Archive for the ‘Useful Tips’ Category

Title-24 Question of the Week

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

What is a NFRC window label & why do I need it?


The 2016 California Title-24 Building Energy Standards require that the efficiency of windows and doors be documented in the Title-24 compliance calculations using one of two allowable methods.  NFRC or the default assumptions.  We’ll address both methods:




The NFRC (National Fenestration and Rating Council) is a non-profit organization which oversees and sponsors an energy efficient certification and labeling program to document the thermal performance of windows, doors, and skylights.


California’s Title-24 Energy Code requires that U-factor, SHGC values used in Title-24 compliance reports be backed up by NFRC documentation as well as a temporary label on the actual window/door available for inspection during construction.  The temporary label shows the U-factor and SHGC for each rated window and door.  This label must also show that the window meets the air infiltration criteria.  This temporary label must not be removed before inspection by the building official at final inspection.  There also is a permanent label is usually inscribed on the spacer, or etched on the glass, or engraved on the frame and includes a number or code to allow tracking back to the original performance information on file with the NFRC.


Default tables:


Many times window and door manufactures have not gone thru the NFRC testing procedure or the windows/doors are essentially site built which makes it impossible to test the actual performance of these windows and doors.  In this case your only option is the default assumption method.


This involves modeling your project for Title-24 compliance using the C.E.C.’s default U-factors and SHGC values from the default tables (Tables 110-6-A and 110-6-B in the Title-24 standards).  These default values are assumptions based on window and framing types.  If the windows and doors are using these default tables for their performance numbers (U-factor & SHGC) they also must have a label that uses the phrase “CEC Default U-factor” and “CEC Default SHGC” in front of or before the U-factor or SHGC.  These phrases cannot be simply used in a small print footnote on the label.


If default performance values are used then the Title-24 energy calculations also must use the same values in the compliance report.  Most windows and and door that are tested and labled by the NFRC have U-factors and SHGC values that are significantly better than the default values from the tables.  This can often make the difference between passing and failing the Title-24 energy code standards so it is to your advantage to use the NFRC testing data in the Title-24 compliance calculations rather than using the default numbers from the tables.


Overlooking this crucial item in the Title-24 report can result in huge problems during construction.  It is not uncommon for the installing window contractor to bid on the project without ever consulting the approved Title-24 energy code report.  If the Title-24 report is calling out for NFRC compliant windows and doors and the contractor orders and installs non-NFRC products the project is in real trouble.  During the course of construction the building inspector normally will go thru the project looking for the NFRC stickers on the windows/doors and compare them with the approved Title-24 Certificate of Compliance.  If there are discrepancies noted, or the windows/doors have no NFRC stickers, or are site-built then the builder must either revised the Title-24 compliance report to demonstrate that the project will comply with the default assumptions in table 110-6 (U-factor and SHGC) or replace the windows/doors with NFRC compliant ones.


The problem is that often times there is no margin within the Title-24 analysis to absorb the significant penalty for using the default tables for U-factor and SHGC values.  This penalty is significant especially with metal framed windows/doors.


The lesson is clear, Title-24 compliance should be a central topic for discussion with window/door suppliers and installers when they are bidding on the project, not pushed off with vague assurances which later could bring the project to a standstill when this comes to light during construction.




Modern Construction Handbook / Andrew Watts

Friday, July 9th, 2010

A good construction manual is a must have for any architect’s library.

The Modern Construction Handbook by Andrew Watts is in my opinion one of the best construction manuals these days, covering construction systems in an extensive way. The best of this book are the details: good quality of the drawings and 3D sections that help you understand the details in a better way.

Construction manuals tend to be very outdated, even if they are brand new. On the contrary, this book includes a whole section on energy and alternative materials, along with a section called “Future” which helps us resolve complex geometries, twisted facades, new glazing systems and more.

The book has 500 pages printed in good quality paper, something very important for  a book that you will be constantly flipping when needing help on a project.

