The Defense Department has been pulled into a different kind of battle than it's used to–the fight over the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED system and its preference for wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The Pentagon spending authorization bill for the current fiscal year, signed into law just before Jan. 1, requires the Defense Department to submit a report by June 30 regarding its energy-efficiency and sustainability standards as well as a cost-benefit analysis of LEED and other green building standards. The legislation also bars the Pentagon from spending during the current fiscal year (which ends Sept. 30) to reach LEED gold or platinum certification.
The legislation generated cheers among lobbyists opposed to an exclusive embrace of the LEED system and a "bring it on" attitude from the USGBC. It also marks the start of what's likely to be a vocal debate on how Washington pursues green building.
"The government has made a strong and prominent commitment toward green building," says Nadine Block, senior director for government outreach at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). "... I don't think there's any fear they will be walking away from that. The question is how you get there."
The LEED system rubs raw many within the construction and building materials industries. The fact that only one point is awarded for the use of lumber–and only FSC-certified wood is qualified to get that point–has created a backlash among timber and lumber manufacturers and certifiers, especially SFI.
The USGBC, however, remained positive regarding its LEED system and is interested to hear what a Pentagon cost-benefit analysis would bring.
"This is going to demonstrate what we already know about LEED," says Bryan Howard, USGBC's legislative director. "We believe that the cost-benefit study will put us in the positive light that will showcase our return on green investment to taxpayers."