Four states, Alabama, Georgia, Maine and Mississippi, have essentially banned the use of LEED to certify state-funded green building projects through legislation and executive orders. Other states like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio have attempted to impose LEED ban.
The reason for the ban is a credit worth a whopping 1 point out of 110 possible points in the LEED 2009 rating system. In order to receive the 1 point for the MRc7 credit a project must “use a minimum of 50% (based on cost) of wood-based materials and products that are certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council’s principles and criteria, for wood building components.” This credit is not one of the prerequisites for LEED certification. It is just one of many credits available to achieve LEED certification. For LEED v4, the newest iteration of the rating system, “wood products must be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or USGBC-approved equivalent.” Again this is an optional credit worth 1 point. It is just one of six options available to receive that 1 point.
So who’s behind the bans? The answer is companies in the forest products industry that don’t harvest and manufacture products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is one of a handful of third-party forest certification systems that ensures forests are managed to ensure sustainability. Timber industry companies that use one of the other certification systems feel they are being unfairly excluded from having their products considered on projects pursuing LEED certification. They have effectively lobbied states into banning the LEED rating system from being used on state-funded project arguing that the other certification programs are just as green as FSC certification. None of the executive orders or amendments mentions LEED by name but it’s clear by the language in the laws that LEED is the target.
Let’s take a look at the language of each one:
Georgia Executive Order
Ordered: That the design, construction, operation and maintenance of any new or expanded state building shall incorporate “Green Building” standards that give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured and certified under the Sustainable Forest Initiative, the American Tree Farm System and the Forest Stewardship Council.
Mississippi House Bill 488
In order to achieve sustainable building standards, construction projects may utilize a nationally recognized high performance environmental building rating system; provided, however, that any such rating system that uses a material or product-based credit system which is disadvantageous to materials or products manufactured or produced in Mississippi shall not be utilized.
Additionally, such rating systems shall not exclude certificate credits for forest products certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council or the American Tree Farm System. The Department of Finance and Administration shall designate rating systems which meet these criteria and may establish its own rating system.
Maine Executive Order 27 FY 11/12
The design, construction, operation and maintenance of any new or expanded state building shall incorporate “Green Building” standards that give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured, and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council, American Tree Farm System and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification systems.
Alabama Executive Order No. 39
The design and construction of any new or expanded state building that incorporates “green building” standards must give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured, and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System, and the Forest Stewardship Council, any other credible forest certification program and must treat wood products fairly when compared with non-renewable materials.
Creating laws and executive orders that ban LEED certification for state-funded projects seems like a big waste of time to me, especially when we’re talking about an optional credit worth 1 point. Most states that require LEED certification for state-funded new construction and renovations give the option of having the project certified under Green Globes or an equivalent green rating system.