Discussion of life cycle assessment (LCA), a complex and increasingly important issue in the fenestration industry, opened Day 2 of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s (AAMA) annual conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. LCA looks to catalog the environmental effects related to all stages of a product’s life cycle from beginning to end.

The timeline/process of a product category rule (PCR), courtesy of AAMA.
The timeline/process of a product category rule (PCR), courtesy of AAMA.

AAMA CEO Rich Walker started the session with a status report on product category rules (PCRs), which are defined in ISO 14025 as “a set of specific rules, requirements, and guidelines for developing environmental declarations for one or more products that can fulfill equivalent functions.” They’re a crucial component of any LCA. AAMA is developing PCRs for the fenestration industry in collaboration with the Glass Association of North America, the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Association and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.

Walker said the complexity of LCA is something the industry is still grappling with. “This is going to take some time to get used to,” he said.

Kerry Haglund spoke about the status of LCA working groups.

Walker reported that the LCA working groups decided to split into two groups—one for business-to-business products and one for business-to-consumer products, which was discussed in greater depth by Kerry Haglund of the Efficient Windows Collaborative. She said the difficult work is ongoing, but they have a “pretty aggressive timeline” to get it done.

Next, Vik Ahuja of PE International gave a presentation, “From PCR to EPD,” that detailed how companies can get from a PCR to an environmental product declaration (EPD), which is a document that details the total environmental impact of a product based on its LCA.  He said LCA modeling software is an important part of the process.

Ahuja also discussed the difference between industry-wide EPDs and product-specific EPDs. For example, an industry-wide EPD would cost about $100,000 and take about six months to complete, while a product-specific EPD would cost about $30,000 and take from three to six months to complete. Ahuja said product-specific EPDs are valued higher in LEED v4, which might make acquiring one more attractive to companies.

Mark Silverberg of Technoform, co-chair of AAMA’s Life Cycle Assessment Oversight Committee, thanked Ahuja for his presentation. “You brought of lot of sense to the chaos in this space,” he said.

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