North Carolina Low-E Building Code Loophole Shot Down by Review Commission

September 23rd, 2014 by Editor

A temporary rule that allowed North Carolina permit holders to opt-out of using low-E fenestration products in residential construction has been rejected by the North Carolina Rules Review Commission (RRC).

The Council recently enacted an emergency rule in the state’s residential building code that allowed builders to use non-low-E glass in areas where it poses a “safety concern,” but upon further review and under the heat of much of the fenestration industry, the state trashed the rule.

Michael O’Brien, president of the Window and Door Manufacturers’ Association (WDMA) is pleased with the decision but remains cautious.

“While we were concerned about the substance of the rule, we were far more disturbed by the Building Code Council’s (BCC) completely baseless claim that low-e windows may create a potential fire hazard as the reason for taking the action.  WDMA and other industry interests testified before the BCC at their recent hearing that the claim was baseless and that the BCC action also does not meet state statutory requirements,” he says.

O’Brien explains that when the BCC still went ahead and adopted a temporary rule, they took the matter to the state’s  RRC.

“We addressed the RRC at their hearing last week and were successful having the BCC’s action dismissed.  The RRC unanimously agreed that the claim was baseless and ambiguous and did not meet the state’s statutory requirements,” he says.

Rich Walker, president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), is also happy with the ruling.

“This is an important victory for our industry, both in North Carolina and in any state or jurisdiction that values the energy efficiency that today’s fenestration products offer to consumers,” he says.

In the “Emergency Rule-Making Findings of Need” document submitted by the Council earlier this year, it argued that “reflective energy from some low-E windows can cause damage to property and may have the potential to create a fire hazard.” The Council went on to cite “four documented cases of fires being caused by similar reflective energy involving Four Seasons and Cardinal IG Co.”

Industry associations, as well as the companies themselves, contended that the incidents cited were isolated, resolved and limited only to skylights and sunroom roof products that were discontinued more than a dozen years ago.

In a letter to the Council last month, AAMA partnered with industry organizations including the Glass Association of North America (GANA), the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) and the WDMA in conveying that the emergency rulemaking was established utilizing inaccurate information and that the required criteria for issuing this rule had not been satisfied.

The letter argued that the use of low-E windows, which are now used in millions of homes, improves building envelope energy efficiency significantly. The letter elaborated on the energy efficiency of low-E fenestration products in the state.

According to AAMA, the Council stated that it will not attempt to issue additional rules regarding this matter.

“North Carolina has been a longtime leader in adopting and advancing residential and commercial building energy codes that reduce energy dependence. The use of low-E glass has played a key role in reducing energy use in North Carolina and across the country,” the letter read. “Low-E glass has been used safely as an integral part of construction projects for decades and continues to grow in popularity, because it provides comfort and value. It works and it works well.”

However, O’Brien says the issue is not yet over.

“There is still much work to do since the BCC is still planning on pursuing a permanent rule on this issue,” he says.

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