Volume 16, Issue 5 - September/October 2012


California Dreamin’
What the Golden State’s Building Code Changes
Mean for the Window Film Industry

by Katie O'Mara

It’s been a long time coming.
That’s the consensus among industry experts about the recent changes to the California building code. The changes allow for inclusion of window film as an energy-efficient retrofit application. Many dealers are still sifting through the new building code and attempting to understand how these changes can help their business. Beyond California, dealers may be wondering why the building code changes matter to them. California has historically been known as a leader in energy legislation and enforcement and as a variation of the old saying goes, “As goes California, so goes the nation.”

The addition to the California building code reads: “Every manufactured fenestration product shall have attached to it a clearly visible temporary label that lists the U-factor, the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) and Visual Transmittance (VT). Applied window films installed as part of an alteration complies with the U-factor, SHGC and VT requirement.”

The changes to the code require window film to have a National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) certification label, manufacturer’s name, a 10-year warranty certificate and compliance with the International Window Film Association’s (IWFA) visual quality standards.

Why California?
The state has been recognized for years as a trend-setter, especially on energy issues. California’s progressive stance when it comes to energy-efficiency is a prime example why the recent changes to the state’s building code will matter to window film dealers nationwide.

“California is unique in that it develops its own building code and may adopt some requirements of the International Codes—sometimes called ‘I-Codes’—as a part of its own code. Florida has its own similar process,” says Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA). “Most other states, however, adopt the I-Codes and then make modifications to them as needed in their area. As California is a large and populous state which imports much of its energy, and since it does its own technical analysis under the auspices of the California Energy Commission, other states, especially those immediately adjacent to its borders, look to California as a leader in new approaches to energy management and environmental impact.”

Window film being recognized in these code changes is important because it sets an example for other states. A state, known for its emphasis placed on energy conservation, is acknowledging the worth of window film as a product.

“Such recognition establishes, without question, energy control window film as a legitimate product category of energy efficiency solutions, whether for energy conservation or for demand side management or emissions reduction reasons,” says Smith. “This proven and readily available technology is often overlooked and now can be considered as a first choice when cost-effectiveness and sustainability are considered.”

Dealer Dream
Dealers in California already are making plans about how they will include these new changes in their sales pitch to customers. For some, the new building code simply gives them more credibility and legitimacy among the community.

“I think it’s exciting. It should add legitimacy to window film,” says John Henderson, owner of Royal Window Films in Southern Calif. “We are a commercial dealer so our focus is entirely on commercial so for us it is exciting. We have been promoting it for years and this will add legitimacy to our claims. Now we can go to building owners and show them hard evidence.”

“It’s a credibility thing,” says Mark Rascon, owner of Daystar Window Tinting in Casto Valley, Calif. “Now window film products are going to be recognized as true building materials by other industries and trades.” Legitimacy remains one of the big anticipated benefits to the new changes.

“I can imagine that dealers who are more attuned to energy solutions and whole building envelope analyses will use code compliance as one more very important addition to their marketing statements,” speculates Smith.

The Future
The change to the code was voted through on May 31, 2012 and will go into effect in January of 2014. So where can dealers expect building codes to go from here?

“With this change, I hope to see installers stop cutting corners with inferior products, which will greatly help the public perception of the value of window film products as a true energy cost cutting initiative,” says Rascon. “Hopefully soon, the rest of the country will follow suit.”

There will also be work ahead for the window film industry to develop these changes into usable material that can be presented to members of the construction and architectural community.

“The next step will involve an expansion of educational activities about the proper uses and benefits which might be expected by the use of energy control window films,” says Smith. “Architects, builders, specifiers, code officials, inspectors, energy rating organizations, as well as the public and our own industry members will need more information in more formats than we currently might have available. The development and effective assimilation of this information will be the next major task for our industry, as well as working with the state officials in providing training and assistance to those supervising and implementing the new building codes.”

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