Additional Costs Because of Code Policing?
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By Max Perilstein
From the case study perspective, the energy codes and the process of following them will bring real costs to all involved in the process. With such a significant push towards energy conservation and green building efforts, lost in all of that is what is fair and legitimate and what is not. One of the major pushes code wise on the commercial end is the performance rating of the glass and aluminum systems.
Where this becomes a bit murky is that it is not clear that there is a code on the books for the rating of commercial glass and aluminum. However the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) believes there is and they are moving forward with a program to police those “codes.” The NFRC made its mark in rating residential windows over the past 15 years. That business was rife with corruption and the NFRC helped clean it up by forcing manufacturers to produce products that met the advertised performance. The commercial side never suffered from that problem because Architects specified products, the glazing contractor would be contractually obligated to provide those specified products. The glazing contractor would get its performance values from their suppliers and if further testing was deemed necessary then it was done by a curtainwall advisor or some other consultant.
The NFRC states that the IECC codes for 2004 say that the commercial industry needs products that are rated by their agency (by auditors accredited by NFRC). However the language in the code is very open to interpretation and many who have read them consider the code to be for residential only. (The IEEC has not ruled on it) Despite that the NFRC is moving forward with their plans and their implementation will be costly and truly unnecessary for all involved.
How this affects the architect is that the cost involved in “policing” the job will fall on them or the building owner. As the program is set now, the responsible party (may be the architect) will have to submit its specifications to a NFRC approved calculation agency for retesting of the performance values. Why? Because the NFRC wants to make sure that the architect and building owner is getting what they specified. Then after the numbers are “re” validated- the architect or responsible party will contract with an NFRC approved Independent Auditor to go and inspect the jobsite to make sure the same products that were validated were used on the job. At that time as well, someone, either the General Contractor or the glazier will affix NFRC labels to EVERY opening on the job.
So for simple talking sake, the architect will have to pay to get performance numbers validated by one agency and will have to pay another group to inspect the material on the site. The architect will also have to pay for the label affixing as well.
Obviously this is overkill and it needs to be discussed in deeper terms among all of the trades involved. There has to be a better way, however unless architects, general contractors, and glaziers get more involved they will be hampered with a system that will not suit them and with costs that they should not have to account for.
In closing I also urge you to look into the NFRC. It is an agency that recieves its support from the Department of Energy and they pretty much have carte blanche to do whatever they want when it comes to policing of codes. (They have no competing agency that also does what they do) That type of power is scary. Their make up is skewed heavily towards the residential side that they served so very well in their past. However, now they have moved to the commercial side and they just do not have the structure or the folks involved from that side on a board level to make sure the commercial interests are protected. You can also look into the information available from the Glass Association of North America (GANA) as they are fighting hard to do what they can to protect their constituency.
Max Perilstein can be contacted at MAXBCAT@aol.com for more information on this industry topic. Max Perilstein is the Vice President of Marketing of Arch Aluminum and Glass and also the Chairman of the Building Envelope Contractor division of the Glass Association of North America. Max’s roots in the glass industry started in 1898 with his great grandfather.
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