Beyond the Label
by Deb Callahan
November 5th, 2021

NFRC Meeting Touts Collaboration to Reduce Energy Use in Homes, Buildings

Our Fall Membership Virtual Meeting wrapped up October 27, after three days focused on networking, emerging technologies, and the future of the fenestration industry. With record registrations, meeting attendees stayed engaged and participated even in an online environment. The discussion included a report on the state of the commercial fenestration market in the U.S., the changing role of windows in driving energy efficiency, and sustainability.

The Commercial Fenestration Market
Over the last two years, researchers from Guidehouse conducted surveys and compiled data on the national savings potential of energy-efficient fenestration in the commercial buildings sector. They found that there are more than 92 billion square feet of commercial floor space in the U.S., but very little research into the fenestration choices their designers and builders made in the past decade.

The project built a database from a sample of 16,000 buildings, with the heaviest representation coming from the Pacific Northwest. It found that single-pane windows account for about 41% of installed commercial fenestration, and triple-glazed windows less than 1%. The majority of double-glazed products were filled with air instead of a denser gas, and low-E technology was found on 42% of total windows. Sales data from 2017 to 2020, however, found a far greater uptick in energy-efficient options. low-E coatings were found on 83% of sales in the past three years, and 92% of sales were for insulating glass.

Research highlighted the need for more widespread use of our commercial certification program, something NFRC is revamping, to assist all sectors of the building industry that are now expected to help reduce energy use to net zero. We need to work together to find ways to decarbonize the industry. That challenge was reiterated in panel discussions, networking sessions and breakout rooms throughout the meeting. The research report is available for review on the NFRC community website.

The Role of Windows in Energy Efficiency
On Tuesday, a panel on emerging trends and technologies kicked off by asking what drives technological progress in energy efficiency: Is it value or virtue? The answer varied depending on the type of stakeholder, with the private sector naturally concerned about delivering profits for their shareholders, and academics and government energy agencies taking a broader view. Panellists Marc LaFrance from the Department of Energy and Kyle Sword from NSG Pilkington agreed on the need to find benefits for all, usually by considering both factors. They also touted the significant opportunity inherent in higher-value fenestration, which often means increased energy efficiency as well as higher sales margins. At the same time, there are inherent risks for manufacturers and consumers. Companies may resist new products or processes because of uncertainties about manufacturing and market demand, while consumers want proven products rather than take a chance on something less familiar.

For fenestration-technology developers, this is a technical challenge but also a messaging issue. Success is more likely to come from ideas that can be easily worked into existing manufacturing processes, and less likely to come from those that require full-scale overhauls. NFRC has made it a priority to help the fenestration industry improve its ability to communicate the full benefits of NFRC-certified energy-efficient windows to consumers and to those who influence their decisions about what products to buy.

NFRC and Sustainability
We also launched our new Sustainability Network. The group’s intent is to address the challenge of climate change for the fenestration industry and convince our members to act now. We know that some people will spend extra on energy-efficient windows simply because of the climate impact, whereas others may be more convinced by the enhanced comfort and savings on their energy bills. Those interested in joining the network may find more information HERE.

For companies, the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) was introduced as a tool to help builders and manufacturers understand the carbon intensity of their projects and products. Using it could lead to a greater understanding of energy-efficient technologies. We also presented the first Sustainability Member of the Year award to skylight manufacturer VELUX. The company set an ambitious goal of becoming lifetime carbon neutral by 2041 and reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030.

Another highlight of the meeting was the Women in Fenestration Coffee hour that brought together female leaders in energy efficiency, emerging technology, green building, and manufacturing to talk about barriers to success such as diversity, inclusion, and management in the built environment. With a discussion on the various roles for women in the building industry, we talked about ways to navigate a predominantly male sector and shared advice for women who want careers in construction, manufacturing, and other built environment-related jobs. Women interested in joining the discussion can find more information HERE.

We’re transforming the way NFRC operates to continuously meet the needs of the ever-evolving fenestration industry. We should all be very proud of where we are today and excited about where we are headed. For NFRC, our members, and participants, the technical and marketing challenges, sustainability commitments, and changing demographics of the workforce mandate working together to find solutions that help create a thriving fenestration industry.

This blog is from Door and Window Market [DWM] magazine's free e-newsletter that covers the latest door and window industry news. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to [DWM] magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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