Energy Star Changes and Environmental Claims Top AAMA Agenda

By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
October 22, 2012
Meetings & Events

Albuquerque, N.M.―As the window and door industry awaits Energy Star Version 6.0 and the changes that will come with it, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association continued work at its National Fall Conference here last week to prepare manufacturers for the new program requirements.  Much of the agenda was also devoted to new developments in the area of environmental product claims and sustainability.

At AAMA’s summer conference, attendees raised concerns regarding the National Fenestration Rating Council’s new independent verification program and its incorporation into Energy Star requirements. The IVP will involve verifying that the performance ratings of Energy Star-qualified and NFRC-certified and labeled fenestration products agree with the performance ratings listed in the NFRC Certified Products Directory. Of specific concern to AAMA attendees was the introduction of blind testing of products bought in the field. In Albuquerque, Jim Benney, NFRC CEO, told the group that his organization is now looking into a new procurement process in which NFRC would work directly with manufacturers to obtain products. In this new process, manufacturers would ship products to a lab designated by NFRC.

Benney also reported that the IVP verification test will now contain both non-destructive and destructive tests; the IVP will be a standalone program from the product verification program; and products will carry both an Energy Star and NFRC label. Currently in the pilot phase, the NFRC's IVP procedures are officially expected to begin in January 2013. 

In regards to other changes posed by Energy Star Version 6.0, AAMA has submitted U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient criteria suggestions for the various climate zones for windows, doors and skylights, said Ken Brenden, AAMA technical services manager. AAMA is particularly concerned with Energy Star criteria in regards to skylights, with the AAMA skylight group stating that “EPA not only disregarded the tremendous value of daylighting in reducing home energy usage and costs, but proposes criteria that can actually result in poorer energy performance.”

Brenden also reported that AAMA believes the exclusion of triple-pane windows in the EPA cost analysis will mislead consumers on product payback and cost-effectiveness.

Currently, Energy Star Version 6.0 is scheduled to take effect in January 2014. “AAMA is recommending that revisions to the Energy Star program are put on hold for an additional 12 months to offer an opportunity to monitor and reassess the economic climate,” Brenden said. “This extension can be utilized to make necessary adjustments to the NFRC CPD, allowing for more accurate assumptions to be utilized in both the Energy Star program and the pending Independent Verification Program.”

LCA Work
Work also continued on the development of product category rules for windows during the AAMA conference last week.  PCRs serve as the basis for environmental product declarations—also known as eco-labels—that disclose the life cycle environmental performance of a product. These labels will become increasingly important as green building codes move to requiring life cycle assessment–a measure of the total energy impact of a product (or building) throughout its life. In current green building codes, life cycle assessment is optional; however, LCAs could be mandatory in the next revision cycle, industry experts say.

AAMA is working with the Glass Association of North America, Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance, and Window and Door Manufacturers Association to draft product category rules for windows; the joint task group is currently reviewing its eighth draft, reported Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO.  “We’re about to embark on some very important reviews,” he noted. “The PCR will have a review panel selected by the joint task group. As the PCR become final, environmental product declarations will be generated by manufacturers—which will also need to be verified, as well as the LCA—by a group of peers.”

In response to an attendee’s concern that these labels could be difficult for “laymen” to interpret, Walker agreed that education will be necessary. “If you put these [environmental product declarations] in front of the consumer right now, they wouldn’t mean much. But eventually, there will be understanding as to what is good and what is bad in each of these EPD categories,” Walker suggested.

Green Guides
The Federal Trade Commission issued its revised “Green Guides” earlier this month with the goal of helping marketers ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive. FTC Southwest Region Director Deanya Kueckelhan reviewed the new guidelines at the AAMA conference.

Among other modifications, the guides caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified environmental claims like "green" or "eco-friendly," as they are difficult to substantiate. Instead, marketers should qualify general claims with clear, prominent and specific environmental benefits, Kueckelhan said.

When marketers qualify a general claim with a specific benefit, consumers understand the benefit to be significant. As a result, marketers shouldn't highlight small or unimportant benefits. If a qualified general claim conveys that a product has an overall environmental benefit because of a specific attribute, marketers should analyze the trade-offs resulting from the attribute to prove the claim, she continued.

Kueckelhan urged AAMA attendees to view a video explaining highlights of the changes, and read the four-page summary of the changes in the guides; a new page on the FTC Business Center, with links to legal documents; the Guides and other “green” content; a Business Center blog post; and related consumer information.

In addition to various committee sessions and social events, the New Mexico meeting also featured a keynote address from Thom Singer, who highlighted the importance of networking throughout the event. 

AAMA gathers next for its 76th Annual Conference, which is will take place February 24-27, 2013, at the Loews Ventana Canyon resort in Tucson, Ariz.