Window and Door - May 2012

Industry Prepares for New Criteria

By Ric Jackson, Quanex Building Products 0000-00-00 00:00:00

Biggest challenge in Energy Star changes for most manufacturers are likely to be new U-factor requirements. The fenestration industry is facing significant changes that will likely increase thermal performance standards by 30 to 40 percent within the next few years. Higher performance levels are demanded by the International Energy Conservation Code and the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, and soon the Energy Star Windows, Doors & Skylight program. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is now in charge of the Energy Star windows program, released its proposed changes to the performance criteria this past fall in the Version 6.0 Specification Framework Document. Seeking feedback from industry and other stakeholders in the program, EPA issued proposals for new window U-factors and solar heat gain requirements across the Energy Star climate zones (Table 1). It also highlighted potential additions to the program, including a maximum air leakage requirements and requirements for detailed installation instructions for qualified products. This article focuses on the window criteria, but the document also included new proposals for Energy Star doors and skylights. Among the proposed changes, the biggest challenge by far for most window manufacturers is the Northern climate zone U-factor proposal set 0.25 and 0.27. Based on our analysis of double-hung windows in the National Fenestration Rating Council's certified product directory in November 2011, almost 45 percent of participating manufacturers– active and inactive–would not qualify at 0.27, which we think is the likely target that will be used. Not all of those manufacturers sell into the Northern zone. The second biggest concern is the timing of the Version 6.0 roll out. The current Energy Star criteria, Version 5.0 took effect in 2010, less than two years ago. The new criteria were initially scheduled to take effect in 2013. EPA has pushed its timetable back somewhat, but many companies have said it is still too short for them to develop new products. REACHING THE NEW U-FACTORS For some manufacturers, it will be relatively simple to make the necessary changes to meet the new U-factor targets, but for some with older designs it may require an entirely new window system. Based on work we have done using the Quanex Optimizer, we find even the best hollow-frame vinyl window systems will require either triple glazing or thermally-enhanced (foam filled) profiles to meet the requirement. Some frame materials will struggle to accommodate the change for the Northern zone target. Already, there is almost no residential aluminum product sold in this part of the country. We would expect that many manufacturers will try to avoid triples if possible due to increased liability that comes with two sets of edge seals, as well as the concerns of weight and hardware modifications. Whether triples are needed would depend on how close a window is to meeting the new numbers. Warm edge spacers can have an impact on a U-factor between 0.01-0.02, depending on what the manufacturer is currently using. Triples can have as much as a 0.04 impact– even more if a surface 6 hardcoat is used. Doubles with surface 4 hardcoats can achieve equivalent to normal triples with two surfaces of low-e. Triples may, however, be the most cost effective solution for many. U-factor requirements are changing for the other Energy Star climate zones too, but they should be less of a challenge for manufacturers. We think that the .30/.30 tax incentive for 2009 and 2010 that came out of the stimulus package drove 0.30 U-factor capability all over the country. Since no U-factor requirement outside the Northern zone is lower than 0.30, most companies are prepared to offer windows with that level of performance. OTHER PROPOSALS The Version 6.0 Energy Star criteria include some additional requirements for window manufacturers. First is an air infiltration rating requirement of less than or equal to 0.3 cfm/ft². That does not appear to be that challenging based on feedback EPA has received. Another proposed addition is the requirement for installation instructions to be made readily available. That does not seem to be an issue for most manufacturers, and those companies that are AAMA certified members or participating in the WDMA hallmark certification program have access to generic installation instructions. Regardless of the version 6.0 changes that take place, many companies are expressing concern about the cost and frequency of testing and a new verification program which will seek to verify up to 10 percent of the commercially available certified products annually. HIGHER PERFORMANCE LEVELS While the Version 6.0 numbers U-factors may be a challenge for the industry, there are reasons to believe even more stringent numbers are inevitable for the future. At the current performance levels, the market is saturated with Energy Star qualified windows and it is almost impossible to find a non-Energy Star labeled product. (Ducker estimates more than 80 percent of the windows sold were Energy Star in 2011). We think in general most the window industry supports the idea of more than one level of performance to allow window companies that have superior performing products to differentiate those. EPA has stated as far back as 2010 that a best in class tier