Editorial: Soon triple IGUs will be the law across Canada
Governments are planning to mandate 0.8 U-factor in residential windows.
By Patrick Flannery
As stompings under the jackboot of government authority go, it couldn’t have been more pleasant. Debbie Scharf’s tone was friendly and upbeat as she delivered the message to Canada’s window makers that the government plans by 2030 to outlaw the majority of the products they make.
Scharf is the director of the equipment division of the National Research Council’s energy efficiency department. She delivered this message to delegates at Fenestration Canada’s Annual General Meeting in Halifax at the start of June. The message came in the form of an introduction to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change – a strategy drafted by provincial governments at the First Ministers meetings – that creates a road map for Canada to meet its obligations to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement.
In a nutshell, the Framework calls for the creation and adoption across the country of stepped building codes reducing allowable centre-of-glass U-factor in residential windows to 1.6 by 2020, 1.2 by 2025 and 0.8 by 2030. Barring some major advance in IGU technology, this means only triple-glazed units will be allowable by 2030. Crucially, the Framework calls for this standard to be applied to replacement installations as well as new builds, though it is unclear how this would be enforced on projects that don’t require a building permit. If the provinces balk at adopting these codes, Scharf hinted darkly – but in a nice way – that the federal government has the authority to act on its own using powers under the Energy Efficiency Act.
There did seem to be recognition – at least from Scharf – of the significant technical and operational challenges this shift will impose on fenestration fabricators and installers. She spoke at length about her hopes for new R&D funding programs that would help manufacturers with the costs of transitioning to all-triple products and production. However, she admitted getting this funding would depend on a successful “lobbying” process. In other words, no guarantees. It would seem the better part of wisdom to be getting to work now figuring out how you are going to design, produce and sell triple-IGU units at a profit in your market.
This being Canada, the top-down application of brute government force must always be made to appear consensual and conciliatory. So naturally there will be a large market study due for completion in 2018. The overt goal of this study is to understand the current state of energy efficiency technology in Canada’s residential window market, and to collect input from all stakeholders on the best way forward. It is to be hoped that Fenestration Canada will be a strong voice in these deliberations to protect the interests of our industry. Incoming president Lisa Bergeron seems ready to take on this role.
There will be a lot of ground for this plan to cover between now and 2030. For one thing, there will be at least two federal elections in there. But for now, the shifting sands of political opinion seem to have converged on the conclusion that improving the energy performance of our built environment can no longer be left to market forces and persuasion.