LEED-Bashing: SFI Couldn't Join LEED, So Now It Is Out To Destroy It.

© Franke James

I have called it the Rumble in the Lumberyard; Artist/activist Franke James calls it the War in the Woods. It was the long-running battle by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to get recognition for their wood certification system in the LEED green building certification system, which only recognizes wood certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) . I will not go into the merits of their argument here, that has been the subject of many a post that can be found in the related links to the left.

What is more important is that, having failed to get into the LEED rating system, Kathy Abusow and SFI have changed tactics, and now appear to be out to destroy it.

After I wrote Congress Goes Through With Ban On Green Building at Department of Defense, Lawyer Chris Cheatham noted that the ban was rooted in the wood wars, quoting a senator who says he believes LEED inaccurately evaluates wood products:

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., helped lead the effort to place the language into the appropriations bill on grounds that the Pentagon needed to think more about building products' green qualities over the course of their entire life--from the moment a product's raw materials are extracted from the earth to when that product's components are tossed out or, even better, recycled. This notion, called "life-cycle analysis," has been gaining much momentum in the green building community. And on this front, some groups--including the Green Building Initiative program, a rival to USGBC's LEED--have embraced life-cycle analysis.

In fact, the Green Building Initiative is a sham set up by a former Louisiana Pacific lumber PR executive, Ward Hubbell, for the explicit purpose of creating a rating system that allowed SFI certified wood. It operates out of the offices of his company, Hubbell Communications, which specializes in "Grassroots and Grasstops mobilization", also know as astroturfing. Members and supporters of the Green Building Initiative include the American Chemistry Council, SFI, The American Forest & Paper Association and the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association. It is hardly, as Senator Wicker maintains, a credible standard.

(More on the Green Building initiative here and here)

Republicans like Senator Wicker have taken up the cause of SFI because President Kathy Abusow has wrapped herself in the flag and pronounced it to be the patriotic thing to do. Paula Melton quotes her in BuildingGreen:

"100% of SFI-certified forests are in North America," said Kathy Abusow, president and CEO of SFI. "90% of FSC forests are outside the U.S. You don't have to be a statistician to know that not recognizing SFI is a problem for domestic forests, communities, products, and jobs."

When Paula pressed her, she said "90% of FSC certifications are abroad, and I don't need to go into depth to know that that's an issue. And so I don't."

Well, in fact you do, because it is a meaningless point. FSC happens to be international, but but certifies lots of American wood; SFI was set up by American lumber interests specifically because they didn't like silly things in FSC such as respecting workers' rights and indigenous people. But bashing Europe always plays well in certain political circles. It played particularly well in Maine, which has essentially banned LEED certification because it favors FSC.

Paula connects the dots of the two attacks on LEED :

Senator Roger Wicker and Maine Governor Paul LePage both attempted to make an economic argument for their choices. By promoting FSC lumber, the claim goes, the LEED rating systems harm producers of homegrown forestry products--hurting the economy and killing jobs.

When I covered the Maine story, I concluded:

The issue is a lot bigger than SFI vs FSC and a stupid single point in LEED; it is a question of the survival of the green building movement, as it is rolled back by Republicans in Congress and by anti-green Tea Party controlled State governments.

Indeed, we have to do more than that; we have to start actively pushing back against SFI. It is no longer just another standard for certification; it is now actively working to gut green building. I have no great love for LEED, but this is hurting the entire industry. If you care about green building, then you shouldn't buy SFI.

Read more at BuildingGreen

Tags: Green Building