FGIA Legislative Report Highlights New Administration’s PoliciesFebruary 26th, 2021 by Jordan Scott
With a new administration comes new policies, including those focused on energy efficiency. To address these changes, as well as other legislative and regulatory updates, the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) held a “U.S. and Canadian Legislative and Regulatory Report” session during its 2021 Virtual Annual Conference.
Kathy Krafka Harkema, U.S. codes and regulatory affairs manager for the association, explained that the Biden Administration has created a Climate Innovation Working Group to advance zero net carbon buildings at zero net cost, including carbon-neutral construction materials. The group will also look into how to achieve energy storage at one-tenth the cost of today’s alternatives, and will explore ways to capture CO2 permanently. The work will be fueled by $100 million in funding for a new program within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Transformative Clean Energy Solutions program funding was announced February 11 and, according to the administration, it’s the first of billions of dollars of DOE research and development opportunities to be announced this year.
She said there could be more rewards and incentives implemented to help reach climate change mitigation goals, but this also means the U.S. federal government could impose a carbon or emissions tax.
Krafka Harkema pointed out that the U.S. has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement and revoked the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. She also gave an overview of relevant government appointments and executive actions. Executive Order (EO) 13990 directs the heads of all agencies to review all existing regulations adopted between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021. In addition, it directs federal agencies to “capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions … including by taking global damages into account.” This involves an analysis of the social costs of carbon, nitrous oxide and methane.
Krafka Harkema also addressed the “Buy American” order, which she said isn’t something new. Made in America directives date back to 1933. However, the new order establishes a new government appointee to oversee procurement. In addition, there will be a new website where federal agencies can request a waiver, see who’s asked for a waiver and see which waivers have been granted.
She also pointed out that there could be changes in U.S. antitrust laws if the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act of 2021 passes. It could provide further protections for those who provide evidence of anticompetitive conduct. There could also be new requirements for acquisitions, such as disclosing to consumers or trading partners the amount of savings claimed as a benefit of the acquisition as well as what percentage is passed on to customers or trading partners.
The first draft of U.S. Energy Star 7.0 may be released in April or May 2021. Krafka Harkema said the Environmental Protection Agency plans to move sliding glass patio doors into the window category to use the same performance criteria. The skylight specification remains, but it may be simplified to two climate zones.
Americans want more bedrooms and bathrooms when it comes to homes since more people are at home more often. However, lumber prices increased 170% in February 2021 compared to ten months prior. The National Association of Home Builders has requested that the Biden Administration urge domestic lumber producers to ramp up production and to end tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments to the U.S.
Margaret Webb, FGIA glass products and Canadian industry affairs director, informed FGIA members that some parts of Canada are still in a form of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The border between the U.S. and Canada is still closed for non-essential and recreational travel, but Canadians are able to fly into the U.S.
She reminded attendees that the Natural Resources Canada Market Transformation Program is targeting a U-factor of 0.8 by 2030. In Northern Canada targets have not yet been established because the region has unique challenges which will require different goals. The program aims to move all residential fenestration to a U-factor of 0.82 W/m2K (0.14 BTU/hr.*ft2*F). This will impact both new construction and existing buildings.
The Windows Expert Team says there are still barriers to reaching that goal such as availability, awareness and acceptance of high-performance products. The team’s next step is to review initiatives and determine viability.
“It remains to be seen if the Window Expert Team’s recommendations will be accepted,” said Webb. “The agenda here isn’t necessarily one the industry agrees with. If anyone has feedback please let us know because we are your voice at that meeting.”
She added that Canada plans to invest $1.5 billion over three years for green and inclusive community buildings. It will provide $2.6 billion over seven years to assist homeowners to make homes more energy efficient with grants, loans and training. A new model “retrofit” code could be developed for existing buildings by 2022.