About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers, and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post-construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation, and construction methods related to the building envelope.
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Dan: Welcome, everyone, to our “Everything Building Envelope Podcast.” I am Dan Johnson, senior consultant for GCI Consultants, and I will be your host today. I am really excited today to have as our guest, Todd Frederick, who is the owner and CEO of FreMarq Innovations, which is a highly performance curtain wall company located in Central Wisconsin, that was established in 2016. Prior to that, his company was FM Enterprises, which was established in 1996. I believe we have an interesting topic today, which is all about how FreMarq’s technology helps with energy conservation, dollar savings, and reduces a building’s overall carbon footprint. So, Todd, let’s start off by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your area of expertise, and then we can jump right into our podcast.
Todd: Great. Thank you, Dan. Well, I started in the curtain wall window industry in 1981, and I worked for a large window curtain wall manufacturer here in Central Wisconsin until ’96, at which time I started my first company, FM Enterprises, which primarily we did a lot of storefront doors, custom fabrication, and gradually built into the curtain wall market. And that lasted until about 19-, or I’m sorry, 2010, at which time I decided I was gonna retire for a while, but that didn’t last long. And in 2015, I decided it was time for someone to look at curtain wall framing systems, primarily to provide a high-performance thermal product. Up until that time, most people, architects, designers, would refer to the center of glass and really didn’t take the account of the framing aspects into place. So, like I said, in 2015, I started to look at that. In 2016, I developed FreMarq Innovations, and that’s what we do today is we look at framing. We provide highly thermal products to improve thermal performance of a building envelope and save money for building owners.
Dan: Okay. Well, that’s quite a history, and I know as we talked a little bit earlier, you and I had worked together, you know, in our former lives also, and I’m glad that we’re able to talk again. So, I know you had talked about this a little bit. Why is it important to have a high-performing building envelope?
Todd: Well, our research has found that buildings account for approximately 40% of all carbon emissions globally, which is a huge impact on our climate change. In addition, approximately $20 billion of energy leak out of commercial building windows each year, so both new and old windows, making this an economical issue for building owners. A high-performance envelope, which includes windows and curtain wall, will not only make a positive impact on our environment, but will also save money for building owners by reducing energy and maintenance costs, which I feel is a win-win for everybody.
Dan: Yes. I do agree with you 100%, but kind of the old adage out there, you know, money is everything. So, how has the industry responded so far to high-performance products?
Todd: Well, you know, there’s been a mixed reaction. As I said, we started in 2016 and the response then, you know, ranged from, “Well, we are already providing this,” to, “We don’t need to worry about that yet, and those products are too expensive.” And we found that architects, contractors, owners, basically design teams, did not understand the value of high performance and what it meant for the building. The few that did realize the savings and took advantage of it are seeing a huge ROI on putting those products in their building. So, today we still hear, you know, some of the same responses, but not as often. Although nationally, thermal codes have not improved to the extent we feel they need to, there are regional areas of the country that have, for instance, Massachusetts, New York City, Oregon, and Washington have all adopted thermal codes that, you know, for commercial buildings that are more stringent than the ASHRAE-recommended codes. This tells me the industry is starting to move in the right direction, but, you know, it’s the old adage, you know, it takes time for things to shift, but it’s slowly going in the right direction.
Dan: Okay. You know, I know you alluded to it a little bit just now, but traditionally, you know, higher performance products, you know, come at either a slightly higher or far higher price. Is this true for the fenestration industry also, or are they virtually the same?
Todd: Well, you know, I can’t speak for all trades in the, you know, in the industry or in regards to an envelope, but as far as a commercial window and curtain wall industry, yes, traditionally, high performance equaled higher pricing. However, we’ve worked extremely hard at driving our cost down, so we’re relatively about the same, although slightly more, you know, it’s the old adage, if you wanna, you know, buy a car, Cadillac’s gonna cost more than, you know, a Volkswagen, if you will. But you get what you pay for. But in the case of, you know, high-performance products that we provide, we found that although the costs are slightly higher, they’re easily offset with the energy savings and the savings in HVAC sizing. The challenge we face is getting the building team, you know, the architect, mechanical, and contractors, and general contractors to look at a building holistically to see where savings can be realized that will offset any added cost of the envelope. So, if you put in a high-performance envelope, you should be able to downsize your HVAC. So, we have case studies that we have done that with.
