Four Industry Groups Take on Fenestration Life Cycle Analysis

August 23, 2011

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Glass Association of North America, Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and Window and Door Manufacturers Association have joined together to collectively address "life cycle assessment" of fenestration products, an emerging demand from the sustainable building community. "LCA has become a critical component in clearly determining how environmentally friendly a product is," explains Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO.

LCAs seek to examine environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life–from raw material extraction and processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, all the way through to disposal or recycling. LCA tools are being developed and examined within a number of organizations, including the National Institute of Standards Technology and the U.S. Green Building Council to rate building products and complete buildings.

Responding to demands from NIST in particular, the four industry organizations signed a memorandum of understanding in late June to create an ad hoc window industry task group to help develop "product category rules" for a sustainability calculator under development. "The task group serves as a discussion forum, and the meetings are considered informal with voting only taking place on procedural items. WDMA and AAMA rotate in the facilitator role every three months," Walker says.

"It is important for the fenestration industry as a whole to understand the critical assumptions included in the NIST Sustainability Calculator," Walker says. "This work provides the foundation for standardizing and analyzing the environmental performance credentials of windows. The group's initial meeting output included two tables populated with critical assumptions for the NIST Sustainability Calculator. These assumptions included U-factors and SHGC, along with window type, operability and window-to-wall ratios for model building types."

The next step for the task group is collecting data from industry companies, as representative members from the four organizations will be sent confidential questionnaires to gather LCA data. The task group will meet twice monthly via conference call to discuss questions on the submitted data and "plan for the next stage in the process," Walker says.