MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- The newest draft of the LEED 2012 standard, the sustainable building criteria managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, offers improvements but still falls short, says a critique issued by the Forest Stewardship Council.

FSC's major concern: LEED 2012 doesn't do enough to encourage architects and builders to use more lumber from forests under sustainable chain of custody programs. LEED is the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

LEED is accepting comments on the LEED 2012 until March 20.

"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 in a statement issued Saturday. "To drive the market for wood from responsibly managed forests, incentives must be clear and appropriately weighted."

LEED 2012 Proposal Fails Lumber Industry, Says FSCUSGBC's existing LEED scheme favored FSC-certified lumber sourcing, a situation that generated a reaction against it win some quarters of the lumber and wood products industry - especially U.S. producers. FSC says more than 4,000 companies and 35 million acres of forestland are certified under FSC standards in the United States; 140 million acres are FSC certified in North America.

The governor of Maine issued an executive order effectively barring state-funded green building projects from using the LEED standard. Because no Maine forests are FSC-certified, the state's lumber industry cannot supply LEED projects.

Wood industry advocates have long criticized LEED as giving short shrift to the inherent green qualities in wood used in construction and interiors. While USGBC has emphasized commercial building projects so far, it is expanding LEED in residential construction. This month USGBC and Home Depot announced a LEED-points materials website: leedhomedepot.com

FSC says the LEED 2012 draft provides too many points for practices - such as five points for use of Life Cycle Assessment-based disclosure tools, while reducing incentives for materials to qualify for points under the Raw Materials Extraction Credit, which FSC says "are out of line with the reality faced by designers, especially in commercial and institutional construction." (FSC's critique of LEED 2012 is available as a PDF here.)

While FSC says it "recognizes and appreciates the substantial effort the staff and technical advisors at the USGBC invested in addressing weaknesses in earlier drafts," there is not enough attention to wood in the third draft of LEED 2012 says the FSC statement.

"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," FSC says. LEED 2012 represents "a step backwards" from the current Certified Wood Credit, which has encouraged forest conservation and responsible management in the United States and Canada.

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