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Volume 6   Issue 4                May 2005

The Rate Debate

Conflicted and Loving It
Non-Residential Program Sparks Flurry of Debate
by Jim Benney

I may be aging myself, but years ago one of my favorite TV shows was Get Smart with Don Adams. I’m sure many of you remember the show featuring Adams as secret agent Maxwell Smart, who pursued his craft with silly gadgets and one-liners. I was reminded recently of a one-liner that he would often use when he found himself in trouble: “Trapped like rats and loving it.” 

I recently attended the Glass Association of North America (GANA) meeting to explain the National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) proposed new non-residential fenestration rating procedure. My audience was a room of industry representatives, many of whom were hearing about the procedure for the first time. Of course, I would never refer to any of my colleagues as rats, but during the course of the discussions I had a sense that many of these people were trapped and loving it. 

Debate and Conflict Yield Broad Consensus
The NFRC was born out of conflict: the clash between fenestration manufacturers’ need for a fair marketplace to sell product and the need to establish and maintain controls that provide such a marketplace—without dramatically affecting the way business is done. It was a variance between what the industry could market and what regulators required. The distinction, often measured in decimal places, considered how accurately engineers could measure performance and what marketing professionals could sell. With these and many other debates, early NFRC meetings were fraught with discord as the group struggled with the development of new standards and testing, inspection and labeling requirements. 

It was hard work, but those who worked long hours to establish NFRC were driven by a passion for the programs they created. An incredible amount of positive energy and emotion was generated because people were invested in the organization’s mission and goals. They were trapped in the necessity to create a uniform, independent rating and labeling system—and they were loving it.

I felt the same energy at the GANA meeting. Those in attendance represented a significant portion of the commercial building industry, which will be impacted directly by this proposed new program. They have a very large vested interest in how the program will be developed, and they raised issues relatively similar to the ones that helped start NFRC 15 years ago. 

Whatever It Takes to Satisfy Our Stakeholders
The conflict and energy is welcomed. We need it to be able to produce a credible and effective non-residential program that will satisfy the desires and expectations of every stakeholder. It is my sincere hope that all parties with an interest in the commercial fenestration industry will participate in the development of the new rating procedure.

In Greek mythology, Zeus, the king of the gods, suffers from a horrible headache. In desperation, he goes to another god for help; who obliges by cracking his skull open with a hammer and out pops Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The moral of the story: it can take a lot of pain and suffering to create something that is truly intelligent, and NFRC is conflicted and loving it! 

Jim Benney serves as executive director of the National Fenestration Rating Council based in Silver Spring, Md.


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