MINNEAPOLIS, MINN — Open for public comment now, the third draft of LEED 2012 offers improvements but still falls short of its stated goal: driving market transformation to sustainability.

While the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) recognizes and appreciates the substantial effort the staff and technical advisors at the USGBC invested in addressing weaknesses in earlier drafts, significant changes are still required for LEED 2012 to drive market demand for products from responsibly managed forests.

When it comes from responsibly managed, FSC-certified sources, wood is among the most environmentally friendly building materials — a fact LEED should recognize and reward.

Yet if approved as written, the third draft would represent a step backwards from the current Certified Wood Credit, which has directly encouraged tens of millions of acres of forest conservation and responsible management in the United States and Canada.

“LEED continues to recognize FSC as the only credible forest certification standard, which is a great step in the right direction,” said Corey Brinkema, President of FSC-US. “To drive the market for wood from responsibly managed forests, incentives must be clear and appropriately weighted,” he added.

To transform the marketplace and promote environmental performance, LEED must accomplish two objectives: 1) Set the bar high by accepting only leadership standards; and 2) Create enough incentive for building projects to meet or exceed this bar.

The third draft of LEED 2012 achieves the first objective but not the second.

FSC is widely accepted as the most credible forest certification system, in large part because of its positive impacts in forests in North America and beyond. With strong and diverse support from organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Kimberly-Clark, The Home Depot and HP, FSC is the most prescriptive and rigorous forest management and conservation standard, going well beyond what is required by law.

“As a manager of FSC-certified forests, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of FSC,” said Mike Jani, President and Chief Forester for Humboldt Redwood Company. “Protecting the diversity and values associated with forest ecosystems including old growth stands, streams, and habitat for native species are key parts of FSC and hallmarks of responsible forest management. LEED provides an important market signal for us to continue managing to FSC’s high standards,” he added.

Improvements still needed in LEED 2012 include creating clear incentives for projects to meet FSC’s high bar. By providing up to five points for use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)-based disclosure tools, LEED 2012 reduces the incentives for compliance with high performance standards like FSC. And the calculations used for materials to qualify for points under the Raw Materials Extraction Credit are out of line with the reality faced by designers, especially in commercial and institutional construction.

Since LCA tools alone cannot yet be relied upon to make responsible product decisions, leadership performance standards and LCA-based disclosure tools are complements that must work hand in hand. Because there are enormous gaps in current LCA methodology, the Raw Materials Extraction Credit in LEED 2012 needs to be a robust complement to the Disclosure Credits. We’re not there yet.

Read a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the third draft of LEED 2012here.

Read a recent consensus statement from environmental groups and design firms, “Driving Leadership in Performance and Disclosure in LEED 2012”here.

Source: Forest Stewardship Council – US

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