Dan: Okay. Based on those case studies and your experience in research, what is some of the cost of not having high-performance products or fenestration products in the building? Like for example, will you have to have larger heat pumps, larger air conditioning or lighting and that type of thing?
Todd: Yeah. So, you know, when we talk about high, when I talk about high performance, it’s going beyond code, right? You know, so our products perform anywhere from 30% to 60% above traditional products on the market. And so, the cost of not putting that in is really, you’re not gonna realize the savings of the energy costs. You know, we have done case studies where we have reduced energy spends on buildings of up more than 20,000 to 25,000 per month on large buildings. In addition to that, you know, with high performance that we provide, you can downsize HVAC so even in warm climates, you reduce tonnage for cooling, you know, which typically is a bigger savings than tonnage, or, excuse me, savings on heat. So, I think, you know, the cost of not having high performance is, you know, in addition to that is you’re still gonna have the continued carbon emissions and energy leakage out, you know, downgrade our global climate. And so, I think not having it in there is detrimental to not only our environment, but also the building owners and will continue to lose money out the window. And even the occupant comfort. You know, with high performance, you know, in cold climates, you can move right out to the window. You know, our framing stays at roughly room temperature. So, not like the old days where you could keep your pop cold in the winter and coffee warm in the summer. So, those to me, are the biggest trade-offs by not doing this.
Dan: Okay. When you talked about, you know, the aluminum framing being cold and hot, you know, I remember back in my prior life doing the actual thermal testing, and that is definitely the case. I remember some of those horizontal vertical members being very close to below freezing, you know, during the cold temperatures.
Todd: Yeah. Especially on those cold days in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Dan: Exactly. So, based on the U.S. codes and regulations, how have they been pushing for high-performance products? And if you can kind of elaborate now, who are the main pushers?
Todd: Okay. Well, as you know, codes are decided on a state-by-state basis, right? So, we have several authorities in the industry, the International Energy Conservation Code, IECC, and then of course, ASHRAE. They’ll make recommendations on, you know, different climate zones where your thermal performance should be, but it’s up to each individual state to adopt those. And as you know as well as I do, Dan, sometimes the states aren’t as up to date as we would like them to be. But as far as adopting codes, I think there are several areas in the country that are going beyond and doing a great job. I think of Massachusetts as one, they just adopted a new stretch code. The city of New York has stepped up because of carbon, and of course, the Northwest has done a great job in Seattle, Portland areas. So, I think there’s code changes coming in certain areas, and eventually, I hope they spread throughout the country. But as far as, you know, where we are with codes today, a lot of the states are still back in the, you know, IECC 2012 and 2015, and they just came out with their new 2021 version. So, I think we’re behind in a lot of areas, and I would like to see that move up.
Dan: Yeah, I was just at a seminar yesterday that they were talking about the Canadian energy codes, how they’re becoming more and more strict, and they’re almost, by 2024, January 1st, 2024, that there’s a possibility or that they’re, most products are going to have to be triple glazed in or meet the energy codes. So, based on your designs with the additional thermal breaks that you have built in, is your design be able to work, you know, around the triple glaze or will your design, you know, kind of adapt and work with triple glaze?
Todd: No, that’s a great question. Our product line, we have what we call our FortMax Thermal Barrier. And in, for instance, in Massachusetts right now they just adopted where every curtain wall, has to meet an assembled U value of 0.25. So, we could still reach that with one-inch insulated glass, and everyone else needs to go to triple. So, that’s how well our systems perform. You know, we can get into, you know, down the road as far as, you know, where our products are today, where we’re going, but right now we’re able to meet some pretty stringent code requirements still utilizing one-inch insulated glass.
