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Members of USGBC have recently received an email from Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC’s President and CEO, regarding proposed revisions to the wood credit in LEED. Rarely has one credit generated so much controversy even during LEED’s formative years.
The latest draft differs considerably from the current version and from previously proposed versions. MRc7 Certified Wood awards a point if at least 50% of the wood-based materials are Forest Stewardship Council certified. A lot of people want to keep it that way - I’m one of them – while others would like to open LEED up to alternative certifications.
An article in the May 2010 issue of Environmental Building News clearly explains both sides of the issue.
“While the previous public comment draft—the second version—took an all-or-nothing approach to endorsing certification programs, the current (third) draft now allows for multiple levels of compliance and assigns half-credit, full-credit, or double-credit to programs based on the degree of compliance. While it isn’t stated explicitly, the likely outcome of this approach, if implemented, is that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) would comply at the full-credit level, while industry-supported certifications such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) would comply at the half-credit level. FSC-certified wood will contribute to LEED points just as it has in the past, while wood certified by other programs will, for the first time, gain a long-sought foothold in LEED.”
Essentially this is a battle between the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a timber industry group. A recent article on environmental certifications in The Washington Post defines how the two standards differ in key ways: “The Forest Stewardship Council puts a greater emphasis on ecosystem protection and the rights of indigenous peoples, and it bans the use of genetically modified trees. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative is seen by many small landowners in the United States and Canada as less onerous to comply with but still helpful to the impacts of logging.”
Changes to LEED credits are made according to strict rules established by USGBC that requires membership consensus through voting. Hence, the letter from Fedrizzi urging membership engagement. While the issue has generated much interest both through the public comment process and letters, much of it is from outside the organization. As he emphasizes in his letter, “it is USGBC’s membership that will decide the outcome of this certified wood issue just like they approve the launch of any new rating system and every substantive change to the rating system.”
I agree and as someone involved with LEED almost from the beginning, I join Rick in suggesting that the important work of refining LEED be taken seriously by everyone interested in “getting every human on the planet into a green building within this generation…we need to be sure those buildings are held to a responsibly high green bar and that we all take seriously our own responsibility to keep the bar high by being active voting members of USGBC.” The results of this discussion will impact us all.