Volume 9, Issue 2 - February 2008

eye on energy

Good Record-Keeping Saves 
A Zero-Net-Energy Home
by Arlene Zavocki Stewart

I ought to just change the title of this column to “Tales from the Field.” I’ve got another lapsed label story, but this one has a “happy” ending.

One of our non-window clients asked us to accompany him on a walk-through for a Building America project. For those who have never heard of Building America, it’s a U.S. Department of Energy initiative to, literally, push the envelope. There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether it is possible to build homes that are 30- to 90-percent better than the energy code. Led by building science experts, five research teams work with each link in the construction process to figure out how to build highly efficient homes and then how to make them mainstream and cost-effective. So when you’re working on a Building America project, it’s really important to get it right.

Well, our client knew he could determine if his product was installed properly. What he didn’t know was whether some other facet done poorly could boomerang back to affect his product adversely. Unfortunately, after the walk-through, my ratings manager told me that she had only seen manufacturer labels and that the construction manager said he had to call the salesperson to come place National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) labels on the window. 

I just groaned, as this was not what I wanted to hear. This particular Building America project was a zero-net-energy site. Windows drive the air conditioning load in Florida, so if the wrong windows were installed, the target couldn’t be met. 

As it happened, I was on my way to a Florida Building Commission meeting. I tracked down the chair of the NFRC ratings committee, Steve Strawn of Jeld-Wen, to get a recommendation for the Building America team leader. 

I braced myself for the worst, but Steve taught me a thing or two.

“This is relatively easy to fix,” he said, “not without cost, but not more expensive than a couple of phone calls and a trip to the site. There are provisions for this in the NFRC Product Certification Program (PCP).” 

I was stunned. At best, I was expecting the dealer would have to rip out and reinstall and at worst, perform field-testing. Apparently, I missed a very vital section. 

Steve went on to explain, “Section of the PCP outlines what a manufacturer needs to do. Basically, if a manufacturer can trace the window order and composition back to the plant with certainty, determine why it wasn’t labeled and provide the inspection agency (IA) a detailed plan for accurate field-labeling in accordance with NFRC procedures, the IA can give authorization to field-label the product.”

Steve referred me to the NFRC contact for the window company in question. The contact asked me to take pictures and then notified the plant manager. The following day, the contact was out at the jobsite with the salesperson to inspect the windows, to ensure the correct labels could be produced and to see that the NFRC field labeling procedures were followed. Approved labels showed up on the windows before the certificate of occupancy was issued with a surprising lack of fanfare. 

I don’t know if the windows ordered actually were installed, but I do know that the energy-rater of record is assured that the windows he did have were what they said they were. If they weren’t correct (meaning not as anticipated), then that was an order issue for the builder, installer and dealer. The manufacturer ultimately was able to provide labeling in full compliance. 

Lest I think that my projects are immune, my ratings manager just told me that none of the doors and none of the casements on our first LEED-H project had NFRC labels. Did our builder call us to inspect the windows before installation like we asked? Of course not. But, now, at least, I know what to do. 

Arlene Zavocki Stewart is a member of the Efficient Windows Collaborative and an energy code advocate. She can be reached at azstewart@azsconsultinginc.com. The views and opinions expressed in this article and in materials of the Collaborative do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


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