Volume 8, Issue 5 - May 2007

AAMA Analysis

Streamlining the Commercialization of Fiberglass and Composites
by Larry Livermore

Less than 20 years ago, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) made industry history by breaking the material barrier and combining aluminum and vinyl products under the umbrella of a single performance standard (ANSI/AAMA 101-88). That initial foray into the materials “neutral zone”—as revolutionary as it was—pales in comparison to today’s scope of material developments. 

According to the AAMA/WDMA 2005 U.S. Industry Market Studies, fiberglass products are estimated to have captured 1.7 percent of the market in 2006—not a big deal until you consider that it is projected to represent 2.4 percent in 2009, a 41 percent increase in just three years. Cellulosic composites are not far behind. While still embedded in the “other” statistical category, they arguably lead that category, which is expected to grow in market share by about 18 percent by 2009.

A solid infrastructure for growth, is one of the reasons for this torrid pace of acceptance. These infrastructure factors include the following:

A Material-Neutral Performance Standard
The most recent version of this material-neutral standard is AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S. 2/A440-05, which is the basis of AAMA Gold Label Certification. By being performance-based, this standard is already geared to the use of alternative materials.

A Well-Established Profile Certification Program
A requirement of the AAMA Gold Label Certification Program is that profiles used in certified products must also be certified. This is a quality assurance criterion that is not included in any other program and was first instituted with vinyl (PVC) profiles, based on AAMA 303, Voluntary Specification for Rigid Poly (Vinyl Chloride) (PVC) Exterior Profiles. 

More recently, AAMA 305-06, the latest version of the Voluntary Specification for Fiberglass Reinforced Thermoset Profiles has been issued (originally published in 2000). It works in conjunction with the newly-created AAMA 623, 624 and 625 standards for organic, high- and superior-performance fiberglass finishes, respectively. This standards infrastructure has enabled last fall’s launch of a profile certification program for fiberglass framing.

AAMA 311-05, Voluntary Specification for Rigid Thermoplastic Cellulosic Composite Fenestration Exterior Profiles, similarly covers requirements for cellulosic composite profiles. Interlocking standards for laminated composite profiles (AAMA 312) and for finishes, a draft of the latter now being finalized in committee meetings, is also on the books. Bringing composite profiles into the profile certification program to join vinyl and fiberglass will not be far behind.

Improved Association Representation
AAMA’s organizational structure is conceived to allow new material interests to better leverage their market penetration efforts. AAMA material councils work horizontally across product and market-oriented interests to address material-specific applications issues. The Wood and Cellulosic Composites Material Council (WCCMC) was added to the roster in late 2001. The Fiberglass Material Council (FMC) followed in late 2003.

Green Building Initiatives
The AAMA Material Councils are developing their own approaches to addressing green concerns that favor their materials, such as recycling. For example, in February the FMC charted progress in determining alternative uses for fiberglass processing scrap, such as grinding it into chips or powder for use as filler for road asphalt. Composite products also promise recycling benefits, as they are capable of having virtually 100-percent recycled content from post-consumer polymeric waste and wood fiber scrap. 

Larry Livermore is the technical standards manager for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association in Schaumburg, Ill. He may be reached at llivermore@aamanet.org. Mr. Livermore’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.


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