might be created called "Most Efficient" under Energy Star for windows. Such a tier would be aimed at highlighting the 5 percent of products with the highest performance. In the comments from the Framework Proposal, a few large national manufacturers cited this as a good approach. Differentiation in the current market is very difficult to maintain. We think that is why so many companies built R-5 products when the Department of Energy launched its R-5 volume purchase program. They may not have participated in the program, but we count 157 manufacturers that have R-5 or better in NFRC's certified product director. For these companies, it will be important to be able to show superior performance. If the government wants to maintain Energy Star's reputation with consumers, it has to change to more aggressive targets for the base program or by adding a more aggressive tier like Most Efficient. More changes will come, so manufacturers not currently able to achieve at least a 0.25 U-factor should seek the counsel of trusted suppliers to find the right mix of glass, Low-e coatings, gas fill, warm edge spacers and framing material to achieve optimal performance at the optimal cost. Without overstating the obvious, the building and construction market has undergone some drastic changes over the past five years. Like a meteoric strike, the Great Recession forced many of us to adapt. Where there was once a flourishing sea of fish, only those manufacturers, distributors and dealers who found a way to grow legs remain–and, in some cases, are poised for continued prosperity. Ric Jackson is the director of external affairs for Quanex Building Products. Based in Houston, the company's operations produce the Super Spacer and Duraseal line of IG edgeseal products, Mikron vinyl and composite window profiles, and a variety of other fenestration products through its Homeshield business. Jackson's areas of interest and specialty include the development of industry standards and government relations. He can be reached at AGC Flat Glass, a leading provider of insulating glass to the Canadian residential and commercial markets, was chosen to provide windows for two high-profile projects, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and Investors Group Field, the future home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team. Inspired by the Canadian landscape and indigenous cultures, the CMHR's unique design uses Tyndall stone and a large glazed glass structure. Because the building is located at the forks of the historic Red and Assiniboine Rivers, it is in a prime place within downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. The design includes more than 47,000 square feet of exhibit space, featuring a 23-story glass structure overlooking the horizon called the Tower of Hope. AGC is providing triple-sealed, shaped units for curtain wall and skylight window applications throughout the facility, using Super Spacer® Premium Plus and Super Spacer TriSeal™. Once the building is finished it will be considered for the LEED® Silver distinction. "We're all but exclusively using Quanex's warm-edge technology products for our projects, and we've even worked with architects to specify Quanex's insulating glass products, Super Spacer Premium and Super Spacer TriSeal," said Randy van Norman, architectural sales representative, AGC Flat Glass. "I've been in the business for more than 30 years, and I fi rmly believe that Super Spacer products have the longevity and reliable performance that are unparalleled by any other insulating glass products currently in the marketplace." In addition to CMHR, AGC is providing 28,000 square feet of glass units for another high-profi le project, Investors Group Field for the Blue Bombers football team. This job features IG units and tempered safety glass using Super Spacer Premium Plus. Because some of the windows AGC is supplying are up to 80" by 142", the units have undergone rigorous testing to withstand the weight requirements and weather elements, including standards set by the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA). AGC in Canada has been a Super Spacer customer for more than 20 years in both its residential and commercial IG. Currently AGC runs Super Spacer lines at four locations throughout Canada, including an automated For. El. TriSeal line at its Winnipeg location. AGC creates custom-tailored IG units for the commercial market that incorporate various glass thicknesses, coatings, or tints to create buildings that are energy-efficient, wind-resistant, and beautiful. The company's Canadian locations include Calgary, Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. AGC also has numerous facilities throughout the United States. Quanex Technical Services Group Helps Customers Increase Efficiency Up To 50 Percent With more than 200 years of collective experience in the insulating glass (IG) and fenestration industry, the Quanex Technical Services group comprehensively assesses window manufacturers' operations, including design, development, installation, training and maintenance. These evaluations help customers become more productive, improving the company's overall competitive position. Quanex's productivity experts educate customers about lean IG manufacturing processes and offer quality assurance audits, durability testing, application training, troubleshooting on the production line and investigative research for continuous improvement initiatives. Also, the