TreeHugger has followed the evolution of the LEED green building certification system from the beginning. Run by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), it is a system based on getting credits for choosing green materials, saving energy, and building healthier buildings. It’s also a changing system, addressing new environmental problems as knowledge and understanding of them increases.
One problem is increasing demand for lumber, particularly as more and more buildings are made of it in an attempt to use renewable resources. So the USGBC is introducing a new credit advancing environmentally responsible forest management. It is designed to reduce illegal logging and reward projects where the designers verify that the wood they are using is legally harvested. From the USGBC press release:
“Healthy, vibrant forests are an essential piece of life as we know it. The focus of this approach is to ensure that we address the floor and inspire higher ceilings of forestry transformation,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “LEED has made tremendous strides by promoting leadership on sourcing of forestry products. We want LEED to also be a significant driver for stopping illegal logging.”
Technically, this is done by ensuring that all wood complies with ATSM D7612-10, the Standard Practice for Categorizing Wood and Wood-Based Products According to Their Fiber Sources. This confirms that “all wood has been legally harvested and that most wood is responsibly sourced.” This makes it possible for other wood certification programs like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to get LEED credits. SFI (a TreeHugger sponsor) explains how:
In order to count towards a LEED point, the user must first know that 100% of the forest products are from legal (non-controversial) sources, 70% from responsible sources and the remainder must be certified sources as evidenced by a chain of custody certification (CoC). SFI Fiber Sourcing certification counts as legal and responsible, while fiber delivered through a CoC certification counts as legal, responsible and certified sources.
Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI, says:
We applaud leaders from the U.S. Green Building Council as this change across all LEED rating tools takes a stance against illegal wood and reinforces the value of certified and responsibly sourced forest products. SFI employs rigorous standards that ensure not only a responsibly managed forest, but also that only legal sources of fiber are brought into SFI-certified supply chains.
SFI calls this a step in a positive direction, “welcome news for architects, builders and consumers seeking legal, responsibly sourced and certified forest products from well-managed forests."