Dan: Yeah, I can definitely see that as a benefit. And not only with the cost factor up here going to triple glaze, but, you know, also just the additional weight factor and labor and everything else that goes along with that additional weight with the triple glaze. I see that as a huge benefit.
Todd: Absolutely. And you know, in today’s climate too, is a embodied carbon, so you’ve got two lights of glasses instead of three, so reduces the amount of carbon in the product as well.
Dan: Todd, based on your, you know, your research and FreMarq’s spots, do you feel like the industry is on track to meet the global carbon reduction targets that are out there?
Todd: This is only my opinion, but I believe I do not feel the industry’s on track to meet the global carbon reductions that it wants to as it relates to the facade. Now I know they’re doing a great job with other things like, you know, the heating system, solar and, you know, those types of things, renewable energy, heat pumps. But when it comes to the facade, no, I don’t believe they’re on track because the codes just aren’t moving fast enough or being aggressive enough for that to make an impact. For instance, you know, in Wisconsin, the code requires an assembled U factor for fixed fenestration of 0.36. This hasn’t changed for several years, and it’s not expected to change for at least another year or two, but this U factor is equivalent to an insulated value of an R 2.7. Well, that’s not very good. And by decreasing the U factor to 0.32, which is where they’re really trying to push it to, that’s only an R factor in R 3.1. And I call these minor improvements, and to make any significant change, a more impactful increase needs to happen in the code. You know, we really need to start providing windows and curtain wall products with U factors of 0.15 and lower in order to make an impact in carbon reductions.
Dan: If you get down to 0.15, can standard glass make that or does it have to be VIG?
Todd: I can get there with standard glass. In fact, we just certified, I was going to go into that, but we just certified one of our products that has a U factor of 0.138 and it’s done with thin triple glass. So, we can get down there. That’s where we are today.
Dan: Okay. So, based on your previous comments. So, it is basically, the code officials or the code of fire, so to speak, are the ones that kind of push industry, and then industry needs to perform to the codes. And so, the majority of the manufacturers are just kind of waiting for, you know, doing going status quo and we’re waiting for the codes to push ’em to the next level.
Todd: Right. That’s how I feel. I think it’s like a three-legged first we have, we need to, you know, really make an impact on the codes. And I know the authorities out there, ASHRAE, IECC, they may have recommendations, and then they get pushback from the industry because they feel it’s too expensive or it takes, you know, some companies just can’t get to those points. But then we also need the states to adopt codes that’ll push the industry in those directions. So, I think it’s a three-legged stool and I think we all need to do better.
Dan: Okay. Yeah. And I know that you’ve kind of, you know, talked about this a little bit, but what do you feel is the biggest barrier when proposing high-performance products to customers?
Todd: Okay. I run into two of them really. The first one has always been a challenge to overcome is that getting the architects and designers to understand how the framing affects the overall performance. You know, for a long time, the industry viewed the center of glass as the wall performance and didn’t take into account really how the frame affected the glass performance. They also didn’t really look at, you know, the performance of the edge of glass, as we all know, is much worse than the center glass. Although the industry is starting to understand this issue, you know, manufacturers in the industry, the framing manufacturers are struggling to provide products that can actually reduce this effect and thus create confusion for spec writers and designers. So, you know, what I mean by that is there seems to be some confusion in the market right now is how do we specify a product with glass in order to meet these lower code requirements. So, there’s some education that has to be done. And then second biggest barrier we run into is, you know, is the cost. Even though we have reduced our cost, they’re still approximately about 5% more than a traditional code-compliant product. But however, the savings they can realize that energy and the upfront HVAC reductions, you know, will more than offset the small increase. The challenge is getting everyone to realize that and look at a project holistically.
