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Why Performance Testing of Windows is so Critical Today

Why Performance Testing of Windows is so Critical Today

Millions of fenestration products including windows, doors, curtain walls and storefronts are installed every year in commercial, industrial and residential buildings. Building owners, including home owners, expect that each window, door and curtain wall type has been rigorously tested for functionality, performance and safety. The building owners expect that their windows, doors and curtain walls are air tight, water tight, structurally, thermally and acoustically sound and in hurricane regions, will provide protection from high winds, pressure and wind borne debris.

The International Building code requires all windows and exterior doors to be tested in a laboratory setting to industry standards such as AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 and AAMA 501. The laboratory testing is conducted in a controlled environment that provides a “best case scenario” as it relates to the performance of a window and door system. While the required laboratory testing is important for safety, it does not test the physical installation of the fenestration product, which in addition to the required laboratory testing, makes performance testing of installed products crucial. Performance testing is essential to help assure expected performance of fenestration products when installed in a commercial or residential building.

While manufacturers typically provide a procedure for proper installation of their products, deviations from the manufacturer’s procedure are common and can cause serious problems with installed products. The deviations can be caused by improper installation, inability to follow approved practices or by the jobsite conditions.

Performance testing of installed fenestration products for air and water resistance and structural integrity is critical to validate design, workmanship, and material selection prior to job site construction. Performance testing also serves to verify performance and identify the source of problems and provide information necessary to mitigate and remediate problems after installation.

Image courtesy of UL.

Image courtesy of UL.

Prior to job site construction, architects, contractors, consultants and building owners often require performance testing of mock-ups of a curtain wall, an exterior wall and fenestration system to evaluate air and water resistance and structural integrity to validate design, workmanship and material selection. Pre-construction test mockups allow time to implement any necessary changes to design, fabrication, and construction procedures before construction of the curtain wall, exterior wall and fenestration system commences. Implementing changes prior to job site construction achieves significant and welcome time and cost savings.

Exterior wall systems including curtain walls and fenestration products require time to design, fabricate, construct and test. Mockups are a representation of the exterior wall system and curtain wall built to study the construction and installation details, to test for performance and to assess the appearance of an exterior wall system. Mockups are tested to measure the performance level of exterior wall systems when under the effects of environmental conditions, such as wind, rain, and temperature extremes subjected to specific and controlled conditions.

After installation, field testing is conducted to ensure the quality of installation, the performance of installed products, verify compliance with architect and industry specifications and if needed, for forensics investigations to identify the source of problems in the field.

Building owners, contractors, consultants and architects often require field testing of installed windows, doors, skylights, curtain walls and storefronts to evaluate air infiltration, air barriers, water penetration, structural, acoustical, thermal cycling, condensation and anchor pull-out test performance of installed products to architect and industry specifications. For new construction or new fenestration installation, field testing helps to ensure proper performance of fenestration products after installation. Field testing provides quality assurance and helps building owners, contractors, consultants and architects assure they are meeting contract obligations. For existing construction with problematic conditions, field testing can provide forensic evidence to identify the source of problems and provide information necessary to mitigate and remediate problems.

UL provides a comprehensive suite of fenestration performance testing services for architects, consultants, contractors, manufacturers and building owners including laboratory, field and mock-up testing to assess air infiltration, water penetration, structural integrity, resistance to tornado and hurricane winds and much more.

For more information, go to www.ul.com/fenestration

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Wayne Breighner is an Engineering Manager at UL for the Building and Life Safety Technology Division.

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