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

By Jim Benney
June 23, 2015
THE TALK... | Codes & Standards, Energy Efficiency

The Clean Power Plan, set to be released by the Environmental Protection Agency this summer, is a sweeping set of regulations designed to reduce total U.S. carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The fenestration community should take note, as one of the hallmarks of this new plan is a “beyond the fence line” approach to reducing carbon emissions.

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 Counsel (NFRC) 26 years ago, the average U-factor of manufactured windows in the U.S. 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.

Those responsible for reducing a building’s carbon footprint will have a range of options to do so. 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 available fenestration products have been rated and certified by NFRC, there’s little value if buyers are unfamiliar with the information.

As a whole, we 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 imminent changes of the Clean Power Plan offer a unique opportunity for the fenestration industry to 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.

Do you think your customers have an understanding of the industry’s performance ratings and how they relate to the Clean Power Plan? Review the poll, leave a comment and/or email your thoughts. 

Survey Results for 06/24/2015:

Do Your Customers Understand Industry Performance Ratings?

Yes - I take the time to explain them.





Maybe—it’s up to them to ask and research.





No - I don't think it's important to bring up.






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.