Editorial: August 2012
Efficiency by fiat
By Patrick Flannery
Energy Star was a really good idea. Before the program, consumers had no
way to evaluate the energy efficiency of a particular window system
aside from the salesperson’s promises.
Energy Star was a really good idea. Before the program, consumers had no way to evaluate the energy efficiency of a particular window system aside from the salesperson’s promises.
By having the energy rating of windows certified by a government agency (Natural Resources Canada), consumers were empowered to choose the level of energy efficiency they wanted relative to the price they were prepared to pay. On the fabrication and retail side, Energy Star provided a great chance to upsell and slowed the race to the bottom on prices. Fabricators could design good, better and best options to satisfy every kind of buyer, and the extra quality they put into the high-end systems could be convincingly demonstrated just by pointing at the label. Those concerned about the environmental consequences of energy generation saw Canadian houses become much more energy efficient. It was voluntary, and truly a win-win-win.
Now, energy ratings are passing into law across the country in the form of building code amendments. Consumers will presumably benefit from more energy efficiency in newly built houses. However, the price will reflect the upgrade, and consumers will not be able to choose a cheaper alternative. The situation facing fabricators and installers is much worse. The testing and labelling requirements under the new building codes are onerous. A mistake on a label could result in your windows being pulled out of buildings. Lawsuits are sure to fly as building inspectors who have never had to consider energy efficiency before adjust to the new regimes.
Fenestration Canada, and especially its technical consultant, Jeff Baker, is doing yeoman’s work in staying ahead of the changes and trying to proactively head off negative repercussions for fabricators.
Baker and other members of the Technical Committee have been criss-crossing the country alerting provincial authorities when some aspect of their proposed code does not make sense or will present an impossible challenge for fabricators. They are embarking on a training program to teach building inspectors about the new labels and code provisions. Crucially, they are helping to guide building inspectors in interpreting the codes where there is room for multiple approaches. Anyone in the fabrication business wondering whether to bother to support the association should take note.
There is certainly an argument that says preventing the environmental damage done by energy generation can no longer be left to individual choice, though I do not think that position is as controversial as it should be. I question whether the benefit to global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will justify the expense and impact to market and consumer freedom such laws incur, especially given that a great deal of our energy comes from non-emitting nuclear or hydroelectric sources.
Such arguments are darts against the horde. I’ll sit back down now and confine myself to applauding Fenestration Canada for its efforts in helping window fabricators to avoid the worst consequences of the new code regimes.