AAMA Continues Green Efforts, Looking at ADA

September 25, 2009
Meetings & Events

Henderson, Nev.—What makes a fenestration product green was once again a main topic of discussion as members gathererd last week for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association Fall Conference. The relative value of recycled content, in particular, was the subject of much debate, as the group continued its work on developing its green fenestration product rating program.

The event, held at the Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort, featured a full agenda. Among the notable topics of discussion were new requirements for lead checks of hardware components in the AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 North American Fenestration Standard document. A new task group also began exploratory work on the potential development of an AAMA program to show component or assembly compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.


 Green ratings
“We argue sometimes, we fight sometimes, but the harder we work, the better the standard, the better the spec,” said Rod Hershberger of PGT Industries, current AAMA chair, at the official opening session, acknowledging the green debate that had already taken place. AAMA’s proposed green rating system works in a similar fashion to LEED and other green rating systems, giving points for various product features and attributes.
Rod Hershberger, AAMA chair  

Members of AAMA’s aluminum materials council, noting that most green building programs recognized recycled content, proposed that recycled content in a window or door should be highly rewarded under AAMA’s rating system. Members of AAMA’s vinyl and fiberglass materials system argued that would be unfair, because it is much more difficult–if possible at all–to use recycled content in vinyl or fiberglass fenestration products. Meanwhile, it is much more cost effective to use recycled content in aluminum products than use "new" aluminum.

The vinyl and fiberglass council members also noted also that their materials are recyclable—and used in other products—so they should not be penalized on this front.  Aluminum product suppliers countered that vinyl and other material producers have inherent advantages in the thermal conductivity of their products, and aluminum is not able to earn as many points for energy performance under the proposed rating program as a result. Therefore, they noted, there’s no reason an AAMA rating system can’t recognize the inherent advantage in being recyclable.

To bridge the divide, some proposed setting different levels of recycled content that could earn points, based on what would be good, better or best for each material. Others suggested looking at rewarding points based on “embodied energy,” the amount of energy required to produce the framing materials. After more discussions among the various parties and a few more proposals that came forward at a final session of AAMA’s green and sustainability committee, the committee leadership expressed confidence that the differences would be worked out based on what had come forward in a relatively short time.

NAFS Update 
In a committee charged with gathering AAMA’s input into the next edition of the 101/I.S.2/A440 NAFS document, members expressed concern about proposed requirements to require swab tests of hardware components to check for lead, similar to what is used now to check for lead in vinyl profiles. Such tests may eliminate the use of bronze hardware, a product that’s been in use for “thousands of years, since the Bronze Age,” commented one attendee, because lead is part of the alloy that is bronze.

The proposed swab test for lead on hardware surfaces is “one of the most substantial changes” in the new NAFs document, said Ray Garries of Jeld-Wen Inc., who chairs the NAFS committee. The challenge, it was noted, is that lead is under increased scrutiny from government regulators and others. Meanwhile, even though any lead in bronze hardware is enclosed in the hardware finish—whether it is a paint or some type of plating or coating—it may still come through to the surface in tiny trace amounts.

A number of attendees noted their dissatisfaction with the swab tests for this application because those trace amounts might be detected. The problem, it was agreed, is that no good alternative test exists at the moment that can determine whether any potential lead detected is within safe exposure limits or not.

ADA Committee
Meeting for the first time at the AAMA fall conference was a board-appointed study group beginning some exploratory work on the potential for AAMA to create a program that manufacturers or suppliers could use to get their products recognized as “ADA compliant.” Chuck Gilderman of FeneRep, who chaired the session, noted that currently, “there’s nobody out there. No organization is doing this. Our goal is to attempt to fill this white space, if possible.” Building inspectors determine whether or not a particular component or element of a building is ADA compliant.

Attendees discussed some of the potential obstacles to the concept, notably that a product or project detail cannot be “ADA compliant” until it is actually installed. A label or any sort of AAMA/ADA designation would have to clearly spell out that a product must be installed in a specific way. At the initial session, there was general agreement that any AAMA effort on this front would start with a fairly narrow focus on threshold heights for terrace and patio doors.

An informal poll of AAMA members taken before the meeting indicated there was interest among manufacturers in developing an AAMA program. A number of those in attendance indicated they are often approached by architects and specifiers looking for “ADA compliant” products. At the initial session, it was conceded that building officials may not be interested in such an AAMA label, however. As a result, the group decided the next step is to informally poll code officials and building inspectors  and see if they would possibly accept the idea. If inspectors or code officials appear to be receptive, more detailed work can begin at AAMA’s next meeting.

That event will be AAMA’s 76th Annual Conference, scheduled for February at the J.W. Marriott Resort in Palm Stprings, Calif. More information about that event and other AAMA activities is available at the organization’s Web site, www.aamanet.org.