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September  2004


“You Were Serious About That?”

by John Matukaitis

Many marketing people and strategic planners adhere to the premise that what is most compelling in their marketplace are the events occurring at the unstable interface of newly erupting conditions. What counts in commercial affairs is not what is predominately happening, but what is happening on the cutting edge. In the North American door and window industry the harmonization of standards is beginning to take place in such a fashion, specifically for insulating glass (IG) performance.

During the past few years I have found that very few people with whom I talk are aware of this newly erupting situation and, of course, unaware of the potential good, bad or ugly consequences that may result vis-a-vis their level of awareness.

Embracing the HIGS Test

The North American door and window industry slowly is beginning to embrace a single test (ASTM E2190, known as the HIGS test) as the definitive protocol for prognosticating IG performance, durability and longevity. Over the coming months, for some of those companies that do participate in an independent, third-party IG certification program, ASTM E2190 will be the only protocol available to them. In Canada, ASTM E2190 has been accepted by the National Building Code of Canada beginning in 2005, replacing the IGMAC test (CAN/CGSB-12.8-97). In the United States, the ASTM E773 774 (known as the CBA test) will likewise become obsolete on January 1, 2005 with the Insulating Glass Certification Council.

ASTM will, more than likely, in the not too distant future, delete E773 774 as an acceptable test method. Some door and window trade organizations that provide product certification credentials will continue to employ E773 774 until that time, and then adopt E2190.

What is so cutting edge about replacing one test with another? Consider the attitudes, opinions and events taking place currently in North America and in Europe.

A Look at European Standards
The EU is also harmonizing standards for IG and window performance. The United Kingdom for example, now requires that any person or company replacing glazing must comply with the building regulations and with strict thermal performance standards (those standards will become much tougher later this year and into next year). Compliance with the building standards is a legal requirement. Failure to do so could lead to a fine of $9,250 (current exchange rate U.S. dollar/pound sterling) per installation, and a $92 fine for every day that the job does not conform to the standard. If homeowners cannot prove compliance, they may not be able to sell their home until compliance is attained or proven. It also leads to an automatic fine of $9,250 for the company or installer that fitted them. 

In the movie, “My Cousin Vinnie,” Vinnie, a trial lawyer, is reprimanded by the judge for not wearing the appropriate attire while in the courtroom. Vinnie’s response, “You were serious about that?”

Given the situation in the UK and most of the EU, how many people in North America might respond by saying, “they’re serious about that?” Oh yeah! Currently, if you supply IG or windows to the trade you do not need to register with the regulators (it is voluntary with a quasi-governmental agency). Suppliers of IG units and replacement windows are not liable for the products they supply. The burden of proving compliance rests solely on the installing person or firm, or on the do-it-yourself homeowner. Can you guess how this scenario will be changing later this year?

Ensuring IG Quality
Only one in five window manufacturers in North America participate in an IG certification program. How do the other four in five know the quality of their IG unit? Many of those four also offer warranties from 10 to 20 or more years on an untested product. Is that an “oops” waiting to happen, or a warranty that isn’t worth the paper it is printed on?

Is the IG/window industry racing to embrace ASTM E2190? Hardly. Only a handful of IG/window companies are even aware of what has been going on relative to IG performance standards. Many of the small number of companies that have tested to the new protocol thus far are finding it is more difficult to pass than the CBA test. Is it the new test protocol, or is it the IG being tested that creates a problem? Will the industry petition ASTM to not make the CBA test obsolete? Will more companies, or fewer companies, participate in an IG certification program? Will the industry attempt to lower the bar relative to ASTM E2190?

Events are taking place at the cutting edge. Will the North American IG/window industry ever face the same set of circumstances now prevailing in the EU? Most of these events are being driven by the need for high-performance windows and the significant energy savings they provide. Will we see crude oil at less than $40 a barrel in the future, and the demand for energy-efficient windows decrease? I would not bet on it, even with your money. Yes, I’m serious about that. 

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