Volume 45, Issue 5 - May 2010


NFRC Moves Beyond CMA as Members, Installers Ask New Questions
Time and again during the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) spring membership meeting, which took place in April in New Orleans, the little time spent on discussions of the council’s Component Modeling Approach (CMA) was made note of by participants. Such remarks were meant to encourage the participants grappling with new issue that these questions, too, would be answered in time, but those who remember those earlier meetings seemed unmoved by these comments.

When the CMA program did come up during the meeting, it was to announce that the council had issued the first Label Certificate under its new CMA program to Monett, Mo.-based EFCO Corp.

The CMA, which provides whole-product energy performance ratings for nonresidential construction projects, uses a software tool (CMAST) to establish performance libraries of approved components that are then accessed to configure fenestration products for a project and obtain a U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient and visible transmittance rating for those products. These ratings are reflected in a CMA Label Certificate for code compliance. EFCO, a Pella Co., pulled the first certificate in March for a 5600 2¼ curtainwall supplied to the Life Sciences Research Center under construction by the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative. The building, on the campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah, is intended to serve as an industry “magnet” designed to draw top research teams.

“Because it’s designed to inspire and promote innovation, the new building in Utah was the perfect project to inaugurate NFRC’s new CMA program,” says Joseph Holmes, EFCO’s approved calculation entity (ACE). “Even though we were the first and there are some small bugs yet to work out, the process went as smooth as possible.”

Some of that ease may have come from the fact that the project used all standard products previously tested by EFCO.

Ted Derby, a partner with the project glazing contractor LCG Facades in Salt Lake City, later told USGlass that LCG was prepared to take on those “bugs” as the company had provided NFRC certification on several projects prior to the release of the new CMA program.

“We had to be the ‘responsible party’ on a couple of projects [in the past],” Derby says, “but as we worked with EFCO and encouraged their participation it became easier to have EFCO make the submittals. EFCO has been extremely responsive to our requests.”

Among the challenges that Derby ran into on using this new program was simply one of awareness.

“NFRC uses a term ‘label certificate’ and, to the state code officials, this means that each frame would have a permanently attached label. It took a little bit of convincing to help the code officials understand the frame would not be permanently marked,” Derby says.

For other glazing contractors looking to work on certified projects, Derby advises: “Start the process early.” He continues, “Each project will have its special challenges. Also, it may be easiest to assign someone in your office to become proficient with the procedure and be the point person for all the communication to NFRC and your general contractor.”


Questions About IG Certification
Glazing contractors aren’t the only industry party to have questions about NFRC programs, as was evident at earlier meetings. During a code and standards update on the Insulating Glass Certification Council (IGCC) that took place during the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) annual meeting in March (see page 47 for more), John Kent noted that there is “an enormous amount of volatility in the IG certification business largely driven by the NFRC.”

As he explained, many companies are looking at IG certification for the first time now that NFRC requires it, so there’s been a tremendous amount of “what if?” Questions have come pouring in to IGCC regarding how to handle certification of IG products with decorative inserts, of triples, of various gas-filled products and other more custom configurations.

“It’s going from a voluntary process to a quasi-mandatory process … there’s going to be a point when people can’t sell product without certification,” Kent said, pointing to such driving factors as increasingly stringent codes and Energy Star®. “I think it’s going to be a problem,” he added.

Among the issues of concern is the fog test used during the testing. “There continues to be a lot of rumbling over volatile fog tests … we’re allowing two fog failures until those issues are resolved,” Kent said.

He also noted that NFRC is now allowing general equivalency among spacer products but will look at this again in June. The reason behind this, the audience suggested, was that spacer manufacturers have been reluctant to include their products in the component libraries.

Another concern was voiced over acceptance of Canadian companies’ IG products into NFRC. July 1 is the deadline by which NFRC labeled IGUs must have IG certification, and therein the IGMA Certification Committee found a potential problem.

“If we want the IGMAC program to be accepted by NFRC we have to have that two year testing,” explained Margaret Webb, executive director of IGMA. Currently the Canadian certification program requires its participants to re-certify their products every four years, while NFRC requires re-certification every two years. The concern was that companies that have just undergone or will be shortly completing this process—and are expecting not to do so again for another four years—would now be forced through the process more quickly than they were anticipating.

The group acknowledged that some of those manufacturers might not care whether or not their products were certified to NFRC. But, as Webb explained, “The dilemma is the IG guys don’t always know if their IG is going to go into an NFRC-certified product. This is a logistical nightmare,” she added.

The group agreed to try to approach the NFRC board to request an extension solely for those products that have more than two years remaining on their re-certification as of the July 1 deadline.

While testing of Canadian products was soon resolved, Jim Krahn of Marvin Windows & Doors brought up concerns over products from further afield. He asked in general the group’s opinion of accepting into the NFRC certification program products manufactured overseas to standard EN 1279. The problem, the audience agreed, was the same as one already discussed—the European standard does not call for re-certification of units.

Issues such as these seem to mark a new stage of NFRC programs as the commercial industry sees implementation of new requirements, even as NFRC moves to new projects.

