Congressmen weigh in on LEED standards

U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson has sent a letter to U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) president and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, urging changes to the treatment of forest products under the council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) 2012 rating system. LEED is currently taking public comment as it revises its evaluation process and standards, which will be released in November of 2012.

The bipartisan letter, signed by Thompson and seven other members of Congress representing districts with significant rural or forestry interests, urges the USGBC to “accept all credible forest management certification systems for qualification under the LEED rating system,” in order to incentivize the “utilization of domestically produced forest products.” 

LEED’s current rating system recognizes wood only if it is certified to the Forest Stewardship Council's forest standard. However, three-quarters of the domestically certified forests operate on different standards, primarily the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), which are not recognized by LEED. 

As a result, LEED’s rating requirement has the adverse effect of dissuading builders from using U.S.-made wood products that are ineligible for LEED certification, despite their substantial environmental and economic benefits, the letter said.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), released in September 2011, outlines scientific findings that support the environmental and economic benefits of using wood in green building construction. The report further states: “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."   

Thompson, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, is also the Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry.  All eight signatories of the letter, including Thompson, were also signatories to a letter from 79 Members of Congress in July 2010, urging changes to the USGBC’s treatment of forest products.

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