New LEED Rating Tools Fall Short by Excluding Well-Recognized Forest Certification

Image_11_HOCM_01_Credit_Miller-Hull

Hands-On Children’s Museum of Olympia, Washington, demonstrates exceptional commitment to sustainability and achieved Green Globes certification.
Photo courtesy of The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) members just completed their vote to accept the new LEED v4 rating tools. SFI voted “negative with comments” because the LEED rating tools do not recognize credible forest certification programs like SFI and ATFS, both internationally recognized by PEFC.  This outcome is disappointing because, unlike other materials or products in green building, forest products have a proof point to demonstrate responsible sourcing, forest certification, which is built on close to two decades of standard setting, public input, and best management practices for responsible forestry.

Globally, 10 percent of the world’s forests are certified, and as such, the USGBC should reward those market leaders, including U.S. domestic sources of supply that are part of the forest certification process, as this will ultimately create incentives for growing more certified forests and contribute to the USGBC’s goal of market transformation.

Since 2005, SFI certified-products have been excluded from the forest certification/sourcing credit without ever once having been told the basis of that exclusion. In credible, open and transparent processes, organizations know the basis of their program standard’s exclusion, and with that information they can do three things: make changes to be included; correct a misperception; or move on due to a lack of alignment between institutional objectives. SFI Inc launched its 18-month Standard review process this June, and we encourage the USGBC leadership to clarify why FSC meets their credit expectations and why SFI’s certification standard does not.

USGBC has stated that the 2010 forest certification benchmark ballot demonstrated that USGBC membership views FSC as the “only appropriate standard to recognize within LEED.”  The 2010 forest certification benchmark vote was not a vote of whether to accept FSC or SFI, but was rather a vote on the benchmarks USGBC would use to assess the forest certification programs.  The truth of the matter is only 521 USGBC members actually voted on the benchmarks, and half voted for the benchmarks, and half against the benchmarks.

We also encourage USGBC members and leadership to review a recent Architectural Record Continuing Education Unit (CEU) on the merits of the SFI program.  Readers can earn one GBCI CE hour for LEED Credential Maintenance and/or one AIA/CES HSW Learning Unit by taking the online test after reading the article.  The CEU highlights the numerous organizations that recognize all forest certification standards equally, including the USGBC sponsored International Green Construction Code (IgCC), as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Education. So far, we’ve had tremendous response with more than 19,000 readers and over 450 that have completed the CEU test.

We look forward to working with USGBC to resolve this important issue.  It is time for our organizations to work together, to promote responsible forestry and green building.  For more information on SFI and green building, please visit http://www.sfiprogram.org/markets/green-building.

Jason Metnick
VP, Customer Affairs

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