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NFRC at 30: Interview with National Fenestration Rating Council CEO, Deb Callahan

February 15, 2019  By Alan Downward

The National Fenestration Rating Council has kicked off its 30-year anniversary by revising its mission statement and reviewing the fundamental priorities of the organization. Patrick Flannery, editor of Fenestration Review, had an opportunity to speak with Deb Callahan, CEO, and Tom Barnett, senior director of programs of the National Fenestration Rating Council.

Flannery: It sounds like there’s been some change to your mission?

Callahan: As an organization from time to time it’s really important to understand and review and appreciate where you’ve come, and then to look at the point that you’re at and look to the future. At our 30-year mark, this is really significant and something that any responsible organization, in my view, does. In doing that, we worked extensively with our board and with our membership to revise our mission and vision. Providing fair, accurate, and credible ratings is and will always be the foundation of NFRC. That is not going away, but after 30 years of doing that we wanted to be more outwardly focused on those who we’ve been providing those ratings, which is the public. We decided we want to change the conversation a little bit, to demonstrate that what we do doesn’t necessarily stand alone as part of the larger building envelope discussion, and that in turn has implications for a buildings’ ability to be efficient. We’re defining our place in that broader conversation.

Flannery: NFRC to me is primarily a product rating service. How do you tie that into the larger building envelope?

Callahan: That is absolutely what we are, but we want to get people to understand what that means for them. That is where we’re doing some advanced work. I like to view it as we have been so inwardly focused for 30 years on building an incredibly robust ratings and certification program. Then you’ve got to ask the question, well, ‘so what?’. What does this mean to those out there who are buying windows, for example. In that, needing to talk to them about why an efficient window matters.

Flannery: What does this education effort look like?

Callahan: We’re in the process of developing that right now. It really is a matter of us looking at what we’ve done to date, and for so long much of what we’ve done is to try and get consumers to understand what the ratings are all about. We’ve had some successes there, but we know that we want to put more effort into it. If you go to our website, you’ll see whiteboards that we’ve created for consumers that walk them through the various ratings, so that they understand what this means for them, for their home. That’s just one example of tools that we’ve been developing to share information with consumers, to make it more easily digestible.

Flannery: How is this getting pushed out to the consumer market?

Callahan: We do an awful lot in terms of blogs and podcasts, and attending trade shows. In addition to that we are looking to strengthen our ties with some consumer groups who have that audience. We are looking to make more of a concerted effort, but at the same time I want to make it clear: the attention and time that we spend with our program participants, our manufacturers and our inspection agencies, that work will be ever present and remains as a huge area of emphasis for NFRC. We want to make sure that those programs are as strong as they can be, and that will continue to require extensive interaction with our program participants. That is not going away.

Flannery: What kind of feedback do you get from manufacturers when you talk to them about getting their products NFRC certified in Canada?

Barnett: Some of the biggest concerns I would say is we require an NFRC certified simulator as part of the program. We have a three-legged stool program for our certification program as a whole. One of the legs is a simulation lab, to take the prints and the material specs and do a simulation. We require that to be an NFRC certified simulator. We do provide the training, and we set up special training for our Canadian neighbors to be sure they can have that…That’s usually one of the biggest hurdles, is to find NFRC certified simulators. Earlier you were talking about the data envelope. A lot of the data that we do get and it’s in our data bases, and this is part of our going forward, is that data that you factor in solar heat gain, a lot of that can be used in building simulations modelling. That software is starting to become more and more mature than what they had in the past. That’s something that we’re looking at, I’d say in the future, is how do we make that more available for people to simulate through that.

Flannery: I’m wondering if NFRC would ever get to where they simply say, “Okay Ontario we’ve looked at your specifications, people in Ontario can test and generate an Ontario label that says this window is rated for sale in Ontario, complying with the Ontario Energy Act.” Do you see it ever getting to that point with the label?

Barnett: That is something that the work is going to, we are seeing it from a consumer side that our label just doesn’t make sense. It is something that’s being investigated, I would say more from the consumer side.

National Fenestration Rating Council

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