Opening the USGBC’s LEED Standard – What’s Missing From the Discussion

An online magazine just posted a piece on the USGBC revision of the LEED standard and unfortunately, the reporter really gets lost in the woods.   I can’t post a comment on their forum, so I’ll use my own!

The Emagazine.com piece starts out well, with stats on the tremendous growth of green building in the United States (2% of the construction market in 2005, projected to be 20% by 2013).  Before you have a chance to reflect approvingly on that progress, they quickly shift to a focus on the “heated fight” and “long-running rivalry” between SFI and FSC and the “controversial effort” by the USGBC to open its system to other forest certification standards.

SFI doesn’t see FSC as a rival – when 90% of the world’s forests are not certified at all, where is the value in rivalry?  Less than 20% of the certified fiber in North America is FSC – the remaining 80% is certified to other standards that are recognized by governments and organizations around the world.  SFI wants the USGBC to create fair science-based benchmarks that will open up the credit to ALL credible forest certification systems used in North America – a long running controversy just doesn’t make sense.

A quote at the end of the article, by a character not unknown to SFI, implies that opening the USGBC standard would doom FSC and “the future of many things green.”  What a load of nonsense. That quote really makes it sound like Mr. Goldman (who is FSC’s lawyer and the author of the Forest Ethics and Sierra Club complaints mentioned in the article) is more concerned with the fate of FSC’s monopoly over LEED green building points for the certified wood credit than encouraging responsible forestry.

Besides the hyperbole about SFI and FSC and the impact of any changes, what’s missing from this story is any balance (save for one quote about how maintaining the status quo with the standard will give an unfair advantage to wood from offshore sources).  The reporter doesn’t acknowledge the views of many others who are urging USGBC to accept all credible forest certification standards.  That includes the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), a group of state forestry officials from all fifty states.

NASF has called on green building programs to accept all credible forest certification programs, naming SFI, FSC and ATFS.  These are the real experts – they are the state forestry officials who see firsthand how the standards work on the ground.   The group unanimously passed a resolution that said:

“The ATFS, FSC, and SFI systems include the fundamental elements of credibility and make positive contributions to forest sustainability. . . . No certification program can credibly claim to be ‘best’, and no certification program that promotes itself as the only certification option can maintain credibility. Forest ecosystems are complex and a simplistic ‘one size fits all’ approach to certification cannot address all sustainability needs.”

You can read more of NASF’s resolutions here http://www.sfiprogram.org/files/pdf/statements_leed_us.pdf

Governors of several states have also called for an opening of the LEED standard, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who a few weeks ago wrote to USGBC:

“The USGBC should fairly assess and include all credible forest certification programs, including SFI and ATFS systems…I urge you to quickly make a board decision to recognize well-managed wood from Minnesota and all credible forest certification programs. In doing so, USGBC can join other government agencies and green building rating programs in recognizing wood as an environmentally friendly building material.”

You can read excerpts from letters written by several other governors here http://www.sfiprogram.org/files/pdf/statements_leed_us.pdf

USGBC needs to start listening to these important voices. Readers of the Emagazine article need a grain of salt.

To read SFI’s statement on the USGBC forest certification benchmarks, click here: http://www.sfiprogram.org/newsroom/?p=245

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *