Blog 1 – SFI Statement on LEED: Discrimination Against North American Wood

You’ve probably seen the U.S. and Canadian SFI statements on the LEED Certification credits referenced on our website, the petition and in various other mediums. These statements are meant to help people understand what we stand for and why LEED must change. Over the next four days, I would like to break down parts of the statements to give you a little more insight into why we feel so strongly about the U.S. Green Building Council opening the LEED Rating System.

SFI largely believes the current system discriminates against wood from North American forests. Currently, the LEED system only recognizes wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). More than three quarters of North America’s certified forests meet SFI, CSA or ATFS standards, while only one-quarter meet FSC standards. Additionally, more than 60 percent of the forests certified to FSC standards are located outside of North America.
When it comes to certified wood, LEED gives credit only to FSC certified wood products, effectively limiting the amount of North American wood that can earn points in LEED-certified green building projects in the U.S. and Canada. Using domestic products is especially important for government agencies, which have a responsibility to deliver economic benefits to communities across the country, as well as meet environmental goals. We’re not saying to stop using offshore products from certified sources; we’re saying forest products from your own backyard should be given equal access for a wood credit. Government-owned or occupied LEED buildings make up close to one third of all LEED projects.

According to the USGBC’s website, “Various LEED initiatives including legislation, executive orders, resolutions, ordinances, policies, and initiatives are found in 45 states, including 202 localities (138 cities, 36 counties, and 28 towns), 34 state governments (including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico), 14 federal agencies or departments, 17 public school jurisdictions, and 41 institutions of higher education across the United States.” It’s great to see the government backing green building, but why not support it (and our economy) with certified wood from this continent?

The LEED standard should also recognize the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) Sustainability Benchmarks. More than two-thirds of the world’s certified forests are managed in compliance with PEFC, which is SFI’s global partner. PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification system and widely used by small- and family forest owners, yet LEED inexplicably excludes wood certified to this standard too.

The United Nations has noted current “initiatives have a narrow focus, and sustainable development in the building and construction sector is still hampered by limited coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders throughout a building’s life span.” The UN goes on to say in order to advance green building, “it is necessary to create the conditions and incentives that would encourage stakeholders in the sector to jointly and more actively pursue sustainable building and construction in a life cycle perspective.” So why is the USGBC limiting certification to the FSC? Several experts in the forestry community, as well as government leaders, have spoken out with support for making the LEED system more inclusive. Read about this support tomorrow in part two of the series. Additionally, find the latest information regarding the LEED issue on our website.

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