Anti-LEED Lobby Backlash

Posted on August 1, 2013

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You know you’ve got someone’s attention when lobbies start to form in opposition to your mission.

This is precisely what is happening in several states now as powerful industries figure out ways to suppress sustainability momentum established by USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

As reported in June by Architect, several primarily southeastern states, including Florida, are mounting legislation and lobbies targeted against LEED.  Leading the fight are the local timber industries, frustrated by chain-of-custody requirements imposed by LEED’s Rating Systems.  As most states pass legislation requiring LEED or similar green performance minimums in public buildings, more wood must be procured in ways that satisfy sustainable harvesting.

Based on political platform polls, most citizens feel environmental standards are something that need improvement, and some effort from timber is to be expected.

The sad part is, instead of spending their time and money changing and innovating to make themselves eligible for these public projects, the local timber industries would rather spend their time and money to fight the law.  The arguments are weak:  LEED disadvantages locally-sourced wood, with potential loss of jobs.  State law would trump any city and county pro-sustainability policies in place.

10 Billion square feet registered in one of the LEED programs, and 1.5 million square feet certifying per day.  LEED or otherwise, sustainability is not a fringe trend; it is global.  This might have been a valid first defense, in 2000 when LEED first launched.  These lobbying efforts clearly look like last-gasp efforts (slyly timed in a bad economy) because of laziness on the part of local timber companies realizing they cannot successfully manage their resources.  After all, LEED preferences regional products (within 500 miles) so local timber already has an advantage over its non-regional competitors.  What more could they ask for?

If other countries and companies can change, so can the loggers.  In fact, industries and companies far more affected by LEED’s influence than timber (e.g. carpet, paint and fabrics manufacturers) have adapted and now brag about their improvements and programs, so forestry efforts should, like everyone else, work to meet the bar, not attempt to drop the bar.

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