Unable to Secure Industry Support, CSBR and Athena Sustainable Materials Institute No Longer Pursuing LCA Program

May 5th, 2011 by DWM Magazine

The Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) at the University of Minnesota and the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute will no longer be moving forward with the development of the proposed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of North American Residential and Commercial Windows project, as they have been unable to secure the necessary industry commitment.

According to Kerry Haglund with the CSBR, “With financial support from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Fenestration Rating Council we were able to develop a Life Cycle Goal and scope specification document, as well as a work plan and preliminary budget document. This was to be a phased project with Phase I essentially being the cradle-to-gate impacts and Phase II quantifying the cradle-to-grave impacts. Phases I and II would both need to be done for a complete LCA study. We were able to identify a cooperative effort with National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)/Four Elements, which would have resulted in up to a $72,500 overall project savings.”

Haglund explains that the DOE had made a major contribution to launch this specific LCA; for other building industry materials and assemblies, LCA work is funded completely by industry groups.

“We have had the benefit of governmental support to begin the process. DOE has made it very clear that it will financially support Phase II only if the industry financially supports

the remainder of Phase I,” she explains. “We have not had the commitment necessary from industry to support Phase I. Therefore we have missed the opportunity for the cooperative effort with NIST and will not have the financial support from DOE for Phase II.”

In addition, she says they have worked to educate all parties on the importance of this project. Haglund has made a number of presentations on the subject in recent months at various industry meetings.

“We have identified the lack of current representative North American data available for LCA analysis, identified the trends and drivers that are pushing for LCA information, identified codes and standards that are referencing LCA and identified the benefits and drawbacks to the window industry for doing this LCA study,” says Haglund “At this time, industry feels the benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks and the project will not move forward. It is unfortunate, for not doing this study may have a significant financial impact on the industry in the future.”

Several industry groups considered support of the program, including the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Glass Association of North America, the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.

“AAMA members were involved in the determination of representative residential and commercial functional units as the University of Minnesota’s CSBR Life Cycle Assessment project unfolded. The AAMA Board Research Committee was evaluating the pros and cons of participating, and a decision had not been reached on whether to officially support the program and offer funding,” says Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO. “We just received the news of the program discontinuation this morning, and while we are still determining our next steps, we will continue to investigate other options internally to further window, door and skylight LCA research.

LCA is an analytical method used to comprehensively quantify and interpret the environmental flows to and from the environment (including emissions to air, land, and water, as well as the consumption of energy and material resources), over the entire life cycle of a product (or process or service).



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