Volume 9, Issue 7 - July-August 2008

From Energy to BIM

AAMA Members Accomplish Much at Summer Meeting
by Debra Levy

When members of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) met in June for its summer Conference in Hershey, Pa., there were two large issues looming before window manufacturers. Both of these involved regulations in California that are most likely moving nationwide. 

The first is the adoption of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) regulations about formaldehyde emissions by the Environmental Protective Agency, effective January 1, 2009. These regulations, which have been particularly difficult for window manufacturers in California, were expected to expand nationwide next year but as of press time, it seems this won’t happen nationwide for now (for more on this issue, see article on page 20). 

The second was a discussion of another California regulation, AB 2505, which concerns PVC packaging (see news story on page 12). It, too, is expected to expand to include the whole nation. “This is really going to be difficult on a lot of window manufacturers,” said one manufacturer representative, who requested to remain unnamed. “All our company does is ship in PVC—and this will require major review.”

“It was one thing when it was just California,” said another, “but this will affect everyone now.”

Wind-Driven Rain Standard is Delayed
Additionally, many different meetings of various committees and councils took place during the AAMA conference and one of these was the gathering of the Certification Policy Committee, which discussed the Severe Wind-Driven Rain Standard. AAMA 520 Voluntary Specification for Rating the Severe Wind Driven Rain Resistance of Windows, Doors and Unit Skylights was developed by AAMA at the request of the state of Florida. According to AAMA, Florida wanted more stringent test standards in the wake of the 2004 hurricane season, which saw a record number of storms. AAMA says this document will serve as a guideline, not for the purpose of enforcement for code requirements.

The vast majority of door and window testing is based on AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S. 2/A440, says AAMA president and CEO Rich Walker. “But the water penetration test pressures are much higher than 101/I.S. 2/A440, and AAMA 520 includes the ASTM rapid pulsating pressure test. This more closely represents the conditions during a hurricane,” he says.

The standard was balloted through the general AAMA membership and all comments were resolved. “However, after it was learned that further pulse testing was required to ensure repeatability, the Certification Policy Committee recommended that the new document undergo a 12-month review of validation testing and analysis before publication,” says Walker. 

To make sure this occurs, all accredited labs will have the opportunity to evaluate the standard through testing.

So What Exactly Does Green Look Like?
This was also a question AAMA members grappled with during the conference. Edgetech’s Tracy Rogers, chair of the Green and Sustainability Specification Development Task Group, reviewed the discussions about what constitutes a “green” product. This group is working in conjunction with the Procedural Guide Development Task Group to establish a green certification program.

Members of the group discussed energy performance requirements of fenestration products and there are four potential alternatives that were discussed.   

1. Establish minimum, mandatory entry-level criteria that are tied to compliance with an independent thermal rating program such as Energy Star. While this sets a convenient baseline for energy performance it also has two substantive limitations: ties the program to criteria that are outside AAMA’s control; and defaults the available marketplace to the approximately 25 percent being targeted by the Department of Energy (DOE);

2. Define prescriptive, possible code based, minimum requirements for energy performance;

3. Establish a features based, non-prescriptive path that gives points for energy performance components such as low-E glass, low conductivity frames, warm-edge spacers, etc.; and

4. Disregard energy performance altogether in favor of currently established programs and focus on ‘renewable/recyclable’ qualifications. This addresses the more typical aspects of green programs but also allows a window with a U-factor of 0.75 to be used in Minnesota. 

Rogers said the task group is targeting AAMA’s 2009 Annual Meeting for submittal of the first draft specification document.

It was also reported that AAMA has sent a letter to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) requesting that the two groups work together on the development of sustainability guidelines for fenestration projects.

The recycling of windows—not just the glass in them—was also discussed. “We have to create an end-of-life reclamation for windows,” said Matt Dewitt of Omniglass. “The perception is that windows themselves cannot be actively recycled.”

During the conference, DeWitt chaired the first meeting of the Fiberglass Green and Sustainability Committee as it began the task of developing a scope and mission. “This is going to be a difficult task,” said DeWitt, “but that was true of the vinyl group when it started out as well.” 

By the end of the meeting, the group had developed a draft of a scope, which includes identifying the strengths of fiberglass, developing technical solutions to improve the message; and developing communications to disseminate the message.

DOE Representative Forecasts Future Changes for Industry
“I’m from the DOE and we are here to help you,” said Marc LaFrance in a variation on a familiar refrain. LaFrance, manager for Building Envelope and Windows R&D Programs for the DOE, faced a skeptical audience during his presentation “U.S. DOE R&D Activities, Energy Star® and Beyond.” 

