Industry making progress on life cycle assessment

Glass Magazine
September 27, 2011
COMMERCIAL, FABRICATION : MEETINGS AND EVENTS

During the 2011 National Fall Conference for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, AAMA President and CEO Rich Walker provided an update on the industry’s progress addressing product life cycle. Several months ago, AAMA joined forces with the Glass Association of North America, Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and Window and Door Manufacturers Association to collectively address Life Cycle Assessment of fenestration products.

LCA determines the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire life, from extraction of raw materials to disposal. The joint industry LCA task group, which formed in June, will work to develop window Product Category Rules that will be used as guidelines to determine LCA values through Environmental Product Declarations. The National Institute of Standards Technology and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are both moving forward on LCA activities for building products that require input from the fenestration industry.

NIST has funded a project to create an LCA calculator and intends to finalize work by the middle of next year, Walker said. "The project will proceed regardless of the quality of the LCA-LCI data," he said. NIST will be using the calculator primarily to urge individual jurisdictions to adopt more stringent ASHRAE standards in their building codes.

NREL has developed the U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database and is operating under a longer timeline. An NREL official has met with the joint industry task group to work to create the most accurate PCRs and LCA for windows, said Margaret Webb, IGMA executive director.

The next step for the LCA joint task group is to seek data from members of the four associations. Walker said he expects the group will begin reaching out to members by the end of the year or the first quarter of 2012.

LCA is becoming an important aspect of the sustainability movement, and "sustainability criteria are quickly gaining momentum," Walker said, and the fenestration industry needs to get involved. "LCAs and [product category rules] will become code or law in the next 5 to 10 years," he said. "If we don't become engaged in this process, others will."

Julie Ruth, AAMA code consultant, said the 2015 version of the International Code Council building codes will likely reference life cycle. "[LCA] is already becoming important on a global level. In France, there is a law that requires all high volume consumer products have an EPD label," Walker added. The European Union is also moving toward requiring similar LCA product labels. "This is inevitable [in the United States]," he said.