More images about the book, along with the full index so you can see if it fits you after the break:

The Modern Construction Handbook has become a building construction classic. Its systematic approach with chapters on materials, walls, roofs, construction and environment offers clear and efficient orientation.

The second edition underwent a considerable expansion and has been thoroughly updated:

Digital fabrication techniques are included and presented in an instructional book for the first time, in addition to traditional production processes
– Constructive building principles are shown with new, color 3D drawings and illustrated with photos of built examples of the work of renown architects
– More and densely packed information provided by 3D drawings of the individual components and structures
– Glossary following every chapter containing explanations of terminology and related information
– Environmental aspects and properties of the different materials
– New design and rendering methods such as parametrical design, CAD/CAM and 3D Modeler are explained, shown and integrated in the respective chapters.

– SpringerWienNewYork

Publisher: SpringerWienNewYork
Author: Andrew Watts
Layout and Cover Design: Yasmin Watts

Language: English
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 504
Illustrations: 1000 color illustrations
Dimensions: 11.9 x 8.5 x 1.6 inches
ISBN: 978-3-211-99195-4



Introduction to Second Edition
Changes from the First Edition
Structure of this book

1. Materials

Taxonomy of material systems
Structure and envelope
Digital tectonics
Parametric design

Tectonics in metal
Copper, zinc and lead

Tectonics in glass

Tectonics in concrete

Tectonics in masonry
Concrete block

Tectonics in plastics
Plastics and composites

Tectonics in timber
Fabrics and membranes

Internal walls
Fixed and demountable
Plaster systems
Wallboard systems


2. Walls

Trends in facade design
Generic wall types

Sheet metal
Profiled cladding
Composite panels
Mesh screens
Louvre screens

Glass systems
Stick systems
Unitised glazing
Clamped glazing
Bolt fixed glazing
Glass blocks and channels
Steel windows
Aluminium windows
Timber windows

Cast in situ
Storey height precast
Small precast panels

Masonry loadbearing walls

Masonry cavity walls
Stone and block
Masonry cladding
Masonry rainscreens

Plastic-based cladding
Plastic rainscreens

Timber frame
Cladding panels

3. Roofs

Trends in roof design

Metal roofs
Metal standing seam
Profiled metal sheet
Composite panels
Metal louvres

Glass roofs
Greenhouse glazing and capped systems
Silicone-sealed glazing and rooflights
Bolt fixed glazing
Bonded glass rooflights

Concealed membranes
Exposed membranes
Planted roof

Timber roofs
Flat roof: mastic asphalt coverings
Flat roof: bitumen-based sheet membranes
Pitched roof: tiles

Plastic roofs
GRP rooflights
GRP panels and shells

Fabric systems
ETFE cushions
Single membrane: cone-shaped roof
Single membrane: barrel-shaped roof

4. Structure

Material systems for structures

Braced frames
Reinforced concrete

Portal frames

Loadbearing boxes
Reinforced concrete


Arches and shells

Space grids

Floor structures
Cast in situ / cast-in-place concrete
Precast concrete
Steel and steel mesh


5. Environment

Energy and the building envelope

Double skin facades
Environmental studies for envelopes

Analysis for design
Solar radiation
Embodied energy

Passive design
Natural ventilation
Solar shading and daylight controls
Solar power
Solar heating

Low energy material systems
Straw bales and hemp
Rammed earth, cob and adobe bricks
Green oak and bamboo
Green walls

Active design
Liquid based heating/cooling systems
Mechanical heating/cooling systems
Electrical lighting
Fuel and water supply

Support services
Sanitation and drainage
Fire control
Maintenance and cleaning

6. Future

A future for building construction
Folded glazing
Metal solar shading: louvres and mesh
Triangular panels for twisted facades
Twisted panels with flat glass for twisted facades
Moving shading panels
Precast concrete panels for facades of complex geometry
Glazing systems with integral solar shading
Stick glazing for double facades
Shingled glazing for facades of complex geometry
Variable concrete panels for solar shading
Structural facades of complex geometry
Facade with integrated furniture


Glossary of terms
Photo credits

Available on Amazon

Great (free too) pdf to Word file converter

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Free software that flawlessly converts PDF files to Word doc files.

click here

Free PDF to Word by Nitro PDF Software

The Most Accurate PDF-to-Word Converter

Using our PDF-to-Word conversion technology, you can quickly and easily create editable DOC/RTF files, making it a cinch to re-use PDF content in applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, OpenOffice, and WordPerfect.
Best of all, it’s entirely free!

