Begin with One Window and End with the Market
by Kate Offringa
It all begins with a window. Just one. And it ends with an entire market.
At least that is the goal of an ambitious new energy-efficient commercial window program just underway in the Pacific Northwest. The new program is called the Commercial Windows Initiative (CWI) and is funded by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA). The program will be working in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
The CWI effort is following the lead created by the very successful Northwest Energy Star Window Program, which was also funded by NEEA. This residential window program required qualifying products to have a National Fenestration Rating Council tested U-Factor of 0.35 or lower. Market share went from 10 percent when the program began in 1998 to more than 70 percent today.
The same team is now taking on the commercial market, with similar ambitions. Gary Curtis, president of an energy-efficiency consulting firm called the Westwall Group, located in Salem, Ore., leads the team.
Start with One Window
The first challenge of the CWI is developing a window specification that meets energy-efficiency saving goals while maximizing existing window and glazing technologies and manufacturing capabilities.
“We recognize the benefits highly efficient window systems provide,” said Curtis. “The challenge with commercial window applications and a specification is finding the balance between efficiency and production.” Curtis wants to include as many market players as possible. “We want a specification that will produce savings for the region, and increase comfort for building occupants.”
The CWI has an aggressive goal: to achieve a savings equivalent to a 38-percent increase in market share of efficient windows. The program will recognize the differences between framing systems, looking at different U-factor targets for metal windows in the 0.40 area, and for non-metal about 0.35.
“These U-factor targets get the conversation started,” said Curtis.
The program is hearing from the window industry about solar heat gain coefficient, visible light transmittance, air leakage, condensation resistance and long-term durability. The effort would like to find a meaningful specification that can recognize these performance attributes.
The CWI will be working on recommendations and analysis with final specification recommendations to NEEA by March 2003.
Communication is Key
The CWI is a voluntary marketing initiative. The specification provides the product, but how it is communicated will be the key to a successful effort. CWI will be working with manufacturers, distributors, architects, engineers and developers to identify the marketing direction.
“This is a lot different than the residential effort,” said Jim Russell of the Russell Creative Group, a design and consulting firm working on program planning and marketing. “With residential, we could simplify the product offering and make efficiency a product
Russell, who has a master’s degree in architecture, said that in commercial projects, product decisions are based on the demands of each project.
“Our challenge is creating compelling product information so the decision is easy and the project is better,” he said. “These windows are so cool you only need to know about them to make the decision.”
“This is going to be a great program,” said Curtis. “We have tremendous opportunity because the technology is already there. We just have to find the best package—and get it out there!”
Kate Offringa is a program manager at the Alliance to Save Energy in Washington, D.C. She works on several projects including the Efficient Windows Collaborative.
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