Volume 7, Issue 7 - July/August 2006

Up Close with Richard Walker
Profiling AAMA’s Efforts in the Southeast
by Tara Taffera

You may not be a member of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), or of its Southeast Region—Southeast AAMA—but this organization is working hard to promote the interests of manufacturers and to make buildings safer. Whether through lobbying for building code changes or educating building officials and inspectors, the association has a lot of ground to cover. With the hurricane season underway, DWM interviewed AAMA executive vice president Richard Walker to talk about some of the past and present activities undertaken by the association. 

DWM: Let’s talk briefly about some of the efforts of SE AAMA prior to last year’s hurricanes. Tell me a little about your work with states in the Southeast, such as Florida. 

Walker: Members of SE AAMA have focused on code opportunities following the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Initially, our work focused on testing and certifying impact resistance. We worked closely with Dade and Broward counties for more than a year developing a temporary label, the Window Inspection and Notification System (WINS). The WINS program, although embraced firmly by Florida code officials, generated only limited window manufacturer interest because of the relatively large size of the label. There was simply too much information required for a temporary window label. Ironically, SE AAMA is now working on a Florida Building Code committee developing a condensed temporary label.

DWM: How important is it to maintain good working relationships with building code organizations?

Walker: It is vital. Southeast AAMA has established strong, positive relationships with Florida building code officials and their organizations. Representatives of these groups are included in all Southeast AAMA meetings to ensure the two-way dialog and cooperation continues. We also participate regularly as an educational provider and exhibitor at the Building Officials Association of Florida (BOAF) and the Southeast Building Conference shows. Additionally, AAMA technical staff address dozens of Florida-market related questions each week to help manufacturers navigate the Florida Product Approval System. 

DWM: How prepared were states such as Louisiana and Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina? 

Walker: From a code perspective, Louisiana and Mississippi were poorly prepared. Neither state had revised their codes to protect their residents and built environment from windborne debris and water damage. Fortunately, these states are now busy fast tracking code legislation and establishing oversight committees. 

DWM: I know you worked with the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) to distribute information following Hurricane Katrina. Tell me about those efforts.

Walker: When IBHS indicated a need for 1,000 copies of the latest two versions of window and door industry performance standard (AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2) for distribution to code organizations in Louisiana, Mississippi and other surrounding, hurricane-prone states, SE AAMA funded the printing and shipping. SE AAMA members were insistent on providing the most effective and current product performance specifications available during this time of rebuilding and establishment of new codes in those states.

There are further cooperative plans with IBHS to promote the availability of door and window product performance information through the AAMA online Certified Products Directory. There are also seminar plans to educate code officials about the value of the information and performance assurance on the AAMA Gold Label. In response to regional needs, the AAMA national certification policy committee expanded labeling options to include product impact resistance and tested negative design pressure. 

DWM: How involved have you been with these states prior to Katrina? 

Walker: Before Katrina, the SE AAMA organization concentrated on Florida, Texas and the Carolinas. Our focus has changed in the last six months. 

In Mississippi and Louisiana there is new code oversight, and SE AAMA is identifying the key players and plugging representatives into working groups. SE AAMA will monitor building commission meetings closely, attend annual building official meetings and exhibitions. It will take some time to determine where our organization can provide the most value for our members and the state code officials. 

As these states get more involved in specifying product higher performing building envelope products, there will be more regular interface than in the past.

In Louisiana and Mississippi, we also monitor code issues and speak on occasion and we work with IBHS in those states. In addition to the education and speaking opportunities, we also join other affiliated organizations in lobbying for impact-resistant windows. 

DWM: How prepared do you think those states are now should another hurricane strike? 

Walker: Some reports indicate that the levees require more reinforcement. New Orleans and the coastlines are still not prepared as they should be from a building envelope perspective. The appropriate water and wind resistance is high on the priority list, but it takes a few years to implement and work its way into the existing and new building stock. 

DWM: Since there is so much work to be done have you had to allocate more of AAMA’s resources to the SE region?

