Brand Window - Audience - Architects & Other Professionals

Fall Webinar Features Green Marketing Tips

December 21, 2011

Reaching Architects Who Need to Know About Sustainability

George Middleton, AIA, CSI, LEED AP, gave an overview of how to meet the challenge of educating architects and specifiers on meeting today’s green challenges.

Middleton defined “sustainability” as “doing the things today that take care of our economic and social needs…but don’t cause damage tomorrow.”

This includes making choices of materials, components and design with the least overall environmental impact without prejudice as to what is supposedly a “good” or “bad” choice. By knowing the environmental impacts of all inputs and outputs to the manufacturing, installation and end-use processes, good choices can be made. A primary tool to accomplish this is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).

With regard to windows, sustainability relates to many aspects:

  • Light
  • Ventilation
  • Weather
  • Sound
  • Durability
  • Aesthetics
  • Security
  • Wind pressure
  • Thermal resistance
  • Maintenance
To properly assess LCA and the role of fenestration in the sustainability of a project, design professionals – who are in the business of solving problems – have to weigh these attributes in the context of the world they live in. That includes:
  • Pressure on fees, firm profitability
  • Economic and industry recovery
  • Demand from clients for projects that work
  • Project green/sustainability issues
  • Concern for quality control
  • Need for education and training
  • Project delivery –design build
  • Productivity and technology (e.g., Building Information Modeling, or BIM)
Middleton pointed out that if a window manufacturer wishes to influence architects’ and specifiers’ decisions, it must:
  • Understand what they do - compare, select and specify products.
  • Know their process and their reliance on service drawings and specifications.
  • Be compatible with BIM, a rapidly growing resource for the best architectural solutions.
  • Be aware of their sensitivity to liability and keep them out of trouble by protecting their design intent and their client.
The key point above all is to “educate them…don’t sell them.” If manufacturers take an educational approach with design professionals, they will be much more successful than when taking a sales push approach. For example, specifiers should be encouraged not to use terms such as “or equal,” “generic” or “commodity” in their specifications. There are technological and brand alternatives for every product, and every product can be differentiated. Know that the design professional is typically eager to learn, and if you become a trusted resource, they will learn from you.

Middleton pointed to eight factors for product success:
  1. Company reputation–time in market
  2. Product reputation–history, reliability and past experience
  3. Personal relationships–trust and dependability of the representative
  4. Timing sales support –right for project phase and appropriate follow up
  5. Project fit–design appeal, problem solution, risk tolerance and owner preference
  6. Level of visibility–general awareness, (find it, choose it, use it) using three media
  7. Competitive situation–recency, primacy and installed cost
  8. Technical/design support–testing, codes and education
In addition, Middleton reminded webinar attendees that LEED is a design guideline, not a standard. Buildings, not products, receive LEED rating points, and USGBC/LEED does not approve products.

Specifically with regard to the leverage of LEED, Middleton explained that over time since 2002 when USGBC introduced the concept of negative LEED credits for the use of certain materials, they have become more objective. In a 2007 report, USGBC said that material credits are a “blunt instrument” that can steer designers the wrong way. Negative credit activity was dropped. Today, the apparent shift in USGBC philosophy seems to be continuing toward specific desirable paradigms, namely that no single material is best nor worst and that LCA is better than focusing on a single attribute. According to Middleton, the 2012 edition of LEED will indeed offer credit for LCA.

However, work on developing the 2012 edition is also looking at instituting a new credit to compliment the LCA of building products by addressing human health and “chemicals of concern.” Dealing with these so called “chemicals of concern” is based on California Proposition 65, a 1986 measure that requires the state to publish a list of chemicals “known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.” This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals since it was first published in 1987. This approach is rather subjective in that there is no consideration of exposure levels. Even though many chemicals listed have nothing to do with building construction, the trend bears watching.

Other “pilot” credits being considered are:
  • Pilot credit 2 –PBT reduction
  • Pilot credit 11 –Chemical avoidance
  • Pilot credit 52 –Prescriptive attributes that will potentially balance out single-attribute prescriptive requirements with LCA-based alternatives
  • Pilot credit 53 –Responsible sourcing
  • Pilot credit 54 –Chemical avoidance
The industry should be prepared as necessary to weigh in on the following issues:
  • Addressing the fact that manufacturers are already highly regulated
  • Basing regulations on scientific risk data
  • Designing for LEED credit can be burdensome and add to cost
  • Determining who decides third-party certification credentials
  • Considering whether multiple certifications can exist
AAMA will continue to monitor the development of LCA regulations. In addition, members are encouraged to participate in the LCA Oversight Task Group whose goal is to monitor and support the development of a Life Cycle Assessment database.


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