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Construction-Keep Aluminum Windows

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General Overview
The Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) launched one of its more ambitious campaigns in 2002: Keep Aluminum Windows (KAW). The mission is simple – the name actually says it all – to keep aluminum windows and products as a viable and preferred component within the residential and commercial construction markets.

Although the mission is simple, achieving it is complex. To do so we must educate the building and construction industry, the standards and codes bodies within it, and government agencies regulating it, as to the advantages of working with aluminum extrusions. We must be constantly vigilant and persistently proactive. We must be and are an aggressive advocate for the aluminum fenestration industry.

What Is KAW? Does it Really Matter to Me?
Building and construction represents over 30% of the demand for aluminum extrusions in the U.S and Canada. That's about 1.3 billion pounds per year, or $2.6 billion. Most of this market is subject to regulations imposed by government agencies, standards-developing organizations, and building code officials. KAW focuses its resources on monitoring these areas and educating officials. Without KAW, and without AEC's leadership in this area, aluminum could well be regulated out of this most important of all markets. Even extruders and suppliers who are not directly involved in the B&C market would be hurt by losses to competing materials.

How Did KAW Get Started?
In 2002, the KAW campaign was started in response to member concerns that a revision to the U.S. Department of Energy's residential Energy Star program was about to create a set of criteria that would harm – perhaps kill – the market for aluminum residential windows and doors. These members also knew that the program could be improved for consumers and for saving energy, while still "keeping aluminum windows" as a choice in the market. But this was possible only if AEC members organized an effort to educate and change the Energy Star proposal. After an 18-month effort, an AEC-led coalition succeeded in this initial goal. KAW had achieved its first major victory.

What Has KAW Done Since That First Victory?
The initial Energy Star battle was the tip of the iceberg. AEC learned that competitive materials and opposing interests were consistently engaged in these regulatory and code discussions. To avoid another "near miss", aluminum must be too. AEC engaged a consultant who would be both our monitor and advocate. Since 2004, Tom Culp of Birch Point Consulting has been involved at all the right levels and a beacon of aluminum advocacy. It was Tom that first noticed this "battle of materials" moving from the residential to the commercial arenas, and more recently a new battle – competition in the codes not just between window products, but between windows and walls!

Since this first victory, KAW representatives – both paid staff and AEC member/volunteers – have been actively involved in a number of advocacy areas. Just as energy efficiency has become a major topic in everyday life, the most active areas affecting aluminum building and construction products have been codes and programs related to energy efficiency of buildings. KAW promotes advancements in overall energy performance in conjunction with other key requirements, such as structural performance and durability. KAW also promotes the green sustainable aspects of aluminum, such as recyclability and long term performance.

KAW followed the earlier success in Energy Star with two other major victories:

  • IECC Commercial Energy Code (2004 – 2006)
    AEC played an important role in passing a key code proposal for the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) with revised U-factor requirements that accommodate structural aluminum products while promoting energy efficiency.

  • ASHRAE 90.1 (2005 – 2007)
    AEC extended our success to the other major commercial energy standard, and convinced ASHRAE 90.1 to adopt revised fenestration criteria in line with the corrected IECC requirements, accommodating structural aluminum products for commercial buildings.
But life is a circle, and all of these areas continue to be revised, making KAW's sustained role ever important. Fortunately, our previous victories also set important precedents for the ongoing battles.

Key Activity Areas

National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)
Early on the KAW program recognized the importance and influence that the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) had, and continues to have, with the DOE, the Energy Star Program, and all companies involved in the manufacture of fenestration products. NFRC has recently developed a new rating program for commercial fenestration that will directly impact AEC members. While commercial interests have long been under-represented and underserved within NFRC, AEC has taken a leadership role through its members and consultant, Tom Culp. Tom has worked with other industry representatives to negotiate key compromises with NFRC and reduce potential negative impacts from the new "CMA" rating program. Tom Culp also participates as an ex-officio member of the NFRC Board of Directors.

International Code Council (ICC)
The International Code Council (ICC) is the key organization for developing U.S. building codes, including the International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC), and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Recently, they have also started development of the new International Green Construction Code (IGCC). All of these national model codes have direct, strong influence on the use of aluminum products when they are adopted as part of state and local regulations.

Through the KAW program, AEC plays an active role in the code development process, both protecting against unjustified proposals harmful to the interests of our members and other aluminum stakeholders, while also helping to advance the building codes and promote the benefits of aluminum products.

As one example, the IECC is under intense pressure to increase the energy efficiency of buildings by 30%. During IECC deliberations, AEC has promoted how advanced aluminum fenestration products can contribute to energy efficiency and sustainability, while also fighting against proposals which conflict with structural or life-safety requirements, such as restrictions on hurricane impact-resistant products.

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
ASHRAE 90.1 is the primary energy standard affecting commercial buildings (including highrise residential). ASHRAE has also developed a new companion standard for high performance green commercial buildings, ASHRAE 189.1. Similar to the IECC, there is intense pressure to increase the stringency of ASHRAE 90.1 by 30%. As a result, ASHRAE 90.1 has proposed significant changes to the window requirements, including a reduction in the allowable window area. While we have succeeded in ensuring they account for structural requirements and aluminum window products, we continue to fight this incorrect perception that 'windows are just bad walls' and must be reduced. This flawed viewpoint ignores the benefits of daylighting to energy performance as well as occupant productivity and comfort. KAW continues to be actively engaged at ASHRAE, and Tom Culp has now been appointed a voting member of the ASHRAE 90.1 committee to represent the interests of the commercial fenestration industry.

Governmental Programs and Federal Legislation
Since its inception, the KAW program has established important relationships within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and on Capitol Hill. We have continued to work with DOE and now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on revisions to the Energy Star program. Together with the Glass Association of North America (GANA), AEC also led an effort to revise proposed "Building Star" tax rebate legislation to properly account for commercial fenestration, including aluminum curtain wall and windows. AEC actively monitors federal legislative activities for potential impact on its members.

Increased Collaborative Efforts
As part of KAW efforts in all of these areas, we have developed strong working relationships with other industry stakeholders, particularly with complimentary glazing product trade associations such as the Glass Association of North America. We continue to explore collaborative efforts whenever possible when KAW interests coincide with those of other groups.

How is KAW Supported and Funded?
Originally, the KAW program was overseen by AEC's B&C Marketing Subcommittee. However, as activities grew, the KAW program spawned a separate committee, which includes participation by non-AEC companies, e.g. aluminum window manufacturers who use but don't manufacture aluminum extrusions. In establishing the AEC Manufacturers and Technical Advisory Subcommittees, AEC President Rand Baldwin said, "Manufacturers in the aluminum fenestration niche have no entity looking out solely for their interests. With this Subcommittee we are now creating a place for their concerns to be heard and actions taken." About 5% of AEC's annual budget is allocated to KAW. However, to cover all necessary activities and expenses, voluntary contributions by AEC members and industry supporters are a vital component of the program.

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