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November - December 2002


Misunderstandings and Misconceptions
Clearing up Misconceptions About the NFRC
by Jim Benney

Over the last 13 years, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) has strived to define itself as a tool (and nothing more) for measuring the energy performance of windows, doors and skylights independently.

Unfortunately, some stakeholders in the industry continue to hold a different perception. Since perception increasingly equals reality in our sound-bite-driven world, we are forced to confront a great deal of misinformation continually. This is especially true when activity in the codes and regulations arena impacts a manufacturer’s market. The growth, activity and effectiveness of NFRC in developing standards, as well as being referenced in the building code arena, has resulted in some misperceptions about NFRC within the industry—primarily among manufacturers who do not participate in the NFRC rating and labeling system.

NFRC Doesn’t Set Performance Levels
So let me state the message of this column upfront: The NFRC does not set requirements for performance. 

I bring this up in response to the article written by Rand Baldwin in the last issue of this magazine (see DWM/BCM September-October 2002, page 38). In his article regarding the criteria in the ENERGY STAR® windows program Baldwin writes, “This reflects the view of NFRC, which defines efficient residential windows by setting performance requirements on U-factor, SHGC, visible transmittance and air leakage.” 

Unfortunately, this quote represents a common misrepresentation of the goals and objectives of the NFRC. The council establishes consensus measurement standards—the credible tools used for determining performance. In addition, NFRC administers a certification and labeling program for effectively communicating the performance of window, door, curtainwall and skylight systems to the manufacturers, regulators and buyers of fenestration products who need this information. 

Code Bodies Set Performance Levels
It should be understood that levels of performance are determined (and set) by local, state and federal regulatory bodies only. NFRC provides the means for fair, accurate and credible energy-performance ratings, so energy codes and voluntary programs can set meaningful targets and determine compliance to those targets. The growth and adoption of energy-performance requirements for windows in energy codes (the International Energy Conservation Code, for example) could not have been possible without a credible energy-performance rating mechanism that NFRC standards provide. The ENERGY STAR windows program requires that windows be rated and certified in accordance with NFRC to show that the windows do indeed meet the program criteria. 

NFRC is a stand-alone nonprofit organization that is funded and supported by the certification program and its many members. Its continuing mission is “to establish fair, accurate and credible energy-performance rating systems for fenestration products and to coordinate certification and labeling activities to ensure their uniform application.” 

NFRC is simply a facilitator between the fenestration industry and the regulatory bodies that set and enforce the energy codes. We leave setting performance levels to someone else.

We also encourage Baldwin and his fellow window manufacturers to come visit with us at an upcoming NFRC meeting. We’d love the opportunity to educate this group about the true purpose of NFRC and to have it contribute to its improvement in the years to come. 

Jim Benney is director of education for the National Fenestration Rating Council in Silver Spring, Md. 

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