LEED v4 Pushing Manufacturers to Disclose Products’ Environmental Impact

Katy Devlin
May 1, 2014

Life cycle assessments for windows have topped discussions at recent industry meetings, as the commercial and residential window industries move closer to finalizing the product category rules necessary for manufacturers to begin the LCA process.

Driving the move for LCA on the commercial side, in part, is the newest version of LEED, which awards points for projects that include at least 20 permanently installed products that have LCA environmental product declarations. In order for manufacturers to provide these EPDs, or eco-labels, they must first perform life cycle assessments on their product lines; product category rules determine how they are to conduct these assessments.

“We are hopefully rounding third and coming home,” said Mark Silverberg, president of Technoform North America, during the recent American Architectural Manufacturers Association Annual Conference. AAMA is part of a joint industry task group that is developing a method to determine the life cycle energy costs of a window, from cradle to grave. The group also includes the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance, the Glass Association of North America and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.

The primary road block for the task group thus far has been determining the “use phase” portion of the assessment. The use phase is the energy cost of a window throughout its installed life. “It is important that we get this right, as it is going to dominate the LCA [for windows],” Helen Sanders, vice president of technical business development at SAGE Electrochromics Inc., said during the 2014 IGMA Winter Conference.

The joint task group initially looked to energy modeling tools to determine the “use phase,” but has opted instead for regression equations that would provide an estimate of a product’s 30-year “use phase” energy based on a set of equations that take into account the product type, along with project type and climate zone. “Instead of running a building energy model for every product you have, you will now just use a set of equations,” Sanders explains.

The joint task group’s next steps include: developing regression equations for daylighting; developing a method of determining LCA dynamics; choosing models and developing a method for sloped glazing; and bringing the PCR document to an expert panel for review. Publication of the PCR is currently projected for mid-2014.

Health Product Declarations also on the horizon

The glass, glazing and window industry also needs to be aware of a growing demand for Health Product Declarations, according to officials at the AAMA Annual Conference. LEED v4 now references HPDs as an acceptable documentation pathway for a new Materials and Resources Credit. The HPD is a report of a product’s contents and how each ingredient affects human and ecological health. HPDs originated in 2010 as an initiative of Healthy Building Network and Building Green, and HPD Version 1.0 was introduced at Greenbuild 2012.

The architectural community is beginning to request HPDs from building product suppliers and manufacturers, says Maureen Knight, AAMA’s senior executive coordinator. Some architects are sending letters to manufacturers indicating “if you don’t have [HPDs] by the end of 2014, we won’t use your product,” Knight warns.

Currently, companies can use a free online tool, available at hpdcollaborative.org, to create a product HPD; however, industry members have expressed concern that the tool doesn’t allow for proprietary ingredients, and doesn’t present the product information in an architect-friendly format.

The integration of HPDs into green ratings and specs could have major ramifications for manufacturers, according to AAMA conference attendees, prompting one to comment: “Is this bigger than [Life Cycle Assessment]?”

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at kdevlin@glass.org.