Industry Coalesces Through Virtual GatheringsJune 11th, 2020 by Drew Vass
The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) was undeterred this week by social distancing and coronavirus, instead proceeding with its 2020 Technical and Manufacturing Conference through a virtual format. After opening Tuesday with a session on market expectations, the event reminded attendees that while balancing COVID-19 with day-to-day operations, there’s still progress to be made as an industry.
Ahead of day two sessions, officials paused to present the Krahn Lifetime Achievement Award to Steve Strawn, president of Strawn and Strawn LLC. Established in honor of James “Jim” Krahn, the award represents exceptional service, dedication and devotion to the principals and ideals of WDMA. “And while those words are all true, they really don’t adequately describe his contributions to WDMA and the industry over the years,” said presenter Joe Hayden about Strawn. The format made no opportunity for applause, but that didn’t stop Hayden from handing the mic over to Strawn virtually, in order for him to thank his constituents. “I’m honored—truly honored and appreciative,” Strawn said. “But as they said in a Monte Python movie, ‘I’m not dead yet!’” he joked. “I plan to be here for many years to come—continuing to work with folks throughout the industry.”
Dotted by moments of silence that would otherwise be filled with room noise and conversation, the event proceeded briskly from session to session, with short breaks in between. One topic that managed to make its way from session to session included the necessity for field testing. Tuesday, James Katsaros, research fellow with DuPont Performance Building Solutions, provided an overview for how an FMA/AAMA/WDMA Installation Committee employed field work to establish guidelines for installation scenarios among replacement windows. “We didn’t feel like we could really use the new construction mentality for water management strategies among replacement windows,” Katsaros said, adding that unlike new construction, replacement scenarios are more difficult to test and prove through lab settings. Instead, the committee took its work to damaged homes in Baton Rouge, La., where three distinct strategies were framed. The results include 18 scenarios and 54 sets of detailed drawings for head, jamb and sill arrangements. A 2020 version of the draft includes considerable modifications to industry standards for installing replacement windows, Katsaros said, as the committee currently seeks additional input from the industry.
Meanwhile, as companies strive to pin down sales for replacement windows, one presenter suggested that trends have emerged placing energy efficiency in the back seat. Over recent months, Google trends show that while interest in energy efficiency remains flat among consumers, subjects like green homes and indoor air quality have taken center stage. “We’re going to be more in tune with how indoor air quality impacts our health going forward,” said Michelle Foster of Home Innovation Research Labs. “People looking for these attributes are going to increase exponentially.”
Whether or not there’s a related opportunity for windows, Foster failed to clarify. But if a separate study is any indication, the best avenue could be through automation. When it comes to things like indoor comfort, for instance, homeowners don’t want to be bothered with the need for opening and closing windows or blinds, said Jim Larson, a mechanical engineer who works for Cardinal Glass. Under Larson’s direction, Cardinal built and monitored test houses across various climates to examine the energy impacts of glass technologies—including their effects on localized comfort. In order to maintain comfort for occupants, windows are the biggest driver in determining the necessary size for HVAC systems, Larsen explained. For this reason, fan energy should be included in calculations for heating and cooling to understand the impact of windows, he added. “In some cases, [homeowners] had to lower the thermostat by three degrees in order to accommodate for the same comfort level,” he said. “Those measures impact the air conditioner load and energy.”
Across most climate zones, clear glass requires a thermostat setting of around 68 degrees for comfort. And while that sounds like a small difference from the average 72-degree setting, cooling loads are significantly increased. For this reason, in the future, energy codes might want to consider “equal comfort” when developing requirements for various climate zones, he suggested.
In Canada, interest in energy performance follows a different pattern, where its driven by collective aspirations even amid COVID-19, said Al Jaugelis, technical director for Fenestration Canada. As the country strives to reach net-zero-ready levels of performance, there are indications that windows could play a key role, he suggested. In a positive sign for the industry, a pilot program including six builders and 23 homes conforming to net-zero-ready specifications all included triple-pane glazing.
With territories and provinces aiming to reach U-factor ratings of 1.2 by 2025 and 0.8 by 2030, there’s little doubt that “the future is triple glazed,” Jaugelis said. And once triple glazing is deployed, “There isn’t that much difference between a [U-factor] 1.2 and 0.8 window,” he said, explaining that it mainly comes down to geometry. When striving for the 0.8 U-factor mandated by the , “The cost of that window isn’t going to be significantly different,” he suggested.
While companies have been leery of developing more triple-pane products for fear of market pressures, “as a window manufacturer now you have a clearly defined goal of where net-zero will be in the future and how you may participate in that program,” Jaugelis said. “Yes, triple pane windows are going to be more expensive, but when you can trade that off against a heat pump … or against insulation,” in some cases builders can save money by investing in more expensive windows over other improvements, he said. “That allows them to save money on other parts of the structure that aren’t captured in base code … that’s why the tiered code is important, because it proves the value of windows to builders.”
Jaugelis was the final presenter for the two-day, virtual gathering.