Former Adversaries Agree to Collaborate on LEED

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Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
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The United States Green Building Council (USGBC), which developed and administers the LEED green building rating system, has announced that it will collaborate with the American Chemical Council (ACC) to advance the LEED standard with help from “the materials science expertise of ACC and its members.”

According to USGBC president, CEO and founding chair Rick Fedrizzi, the collaboration will “ensure the use of sustainable and environmentally protective products in buildings by applying technical and science-based approaches to the LEED green building program.”

Though the ACC has attacked the LEED standard in the past, Fedrizzi said both groups are working to advance the sustainability of the built environment.

The ACC was equally optimistic about the benefits the collaboration should provide.

“By combining USGBC, a leader of the green building movement, with the scientific know-how of ACC, we can develop a path to stronger, science-based standards that achieve measurable progress in sustainability,” said ACC president and CEO Cal Dooley.

LEED is the world’s most widely-used rating tool for green buildings, with more than 56,000 residential units certified to LEED standards. An additional 90,000 homes have been registered. LEED addresses the design, construction, maintenance, and operations of green buildings.

“Modern energy efficiency gains, building safety advances and carbon footprint reductions would not be possible without the products of chemistry,” Dooley said. “From windows to insulation, adhesives to flooring, chemistry provides solutions that enable the energy efficient and sustainable buildings that consumers expect in today’s world.”

In 2004, the ACC, along with timber and petroleum interests, created the Green Building Initiative and licensed the Green Globes rating tool as an alternative to LEED, but the industry groups had been unsuccessful in getting their products recognized by LEED.

Later, the groups began an assault on LEED in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures around the US. They were successful in a few states,  where LEED was banned in favor of Green Globes, and in a majority of states where both rating systems are approved for government contracts.

With the release of the draft of LEED 2012 (later called LEED v4) in 2011, the industry groups noted that the standard had evolved to granting points for avoiding certain materials such as PVC. Industry players lobbied the government to approve Green Globes and ban LEED.

“ACC is greatly concerned that the proposed LEED 2012 rating system will arbitrarily limit important products such as high-tech plastic insulations, reflective roofing membranes and solar panels, and as a result, hurt American manufacturing jobs and drive up taxpayers’ costs,” Dooley said while addressing the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Green Building Advisory Committee in May 2012.

The General Services Administration owns and manages a large number of federal buildings and at the time required LEED certification for its projects.

Two months later, ACC vice president of plastics Steve Russell, testified before the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, telling the committee that the LEED v4 revisions were greatly changed from the previous version.

Russell said the changes would “reduce or eliminate the use of trusted, proven and beneficial products of chemistry used in building and construction products, without regard to American jobs or costs to taxpayers.”

The GSA approved Green Globes in addition to LEED in late 2013.

The ACC also had a hand in creating the American High Performance Building Coalition (AHPBC) to lobby the government for its members, which include the American Coal Ash Association, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Industrial Minerals Association – North America.

In a commentary published in the Washington Post in 2013, after LEED v4 had been approved by the USGBC, AHPBC member Craig Silvertooth wrote that “LEED has a dominating market position in both the public and private sectors. However, as it has grown in popularity, it has clearly outgrown the process used to develop and revise it. The American High Performance Buildings Coalition must be a part of improving the process if LEED is to remain credible and effective for the long term. Excluding industry experts is not a sustainable approach.”

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