AEC Releases EPDs for Aluminum Extrusions

The glazing industry continues to raise the bar in terms of product transparency, most recently with two newly released Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for aluminum extrusions in the U.S. and Canada. One is for thermally improved aluminum extrusions, which is of particular interest for fenestration applications. The other is for extrusions that are not thermally enhanced.

fotolia_32761405_xlThe EPDs, released by the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC), are based on a study of the process inputs and outputs of 11 AEC member extruders. Thirty separate facilities, located across the U.S. and Canada, with more than 85 extrusion presses and a variety of finishing and thermal improvement facilities, were included. According to the AEC, extrusion production of 1.7 billion pounds, or about one-third of the North American total for 2015, was covered by the study.

Based on a peer-reviewed lifecycle assessment (LCA), these EPDs can help designers achieve the credits required for building certification within LEED and other green building rating programs.

“We are extremely pleased to bring such a comprehensive set of EPDs to the building and construction community,” says Lewie Smith, chairman of the AEC’s building and construction industry promotion team. Smith is also president of Memphis, Tenn.-based Jordan Aluminum, which serves the glass and glazing industry. “Between the EPDs and the foundation LCA study, building professionals have access to new detailed information about the environmental impact of extrusions, the billet used in their production, and the downstream finishing and thermal improvement processes.”

Both EPDs quantify the cradle-to-gate lifecycle environmental impacts of the extrusions and provide data for mill finish, painted and anodized products.

“We are particularly pleased to see an increase in recycled content in our products as compared to the last assessment several years ago performed by the Aluminum Association,” says Jeff Henderson, AEC president. “The recyclability of extrusion without degradation of aluminum’s properties, and the robust infrastructure that exists for making recycling of extrusions a reality, is a key element of the industry’s sustainability story.”

The glass industry, meanwhile, has been putting forth product transparency efforts of its own. After a Product Category Rule (PCR) was completed for windows, the Glass Association of North America and Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance compiled and released PCRs for processed glass and fabricated glass. PCRs are used in the development of EPDs, and the two industry associations are now discussing whether to move forward with an industry-wide EPD.

Mark Silverberg, president of Technoform, has been involved with both the glass and aluminum industry’s efforts for product transparency documentation, and he says the AEC’s actions have set a good groundwork for the rest of the building product sectors to follow.

“It’s a good example of the importance and the potential of industry-wide collaboration, which leverages the industry as a whole rather than making each company go it alone,” he says. “That’s what the associations are for, and the AEC is demonstrating the ideal role that associations can fulfil in a changing marketplace.”

Silverberg says the two important themes reflected in the EPDs are a request from the marketplace to disclose what is in the products from an environmental standpoint and to improve the health impacts on a building’s occupants.

“Glass and glazing has two tremendous cases to make—to lower the environmental impact of our buildings through proper glazing selection and design, and to create healthy spaces for occupants,” he says. “Our associations are stepping up to make both of those cases.”

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