NFRC Promotes User-Friendly Building Energy Codes

When architects have questions about commercial glazing and building codes, Ray McGowan says the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) can be a good resource. That, he adds, also holds true if the certifying labels have been removed for whatever reason.

“We have procedures,” says McGowan, a senior program manager for the NFRC, “so call us. We can make sure the right labels are delivered by an authorized representative. The best answer is to make certain with us and we’ll try our best to make a rating.”

The two scenarios were one of several potential compliance pitfalls McGowan addressed during a recent hour-long NFRC Code Solution Series webinar called, “Commercial Fenestration Code Compliance.”

The NFRC, McGowan, says, makes code enforcement easy with a developed verifiable ratings system that is user-friendly and easily accessible.

But building energy codes, which are enacted into law by individual state legislatures, can be complex and difficult to identify, often requiring verification of numerous building components. In an effort to better shed light on the process and the criteria involved, McGowan highlighted a number of key components critical to the certified whole window energy performance that will help reduce energy consumption and increase savings.

He also highlighted the role of NFRC related to providing high-performance fenestration for energy-efficient commercial construction and tried to give a better understanding of the NFRC 100 and NFRC 200 documents that deal with U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) in windows, respectively, and how the NFRC commercial fenestration certification program (CMA) enables energy codes compliance.

The common building energy codes are the International Code Council’s IECC 09 and ASHRAE 90.1-07, both of which require window ratings and labeling. Other regulations of note include Energy Star and the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) systems. All of which require NFRC 100 and NFRC 200 compliance.

“A sticker should be on every window at the time of framing,” McGowan says.

IECC is a residential, climate-based energy code that allows two rating methods (default and NFRC 100- and 200-based), while ASHRAE 90.1-07 is a commercial building code that boasts the same two rating methods. Under ASHRAE guidelines, McGowan explained, the solar heat gain coefficient and air leakage rate for all manufactured fenestration products by accredited laboratory or accrediting organization such as the NFRC.

There are 20 simulation labs across the U.S., Canada and the Philippines and 12 test labs spread over the U.S., Canada and South Africa to handle the volume of testing needed for the complete ratings system, McGowan said.

It means that window rating energy confirmation has never been easier thanks to a developed ratings system whose online residential database includes 9.5 million rated products from 750 different participants, according to McGowan. While nowhere yet as extensive as the residential side, the online commercial database allows project managers and others to look up specific project label certificates at no charge.

If no certificate is available, McGowan recommends directing the manufacturer to the NFRC ratings system or putting them in direct contact with the NFRC.

“The ratings are for building energy codes and for manufacturers to compete fairly,” McGowan said.

He says that unacceptable window energy performance documents include U-factors and SHGC figures on drawings, marketing literature, center of glass values and documents from previous jobs.

Fines can reach as high as $5,000 to companies found to have fraudulently labeled windows as certified.