Volume 36, Number 4, April 2001


IGCC Develops Certification Program for Argon Gas Windows

Insulating glass manufacturers who believed in their product before now have further ammunition to back up product claims. The Insulating Glass Certification Council (IGCC) has developed a new certification process for argon gas windows. According to the IGCC, this new process, consisting of independent laboratory testing and inspection, gives manufacturers the means to prove their products are properly filled. The process also ensures that all units that receive IGCC certification meet or exceed federal guidelines for insulating glass.

Although certification is voluntary, organizations like the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) are pledging their support for the program. “There are ways to check the material compliance of other variables in energy-efficient window systems, but since argon gas is odorless and invisible, it is impossible to look at the windows and see if they are filled with argon gas,” said Jim Krahn, chairman of the NFRC. “Manufacturers are responsible for the claimed fill levels used in rating their products, so we absolutely encourage manufacturers to participate in the program.”

While participation in this certification program benefits the manufacturer, it has advantages for numerous other groups as well.

“It [certification] also benefits the customer,” said Mark Cody, president of the IGCC. “Contractors will know that an IGCC-certified window meets the advertised standards.”

IGCC administrator John Kent agreed. “The bottom line is that architects, specifiers, buyers and consumers will all benefit from the added assurance provided by third-party certification. We provide a way for glass fabricators to easily communicate the standards they meet. The certification provides a level playing field for all manufacturers.”

According to Kent, the argon gas window certification program is the result of two years of independent round-robin testing and correlation studies.

California Adds NFRC Energy Requirements to Standard

With California Governor Gray Davis signing the California Energy Security and Reliability Act last year comes many new energy-efficiency standards for residential and nonresidential construction. One requirement states that site-built fenestration products in California be certified and labeled by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) for U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient.

“Many of these new standards are directed at fenestration, which can have such a large impact on overall building energy performance and on the demand for electricity,” said Jim Benney, NFRC director of education. “Our members can be proud of the fact that NFRC is playing an important role in finding a solution to the ongoing power crisis in California.”

According to the NFRC, its new non-residential requirement, which references the NFRC 100-SB procedure, applies to vertical fenestration systems for buildings with 10,000-square-feet or more of fenestration area, and a minimum of 100,000-square-feet of floor area.

Azon Questions California’s New Energy Codes

California Governor Gray Davis’ signing of an assembly bill last September requiring the California Energy Commission (CEC) to update the building energy standards, has caught the attention of Azon USA Inc., of Kalamazoo, Mich. An article in the company’s Winter 2001 newsletter, written by Patrick Muessig, states that “Most of Azon’s objection’s come not from the fact that they [CEC] are writing the energy codes, but rather from the way they are written.”

According to Muessig, the problem with the codes is determining that the numbers representing the products are truly representative of the products being used and their capabilities. For instance, in its newsletter, Muessig says that in the new code, aluminum windows with low-E glass were assigned a default U-factor of 0.62 and a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.40. However, upon further research Azon found that an aluminum casement frame and an “average” performing low-E glass received a U-factor of 0.49 and a SHGC of 0.36. In addition, Muessig also added a thermal barrier, which produced a U-factor of 0.39 and SHGC of 0.33.

Aside from the default numbers, Muessig also says much of the new standard contains confusing language, using words such as “assumes” and “likely”. “With all the vast range of products and performance associated with these products and the wonderful technology we have to rate them, why would we want to assume anything?,” the letter asks.

Muessig says it has written to the contractor team for the CEC stating its opinion of the default numbers, and has provided them with their own technical reports from simulations they conducted. In turn, the CEC contacted Azon and they continue to discuss the codes.

California Requirements Ensure an Energy Reduction in Construction

Thanks to the California Building Standards Commission’s adoption of new requirements, new homes are now expected to consume 12 to 15 percent less energy than homes built to current state standards. Developed by the California Energy Commission in cooperation with the California Building Industry Association (CBI), the new rules also mean that new California homes will use 30 percent less electricity than houses built in any other part of the country.

One area on which the new regulations focus primarily is a home’s window. Under this regulation, homes would employ state-of-the-art, high-efficiency window glass that reflects more of the sun’s hot rays during the summer, which would help cut back on using the air conditioner during the hottest part of the day.


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