How I Learned to Accept a Change from Simple Imperfection to Torturous Accuracy
Yesterday the USGBC released the 2nd draft of the proposal for a new MRc7, Certified Wood credit for LEED-NC, LEED-Schools, LEED-CI, LEED-CS, and LEED-EBOM. You may remember that this was ultimately spurred by the lumber industry's complaints about how their own certification label, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), was unfairly excluded from the LEED credit which only recognized the Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) more rigorous requirements. You can view the results of a report comparing various lumber certification schemes here. The new proposal is lengthy enough that I thought a summary here, with some commentary, might be useful to you guys.
More Complexity Please
As a result the USGBC's consensus-based process for developing new standards has developed a more inclusive and equitable standard for ranking the standards called the USGBC Forest Certification Benchmark. The new approach is a sort of LEED system within LEED where if a particular forest certification standard complies with over 48 prerequisites and more than 40% of the 32 voluntary credits (sound familiar?), you may attribute the cost of those products towards your "certified wood" percentage needed to earn credit MRc7.
A sample from page 10 of the benchmark requirements
The more a particular scheme complies with with the voluntary requirements, the greater the relative value of that product you may contribute to hitting your 50% (based on cost) certified wood threshold needed to earn the credit (click here for the new LEED-NC credit draft for yourself):
Really compliant schemes now are worth 3x as they actually cost
This may all sound a bit ridiculous, but to be fair, the requirements themselves all seem make good sense and is necessary to thwart claims that the USGBC is in the back pocket of any particular certification body. By establishing a standard for standards, the USGBC can simply point out the deficiencies of any particular standard instead of (seemingly) arbitrarily accepting or rejecting individual groups. I'm by no means a sustainable forestry expert, but given the 1,800 comments received on the first draft I'd be amazed if anything substantial slipped through the cracks.
Please Follow Through With This!
"Building project teams will not be required to determine if a particular forest certification scheme meets the Benchmark’s requirements." So says the executive summary of the proposal, and I can't stress enough how important it is that the USGBC make it extremely easy for LEED APs to find out the status of one certification system over another. If I had it my way, I would only review certification schemes every two years and list all accepted schemes in the reference guide. If it's not in there tough luck, there's always LEED 2011. It's extremely important that I don't need to become an expert on the shifting forest certification system policy... All the USGBC has released on this end of the revisions is the Forest Certification Benchmark Conformance Assessment Process draft, which is a little light on details.
At a minimum, the USGBC should clearly indicate where to find a COMPLETE list of the current status of any particular forest certification system on the USGBC website, preferably on a URL that never changes. This website should be listed not just in the reference guide but also in the rating system itself.
Will my project be affected?
Though the new standard will only be required if you register a project after the date the credit is accepted (still a ways off). Once accepted though, you are permitted to use the new option in existing projects (v2009 or earlier) as an alternative compliance option.
Last Chance to Change
If you're vehemently opposed to this new system or you have some thoughts on how to improve it, you have until October 15th, 2009 to make your voice heard. Anyone can comment, not just USGBC members, but when it comes up for vote it's members only. I'm also curious to hear your thoughts hear, so please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!
Just noticed this is the 100th post!