NFRC Moves Beyond CMA as Members, Installers
Ask New Questions
Time and again during the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)
spring membership meeting, which took place in April in New Orleans, the
little time spent on discussions of the council’s Component Modeling Approach
(CMA) was made note of by participants. Such remarks were meant to encourage
the participants grappling with new issue that these questions, too, would
be answered in time, but those who remember those earlier meetings seemed
unmoved by these comments.
When the CMA program did come up during the meeting, it was to announce
that the council had issued the first Label Certificate under its new
CMA program to Monett, Mo.-based EFCO Corp.
The CMA, which provides whole-product energy performance ratings for nonresidential
construction projects, uses a software tool (CMAST) to establish performance
libraries of approved components that are then accessed to configure fenestration
products for a project and obtain a U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient
and visible transmittance rating for those products. These ratings are
reflected in a CMA Label Certificate for code compliance. EFCO, a
Pella Co., pulled the first certificate in March for a 5600 2¼
curtainwall supplied to the Life Sciences Research Center under construction
by the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative. The building,
on the campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah, is intended to
serve as an industry “magnet” designed to draw top research teams.
“Because it’s designed to inspire and promote innovation, the new building
in Utah was the perfect project to inaugurate NFRC’s new CMA program,”
says Joseph Holmes, EFCO’s approved calculation entity (ACE). “Even though
we were the first and there are some small bugs yet to work out, the process
went as smooth as possible.”
Some of that ease may have come from the fact that the project used all
standard products previously tested by EFCO.
Ted Derby, a partner with the project glazing contractor LCG Facades in
Salt Lake City, later told USGlass that LCG was prepared to take on those
“bugs” as the company had provided NFRC certification on several projects
prior to the release of the new CMA program.
“We had to be the ‘responsible party’ on a couple of projects [in the
past],” Derby says, “but as we worked with EFCO and encouraged their participation
it became easier to have EFCO make the submittals. EFCO has been extremely
responsive to our requests.”
Among the challenges that Derby ran into on using this new program was
simply one of awareness.
“NFRC uses a term ‘label certificate’ and, to the state code officials,
this means that each frame would have a permanently attached label. It
took a little bit of convincing to help the code officials understand
the frame would not be permanently marked,” Derby says.
For other glazing contractors looking to work on certified projects, Derby
advises: “Start the process early.” He continues, “Each project will have
its special challenges. Also, it may be easiest to assign someone in your
office to become proficient with the procedure and be the point person
for all the communication to NFRC and your general contractor.”
Questions About IG Certification
Glazing contractors aren’t the only industry party to have questions about
NFRC programs, as was evident at earlier meetings. During a code and standards
update on the Insulating Glass Certification Council (IGCC) that took
place during the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) annual
meeting in March (see page 47 for more), John Kent noted that there is
“an enormous amount of volatility in the IG certification business largely
driven by the NFRC.”
As he explained, many companies are looking at IG certification for the
first time now that NFRC requires it, so there’s been a tremendous amount
of “what if?” Questions have come pouring in to IGCC regarding how to
handle certification of IG products with decorative inserts, of triples,
of various gas-filled products and other more custom configurations.
“It’s going from a voluntary process to a quasi-mandatory process … there’s
going to be a point when people can’t sell product without certification,”
Kent said, pointing to such driving factors as increasingly stringent
codes and Energy Star®. “I think it’s going to be a problem,” he added.
Among the issues of concern is the fog test used during the testing. “There
continues to be a lot of rumbling over volatile fog tests … we’re allowing
two fog failures until those issues are resolved,” Kent said.
He also noted that NFRC is now allowing general equivalency among spacer
products but will look at this again in June. The reason behind this,
the audience suggested, was that spacer manufacturers have been reluctant
to include their products in the component libraries.
Another concern was voiced over acceptance of Canadian companies’ IG products
into NFRC. July 1 is the deadline by which NFRC labeled IGUs must have
IG certification, and therein the IGMA Certification Committee found a
“If we want the IGMAC program to be accepted by NFRC we have to have that
two year testing,” explained Margaret Webb, executive director of IGMA.
Currently the Canadian certification program requires its participants
to re-certify their products every four years, while NFRC requires re-certification
every two years. The concern was that companies that have just undergone
or will be shortly completing this process—and are expecting not to do
so again for another four years—would now be forced through the process
more quickly than they were anticipating.
The group acknowledged that some of those manufacturers might not care
whether or not their products were certified to NFRC. But, as Webb explained,
“The dilemma is the IG guys don’t always know if their IG is going to
go into an NFRC-certified product. This is a logistical nightmare,” she
The group agreed to try to approach the NFRC board to request an extension
solely for those products that have more than two years remaining on their
re-certification as of the July 1 deadline.
While testing of Canadian products was soon resolved, Jim Krahn of Marvin
Windows & Doors brought up concerns over products from further afield.
He asked in general the group’s opinion of accepting into the NFRC certification
program products manufactured overseas to standard EN 1279. The problem,
the audience agreed, was the same as one already discussed—the European
standard does not call for re-certification of units.
Issues such as these seem to mark a new stage of NFRC programs as the
commercial industry sees implementation of new requirements, even as NFRC
moves to new projects.
