Ingrained Innovation

By John Nolan
September 18, 2017
COLUMN : Legal

Sometimes innovation occurs not when something new is created, but when an improvement to an existing process advances new ideas and practices. In the ever-evolving world of fenestration, innovation is ingrained in the industry.

While innovation brings about improvements and breakthroughs, change comes with new layers of complexity and obstacles to overcome. Staying in the know is your best bet so you’re never left behind. Here, we’ll look at one innovation in the realm of energy efficiency that particularly impacts fenestration manufacturers and dealers.

Measuring energy loss

The industry is well aware of the U.S. Department of Energy’s, energy.gov, goals to reduce energy use, including the goal to double energy productivity by 2030. The DOE estimates that energy lost through windows is worth about $40 billion.

As part of an initiative funded by the DOE, a portable window energy meter is undergoing testing. The prototype, developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the U.S. and Brazilian scientists at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, measures the thermal and optical properties of windows in the field to determine energy efficiency without removing the window.

The meter is designed to measure these properties through the use of heat flux meters placed on the surface of the glass. The meters measure heat flow through the glazing while maintaining uniform temperature within the apparatus. According to the DOE’s website, it is suggested that the meter may assist “rating agencies, code officials, energy auditors and forensic experts with verifying energy indices of fenestration products.”

As with any innovation, industry participants will need to scrutinize the meter to determine whether it is an efficient evaluative tool in real-world conditions. As we know, variables in material, assembly, use/application, location and installation all present unique characteristics, and these may need to be considered to determine how the readings will be utilized to form performance-based conclusions. Other important considerations include training and expertise in the use of the meter and notifying stakeholders of any anticipated testing.

The uniformity and consistency in how results are recorded and reported are also significant considerations. However, the meter may be advantageous for experts, government and code officials, or any qualified user seeking to evaluate the performance of a window product within given parameters.

One potential consequence of this new capability: an increase of in-the-field product performance evaluation by industry professionals and consumers. Further, industry standards for the appropriate use of such technology will be necessary to promote its reliability. To promote the fair and even use of this new methodology, the industry may need to provide the DOE with some guidance.

Be on the lookout for emerging technologies in the ongoing quest for improved energy performance. Today’s cutting edge offering could become tomorrow’s standard. From advancements in hybrid material extrusions for improved energy efficiency, to polymer panes for retrofitting existing frames to increase insulation, one thing is certain—product innovation is all around us. The fenestration industry is no exception.

John Nolan is an attorney with The Gary Law Group, a law firm based in Portland, OR, that focuses on legal issues facing manufacturers of windows and doors. Contact him at 217/526-4063 or John@prgarylaw.com.