Volume 10, Issue 6 - July/August 2009

Energy and Environmental News

AAMA Progresses on Green Specification for Fenestration Products
The industry may be getting closer to having a green specification for fenestration products. Members of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s (AAMA) Green and Sustainability Specification Development Task Group discussed the latest version of the association’s Sustainable Products Certification Program Proposed Criteria during the group’s summer conference in Minneapolis held in June.

The proposed program is similar to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED program in that it offers participants a specified number of points in a range of distinct fenestration-specific categories, including condensation resistance, variable transmittance and other factors. It also includes five mandatory criteria that must be met: energy performance, air infiltration, water resistance, structural performance and durability. A company’s products can receive different points based on these factors. For example, in the energy performance category a product would get different points based on the U-factor of that particular window.

“When it comes to someone else’s program this could be the fenestration component they specify,” said task group chair Tracy Rogers of Edgetech IG.

The program is expected to include residential and nonresidential products, though one member proposed a strictly residential program.

There was much discussion about the various specifics of the program, many of which had to do with concerns regarding specific materials, to which Rogers said, “AAMA’s whole goal is to be material-neutral.”

The group also discussed specific product groups, including skylights. Some representatives of the skylight industry suggested that skylights be considered separately. Ultimately, the group decided to create a separate rating category for each program in the North American Fenestration Standard (NAFS), while still having commonalities.

“This doesn’t mean we break up and start over,” said Rogers.

The meeting also included a discussion of the factory-glazed windows component of the program, much of which centered on the issue of recycled content. AAMA’s Aluminum Materials Council presented a proposal outlining levels of recycled content and how many points a product would get based on those percentages. This created a great amount of feedback and various members representing the vinyl industry said the numbers were too high.

The proposal for pre-and post-consumer recycled content would give 2 points for 10 to 24 percent recyclability, 4 points for 24 to 40 percent, 6 points for 50 to 74 percent and 8 points for 75 percent and higher.

Terry Abels of Chelsea Building Products said these numbers would hurt the vinyl industry. Others pointed out that there is no way to reuse vinyl as is the case with other materials such as aluminum.

“Now you understand the problem aluminum has with U-factor,” one member was quick to point out.

Brent Slaton from Keymark, a member of the Aluminum Materials Council, said those proposed numbers can be changed and pointed out that the goal was to “put more emphasis on recyclability and make it material-neutral.”

Ultimately, the attendees decided to put together a working group, chaired by Abels, which will consist of at least one member of each of AAMA’s materials councils and will determine what the appropriate levels should be.

While there were differences of opinion, the members seemed to agree that the association is moving in the right direction with development of this specification.

In addition to the task group’s discussion on sustainability, members heard presentations from Dan Handeen, research fellow at the University of Minnesota, on life cycle analysis (LCA). Handeen told members there are different levels to the LCA, as well as different models available to conduct this analysis. One of these models is the Athena EcoCalculator, which the USGBC will be using in its LEED program (LCA has its own category within LEED).

During a presentation to AAMA’s LCA task group, Kerry Haglund from the Center for Sustainable Building in Minneapolis, reported that she is working with AAMA and other industry groups to write a proposal in the hopes of getting stimulus money from the Department of Energy to conduct LCA research.

But LCA is not an easy task. Handeen pointed out that LCA would calculate the impact of the materials going all the way back to the materials’ origin. For example, when it comes to vinyl windows it would mean taking into account the energy used by the crane to dig the tin.

AAMA president Richard Walker noted that the association’s broad goal is to have its green certification program be recognized by USGBC, adding, “to do that we need LCA.” The group decided to continue looking into fenestration-related North American LCA studies that the association may be able to endorse.


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