team puts together recommendations to scale production up or down depending on seasonal and market demands. "We've helped customers achieve greater production efficiencies for up to a 50 percent improvement, including scrap reductions that directly impact an IG manufacturer's bottom line," said Kevin Zuege, Technical Services Director with Quanex. "Our experience and expertise with the window manufacturing process helps our customers be more competitive in the marketplace." To begin the assessment, the team performs a productivity audit to understand the current status and establish baseline metrics. This audit mainly focuses on the direct labor, including the measurement of IG Units per Man-Hour (UPMH) or the number of units produced in a given time period per the number of production line employees. This baseline number is compared to the Average Weighted Cycle Time, which is the average cycle time based upon the percentage of product mix (double- or single-hung sliders, casements, patios, and picture and specialty shape window units). The numbers are then compared to the best practice figures, which assume that a double-hung door is typically a 30-second cycle and a patio door is a 45-second cycle. In addition, the productivity experts observe to see if people are ready, tools are available, equipment is properly functioning, and unit inputs are in order and ready for use. The Quanex team takes all of this into account and determines where improvements can be made. A standard productivity recommendation includes down-time analysis, potential layout changes for the production line and gaps in inputs. Quanex meets with the customer to discuss ways to improve the process and increase efficiency. For example, this discussion would include additional operator training, recommended floor layouts, equipment updates or information system changes. Let Quanex help you take your business to the next level with high-performance products and technical support. Visit for more information or to contact a representative. Quanex Technical Services Maximize your business From plant expansions to new facilities, our Technical Service team will guide you through the design, development, installation, training and maintenance of your operation. Contact our Technical Service team to learn more about our service agreements, quality audits, line layouts, training, set up and production efficiency analyses. We offer quality assurance, durability testing, application training, troubleshooting on your line and investigative research for continuous improvement initiatives. Q Best practices Q Certification preparation (internal and external coordination of lab services) Q Efficiency studies for your IG, Window Systems, and/or Vinyl business Q Equipment & tooling solutions Q Equipment troubleshooting and service Q Industry representation Q Lab services Q Lean Manufacturing Q Line layouts Q Production application manuals and guides Q Production start-up services Q Productivity audits Q Quality audits Q Sealant compatibility testing Q Seminars and trainings (hands-on, engineering, educational, Warm Edge 101) Q Sparklike and other accessories Q Supplier partnerships (service and knowledge) Q Tech Bulletins Q Thermal analysis Q Thermal simulation and component optimization (The Quanex Optimizer) Q Vinyl profile design services New Construction Rallies in Texas MariTech Windows expands facility and product lines to meet renewed demand According to National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) statistics, sales of newly built homes have been on a steady upswing since October 2011 – with regions across the South posting the highest numbers. MariTech Windows of Carrollton, Texas, was prepared for the growth, and is reaping the benefits. In January 2012, the company, which is heavily focused on the new construction market in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, posted record-breaking sales. Between 5,000 and 7,500 insulating glass vinyl windows are rolling off of the production line in any given week and company president, Josh Jensen, is optimistic the trend will continue. "People are building again, and people are buying again," Jensen said. "Our goal is to stay ahead of trends, listen to customers and provide the greener products builders and homeowners are demanding." The leadership team at MariTech, including Jensen, boasts more than 50 years of collective experience in the fenestration industry, and many of its production workers have been building windows for 20 or more years. But, as the industry continues to evolve, MariTech has not stopped listening to its customers, and its latest new product developments are proof. In early 2012, MariTech introduced its Platinum Double-Hung line with a 3 ¼-inch jamb – a single product that can play in both the new construction and renovation markets. Development of the Platinum line was a direct result of feedback from customers. "Early response to the Platinum line has been phenomenal," Jensen said. "So much so that we are in the process of expanding the line to include a single-hung option." MariTech also offers standard single-hungs, sliders, casements, picture windows, special shapes and patio doors, as well as an impact series for coastal regions in the South. All MariTech Windows feature Quanex's Duralite® warm-edge spacers, Cardinal 366 low-e glass, and optional argon gas fills, and are marketed as Envirosealed Windows™ & Doors. "We were