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November/December  2004


by Alan B. Goldberg

Comparing this year’s Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) management conference to a health fitness center, AEC vice chair Thomas Hutch said, “We are encouraged to exercise, eat right and keep stress under control to help us look and feel better … It makes sense that we should work just as hard to keep our business operation fit.”

Providing a full and varied agenda, AEC offered topics ranging from marketing and technical issues to general management at its eighth annual management conference which took place at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel, September 21-23.

Adding some levity to a somewhat formal gathering, Robert Dederick of RGD Economics, who served in the first Reagan Administration as assistant secretary and under secretary of commerce, offered a low-key but satirical and humorous economic outlook. He shared his views on the current political climate and the implication of politics from an economic standpoint. 

As a preview to the tabletop exhibits, the following AEC supplier members were given five minutes to describe a new product that is being promoted. Steve Cook of Belco Industries described new hot log saws; Don Dunn of Castool Tooling Systems reviewed a new lubrication system; Mike Gainey of AZON familiarized everyone with warm-edge technology; Dave Jenista of Granco Clark discussed infrared temperature measurement and Brad Allen of DII Ascona talked about the merits of process and productivity and the company’s contour projection. 

Thirteen companies participated in tabletop exhibits and promoted products ranging from billet heating to extrusion software.

Keeping Aluminum Windows (KAW)
An update on the council’s three-year campaign to promote the use of aluminum in windows was given by Jim DiBacco, executive vice president of Astro Shapes. While the mission is simple—to keep aluminum as a viable component in the residential and commercial construction markets—achieving that mission is complex. To be successful requires educating many parties, such as the building and construction industry, the standards and code bodies and governmental agencies, on the advantages of aluminum. DiBacco pointed out that the initial focus of KAW was the Department of Ener-gy’s (DOE) Energy Star® program, challenging its criteria for compliance, which is punitive to aluminum framing. 

“It is a battle that continues,” he said.

The role of the KAW campaign has been expanded to work with other organizations such as the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), the International Code Council (ICC) and the International Energy Conservation Council. AEC has joined forces with the American Architectural Manufacturers Association in making public comments on recent code changes–EC 31 and EC 48–that would have a detrimental effect on aluminum. DiBacco explained that EC 31 is in non-residential applications where the required U-value would be lowered. The issue with EC 48 relates to reducing the number of climate zones regarding residential products.

Another change in the KAW campaign was the establishment of a technical task group made up of individuals from different facets of the fenestration industry. The group will review and evaluate technical aspects of code proposals and the effect these will have on aluminum and recommend a course of action. 

Trends in the Aluminum Fenestration Industry
In addition to DiBacco’s presentation, two other sessions focused on aluminum windows. These include “Trends in the Aluminum Fenestration Industry;” and “How to Affect Building Codes and Standards … Before They Affect You.” 

One of these presentations was given by Richard Voreis, a consultant to AEC, who sounded the age-old adage that, “the only constant is change.” One of these changes is what Voreis describes as the new wave of environmentalism known as green building. It includes environmental issues, energy conservation, recyclable materials and sustainable building design, all of which relate to aluminum. In spite of its many advantages, including its cost effectiveness in recycling and its abundance as a material, aluminum has been made vulnerable because of its high conductivity, especially with a lower U value of vinyl. Voreis said the Energy Star program, the NFRC and state building codes—all driven by the federal government—have used energy, specifically the U factor, as the only criteria for selecting materials. 
“In the past 20 years, those who promoted vinyl did a great marketing job as aluminum lost market share,” he added. 

Voreis gave statistics showing that in 1980 aluminum had 62 percent of the residential market and vinyl had 1 percent. In 2003, aluminum had 12 percent and vinyl had 50 percent. He contrasted these figures with the non-residential market: in 1980 aluminum had 85 percent of the market and vinyl 15 percent. Twenty-three years later, those numbers remain the same. In spite of the impact of vinyl, Voreis believes aluminum (with the continued support from AEC) will regain some market share in the residential market for a few reasons. Vinyl is an environmentally damaging plastic, it includes dioxins present in production and disposal, it is toxic to humans and animals and it cannot be recycled, according to Voreis.

How Building Codes Affect You
An informative description of U.S. energy codes, the status of residential and commercial energy codes and how they are affecting aluminum windows was given by Thomas Culp of Birch Point Consulting. Clarifying a number of key issues, Culp said that U.S. code organizations—the ICC, American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers and National Fire Protec-tion Association–are not part of the federal government. 

“These are private organizations,” he said. “They compete with each other to have codes adapted.”

Culp pointed out that although it is very influential, the DOE has no official authority for code development. It provides training to encourage code adoption and enforcement and is involved in programs like Energy Star. Code organizations develop national model codes but the legal authority is at a local level—state, county or city. The national model code—while a driving force—has no power until adapted by the local jurisdiction. Culp explained the solar heat gain coefficient and U-factor requirements and the disadvantage these present to aluminum. 

He said U factor is not necessarily the key measurement in energy performance. It is one of many factors that dictates window performance.

“Prescriptive code strongly supports ‘one product fits all’ marketing favored by national window manufacturers,” said Culp. “Aluminum framing and hard coat low-E are forced to be regional products. Vinyl windows with soft coat low-E dominate the residential market.”

Culp said builders will also favor prescriptive codes–which focus on vinyl–because it is easier. In his summary, Culp warned that the most recent changes to codes have been harmful to aluminum fenestration, shaping code to fit the “one-product fits all” in the residential market.

“We are now seeing attacks in the commercial codes,” he added.

Although the theme, “Shape Up Your Business” was reinforced with many types of focus sessions to help members do just that, the future of aluminum in both the residential and commercial markets is taking on its own shape and will remain a hot topic within AEC. 

The Aluminum Extruders Council will host its annual meeting April 14-16 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla.

Alan Goldberg is a contributing writer for DWM. He has more than 30 years of experience in the insulating glass industry.

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