While trying to address questions over old projects, NFRC continues to
work on new projects. In fact, several new task groups were instituted
during the council’s spring meeting, meaning lots of new work for the
group before its virtual meeting July 19-21.
Among the new task groups is one to consider the need for rating spandrel
Charlie Curcija of Carli Inc. brought up issue of spandrel panel ratings
during the Technical Committee meeting. As he explained, spandrels are
“often modeled by commercial window manufacturers and their performance
is requested by architects and code officials, but there is no sanctioned
NFRC procedure for [rating] them. Procedures used currently are often
inconsistent and wrong. Our proposal is to add spandrel panels to list
of standard products and to establish rules for validation and modeling.”
“There does seem to be some input from the commercial group that they
need some help in validating this,” Jeff Baker of WESTLab Inc. and Technical
Committee chair agreed.
The concern of course is that spandrel panels include a wide range of
products not limited to glass.
“Spandrel panels means a host of different things so we could be putting
brick into a curtainwall and saying ‘ok it’s a spandrel panel,’” pointed
out one listener.
Baker advised that upon creating the task group the scope could limit
the materials as appropriate.
Answering a question about current procedures Curcija said, “They’re not
rated, but I’ve seen manufacturers are modeling them and supplying them
to architects … there are numbers produced by manufacturers and from what
I’ve seen it’s all over the place and mostly not correct.”
Ultimately the committee agreed to form a task group to investigate the
technical feasibility of rating spandrel panels.
Task Group Forums
During the CMA Ratings Subcommittee, the group discussed the potential
of a re-certification period. Now that use of the CMA process is underway,
and the group is looking at the long-term process, the discussion came
up that down the road the components included in the CMA library “buckets”—databases
into which product information is placed—will eventually become outdated.
Ken Nittler of WESTLab noted that there are no provisions as to when those
frames, insulating glass components, etc., placed into these databases
need to be reexamined.
“I’m worried three or four years from now we’ll have these databases with
all these materials and no provisions for removing old products,” he said.
“We need to know when the data is no longer valid.”
“There does not appear to be any expiration for the products in the so-called
buckets and this group will take a look at that and make some recommendations,”
Steve Strawn of Jeld-Wen elaborated.
Despite some cautions, the Ratings Committee agreed to form an Annual
Energy Performance (AEP) Rating Task Group. Since the AEP Subcommittee
has finished its task under the Technical Committee to “develop procedures
to rate the annual energy performance of fenestration products and fenestration
product attachments in homes,” according to its scope, the activity is
now moving to establishing such a rating.
Tom Culp of Birch Point Consulting pointed out, “The board direction …
from fall 2005 said that the technical procedure would be developed first
before a rating could be developed,” and there had not been a direction
that a rating wouldn’t be developed. With the technical portion complete,
the new task group will proceed to investigate an associated rating.
Garrett Stone of Brickfield, Burchette, Ritts & Stone questioned such
a rating. “The simulation procedure was challenging enough and controversial
enough,” he commented. “I’m just not sure given all the issues that NFRC
has to address that this is the right way to [proceed].” He notes that
the software is not yet available to proceed this way.
“We shouldn’t be slowed down by not having the software,” Curcija said,
adding, “we have a tool we can upgrade.”
Rich Karney of the Department of Energy commented that “the department
is still very interested in this,” although he quickly added that the
Environmental Protection Agency, which has taken over the Energy Star
program (see January 2010 USGlass, page 42, for related story) likely
would not have the resources to support this.
During the NFRC board of directors meeting, Strawn reported that the committee
has “has accepted that challenge to develop an AEP rating,” adding, “so
we have a AEP Ratings Exploratory Task Group.” He reminded listeners that
the focus is on “exploratory,” as in this group will determine whether
there is a need for this.
Joe Hayden of Pella Corp. asked the Technical Committee to form a task
group to look at initial grouping rules regarding sightlines. Right now,
he explained, “The way the wording is in the grouping section, if you
make any change to sightlines whatsoever you have to re-simulate.” That
goes for changes as small as 1/16-inch increments. In order to eventually
allow for a range of sightlines in any group—as a starting point, he suggested
+/- ½-inch—he proposed that a task group look into this issue.
Actual Product Performance
Also during the meeting, the U-Factor Subcommittee reviewed a ballot on
changing numbers, this time a proposed change in the sizes of casement-awning
models in NFRC 100. The ballot, in an interesting turn of phrase, noted,
“Some felt the new sizes would not be representative sizes of casement/projected
sold in the market. NFRC rates products at a standard size and should
not be confused with actual product performance. Earlier, when energy
simulations were done at the NFRC standard size, this would have been
important, but these days all building energy analysis tools use actual
size information for energy analysis.”
In his negative, Steve Johnson of Andersen Corp. noted that there needed
to be more justification to change from the existing size grid. He noted
that the “current sizes were selected to represent common casement products.
This [change] would require us to build something for simulation that
nobody in practice actually manufactures.” Strawn advised sending the
section back to the task group to justify a size change and come up with
sizes that make sense.
Culp agreed that the suggested sizes weren’t “realistic” for residential
casement products, but added, “the size that’s in there now is not realistic
for commercial [products], and that’s the heart of the problem.” As he
explained, “This table is also referenced by CMA.”
As others spoke in support of including two sizes—residential and architectural—it
ultimately was voted to return this document to its task group for further
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