Over the past couple of weeks, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) has been in the news again. Some of the people intimately involved in the organization have left, and the July 14 piece on USGNN that NFRC is seeking more industry input is welcome. Surprised by that announcement? I am, too; here’s why.
Because of the glazing industry’s inattention to thermal specification requirements, we’ve left the door wide open for people to ask how glass manufacturers, frame suppliers and glazing subcontractors are meeting thermal performance. Most of us were complacent, including me at one time, believing it was enough to meet the center of the glass U-value, and never did anything more to ensure the frame contributed to higher performing walls. The architects and consultants never called us on the wall’s actual U-value, but that started to change with all the attention thermal performance has gotten in the last 10 years.
Given some obvious holes in the Component Modeling Approach (CMA) process, such as: 1) thermal insulation not being considered in the wall’s U-Values; 2) only vision areas considered for certification; and 3) other materials, such as metal panels, stone, or other glazing substrates aren’t figured in how the NFRC calculates thermal performance, there’s a way to go yet. The foundation is there in the glass, frame, and spacer databases already established. But, before the CMA can be considered universally applicable to glazing, some of these larger holes have to be plugged, or the timetable to plug them has to be increased.
Some of that stopped when NFRC came on the scene, and we’ve all had to buckle down and dot the thermal performance i’s by ensuring the products actually perform as modeled. None of us should back away from where we’ve come in the last 10 years in this respect. Let’s keep that going. And, I think NFRC can play a role in that.
What was surprising in the July 14 story was that NFRC “will be reaching out to collaborate” with a range of glazing industry groups. That’s certainly welcome. But when did all these trade organizations become their “partners?”
Because that certainly wasn’t the case when Greg Carney, Tom Culp, and others were trying to reach out to them when the CMA was first being developed. NFRC tried to set up CMA based on their past experience with residential windows, yet the two industries aren’t related, nor should their certification processes be. The biggest difference is commercial glazing doesn’t generally mass-produce thousands of similar windows or curtainwalls year in and year out. On this side of the fence, every job is different. I don’t know first-hand what NFRC thought about the commercial glazing industry back then, but there was certainly a lot of negative reaction, some of which tainted my perspective.
So if NFRC is now ready, willing, and able to sit down at the table and be one of many players equal in stature in developing an industry-wide, common sense approach that contributes to building an authentic consensus program, then where do I sign up?
The idea here is to come up with an easily understood and user-friendly program that will draw people to it, that will result in every project in the land using its benefits. Because, when it provides more benefits than it costs, it’ll be a runaway hit.
The challenge for NFRC will be to be open to adapting the program, and maybe going back and including some of the things the industry requested initially. It’s equally obvious that the numerous recent staff changes aren’t because the program’s been an overwhelming success, and that re-tooling it is necessary. So I ask, “What can we in the industry do to help ensure it succeeds this next go-round?”
Make no mistake, unless we get back the confidence of ASHRAE, the architects and building owners, we might be on our own in figuring out thermal performance. The CMA has an opportunity to make that simpler, and I hope it succeeds, and am willing to help where I can.
GANA, NFRC, AAMA and IGMA: all of you have a say in this, so I hope you’ll contribute. And glazing subs, who are the real end users, please jump in, too. You bear the brunt implementing whatever program is developed, you ought to have a say in what that looks like.