Saturday, February 23, 2008

The NFRC Manifesto

With the skyrocketing popularity of this blog, it’s become apparent through e-mails and conversations that many people have no idea why I harbor the feelings I do towards the NFRC. So in an attempt to lay those out… here goes… ((WARNING YOU NOW- THIS IS LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG.)))

I fell into this battle.. purely by accident… an accident that I bet the folks at NFRC probably wish never happened. Because as much as they play off to ignore me, by my articles and blogs, they’ve had to work harder to get their agenda through… (and yes they would say different, but starting with the long article I wrote for USGlass a few years ago, the attention paid to NFRC has been more than they expected or have ever gotten before.) Anyway, when I was sent to a meeting in Baltimore because my co-worker Cliff Monroe could not attend, I was stunned by the goings on. Here was a group that was looking to police the commercial industry with nary a clue of what is done in said industry. Seriously. They were working up rules and plans, but without knowing the difference between Solarban 60 and a Pepperoni Pizza. It made me ill. I asked around the room and many people told me to “deal with it” because the NFRC had succeeded on the residential side, they had the DOE in their back pockets and basically they could not be denied. In fact, some guys in the room, who had attended for years, were so beaten down, they said they felt the same way as me at the start but then realized how fruitless trying to fight was.

So when I left the meeting I started the research and was stunned. This was a group that had no idea what they were getting into on the commercial side because they had no commercial representation on their Board whatsoever. They decided to jump on the commercial world because as the minutes and notes show, “it was for the good of the NFRC” and it was an “untapped market” – SEE THAT still sticks in my craw. An NFRC Board Member made that comment and it ACTUALLY appeared in the minutes (the minutes have changed a bunch since those days- now they are a cleaned like Meryl Streep in Silkwood) UNTAPPED MARKET= MONEY FOR US!!!

So everytime that Marv Stover- then the Chair of NFRC would make some comment about mandates or Gary Curtis who has been seemingly a board member for life at NFRC would say “its in the codes” I could never… ever.. get past the above comments. Sorry guys, your intentions were always to take your seemingly successful program on the residential side and move it to the commercial. No one would stand in your way and bam, the IA’s, consultants, labs, and academia would have a new revenue flow from the clueless on the commercial side.

Now I have to stop and make a comment that must be clear…

As an industry, no one I know of is against the ability to rate whole systems. In fact everyone I know wants it. I WANT IT. It’s a great tool, it’s a great avenue for showing how our products can work and succeed in an environment that is begging for more energy efficiency. However what I have been against is the money… the complexity… and the way this thing has to pass with the blatant ignoring of the industry that it will affect.

Now back to the story… when the questions started to flow on why this program was needed, the NFRC started with the whole “Congress Mandated it” angle. Except they did not. Nope. Nada. Sorry. So when that was shot down, the next excuse was “its in the codes” and that too proved to be incorrect. I remember sitting in Chicago as Ken Nittler, former NFRC Board member feverishly went through his code book trying to prove that indeed the codes called for NFRC to police the commercial industry. Greg Carney from GANA shot him down all over the place. And a note, if Greg Carney was a pilot in a war, and the arguments that Greg has shot down were planes, Greg would be the most decorated soldier in the history of the world.

So the NFRC had to soldier on, and used their situation in California to try further their agenda. Ironically… or coincidentally… or conspiratorially on the same exact day that our industry had a great meeting with DOE, the NFRC announced that California had DEMANDED that the NFRC have a new commercial rating program in place asap. First off the timing was insane- same day? Plus big deal California asked for it… like Gary Curtis, the state of California has had a seemingly permanent spot on the BOD at NFRC for years. So it was a pretty shrewd move. See California had been (and still is) suffering with NFRC’s initial disastrous foray into the commercial realm with the site-built program. That program is so bad that no one uses it and that’s why California desperately wants another. Filled with loopholes and work arounds, it was and is a total joke. (Hmm, you’d think they’d want to avoid embarrassment the second time around eh?) Anyway, by California asking, this now gave NFRC a more legitimate impetus to enforce their will on the unwilling industry.

Still that’s flimsy and they know it, thus they work the code angle and have also tried to reach out to architects. In one very comical but should be infuriating attempt, the NFRC BOD approved 60K for Gary Curtis (Board member) to have his company “educate” architects on the new program… except at that time, there was really no settlement of the “new program” and no software and no plan… but hey, he’s a board member and he may know an architect or two, so lets give him the cash!!

