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July - August 2003

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Rocket Science and Common Sense 
Finding the BAT for You
by John Matukaitis

Since my last column appeared, I have had numerous calls from people primarily responsible for fabricating insulating glass (IG) units, asking many questions and offering multiple suggestions relative to the Best Available Technology (BAT).

One lady called to convey her interpretation of the BAT and its pragmatic implications. To her, the BAT “is simply common sense.” She used IG sealant as a example. If one sealant has a Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) of 0.013, and another sealant has an MVTR of 3.5, and all other things being equal (which they never are), “common sense tells me immediately which is the BAT. Why would I want to start with a sealant that is 270 times less impervious to moisture infiltration?”

A caller from a window company in the North-Central area of the country sells his windows into geographic regions where there are very severe and long winters. He said pretty much the same thing as the previous caller, “It’s not rocket science determining the BAT. We use a sealant that stays flexible down to -85° Fahrenheit, which is ideal for our market. Why would I use a sealant that fractures at -15° Fahrenheit?”

From People to Technology
Another caller expressed his views that more and more, the window and door industry is moving from a “people-oriented” work environment to a “technology-and machinery-oriented” production environment. People make mistakes; technology and machinery do not. We debated this for quite awhile. The “people-versus-technology” example later in this column sheds light on his comments; was it the BAT, the people who implemented the BAT or a combination of both?

A common theme to all of the calls became evident in the form of a question; if I use the BAT for all aspects of my product, will the product be the best of its kind available in the marketplace? What do you think? The callers also asked for a working and pragmatic definition of the BAT. If you recall, in a previous column I discussed the need to obtain factual, scientifically valid data so that one can make an informed decision. Until a governmental agency or industry association mandates the BAT, you will need to do this yourself. The following guidelines or “definitions” may be helpful.

More often than not, the BAT is taken to mean the latest stage of development (often known as state-of-the-art) of processes, materials and of facilities or of methods of operation that indicate the practical suitability of a particular measure or level of performance. In determining whether a set of processes, materials or facilities and methods of operation constitute the BAT, in general or individual cases, special consideration should be given to:

• Comparable processes, materials and facilities or methods of operation that have been successfully tried out and proven;

• Technological advances and changes in scientific knowledge and understanding; 

• The economic feasibility of such technology; and

• Time limits for application.

As a precautionary note, be aware that the BAT for a particular process will change with time in the light of technological advances, economic and social factors, as well as changes in scientific knowledge and understanding.

Consider the Concorde
Consider the Concorde supersonic jet airplane and how this BAT was going to “revolutionize” air travel. Not too many years ago it epitomized the ultimate in air travel with one major advantage: speed. Was it the BAT? The Concorde did cause sonic booms, but had a very high fuel consumption rate and could not allow for transcontinental flights across the United States.

The BAT for the window and door making industry is available. You will need to do a lot of soul searching, and you need to ask a lot of probing questions to determine the BAT for your specific situation. That is all that it takes to determine the BAT; it is not rocket science, just a matter of common sense. 

John Matukaitis serves as marketing director for Delchem Inc., based in Wilmington, Del.

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