White House Announces Better Building Initiative

Nadine Block, Senior Director of Government Outreach, discusses President Obama’s new commercial building initiative.

President ObamaThis week, President Obama announced his Better Building Initiative, a plan aimed to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings. The White House blog notes that the goal is to reach a 20 percent improvement by 2020, which is estimated to save $40 billion per year. A portion of this initiative includes the Race to Green program, which encourages building code reformation for states and local governments to improve commercial energy efficiency.

The Better Building Initiative is a great opportunity to think about the benefits of wood in commercial building, including efficiency. The use of structural wood composites in construction requires only one-third to one-fourth the energy in comparison to structural steel.  Furthermore, using wood in place of steel in construction results in half the fossil fuel emissions and massive storage of carbon over the long term. Durability and renewability make wood an exceptional, sound building material, and using certified wood is an added proof point that it came from a responsible source.

Using SFI-certified wood is also an added bonus to our economy. The SFI forest management standard applies specifically to North American forests and it benefits the livelihoods of forest owners and other forest sector professionals here. With SFI, you know you’re creating demand in local markets rather than sourcing wood from overseas.

Over one hundred government leaders – 87 Members of Congress, 13 Governors, and others – have publicly recognized that wood is a great material for green building construction and renovation, and that all credible forest certification systems should be recognized under any green building rating system.

The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) already recognizes the environmental benefits of wood and is a clear, science-based tool for jurisdictions considering adoption or amendment of regulations for green and high-performance construction or renovation. It requires that wood and wood products, other than salvaged or reused wood products, must be certified to SFI, FSC, PEFC or an equivalent certification scheme. We encourage decision-makers in building projects to look at solid, inclusive systems like this already in place to influence choices that improve energy efficiency.

While there are lots factors and products to consider in green building projects, there’s no denying the benefits that come with using certified wood. We’re excited to hear the announcement of a White House program dedicated to improving energy efficiency through building construction and renovation, and we hope this leads to broader recognition and use of wood from responsibly-managed forests.

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  1. Pingback: White House Announces Better Building Initiative « Sustainable Forestry Initiative Newsroom

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