Rick Fedrizzi of USGBC on the Sustainable Wood Rating Debate


Rick Fedrizzi (right) with Brad Pitt
TreeHugger has been covering the intense discussion at the US Green Building Council over the treatment of sustainably harvested wood in the LEED rating system (see Rumble in the Lumberyard). Rick Fedrizzi, President of the USGBC explains the issue and how the USGBC is working to solve it in this guest post.

Over the course of the past 18 months, the 18,000+ member organizations that are the U.S. Green Building Council and countless other stakeholders have been engaged in a vigorous dialogue that seeks to define, independent of any existing certification in the market, "environmentally responsible forest management" in the context of our LEED Green Building Rating System. The final outcome of this ongoing process will be the creation of a USGBC member-approved Forest Certification Benchmark to serve as LEED's definition for responsible forest management.

Since its founding in 2000, LEED has grown to encompass commercial, residential, government, healthcare and other building types. Like the process that established these, the process toward a Forest Certification Benchmark was started to meet the needs of the market as determined by our membership. Wood is obviously a key element to the vast majority of buildings, and ensuring that as much of that wood as possible is sustainably raised and efficiently used is critical to the continuing advancement of green building.

LEED celebrated its tenth birthday earlier this year, and in that short period of time it has been the catalyst that has driven fundamental change in building practices throughout an industry that accounts for no less than 15% of U.S. GDP. This is not a small thing, and it's happened because thousands of volunteers have been passionate about the fact that we can transform our buildings and communities, and we can demand ever higher levels of performance and environmental responsibility from every sector of the building industry. The Forest Certification Benchmark is part of our evolutionary cycle of continuous improvement and it will no doubt change things for the better.

USGBC is not a trade association representing the single view of a single industry around a single issue. Instead, we bring together an unlikely and diverse group of member organizations who care deeply about a wide and integrated set of issues around the building industry's impacts on our environment, health, finances, and future.

Since the first LEED rating system was conceived and envisioned by more than 2,000 volunteer building industry professionals, one thing has been constant: LEED is developed by our volunteers, put out for public comment, and then put to a vote of our membership. Our members decide what LEED is and, in doing so, how it works in the marketplace. It's a consensus process that allows for the widest participation in its development. Since our membership represents every corner of the building industry, it allows a broad group of people with varying interests to weigh in by voting to accept a rating system or to send it back for more work. This ensures transparency, fairness and results in benchmarks established to achieve the broadest-possible impact.

Each and every credit in LEED gets keen inside-out analysis and passionate discussion of its benefits and effects. Our work to evolve the LEED credits dealing with certified wood has been no different. But USGBC members have a bias for action; they take all the information and then they act so they can keep us moving toward the larger goal of getting every human on the planet into a green building within this generation. They develop and implement the innovative strategies and make the triple bottom line decisions that will transform our built environment - from the aggregation of the raw materials through the full life cycle of our buildings. And at every juncture they raise the bar on the performance of all standards that affect LEED. And they do so because they are driven by a common goal: real market transformation that enhances the quality of life of our friends and colleagues, neighbors and families and assures for them a truly sustainable future.

Ultimately it is USGBC's membership that will decide the outcome of this certified wood issue when the USGBC Board of Directors asks them to vote on the revised credit language and benchmark. This credit language will incorporate the feedback received through 18 months of written comments from stakeholders, including more than 4,000 in-person comments received during its three public comment periods. We sincerely and actively welcome participation throughout the LEED benchmark process. As the Forest Certification Benchmark credit language approaches a vote, any organization that wishes to weigh in may join the USGBC to ensure their voice is heard at the ballot box - and they should. The larger and more diverse the electorate is, the better the standard will be.

We welcome your help.

More on LEED, FSC, and SFI:
Rumble in the Lumberyard: FSC vs SFI
A Picture Is Worth: FSC vs SFI Forests

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