Volume 13, Issue 4 - May 2012

Energy & Environmental News

Industry Responds to LEED Draft; Wood and PVC Issues Elicit Feedback

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released the latest draft of its LEED Rating System and a few points are drawing criticism from some in the industry.

First, in the section, Responsible Sourcing of Raw Material, new wood products must be certified by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) “or better.” Organizations, such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), have long tried to convince the USGBC to recognize other certification programs.

“This new language raises more issues than it resolves,” says Kathy Abusow, president and CEO of SFI. “Who will decide what is ‘better than FSC’ and on what basis?”

She adds that currently LEED only recognizes forests certified to the FSC, which account for about one quarter of North America’s certified forests. The rest are certified to three independent standards in use across North America—SFI, Canadian Standards Association and American Tree Farm System, all of which are endorsed by the international Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

Teri Cline, communications director, for Jeld-Wen says at her company they give customers a choice between SFI-certified wood windows and FSC-certified wood windows.

“Jeld-Wen is not only a voting member of USGBC, but we also support the growth of the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes, which is a competing green building certification program. We strongly believe that competition is good for homeowners, builders, manufacturers and the environment—even in the big business of product and building certification,” says Cline. “As an example, SFI focused its acreage certification in North America. FSC focused elsewhere. After years of competition, FSC acreage increased in North America. Competition makes companies and organizations look for new and better ways to please their customers. Efforts to encourage monopoly ultimately erode choice and innovation.”

And the FSC has also taken issue with portions of the new draft, reporting that though it does offer improvements, it still falls short of its stated goal: driving market transformation to sustainability. According to an FSC announcement, while it “recognizes and appreciates the substantial effort the staff and technical advisors at the USGBC invested in addressing weaknesses in earlier drafts, significant changes are still required for LEED 2012 to drive market demand for products from responsibly managed forests.”

"Who will decide what is ‘better than FSC’ and on what basis?"
—Kathy Abusow, SFI

The FSC says when it comes from responsibly managed, FSC-certified sources, wood is among the most environmentally friendly building materials—a fact LEED should recognize and reward. Yet if approved as written, the third draft would represent a step backwards from the current certified wood credit, which has directly encouraged tens of millions of acres of forest conservation and responsible management in the United States and Canada, according to the FSC.

According to FSC, some improvements still needed in LEED 2012 include creating clear incentives for projects to meet FSC’s high bar. It says by providing up to five points for use of Life Cycle Assessment-based disclosure tools LEED 2012 reduces the incentives for compliance with high-performance standards. It also says the calculations used for materials to qualify for points under the raw materials extraction credit are “out of line with the reality faced by designers, especially in commercial and institutional construction.”

There is also a new section in the latest draft labeled “Additional Chemical Avoidance” and one of the products on that list is PVC.

This was a topic of discussion among some attendees at the meeting of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) when they met in March.

“There seems to be a welling up of concern over PVC again,” says Ric Jackson, director of external affairs, Quanex Building Products.

Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs for the Vinyl Institute, says his organization is astonished to see PVC added to the USGBC’s list of chemicals to avoid. According to Blakey, PVC has been studied over time by the USGBC itself.
Blakey notes that the “USGBC has failed to live up to its claim of ‘technical rigor’ in LEED credits as well as its own procedures for balance, fairness and ‘consensus.’ It has ignored scientific studies (including its own TSAC review), as well as studies for the European Commission and others, that found PVC’s life-cycle health and environmental performance as good as, or better than, the performance of competing materials.”

He adds, “We are very disappointed that the USGBC has made this move; they’ve turned their backs on their own their own studies.”

Verification Program Unveiled at NFRC
The Independent Verification Program (IVP) topped the list of items garnering the most amount of discussion during the National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) Spring Committee Week in March.

Scott Hanlon, NFRC program director, reminded members that the IVP will be a permanent addition to the organization’s rating process. One way the IVP serves the public is by making it easy to determine which products have undergone testing, according to Hanlon.

“Consumers will see some harmonization between the IVP and our certified products directory,” he said. “Products will be flagged, clearly indicating they were selected.”

Jim Benney, NFRC CEO, pointed out the two main reasons NFRC started the IVP in a video posted on the NFRC’s website during the meeting. “First, the IVP will provide additional enhancements to the existing program,” he said. “Our job is to help the public buy energy-efficient products. We need to make sure we improve the value of our brand and the IVP allows us to do that.”

Second, Energy Star has new requirements for verification testing and the IVP program enables manufacturers to meet these requirements, according to Benney. The NFRC will administer the entire IVP program, which will be fully implemented in January 2013.

It is this tight timeline, among other factors, that is worrying manufacturers, and many of these voiced their concern at the meeting. Ray Garries, Jeld-Wen, reported that in the two-hour discussion allotted to IVP at the meeting, members “lined up at the microphone” to share their concerns. This was the first time the membership could comment on the 713 document [on which IVP is based] so there were lots of questions, which is to be expected, according to Garries.

He provided some background on the NFRC program saying that the labeled values by NFRC are from thermal simulations and physical tests are only used to confirm the simulations.

“So after a simulator creates the computer model using DOE software, he has to pick one window from the product line for physical testing and that window will verify all these numbers,” Garries said. “So since the program started, this method is used to manage the certification of nearly 8 million items in the NFRC database. So now for this new IVP program to rely on a large share of physical testing, it is like a new program.”

