Associations Come Together to Form Fenestration LCA Group

August 24th, 2011 by DWM Magazine

The Glass Association of North America (GANA) in Topeka, Kan., the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) in Ottawa, Ontario, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) in Schaumburg, Ill., and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) in Washington, D.C., have signed an memorandum of understanding to provide coordinated representation for the fenestration industry. The action is in response to requests from certain organizations related to life cycle assessment (LCA) for glass and window manufacturing. The third parties are the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo.

NREL originally contacted the Institute for Environmental Research & Education, an environmental consultancy in Tacoma, Wash., to develop product category rules (PCR) for windows LCA, says Helen Sanders, past chair of GANA’s former Energy Committee, and vice president of technical business development for Sage Electrochromic in Faribault, Minn. “The key reason you need to create product category rules is if you want to create environmental product labels – or environmental product declarations (EPD) – that provide quantitative information about a particular product’s carbon footprint and other environmental impacts,” she says. “To create an environmental product label, you need to do an LCA for the product using the agreed upon PCRs. Having standard PCRs ensure that everyone’s EPDs are comparable, since they are created using the same procedures and assumptions.”

An NREL consultant is working on developing the PCR for windows, while the four glass organizations are working together and as part of a broader stakeholder group to provide input and guidance to the PCR development, Sanders says.

Separately, NIST is developing a limited LCA tool for whole buildings. A key purpose of this tool will be to demonstrate to government and other regulatory bodies the benefits of improving code stringency, Sanders says. “They will look at both the energy efficiency of the building during the use phase, as well as the environment footprint from cradle to grave,” she says. “In order to develop this tool, NIST needs LCA data on key components of the building, including fenestration.”

The four associations had a kick-off telephone conference at the end of July and met for the first time August 16-17 at AAMA’s offices in Schaumburg. Prior to that, they have had ad hoc calls to coordinate and interact with NIST and NREL since April.

“The Window Industry Ad Hoc Product Category Rules Task Group had a very productive face-to-face meeting in Chicago on Wednesday,” says Richard Walker, president and chief executive officer of AAMA. “With 100 percent attendance, representatives from AAMA, GANA, IGMA and WDMA hammered out two tables full of critical assumptions for the NIST Sustainability Calculator.” The assumptions included U-factors and SHGC, along with window type, operability and window-to-wall ratios for model building types, he says. “This work provides the foundation for standardizing and analyzing the environmental credentials of windows. In LCA terminology, the assumptions are the basis for the development of window PCRs that will be the guidelines for developing specific LCA values through EPDs.”

“IGMA is pleased to be working with GANA and other organizations on another joint effort, this time on LCA,” says Margaret Webb, executive director at IGMA. “We are setting historical precedent with the joint AAMA, GANA, IGMA and WDMA LCA task group. LCA has come at us out of left field and the industry is well represented by all four organizations as we work with NIST and NREL. While the objective of the task group is not to necessarily reach a consensus position, we are ensuring that our respective member interests are being addressed.

“Code activity is now becoming the number one function of the trade associations and working together is a step in the right direction even if we do not necessarily have the same code positions,” Webb says.

“It’s particularly important that the industry works closely together on this as the role of LCAs, what they cover and how they are performed for fenestration evolves to ensure the net benefit that is derived from the use of efficient fenestration is fully understood, accounted for and communicated,” says Jeff Inks, vice president of code and regulatory affairs for WDMA.

“In constantly looking at the industry environment, GANA remains committed to supporting initiatives that affect our members and their businesses,” says Ashley Charest, GANA account executive. “With the industry’s focus on green and sustainable building, we want the glazing industry’s information to be accurately represented in LCA, and look forward to working with our members and other industry organizations to finalize a product that represents true and accurate information.”

LCAs are going to be an important part of the glass business going forward, Sanders says. “Just like we have NFRC performance labels today, soon we will be putting eco-labels on our products,” she says. ”In the future, you may not be able to participate in a building project without a product LCA. It is, therefore, critical for our industry to educate ourselves, ensure there is accurate data available and be part of developing robust methodologies for analyzing fenestration’s carbon footprint.”

Within the next couple of months, representative members of each of the participating industry organizations will be sent confidential questionnaires intended to gather relevant LCI/LCA data covering frame manufacturing, IGU production and window assembly, Walker says.

In addition, “The joint group is working on a webinar to present to the industry the extent of what a windows LCA would mean for the fenestration industry and how our respective membership can get involved with these projects,” says Urmilla Jokhu-Sowell, technical director of GANA.

The Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) at the University of Minnesota and the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute had announced in May that it would not be moving forward with the development of the proposed LCA of North American Residential and Commercial Windows project.

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