Canada Seeks High Standards for Window Efficiency

Fenestration Canada’s annual general meeting wrapped up last week with some eye-opening educational sessions, including one that delved into significant changes that are ahead for thermal standards for windows in the country.

Newly elected Fenestration Canada president Lisa Bergeron addresses attendees in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Debbie Scharf, director of the equipment division of the Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada, gave an overview of the strategy for buildings under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

The framework came out December 2016, and it will seek 30 percent of energy reductions from building efficiency, Scharf said. Today, 17 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gases are generated by buildings, with heating of the interior of structures representing 56-64 percent of energy use.

According to Scharf, if Canada switched all residential windows to a U-factor of 0.8, the country could reduce national energy use by 9 percent and cut greenhouse gases by 5 metric tons. But therein lies the challenge – developing a market transformation plan for these windows.

“If you can’t overcome market barriers, you can’t reach your goals,” Scharf said.

The Pan-Canadian Framework calls for an average U-factor of 1.6 by 2020. By 2025, it seeks a U-factor of 1.2 for windows. By 2030, the plan demands a 0.8 U-factor for windows, and they must be able to be manufactured and installed cost effectively.

Scharf acknowledged that it will be challenging to get there. “As it exists today, a 0.8 window is not cost-effective,” she said.

Among the many challenges is Canada’s diverse, dispersed window makers. Scharf says there are about 1,400 Canadian manufacturers, working regionally and locally, though just 16 firms cover two-thirds of the market. Today’s sales in Canada are 55 percent retrofit, 45 percent new construction.

Before any serious work with stakeholders begins, Scharf said a national market study will wrap in early 2018.

NAFS and Beyond

Next, a pair of sessions addressed challenges in Canada with implementing the North American Fenestration Standard (NAFS).

Jeff Baker of WESTLab and Jean-François Kogovsek of Maxim Marketing discussed why a NAFS and energy label might not be enough to comply with codes in the country.

First of all, the focus of the housing market in Canada is changing from single-family homes to multifamily residences. At the same time, net-zero housing is really taking off, Baker said. That will mean more tripled-glazed windows and thicker walls – both of which could lead to installation challenges.

“When you add two inches of foam insulation, hanging a window on that could become a challenge,” Baker said.

As far as three-paned windows, Baker notes a difference between what he called “real triples” and “skinny triples.” Real triples are better for energy efficiency, though Baker noted that one low-E coating is not always good enough.

“I tell people look to performance specification,” he said.

Continuing the NAFS theme, an interesting session pitted members of the window industry and those who have to work with the products they produce – a building inspector, a code coordinator for a fire department and an architect. One thing they all have in common is that they’re struggling to interpret and implement building codes across Canada.


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