If you think back to the formative years of vinyl windows in the U.S., we had our share of performance challenges to overcome. Particularly in hot climates like Florida or Arizona, weathering and yellowing due to high temperatures and UV exposure were major issues that caused some significant degradation and product deformation. These issues put a stain on the industry, especially considering vinyl technology was just emerging. Property owners interested in using the new products had some serious reservations due to testimonials from those early adopters.
It was not the window industry’s finest moment … so why bring up this sour memory? We learned a lot about what it takes to make vinyl a viable choice for homeowners and building owners everywhere, with the material now able to offer superior durability, weathering and thermal performance in even some of the most challenging commercial applications. It was also around this time that a useful tool for ensuring product performance came into prominence: certification from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association.
By introducing neutral, performance-based standards tailored to the North American climate, AAMA helped develop standards among differing fenestration material choices, based on a battery of ASTM standardized tests. If materials like vinyl were going to be trusted to stand up against weathering and other performance demands, AAMA certification was one way to prove it.
Certification is voluntary, but most of the industry’s trusted names have achieved it. Not only did it help manufacturers differentiate against the competition, but it helped the fenestration industry offer unbiased, third-party-verified window and door products sold in North America that would meet the various and challenging climates.
AAMA isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all of fenestration performance, of course, but it’s a great benchmark for the industry. And, in an increasingly global marketplace—where new and varied material options with specific formulations are becoming available—it’s worth paying more attention to testing and certified performance that is specific to the types of performance demands we see here in the North American fenestration market.
Now, this is not to say anything negative about international players. Healthy competition is a good thing for any industry. But different global marketplaces can have different demands, with fenestration products designed to meet those demands. Most locations in Europe, for instance, don’t usually have to worry about hurricanes or extreme UV exposures. But consumers in South Florida certainly do.
It’s simply worth a refresher on why certified performance is so important. Our customers depend on it, and for window and door manufacturers, it’s worth going that extra mile to deliver a trustworthy product.