Tuesday, July 16, 2013

NAFS 08 and the Canadian Supplement or How to get poorer performance windows for a higher cost!

A couple of months ago I attended an HPO seminar regarding the new window regulations for the BC Building Code. It was very well presented, as the HPO seminars are, but at the end of it I was left wondering just where we are going with really good energy efficient building.
So, the presenter started by saying that the "NAFS-08 standard was developed in an effort to create a single standard for the window, door and skylight industry throughout North America.....except it doesn't"
It seems it became necessary to develop a companion document called the Canadian Supplement, for conformance to Canadian and BC Building Codes. To keep this brief, it means that from December of this year any window or door installed into a property in BC will have to have the following; Canadian only performance requirements, a temporary label with product performance and a permanent label identifying the manufacturer.
To be able to get these labels under the Canadian Supplement means some very expensive testing for windows and doors, no prizes as to where the cost of this will end up. Chatting with some contractors at the end of the seminar the main comment seemed to be "it would be nice if, just once, the powers that be would introduce a regulation that would actually make it cheaper to build a house"
To take this a little further, and I'll say now that this affects me personally, I have always pushed the concept of much better insulation, air tightness and the correct glazing for the orientation of a house. I am a fan of PassivHaus construction and built homes fairly close to this standard prior to coming to Canada in 2007. Energy efficiency is thus simplified into 'if you can keep the heat in, then you won't need so much'. Part of this concept is to install the right glazing. The few PassivHaus builders here tend to look to Europe for their windows as there is a history there for really good performance windows, some of which are certified for PassivHaus. I have had a couple of quotes for European windows for a house I hope to build for me and my wife, just as soon as we can get our present home sold. The quotes took about a week or two to come through. These were windows that were timber inside, metal clad outside, very low U value with a high solar heat gain co-efficient, as there is good winter sun at the location where we intend to build.
Item for item the cost was quite comparable with Canadian manufactured units, the big cost is, of course , the shipping. With the onset of NAFS 08 with the Canadian Supplement, I fear that these European manufacturers may not feel it is worth their while to pay for the extra testing involved, several thousands of dollars worth, to be able to sell in, for what is for them, a fairly small market. If this is to be the case then builders of PassivHaus type houses are being very much compromised. There will then be windows that can be installed all over Europe, up into northern Scandinavia, all over the U.S. and into Alaska, but not in BC.
For my own build I have now had to try and find a window that is, at least, close to the performance I'm looking for. This turning into a nightmare, for sure. So far I have waited for up to 5-6 weeks for quotes, window reps who don't know what SHGC or VT mean, and they should, wood windows are difficult to get and I hate vinyl for many reasons, and the actual glazing not being anywhere close to what I'd like. I am still waiting for further quotes, but this does not seem much like progress with regard to orientated window selection within the Building Code.
The other problem I, personally, am having is with the external doors. Under NAFS08, doors now need to be tested to the same standards as windows. There is a guy, locally, who makes extremely good wooden doors to German standards, that's where he originates from. They are very well insulated and 66mm thick, much more robust than those that I'd normally come across. Again, under NAFS, he will need to pay several thousand dollars to get these doors tested in order to be able to install them in BC. That just isn't going to happen, and the NAFS regulations now will be taking away some of his business, progress eh?
All in all, I'm not a happy chappy, and I'm not alone  in my thinking either. I really think this is somewhat of a protectionist move and is not promoting better performing windows in regards to the glazing at all.

If you want to find out the full impact of these new regulations then just Google NAFS 08, and you will get several papers and presentations come up.

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