See the money angle is part of what galls me here- if this program and membership were inexpensive and the program seamless I would be quiet. But its not- and so when the NFRC tosses around a no bid 60K gig like that like its Monopoly money, well that makes me nuts. Plus wouldn’t you think that GANA or IGMA would be better served to make that sort of presentation? Since you know they are nationally known organizations with tons of respect? Oh no, a private consultant who has sat on our board since the start of time is a MUCH BETTER choice! See and if GANA or IGMA was on board then it would be taken seriously too… nah too logical… and logic and NFRC do not make good bedfellows.

I should clarify that I have no issues with the staff of NFRC, but its Board Members that are truly in this to profit from the program. They are people that are strictly in business to profit from stuff like this and not anything else. And maybe if the board was set up to the way that the NFRC tries to tell people it is, then it would not be an issue, but at one time in the last 3 years, the Board and its Ex Officio’s featured 23 people with no connection to commercial… with 1 person with a slight commercial play. That’s it. And yet, I am supposed to feel confident that they are looking out for the good of the public? Which public- their kids and spouses? ((And now the Board is still extremely slanted though there’s now a couple commercial based folks on there- better but still awful really))

Through this the DOE has tried to say the right things but the NFRC summarily ignores them. Marc LaFrance has raged at them in public sessions, but when the time comes they pass on his assessments and implement what they care to do. The best examples of this are:

At that ill fated meeting with DOE (the same day as the California announcement) the folks at Viracon were gracious enough to offer NFRC an opportunity to have people at an upcoming membership meeting in Minnesota to tour their plant. This was a great offer since at the time, some of the brain surgeons at NFRC believed every IG unit on a commercial job should have an NFRC label- except when Don McCann from Viracon showed them a picture of one of their major monumental jobs and asked how they should label thousands upon thousands of units. So it was quite obvious that a tour would help educate. The DOE was all for it. They informed NFRC that it would a very good thing to do. And the NFRC…. Ignored it. You know it was more important to have a hoe-down in the ballroom than see one of the best commercial glass plants in the entire world.

And to this day, no effort has ever been shown by the BOD of NFRC to see a glass/aluminum operation, despite offers from everyone. Yep, lets police your industry, lets make oodles of cash from your industry, but learn about your industry… nah I think I’ll pass.

The 2nd one was when the votes for allowing a manufacturer to be an ACE (and yes no one understands that outside of us who attend) was held and it was incredibly Unanimous that the manufacturer should be able to do their own calcs… you know HELP STREAMLINE the process. Plus the manufacturers offered to have a ton of un-neccesary oversight placed on them… yet despite the vote and despite everyone with half a brain seeing the logic… the NFRC wanted to “kick the tires” some and just could trust us evil people… or maybe they couldn’t take the precious possible business away from the labs and others who would stand to profit. So the consensus of the group was unanimous… and yet it was ignored.. blatantly.

Why? Well one board member in her election profile noted that 72% of her income comes from NFRC related activities. Hell why would in her right mind would she vote for the manufacturer do ANYTHING she could do? So many of the others follow the same tasks, and then you have the large residential guys who have been under NFRC rule for years who can not stand the thought of the commercial guys having a more simple system then them. I was told that point blank… if we have to go through it- so do you. So when you have a board made up of residential folks, special interests supported by said residential folks and then the rest being people being affected bottom line by the implementation of a program, there is no way the proper call will be made.

Next up is the fact that residential and commercial are starkly different. Yet even though that is known by most, even Rich Karney of he DOE noted that recently when he talked about energy star for commercial, the folks at NFRC ignore that too…. See they’ve never taken the time to learn commercial, so ignorance.. is… bliss…. It’s the Sergeant Shultz theory… “ I KNOW NOTHING!!”

