The Pentagon spending bill that Congress passed Thursday will force the military to provide a cost-benefit analysis and return on investment on its sustainable building efforts and will prohibit, through Sept. 30, any spending on reaching LEED gold and platinum certification.

Section 2830, on page 986, of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to be signed by president Barack Obama, will force the defense department to review its energy efficiency building practices, especially LEED, as well as other sustainability standards. Its report to Congress also must include a strategy for its continued use of design and building standards and data on the long-term payback for meeting several other building standards.The prohibition could have an affect on dealers tied to government contracts by eliminating the amount of products purchased under those contracts. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the only wood certification program allowed under LEED and it is only worth one point. Anyone selling FSC certified lumber knows the importance that one point can make, however, and limited spending on LEED gold and platinum certification could leave those dealers feeling the pinch.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is important to dealers seeking Pentagon contracts as it gives a point for using green-certified lumber. However, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the only wood certification program recognized under LEED. This angers both timber companies and dealers because most of certified wood in North America carries the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) label.

The prohibition on spending for LEED status is not set in stone, as the secretary of defense may seek a waiver by submitting a notification- containing a cost-benefit analysis and showing a return on investment- to the congressional defense committees at least a month before funds toward LEED certification are needed. The Pentagon can also win an exception when LEED certification is reached at no additional cost to the department. This exception does not require a waiver and notification to congressional committees.

LEED, which was created and is governed by the independent U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is considered by many to be the standard for sustainable commercial buildings. Its Silver rating, which the Pentagon will not be prohibited from spending money on, is considered a minimum rating baseline by many builders and architects.

The LEED program has been a controversial topic for many in the building industry, especially involving lumber. SFI and FSC have been locked in a lumber battle over that lone LEED point ever since it first came about in 2000. The two organizations have diverse roots. SFI, while now independent, was founded by timber interests, while FSC was started by environmentalists. Both bring to the table different ideologies as to how a forest should be managed.