Useful Links to Monitor Economic and Housing Trends

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The following are links to useful information from government agencies and NAHB that will enable you to monitor the housing market.

To access the latest information available, simply click the links.

Our new Events Calendar

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Keep current on upcoming building industry, energy efficiency, green building, photovoltaic events, seminars, tradeshows, and workshops:

Events Calendar

Ship Gooder

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

We use this site a lot.  A fast easy way to find the least expensive and more better way to send packages.  A simple application that let’s you enter in your originating and destination zip codes, package weight then displays a table that details shipping costs by carrier or courier and by shipping option (same day, next day, ground, etc).  It compares rates from Fed-Ex, UPS, DHL, U.S. Postal Service and a variety of local same day couriers in your area.  You can also make changes to the zip codes and watch the chart update itself in real time and view the shipping route on a map.

Free File Converter

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Looking to convert that .dwg file into a .pdf or that gif into a jpg? This site will convert dozens of file formats.  It’s free.  Zamzar

The free version has a 100mb limit on file size.  Conversion time varies depending on user traffic.

Another option is

How to place an Image on a PDF page

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Placing an Image (Certificate of Compliance, etc) on a PDF Page

Acrobat Professional version 8.0 and up can place following image types directly on a page:

  • JPEG (.jpg)
  • Bitmap (.bmp)
  • GIF (.gif)
  • TIFF (.tif)
  • PCX (.pcx)
  • PING (.png)

Follow these steps to import and place an image on a PDF:

  1. Open the PDF file on which you want to place the image
  2. Choose Tools->Advanced Editing->Touchup Object Tool
  3. Right-click and choose Place Image…
  4. A standard file dialog will appear:
  5. Select an image file and click Open

Adjusting the Appearance of the Imported Image

Acrobat allows you to make a number of changes to the image once it is placed.

When the Touchup Object tool is active (Tools->Advanced Editing->Touchup Object Tool), right-click to see the following options for your placed image:

Selecting an Image

Click once with the Advanced Editing Tool to select an image.

If multiple images and objects are nearby, it can be a challenge to select the right one.

Control-Shift-Click (Option-Shift-click on the Mac) to cycle through the stacking order of images.

Moving an Image

  1. With the placed image selected, click and drag.

New 2009 Consumer Energy Tax Incentives

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

President Barack Obama signed the 1,073-page “stimulus” act into law on Feb. 18, 2009. The tax section is entitled “American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 and includes several provisions that modify and expand the scope of the energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives. Many of these provisions carry over from another bill President Bush signed into law on Oct. 3, 2008, which extended many of the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives first enacted in 2005 but that expired at the end of 2007 or that were scheduled to expire at the end of 2008.

The strategy behind these tax incentives is to improve the overall energy efficiency of the existing housing stock. It was realized that improvements in energy building codes for new construction was not reducing energy consumption enough to meet Federal goals and guidelines established by the Department of Energy. Why? The average existing home was constructed in 1976 and many were built long before that. This was long before any state or federal energy building code existed. This large stock of existing homes use a tremendous amount of energy, very wastefully. In many sunbelt states single pane windows are common, walls are under insulated, furnaces and water heaters are old and inefficient. The 2005 tax incentive bill was enacted to provide a “carrot” or incentive for homeowners to upgrade their windows, change out their furnace and install more energy saving insulation and weatherstripping.

