AAMA Takes on Green at Summer Meeting

Group considers development of its own green rating program
John G. Swanson
August 15, 2008
Meetings & Events | Codes & Standards

Hershey, Pa.—The American Architectural Manufacturers Association started work on a new green rating system for fenestration products at its summer conference at the Hotel Hershey in June. 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 I.G., 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.”
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.

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 meeting also saw plans made to address the side-hinged door certification issue before the next cycle of code changes, as well as develop a new format for the next edition of the AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 window and door standard. AAMA’s door council scheduled a focused meeting in July to develop a program that would allow interchangeability of certified components to create a certified door. Richard Biscoe of Architectural Testing, representing the door council, said it hopes to gather all stakeholders—including pre-hangers, component suppliers and door systems suppliers—with representatives of AAMA, as well as the Association of Millwork Distributors and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association. 
Jeld-Wen’s Ray Garries noted the urgency to establish the interchangeability system, as the International Code Council is likely to lose patience with the industry and require side-hinged door certification, as it does for windows, sliding doors and other products, under the AAMA/WDMA/CSA joint standard. It was also noted that manufacturers will need time to get their side-hinged door products tested, so the sooner a system is in place, the better.
At a task group session focusing on the joint standard, planning for the next round of International Code updates, Steve Fronek of Apogee Enterprises presented a change in format designed to make the document easier to use. His proposal, which the group voted to recommend, would divide the document into sections covering residential-type (R and LC) products, commercial (CW and AW) products, doors, unit skylights and tubular daylighting devices. The format would also establish placeholder sections for curtain wall, window wall, storefront and sloped glazing.
 Within the various sections, he also proposed separating requirements that apply to the U.S. only, those applying to Canada only and those applying to both.


With the California Air Resource Board’s new formaldehyde requirements set to go in effect at the beginning of 2009, members also urged AAMA’s board to look into the possibility of becoming a resource for window and door manufacturers to certify their products to meet the new rules. Those rules cover composite wood products, including hardwood plywood, particleboard and MDF, which might be manufactured with resins containing formaldehyde. Under the California law, which some are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt nationwide, these products must be within certain limits of formaldehyde content and labeled as such. The rules would not only cover wood product manufacturers, it was noted, but also window and door manufacturers providing products with jamb extenders, headboards and seatboards.
The new CARB rules were one of numerous topics placed on a priority list developed by a new technical steering committee within AAMA’s residential window council. Other items on the list—some which may be addressed with the development of specific task groups—included window opening control devices. A concept now being promoted within ICC to help prevent child falls from windows, a window opening control device would allow an operable window to be open a minimal amount (four inches) for ventilation, yet still allow relatively easy opening of the window for egress in case of a fire. Other issues on the radar include the development of surface tests for lead content in hardware, monitoring of new fire testing planned by those concerned about urban/wild land interface applications and the challenges being presented to manufacturers by the inclusion of IG certification within the National Fenestration Rating Council certification process. Although many of these issues will be addressed in the interim, AAMA next gathers this fall at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio. More info on that meeting, set for Sept. 21-24, is available at www.aamanet.org