Fenestration Review

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The Window Geek: Compliance as strategy

April 23, 2024  By Anton Van Dyk

The 2020 National Building Code changes that were recently introduced contained some of the most significate changes to fenestration since the introduction of NAFS about a decade ago. The two main items are the limitations applied to the Part 5 path for engineered fenestration and the relaxation of combustible frames and sashes on non-combustible construction. These might be viewed as a threat or an opportunity depending on your position in the market. 

Navigating these changes may feel to some manufacturers overwhelming and complex, especially as new step/tier codes are starting to be introduced across the country. Designers are also seeking lower and lower U-values. But I want to change your perception of all of this and suggest you think of compliance as a business strategy, no different than a marketing, sales or pricing strategy.  

I hear two common responses to technical changes of this kind. The first is, “NAFS is not enforced in our region so why should we do anything to prepare this time?” and the second is, “How do we convince an architect to specify our product?” What if I told you that you could prepare for enforcement as well as get architects to specify your product at the same time?  

The key with this is to look at compliance as offence and defence. Setting up your product to pass enforcement is defence, but convincing architects of your product’s ability is offence. The work you put in for both and the resulting product are the exact same. Making a product that satisfies the architect will win sales and place you beyond the reach of enforcement. It’s a win/win! 


Here are three of the most common variables I have experienced over my career combined into one compliance strategy. 

Product approvals: Like all goods, what good is it if no one wants to buy it? In the construction industry, the product must go through many layers of approvals by third-party “influencers” – architects, building envelope consultants, general contractors, developers, government housing providers – before it can be used. Each one of these influencers will have their own unique expectations of your product that have to be met regardless of what the code says. If you cannot meet their expectations, you will have a tough time being selected.

Enforcement: For some regions and some manufacturers, it has become a strategy to comply only to the level of enforcement. However, the lack of enforcement does not give you a path into the future as enforcement tends to lag regulation. Eventually, it will catch up. Do you have a backup plan for when a building official does not pass the inspection? My recommendation for poorly enforced regions is to simply do the right thing and when enforcement comes, you are prepared. 

Liability: While consulting in the U.S., I discovered a developer’s willingness to implement any kind of standard is more focused on the liability they would take versus what the code said. It is just a risk-versus-reward analysis. Maybe your product meets the code for U-value, but one component is non-thermally broken creating a risk of localized condensation. Or you might use a surface 4 low-E as opposed to triple glazing to achieve a certain U-value. That might work in Vancouver but will have issues in Edmonton. So it’s not about meeting a certain U-value anymore, it’s how you achieve that U-value and how the overall product meets a customer’s expectation.

So, what is the value of having a compliance strategy that goes beyond just code compliance? Well if you can achieve approval fast and easily, you will have a great sales and marketing strategy. If your product meets and is prepared for future enforcement expectations, you will reduce the stress of your project managers who have to deal with reacting to failed inspections, which tend to result in project delays and credits given back. And reducing liability is always a good thing when it comes to reducing your business’s operating costs. 

The best defence is a good offence and a compliance strategy can be a really good form of offence.  

Anton Van Dyk is a fenestration consultant at Layton Consulting.

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