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May - June 2003

Hot Topics

Best Available Technology 
Can Your BAT Hit Home Runs?
by John Matukaitis

During the past few weeks I have had calls from people who evidently read my column with some level of continuing interest. They all asked me pretty much the same question: When are you going to tie all of this together? My columns in past issues have discussed quality, quality assurance and quality control, the need to ascertain the accuracy of information, making the best product of which one is capable and some prognostications about events that appear to be heading in our industry’s direction.

It’s All About the BAT
It all begins to coalesce around the BAT. No, not the bat used in baseball or the animal that hangs upside down in caves and trees. Throughout many industries, and ours in a tangential manner, BAT is an acronym for best available technology. 

What is BAT, and why should we be concerned about it?

In our industry what is the BAT for making insulating glass (IG) and windows? Who determined what the BAT should be? How was it determined? Are you being regulated into applying the BAT in your plant? Do you truly care about employing the BAT?

A little more than two years ago, a consultant reported his findings to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) regarding seal durability of IG units. His summary of recommendations and responses to questions and comments included some interesting information relative to the BAT. Keep in mind that I am convinced that the BAT does exist and that it has been identified.

Consider two of his 13 recommendations: “Evaluate the energy saved versus consumer cost when using argon instead of air in an IG unit,” and, “Address the quality management or control of actual manufacturing processes and assess to what extent, if any, the Department of Energy should become involved. Quality control during the manufacturing of IG units is a significant, worldwide issue.”

He also provided responses to questions regarding, “the major energy-savings result from using double-pane, low-E and an air fill.” Perhaps most telling is his comment, “Although at least one firm is convinced that 20-year service lifetimes are routinely achievable, not all firms have the commitment to correct materials selection, challenging accelerated life testing and quality control during manufacture.” He goes on to say that, “Some companies cut corners to be competitive or enhance their profit margins.”

So much for the BAT.

A Variety of Parameters
What is the BAT for our industry: air or argon, low-E or clear? Which spacer type and design results in the best sealant? What test procedures should be followed? The usual “one-size-does-not-fit-all” response conveniently provides the answer, which is as follows: it depends on the type of window product, the geographic location of where it will be installed, whether it is placed in a north- or south-facing location, whether it is in close proximity to a body of salt water, whether it is installed in a wall or on the roof, the altitude of the building and on the specific building code of the local jurisdiction where it is installed, etc.

Many excellent organizations in our industry have worked long and hard to establish voluntary specifications, performance requirements and test procedures for door and window products. The BAT to attain or exceed those organizations’ standards is still at the discretion of the manufacturers, should they elect to pursue it.

Now it is time to meld the themes of my previous column in DWM relative to the BAT: Quality is an issue, information has to be analyzed thoroughly to determine the BAT and the best product is dependent upon many variables

Who knows? Some day you may even have a governmental agency determine the BAT for you (my bet is that you will). 

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

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