Editorial: Sleeping watchdogs

Uneven enforcement threatens to undermine standards.
Patrick Flannery
October 18, 2017
By
WinDoor is around the corner and I’ve been helping to put together the education seminars for the event. I’ve found it to be an incredible amount of work, and I’ve only done a small part of it. If you get talking to someone who is on one of Fenestration Canada’s committees, please give them your thanks for the hard work these volunteers do to advance the industry.
You can find information about the 2017 education sessions on page 16 – as you will see, the program is roughly three times the size of what it has been in the past, with a ton of great exclusive content.

One thing we found in rounding up presenters for these sessions was a strange ambivalence on the part of building code officials to taking part. It wasn’t that they had any particular difficulty with the event or the topics, but rather that they didn’t seem to feel that issues of code compliance for windows and doors were very relevant to them. That was an eyebrow-raiser for sure. As an industry, we’ve spent at least the last 10 years throwing blood and treasure at the problem of how to bring our products into compliance with NAFS and other new standards that have entered the codes. Jeff Baker has stood on chairs, sung karaoke and gone hoarse at podiums trying to raise awareness of the need for us to address these changes. But lurking in the background has always been this question of how and whether the standards will be enforced. Judging from some of the responses from the officials, it seems possible that you could deliver non-compliant products in some jurisdictions and never hear a word about it (though the spectre of legal liability in a future lawsuit would still exist).

This attitude would underline comments from Lisa Bergeron in her inaugural speech as Fenestration Canada president in the spring. She made a strong call for even and consistent enforcement of all building regulations, codes and laws across the country, saying one of her priorities as president would be to work with authorities to improve this. This is clearly needed. If governments are going to impose standards that require responsible fabricators to spend millions of dollars, they must not then betray those fabricators by allowing the unscrupulous and ignorant to simply ignore the rules. Some might make arguments about whether we need rules for non-safety-related issues such as air/water ingress. But no matter how you feel about it, it seems beyond dispute that the rules need to be observed and enforced once established. There’s simply no other fair way to proceed.

All of which will become especially relevant in the years ahead, as Canada continues to tighten energy efficiency standards in compliance with the Paris Accord’s climate change agreement. Debbie Scharf of Natural Resources Canada will be explaining these initiatives again at WinDoor, and you might want to bring your questions about how NRCan plans to encourage compliance with the new rules.

My speculation is that building officials do not want to be responsible for determining what is or is not compliant. It’s hard to blame them – they have a lot to look at on a building and are not experts in fenestration engineering. The push from inspectors will be for the industry to develop a common certification and labeling system that puts the onus for demonstrating compliance back on the fabricator. That’s something else we will discuss at WinDoor. See you there.

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