I sometimes think the debate about LEED’s unfair treatment of certified wood is so wrapped up in politics it misses the most important point – wood from responsible sources is a great choice for green building.
So obviously I was delighted to see an article by John D. Wagner in the October issue of LBM Journal entitled LEED Acceptance of SFI Now Pending: Could SFI products finally achieve LEED credits?
Wagner’s column says the U.S. Green Building Council’s decision in June to list SFI and other forest certification standards equally in a section on ‘pre-authorized certifications and labels’ in LEED Pilot Credit 43 “has potentially opened the door for granting LEED credit to SFI-certified products for non-structural wood items, such as furniture, flooring, and windows.”
The item appeared shortly after the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated in a news release: “Sustainability of forest products can be verified using any credible third-party rating system, such as Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council or American Tree Farm System certification.”
The USDA was announcing a new report that supports what a lot of us have been saying for a long time – using wood obtained through sustainable forestry practices in green building applications promotes a healthy environment and a strong economy.
Right now, only wood certified to the Forest Stewardship Council – which accounts for about one quarter of North America’s certified forests – is eligible for the LEED certified wood credit. Most FSC-certified forests are outside of North America, and 90 percent are outside of the United States. It was nice that the USDA explicitly recognized standards that are widely represented here, like SFI and Tree Farm.
USGBC really needs to start paying attention to the evidence being put forward by the USDA and so many others, and extend the inclusive approach in the pilot credit to all LEED 2012 rating tools. This would encourage more builders to use North American wood in green building projects – and make it a lot easier for them to find the products they need.
Wagner – an award-winning author and consultant on green building – knows what he is talking about because he has been following SFI for years, and was at our last two conferences. So it means a lot to me when he says: “. . . I would urge doubters to check out SFI. It really is a solid and balanced organization, run by very decent people with a clear sense of their sustainability mission.”
USGBC needs to know it is finally heading in the right direction with Pilot Credit 43 – there is no deadline to post comments through the LEED user forum. If you want more information, check out our update link on USGBC, LEED and SFI.