Volume 33, Number 10, October 1998

Setting the Standard

New Standards Challenge Window and Door Industry

by Regina R. Johnson

 Several major programs and new editions of the codes covering windows, doors and skylights have been introduced in the past several months, and with them come a broad range of issues affecting manufacturers and consumers. Among the trends driving these changes have been the need to make it easier for consumers to choose from the wide range of energy-efficient options, and the spread of tougher codes for coastal regions.

In February, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) in cooperation with the National Wood Window and Door Association (NWWDA), announced the establishment of AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S. 2-97, Voluntary Specifications for Aluminum, Vinyl (PVC) and Wood Windows and Glass Doors. A month later, the ENERGY STAR® Windows program was launched by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in cooperation with the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) (see USGlass, March 1998, p. 6; April 1998, p. 98; May 1998, p. 56). These programs provide a quantitative means of comparing different window, door and skylight products, while also providing labeling systems that allow consumers an easy way to choose products that meet efficiency standards for a particular region.

In addition, the fast-spreading adoption of various impact-resistance codes for coastal areas, introduction of a temporary window labeling program, the Canadian Standards Association’s recent code revisions and the new International Building Code, now in development, promise their own implications.

New Standard Assigns Performance Ratings

The culmination of more than a decade’s work by the industry, AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S. 2-97 is said to be the first national standard that provides a performance-oriented and material-neutral basis for comparing the key characteristics and quality attributes of all window and glass door products. The new standard defines four mandatory performance requirements for completely fabricated windows, according to AAMA. These requirements include:

Products are designated ratings based on their performance in each of these areas. Certain optional attributes may also be rated.

AAMA says that ratings for a particular application should be specified by the builder, architect or building code to assure that the appropriate product is used.

"It is the opinion of this observer that this represents something to be embraced by the industry with enthusiasm because it levels the playing field," said Brian A. Marks of Fenestra Associates, Richardson, TX. Marks noted that the program, which combines input from the wood, aluminum and vinyl window interests, provides a measure of credibility for the vinyl window manufacturing industry. "This specification offers proof that the wood and aluminum window industries acknowledge that vinyl is here to stay," he said.

Asked about criticism of AMMA/NWWDA 101/I.S. 2-98, Marks said that he was aware of almost none from the industry. "It may be a little more conservative [than existing standards] on air infiltration," he noted.

"I’ve not heard any dissension about [the standard] whatsoever," said Chris Mathews, senior vice president of Vinyl Building Products, Oakland, NJ, and general manager of the company’s Little Rock, AR facility. Mathews added that the consortium responsible for creating the new standard consisted of interests across the industry. Of the consortium, he noted, "It’s indicative of the type of cooperation the entire industry has seen as the [framing] materials become cross-utilized by all manufacturers."

Under this certification program, an independent third-party administrator verifies that the products meet the requirements of the specified standard and general administration and record keeping. An independent laboratory of the manufacturer’s choosing tests prototype samples and submits a report to the third-party administrator for review. Once all tests and conformance to requirements are verified, the administrator issues a Notice of Product Certification to the manufacturer, who may purchase AAMA Certification Labels for application to qualified units.

Labels Make For Easy Choices

To clarify and simplify the AAMA/NWWDA system for builders and consumers alike, labels affixed to qualifying products show their certification and ratings. In addition, such products may bear labels with their NFRC energy-efficiency ratings and the ENERGY STAR label, which uses a colorful diagram to indicate that a product has met efficiency standards for certain regions of the country.

Through the NFRC/ENERGY STAR program, products are rated, certified and labeled by the NFRC for U-factor and solar heat gain. Those products that meet set requirements for energy efficiency are eligible to carry the ENERGY STAR label.

Temporary Labels Provide Comprehensive Info

Another new labeling system was introduced in January by AAMA. The Window Inspection and Notification System (WINS), designed to provide building inspectors with comprehensive information such as the installation method, design pressure and anchoring of a window, involves the use of a temporary label on installed units. The label is typically an 8-1/2- by eleven-inch piece of paper attached with rubber cement.

According to Rich Walker, eastern region director for AAMA, the program was developed to make the building inspector’s job easier. He said it differs from AAMA’s permanent labeling system in that the label includes much more detail that simply would not fit on the small AAMA label, which remains affixed within a window’s jamb.

