome from incoming NFRC chairman Jeff Baker of WestLab and presentations covering the state of the fenestration industry, an update on the EnergyStar 6.0 release, and an overview of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Window7/Therm7.
As a part of the opening session, NFRC CEO Jim Benney announced a special program in celebration of the group’s 25th anniversary.
The NFRC is offering its first-ever film contest for college students. The group will encourage students to create a three- to four-minute film with the goal of promoting the NFRC and its work over the last 25 years, according to Benney.
“We’ll create a small panel of judges to review. … The winning students will get a college scholarship,” he said.
The top three films will be viewed at the 2014 NFRC Membership meeting and will then be posted to the group’s site. More information will be made available after the spring meeting, he noted.
The group also recognized several well-known members who passed away over the last year, including John Mumaw of Owens Corning, Bill Goss of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Greg Carney, a glazing industry consultant who originally worked with Libby-Owens Ford, and later the Glass Association of North America before starting his own consulting firm.
Baker thanked outgoing chairman Steve Strawn of Jeld-Wen for his contributions to the industry.
“I am honored and privileged to serve as chair,” said Baker.
Moving on to the presentations, Michael Collins of Building Industry Advisors and a blogger for USGlass’ sister publication, DWM magazine, discussed the “State of the Fenestration Industry.”
He noted that long-term unemployment is still a problem. However, gross domestic product growth is “accelerating and critical” for the industry.
Collins pointed to a rebounding economy as good news for the construction industry, saying businesses are feeling more comfortable hiring new people and spending.
On another note, a significant number of homes are in negative equity, which is nothing new, Collins pointed out. Nevada, Florida and Arizona homeowners have been particularly hard hit with this trend. But in many other states, retail spending is growing, which leads to more commercial storefronts and more commercial structures, which are “highly welcomed.”
A focus area for growth is high-net worth individuals, according to Collins. He said this group is spending.
As for merger and acquisition activity, Collins forecasted growth for 2014 and 2015.
“M&A peaked in 2004 and in 2007,” he noted, explaining that many in the industry did not foresee the economy tanking in 2008.
Door and window imports are growing, he added.
“Chinese glass manufacturers grabbed market share from U.S. suppliers,” he said.
Though there are no “crisp numbers,” he said importers grabbed a larger market share during the economic downturn.
Next to take the spotlight was Doug Anderson of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who offered members an update on the EnergyStar 6.0 release.
“The EPA maintained the Northern zone criteria for windows at U-factor 0.27,” he explained.
The implementation date “remains at January 1, 2015, with the exception of the Northern zone criteria for windows,” Anderson said.
“The implementation date was revised to January 1, 2016 for the Northern zone prescriptive and equivalent energy performance criteria for windows,” he added. “Why? Some stakeholders expressed concerns about product availability in the Northern zone by the originally proposed effective date. Providing additional time should allow manufacturers more time to identify cost-saving measures to further reduce incremental costs for consumers.”
“We’ve come a long way in the Southern zone,” he pointed out. “We feel pretty good about where we ended up. We think it’s a good place.
The changes in the final specification include revisions to skylight U-factors in most zones based on industry feedback.
“The U-factor maximum for skylights is revised to 0.50 in the Northern zone,” Anderson explained. “The U-factor maxima for skylights is revised to 0.53 in the North-Central and South-Central zone. The revised final criteria will improve product availability for both curb- and deck-mount skylights.”
He went on to note that several manufacturers offer tubular daylighting devices (TDD) that will meet the proposed final draft criteria.
He noted that Energy Star windows provide a payback for low cost and average cost products in about a decade.
The EPA has begun updating its materials to include version 6.0 changes. The new materials will be posted to My Energy Star Account at www.energystar.gov/mesa as they become available.
“Product qualification label templates will not be revised for the version 6.0 specification,” he said. “Labeling guidance will, however, be updated and released to partners in advance of the criteria implementation date.”
For the next criteria revision, the EPA plans to hold a public stakeholder meeting either in person or via webinar during the second half of the year.
Finally, Christian Kohler of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory touched on the Window7/Therm 7.
The new models now include venetian blinds, woven shades, fritted glass and more.
Window7 offers a newer compiler and a more stable thermal solution from EnergyPlus, according to Kohler. The updated programs also include cellular shades, perforated screens, vertical louvered blinds, deflection, vacuum glazing and chromogenics.
Meanwhile, the changes to Therm7 were “minor,” he explained.
“The changes were mostly done to stay compatible with Window,” Kohler said. “But we did add surface potential condensation.”
The programs have also been sped up, so users should notice a difference when processing, Kohler pointed out.
A total of 105 members turned out for the Memphis meeting either in person or virtually via webinar, according to Tom Herron, NFRC’s senior manager of communications and marketing.
“We have an optimistic and enthusiastic group here. NFRC members always focus on finding solutions no matter how great the challenge. Their creativity and cooperation serves the public well, and that’s what has allowed our organization thrive for 25 years,” he said.
Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for more from the event.