Paul Beers welcomed Michael Bousfield, Technical Director of Cascadia Windows and Doors, to the studio for a recent episode of the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast to talk about innovations in window design.
Cascadia Windows and Doors manufactures energy-efficient, high-quality windows and doors. Michael talked about Cascadia’s development and the extensive testing program the company set for itself in its mission to improve the performance of the “weakest link” in the building envelope.
From Leaky Condos to Windows
Cascadia Windows and Doors was started by building science engineers who had helped resolve the disastrous issue of leaky condos in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The leaky condo era in Vancouver was characterized by premature failure of the building envelope, “a terrible time for local industry” according to Michael, as well as condo owners.
Once the leaky condo issues were overcome, the engineers turned their problem-solving skills to energy conservation, focusing on window assemblies as an area in need of attention, and Cascadia Windows and Doors was formed.
Despite the inauspicious start date of 2008 – when the economy took a turn for the worse – Cascadia has since grown 29 to 30 percent annually, serving markets from Alaska to Southern California and points between on the West Coast. The company is now making its way east in both Canada and the United States.
Cascadia products are manufactured from fiberglass because it has the structural capacity required for large commercial and residential windows and it is also thermally efficient.
Until Cascadia developed this product line, window assemblies couldn’t provide both characteristics.
Cascadia’s fiberglass products have the structural strength of aluminum – the material most often used when strength is called for – but they are 50 to 100 percent more thermally efficient.
Michael refers to Cascadia products as commercial-grade but emphasizes that they’re used in a full range of construction projects, including commercial, institutional, rehabilitation and retrofit, and residential.
“Commercial grade” describes the physical strength, life cycle and physical test ratings of the company’s assemblies.
The North American Fenestration Standard (NAFS) sets United States and Canada test standards for window assemblies. These standards determine their suitability for particular buildings and environmental conditions.
The manufacturer is required to subject the product to a battery of tests for strength, water penetration resistance and air leakage resistance, as well as perform several secondary tests for hardware operation and the ability to defend against intruders.
Tested windows receive a performance grade that ensures tests have been completed and passed. This comes in the form of a number that describes the wind pressure the windows can withstand.
Michael raised an important issue about the NAFS testing standard: A manufacturer can only test a product the same size or smaller than the NAFS test sample, and results can’t be extrapolated to a window that’s larger.
A larger window would actually have a lower rating – only an independent test of a window larger than the test sample can assure a buyer of what the rating would be.
Beyond Code Compliance
Cascadia has developed an in-house testing regime that goes beyond code compliance by regularly taking products off the assembly line and subjecting them to tests for water penetration resistance.
Whereas testing for code compliance requires the testing of one sample window, Cascadia’s method tests about 10 percent of the window assemblies that customers use.
This approach allows Cascadia to combine quality control and training in one practice and, Michael adds, contributes a “sleep-at-night” factor for consumers.