What Does the EPA’s Clean Power Plan Mean for the Fenestration Industry?

While electric utilities and power plant operators have been up in arms about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) forthcoming Clean Power Plan, very little has been said by members of the building industry. The fenestration community should take note—and quickly—because one of the hallmarks of this new plan is a “beyond the fence line” approach to reducing carbon emissions.

The Clean Power Plan, set to be released this summer, is a sweeping set of regulations designed to reduce total U.S. carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. According to a draft version of the plan released last summer, each state must meet a specific reduction target, ranging from 71.6 percent in Washington state to just 13.5 percent in Maine.

To meet these targets, the EPA is recommending “building blocks,” one of which is increasing demand-side energy efficiency by 1.5 percent per year for the next 15 years.

Whether states implement tighter energy codes or create incentives patterned after the Energy Star program, one thing is certain: developers, architects, contractors and building owners are going to be a lot more interested in boosting the energy performance of their buildings.

Despite the uncertainty of looming changes, the fenestration industry is well positioned to meet this new challenge. Since the founding of the National Fenestration Rating Council 26 years ago, the average U-factor of manufactured windows in the United States has improved by 50 percent. This and other improvements have helped total U.S. energy usage remain steady during the same time period, despite a population increase of 30 percent.

Decision makers responsible for reducing a building’s carbon footprint will have a range of options to improve energy efficiency. In response, the fenestration industry must redouble its efforts to demonstrate the cost-effective value of high-performance windows, doors, skylights and curtain wall systems.

The key to making fenestration a central vehicle for state compliance with the Clean Power Plan will be continued cooperation and transparency within the fenestration industry. While the majority of fenestration products on the market have been rated and certified by NFRC, this service gives little value if would-be buyers are unfamiliar with the information provided.

The fenestration industry as a whole must work to communicate the importance of accurate, impartial performance ratings to those seeking to qualify for state incentive programs, comply with energy codes or achieve LEED certification.

The Clean Power Plan is coming and will undoubtedly impact a wide swath of the building community. These changes offer a unique opportunity to the fenestration industry, provided we respond with unity and transparency. By promoting the energy-saving benefits of efficient fenestration and drawing attention to NFRC’s independent ratings, the fenestration industry will be able to thrive during a time of great change and uncertainty.

Jim Benney is the National Fenestration Rating Council’s chief executive officer. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 25 years. He can be reached 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.

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