Volume 35, Number 3, March 2000

Under One Umbrella

NFRC Brings Commercial Products Under Its Energy Performance Umbrella

by Jim Benney

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The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) celebrated its tenth anniversary last year with a quiet party and an eye toward the 21st century. But, it’s safe to say we’re not going to rest on our laurels in the new millennium. In fact, we plan to launch and promote a number of new initiatives this year, beginning with our main accomplishment in 1999: a Site-Built Rating and Certification Program for fenestration systems in commercial building applications.

NFRC, which administers a fair, accurate, and credible energy performance rating system for fenestration products, has enjoyed enormous success in the residential market. We have ratings procedures in place for U-Factor (NFRC 100), solar heat gain coefficient (NFRC 200), visible transmittance (NFRC 300), and air leakage (NFRC 400). We also have a Certified Products Directory that lists energy performance ratings for more than 61,000 windows, doors, and skylights.

Most of these 61,000 products are designed, built and rated for the residential market. Now we aim to achieve at least the same level of penetration in the commercial market. Last September, the NFRC membership approved NFRC 100 Section C. Section C addresses field-glazed or field-assembled products, including curtainwall, storefront, and window wall applications, as well as sunroom and solarium systems.

With Section C, these products – which were essentially “un-ratable” under the existing NFRC system – are brought under the NFRC energy performance umbrella. Glazing contractors, specifiers, and others who had no independent means of specifying and verifying the energy performance of products in commercial building applications now have a source of third-party credibility on which they can depend and rely.

The new Site-Built program embraces those elements that have proven successful in the residential program, specifically the computer modeling tools, the accredited laboratories and the third party “independent agencies” (IAs), to assure that it will be as accurate and credible as the existing system. With that in place as a starting point, NFRC addressed a number of critical issues unique to the commercial sector:

• The absence of a manufacturing entity willing to serve in the role of “responsible party” to assure the thermal ratings for a fenestration system match the actual products being installed on the building envelope.

• The impracticality of having temporary and permanent labels on every opening in a commercial building project.

• The absence of temporary and permanent labels on commercial fenestration projects. This void created the need for a new method to communicate and compare the thermal performance of commercial fenestration systems in a fair and accurate manner. It also allowed for a new way for building code inspectors and other regulatory agencies to validate the fenestration system’s performance.

In resolving these issues, NFRC worked closely with its own membership as well as representatives from a number of key outside groups: the American Architectural Manufactur-ers Association (AAMA) and the Building Envelope Contractors division of the Glass Association of North America (GANA) are two examples.

To address the lack of a responsible party, the new Site-Built program provides the flexibility needed to meet the needs of the commercial fenestration industry by establishing multiple license agreements for the potential “responsible party.” This means the responsible party may be a glazing contractor or installer, a lineal supplier, a building owner, an architect, or even a construction specifier. No matter who it is, the responsible party agrees to guarantee the performance of the certified products that have been specified and installed on the building envelope.

We solved the impracticality of temporary and permanent labels with a new “Label Certificate Form (LCF).” The form replaces the temporary and permanent labels required under the residential certification program. These new standardized forms include the NFRC logo and the U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), and visible transmittance of the certified products installed on a building. The NFRC ratings are established on standardized specimens, using the framing and glazing systems specified. These ratings will be helpful to architects, specifiers, and building owners for comparing different potential suppliers with realistic product-to-product performance. In addition, the LCF, posted on site at a building project, will provide building officials with the documentation needed to show compliance with local, state or regional energy codes. These forms also help to assure compliance with NFRC requirements, by providing a paper trail, with copies maintained by the responsible party, the IA, and at NFRC headquarters.

Every NFRC member is proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our established ratings are gaining acceptance, especially solar heat gain ratings in the states of California, Florida and Texas. The increasing popularity of the EPA/DOE ENERGY STAR® WINDOWS Program has shifted the focus for window performance – and its effects on building energy usage – from that of just “heat loss” in northern climates to the effects of “heat gain” in southern
climates.

In addition to the new Site-Built Certification and Rating Program, NFRC intends to complete the development of a number of other important rating procedures in 2000. These include a standardized methodology for reporting UV transmission and a condensation resistance rating procedure. And looking further down the road, a new subcommittee held its first official meeting last month to begin working on a consumer-friendly “comfort” rating for windows, doors, and skylights. It’s going to be an interesting year.

Jim Benney is director of education at the NFRC. Prior to joining NFRC, he served as executive director of the Primary Glass Manufacturers Council and as NFRC vice chairman. For more information about NFRC’s new Site-Built Certification and Rating Program, contact Benney at the NFRC Midwestern office at 785/862-1890 or by email at jimnfrc@aol.com.


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