Volume 8, Issue 2 - February 2007

I Pledge Allegiance…

Door and Window Manufacturers Take Measures to be Earth-Friendly
by Sarah Batcheler

Most door and window manufacturers say they are going “green” and making choices for the betterment of the environment. It’s not always convenient or cost-efficient, but many companies are pledging commitments to be good stewards of the environment in 2007.

Weather Shield Manufacturing Inc. and its sister company, The Peachtree Companies, have a comprehensive environmental management policy that stresses environmental stewardship in manufacturing operations, produces employee programs and an annual employee “Plant-a-Tree” Earth/Arbor Day, according to Rich Harding, corporate environmental manager for both companies.

Pella, a door and window company based in Pella, Iowa, also recognizes the importance of protecting the environment, stating, “ … [We] will avoid wasteful or harmful disregard of the environmental effects of our operation.”

Many other companies have similar pledges.

Masonite has publicly stated on its website that it is “committed to minimizing any potentially adverse impacts of our operations on our employees, the general public and the natural environment in the global and local communities of which we are part.

”Additionally, Bronze Craft, a company that manufactures window hardware, says it is very conscious of compliance with environmental and worker safety rules imposed by both federal and state agencies because its core process is foundry sand casting.

“We strive to go beyond regulatory compliance and leverage environmentally-friendly work strategies to enhance our competitive position in the markets we serve,” says Jim LaJeunesse, vice president of engineering at Bronze Craft Corp.

What They Are Really Doing

You might be hard-pressed to find a company that says it is not interested in protecting the environment. It seems like every company has similar commitments, but what are companies actually doing to be “green” in their day-to-day operations?

“We have installed HEPA-filtered fans at all air discharge points in our production process in addition to our baghouses in order to ensure that our plant does not in any way pollute the air in our community,” says LaJeunesse.

Bronze Craft replaced all lighting fixtures with modern energy-efficient lighting which conserves energy and improves work lighting for its employees. Additionally, the company has formulated a custom water-based lacquer which it says performs equally as well as its traditional lacquer and has installed water-based lacquer spray equipment to reduce the release of volatile organic compounds to the atmosphere by 50 percent.

Many companies also have realized the importance of recycling materials in their manufacturing plants.

More than 80 percent of the wood Pella uses is third-party-certified; 99 percent of the sawdust is recycled or reused; more than 95 percent of aluminum sash cladding comes from recycled aluminum; about 20 percent of glass is from a recycled source; and most products have at least 20 percent recycled content, the company reports.

Bronze Craft recycles all of the sand used in its foundry process. Sand no longer suitable for use in its process is provided to primary metal smelters as an effective substitute for silica used to clean or flux molten copper. The primary copper smelting process which uses its sand, melts it, changing it from sand to glass slag. The slag is then processed and sized for reuse by roof shingle manufacturers and ore mining operations, says LaJeunesse.

Some companies have made a commitment to use materials that are friendly to the environment. 

The Peachtree Companies use “green” manufacturing processes including procuring cut stock wood from second growth wood sources such as plantations rather than virgin, standing forests, burning wood waste to supplement the heating systems in the company’s Mosinee, Wis., manufacturing plant and manufacturing products in regional facilities to reduce shipment times and distances. The company also melts down waste from its HouseLite grilles and presses it into new sheets to make additional grilles, as well as combines excess PVC and wood waste with resins to form composite materials used in Peachtree’s 300 Series and Vetter’s Pro V Wood product lines.

On average, Peachtree and Weather Shield recycle 500 to 600 tons of waste annually.

“We audit our recycling performance annually. In addition we have comprehensive hazardous/ solid waste, storm/process wastewater, wetlands and air management programs,” says Harding.

Is Recycled Material Superior?

There have been some recent introductions into the marketplace of components made from recycled materials.

Greenland Composites Inc. (GCI) manufactures custom formulated extrusions comprised of 100-percent recycled/recovered wood and PE polymer raw materials. The end products are typically door and window system components, flooring products and wood/plastic composite (WPC) deck lumber.

Alan Wagner, GCI’s national sales manager, says the products feature moisture abatement where exterior door and window systems are exposed to environmental water penetration.

Weather Shield and Peachtree also incorporate recycled content into its Visions vinyl windows and patio doors. The companies engineer a durable composite material from manufacturing waste and create a process for fabricating the composite as part of their manufacturing lines.

“Consumer demand is really driving manufacturers to look at new manufacturing processes and new approaches to products that consider the best use of raw materials. The trend is changing quickly as consumers become more conscious of environmental issues such as global warming and the positives associated with ‘green’ products,” says Harding.

Wagner says that the benefits from using recycled materials are widespread.

“The ‘system’ recycled content percentage can be effectively built into the marketing strategies of the door and window industry companies. We think recycled WPC’s are innovation that pays,” he says.

A growing international zero waste movement is calling for radical resource efficiency and eliminating rather than managing waste. Zero waste is a goal for how to responsibly manage materials and the energy required to make them. It is a whole system approach to resource management that maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace. 

Recycled Materials: Why Not?

So, why don’t more manufacturers use components consisting of recycled content? It’s normal to be skeptical when new things come along. 

“New and different products have to earn their place with performance, proven attributes, and market acceptability … and must return measurable benefits over costs. The door and window industry stakes and risks are very high. Incorporating ‘green’ products into existing systems because they are touted as ‘green’ simply won’t pass muster,” says Wagner. “Acceptable green products must be performance and solutions based. I also believe reluctance to change is a factor. Real changes are being mandated by government regulation, environmental challenge and competitive market innovation. When mandated change is avoided or not embraced, opportunities to improve are lost.\

”What’s Next

Many say that being earth-friendly is not just a fad for today. It is here to stay.

“I think ‘green’ materials are the future … along with traditional materials, renewable resources and the wise use of non-renewables. Incorporating green materials, minimizing the waste stream and recycling aggressively will all be integral to every go-forward initiative for virtually every industrial sector of our economy. If we resist needed change, we get left behind, if we embrace good change, we will survive and prosper … and the world will be better for it,” says Wagner.

“I see it bringing new opportunities in fenestration. It will present opportunities to take a fresh approach to our operations and our products. We are looking forward to the challenge,” says Harding.

With a growing emphasis on this “green” movement, there are bound to be more companies offering earth-friendly alternatives. 

“There are many companies and materials that will come forward to compete with claims of ‘green’ or ‘alternative.’ The marketplace will sort them out based on quality, performance, added value and cost,” says Wagner.

Since a new year means renewed promises and new resolutions, door and window manufacturers are taking time out to make pledges for the environment.

“We will be seeking Scientific Certification Systems, a third-party certification that will attest to the percentage of recycled content use used in Visions Windows and Doors vinyl products,” says Harding.

Seeing Results

Where can we see the results of earth-friendly efforts? The Environmental Protection Agency reported late last year that its 12 voluntary climate protection programs prevented 63 million metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions—up from 57 million in 2004.

According to Energy Star and Other Climate Protection Partnerships 2005 Annual Report, Americans avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 23 million automobiles in 2005—up from 20 million in 2004—while saving about $12 billion on their energy bills. Americans also saved a significant amount of energy in 2005—150 billion kilowatt hours, or about four percent of the total 2005 electricity demand. 

Sarah Batcheler is an assistant editor for DWM.


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