Volume 11, Issue 8 - October 2010

AAMA Analysis

Regulatory Costs Could Inflate Green Premium
by Chuck Anderson

Arguments have ebbed and flowed as to whether green construction costs more than traditional construction—and, if it does, how long it takes to recoup the costs in the form of energy and operating cost savings, as well as improved satisfaction and productivity of building occupants.

The various calculations submitted as evidence, however, primarily include the “hard” costs of new and different materials, equipment and construction techniques. I know of few instances where the mix includes the cost of government regulation—in terms of both the mandated out-of-pocket expenses and the administrative costs of regulatory compliance.

Issues surface almost daily, which tends to create a “two steps forward, one step back” kind of progress for the adoption of green building practices.

Fortunately, AAMA and other industry representatives have been tracking these issues to try to head off, blunt or postpone some of the more punitive and counter-productive measures.

Some examples from just this past summer follow.

Cap-and-Trade
The Clean Energy Act, the vessel for the controversial cap-and-trade scheme for carbon emissions, passed the House last summer but has since stalled out. This past July, Senate Democratic leaders announced their decision to temporarily suspend the bill—at least partially as a result of opposition voiced by the glass and fenestration industries.

Many believe the issue will re-emerge after the November elections. Meanwhile, the industry is working with the Energy Future Coalition to marry the Building Star initiative to whatever energy legislation emerges from Congress.

"But, while the exemptions allow door and window manufacturers to avoid the costly formaldehyde content certification and labeling, it applies only to jambs, stiles, sashes and rails and excludes sills, headers and window seats."

Lead-Safe Work Practices
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule this past spring, requiring that renovation work–including the installation of windows–follow new lead-safe work practices. The rule applies to all homes built before 1978 (prime targets for the pending Home Star incentive program, incidentally), unless contractors can show, using expensive, scarce and apparently unreliable test apparatus, that the job area doesn’t contain lead.

Fortunately, letters and personal visits from AAMA and other industry representatives aided in gaining something of a reprieve, as EPA agreed to postpone the due date for completing the lead-safe training from April 22 to October 1, 2010.

Formaldehyde Regulations
On July 7, 2010, Senate Bill S1660, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, established national limits for formaldehyde emission from both domestically produced and imported wood-plastic composites (WPCs). The affected products are those manufactured using hardwood plywood (HWPW), particleboard (PB) or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), including furniture, cabinets, moulding and door and window frames.

Fortunately for our industry, windows that contain less than five percent by volume of HWPW, PB or MDF composite wood products are exempt. But, while the exemptions allow door and window manufacturers to avoid the costly formaldehyde content certification and labeling, it applies only to jambs, stiles, sashes and rails and excludes sills, headers and window seats. This limitation makes it more difficult to meet the less-than-five-percent overall criteria.

No doubt, in the current political environment, regulatory initiatives are inevitable. In addition, it seems to be the case that with a rise in green building trends, we’ll see a proportional rise in regulations, and our industry will need to stay informed in order to keep up with the changing landscape of green building practices. We will continue our legislative monitoring efforts in order to keep the industry informed.

Chuck Anderson serves as codes and industry affairs manager for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association in Schaumburg, Ill. He may be reached at canderson@aamanet.org. His opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.

DWM

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