The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) membership voted today to approve the LEED v4 building rating system that will go into effect this fall, but leaves in place a forest certification standard that some industry observers say puts a large portion of U.S. and Canadian wood producers at a competitive disadvantage.
The overwhelming vote in favor of the LEED v4 by the USGBC’s members brings to a close months of debate that featured an unprecedented volume of public comment on the proposed revisions.
As previously reported by our sister publication EcoBuilding Pulse, a number of the changes to the LEED system under LEED v4 drew impassioned commentary and debate during the past year, with much of it centered on changes relating to materials.
For LBM dealers and distributors, the revisions leave in place language requiring wood products to be certified by only one rating organization—the Forest Stewardship Council or an equivalent agency approved by the USGBC. The change means retailers not selling FSC-certified wood may be unable to service pro customers needing the environmental credits for their projects.
“Their choice is limited if they have customers that want to obtain a LEED credit,” says Jason Metnick, vice president of customer affairs for the Sustainable Forest Initiative, which has its own certification standard. “FSC at times is difficult to obtain in the U.S. because of lack of supply.”
The FSC mandate has created a bit of a backlash against LEED certification, particularly in some southern states. Under pressure from lumber industry officials, seven states—North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma—have either passed or are considering legislation prohibiting or limiting the use of LEED certification for public works projects because they see the standards unfairly limiting the use of their state’s forest products.
“Our major issue with that specific language is USGBC does not recognize the value of all credible forest certification standards like the Sustainable Forest Initiative or the American Tree Farm System or the PEFC [Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification] program,” Metnick says.