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Comments sought on LEED certification

A 30-day public comment period that started on Aug. 8 may have opened the door to wood certification programs and lumber dealers who claim they’ve been shut out of participating in the LEED green building rating system. The U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization that administers the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system, has announced it is re-evaluating the way it awards credits for certified wood.

Comments are being solicited through the group’s Web site,  www.usgbc.org, until Sept. 7.

Up until this point, LEED has only recognized wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This excludes a number of other certifying bodies, including Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Canadian Standards Association, the American Tree Farm System and the Canadian PEFC standards.

The U.S. Green Building Council said it has been studying the issue for two years “with input from a widely diverse set of stakeholders” and internationally recognized forestry experts. Under a proposal now being considered, current and future wood certification programs would be measured against a set of benchmarks to determine if they qualify for credit under LEED.

“It was clear from our extensive research that the increasing internationalization of the wood supply chain, the changing ownership structure of American forests and the increasing diversity of wood certification programs globally demanded a more holistic, transparent approach,” said Brendan Owens, vp-LEED technical development, in the U.S. Green Building Council announcement.

One group of vocal stakeholders has been lumberyard owners, who object to the expense of FSC-certification, the difficulty of sourcing FSC-certified wood and what they consider to be onerous chain-of-custody requirements. Pro dealers also say they’ve been precluded from bidding on many municipal, state and commercial jobs because they lacked FSC certification

The National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association (NLBMDA) and a number of state LBM trade organizations are urging their members to send their feedback on the proposal comments to the U.S. Green Building Council. The NLBMDA is also compiling its members’ comments on providing FSC lumber versus other types of certified wood, chain of custody issues, obtaining certification for FSC and/or SFI wood, and the demand from customers for these products. Comments should be sent to  colleen@dealer.org by Friday, Aug. 22.