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NGA Codes Report: 7 Need-to-Know Updates

Standards accelerate as states go above and beyond base codes

Tom Culp

NGA code experts Urmilla Sowell, vice president of advocacy and technical services; and Tom Culp, NGA codes consultant and the owner of Birch Point Consulting, hosted a comprehensive look at the shifting codes and standards landscape in North America at the 2023 GlassBuild Main Stage. Codes are accelerating in adoption, and many states and areas are choosing to go above and beyond what is required. What this means for the use of glass in the built environment remains slightly up in the air.

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Newly adopted Energy Star 7.0 to become requirement in Colorado

Panelists started with the biggest standards change, the latest version of Energy Star, which went into effect October 2022. Culp described the standard as “aggressive” but perhaps likely to push towards more glass in building. “It's a big step towards triple glazing in the north,” he says.

While Energy Star is a voluntary stretch code, the state of Colorado is making it a requirement, says Culp. The state just passed a law requiring that all windows meet Energy Star criteria starting 2026. Culp talked through the implications of this, especially for the performance of argon/krypton gas fill in mountain areas.

As states and areas go beyond codes, likely to boost retrofit

Energy codes continue to become stricter across the nation, said Culp. Standards like local law 97 in New York will fine existing buildings for exceeding energy use they are alotted. Culp sees this treatment of the built environment spreading across the country to St. Louis, Boston, Washington state and Washington, D.C., and says it will likely require a retrofit of the building envelope, something that could benefit glass and fenestration industries.

Bird-friendly legislation expands, but no industry consensus on a testing standard

Sowell talked through bird-friendly glazing, as more regulations spread across the country. “It seems like it's like the biggest thing that everybody's talking about our birds and the birds from the glazing.”

Despite it being “the biggest thing,” Sowell talked through the disagreements that exist in testing, namely between a “tunnel test” and a “field test.” In a tunnel test situation, birds are placed in a tunnel, with the choice of flying towards a bird-friendly glazed window or a control window. Critics have suggested flaws with the design, such as the fact that birds will simply try to fly out of an environment they’re not used to. An alternate test is a field test, where the control and bird-friendly glasses are set up in an open field.