States Fight Green-Building Leader Over Local Wood


“That’s not true. There are differences,” said Lane Burt, policy director for the U.S. Green Building Council. “Your candy can have a third less sugar, but it’s still hot a health food.”

For example, the standard LEED uses to credit builders for using sustainable wood bans the use of certain pesticides that are allowed under the other two systems and by U.S. law. The standard LEED uses also discourages replanting of forests plantation-style, where trees of the same species and often the same age are planted in neat rows like crops. That method is especially popular with Southern pine growers.
Burt also notes builders don’t have to use wood certified by anybody to attain LEED’s stamp of approval.

Much like Boy Scouts can rise through the ranks earning different types of merit badges, builders earn LEED certification by choosing from 110 different credits. They can include use of recycled materials, reducing water consumption and features that conserve electricity. Wood gets two possible credits – one for using timber that certified for sustainable methods and another for using locally grown wood.

Still, timber growers such as Dr. Salem Saloom, a retired surgeon from Brewton, Ala., fear they’re being set up for substantial losses if LEED’s popularity continues to grow and their wood won’t qualify for its sustainability credits. A market analysis by McGraw-Hill concluded green construction in the U.S. jumped from nonresidential work valued at $3 billion in 2005 to more than $43 billion in 2010. And it predicted U.S. green building could surpass $120 billion by 2015. While others also certify green construction, LEED is by far the leader. McGraw Hill says LEED certification is sought by 71 percent of all construction projects of $50 million or more.

Saloom has 1,762 acres, most of it planted pine, in south Alabama that’s certified by the American Tree Farm System. He acknowledged the demand for wood that satisfies LEED sustainability requirements hasn’t hurt him yet. But he fears it could.

“Over a period of time, if you’re going to do any building and want to get points for environmentally sound construction, it’s going to affect the landowners because we’re not gonna be able to sell our wood,” Saloom said. “There is a (LEED) point for buying local, but we think we should be on equal terms and every system should be treated equally.”

Burt of the Green Building Council said LEED’s standards for sustainable wood aren’t likely to change in the revisions now up for a vote. He said the certification methods being pushed by angry states and timber growers have failed to win over enough of the council’s member stakeholders, particularly those representing environmental groups.

“At the end of the day the line’s got to be drawn somewhere,” Burt said. “Every product manufacturer wants more points for their stuff.”

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Posted by on Jul 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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