New LEED MRc7, Certified Wood Credit Fair But Complex


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.

Sample Benchmark Requirements

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!


Anonymous said...

So basically, if a wood system gets 49% of the credits I need 100% of the wood to meet it to get MR7, if it gets 50% I need 50%, if it gets 60% I need about 34%, and if it gets 80% I only need 17% of my wood to be from an 80% forest to get MR 7, and potentially an innovation credit for 34%.

Sounds easy enough to me! Until you try to do a weighted average of them acoss rating systems. Then you will end up with a mess like 25% of my wood is from a 40% forest, 16% from a 50%, 12% from an 60% and 5% from an 80%... Is that enough?

I can see trying to write the spec section for it now. And asking the poor rough carpentry contractors to help us out? Yeah, this is going to be fun!

Bill Swanson said...

I just found this article. Interesting. Seems other groups are still not to happy with this new standard claiming it was designed to around FSC's system. I do wonder why USGBC would care who's on the board of directors for a wood certification standard.

joelmckellar said...

That is an interesting article, if somewhat unsurprising. I can understand the board membership clauses, presumably intended to reduce lumber industry influences over the standards, though if a bunch of lumber industry types create a standard that meets all of the environmental criteria decided it does seem unfair to exclude it based on board membership.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that the composition of the Board matters that much - in the end, board members are required to act as individuals, and not as representatives of their respective organizations.

It would be way more interesting to know where the funding of the respective certification system actually comes from. As we all know, money rules!

Anonymous said...

Public Comment #3 is now open for a couple of weeks.