Volume 42, Issue 4 - April 2007

No Whipping Allowed

A press release arrived in our offices last week from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) that took me back more than a decade. The release talked about the proposed changes to ASHRAE’s infamous 90.1 P standard that was developed many years ago. That standard, developed in the name of energy efficiency, was generally believed to have sacrificed the use of glass in buildings for the use of less efficient heating, refrigeration and air conditioning systems. 90.1 P was developed without much input from the glass industry, which had been made aware of the process late in the game. And, since the HVAC engineers controlled the process and didn’t quite understand (or, some say, didn’t care about) the glass industry, our concerns, advice, suggestions and alternative language fell on deaf ears or were overruled. 

The resulting standard caused the glass industry to get more creative in meeting energy-efficiency levels at about the same time it started to produce more energy-efficient products. No one would argue that energy efficiency was a bad thing, but ASHRAE never really got buy-in on the standard, as many “work arounds” were developed. So it was no surprise when the press release on my desk talked about five addenda to the standard being proposed. 

Proposed Addendum D to ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2007, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, is open for public review. Five proposed addenda were open for review until April 15 for addenda A, B and C, and until April 30 for addenda D and E.

According to the release, the current wording of the standard limits the use of high solar heat gain coefficient plastic skylights that transmit high levels of light in climate zones 1 through 3. The proposed addendum would provide an exemption to the SHGC requirements when high-diffusion skylights are used in conjunction with a multi-level photocontrol system. 

In many ways, the development of 90.1 P is similar to the process the industry is going through with the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) right now. Both are being done in the name of energy efficiency. Groups outside the glass industry control both and, while both allowed the glass industry its comments, very little action has been taken based on those comments. In the 90.1P process, the HVAC engineers benefited at the expense of the glass industry; with NFRC it’s the consultants and testing labs that will become flush with new work. They will have new components to test and a whole new commercial products realm in which to become engrained—at the expense of the glass industry.

But the NFRC proposal is much worse for the glass industry than 90.1P was. It’s worse not just because of the unnecessary additional costs it will add to a commercial building (did you ever hear of a commercial building owner who didn’t care about energy efficiency?), but because it will laden architects and glazing contractors with increased liability, responsibility and increased risk. The NFRC thinks that either architects or glazing contractors should be named the “specifying authority” (previously called the “responsible party”) for compliance. The NFRC is also cleverly attempting to get buy-in from both those groups before it names said specifying authority. It’s analogous to the king who invites two loyal subjects to work for him—but does not name either one his whipping boy before both say yes to a job.

The architects and glazing company owners who read this need to analyze what the NFRC comes up with and need to be acutely aware of how their businesses will change if they become the party responsible for compliance. Architects and glaziers should form an alliance to work together, because the NFRC needs the buy-in of both these groups in order to make their plans work. Rather than hanging separately, working together might keep these two groups from hanging at all. 

 by Debra Levy

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