AAMA Takes on Green at Summer Meeting

John G. Swanson
June 1, 2008

Hershey, Pa.—The American Architectural Manufacturers Association started work on a new green rating system for fenestration products at its summer conference here this week. The group also heard an update on Department of Energy initiatives in developing new window and door technologies.

“We want to be the ones defining what a green product is,” said Tracy Rogers of Edgetech IG, who is chairing the committee responsible for developing green specifications that might be covered in an AAMA program. Rogers started with a list of criteria paralleling the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system for buildings, and asked the group to review potential approaches to rating energy performance, recycled content, type of wood used and factory-finishing methods. The initial draft proposal suggested that a points system similar to that used in LEED would be used to establish a product’s level of “greenness.”

Edgetech’s Tracy Rogers led the discussion of potential product criteria to be covered in an AAMA green rating program.


One of the biggest questions to address in a new program would be energy performance, it was agreed. Attendees asked whether it would be better for an AAMA program to reference Energy Star or ASHRAE performance requirements, or create new and different requirements. Some suggested that an AAMA standard that was not as strict as Energy Star criteria would not be accepted in the market. Others noted that it could be dangerous to tie the document too closely to Energy Star, given the fact that DOE has stated a goal of having only 25 percent of products in the market qualifying for that label. “Do we want only 25 percent of the products capable of being green rated?” an attendee asked.

Another alternative suggested that an AAMA green standard could even go “beyond energy,” and let green customers rely on other rating programs to assess energy performance. Finally, another suggestion was for AAMA to address energy based on features, such as warm-edge spacer or thermal breaks, used in a product.

The task group developing the new green specifications set a goal to have a full draft ready by AAMA’s annual meeting in the beginning of 2009. The efforts, which focus on product properties, represent phase one in the development of an AAMA green program. It eventually plans to look at production and process issues in a phase two of development.

DOE RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
Also highlighting the AAMA meeting was a presentation from Marc LaFrance, technology development manager for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, reviewing DOE’s research and development activities related to windows and doors. He started by noting that the percentage of the nation’s energy consumption going to buildings was getting higher, suggesting that buildings are falling behind other sectors in terms of increased energy efficiency.

One prime goal for DOE today is zero net energy homes by the year 2020. While it can be done already, it is not currently cost effective, he noted. Discussing windows research in particular, LaFrance reported that funding has actually been down over the past seven years, but it is growing again, rather than decreasing; reflecting the increasing attention being placed on energy efficiency. Current efforts include next-generation window research focusing on dynamic glazings—those changing from clear to tint—and highly insulating windows, using a non structural center lite in an insulating unit. DOE is currently looking to fund commercial ventures looking at such technologies, as well as looking for potential customers that could generate enough demand to help commercialize these products.

A key point about energy policy, LaFrance noted, is that the “end game is code adoption, enforcement and widespread penetration.” Looking at its research efforts, as well as programs like Energy Star, LaFrance added, “All these things are moving forward together to move the industry from a double-paned package to pretty much a triple-paned package.”

LaFrance offered a brief update on DOE plans to make the Energy Star criteria more stringent, reporting that DOE is now considering a two-phased plan instead of three. It is now looking at establishing one new set of criteria for 2009 and a second for 2013. One assumption that has been made is that krypton will not be widely available for use in IG units, he added. Various trade-off proposals are being considered for Northern climates, enabling homeowners to take advantage of higher solar gain in certain applications, he suggested, while adding that it’s unlikely there will be any trade-offs in the South.

DOE would also like to see the building code go to a higher U-value minimum for Northern climates, LaFrance noted, also suggesting that code requirements for IG certification might also be helpful. This market, he added, would be well served by development of a lower U-value/high solar gain product.

The AAMA summer meeting concludes today. Look in next week’s WDweekly and the August issue of Window & Door for more details.