If it's not easy being green, no one told the home building industry. As the seeds of the green-building movement continue to sprout across the country, it is evident that one of the seminal achievements of our generation will be a global shift to sustainable, resource-efficient construction.

Harold Baalmann is NLBMDA chair and president of B&B Lumber in Wichita, Kan. With that hope in mind, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association and the LBM Institute hosted the Green Building Forum last month in Arlington, Va.

Joined by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Green Building Initiative, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star for Homes, the LBM Institute's Green Building Advisory Council convened for the first time with one mission: provide a national platform to identify green-building initiatives and supply information to dealers to serve the residential green-building industry.

Among the topics was a discussion of last month's national roll out of the LEED for Homes voluntary rating system, led by the U.S. Green Building Council's Jay Hall, acting program director.

This program extends the standards set forth by the pilot program, which launched in August 2005. Meanwhile, Lauren Forgacs, NAHB's program manager for green building, sat down with the Green Building Advisory Council to lay out NAHB's vision as it plans to release its own National Green Building Standard certification program in January.

NAHB also has an aggressive promotional campaign to recruit its member home builders to apply for certification.

Both LEED for Homes and National Green Building Standard certification programs seek approval by the American National Standards Institute (potentially leading to a new grade of framing materials, e.g. "green" lumber). If they get it, their influence among builders could change the way LBM dealers do business. Accordingly, dealers will need to be ready for builders to say: "Here are the specifications I need to meet the green-building standard. What product should I use and why?"

At our Industry Summit in October in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Scott Sedam challenged the attendees to envision themselves not as vendors of commodities but as providers of solutions to builders' problems.

As the green-building movement continues to find its place in everyday home building, that mind-set will become critical.

That's why, after talking with Sam Rashkin, national director of Energy Star for Homes, and Ward Hubbell, the Green Building Initiative's executive director, the council rolled up its sleeves and began to figure out what dealers need to provide those solutions. We hammered out three chief initiatives:

  • Investigate available green-building research on a national level
  • Disseminate information to dealer members and federated organizations
  • Develop a national policy for green-building initiatives.

Thanks to all the state and regional associations at the forum for the update on green-building efforts in your respective regions. We will stay in contact with all the associations and incorporate any developments into our main initiatives. The Green Building Advisory Council will pursue its goals as it asks itself what the lumber industry needs to do to be ready for the eco-friendly, energy-efficient future that is quickly closing in.

Grassroots Growth in '07

Lawmakers, coalition partners sign on for NLBMDA concerns.

The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) surged forward in 2007 in its fight to protect innocent sellers from predatory lawsuits as well as in other industry priorities.

The NLBMDA-initiated Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (H.R. 989) gained traction in the 110th Congress, attracting more than 50 co-sponsors to date and 12 external coalition partners, including two Washington behemoths, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Steve Kelly of Kelly Brothers Lumber in Covington, Ky., who recently completed his term as NLBMDA chair, testified in May on behalf of Innocent Sellers before the House Small Business Committee. This progress built upon the successful legislative conference held in April in Washington, during which more than 200 dealers came to the nation's capital to support policy priorities.

NLBMDA also continued to raise its profile in Washington by working with several coalitions to advance legislation that is important to small businesses. In conjunction with the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform and American Tort Reform Association, NLBMDA sponsored a fundraising event to highlight the problem of abusive lawsuits and the need for common-sense legal reform.

NLBMDA also joined the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and worked to secure the Senate's defeat of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800), legislation that would have denied workers' rights to secret ballots when deciding union representation, making it easier for unions to organize small businesses. NLBMDA continued to press for permanent repeal of the "death tax" through its participation in the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition.

Most recently, NLBMDA partnered with the International Wood Products Association to work for changes to the Legal Timber Protection Act (H.R. 1497), which, as drafted, would open lumber dealers to prosecution for possessing or selling timber harvested in violation of foreign laws, even if they do so unknowingly. NLBMDA also continues to work with the U.S. Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders on green-building standards.

From a regulatory standpoint, NLBMDA supported efforts to uphold the Transportation Department's 2005 "Hours of Service" rule for truck drivers, urging a federal appeals court to maintain the 11-hours allowable daily driving time and 34-hour restart provisions. NLBMDA also requested that Congress refrain from mandating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to step up enforcement on ergonomics hazards on the building materials industry until industry-specific guidelines could be drafted. Continued monitoring of the Softwood Lumber Agreement and other efforts to restrict availability of imported building materials remained a priority for NLBMDA's government affairs staff.

2007 was a memorable and exciting year for NLBMDA government affairs, and the industry should celebrate these accomplishments. To continue advancing Innocent Sellers and other industry priorities, we need your help. Please visit www.buildthevote.org to see how you can continue to build upon these successes.

–Sarah Owen is director of government affairs and grassroots advocacy for NLBMDA.