As Window EPD Nears, LEED and Green Globes Focus More on Products

March 14th, 2014 by DWM Magazine

Just as work on an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for windows gets set to reach an important milestone and the broader certification landscape continues to evolve, both LEED and the newer Green Globes programs are increasingly reflecting the trend of greater attention on individual products, say some experts.

Several industry groups including the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Glass Association of North America, Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, have been involved with the development of a Product Category Rule (PCR) for windows, which must be put in place before an EPD can be created. The work on this is nearly finished, according to Rita Schenck, executive director at the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, which serves as the program operator for the initiative. The Windows Draft PCR was recently put out for public comment and will soon go through a panel review prior to being made final. “We’re very near the end of the process,” says Schenck, adding that everything could be final within six weeks.

Following the PCR, next on the agenda would be the EPD. That also requires development, but once a PCR is in place, it could come as early as just weeks of the PCR becoming final.

Certifications such as LEED generally have focused on building systems as a whole rather than individual products. “It’s hard to pull an element out of a system,” says Kerry Haglund, acting executive director for the Efficient Windows Collaborative. “So it’s hard to quantify an element that’s just a piece of a system. It’s always hard to do that.”

Meanwhile, there’s been an otherwise increased focus on products and life cycles, she notes. Green Globes, a certification program of the Green Building Initiative (GBI) and a rival to LEED, is newer on the scene, with 5 percent market share, according to Jerry Yudelson, president of GBI. While Green Globes, too, focuses on the entire building system, it has embraced the gravitation toward product assessment, he says. EPDs have been part of Green Globes for some time. Underscoring the trend, EPDs are now part of LEED—at least, as of its version four.

Why the push to products? Schenck points out that various studies have questioned whether LEED buildings are actually more energy efficient than non-LEED buildings. At least with EPDs, “I can be pretty confident of that component [at least].” Such tweaks, she says, is “a giant step forward toward having real outcomes.”

Yudelson confirms that the window EPD is the kind of thing that Green Globes would look to incorporate once it is available. In that light, he also notes that this year GBI is reworking the Green Globes standard for new construction.

 The glass industry is in a good position to take advantage of the new product focus, particularly given the emerging technology that is changing the product landscape. “To me, if I were in the glass business, I’d be excited about the new technology opportunities for developing glass and window systems to do a variety of things,” says Yudelson.

Meanwhile, it’s a big year for Green Globes, which not only has a new standard in the works but is launching a marketing campaign next month as it works to grow its modest 5 percent market share. Among Green Globes’s claims to fame are that it’s more user friendly (Web-based) and promises to be faster and less expensive than LEED.

With recognition coming last fall from the General Services Administration with respect to federal-building use, the brand is primed to make market inroads—or so hopes Yudelson, who happens to be a LEED fellow himself and has been at the helm of GBI for only about 10 weeks. GBI’s plans for Green Globes: 25 percent market share within five years.

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