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Green Windows:
Get Ready for Tougher Standards

By Phil Lewin

2102 window

As a proponent of energy efficiency, I would like to be able to say that NRCan's ENERGY STAR for New Homes Initiative has achieved the same level of market dominance for houses as a unit that their ENERGY STAR Program for Windows has achieved as a product.
On a product level, ENERGY Star has been so successful with windows that the standard will be raised, as noted later in this article. On the other hand, according to information from SYLVAN QUILLIAM, chief of the ENERGY STAR for New Housing Program, while the program has met expectations, it is not an overachiever at this stage. Using Ontario statistics as an example, Quilliam notes that 20 per cent of single-family housing starts in the last year were enrolled in the program. The numbers are: approximately 45,000 single-family starts, 10,000 enrolled in the program and, of these, 4,000 that have received final inspection and are ENERGY STAR labelled.
Quilliam says that surveys done by J.P. Powers and Associates show that potential homeowners appreciate the third party nature of an ENERGY STAR label, making it easier for them to make a positive buying decision.
Builders reading this article may have their own view of the value of the ENERGY STAR label as a closing tool. Those who have it and use it effectively in their sales presentations would be quite pleased to know that some of their competitors don't believe in the label. The truth is that it will only be valuable when the individual builder uses it during sales. Those who build a strong message to potential customers about the "peace of mind" the label adds will achieve value for their efforts in potentially better margins and faster home sales. This is because, while the ENERGY STAR label has great overall market penetration, the specific ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program relies heavily on the builder's point of sales communication to get its message out.
For those completely unfamiliar with the program, the concept is similar to the R2000 home in general principle and will have more appeal because of the growth in awareness in all things green and ENERGY STAR.
In 2008, more new construction window companies will offer ENERGY STAR qualified products, and why shouldn't they, given that in many jurisdictions the building codes have caught up with the ENERGY STAR requirements anyway? Keep in mind that the goal of the ENERGY STAR program is not for all products in a category to qualify, but for around the top 25 per cent. As a result, by 2009, expect the requirements for maintaining your window's ENERGY STAR qualifying status to get harder! Some windows that qualify now will no longer be acceptable in the program without upgraded glazing for better U or ER values.
The plan being floated by the ENERGY STAR powers-that-be is to take what are presently the Zone B standards and apply them to Zone A for 2009. Zone C standards will move to Zone B, Zone D to Zone C and a new, tougher standard will apply to Zone D, the northernmost zone.
Since the inclusion of an ENERGY STAR qualified window is a requirement for achieving the ENERGY STAR for New Homes label, builders entering the program should be prepared to have to upgrade the standard window products they offer as early as 2009 to continue to participate in this program. If the cost of this upgrade is seen to outweigh the benefit in sales and margin, this could make the relationship between builders, window manufacturers and the ENERGY STAR for new homes program a short love affair for companies not prepared to offer the required glazing upgrades.

I hope that manufacturers will work closely with their builder customers in 2008 to make sure that materials that promote the benefits of the program are created and used effectively so that, as an industry, we go into 2009 knowing that ENERGY STAR sells!


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