EPD  |  Green Globes  |  NAHB |  LEED |  Fact Sheets

The U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)TM program is the most widely recognized green building program in the United States. There are currently two version of the LEED rating system to which buildings can be certified: LEED 2009 and LEEDv4. In 2015, LEED 2009 will be phased-out in favor of the more science-based approach to green building incorporated in LEEDv4. Despite improvements contained in LEEDv4, the USGBC continues to use a development process that is not transparent and for that reason should not be the only program adopted by government. For private, commercial use of the LEED rating systems, LEEDv4 is favored over LEED 2009. With some procedural improvements, the LEED rating system could achieve its stated goal of improving the environmental performance of the entire building industry.

Of specific interest to the wood products industry are the provisions contained in the Materials and Resources Chapter. Unlike LEED 2009, there are credits in LEEDv4 allowing wood products to compete in manner that recognizes wood's favorable environmental attributes. Specifically, Life Cycle Assessment has been incorporated, allowing for a whole building comparison of environmental impacts between popular structural materials. Many existing LCA reports clearly demonstrate the lower environmental impacts associated with the manufacturing, construction, and end-of-life scenarios of wood products. Additionally, LEEDv4 recognizes products that have a qualified Environmental Product Declaration conforming to ISO 14025 and ISO 21930. Although merely the existence of an industry-wide or product specific EPD earns points, the transparency associated with EPDs will eventually lead to a better understanding of how products score across a range of environmental impacts. Wood products are a vital component of sound architectural design and facilitate ease of quality design and construction. Wood is among the most environmentally benign of all building materials, because, among other things, it is a renewable resource that sequesters huge amounts of carbon.

LEEDv4 continues to discriminate against the two largest sustainable forestry programs in the U.S.: Despite many positive changes in LEEDv4, the rating system only recognizes forest products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). No value is awarded to wood products produced by companies independently third-party certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) Program standard or the American Tree Farm System® – the two largest sustainable forest management systems in the U.S. LEEDv4 has created an equivalency clause for products certified by these programs allowing them to gain recognition, unfortunately the process associated with demonstrating equivalency has not been implemented by USGBC.

The USGBC has not developed LEED in a consensus process open to all interested parties: The process USGBC uses to create and maintain LEED does not meet any generally accepted criteria for the development of a consensus standard. The USGBC fails to meet most of the measures of a successful standards development process as set out by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).