January 21st, 2014
Ohio Takes the Lead on LEED v4 Material Biases
Since its launch in late 2013, the U.S .Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Version 4 has been under fire for the inclusion of credits to reward product ingredient reporting and product reformulation (referred to as ”Building product disclosure and optimization – material ingredients”) .
The credits reward building material specifications that avoid “chemicals of concern,” which have to be identified and/or avoided according to various lists credit users are referred to. Most of the chemicals used every day in construction are potentially targeted – many without sound scientific basis. This credit is basically a LEED material de-selection credit.
Among the building materials in question is one we are all familiar with – vinyl. As fenestration professionals, we are all aware of the merits of vinyl use in windows, including increased durability, energy efficiency and aesthetics. In fact, increasingly stringent thermal performance requirements and consumer demand for maintenance-free products are driving an elevated demand for vinyl in our industry, helping to create and/or secure jobs across the U.S.
The potential economic impact of this LEED material de-selection credit has raised more than a few eyebrows in our industry, in our regions and in our federal government and with good reason. The methodology behind the LEED criteria is somewhat of a mystery. It lacks transparency and, just as importantly, the scientific evidence that many of its “chemicals of concern” are concerns at all when used in or to make windows and other products.
Keep an Eye on Ohio SCR25
In the category of “legislation to watch and watch closely,” Ohio lawmakers are among the first to take LEED v4 to task with the introduction of the Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 (SCR25). Introduced by Senators Joe Ueker and Tim Schaffer, SCR25 would urge state government entities to use green building ratings systems based on voluntary consensus procedures outlined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – a measure that would effectively take LEED off the table as a green building rating system until the state determines whether it will unfairly hurt products and materials produced there.
Some key points from SCR25 as proposed at the 130th General Assembly Regular Session 2013-2014 (view full text):
- “The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED v4 green building system fails to conform to recognized voluntary standard development procedures, including but not limited to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) procedures, and fails to base environmental and health criteria on risk assessment methodology …”
- Further, SCR25 proposes that “the only systems, codes, and standards used in state agency and other government buildings be those that have been developed in an open and transparent way with the input of Ohio building materials and products manufacturers and harvesters to ensure that the use of green building rating systems, codes, and other standards from the private sector are consistent with Ohio objectives and policies …”
- “…and be it further resolved, that the LEED v4 green building rating system no longer be used by Ohio’s state agencies and government entities until the USGBC conforms its system development to the ANSI voluntary consensus standard procedures as confirmed by ANSI or until the state, after an opportunity for public comment and participation, incorporates the LEED v4 system by reference, in whole or in part, into the administrative rules for state agency or government entity building standards …”
The proposed resolution concludes by asking the Office of Energy Services within the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to “…continue to incorporate energy efficiency and sustainable design features into approved school projects through the use of alternative green building rating systems, codes, and standards other than LEED v4 …”
Unsurprisingly, SCR25 is on USGBC’s radar as Ohio emphasizes green practices in state-funded building projects, including schools, representing significant fees payable to USGBC for certification, as well as LEED consultants.
We’ll definitely be keeping a watchful eye on this important resolution as the state and the USGBC state their cases. The ‘View from Here’ is that this will hopefully be a turning point, sending a message to USGBC that their approach to materials selection is not fair, scientific, or welcome in our industry and other states will follow suit.
In the meantime, the American Chemistry Council and the Vinyl Institute, along with fenestration industry representatives, including Quanex, have spent time in Washington educating members of congress on the issues associated with LEED v4. These efforts have been met with overwhelming support and, as of October, the U.S. General Services Administration recommended that the federal government no longer endorse a single rating system (LEED).
Rather, individual federal agencies would have an alternative choice with Green Globes, a lesser known rating system that is quickly gaining in popularity as companies, entities and individuals seek systems that are transparent in their methodologies and are free of unfounded material biases.
The bottom line is that LEED is no longer your only choice, so make smart decisions for your business and your local economy when it comes to green building. And don’t forget to write to your members of congress to let your voice be heard.
Do you think your business will be at risk due to LEED v4? Drop me a line at email@example.com.