Regulatory Costs Could Inflate Green Premium
by Chuck Anderson
Arguments have ebbed and flowed as to whether green construction
costs more than traditional construction—and, if it does, how long it
takes to recoup the costs in the form of energy and operating cost savings,
as well as improved satisfaction and productivity of building occupants.
The various calculations submitted as evidence, however, primarily include
the “hard” costs of new and different materials, equipment and construction
techniques. I know of few instances where the mix includes the cost of
government regulation—in terms of both the mandated out-of-pocket expenses
and the administrative costs of regulatory compliance.
Issues surface almost daily, which tends to create a “two steps forward,
one step back” kind of progress for the adoption of green building practices.
Fortunately, AAMA and other industry representatives have been tracking
these issues to try to head off, blunt or postpone some of the more punitive
and counter-productive measures.
Some examples from just this past summer follow.
The Clean Energy Act, the vessel for the controversial cap-and-trade scheme
for carbon emissions, passed the House last summer but has since stalled
out. This past July, Senate Democratic leaders announced their decision
to temporarily suspend the bill—at least partially as a result of opposition
voiced by the glass and fenestration industries.
Many believe the issue will re-emerge after the November elections. Meanwhile,
the industry is working with the Energy Future Coalition to marry the
Building Star initiative to whatever energy legislation emerges from Congress.
"But, while the
exemptions allow door and window manufacturers to avoid the costly formaldehyde
content certification and labeling, it applies only to jambs, stiles,
sashes and rails and excludes sills, headers and window seats."
Lead-Safe Work Practices
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented its Lead Renovation,
Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule this past spring, requiring that renovation
work–including the installation of windows–follow new lead-safe work practices.
The rule applies to all homes built before 1978 (prime targets for the
pending Home Star incentive program, incidentally), unless contractors
can show, using expensive, scarce and apparently unreliable test apparatus,
that the job area doesn’t contain lead.
Fortunately, letters and personal visits from AAMA and other industry
representatives aided in gaining something of a reprieve, as EPA agreed
to postpone the due date for completing the lead-safe training from April
22 to October 1, 2010.
On July 7, 2010, Senate Bill S1660, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite
Wood Products Act, established national limits for formaldehyde emission
from both domestically produced and imported wood-plastic composites (WPCs).
The affected products are those manufactured using hardwood plywood (HWPW),
particleboard (PB) or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), including furniture,
cabinets, moulding and door and window frames.
Fortunately for our industry, windows that contain less than five percent
by volume of HWPW, PB or MDF composite wood products are exempt. But,
while the exemptions allow door and window manufacturers to avoid the
costly formaldehyde content certification and labeling, it applies only
to jambs, stiles, sashes and rails and excludes sills, headers and window
seats. This limitation makes it more difficult to meet the less-than-five-percent
No doubt, in the current political environment, regulatory initiatives
are inevitable. In addition, it seems to be the case that with a rise
in green building trends, we’ll see a proportional rise in regulations,
and our industry will need to stay informed in order to keep up with the
changing landscape of green building practices. We will continue our legislative
monitoring efforts in order to keep the industry informed.
Chuck Anderson serves as codes and industry affairs
manager 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
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