Volume 35, Number 1, January 2000
Entering a New World
understanding certification in a global market
by Lori Postak
As more companies embrace E-commerce and world trade talks resume, foreign markets are becoming more accessible in the new century. Some insulating glass manufacturers are anxious to join the global marketplace, but before shipping products across borders the inconsistencies and limitations of testing methods must be considered.
No universal certification program exists for insulating glass products. Thus, every country has its own battery of tests to measure insulating glass performance. Even in Europe, where one standard was created to replace 18 different national standards, inconsistencies still exist because European countries can maintain their original national standards if they wish. As a result, certifications create a problem for insulating glass manufacturers who want to export or import products.
Recognizing this problem, the International Standards Organization (ISO) set up a working group two years ago to create an international standard. The taskforce is involved specifically with the testing of IG sealants. Although there is much work to be done, an international standard would alleviate some of the problems associated with marketing products in a global marketplace.
Until that time, it is important for glass manufacturers and their suppliers to understand that certifications are not the only tools for evaluating products. First, tests dont represent reality in exposure. Second, tests dont represent reality in assembly. And, finally, testing methods vary.
Controlled test methods do not compare to field conditions and only represent a sampling. Tests tend to pamper products, which cannot be duplicated on the production line or during shipping, handling and installation. For example, improper storage can cause unit shifting and over-compression, or window installation can compromise a units performance. Yet, none of these issues are factored in while testing because human error is unpredictable.
At best, tests examine what is predictable, such as moisture vapor, chemical fogging, ultraviolet light exposure and thermal performance. How well these tests are performed, however, influences outcomes.
The U.S. standard, ASTM E774, may be the most well-rounded insulating glass specification because it exposes units to high humidity and weather cycling in combination with ultraviolet light. By comparison, European standards dont even include ultraviolet light, although ultraviolet exposure can degrade insulating glass sealants. Think about it. Consumers worry about ultraviolet exposure on their skin, cars and house paint, so why would manufacturers ignore this factor when testing a window units seal durability?
Although tests cannot predict how long an insulating glass unit will last, they can encourage high performance. Unfortunately, most multinational specifications dont raise the bar and represent a compromise. American manufacturers have the most rigorous insulating glass standards and should not lower them for the sake of global enterprise. Lowering standards and jeopardizing quality might also prompt government regulation.
Todays consumers are savvy and expect durable products. Insulating glass units that simply pass specification are not good enough. When working with suppliers, manufacturers should look beyond certification and consider overall product history and performance.
As the push to enter the global market strengthens, industry members should not compromise their products integrity. Manufacturers should be vocal in their trade associations and demand that certification boards continue to support rigorous standards.
U.S. insulating glass manufacturers should work with other countries to set consistent performance standards without risking product quality. After all, maintaining high standards translates into good product performance and reflects well on the industry.
Lori Postak is the product manager at TruSeal Technologies located in Beachwood, OH. Fenestration Focus appears monthly with rotating columnists.
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