For the last few years, the US Green Building Council, which administers the LEED green building certification system, has been under attack by the chemical industry. Big chem, led by the American Chemistry Council,(ACC) has lobbied to have LEED banned and to have Green Globes recognized as an alternative. They set up the American High Performance Building Coalition, to demonize and criticize the USGBC at every turn. (see my summary of the battle in my TreeHugger 10th Birthday post Whatever happened to: LEED green building certification)
Big Chem has been relentless and had racked up a string of victories, but the USGBC was not without its successes. Just last week they inked a deal with four other organizations to collaborate on the development of the International Green Construction Code.
Now, the USGBC and the ACC are actually setting up a committee to work together, with the USGBC issuing a press release with the surprising title U.S. Green Building Council and the American Chemistry Council to Work Together to Advance LEED.
The two organizations are setting up a Supply Chain Optimization Working Group; ACC will assign several technical representatives from their member companies to the Working Group, which was established by the LEED Steering Committee. The ACC President Cal Dooley says in the presser: (emphasis mine)
Modern energy efficiency gains, building safety advances and carbon footprint reductions would not be possible without the products of chemistry. From windows to insulation, adhesives to flooring, chemistry provides solutions that enable the energy efficient and sustainable buildings that consumers expect in today’s world. By combining USGBC, a leader of the green building movement, with the scientific know-how of ACC, we can develop a path to stronger, science-based standards that achieve measurable progress in sustainability.
In their own press release, the ACC writes:
This new initiative allows ACC and our members to turn our attention and resources to constructively working with USGBC to find strong, science-based solutions to advance LEED around building material use.
If and when necessary, ACC will continue to advocate for ensuring that green building rating systems used by governments are performance-based, have a strong technical basis founded on science, and are developed with broad stakeholder input including building material science experts.
My emphasis on "science-based"? Therein lies the kicker here. There is the American Chemistry Council's science, the American Way which says everything is safe and fine until someone conclusively proves that that it is killing or maiming people for at least a couple of decades. (look at leaded gasoline; the chemical industry fought its removal and dragged out its phase-out for years). Then there is that other sort of European science that follows the precautionary principle, the idea that you have to actually prove a chemical is safe before you can use it. "Science-based" is a very loaded term.
From the press release:
“USGBC and ACC share the goal of advancing sustainability in the built environment, and we will work together to take advantage of our collective strength and experience,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “The looming impacts of climate change and the possibilities of improving human health and wellbeing favor collaboration and engagement as key strategies. The goal is forward progress.”
I do hope he is right, and that this works out. I have my doubts, but look what happened to Darth Vader.