The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) just finished accepting public comments on its third draft of new LEED rating system rules for its members to vote on. The USGBC hopes to create a system where multiple wood certification systems would qualify for LEED points, and not only those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). LEED has been criticized in the past for this by other certification programs such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

According to a recent article in EcoHome magazine, neither the FSC nor the SFI is that happy with the USGBC’s latest LEED draft (how’s that for a ton of acronyms?). The SFI says the new rules are not loose enough and will still discriminate against non-FSC certifiers. The FSC feels the new rules are too loose and that allowing less stringent certification will flood the market with “status quo” timber.

It is hard to put aside the fact that SFI was born from an industry association, or that FSC is backed by environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. That fact makes it a little easier to see why there is such disagreement between the two groups. But the issue is much more complex than that, and there are other certifiers that are affected as well, such as the Canadian Standards Assn. (CSA) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). At the end of the day though, for the sake of both business and the environment, what USGBC decides could be very important in regards to the future of sustainable timber harvesting.

My question is this: if all of these certification systems are designed to protect the environment, shouldn’t that be the main concern when the LEED rules are made? I know that from a business’ point of view that financial concerns are involved, and rightly so. But if the right balance between the two is not achieved, it will probably affect everyone down the road.

So where do you weigh in? Are there any ideas out there for how LEED can be written to satisfy all of those involved? We would love to hear your insightful comments and opinions on this subject.


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