On the money side, the NFRC loves to spend it… in fact on their 2006 tax return over 300K to their PR agency- Potomac. That’s twice as much as they spent 2 years before… gee why are they spending 150K more now? What messages are they trying to get out… 300K for PR? Man they must need lost of it eh? One of the projects that 300K buys you these days was the hilarious “case study” that Potomac did last summer with 3 code officials. They found 3 people from the tiniest possible towns and let the hilarity ensue. My recap is here on the blog, but in short, it was the biggest waste of funds around. So that money should be put to defraying the costs of these programs… nah lets pay our PR agency. That money could’ve been offered to a professional to start education of system ratings… nah let’s find a code official from “One stoplight town, Texas” and ask him about commercial buildings. With Potomac making 300K per year, I am in the wrong business. And part of that 300K was to watch me at the last NFRC meeting and see what I do…. Man I woulda saved them the time and gave them my itinerary! In addition that same tax return had WinBuild getting 115K. The owner of WinBuild is Bipin Shah who also used to work at NFRC and was one of the original architects of this commercial effort. 115k? seriously? So you have all of these volunteer task groups and people WHO KNOW the industry willing to help and you pay 115K to an ex-employee?

Add in the 200K spilt between the 2 law firms and man you have some serious cases out there…. My point is, maybe before thrusting an immature, possibly impossible program on the world, maybe those funds should be spent defraying some costs? Nah… why should they? As long as they can do whatever they want… they will.

NFRC is like the IRS- no competition. When an effort to get AAMA 507 to be approved as an equal in the codes came up, NFRC fought it like crazy. Why… “Because it will be confusing for the code official” and people could “game the system” without the trust of NFRC. Well that’s not true at all- the bottom line is they have a monopoly and they have a fledgling system that probably will fail. If they had competition, its failure would be guaranteed. So all the big guns came out and fought it and despite incredible efforts from many people, the NFRC’s push was too much. A very sad day indeed.

By the way, one other note on the Board…. Its funny, the NFRC tries to play off their “holier than though” set up. You know the whole “we’re a 501c3” and “looking out for the stakeholder” and so on. Yet, at one time one company controlled a handful a votes by having one person from said company on board, and then their lawyer holding a second spot and another spot held by an organization that received significant funding by said company. Now that arrangement has been put down, but still it was there… along with other great maneuvers like trying to sneak new people on the board when folks had to resign and so on.

I count a few people on the commercial side that are pro NFRC… I have no clue why they are, but they are. Some see it as a road to legitimacy because their products have terrible reputations in the market place and they believe an NFRC cert will miraculously help them. Some see it as a revenue stream. But they are truly the minority. Most though see the value in the whole system calc and most would work hard to develop the program to make it work- but not under the “our way is the highway” conditions of NFRC.

So here we are on the cusp on the now named CMA program (also known as the TITANIC) being enacted for 2009 in California. The software is supposedly ready but there’s still holes and costs and issues that are out there. The fact of the matter is if this program does not streamline, does not get seriously less expensive, does not get less complex, it will fail like the site built.

Folks I could go on and on…. But its been 5 pages already and if you made it this far- congrats. I write this so you can see some of my frustration and feel some of my passion. The worst part is no matter how hard we all work, our efforts will be minimized because this group somehow holds the keys. No matter how incredible to efforts of Greg Carney, Marg Webb and Tom Culp (to name 3) are, it does not matter. They all represent significant portions of the industry that will be affected. All have heard from a serious majority of their membership that they need to fight. (I believe Greg may have just 1 person that is FOR NFRC in its current form in the ENTIRE GANA organization!) Yet despite that, the DOE will do nothing to force NFRC to work with the consensus, and there’s no one else who can step in. So all we do is sit back and watch. There’s no reason to attend meetings anymore and quite frankly why should Greg, Marg and Tom even talk at the mic at the meetings. Their words are ignored. And even if NGA decides to actually attend a meeting, they’ll get to see in person that their opinion, like ours, does not matter one iota. No I think we should let them speed this nightmare ahead, allowing them to think that they know better (you know since they know our industry and products so well) and then watch it blow up all over the place.

I do hate that strategy because I don’t need anymore headaches then I already have. I love this industry. Been in it for 15+ years with roots from my great grandfather spurring back to 1898. I am friends with many and just get sick of the thought of the crap that they’ll and we’ll have to deal with because this group wanted to hit an “untapped market.”

Thanks for hearing me out. As I have said many times, this blog is therapy for me, and my therapists are the thousands of you who take the time to read it each week. And by the way, if you want a less conspiratorial, crazed opinion of NFRC and its effect on you then call Greg, Marg or Tom and they, with level head will surely give you the details.. with a lot less color I am sure.

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