Walker: Our SE region President, Bill Emley of MI Homes, spends more time on issues than he has in the past, as does Dean Lewis, our national certification manager. Southeast Region Director Sigi Valentin is also traveling to more states. AAMA has clearly stepped up, dedicating more resources from both the national and regional levels.

DWM: What specifically is your role in SE AAMA?

Walker: While SE AAMA has its own board and concentrates on regional issues, it has the added benefit of the technical and marketing resources of the national AAMA organization. This facilitates the development of standards, specifications and test methods as well as the promotion of continuing education and strength of the industry’s preeminent product certification and installer training programs. I attend all SE region meetings, and facilitate the liaison between the regional and national board organizations. I also write articles and arrange for regional code officials to speak at AAMA national meetings.

DWM: There is a lot of work to be done. How closely do you work with other groups, such as the Fenestration Manufacturers Association (FMA), which works specifically on issues affecting manufacturers in the Southeast? 

Walker: We work very closely with the FMA. We’re working together right now on a window installation standard for masonry construction (see May DWM, page 16). The primary and most urgent task is to provide installation language into the Florida Building Code. We also plan to work together on a couple of more installation standards for other wall constructions. 

DWM: Do you think impact-resistant products will continue to grow? 

Walker: Absolutely! In fact, the products will be specified not only in the Southeast but up and down the entire East Coast. 

DWM: What do you believe is in store for the Florida Building Codes? 

Walker: Florida has been working very hard to develop a statewide code and product approval system for the past seven years. In about two years, Florida will adopt (and modify) the International Building and International Residential Codes, which is good thing for window manufacturers. Florida is certainly headed in the right direction.

DWM: Tell me about some of SE AAMA’s future efforts. 

Walker: One of the most prominent activities is the creation of a performance standard for wind-driven rain (See June DWM, AAMA Analysis, page 6). The SE AAMA Technical Committee has conducted extensive tests and conducted a forum with building officials, the Florida Homebuilders Association, Florida Department of Community Affairs, testing laboratories and consultants to gain input from key stakeholders. That document should be published later this year. The Southeast region will continue to expand building department outreach beyond Texas and Florida. More continuing education sessions will also be conducted and more courses developed to meet the needs of building officials.

Proven Record Working with AAMA Reaps Results 

Why is it important for code organizations and building officials to work with AAMA? 

This is one of the questions we posed to Jaime Gascon, of Miami-Dade County’s Protocol Office and Rusty Carroll with Broward County’s Board of Rules and Appeals.

Gascon has worked closely with AAMA since Hurricane Andrew. 

“We’ve tried to keep the lines of communication open with them as they are the ones spearheading efforts [on behalf of manufacturers] on a national level. They provide us with all the necessary guidance that we need,” he says. 

Carroll has worked with AAMA for years as well. In fact, the two groups currently are trying to improve window inspections. 

“We’re trying to develop a simplified labeling and inspection program,” says Carroll. “We’ve been working on this for four years.” 

In fact, both men say it makes more sense to join forces. 

“They’ve [AAMA] worked more on the structural side and we’ve worked more on the impact side. Recently we have had parallel systems running,” says Gascon. “We pool our resources to make sure we don’t duplicate efforts such as duplication of tests.”

Carroll, who says he attends AAMA meetings as often as he can, has high regard for the association.

“I have dealt with tons of organizations and AAMA is the most professional,” he says. “They have a very strong technical support staff. Windows are more complicated than people may imagine with design loads, water infiltration, etc. When I have a question someone on their staff is always able to answer it for me.”

He explains that although Florida’s Broward and Dade counties have codes separate from Florida AAMA still wants to work with these counties. 

“It shows how professional they are that they still want to work with us. They could say, ‘you don’t recognize our standards why should we help you?’ But they know it’s important.”

Gascon encourages officials in other Gulf Coast states to work with the association as well. 

“They’ll reap the benefits,” he says. “Any instruction they can provide, such as codes that have not been enforced, etc. It will help.”

He adds that AAMA’s laboratory program is a tool that will help inspectors evaluate performance. 

“For example, rather than a company saying, ‘I meet these requirements,’ they have an organization such as AAMA standing behind it,” says Gascon.

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