Volume 16, Issue 5 - June/July 2015


Deep Impact
Will New Code Change Put Energy and Impact on Equal Footing?

by Tara Taffera

hen the conversation veers to doors and window in Florida, it often turns to impact products. Wind speeds and design pressures typically dominate those discussions, particularly when it comes to code development.

The conversation, however, is changing.

A modification took effect June 30, 2015, that will have a major effect on door and window manufacturers and dealers doing business in Florida.

 “Every opening in Florida has to meet the hurricane code,” said Jim Bell, the windstorm coordinator for ASSA ABLOY, during a recent webinar for the Door and Hardware Institute. “Even if you build a dog house, it has to meet the hurricane code.”

These changes are significant, says Jim Larsen, director, technology marketing, at Cardinal Glass Industries, and they are long awaited. In fact, the code changes are the reason one door and window dealer set up shop there in the first place. They are also long overdue, and will finally bring Florida codes closer to those of other coastal states.

The biggest change, however, isn’t related to impact ratings or wind speeds. This time, it’s energy efficiency.

Catching Up

Florida is using the 2012 I-codes as a template, says Larsen. Given that the current Florida energy code is loosely based around the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the requirements in the Fifth Edition (2014) of the Florida code will represent an approximately 15 percent increase in efficiency.

On the residential side, the prescriptive solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) maximum will drop from 0.30 to 0.25 (commercial was already at 0.25). This change will require most window manufacturers to move from double silver low-E to triple silver or low-E combinations with tinted glass, says Larsen.

This point was echoed by other window companies to whom we spoke. In climate zone 2 (north of Miami), the U-factor changes from 0.65 to 0.40 maximum.

“On paper, this suggests non-metal window frames,” says Larsen. “Previously the U-factors in both zones suggest insulating glass is needed, and that remains true with the fifth edition.”

Steve Dawson, vice president and general manager, CGI Windows and Doors, agrees. “Basically, you will need insulating glass for impact windows,” he says. “That’s a big change.”

Dean Ruark, PE, PGT Industries, concurs that the .25 SHGC “will require triple silver low- E or darker tints coupled with double silver low E.”

He also points out there is a different requirement for impact windows (see graphic page 37).

“If it’s an impact window, it still needs to meet .25 SHGC, but the U-factor can be slightly higher,” he says. “The .4 is very difficult to achieve utilizing metal frames,” he says.

Ruark adds that impact windows can continue to be aluminum, but in zone 2 it would be difficult for a metal frame non-impact window to meet the requirements.

“This will put everyone on an even playing field,” says Earl Rahn, president at NewSouth Window Solutions. “Most companies were using single-pane aluminum, but this is going to require a U-factor of .4 or better [or .25 for better]. This means companies will have to go to IG with low E.”

“Keep in mind that Florida is dominated by the performance path, which allows for a multitude of trade-offs,” adds Larsen. “Energy Gauge is the approved analysis software, and it was recently updated to reflect the baseline changes. Windows that meet the new prescriptive requirements will make it easy to comply. Manufacturers who don’t change up their offerings will force builders to consider non-window efficiency upgrades to meet the new stringency levels.”

Replacement Equals Prescriptive

A significant change in this latest code version is an expanded definition of replacement windows to clarify that replacement projects have to meet prescriptive requirements.

“This is a really big change in Florida,” says Ruark. “It’s the first time we have an enforceable Florida requirement. Windows and doors are defined as building systems and components—companies have to go to the prescriptive table in the code. This never mattered on the replacement side, and this is the biggest change by far.”

Larsen elaborates, saying the IECC sets requirements for replacement windows that match the prescriptive path.

“Florida kept these requirements and added clarifying language to the scope calling out replacements specifically,” he says. “In the past, energy code enforcement on replacements has been spotty due to a 1970s-era statue interpretation called the ‘30-percent rule.’ This was read by many as exempting windows. The new language could see more jurisdictions calling for energy documentation with replacement permits.”

The “30-percent rule” is a longstanding interpretation of Section 553.902 of the Florida Statute, which was enacted by the state legislature in 1978.

The statue had previously been interpreted by the Florida Building Commission to mean that energy codes didn’t apply to renovated structures when the modifications – including new doors and windows — exceed 30 percent of the assessed value of the building.

Will Changes be Enforced?

Larsen reminds companies that NFRC ratings and labels are still required to claim credit for common items such as low-E glass, warm-edge spacers, etc. There have been questions in the past on how well this is enforced, but anytime the code changes, you’re likely to see greater emphasis on all of its aspects, says Larsen.

Dan Ochstein, CEO at NewSouth Window Solutions, speaks from experience when he says code enforcement is pretty strict in Florida.

“We permit every job and it’s tough, and that goes for commercial and residential,” he says. “They failed us once because they couldn’t read our tempering stamp very well. And if they catch you not following the code, your license is in jeopardy.”

When the change hit on June 30, were most companies prepared?

“I think most manufacturers are prepared; however, several Florida manufacturers may have some work to do. NFRC requirements are fairly new to them,” says Ruark. “It’s also a state that sells very little insulating glass compared to the rest of the country.”

“As with any code change, it will take a great deal of education throughout the industry to get the word out, and this includes marketing campaigns” says Dawson. “It’s a good thing for us as we offer such a product, but not everyone does.”

Bottom line, says Ochstein: “This is very good for all Florida homeowners. They are the ones who win.”

CGI’s Dawson adds that the change will have a huge impact in Florida.

“This will be the driver that ties impact resistance and energy together,” he says.

“Consumers are talking more about low-E coatings, etc. Before it was just ‘I want a protected home,’ but now they’re saying ‘I want to protect my home with energy products.’”

Dawson believes the code change is so significant that he likens it to how the codes became more stringent in terms of impact resistance after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“This will be another driver that will spur additional growth in the market.”

Companies are also pleased that Florida is finally on the same playing field as other coastal states.

“We have waited and waited for this,” says Rahn. “That’s why we came here. We were waiting for Florida to catch up. It’s almost comical that they were so behind. We are glad the codes are catching up with the technologies.”

Tara Taffera is the editorial director/publisher for DWM. She can be reached at ttaffera@glass.com.

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