Occupy USGBC? Maybe It's TimeI know I am a little late on covering this topic, but after reading many articles bashing the Maine Governor’s decision to ban LEED projects in state buildings I had to interject. Governor Paul Lepage issued an Executive Order on December 8th, 2011 to ban the use of LEED green building standards in State buildings.

Why? Well, according to several bloggers the Governor issued the order in an effort to “satisfy industry interests,” and that it’s just another example of government “caving to business needs,” or they’ll warn of the horrors of “weaker green building standards.”

I read all of that and think...great! They say government satisfies industry interests like it’s a bad thing? Really? These guys must be nuts!

The Governor banned LEED, which is a rating system dreamed up by the U.S Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC states that in order to receive LEED points on a project, wood products must be FSC certified. So what the Governor did has finally brought national attention to the scheme that the USGBC and FSC have been running.

The FSC has done some excellent marketing and gotten their labels on projects all over the world at a cool cost of around $5,000 per certified FSC manufacturer. What isn’t so publicized is that only about 10% of forests certified by FSC are in the U.S. and around 100 members of congress have written letters to the USGBC condemning their FSC-only policy.

Even Yale University conducted a study stating that there was no clearly identified rationale for the “FSC only” policy. Not to mention the handful of other wood certification organizations out there that competes with the FSC that go largely unrecognized due to USGBC/FSC domination.

Occupy USGBC? Maybe It's TimeIn the Governor’s Executive Order he stated that the only reason he is banning LEED is because LEED only recognizes FSC products as a way to get points toward LEED recognition. The Governor’s ban is a big step forward in the sustainable forest business to equally promote the many wood certification programs there are.

For example, let’s take a look at the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) which has many of the same requirements as FSC but they’re just not as well marketed. 100% of the forests that are certified “green” for SFI are in the U.S. Outside of SFI and FSC there are also the ATFS, CSA, and PEFC to name a few (the green building trend may be cut short due to a lack of acronyms). The LEED rating system does not acknowledge any of those organizations which amount to ignoring about 75% of North American certified forests.

To put more numbers to this, Maine’s forest-products industry directly and indirectly supports 55,000 jobs, annually creates more than $3 billion in earnings, and contributes $4.3 billion annually to Maine’s GDP. Essentially, FSC has a monopoly on the “green building” industry and the Governor simply leveled the playing field.

Governor Lepage is not the only one who is keen on the FSC/USGBC monopoly on LEED as there have been 14 other Governors who have written letters to the USGBC requesting that they include other wood certification agencies in their LEED requirements. I suspect that they will soon be following Governor Lepage’s lead on this issue as they see the huge economic void the USGBC is causing with their inanimate rating system. Dare I say that perhaps it’s time to “occupy” the USGBC?



Phil Bowers is VP Business Development for Advanced Cabinet Systems, based in Marion, Indiana. Advanced Cabinet Systems is a Certified AWI Premium Casework Manufacturer, providing design, engineering, manufacturing, delivery and installation for the healthcare, industrial, retail and educational markets.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.