The Georgia Governor Gets It

Supporting the green building movement is about embracing energy efficiency, sustainable design, and responsible choices. But it is also about supporting the communities and jobs that contribute to the resources used in those very buildings. We should not have to make a choice between environmental progress and domestic economic development. Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia understands this important combination.

In an executive order signed by Governor Deal on August 10th states that “any new or expanded state building shall incorporate ‘Green Building’ standards that give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured, and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System, and the Forest Stewardship Council.”

The executive order speaks directly to the injustice of the LEED rating system, noting that “the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system unfairly awards its wood certification credit only to products certified to the Forest Stewardship Council standard.” It further underscores the fact that recognizing all forest certification standards equally in state construction helps to promote sustainable forestry in the state of Georgia, as well as sustain jobs.

SFI applauds Governor Deal’s action. Buildings are responsible for 40% of energy usage in the U.S. His executive order encourages responsible building design and energy efficiency and it does so without undermining our domestic forests and the people responsible for maintaining those forests. There are many green building tools and standards in the marketplace that will allow Georgia to achieve this executive order – including Green Globes and the International Green Construction Code, both of which give equal credit to all credible forest certification standards.

There are a growing number of voices calling for the US Green Building Council to alter its current position.  Governor Paul LePage of Maine signed a similar executive order in December 2011. Fourteen other Governors and 89 Members of Congress have urged the USGBC to recognize SFI and other credible certification standards.

Larry Selzer, President of the Conservation Fund, pointed out that if USGBC “wants to help us keep working forests as forests, it will acknowledge SFI’s leadership in the area of responsible forestry.” And union leader Bill Street of the International Association of Machinists noted that “the ideological driven ‘exclusivity’ of FSC means that systems such as LEED contribute to rural poverty and unemployment while simultaneously adding economic pressure to convert forest land to non-forest land uses.”

We hope the USGBC is listening to the voices of those who value all three legs of the sustainability stool – the environment, society, and the economy – and care about the future of our forests.

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