Unlocking the door to green design

September 7, 2016

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Photo © Bigstock.com

By Michael Tierney
Sustainability and energy efficiency are playing ever larger roles in the realm of commercial building construction, making transparency essential in the manufacturing process of builders hardware. It may seem implausible that sustainability can be measured and quantified when it comes to products such as hinges and door latches, but this is exactly what the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) endeavours to do.

When selecting hardware for a new building project, it is not always easy to objectively compare products from different manufacturers in terms of their effect on the environment. To help contrast products, specific benchmarks have been established to encourage architects and specifiers to make sustainable choices when selecting hardware.

An environmental product declaration (EPD) is an independently verified and registered document quantifying the environmental impact of a product through its entire life cycle. With the increasing role of certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED v4) and other programs encouraging sustainable building, many manufacturers are issuing EPDs for builders hardware in order to remain competitive. LEED v4 gives extra material and resources points for using products for which an EPD has been created. Whether required by law or the marketplace, sustainability metrics for countless builders hardware products are in demand.

Before a product EPD can be developed, the product must undergo life cycle assessment (LCA). The LCA determines the sustainability of a hardware product, evaluating how:

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A new product category rule for power-operated pedestrian doors and revolving doors was published in August of 2016.

However, before an LCA can be conducted, a set of specific rules, requirements, and guidelines must be developed to determine what data should be gathered about the product and how it should be evaluated during the LCA process. The requirements are outlined in a document known as a product category rule (PCR).

In 2014, BMHA spearheaded the development and publication of the first PCR for North American builders hardware, referred to as UL 9004, Builders Hardware. This PCR was developed by BHMA member companies and other stakeholders worldwide in co-operation with UL Environment (a business division of Underwriters Laboratories). It is currently in use by manufacturers to prepare EPDs for specific hardware products. The book encompasses 26 different product types, including most of the products covered by the ANSI/BHMA 156 Standards Series. Additionally, a separate PCR is expected to be completed this year for revolving doors, power-operated doors, and power-assisted doors. In light of the increased emphasis on sustainability in construction, these PCRs are of utmost importance.

The ABCs of LCAs
UL 9004 is primarily concerned with the LCA of builders hardware products. The German Institute for Construction and Environment (IBU) oversees the creation of PCRs.

In developing UL 9004, BHMA and UL Environment came up with the first PCR with the life cycle of North American hardware products from cradle to grave, including these general stages:

UL 9004 defines the average estimated service life (ESL) of a building in North America to be 60 years. Figure 1, as adapted from UL 9004, provides a good idea of what is covered in the PCR for North American builders hardware. Chapter 1 is concerned mainly with an introduction to the PCR, providing information on its purpose, scope, period of validity, etc. Chapter 2 is concerned with further analysis of the different staging modules (i.e. A1-6, B1-5, and C1-4). Finally, Chapter 3 describes the content of an EPD.

The heart of the builders hardware’s PCR is the detailed assessment of the various stages of the life cycle of these hardware products.

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Figure 1: An example of what is covered in the product category rules (PCRs) for builders hardware.
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The quality of door hardware plays a role in energy efficiency, since a door that does not close wastes energy.
Photo © Getty Images

Reference service life
The building with an expected long life cycle is deemed more sustainable than a less robustly constructed building that will need to be demolished after a few decades of service. The same philosophy also applies to the builders hardware components of the building. Whenever a hardware component fails, not only are the resources for manufacturing a replacement product wasted, but there are also costs associated with maintenance and repair. Thus, the PCR for North American builders hardware gives high marks for higher grades of hardware; it has long been recognized by the construction industry and is intrinsic to the existing standards. Further, quality designations are analyzed in terms of contributions of life cycle to sustainability. With the new PCR in place, architects and specifiers have additional incentives to use high-quality products that have been tested and shown to have longer life cycles, comparable to the expected life cycle of the building itself.