Although it can be applied in any jurisdiction, WINS is garnering the most interest in coastal areas. "The coastal areas tend to have more demanding applications and building officials there are more concerned with installation and design," Walker explained. "Interest in the program is spreading all up and down the coast, and particularly in the state of Florida," he said, adding that high-wind areas of the continental United States may eventually want to adopt the program, as well.

Both Broward and Palm Beach Counties revised their codes to recognize and approve products with WINS labels effective January 1, 1998, and several other Florida counties are expected to issue a letter to window manufacturers confirming their acceptance of WINS labels. The program soon will be introduced in other counties in Florida, North Carolina and Texas, as well.

Several window manufacturers are solidly behind the program. "It was started really because three or four manufacturers from the AAMA Southeast Region organization suggested it," said Walker. A few more manufacturers are now working to adopt the program.

Those Fast-Spreading Coastal Codes

Most window manufacturers are aware of Dade County’s South Florida Building Code (SFBC), Broward County’s edition of SFBC and the Southern Building Code Congress International’s (SBCCI’s) Southern Building Code, which will be incorporated into the new International Building Code (described below). Now similar codes have spread to North Carolina and Texas. The North Carolina and Texas building codes were developed by each state’s department of insurance.

Since May 1, 1997, the North Carolina State Building Code, which is mandatory statewide, has included tables with acceptable design pressures for windows depending on the wind zone. As of August 1, 1998, manufacturers are required to document the performance rating of windows with a test report and permanent or temporary labeling on the window.

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association Building Code for Windstorm Resistant Construction was adopted in June 1997 and took effect September 1, 1998. The document, which applies to construction in designated catastrophe areas of the Texas Gulf Coast, is required in order for structures located within those areas to be eligible for windstorm insurance through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. The new construction guidelines require that exterior openings be designed to resist specific wind pressures. For construction seaward of the intracoastal waterway, exterior openings must be designed to resist impact from windborne debris or be protected from impact of such debris by an impact protective system.

The current SFBC, adopted in 1994, is frequently used as a model for code development in other coastal areas. According to SFBC code compliance officer Herminio Gonzalez, PE, this is because of the code’s rigid requirements. "We’re a bit more stringent than other model codes," he says.

In addition to contact from other jurisdictions, Gonzalez said his office is frequently contacted by window manufacturers who are working to meet the code. "A lot of them come to us, and we have meetings constantly with the manufacturers," he said.

The emergence of so many codes for use in coastal areas raises questions about conflicting and overlapping requirements. Several manufacturers point to the need for a cohesive code for the hurricane-prone areas, which they say would make it easier for them to keep up with and meet the requirements. Although it is a difficult proposition, the first steps toward such a code have been taken.

In June, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles signed into law the Statewide Uniform Building Code, which will make Florida the first state to create a statewide building code, enforcement, education and licensing system. The building code, now in development, is expected to take effect in three years.

Changes Up North

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) recently revised one of its four standards covering window and door specifications, as well as issuing a fifth new standard.

As a result of improvements in technology, CSA A440-98, Windows, revised the 1990 edition of the standard, changing references to "condensation resistance" to the phrase "temperature factor." The revisions outline how windows respond to climate changes and temperature differences on either side of the window unit. Additionally, the new standard provides updated information on factor water tightness (pressure differentiation). CSA A440.1-98 is the User Selection Guide to CSA Standard CSA A440-98.

The new CSA A440.4.98, Window and Door Installation, was introduced in March. A task group of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has created a similar document, the ASTM Installation Guideline, now in draft form. The ASTM publication is expected to be completed by the end of 1999. These new guidelines are intended to ensure that the proper installation is performed according to the particular design of a window, door or skylight.

CSA A440.2-98, Energy Performance of Windows and Other Fenestration Systems, was rewritten in 1988 to reflect improvements in technology. The accompanying CSA A440.3-98, User Selection Guide to CSA Standard CSA A440.2-98, was rewritten that year to incorporate those changes.

Looking Ahead

While the AAMA/NWWDA and NFRC programs are leading the way toward increased unification in industry standards, there is much optimism concerning the International Building Code (IBC), now in development. The IBC, to be released in 2000, is expected to institute nationwide uniformity in the testing and labeling requirements for windows, doors and skylights. Industry experts predict that among other mandates, the IBC will include impact test requirements for certain coastal applications.