one of the first to adopt the Duralite technology, and we haven't looked back," Jensen said. "It's one of the cleanest, safest and most efficient ways to make IG. With Duralite's metal-free construction and our vinyl framing material, we are able to offer our customers energy-efficient products that reduce the threat of condensation." MariTech's windows were also one of the first in the nation to be NAHB Approved as a green product. Jensen and his team are not resting on their laurels, however. The company continues to put a strong emphasis on research and development to stay ahead of the local market. "The superior thermal performance of our products has been an excellent selling feature as builders and homeowners are becoming more educated and are seeking ways to save energy," Jensen said. "We are already developing and certifying triple-pane products that will meet increasingly strict ENERGY STAR® codes well into the future. When our market demands it, we are prepared to deliver." Jensen also noted that Quanex has been an integral partner in its growth, providing regular quality audits, educational opportunities for his employees and customers, and marketing support through the Envirosealed Windows & Doors campaign. "You have suppliers and you have partners – and Quanex is a true partner," Jensen added. "From helping us calibrate our equipment for optimal production efficiencies to ongoing training and support, the Quanex team really takes care of us. There's no nonsense, just a mutual dedication to producing and marketing the best products possible." MariTech Windows recently expanded its facility, now occupying 165,000 square feet at its Carrollton, Texas, facility. The company employs 263 people and continues to expand it sales geographically across the southern U.S. For more information on MariTech Windows, visit Energy Star Homes Program Spurring Demand for High Performance Windows Too A growing number of new home builders have found a point of differentiation in the marketplace by offering Energy Star-qualified homes. Studies reveal that homebuyers feel good about being good stewards of the environment– but they feel even better about saving money on energy bills. Consequently, with more people staying in their homes longer, energy-rated homes are becoming an easier sell for builders. When given a choice between a run-of- the- mill track home and a home that offers long-term savings, it becomes a no-brainer. And, the projections prove it. According to McGraw-Hill Construction's Green Home Builders and Remodelers study published in February 2012, green homes comprised 17 percent of the overall construction market in 2011. Conservatively, that number is expected to grow to 29-38 percent by 2016. Redesigning, retooling, recertifying and remarketing all add up to time and expense for window and door manufacturers. With this evidence that new construction is getting greener by the year, it's clear that hitting increasingly stringent performance numbers is no longer just for players in the remodeling market. It's anyone's concern who wants to remain competitive. In 2008 and 2009, when many companies were scrambling to meet the .30/.30, along with the latest Energy Star requirements, MI Windows, a national company primarily focused on residential and light commercial new construction, already had its sights on 2013 and beyond. In 2011, the company officially launched a full line of window products that well exceed future Energy Star requirements, R5 requirements and virtually any other currently existing rating system with U-factors that range from 0.18 to 0.20–across a full catalog of styles, sizes and glass options. "Our goal was to offer a simple solution to help builders meet their energy-efficiency goals without sacrificing aesthetics and design flexibility," say Mike DeSoto, president of the company's western division. "By collaborating with our suppliers, doing a lot of research and talking with our window dealers, we created a complete product line that exceeds the Energy Star standards, plus meets other important features for the architect, such as high sound transmission ratings, high design pressures and durable exterior color options." MI Windows' foresight is paying off as builders and developers evolve into a greener way of thinking. In the six months since launching its new product line, the company has scored a number of high-profile new construction projects and the interest continues to grow. "The new Energy Star requirements for windows are still a year and a half to two years away, but so are the completion dates for many projects and developments that are being specified now," DeSoto reports. "When you ask a builder or architect if they want to build homes using technologies that will be obsolete by the time they are finished, they really listen. Most opt to adopt tomorrow's technology today–giving them a great marketing tool and the competitive edge." DeSoto foresees Energy Star as here to stay as an important part of both the new construction and remodeling markets. "When investing in a home you intend to stay in, you want to make sure it's the highest quality you can afford," he concludes. "The Energy Star label is an added assurance that you are buying a high-quality product designed to give you the best performance for many years." There are reasons to believe even more stringent numbers are inevitable for the future.

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