Phase II Begins for DOE Volume Purchase Program

Commercial products are being added
Graham Parker, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
May 1, 2011
FEATURE ARTICLE | Design & Performance, Codes & Standards, Energy Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy High Performance Windows Volume Purchase Program begins Phase II in May. After a year’s experience, the program is being expanded to include commercial windows. Also noteworthy will be changes to the program Web site to provide more pricing information to potential buyers.

The purpose of the program, initially known as the R-5 Window Program, has been to bring highly insulating windows (U-factor 0.22 or less) and low-E storm windows to consumers at attractive price points. The program's new name reflects new performance criteria added for nonresidential products. DOE’s goal is to increase the market penetration of highly insulating window products, particularly in those regions of the country where the windows are cost-effective in both new and retrofit applications.

The response to the Phase I solicitation and the number of products was resounding. Nearly 40 qualified vendors, offering hundreds of windows with coverage over all regions of North America, became part of the program. Windows products were listed on the windows volume purchase Web site (www.windowsvolumepurchase.org) starting in May 2010, followed by a year-long public outreach campaign undertaken by DOE. Despite one of the most difficult economic conditions for the housing market in 80 years, thousands of windows have been sold through the program and–even more important–the visibility and availability of highly insulating windows products has been raised across the entire windows industry.

“The value of the DOE High Performance WVPP has been in setting the table for future sales during a down market,” says Rob Worthington, market development manager for Jeld-Wen Inc. “My belief is that manufacturers such as Jeld-Wen have seen only small incremental sales increases attributable to the launch of the program.  However, heightened awareness of high performance windows during a lean time when industry design and construction professionals are slow will serve to grow sales once the market picks up.  This is the genius in the timing.  Had the program launched during boon times, the target audience may not have been as available to hear the message.  The attention afforded high performance windows is of further value, for in some cases we find that building science professionals are prejudiced against windows while professing their affection for walls.”

More offerings
Expanding the program to include commercial windows has been in the works since fall 2010. The addition of these windows, will mean commercial builders and builders of high-rise multifamily units can specify highly insulating windows beyond those products commonly used today. All commercial products in Phase II will have an aggressive U-factor. Commercial windows (those with a CW rating) will need to have a U-factor of 0.24 to 0.27. Architectural windows (those with an AW rating) will need to achieve a U-factor of between 0.27 and 0.32. The program will also allow a component modeling approach, or CMA, for site-built products.

In addition to the addition of commercial products, other changes include a new condensation resistance (CR) requirement of ≥50 for residential windows (U-0.20 to 0.22). Also added are optional bid categories for both lower (<20) and higher (>49) volume orders.

Enhanced Web site
With an expanded program comes an expanded program Web site. During Phase I, we heard consistently that potential buyers wanted easier access to products and pricing. In addition to an optional “bid request form” that we added in Phase I for buyers to obtain vendor bids for desired windows, the enhanced site will feature more clear and visible pricing information. Potential buyers will have a much better user experience on the site. We will continue to provide the spreadsheet estimator and updates on utility incentive programs for efficient windows.

In addition to enhancing the program site, we are trying to do a better job of getting the word out about the program in a number of ways, including periodic e-updates, articles like this one, presentations at various conferences, and giving our partners marketing tools they can use. We’ve also reached out directly to the audiences that can benefit from the program, including local and state weatherization agencies, and electric and gas utilities.

DOE also plans to aggressively market the program in Phase II with a special emphasis on working with federal, public, and private agencies to include highly insulating windows in new construction and retrofit specifications, and engaging utilities and market transformation organizations with analytical support to design incentive/rebate programs for both highly insulating primary windows and low-E storm windows. For retrofit applications, and particularly in mild climates, low-E storm windows are a cost-effective option that will be emphasized for all building types, including historical buildings where complete window replacement may be cost-prohibitive or not an option.

DOE will continue to work with the building industry–including the design and construction industry–on a number of levels to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of using high performance windows as key component in an integrated approach to cost-effectively reduce heating and cooling capital and operating (energy) costs.

Tracking our metrics
At the end of the day it’s about penetration of cost-effective highly insulating windows into market. We’ll continue to track vendor sales to ascertain overall penetration in the marketplace. And we’ll continue to feature the top-selling vendor on the program site. George Simmons, president and CEO of B.F. Rich Windows & Doors says the to-market approach is key to his business. B.F. Rich was the top selling vendor for the fourth quarter of 2010. “We are glad to have been part of the R-5 Windows Volume Purchase program since its inception in 2010.  The program has challenged B.F. Rich and our vendors to look at the development of new technologies to enhance the efficiency of our products,” Simmons notes. “Developing these new technologies at an affordable cost to the consumer is also at the forefront.  We have grown our R-5 program at B.F. Rich in both triple and double glazed windows. The program in its current state continues to gain traction.  Phase II of the program is nearing implementation and the program will continue to evolve.”

DOE’s High Performance Windows Volume Purchase Program will continue to advance and adapt with the ever-changing marketplace. But there’s one thing that has and will remain constant–our focus on increasing building energy efficiency. Increased application of these windows products across all building sectors will help the country save energy, and bring highly insulating windows and low-E storm windows out of vendor backrooms into the showroom and eventually the mainstream market.

Graham Parker is a senior staff engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.  PNNL manages the High Performance Windows Volume Purchase Program for the U.S. Department of Energy's Building Technologies Program. Parker can be reached at graham.parker@pnl.gov.