FGIA Gives U.S. and Canadian Codes Update at Conference

June 25th, 2020 by Jordan Scott

The second day of the virtual Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) Summer Conference included an update on window, door and glass-related codes in the U.S. and Canada, many of which have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. FGIA U.S. codes and regulatory affairs manager Kathy Krafka Harkema and glass products and Canadian industry affairs director Margaret Webb led the U.S. and Canadian codes report.

Krafka Harkema informed members that FGIA negotiated as part of International Code Council (ICC) Group B RE35-19 to restore the current 0.40 U-factor from the proposed 0.35 U-factor in Climate Zone 2 to avoid conflict with exceeding U.S. Energy Star requirements. Many of the I-codes will be published in October 2020 except for the International Green Construction Code, which will be published in early 2021. Krafka Harkema recommended that members purchase the codes with the added commentary so they will be ready when states begin adopting the 2021 codes.

The ICC surveyed building code officials between March 22 and April 1 of this year. While 93% of building officials were still performing inspections either remotely or in person during the shutdown, not all building officials were up to the challenge, according to Krafka Harkema’s report. Nearly 30% of building code officials use only hard copies while working and 66% use a combination of hard copies and digital documents.

The survey results showed that 61% of building code officials don’t have the capability to perform electronic or remote inspections, 40% can’t do remote plan reviews and 30% can’t do any electronic or remote permitting.

“Building officials need more remote options and updated technology,” said Krafka Harkema. “COVID-19 was not the only challenge for them. Many were consumed with assessing building damage and the unrest is still causing buildings to incur more damage.”

Moving on to state codes, Krafka Harkema said that Florida has waived product approval fees from July 1-December 31. The state was planning to hold two product approval meetings this year but FGIA requested a third meeting and it was granted. There will be product approval meetings on July 23, October 1 and December 7. The 7th edition of the 2020 Florida Building Code will take effect December 31.

In Texas, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) and the Texas FAIR Plan Association (TFPA) may be consolidating to ensure the affordability and availability of wind and hail insurance in the state. While TWIA and TFPA do not receive state funds, Krafka Harkema said there may be an increase in consolidations of state-funded organizations nationwide.

Washington has delayed the adoption of the 2018 International Building Code, International Fire Code and Washington State Energy Code from July 1, 2020 until November 1, 2020. Krafka Harkema said the state is now considering a delay until February 2021 due to COVID-19.

Webb handled the Canadian energy code update highlights for FGIA. The updated Vancouver Building Bylaw will take effect January 1, 2021. For one- to three-story building less than 600 meters squared, prescriptive U-factors will be reduced from 1.4 W/m2K to 1.2 W/m2K. If the window-to-wall ratio is greater than 30% the maximum U-factor is 1.2 W/m2K with an area weighted average of 1.0 W/m2K or lower.

Quebec will implement the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) 2015 with some modifications on July 1, 2020. The code will be implemented with an 18-month phase-in period. Modifications include Quebec allowing for 40% fenestration and window-to-wall ratio for all climate zones for prescriptive compliance.

Webb informed members that FGIA filed its first written public comments on Canadian National Energy Code changes. FGIA wrote comments in opposition of changes to PCF 1536 – Thermal Characteristics of Fenestration and Doors and PCF 1541 – Fenestration and Door to Wall Ratio.

Webb said these codes are linked. Proposed changes to PCF 1536 seek to aggressively reduce maximum allowable U-factors while proposed changes to PCF 1541 seek to reduce the allowable window-to-wall ratio for prescriptive compliance to the code. If passed, the changes would reduce the ratio range from 30% to 10% based on climate zone. Webb attributed the proposals to the desire to meet the 2030 net zero initiative.

“As you can see, our rationale was to protect the window-to-wall ratio. We knew if it was reduced we’d never be successful at rolling back the reductions. We argued about the long-term health effects and benefits of daylighting but some of our comments were flat out dismissed as not relevant. We’ve had some discussions at the task group level. They are going to recommend maintaining the code as is with the reduced U-factors but throwing out PCF 1541,” she said, adding that the code bends to go to the standing committee for recommendation.

Finally, Webb explained that five active glass standards are up for revision or re-affirmation by 2022. The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) standards will cost $30,000 CAD to reaffirm. However, the CGSB will fund the reaffirmation of the active standards for 2022 but no technical changes are permitted.

“We’re probably going to take CGSB up on their offer,” said Webb.

Today is the final day of the FGIA Summer Conference, and before signing off Steven Saffell, FGIA technical director, reported in the closing session that the association is working once again with the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and the National Glass Association (NGA) to develop a Product Category Rule as the current one from 2015 expires in 2020.

“We plan to publish it by the end of 2020,” though Saffell added, “It is a tall order.”

A PCR committee will be established from members of WDMA, NGA and FGIA.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the virtual event.

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