USGBC Panel Rejects 'Blunt Instrument' of Negative PVC Credit

The Vinyl Institute of Arlington, Va., said that the final report of a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) panel on PVC (vinyl) reaffirmed the conclusions of its earlier draft report that PVC should not be the subject of a negative credit in the council's LEED rating system.

"This is the right decision," said Tim Burns, president of the Vinyl Institute.

The report, by the council's Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC), said materials-related credits are a "blunt instrument" that could steer designers to choose materials with a more negative life-cycle impact. The draft report issued in December 2004 reached a similar conclusion.

The technical committee also found that data gaps frustrated its efforts to reach general conclusions about materials. While thousands of studies have been conducted on PVC, and its health and environmental profile is well established, the report recognized that there are major data gaps with respect to many competing materials, according to the Vinyl Institute.

"The report of the committee was correct in stating that there are no simple 'yes' or 'no' answers to assessing the desirability of different building materials," Burns said. "We agree with many of the recommendations of the technical committee relating to how materials are assessed in LEED. Specifically, we agree with the need for integrated methods for material evaluation rather than passing judgment on a particular credit for a particular material."

At the same time, Burns expressed strong concern that in some areas the committee appeared to have made assumptions and jumped to conclusions in cases where there were little or no data. This was especially evident in its comments on end-of-life issues, such as backyard burning and landfill fires, on which the committee acknowledged that its data were "highly uncertain."

"The fact is that landfill fires are extremely rare in the United States, and the burning of waste at construction sites is outlawed in most jurisdictions, so this is largely a non-issue," Burns said.

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