Volume 13, Issue 9 - November/December 2012

AAMA Analysis

Temporary Constraints
Won’t Undermine 50 Years of Strength
by Ken Brenden

Last year, AAMA marked its 75th anniversary as an organization. This year, we quietly observe another milestone—the 50th anniversary of AAMA’s certification program. Since 1962, this original third-party fenestration performance verification program has provided manufacturers with the means to independently demonstrate product performance quality and regulatory compliance to both their customers and building officials.

The International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC), several state codes and federal agencies (e.g., HUD) mandate that exterior doors, windows and skylights conform to AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 – the North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for windows, doors, and skylights (NAFS). Such compliance, as well as guidance for architects, specifiers and astute building owners, is visibly and quickly demonstrated by third-party product certification and labeling.

Why Certify?
Our certification program’s complete, interlocking system of performance-based standards, certification testing, component verification and biennial follow-up inspection of the manufacturer’s production line, provides window manufacturers an added competitive edge. The program, ANSI-accredited for the last 40 of its 50 years, is the only program in the fenestration industry that requires that components used in the finished door and window assembly pass their own set of performance tests.

After 50 years, this process has become pretty much routine for many manufacturers. However, evaluating door and window products has become a more confusing proposition, especially from the viewpoint of the specifier/buyer, end-user and building inspector.

This is because fenestration products are undeniably becoming more complex as performance expectations both diversify and tighten. Credible third-party verification is more important than ever, given the increasing array of operator types, framing materials, insulating glass (IG) configurations and performance requirements. These range from the basics (structural performance against wind loading and resistance to air infiltration and water penetration) to specific considerations such as thermal and condensation resistance, and disaster risk reduction in the form of impact and blast resistance, hurricane and tornado hazard mitigation. There are different challenges in different markets and for different types of constructions, ranging from commercial and residential to modular and HUD.

Independent Testing
Any manufacturer may have product prototypes or samples independently tested for conformance to NAFS and may claim such conformance based on the test results. True, professional architects and specifiers understand laboratory test reports, but contractors or consumers who must select windows for residential new construction or remodeling projects rarely understand their meaning or even know that they exist.

Unless the manufacturer participates as a licensee in an authentic, accredited third-party certification program, there is no independent verification of test results and no follow-up inspection to verify that actual production-line units continue to meet the requirements. And, they may not identify their products with the definitive AAMA label, which is required by many building codes.

Don’t Forget the Value
Certification has become a staple for sorting through performance requirements and manufacturer/dealer claims while providing a level playing field for meaningful comparisons for a wide range of products. This is hardly unique to fenestration. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service lists 56 organizations and agencies which certify building products and materials ranging from air conditioning and electric appliances to wall panels and roofing, as well as fenestration.

Especially in a rough economy, some may tend to lose sight of the value and significance of product certification or be tempted to cut corners to save money. We must be cautious, however, that this does not dilute the credentials of 50 years of AAMA’s fenestration certification.

Ken Brenden serves as technical services manager for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association in Schaumburg, Ill.








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