The IBC will integrate the specifications of the three national codes—the International Conference of Building Officials’ (ICBO’s) Uniform Building CodeÔ; the Building Officials and Code Administrators International’s (BOCA International’s ) National Building Code; and the SBCCI’s Southern Building Code—and incorporate new requirements to address specific concerns.

On a larger scale, efforts are underway to harmonize standards across North America. Toward the harmonization of U.S. and Canadian standards, AAMA, NWWDA and the NFRC are working with their counterparts, including the Canadian Window and Door Manufacturers Association (CWDMA) and the CSA. According to Julie Ruth, vice president of codes and regulatory compliance for NWWDA, the NWWDA expects completion of a harmonized standard by 2000.

What it All Means

Through many of these new programs, product selection for code compliance and climate instantly becomes much simpler. Instead of weighing complicated test data, U-factors, R-factors, heat gain coefficients, coatings, materials and product types, the builder or consumer need only compare labels to determine the best item for a specific application. The label is his or her assurance of the product’s quality, efficiency and suitability for the application.

Stephen Sullivan, executive vice president of AAMA, said of AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S. 2-97, "This program is essentially a quality-assurance program based on a performance statement, designed to give the consumer peace of mind. All products are tested to the same requirements, in accredited independent laboratories, and validated, or certified, by that third party. The label is the consumer’s evidence that the process is complete and verified."

For manufacturers, the codes and programs represent a benchmark.

"To a great extent we already meet most of the codes," said Troy Rackard, technical sales representative for Binnings Building Products, Inc. in Lexington, NC. Rackard pointed to residential vinyl windows as an example of a product that has required work to keep up with the stricter codes. He said, "We’ve had to reinforce [the product line] to meet the codes, where we didn’t have to in the past." He added that his company’s aluminum windows were able to meet the new requirements with no modifications.

The changing codes—and the lack of a uniform building code—mean that manufacturers must design products to meet the requirements of the areas in which they will be marketed. "I think our members are finding they can’t just sell the same product nationwide," said Al Campbell, CEO of the NWWDA. "They need to be much more specific about where they’re marketing."

The conflicting and varying requirements of codes in place across North America can make it especially difficult for smaller manufacturers to meet the mandates. Meeting the changing North Carolina Building Code presented challenges for Binnings, according to Rackard. "It’s required a lot of redesign and testing to meet it," he said. "There’s a considerable investment in that effort."

Manufacturers are often faced with the dilemma of adapting existing window lines to meet the new standards or designing new lines to meet them. Rackard said that his company generally adapts its windows to meet revised requirements in the markets it serves. "Probably because of our quality we didn’t have the problems many companies had. Some had big problems [in meeting the new codes]," said Rackard.

"Some of the more severe requirements require additional work to meet those requirements, if not redesign," added Mike Koenig, manager of advanced research at Andersen Windows, Inc. in Bayport, MN. "It’s not insurmountable for big companies, but may be hard for smaller ones."

The effort involved in remaining compliant with the standards makes keeping abreast of code developments an important priority for window and door manufacturers of all sizes.

"It’s one of the reasons our members are actively involved [in the NWWDA]," said Ruth. "Especially the bigger manufacturers have people who are very involved in order to stay on top of those developments."

Andersen Windows epitomizes such manufacturers. Three staff members spend at least 50 percent of their time focusing on code development, while about a dozen attend the ASTM meetings in which test procedures are developed each year, according to Koenig. In addition, the company contributed to the development of the NFRC ratings as a founding member of the Council, participated with NWWDA on AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S. 2-97 and worked with the DOE in the development of the ENERGY STAR program.

"Also, with respect to the hurricane-resistance codes, we have a team of two working with the state of Florida and other jurisdictions to bring order to the process," said Koenig. "We work with code writers and insurance companies to show that quality products can meet the needs [of a region] without being too stringent."

Several things are certain about the changing demands being faced by the window and door industry. For one, change will continue. And manufacturers that meet the challenges posed by the new and tougher standards and programs have as much to gain as the customers who benefit from their implementation.

Regina R. Johnson is the editor of USGlass magazine.


© Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.