Dan: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. And especially with the additional benefits, you know, in order to reduce, you know, the HVAC and that type of thing, you know, you can put less glazing in it in the building. But in the long run, that actually reduces user comfort. And, you know, with a daylighting, you know, it’s a big tradeoff there, you know, you want as much light as possible, but you want that to be a high-performing daylight.
Todd: Absolutely. Yes. We don’t wanna reduce the glass in a building if we, you know, we want to help architects put more in a building and be efficient to it.
Dan: Yeah. Based on my experience. I agree with that, you know, just has more helpful benefits, you know, for the people in the building also. So, what’s the next big step for FreMarq in terms of high-performing products?
Todd: Okay, well, as I said before, you know, we’ve already improved our product performance level down to a U factor of 0.138, you know, which is in just like a R 7.2, that’s available today. We’re just finishing R&D on our next release that will provide an assembled curtain wall, both unitized and stick, that will provide a U factor of 0.098 assembled. And this is an R 10 assembly, and I believe it’s the first to be available in the market. And we made that our goal 10 years ago, and we’re gonna complete it in less than eight. That particular product will involve VIG. I think that’s the next step in glass performance. And we’re pretty excited about being able to work with, I believe they will be the first domestic manufacturer of VIG, and it’ll be market-ready the first quarter of next year.
Dan: Okay. And for those, I apologize for our listeners. I know I said it too, you know, but VIG is vacuum-insulated glass, you know, it’s basically, it’s the next technology. It’s been out there for a while, but mostly in Europe and Asia, but it’s next technology in glass that will enable higher-performing thermal products here, thermal and acoustic products here in the States.
Todd: Yes. You’re absolutely right. I think that’s gonna be the next step, and it’s gonna be, I believe it’ll become very economical to use as well. And the reason I like VIG is we can make it a hybrid, you glaze it into a one-inch unit and we get better performance yet, or you can use the VIG itself. My only concern is in the testing that we’ve done is the glass edge has a very poor conductance, if you will. So, that’s one of the things that we’re working on here. But it’s great. I think it’s a great opportunity for the market, and like I said, first quarter next year we’re gonna be available with it. So, we’re excited about it.
Dan: All right. Well, Todd, we’re coming to the end of our podcast here. Is there anything else that you would like to, you know, let us know that we haven’t touched on in the fenestration industry? Just kind of words of wisdom, insight or anything like that you would have for us?
Todd: Well, as you know, Dan, we could talk all day. But one of the things I would really like your listeners to understand and realize is that the framing in the commercial market, it plays a huge impact on the assembled value or assembled performance of any curtain wall or window. And I stress to please take that into account when you’re looking at a design. You know, we’ve been working on this now since 2016, so we have a tremendous amount of experience in the thermal performance walls. And we look at everything from, you know, the U values or R values, if you will, to the condensation. You know, we do dewpoint analysis, and just recently, we start really started looking into the performance of the spandle areas. So, that’s the next area of, of concern, I guess you could call it. But that’s where the market is moving now is really looking at that performance.
Dan: Yes. I agree. The spandle areas is keeping the conversation out, and so, that’s a whole ‘nother animal there.
Todd: Yeah, it is. It’s all new software and so it’s gonna be a long, a long game to get to there, but, you know, it’s something that needs to be done
Dan: Really well. Todd, I want to thank you for, you know, for our conversation and if any listeners want to reach out to you or your team, what’s your website address and the best way for them to contact you?
Todd: All right, well, our website is www.FreMarqinnovations.com. And the best way to reach out and get in touch with me would be probably email, which is, todd.frederick@FreMarq.com. And our office number is 715-842-6842.
Dan: All right, thank you Todd. And listeners, we also invite you to take a further look at our very own GCI consultant services on our website at www.gciconsultants.com, or you can also reach GCI at 877-740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you again, Todd, for our conversation, and I look forward to talking with you and our listeners the next time on “Everything Building Envelope Podcast.” Thanks.
Todd: Thank you, Dan.