LEED building standard hit by criticism, hard times


Times continue to be tough for the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED green building standard.

Last we checked, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) was pushing back against the building council’s refusal to use any other wood-certification programs besides the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Just in the last few weeks, the pressure continues to mount on the U.S. Green Building Council to change its policies and allow other wood-certification programs like SFI and the American Tree Farm System.

  • USA Today wrote an expose showing that the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standard “has helped thousands of developers win tax breaks and grants, charge higher rents, exceed local building restrictions and get expedited permitting by certifying them as “green” under a system that often rewards minor, low-cost steps that have little or no proven environmental benefit.”
  • The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research filed comments outlining how FSC’s monopoly under the LEED standard is bad for the environment because FSC-certified wood often has to come from overseas.
  • The Oregon Small Business Association came out against the FSC monopoly, saying it “undermine(s) the domestic wood products market and threaten(s) jobs in the timber industry, to the advantage of producers of timber overseas.”
  • Turner Construction Co. released a survey showing that fewer businesses are using LEED to certify their green buildings. Only 48 percent of businesses said they were likely to use LEED, down from 61 percent in 2008. “It is apparent that in the last four years many companies seem to have become more knowledgeable about the means and methods of designing and constructing green buildings and are less reliant on LEED as a checklist or a scorecard,” according to the survey. “Of those executives who indicated they would consider another system, 63 percent said they would be extremely or very likely to consider seeking certification under ENERGY STAR, which again highlights the importance of energy efficiency.”

Finally, Ken Boehm at the National Legal and Policy Center wrote a takedown of LEED and the FSC monopoly that has been getting a lot of attention online. Boehm writes that FSC can hurt the very environment that proponents of the monopoly claim to be protecting and that FSC relies heavily on widely varying standards in other countries and on wood outside the U.S.

The sharp contrast between the FSC’s public relations spin and the reality of the practices it allows should give pause to any activist who wants to force the FSC standard on the government, corporations and on all consumers.

…When it comes to granting monopoly status to the FSC forest certification policy, Milton Friedman’s observation that policies should be judged by their results and not their intentions is a compelling reason to reject those who would force a deeply flawed policy on the public.