SFI and LEED

Ron Wilson from buyalder.com posted a great comment/ question the other day and I thought it deserved its own post – join in on the discussion.

Ron Wilson: Do you feel that there is any chance that the Leed program will not accept SFI certification? Our customers are very concerned about SFI certification losing any value if the Leed system does not move in this direction.

SFI welcomes the work the USGBC is doing. Their work and the inclusive approach they are considering reflects the direction many other green building programs have taken. Examples of these programs that do include a variety of credible certification programs like SFI are the Green Build Initiative’s Green Globes system for commercial building in the US, Green Globes Canada for commercial building in Canada, NAHB’s Green Building Guidelines for residential building in the US, the BRE Environmental Assessment Method for commercial buildings in the UK, and The Code for Sustainable Homes for residential homes in England.

If the USGBC evolves to recognize SFI and other certification programs it would support their position as being among the leaders in the complex, evolving, and critically important world of green building. I am hopeful that through working with USGBC and helping them understand what SFI delivers vis-a-vis other certification programs we will be included. It is too early in the USGBC process to know where SFI will come out because they are still developing their benchmarks against which they will assess the different certification programs. After they develop their benchmarks, the different standards will be assessed and that process will likely not be completed before summer 2009. Once the benchmarks have been developed we will have a better understanding of where SFI fits.

So, am I concerned about SFI’s value changing if LEED doesn’t implement an inclusive approach? Honestly, I believe in the strength of the SFI program – it is one of the largest, fastest growing and most comprehensive forest certification programs in the world. We have grown from 48 chain-of-custody certified locations a year ago to nearly 900 to date. I don’t expect that to change regardless of the outcome of LEED – governments around the world recognize the value of SFI, as do numerous other green building rating systems. (Have a look at our green building fact sheet.)

At the end of the day, certification need not be contentious – there is a lot of room in the green building arena for certified wood products The issue is not which forest certification system is better; they all deliver on key values such as protection of special biological or cultural sites, management strategies to protect species at risk and wildlife habitat, sustainable harvest levels, prompt regeneration, 3rd party accredited certification audits, and public audit reports with corrective actions listed. I think it is in the planet’s best interest if we all focus on the 90% of the world’s forests that are not certified and do not have strong legal frameworks.

While we are on the subject of how certified wood fits in the realm of green building, I’ll end my post with a little food for thought – wood is the only building material that comes with third party certification.

2 thoughts on “SFI and LEED

  1. I am hopeful of the USGBC’s acceptance of other standards for sustainable harvest of forest products, and their distribution to the marketplace. I find the FSC, as a single accepted certification body limiting, in terms of my business, to the supply of sustainable product.
    Several points come to mind, but a couple are of the most concern to me, as a dealer and green building proponent;
    1: FSC does not have wide acceptance in the dimensional lumber market. Timber companies in the US and Canada, although stating their commitment to sustainable harvest, have not embraced FSC’s unique vision for sustainability. What I mean is, I can’t manufacture roof trusses and make an FSC claim if I wanted to. The material is just not available.
    2: I think the US timber manufacturers, by and large, will not embrace FSC. The reasons are many, and both sides have valid points, BUT..
    3: By limiting the end user to FSC certified lumber for residential and commercial light frame construction under LEED, the standard has an unintended chilling effect on promotion of sustainable forest products. Why? because if it cannot be sourced, the points under the standard will not be sought. This is definitely not the intent of the USGBC, I am sure.

    So, as a supplier, if I do not have a source for FSC certified wood, and I do not see source development in the near term, and the USGBC holds fast to FSC’s singular control of the certification for sustainable timber, I am effectively excluded from the LEED standard as it relates to sustainable timber. On a larger scale, the requirement itself becomes marginalized, or as some have told me, irrelevant.

  2. I too am hopeful and heartened by the USGBC’s attempt to assess the forest certification programs and extend its point system to more than just one certification program. We can’t get caught up in who is the “best of the best” when only 10% of the world’s forests are certified. True, there is very little FSC certified wood from North American forests, in fact only 18%. SFI is in a unique position in that 82 percent of certified wood fiber in North America can carry the SFI certified forest content label. And we are not the only ones to recognize the value of North American fiber – lots of green building rating systems such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recognizes SFI certified wood in its green building rating system, as does the Green Building Initiative, Green Globes and other rating systems as far away as the UK.

    I don’t think however that a lack of access to FSC certified fiber will undermine the USGBC standard or make it irrelevant. I am concerned that as market campaigners continue to promote a monopoly for FSC or use tactics that dissuade organizations or companies to support and embrace all credible forest certification, it will result in people choosing to bypass certification altogether rather than choose certified products and risk the wrath of campaigners. This is the real threat and why I am so committed to an inclusive approach to forest certification. By supporting responsible fiber sourcing, SFI is encouraging the 90% of the world’s forests to join us in promoting sustainable forest management, ensuring forests for the future while providing the market with responsibly procured forest products.

    Hang in there and keep working with us and everyone who is committed to responsible forest management.

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