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.