Chemical groups upset about new LEED standard

Several groups representing the plastics, vinyl and chemical industries are unhappy with a new LEED standard in USGBC’s LEEDv4, the organization’s latest proposed update to the LEED rating system. 

The voluntary credit is given to projects that avoid “chemicals of concern” when choosing building materials.

The proposed credit exists so that building occupants can avoid potentially hazardous substances. Those applying for LEED certification do not have to fulfill the credit, but receive an extra point for doing so.

Materials manufactured from “chemicals of concern” could include heat-reflecting roofing membranes, PVC piping and foam insulation, according to the American Chemistry Council, one of the trade groups opposing the proposed standards.

ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley says the USGBC is forcing “builders and architects away from proven building products” in a news release on the organization’s website.

The group, along with The Vinyl Institute, has been lobbying to stop the General Services Administration from adopting the proposed LEEDv4. Adoption of the new standard could eliminate hundreds of their building materials from being used in projects.

The GSA currently uses LEED as a guideline for new construction and renovation of federally-owned facilities. Recently, GSA increased its minimum requirement for projects to earn LEED Gold certification, a step up from LEED Silver.
The group sent a letter to GSA signed by a group of 18 senators asking GSA to discontinue the use of LEED if those measures are not removed.

“In the interest of energy efficiency and good building science, I hope USGBC opens up the process to truly consider the expertise of key stakeholders, addresses the ongoing concerns reiterated today by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, and discards its punitive approach that limits building and construction products and hurts American manufacturing,” Dooley concluded.

The letter was led by Louisiana Senators Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R).

“The proposed LEED 2012 rating system could significantly undermine the goal of improving energy efficiency, and ultimately could undermine our economy,” Vitter said. “The USGBC really needs to reconsider their policies in determining what makes both economic and environmental sense.”

USGBC has pushed back the ballot to adopt LEED v4 until June 1, 2013 to give more time for stakeholders and those in the building industry to adjust.

The council will open up an unprecedented fifth round of public comment in October.

Meanwhile, the American Sustainable Business Council is criticizing ACC for politically attacking the USGBC.

The ASBC is composed of 50 business associations across the United States, representing over 150,000 businesses and 300,000 business executives, owners, investors, and others, according to the group’s website.

CEO David Levine said that eliminating the credit would be a disservice to entrepreneurs who “use the best science to create safer, healthier chemicals and products.”

“This is not a time to attack USGBC’s first chemicals of concerns credit, but to applaud it and to continue to do more to foster an economy that utilizes smart, cutting-edge business practices based on quality science,” Levine said.

Read GBRI’s analysis on LEED V4.0 as compared to LEED 2009 in the HPAC magazine and earn 1 CE hour FREE.

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