In the “green building” industry, LEED is king. Led by the U.S. Green Building Council, over a million and a half square feet of real estate has been certified under the LEED system. Unfortunately, a ban of new construction built with public monies that seek green building certification may ensure that no state courthouses or libraries receive LEED certification. The principal opponent is the conventional timber industry. Ironically, this fight comes down to a single point within the 100-point LEED system.
Though the amendments and executive orders banning green certification do not actually cite LEED by name, they challenge any green building certification not recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI is the voice of the US standards system and they oversee the creation of thousands of guidelines in almost every sector. LEED’s opposition has grown because of their prominence, and especially due to the fact that the federal government has leaned heavily on LEED being mandatory for all new construction projects of a given size. Therefore, these multinational companies of timber, plastics, and chemicals have begun setting their own green building standards in tune with ANSI, such as Green Globes and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Environmental groups in support of LEED have seen this opposition to LEED as a very crafty tactic to try and protect the businesses of the timber industry. Sierra Club’s Jason Grant sees that the timber industry is trying to “protect their core business model, which largely relies on large-scale clear cutting and replanting”. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC is the LEED recognized standard for timber) demands a much stricter and costlier practice for sustainability. The interesting aspect of the argument is that the LEED rating system only allows for a building to get one point for installing FSC certified timber. That isn’t to say that the building can’t use another type of wood. A point will just not be given for the FSC credit.
The implications of the continual spread of these bans are colossal. Georgia and Alabama have already begun the movement through an executive order, and Mississippi has just approved a similar amendment. The opposition seems to be crying that if the LEED system is not changed, then a constitutional right has been taken away. LEED is edited and changed based on a democratic system developed by the USGBC. The latest version of the LEED rating system was passed this summer by an 86% vote from its 13,000 members. Though the rating system isn’t foolproof, the opposing industry members have the ability to vote within the USGBC as well.
The USGBC’s LEED certification system has hit many bumps in the road, but the road has been widely traveled and has led to an explosion in the green building industry. The green building industry represents 45% of the market of new construction. McGraw-Hill, a publisher of construction data in the US, has estimated that by 2015 the green building industry will be worth between $120 billion and $145 billion. Therefore, it is easy to say thank you to the USGBC for helping lead the way. But will this escalating lobbying bring down this large green-building non-profit?