Following a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) vote that failed to pass a wood-certification benchmark, the Forest Stewardship Council's U.S. chapter (FSC-US) has urged the council to continue to strive for a benchmark by sending out a revised ballot.
"Closing a few unintended loopholes and giving prerequisite status to several optional credits within the current benchmark would likely garner the support of the U.S. conservation community and building industry professionals who recently voted 'no' in order to keep the LEED standard for forests high," FSC-U.S. President Corey Brinkema said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
At present, USGBC isn't actively considering a new vote. Rather, when it announced the results on Monday, USGBC said it expects to revisit the wood-certification benchmarks issue as part of its comprehensive review of all parts of LEED.
At present, the FSC is the sole organization whose wood certification scheme is recognized by USGBC's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program for green construction. Buildings that use FSC-certified wood can qualify for one point in the LEED rating system.
A number of other organizations also have wood-certification systems, in particular the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC). Those groups--particularly SFI--have argued to USGBC for years that wood certified under their programs also should qualify for LEED points. In reply, FSC has argued that those other schemes would lower the standards for forest management. Environmental groups also have argued that SFI is too closely tied to the forestry industry, even though SFI argues that it has become a completely separate body. FSC, in contrast, has its roots in the environmental movement.
Brinkema said FSC-US "remains unequivocally committed to a strong independent benchmark for the certified wood credit in LEED, one that sets the forest management principles captured in FSC certification as the floor rather than the ceiling."
Forest conservation is one of the key reasons why FSC maintains such high standards, Brinkema said.
"High standards are working, as demonstrated by the fact that in the 10 years since the LEED program has recognized FSC, North American forests certified under FSC standards have grown in size from less than 10 million acres to more than 130 million," he said. (SFI and others, meanwhile, argue that they have far more acreage certified under their programs than does FSC.)
The proposed benchmark, which received a 55% "yes" to 42% "no" vote, failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The benchmark was vigorously opposed by both FSC and SFI, but for quite different reasons.
After the vote, SFI president and CEO Kathy Abusow said the proposal's failure "marks a new opportunity to work with the USGBC and other interests to find an alternative and workable solution moving forward." But a few words later she also suggested in effect that SFI was going to give up fighting over LEED recognition and instead push customers to pick SFI-certified wood for other reasons.
"For now," Abusow said, "the building community should forgo the one point in the certified wood credit and use SFI-certified products in LEED buildings to demonstrate their pride and support for North American forests, communities, and jobs."