AAMA Conference Shows Sustainability on the Rise

Anna Nicholson, UL’s environmental product declarations (EPD) product manager, gave a presentation about sustainability market drivers and more during a presentation at the 2016 AAMA Summer Conference, held recently. Nicholson works to develop strategic partnerships and programs that drive business value from the use of environmental life cycle information as the basis of decision-making.

Nicholson cited a 2015 Claiming Green study that found 70 percent of consumers are consciously searching for greener products. Additionally, it revealed that the global green building market grew in 2013 to $260 billion, including 20 percent of all new U.S. real estate construction.

“The FTC has started cracking down on unsubstantiated claims,” said Nicholson. “EPDs provide a way for us to have scientific backing for claims.”

In turn, Product Category Rules (PCRs) are the standards used to develop EPDs. These allow manufacturers to write EPDs using the same set of rules. An EPD transparently documents how a product affects the environment throughout its life cycle.

“EPDs are useful because they’re objective, since verified by a third party,” said Nicholson. “They’re credible, neutral and instructive.”

Nicholson added that there’s benefit to a company in an EPD as well.

“You can’t manage what you’re not measuring,” she said. “You can use sustainability as a risk-management or mitigation tool.”

Fragmentation is one challenge facing PCR development in North America, Nicholson said. That’s partly due to lack of consistency in documentation.

“There’s also a lack of transparency behind issues driving variability between EPDs and a lack of streamlined processes,” said Nicholson.

To this end, UL and the U.S. Green Building Council have drafted a PCR document, “Bringing Consistency and Increased Transparency to EPDs.”

Electrochromic Glazing: A Bright Future

Helen Sanders, who leads technical development and training for Sage Electrochromics, gave a presentation about the past, present and future of the electrochromic (EC) glazing market.

Sanders’s presentation, “Electrochromic Glazing: State of the Art, State of the Market,” compared the research and development in EC technology from 1989 to the present. Some important aspects of the technology, she said, include its durability, high performance, ability to fit into existing window products and long-term potential. The technology gained momentum in 2003 when a U.S. Department of Energy commercial building evaluation was done, as well as a residential one. The next year, production began on the first EC facility, and in 2005, EC glass debuted at the International Builders’ Show.

In 2006, the first shipments from the production facility went out. Key markets and different applications were targeted. Early proof points in different installation projects were successful, and big projects around the world in different types of buildings had been tested by 2010.

“We were ready to scale up again,” said Sanders.

EC products were limited in exterior color, substrate and size until 2012. The price was relatively high. However, after 2012, there were market changing product developments in size and aesthetics. Enhancements at that time included non-rectangular shapes and improved tinted state. Changes allowed architects to have any exterior color they wanted. Aesthetic flexibility made a big difference in terms of market adoption all around the world.

“We also reduced the visible light transmission because two percent wasn’t cutting it,” said Sanders. “In-pane zoning was a change, too, which lets you control glare while also allowing for daylight admission.”

But what about price? Sanders said electrochromic glazing is within reach.

“In 2012, we hit the point where upfront costs were comparable to those of conventional solutions,” she said.

Sanders added that Sage is seeing larger EC order sizes and more volume in general, and in more diverse applications.

“People know about EC now,” she said. “Architects want it. The focus on human comfort helps drive it.”

But where is EC on the adoption life cycle?

“We’re getting out of the early adopters and into the early majority,” said Sanders. “It took low-E 30 years to get adopted into the market, so it takes time.”

However, she said EC and green living should not be waved off as phases.

“Sustainability of the planet isn’t going away,” she reminded participants. “We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, so we want to focus on indoor air and environmental quality.”

For the future of EC specifically, Sanders called for more projects using more than 100,000 square feet of EC glass, as well as further volume expansions and new entries to the market.

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