He talked about what types of changes to expect from DOE in the future. “You’ve seen the ‘Efficient Windows’ program for residential windows,” he said. “We are moving toward something similar in the commercial arena.” LaFrance said while the original proposal for the revised Energy Star criteria was expected to include three phases, DOE is now reducing that to two phases. He also mentioned that it is being developed under the assumption that “krypton gas is not available,” citing the recent shortage of the gas in industrial markets. (See related story in the June 2008 issue of DWM, pages 4 and 6).

“I realize that some of the things we propose increase costs,” he said, “but if those things are mandated, then it’s better, because it applies to everyone.”

LaFrance also took the skylight industry to task. He mentioned that the Preliminary Energy Star Criteria for Skylights did not show much improvement over the last one. “I don’t know why skylights can’t do better,” he said, adding that he expects changes in other areas as well. 

“There is no reason you can’t add insulating glass criteria to the codes,” he said, “none.”

“DOE has recognized that you shouldn’t use the same glass in Maine that you use in Texas, and you’ll see that reflected,” he said.

Outlining Industry Trends
Two of the mostly widely anticipated presentations at AAMA involved Michael Collins—two different speakers, each of the same name—and provided some of the most important information of the event.

Michael Collins #1, vice president of Jordan, Knauff and Company, an investment banking firm in Chicago, specializes in the door and window industry and writes a monthly column in DWM magazine. He gave an expansive overview of what’s happening in that industry and crammed tons of statistics into his one-hour presentation. Among his comments about the U.S. housing market were that:
• One to three million homes face foreclosure in the near future and 7 percent of these haven’t been able to work something out with lenders because those lenders are too overwhelmed to be able to handle the workload;
• The average home price has declined 8 to 9 percent since last year;
• The multi-family market is not faring too poorly;
• One-third of the homes sold in 2007 were second homes;
• Although the residential housing market looks bleak now, more than 19 million units will be needed before 2014;
• The East will rebound first, then the Midwest. The West will come back last;• High-end new construction is doing well;
• Remodelers are failing because they tend to remain overstaffed rather than lay off employees they’ve had for years; and
• Homebuilders are starting to get creative. One in Reno even offers a guarantee that if the last home the homebuilder sells is sold for less than what you paid, he will cut you a check for the difference. 

At the bottom of a business cycle such as this one, Collins says there is a “festival of wealth destruction” that takes all types of wealth out of the market. He also reminded the audience that the commercial market lags behind residential by 12 to 18 months.

Collins expects the nonresidential construction market to grow five percent this year, but he cautioned about the factors that are hurting the business. “There seems to be a lack of coordination among the various standard and code writing organizations; this creates an artificial tax, or a lot of additional cost for the industry,” he said.

He said the glass industry continues to defy description. “There are some companies that pay up to 25 percent more for exactly the same glass as another company buys. There is no good reason for this. I had someone tell me that if the glass industry woke up, they would buy their glass by the pound, rather than the square foot.”

“We are still seeing a ton of activity in door and window companies,” he said. “And the multiples have remained a steady four to seven times EBITA, saving the best nugget of information for close to the session’s end. “The problem is that the EBITA has come down in the last 18 months, not the multiples.” 

Filled to the BIM
It was easy to tell Michael Collins #1 and #2 apart. Michael Collins #2 spoke to the audience with a snappy accent. Collins #2 is affiliated with BIM World and knows and understands what building information modeling (BIM) will mean to the future. He said there are currently more than 300,000 BIM licensees throughout the world. 

“First we had line drawings, then AutoCad that you see so prominently today. The difference is that when you make DWG files, the lines and arcs don’t know what they are-a square is a square. With BIM they can live and breathe intelligently. Those squares have information saying whether it’s a door or a window or a piece of glass. The whole process is parametric.”

Collins used EFCO Corp. as an example (“I’ll pick on Dave Hewitt because he’s not here,” he joked.). “EFCO offers one window with more than 6,000 variables. With other programs you have to draw that 6,000 times. With BIM, you make one window and then 6,000 parametric variables. The new generation of Internet-driven design engineers will design this way. It’s already here.”

AAMA Awards its Annual Scholarships
During the conference, AAMA awarded four $2,000 scholarships to children of employees at AAMA-member companies who plan technical careers, hopefully in an architectural manufacturing industry. Applicants are judged by an independent evaluation company against the criteria AAMA developed. The scholarships were presented during. The winners were:
• Bethany Juedes, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, whose father works for Wausau Metals; 
• Taylor Hemmings, who will be attending the University of Florida. His father, Ivar, is vice president of Glazing Consultants International in West Palm Beach, Fla; 
• Felipe Londono, an incoming freshman at Syracuse University. His father, Sergio, is a structural engineer at Thorton Tomasetti Group in Newark, N.J.; and 
• Christopher Semlke, an incoming freshman at the University of Akron, whose father, Michael, is with GED of Twinsburg, Ohio. 

AAMA’s next meeting will be held September 21-24, 2008, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio. 

Debra Levy is the president of Key Communications Inc., the parent company of DWM magazine. 


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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.