Georgia Governor Says LEED Rating System is Unfair to Wood Materials

August 21st, 2012 by DWM Magazine

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal recently issued an executive order  directing new or expanded state buildings to incorporate green building standards. These standards would give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System and the Forest Stewardship Council.

“For the past 50 years, Georgia has led the nation in commercially available, private-owned timberlands and is a national leader in the growing and processing of wood construction materials,” says Deal. “The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system unfairly awards its wood certification credits only to products certified under one standard. Recognizing all forest certifications equally will promote sustainable forestry in our state and will help create thousands of jobs while maintaining our strong outdoor heritage.”

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI), which has long tried to convince the USGBC  to recognize other certification programs, applauded Gov. Deal’s efforts. According to Steve McWilliams, president of the Georgia Forestry Association, the governor’s executive order removes obstacles that devalue wood grown and milled in Georgia.

“We are proud of the leadership shown by Gov. Deal on behalf of Georgia’s timber growers and wood product manufacturers,” says McWilliams. “Given the current depressed markets for building materials, there is less incentive for growers to keep their land in trees, and that poses a threat to the environmental and economic benefits that flow from Georgia’s timberlands. Gov. Deal’s action supports the proud tradition of forestry in Georgia, protects forest communities and promotes job opportunities. ”

According to the SFI, three-quarters of North America’s certified forests and almost 99 percent of Georgia’s certified forests are certified to SFI or the American Tree Farm System, and therefore ineligible for LEED’s certified wood credit.

“We applaud Gov. Deal’s action for recognizing certified wood and forest products [as] critical to the future of our forests, economic development and environmental well-being,” says Kathy Abusow, SFI president and CEO. “Fifteen governors have now sent a strong message to USGBC. It’s time USGBC listened to the urging of elected officials, federal agencies, state foresters, landowners, conservation groups and academics to stop discriminating against well-managed domestic forests.”

Likewise, Jeff Inks, vice president, code and regulatory affairs for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), also agrees with the Georgia governor’s executive order.

“WDMA supports the use of accredited wood certification programs to qualify for wood certification credits,” says Inks. “We do not believe there is any justification for limiting wood certification credit eligibility to FSC certified products only as LEED currently does. Georgia’s action is another signal that that isn’t acceptable.”

In December, 2012 the Governor of Maine signed a similar executive order that called for the use of green building rating systems that give equal credit to all forest certification standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new program last year to promote wood in green building, stating, “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 Certification.”

 

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