Volume 8, Issue 2 - February 2007

AAMA Analysis

The Evolution of an Industry LeaderTechnical Expertise Founded on Decades of Experience
by Richard Walker

As AAMA celebrates its 70th anniversary, a reflection on how this industry has evolved to address new issues and market trends over the past decades seems in order. Reviewing how changing forces have molded the industry reveals the effectiveness of collaboration within a structured association arena.

AAMA traces its origins back to 1936, when it was founded as the Non-Ferrous Metal Window Institute promoting bronze and aluminum windows for commercial and institutional use. Several reorganizations and mergers later, the then Aluminum Window Manufacturers Association (AWMA) issued in 1947 the first industry standard addressing aluminum alloys and structural strength of double-hung aluminum windows. 

The subsequent evolutionary timeline reflects an increasingly sophisticated approach to window design and a heightened understanding of the factors influencing window performance, as well as steady improvement of performance requirements and verification systems in response to marketplace demands. 

By 2005, the variety of operator types and performance parameters covered by AAMA application guides and standards had mushroomed with the range of framing materials—from the original “big three” (aluminum, wood and vinyl) to include newer materials such as cellular PVC, ABS, fiberglass, fiber-reinforced PVC and cellulosic composites and various cladding materials. Also by this time, the standard harmonizing performance requirements between the United States and Canada had been introduced as a result of cooperative efforts between AAMA, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA, formerly NWWDA) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Bottom line for the industry: the ability to compare performance capabilities for an ever wider range of products means more design options for customers.

Note that some of the activities were harbingers of things to come. For example, the challenge of hurricane-resistant windows was not born in the wake of hurricanes Andrew or Katrina. It was first addressed in 1960 with more stringent optional tests for wind and water resistance that would earn an “H” suffix to the “A1 or A2” classification. This was tightened in 1962 to limit permanent frame member deflection to 0.2 percent of its length (about twice as strong as that permitted by the “L/175” rule). 

Another example is energy conservation, which began to emerge as a national issue in the early 1970s. AAMA members responded first by tightening air infiltration rates in 1985 and then by introducing AAMA 1503 and 1504 thermal performance test methods and performance requirements in 1988. More recently, AAMA has succeeded in advocating alternative performance-oriented criteria to supplement prescriptive energy performance criteria that threatened to eliminate some products from various climate zones.

Today, as the pace of evolution accelerates, manufacturers rely on AAMA as the forum to address new issues and market demands. Some issues have crested and ebbed, while others continue to grow in importance. This includes the development of reasonable “green building” specifications that preempt ill-founded opposition to specific materials, the changing focus of hurricane-resistant products from wind loading to impact strength and water penetration resistance, and the role of proper installation and drainage plane integration in preventing wall cavity leakage that may give rise to toxic mold and attendant litigation. Still other issues are relatively new and have required quick response—such as the need for products with blast-resistance ratings in the face of terrorist threats, now addressed by the AAMA blast resistance standard.

It’s an ever-changing landscape that must be addressed in a timely manner if manufacturers are to meet the ever-changing challenges of a new global order and competition. AAMA has been the principal vehicle for navigating that landscape with a record of accomplishment and improvement. With the advent of new materials technologies that require an broader array of realistic and effective product performance test methods and standards, and given that more issues are bound to surface, AAMA will continue to be at the forefront well into the future. 

Richard Walker serves as president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association in Schaumburg, Ill. He may be reached at rwalker@aamanet.org.


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