Is it time to explore an Energy Star windows program for low-rise commercial buildings?

For years, fenestration stakeholders have talked about developing an Energy Star program for commercial windows. Currently, the Energy Star program for windows, doors and skylights is limited to products intended for residential buildings: typically, single-family homes or low-rise residential structures.

Energy Star administers programs for commercial ovens, refrigerators, clothes washers, HVAC systems and even LED lighting. I think it's time to take the first steps toward developing an Energy Star windows program for low-rise commercial buildings.

The National Fenestration Rating Council has raised the idea with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Its popular Energy Star Buildings Program, which has no prescriptive requirements and is based completely upon building energy use, is restricted to commercial buildings greater than three stories above grade. Therefore, I believe there is an opportunity to develop an Energy Star windows program for factory-made windows for punched openings in commercial buildings with three stories or less.

Doug Anderson, Energy Star Residential Windows Program manager, recently told me that EPA is open to the idea. "EPA knows the industry has been showing increasing interest in developing an Energy Star windows program for low-rise commercial buildings with punched openings," he said. "This idea is something EPA is willing to explore in the coming years if the industry can provide preliminary market and energy savings data on the potential for such a program."

The commercial market, in general, remains behind the residential market in terms of adopting high-performance, energy-efficient window systems. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial buildings account for just over 18 percent of the nation's energy consumption. That percentage has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years. An Energy Star commercial windows program could help reduce energy use in smaller commercial buildings by making it easier for architects and others to specify high-performance, factory-made windows for punched openings. It would also help owners of existing buildings select efficient fenestration to retrofit their commercial properties.

NFRC is committed to helping Energy Star develop a commercial windows program. Do you think it is time to expand Energy Star?

Jim Benney is the National Fenestration Rating Council's CEO. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 25 years. Write him at jbenney@nfrc.org

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

Comments

Again, this is confusing residential with commercial construction.  Even for buildings less than 3 stories, commercial construction is different -- there is huge variety in building types, window types, and window requirements based whether it is on a hospital, retail store, office building, etc.  It will be an extremely complicated process to try to determine appropriate requirements for all these variations.  There is already a Energy Star program for commercial buildings that looks at the integrated design. I don't know anyone asking for a new commercial windows program, except for the residential guys!