Tracking the Evolution of Fenestration

Rich Walker
May 1, 2013
COLUMN : Industry Watch | Design & Performance

Today’s windows, doors and skylights bear little resemblance to those of yesteryear. Materials technology, designs, standards, testing protocols and installation requirements have continued to evolve, providing consumers with greater performance and aesthetic options at more
price points.

The old double-glazed window pane has moved well beyond a simple unit consisting of two lites of glass with “dead air” space in between. Now, windows incorporate inert gas such as argon or krypton and low-emissivity glass. Today’s advanced triple-silver, spectrally-selective
low-E coatings effectively filter out 40 percent to 70 percent of heat normally transmitted through insulated glazing, while still allowing visible light transmission. In addition, warm-edge insulating glass spacers use insulating materials such as PVC foam to increase the inside edge temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit or more compared to traditional metal spacers under the same conditions, resulting in less overall heat loss.

In addition to advanced thermal performance, today’s windows offer impact resistance for use in hurricane-and tornado-prone areas where wind-borne debris poses a threat; blast resistance for government, financial or military installations; and sound transmission for buildings in
noisy locations.

A key development over the past decade has been the greater attention paid to installation details that preserve the products’ thermal performance, and prevent air and water leaks. Such details include the use of materials such as expanding aerosol foams for filling and sealing gaps.

They also include the installation practices themselves. In regards to the latter, AAMA has developed standard practices and training programs to help ensure installations are done properly. The InstallationMasters program, developed by AAMA and endorsed by the U.S. Department of  Energy and the National Institute of Building Sciences—and which addresses the Energy Star program’s desire for installer qualification—trains, qualifies and certifies installation contractors as competent in industry-accepted installation practices that include proper anchoring, sealing and flashing.

Performance Labels
Today’s homeowners are now more likely to base their buying decisions on products’ informational labels, such as the AAMA Gold Label Certification, thermal performance figures or an Energy Star designation. A certification label verifies conformance with standards for the product¬ís advertised performance level. The strictly controlled AAMA Gold Label offers visual evidence that the product meets the basic performance-based, material-neutral North American Fenestration Standard for structural capacity, air leakage and water penetration. National Fenestration Rating Council rating labels, recognized by the DOE and the Energy Star program, display the parameters that define thermal performance: U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient and visible transmittance.

Product certification and labeling promotes good production practices for those in the manufacturing industry while rewarding the efforts of the smart consumer. And it’s not just the product that has changed. The consumer has changed as well. Today’s customers do their homework and ask more informed, detailed questions. Manufacturers should welcome this, as it provides the opportunity to prove their cases to an objective and knowledgeable audience.

Rich Walker is president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, 847/303-5664,