“How do you correlate the physical test and its differences and tolerances being different?” asked Garries.

Gary Hartman of Chelsea Building Products wondered “why the IVP is being put into place considering all the checks and balances and all the work that NFRC has done over the past 20 years. They put in place a simulation system–a validation system that works,” he said.

Both Garries and Hartman also talked about the fact that the EPA is pushing the NFRC to develop this program as other Energy Star product categories have developed their programs and windows is the last to follow suit.

“Most other Energy Star certified products, such as appliances, jumped into a simple verification program but we [windows] couldn’t do a simple program,” said Garries. “This IVP has 15 pages of rules and everyone is tense because the EPA has a strict deadline.”

Garries said the NFRC is “between a rock and a hard place.”

“The staff is in a tough spot because windows and doors have the most complicated compliance methods out there that are so complex,” he said. “So they are taking a very complicated system and doing it quickly and it is very tough. They need to keep the same level of fairness and not give up the level of accuracy and not cause a problem for inspectors. I don’t envy them.”

Hartman pointed out another major concern of manufacturers: the cost of doing business. “They are adding five layers of documentation and complexity and that is now being added into the cost of doing business,” he said.

“We went through product labeling, IG certification, now IVP,” said Hartman. “Our concern is that as the federal government gets more and more involved it continues to add additional cost to the manufacturer and will be passed to the consumer. IG certification took some manufacturers out of the IG business and in some cases out of the window and door business. This could be another tipping point for small and regional manufacturers,” he said.

Hartman speculated that a manufacturer may decide to stop making windows and just sell them. “Or they say, ‘Energy Star isn’t as important to me so I will walk away from that program,’ but then they lose that marketing advantage … I think NFRC understands that but I don’t think EPA cares. They want to reduce the number of companies who participate in Energy Star and give it more exclusivity.”

Benney told DWM magazine that, “The [NFRC] board of directors listened closely to the feedback from the IVP forum, and I am sure that they will be communicating a response to this feedback in the near future.”

Major Changes Announced to WVP Program
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Windows Volume Purchase Program (WVP) will have some significant changes according to a recent announcement. Many of the changes are based on a stakeholder strategy session held in February. Phase II of the program, originally scheduled to run from May 2011-April 2012, will be extended until December 31, 2012.

The WVP team will now require participating vendors to report total R5 sales from all sources (vendors previously could opt to report only sales from the program website).

“They don’t care how it happens [an R5 sale], they just want to know how many windows are going into the marketplace,” says Scott Channell of National Vinyl LLC (NVC). NVC participates in the program. “This will force us to better track our sales. It puts a little more burden on us but it makes us better.”

“What the DOE has done is put that into the forefront of the dealers’ minds that this is what they need to be selling,” says Channell. “It has forced all of us to get better at promoting these windows and getting them out the door in a timely and efficient and competitive manner.”

According to the announcement, the 20-window minimum purchase requirement has been eliminated.

Window and Glass Industries Join Together to Pursue LCA
During the American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s (AAMA) annual conference this past February, Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO, briefed members of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Oversight Task Group regarding its latest LCA efforts. AAMA is one of four associations that have come together to study this complex issue, and is working with members of the Glass Association of North America, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association and the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance. Rita Schenck, executive director at the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, is assisting the group with its efforts as she has worked with other organizations on LCA. Representatives of the group also represent both the residential and commercial window industries.

Walker told AAMA attendees that the group is looking at everything from transportation, energy use, and packaging, to waste management and resource extraction.

The latter evoked some questions as to where this data is available.

“Some of this is already standardized and there are databases to draw on,” said Ray Garries of Jeld-Wen, a member of the LCA group.

The group is using COMFEN, a tool from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as its energy model and is basing the research on a building that is 10 feet wide, 9 feet high and 20 feet deep.

“We put this out there but this could change,” said Walker.

Regarding durability, the group decided on a 30-year shelf life but currently is looking into this more, including a review of existing data.

“Curtainwall is another area we have to wrestle with more,” said Walker, who added that for now the document does not include doors.

The associations hope to have a working document complete this summer.

“When we are happy with the document, we will then have a validator go over it,” said Walker.

Future tasks of the group include performing an LCA study, developing a consumer facing label for big box stores, and planning a meeting with retailers with an example for a consumer label to gain feedback.

AAMA members in attendance had various questions and comments. One asked, “Will this be another hoop for us to jump through?”

“It’s just another cost of doing business,” answered another.

A third asked if this is redundant with AAMA’s green certification program under development. Those two programs are different, as LCA looks at sourcing of materials and other factors, Walker clarified.

While one attendee asked how the progress is going with all four groups working together, Walker answered that it is going very well and said, “The biggest challenges we have [with LCA] is the unknown.”

Industry Companies Receive Energy Star Recognitions
A number of Energy Star fenestration-industry companies have been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ProVia was named a 2012 Energy Star Partner of the Year–Product Manufacturer, and both Andersen Corp. and Saint-Gobain received Energy Star Sustained Excellence awards.

The 2012 Partner of the Year Awards are given to manufacturers and retailers that successfully promote and deliver Energy Star-qualified products, while the Sustained Excellence Awards are given to organizations that have been named an Energy Star Partner of the Year for three or more consecutive years.


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