LEED: “A new and unloved standard”


The U.S. Green Building Council is now in the midst of voting (Oct. 25-Nov. 23) on new rules that could potentially let other forest certifications into the LEED green building standard. But it appears that no one is happy with what the building council is considering.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and some environmental groups aren’t happy because they want a system where only FSC is allowed. And the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and other forest certifications aren’t happy because they feel the LEED standard would still be much too strict.

The New York Times called the proposed changes to LEED a “new and unloved standard” and ProSales Magazine summed it up like this:

The fight over wood-certification systems ranks among the most bitterly debated issues that the USGBC has ever confronted, and what’s up for a vote now is the fourth draft of a document that has been undergoing revisions for several years. In essence, it revolves around profound differences between environmentalists and tree-growers regarding what are ecologically responsible forestry practices.

FSC and the environmental groups say the new rules would be a “big step backwards for the green building movement.” But SFI had a much different take:

“Independent assessments globally recognize the merits of all credible forest certification programs, and in fact the United Nations recently reported that these programs generally have the same structural programmatic requirements, so why is the USGBC splitting hairs over minute details between programs?” SFI president and CEO Kathy Abusow said in a statement sent to ProSales on Thursday. “It’s time for the USGBC to heed the advice of more than 6,000 people globally, including 12 U.S. governors and 88 members of Congress, who are asking the USGBC to recognize all forest certification programs, especially those right here in our communities across North America.”

What’s odd about the USGBC’s process is the entire 17,000-member council isn’t making the decision, and the group that is making the call is a bit mysterious. According to ProSales, it’s a “consensus group” of members who had the option to opt in over the summer and is supposed to be balanced, but the USGBC isn’t saying who’s in the group or how it was determined to be balanced.

The LEED standard isn’t just being attacked for its forest certification standards. It’s much broader than that. Kevin Pierce, a respected architect and sustainable designer in Chicago, is in the midst of a multipart takedown of the LEED standard on his blog. Here are Part I, Part II and Part III.