Battling for Integrity to Build Green

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is currently revising its rules on wood-product sourcing, which could result in lowering the bar on what qualifies as sustainable forestry practices. USGBC created and oversees the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system for construction projects. Despite the existence of other certification labels, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification has served as the only label the LEED program has accepted as certifying that lumber was responsibly sourced. FSC certification was developed in 1993 with the input of a balanced set of actors including major environmental groups and Aboriginal communities.

The new wood-product sourcing rules the USGBC is currently drafting could include other certification schemes which would suggest that they were on par with the FSC label under the LEED system. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), developed largely by industry stakeholders to compete with the FSC certification, is banking on the USGBC lowering its standards on what lumber could be used for LEED projects.

In Canada, it was determined that a sustainable forest was most likely to exist under an FSC certification in comparison to other certification labels. This finding is further supported by Greenpeace’s report on Canada’s Boreal Forests comparing the integrity of forest certification labels including FSC and SFI. When the USGBC releases its rules for comment in mid-September, the National Wildlife Federation will be working to ensure the FSC label continues to be held up as the gold standard in the LEED certification system.

For a more detailed account of the battle that is underway read this Architecture Week article.

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