The “carrot” however was perceived as too small to be much of an incentive, or even noticed by most. According to a recent survey conducted by insulation manufacturer Johns Manville, just 23% of American homeowners took advantage of federal tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements in 2006. This, despite the fact that 78% of homeowners surveyed reported that their heating and cooling costs increased by 5% or more in 2006, and a full 74% of homeowners knew the credits were available under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The shortcomings of this initial incentive programs were obvious, the incentives need to be increased if they could realistically be expected to provide the push needed to motivate homeowners to action. The new 2009 Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives provide a much larger and attractive “carrot”. Some examples:

Replacement windows/doors/skylights with an U-factor and SGHC of 0.30: Tax credit of 30% of the cost, up to $1,500.

Upgraded insulation that meets 2009 IECC minimum guidelines: 30% of cost up to $1,500.

HVAC with a 95% AFUE furnace and 16 SEER A/C: 30% of cost up to $1,500

Replacement Tankless water heater with an energy factor of 82%: 30% of cost up to $1,500

Solar Water Heater: 30% of cost with no cap

Photovoltaic Systems: 30% of cost with no cap

A key restriction is the $1,500 cap on window, insulation, HVAC, water heater costs. This the maximum tax credit for all of these improvements combined. There is no maximum credit cap for solar water heaters or photovoltaic systems, a simple 30% of whatever the total system cost is your tax credit.

It’s important to note that these are tax credits, not tax deductions. A tax credit reduces your federal tax liability directly. Subtracted from your tax liability (taxes owed), it’s taken after all other reductions are made. A tax deduction, by contrast, provides tax relief in a more oblique manner. A tax credit reduces the tax you pay, dollar-for-dollar. Tax deductions – such as those for home mortgages and charitable giving – lower your taxable income.

These upgrades and improvements must be “placed in service” from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010 and the home must be the taxpayers primary place of residence. Improvements made in 2009 will be claimed on your 2009 taxes using IRS Tax Form 5695 (2009 version) This form should be available late 2009 or early 2010

The new program also includes improvements to existing commercial buildings but involve a different method of calculating the incentive which is a tax deduction, not a tax credit. Instead of an itemized list of qualified upgrades, existing commercial building owners need to demonstrate that the building overall will perform 50% better after all the energy saving improvements which can include window, door, insulation upgrades, HVAC replacement, and more efficient lighting fixtures. This will require a energy use simulation calculation to establish the energy consumption of the building before and after the upgrades to demonstrate the 50% improvement in overall energy efficiency of the building. The tax incentive using this approach is $1.80 per square foot. These tax deductions are available for upgrades placed in service between January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2013.

More details are available on our website, as well as the EnergyStar website,

Builders’ Tip: My Personal On-the-Job Hardware Store

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Click for larger image.

When I’m working on a punch list, I often keep plenty of fasteners and related paraphernalia on hand to keep my “gofer” runs to a minimum.

The accompanying drawing illustrates my solution for toting all these items — what I call my personal hardware store.

It’s a double-decker tray for carrying assorted screws and nails and it holds almost every kind of fastener in one compact, organized ? and sometimes heavy — unit.

  • I made the rig from garden variety 1x pine, with an upright member in the center that acts as a bulkhead and a carrying handle.
  • The dimensions are based on an industry-accepted standard unit of measure ? a cardboard milk container.
  • Since milk containers are 3 inches square, the inside dimensions of the upper trays measure 9 inches by 9 inches so I can fit each tray with nine containers.
  • I made the inside dimensions of the lower trays 9 inches by 9-3/4 inches to allow for 18 more containers.The extra 3/4 inch enables me to stack the upper trays and provides extra space for staples on one side and precut sandpaper strips for my sanding block on the other.
  • Because each container lifts out, I never have to dig my fingers into the sharp points of the fasteners. I can just pour a few into my hand or onto my workbench.

I try to keep only a handful of each type of screw in each container to get me through the day. I refill the containers as needed when I get home.

I also hold assortments of similar fastners in each container, which gives me more variety and items to choose from for each job.

The key, however, is keeping everything organized. Every type of fastener has its own spot, so I know just where to find it.

— Phil Miller, Medina, N.Y.

Tips & Techniques provided by Fine Homebuilding.