by Dean Lewis
It appears there is some confusion in various quarters over
how much difference there is among the various fenestration certification
programs and whether there is a single comprehensive database for all
manufacturers and products that are so certified. To elaborate, a little
background explanation is necessary.
AAMA is both a standards development organization and a “certification
body” (i.e., an organization operating a product certification system,
as defined by ISO/IEC Guide 65, which defines the operating requirements
for such bodies). These are distinct and separate functions, which can
be the source of misunderstanding on the part of some observers.
About AAMA’s Program
In the standards development capacity, AAMA has been developing door and
window standards by industry consensus since 1947. Driven by the steady
march of materials technology, increased performance concerns and evolving
code requirements, the scope and stringency of these standards have increased
continually, resulting in a wider array of products that perform far better
than their predecessors.
The evolution process has been characterized by a change from prescriptive
requirements to performance-based requirements, the inclusion of more
performance factors and more framing materials, and the advent of the
“material-neutral” philosophy. This has helped specifiers, contractors
and building owners to decipher various manufacturers’ claims and pinpoint
the greatest value for the investment for specific building types and
locations. The latest centerpiece in that effort is AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440-08,
the North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for Windows, Doors
and Skylights (aka “NAFS-08”). Compliance with NAFS-08, or one of its
predecessors, is required by the major model codes.
Such compliance, as well as guidance for architects, specifiers and building
owners, is visibly and quickly demonstrated by third-party product certification.
The AAMA label, which manufacturers elect to affix to certified products,
is now well-recognized throughout the industry as a definitive sign of
compliance with code requirements. Supplemental certification is, of course,
available for energy efficiency and specialized environments, such as
those requiring sound control, impact resistance or enhanced security.
A Complex Unit
Note that today’s certification goes beyond basic quality assurance for
completed fenestration units by recognizing that a window is a complex,
interacting system of components—polymeric profiles, finishes, glass,
weatherstrip, gaskets, sealants, hardware and screens—that must perform
individually and in concert. Accordingly, the suite of component-related
standards referenced within NAFS-08 and its predecessors are enforced
through component verification, and compliant products are published on
the AAMA Verified Component List (available online)—a pre-requisite for
overall product certification.
Program users should note that, because the underlying NAFS-08 performance
standard and its predecessors are available for industry-wide use, other
certification programs have sprung up over the years based on those standards.
Each is an accredited stand-alone program, with slightly different organization,
features and procedures, although all grant viable certification to the
appropriate NAFS standard. Because the underlying component standards
are part of the NAFS requirements, all must verify components in some
manner analogous to AAMA’s Verified Components List. Because each certification
program stands alone, each maintains its own Certified Products Directory
and should be accessible and searchable online.
AAMA’s dual role as a standards developer and a certification body does
not mean that AAMA maintains a comprehensive directory of all manufacturers
and products that have been verified as complying with the standards’
That is the responsibility of each certification program, as AAMA cannot
attest to the accuracy of listings that are not its own.
Manufacturers should ensure that their buying influences are aware of
the certification regime in which they are involved and direct “shoppers”
to the appropriate directories.
Dean Lewis serves as chief engineer, certification programs, for
the American Architectural Manufacturers Association in Schaumburg, Ill.
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His opinions are solely his own
and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.
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