Once again, there is discussion in the U.S. Green Building Council (“USGBC”) to allow other wood certifying organizations to have a place within the LEED guidelines for green construction. The new Pilot Credit 43 [PDF] for certified products would allow several wood certifications — e.g., Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, American Tree Farm — to contribute to a point under the trial credit.

For several years now, the issue of wood certification within LEED has been contentious. A move to recognize other certification standards went through rounds of comments and revisions before it was ultimately defeated, but the conflict has continued.

The new pilot credit would recognize non-FSC wood rating systems for having some benefit, even if the pilot credit does not give them the full standing that FSC has within LEED.  For example, Pilot Credit 43 only applies to non-structural products and materials, while Credit 7 for FSC-certified wood applies to “wood building components” including “structural framing and general dimensional framing, flooring, sub-flooring, wood doors and finishes.

On the one hand, the benefit of allowing other certification bodies to be included helps to broaden the market and makes it more likely that wood used in new projects will have at least some degree of sustainability. But, on the other hand, defenders of FSC wood point to the “Leadership” in LEED and argue that the other wood certification bodies do not represent as progressive a certification as FSC, and should therefore not be allowed for LEED.

Although using FSC-certified wood is less of an issue in LEED for Homes (“LEED-H”) than it is in commercial construction, if this pilot credit is adopted, it will likely have ramifications in all LEED rating systems including LEED-H.  Pilot Credit 43 is not currently available for testing in LEED-H projects, but decisions made in the core LEED system will have a likely impact on future versions of LEED-H.

The pilot credit is focused on transparency in providing information about life cycles, ingredients, and material attributes. To this end, not only forest products but a range of building materials can contribute to LEED certification through this pilot credit.  For example, certain materials and products with Cradle to Cradle or Energy Star certifications may contribute to receiving the credit.

Let us know what you think about the new certified products pilot credit.

First noticed on Builder Online.