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FGIA Fall Conference Examines COVID-19 Fallout for U.S., Canada

Last week's Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance Fall Conference offered a look at the state of glass and fenestration regulations and trends in the wake of COVID-19 in the U.S. and Canada. The conference was held virtually Oct. 6-8 and drew about 450 registrants. 

The U.S. and Canadian Legislative and Regulatory Report, and the U.S. and Canadian Codes Report, both hosted by presenters Kathy Krafka Harkema, FGIA U.S. codes and regulatory affairs manager, and Marg Webb, FGIA Glass Products and Canadian industry affairs director, examined codes, economic and regulatory issues affecting both countries. Here are five quick takeaways:

Economic risk for U.S. states

Harkema cited a July study produced by the Council of State Governments and research firm KPGM, “COVD-19: Fiscal Impact to States and Strategies for Recovery.” The study estimates that states face a $169-253 billion shortfall for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, due to declining revenue combined with increased Medicaid costs. Colorado and Illinois face the highest continuing economic risk, according to the researchers.

U.S. agency policy changes

Harkema reviewed several ways that policy and process have changed for U.S. agencies. Executive Order 138901, “Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents,” enacted on Oct. 9, 2019, required government agencies to be more transparent in their processes, and to make guidance documents available to the public. The Environmental Protection Agency is also tracking how long it takes to process permits, says Harkema, with six-month turnaround time as the goal.

Canada, COVID-19 and the border

Marg Webb says that Canada has taken a “strong and conservative approach to COVID-19.” Eighty-nine percent of total cases have been resolved, though there has been a rise in new cases since the reopening of schools, she says. Still, most plants are at full capacity, she says, with some reporting staffing issues. The current date for reopening the U.S./Canada border for nonessential travel is Oct. 21.

U.S. codes and permitting

COVID-19 disrupted most aspects of the industry, including permitting. Harkema cited an International Code Council Survey, “Building Safety and COVID-19,” which surveyed 1,150 respondents from building and fire departments to understand how the pandemic had changed processes. The survey found that, at the time, 40 percent of code officials did not have access to electronic or remote permitting, and 61 percent did not have the capability for electronic/remote inspections.

Converting commercial to residential

Presenters were asked about a potential trend of converting commercial centers to housing, as work from home may lead to a sustained decline in the office segment. Harkema confirmed the pressure that is being put on commercial office space, and Webb echoed the slowdown in commercial buildings in Canada, except for a rise in warehousing.

See FGIA Fall Conference Coverage: