Ray McGowan, a senior program manager with the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), is on a mission to get the word out about NFRC’s commercial rating program.

According to McGowan, who led a webinar about the commercial program yesterday, the NFRC’s residential program has become a universally accepted tool for multiple stakeholders—allowing manufacturers to convey that they have a quality product, code professionals to do their jobs of establishing benchmarks and ensuring compliance, and consumers to gain insights on performance via a simple product sticker.

However, the benefits of NFRC’s much-newer commercial rating program—officially called the Commercial Modeling Approach (CMA) for Non-Residential Energy Certification Rating—have yet to gain full traction; the initiative has been around only since 2009. The development of the CMA program, however, which was fully implemented in 2010, has not been without objection by the commercial industry. One of the commercial market’s arguments was that a program created for standard residential products couldn’t be appropriately adapted for a commercial segment that already works to create the most energy-efficient projects using products custom-made for the majority of jobs.

McGowan focused a sizable chunk of a recent webinar on the council’s work and available resources regarding the non-residential side. His mission of awareness, in fact, is taking him on evangelical trips for meetings and presentations, with stops spanning from the Pacific Northwest to Arlington, Va., not to mention the virtual location of Monday’s webinar.

“We really want to grow that,” McGowan said of the CMA, speaking to USGNN.com™ after the webinar. Just as with the residential program, “It helps manufacturers compete. It helps them demonstrate that they have a better product.”

Windows matter, as one of McGowan’s webinar slides stated. About 32 percent of a building’s energy load is sucked up by what passes through windows in either direction. But that’s the average for both residential and non-residential structures combined. The residential number might be somewhat lower than that, while the percentage for commercial structures, such as those with potentially all-glass facades, could approach 50 percent or more, McGowan points out.

Whereas NFRC’s residential program is centered on the familiar sticker for windows and other glass products, the CMA is driven by a certificate, also attained by the manufacturer. Like the residential stickers, the commercial certificates provide hard data on glass performance such as U-factor, allowing manufacturers to go head-to-head on quality with one another.

According to McGowan, attaining certificates naturally takes a bit of legwork up front, but through its website and other resources, he says NFRC has attempted to make it an efficient and fairly painless process. The council’s database, available right from the NFRC home page without a user name or password, allows users to find label certificates for a given project anywhere in the country. NFRC software, meanwhile, is powered by 6,000 frame components and 3,000 pieces of glass that allow a user to “build” a virtual window and get the performance numbers. (In order for a manufacturer to attain the certificate, an accredited professional would perform that task, but anyone can use the software.)

And, “From the code person’s point of view, you’ve got simplicity and reliability,” says McGowan. “You’ve got this common document that satisfies the code.”

That is, as long as a code person knows about the system in the first place. McGowan says that “the code folks are doing their best,” of course, but many states are not yet even aware of NFRC’s rating resources on the commercial side. Only a few places around the country, Seattle being one, are familiar with and using the certificates, according to McGowan.

The certificate also can be beneficial for LEED purposes, even from the perspective of consumers—that is, those seeking LEED status. LEED first and foremost requires that windows meet ASHRAE 90.1 2010 fenestration energy requirements. But LEED is based on point totals, and points can be gained for windows that go above and beyond that threshold. Only about 300 of the some 17,000 LEED-rated projects are in NFRC’s database, according to the presentation.

NFRC hopes that, like the stickers that show ratings on residential glass, its CMA certificate will be standard currency in the commercial world. And when that happens, he believes, it will be for the benefit of all stakeholders.


  1. Mr. McGowan fails to mention the multi-step modeling and testing process required to get products into the NFRC database and the associated costs, as well as the cost of maintaining products within the database that presently have to be born by product manufacturers. We’re finding our customers as well as the building owners aren’t willing to foot the bill for those costs at present. There are too many less expensive alternatives out there.

  2. This program is very convoluted and is a bald faced grab for money. Try to get a quote. You can’t. Use a thermally broken frame and a soft coat Low E and you will have a product that performs well.
    Owners, architects, and building officials have failed to understand that the published results from testing are tied to a 2 meter x 2 meter size. Actual performance will vary depending upon window size. The CMAST report does show the real values AFTER the job is installed. It also dumps on the glaziers and the manufacturers. Architects will NOT be responsible and building officials are usually clueless. Good luck

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