You Bet Your Glass: April 2013
By Frank Fulton
Goodbye to a Canadian standard
By Frank Fulton
I may have mentioned in past articles my involvement with the Canadian Standards Association.
I may have mentioned in past articles my involvement with the Canadian Standards Association. I have been a member of the A440 Windows standard technical committee since a few years after its inception in the mid-1980s. The A440 Windows standard was the primary set of rules governing the performance of windows in Canada and was referenced in our building codes, making compliance the law of the land.
Within the standard there are a number of performance criteria to be met for air, water, structural, condensation resistance, and forced entry as well as a number of prescriptive requirements. For each of these criteria, there are a number of grades or levels of performance achievable. When the A440 was first introduced, choosing the correct and necessary levels of window performance for a given building in a given location considering the climatic conditions factored by the building size and exposure, and without over-specifying, proved to be virtually impossible. Specifiers would often simply choose the highest performance levels available to ensure they were covered, at potentially considerable unnecessary expense to the building owner.
In order to assist the users of the standard, primarily architects and project specification writers, the technical committee created a User Selection Guide. This type of document was unique among standards. It provided the architect with all the climatic information for practically every location in Canada, along with the formulas and instructions needed to select window products with performance features suitable for the weather conditions they would be exposed to. The folks at Environment Canada were instrumental in the creation of the user guide, and assisted us in creating a totally new set of data referred to as the Driving Rain Wind Pressure.
I considered the A440 standard along with the User Selection Guide a truly useful, well-thought-out, user-friendly and well-presented set of guidelines. The user had a few discretionary selections to make for air performance, forced entry and insect screen strength, but for the important criteria items such as water infiltration resistance, strength and condensation resistance, all the information was there so the architect could select the correct levels of window performance for the location of the building.
From a manufacturer’s point of view, the A440 provided a level of insurance and confidence that the project for which you were manufacturing windows would not encounter problems in the future. In many cases, I as the manufacturer would be asked if our products would perform in a given location, and using the A440 user selection guide, I was able to advise what levels of performance were required and what products we could supply to fit the project needs.
I also felt as a manufacturer that the test specimen sizes we had to test to comply with the A440 standard were a reasonable representation of the sizes we would produce for actual projects. In the United States, however, the test specimen sizes to get an American Architectural Manufacturers Association commercial window rating were outrageously large – much larger than any windows we would actually produce. So, in order to achieve an AAMA rating, the windows would have to be significantly over-engineered and excessively heavy in order to pass a test. This has a significant impact on the design of products and their cost to produce.
Since the late 1990s, the CSA has been working hand in hand with the AAMA and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association to create NAFS, the North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for Windows, Doors, and Skylights AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440. This one standard will apply to all windows produced in North America, meaning manufacturers no longer have to test to two sets of standards to sell their products across the border.
This new NAFS standard is now referenced in the National Building Code of Canada and the A440 no longer applies. It is like night and day when compared to the CSA A440 of the past and will require that all products manufactured in Canada be retested. Because of some major changes in test sizes and performance levels, a number of products currently manufactured will be rendered obsolete and in need of a total re-engineering. We’ll look at some of the issues you’ll be facing in the next edition.
Frank Fulton is president of Fultech Fenestration Consulting. He has been in the industry for 30 years and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.