While trying to address questions over old projects, NFRC continues to work on new projects. In fact, several new task groups were instituted during the council’s spring meeting, meaning lots of new work for the group before its virtual meeting July 19-21.

Among the new task groups is one to consider the need for rating spandrel products.

Charlie Curcija of Carli Inc. brought up issue of spandrel panel ratings during the Technical Committee meeting. As he explained, spandrels are “often modeled by commercial window manufacturers and their performance is requested by architects and code officials, but there is no sanctioned NFRC procedure for [rating] them. Procedures used currently are often inconsistent and wrong. Our proposal is to add spandrel panels to list of standard products and to establish rules for validation and modeling.”

“There does seem to be some input from the commercial group that they need some help in validating this,” Jeff Baker of WESTLab Inc. and Technical Committee chair agreed.

The concern of course is that spandrel panels include a wide range of products not limited to glass.

“Spandrel panels means a host of different things so we could be putting brick into a curtainwall and saying ‘ok it’s a spandrel panel,’” pointed out one listener.

Baker advised that upon creating the task group the scope could limit the materials as appropriate.

Answering a question about current procedures Curcija said, “They’re not rated, but I’ve seen manufacturers are modeling them and supplying them to architects … there are numbers produced by manufacturers and from what I’ve seen it’s all over the place and mostly not correct.”

Ultimately the committee agreed to form a task group to investigate the technical feasibility of rating spandrel panels.


Task Group Forums
During the CMA Ratings Subcommittee, the group discussed the potential of a re-certification period. Now that use of the CMA process is underway, and the group is looking at the long-term process, the discussion came up that down the road the components included in the CMA library “buckets”—databases into which product information is placed—will eventually become outdated.

Ken Nittler of WESTLab noted that there are no provisions as to when those frames, insulating glass components, etc., placed into these databases need to be reexamined.

“I’m worried three or four years from now we’ll have these databases with all these materials and no provisions for removing old products,” he said. “We need to know when the data is no longer valid.”

“There does not appear to be any expiration for the products in the so-called buckets and this group will take a look at that and make some recommendations,” Steve Strawn of Jeld-Wen elaborated.

Despite some cautions, the Ratings Committee agreed to form an Annual Energy Performance (AEP) Rating Task Group. Since the AEP Subcommittee has finished its task under the Technical Committee to “develop procedures to rate the annual energy performance of fenestration products and fenestration product attachments in homes,” according to its scope, the activity is now moving to establishing such a rating.

Tom Culp of Birch Point Consulting pointed out, “The board direction … from fall 2005 said that the technical procedure would be developed first before a rating could be developed,” and there had not been a direction that a rating wouldn’t be developed. With the technical portion complete, the new task group will proceed to investigate an associated rating.

Garrett Stone of Brickfield, Burchette, Ritts & Stone questioned such a rating. “The simulation procedure was challenging enough and controversial enough,” he commented. “I’m just not sure given all the issues that NFRC has to address that this is the right way to [proceed].” He notes that the software is not yet available to proceed this way.

“We shouldn’t be slowed down by not having the software,” Curcija said, adding, “we have a tool we can upgrade.”

Rich Karney of the Department of Energy commented that “the department is still very interested in this,” although he quickly added that the Environmental Protection Agency, which has taken over the Energy Star program (see January 2010 USGlass, page 42, for related story) likely would not have the resources to support this.

During the NFRC board of directors meeting, Strawn reported that the committee has “has accepted that challenge to develop an AEP rating,” adding, “so we have a AEP Ratings Exploratory Task Group.” He reminded listeners that the focus is on “exploratory,” as in this group will determine whether there is a need for this.

Joe Hayden of Pella Corp. asked the Technical Committee to form a task group to look at initial grouping rules regarding sightlines. Right now, he explained, “The way the wording is in the grouping section, if you make any change to sightlines whatsoever you have to re-simulate.” That goes for changes as small as 1/16-inch increments. In order to eventually allow for a range of sightlines in any group—as a starting point, he suggested +/- ½-inch—he proposed that a task group look into this issue.


Actual Product Performance
Also during the meeting, the U-Factor Subcommittee reviewed a ballot on changing numbers, this time a proposed change in the sizes of casement-awning models in NFRC 100. The ballot, in an interesting turn of phrase, noted, “Some felt the new sizes would not be representative sizes of casement/projected sold in the market. NFRC rates products at a standard size and should not be confused with actual product performance. Earlier, when energy simulations were done at the NFRC standard size, this would have been important, but these days all building energy analysis tools use actual size information for energy analysis.”

In his negative, Steve Johnson of Andersen Corp. noted that there needed to be more justification to change from the existing size grid. He noted that the “current sizes were selected to represent common casement products. This [change] would require us to build something for simulation that nobody in practice actually manufactures.” Strawn advised sending the section back to the task group to justify a size change and come up with sizes that make sense.

Culp agreed that the suggested sizes weren’t “realistic” for residential casement products, but added, “the size that’s in there now is not realistic for commercial [products], and that’s the heart of the problem.” As he explained, “This table is also referenced by CMA.”

As others spoke in support of including two sizes—residential and architectural—it ultimately was voted to return this document to its task group for further work.


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