The ANSI/BHMA 156 Series measures service life in terms of number of cycles. Typically, the ANSI Grade of builders hardware is expressed in terms of a verified cycle count (e.g. 1,000,000 cycles). The reference service life (RSL) is the number of cycles per year of a particular application (e.g. 50,000 cycles per year). Dividing the ANSI cycles by the RSL gives the number of years a hardware product can be expected to last in a particular application. This number is again divided by the average ESL of a building (60 years) to obtain the replacement factor. In this example, the replacement factor is three.

EPDs can be useful to architects and specifiers. Using the declarations, a specifier can be sure to employ the correct grade for an application to ensure the product will have a replacement factor of less than one; upgrading the product grade may be necessary for it to last as long as the building. A specifier might be motivated to use an EPD to obtain a higher sustainability rating for his or her building. In this manner, EPDs help establish greater transparency—not only for manufacturers, but also for the construction industry.

Recyclability of materials
Builders hardware products are usually composed of copper, zinc, and iron. Since these metals are highly recyclable, the raw material supply traditionally includes a recycled component.

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Using an environmental product declaration (EPD) during the construction process can help architects obtain a higher sustainability rating for buildings that are pursuing green certification.
Photos © Shutterstock

Another aspect of recyclability is related to the end-of-life assessment. How easily is the builders hardware removed from the building before it is demolished? Can it be reused? Here, the economics of the marketplace will determine the cost-effectiveness of the various options at the end of a product’s life.

When thinking of green buildings, energy efficiency typically comes to mind. As outlined above, there are many aspects of sustainability that have nothing to do with the building envelope.

The North American PCR for builders hardware and the EPDs for hardware product do not capture many of the environmental benefits. An operational energy use module (B6) could be included in the use stage, but products do not consume energy in their operation.

Often associated with ‘building energy efficiency,’ is the envelope itself, including critical construction materials such as roofing, insulation, fenestration, HVAC systems, and solar energy panels. However, builders hardware also plays a role in weatherproofing.

The control of door openings has a significant effect on energy efficiency, such as closers covered by ANSI/BHMA A156.4, Door Control Closers. Another important hardware component is gaskets, covered by ANSI/BHMA A156.22, Door Gasketing Edge Seal Systems‎. Gaskets are an effective means for preventing air infiltration. The quality of door hardware plays a role in energy efficiency, since a door that does not properly close is bound to waste energy until the component is repaired.

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With energy efficiency playing a much larger role in commercial building construction, the product category rule for North American builders hardware makes it easier to measure and quantify the sustainability of such products.

A new PCR for 2016
As previously mentioned, most builders hardware is covered by UL 9004. However, BHMA members have decided certain products merit their own PCR, leading to the development of a new PCR, Power-operated Pedestrian Doors and Revolving Doors, to be published later this year.

The LCA and environmental effects of power-operated doors is a topic of great interest. This product group includes manual revolving doors, as well as power-operated revolving doors, sliding doors, swinging doors, and folding doors for use by pedestrians. Energy efficiency of the motors and electronics associated with power-operated doors is not a major factor in determining the sustainability of these products. The energy savings gained in using revolving doors and power-operated doors makes up for any additional energy expended in using the door. Similar to UL 9004, this new PCR is being developed in conjunction with ASTM International’s EPD.

Michael-Tierney-HeadshotMichael Tierney has served as the product standards co-ordinator for the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) for 16 years, where he co-ordinates the development and revision of performance standards. Tierney came to BHMA following a 20-year career in manufacturing management at United Technologies, Honeywell, Black and Decker, and Yale Security. He is a principal member on technical committees for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), ASTM, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI); he also chairs the ANSI Technical Advisory Group (TAG) 162 for Doors and Hardware. Tierney can be reached via e-mail at mtierney@kellencompany.com[2].

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Builders-Hardware-UL9004_Figure-1-e1473270602142.jpg
  2. mtierney@kellencompany.com: mailto:mtierney@kellencompany.com

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