Posts Tagged ‘USGBC’
January 11th, 2013 at 4:02 pm
CFIF Files Official Comment Opposing Monopolistic LEED Certification Standard
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We at CFIF have filed an official public comment with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), opposing imposition of an economically-destructive and scientifically-dubious monopolistic LEED certification standard:

On behalf of 300,000 supporters and activists throughout the nation, the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) respectfully but firmly exhorts the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) against monopolistic LEED certification standards, including many of its proposed LEED v4 standards, that rely on biased and scientifically-dubious policies, raise prices, reduce consumer choice, cost American jobs and harm domestic industry in favor of overseas competitors.  American consumers and businesses are entitled to make informed choices, and to act upon them in purchasing decisions.  Free and open certification processes that allow businesses to choose the system that best fits their profile, and allows consumers choice in the marketplace, will increase ‘green’ products available in consumer and building markets.”

As we point out, environmental ideologues seek to impose a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification monopoly.  As part of that campaign, they’ve pressured Fortune 500 companies, as well as federal, state and municipal governments to satisfy their agenda.   As a consequence, the market has become increasingly distorted, with real costs for domestic producers of wood products and fewer affordable choices for consumers,  but no measurable environmental benefit.  That policy also penalizes businesses that invested in alternative certification systems; favors foreign competitors in places like Russia, China and Brazil; discourages use of common building materials and products regularly found in construction projects like PVC piping, foam insulation, heat-reflective roofing and LED lighting; and jeopardizes American jobs, which explains why the International Association of Machinists and other unions whose rank-and-file members’ jobs are at risk favor recognition of other certifications than solely FSC to ensure the viability of tree farms in rural communities.

Fortunately, many in Congress agree with CFIF.  A bipartisan group of 74 legislators wrote the GSA and objected to the proposed changes.  Another letter from 56 members of the House to GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini objected to the changes, and stated the agency should reconsider the USGBC’s LEED rating system should the proposed changes occur.  In addition, at a July 19 House Government and Oversight Committee hearing, Congressional leaders raised concerns over the restrictive and arbitrary LEED process and the high costs the proposed changes will impose on American manufacturing and other sectors vital to U.S. economic recovery.

Additionally, a new USA Today special report found little link between “green buildings” and learning or energy use:

The green-school boom, a powerful and often costly phenomenon, is being driven largely by the Green Building Council, whose promise of student improvement and long-term cost savings has support from environmental and health advocates, teachers unions, school designers and the Department of Education. …  But a USA TODAY review of school-test records, LEED-certification documents and research reports shows little correlation between “green schools” and student performance or energy use.”

Although the objective of constructing more energy-efficient buildings may be a laudable goal, the closed process by which LEED standards are determined exacerbates the potential adverse economic effects listed above.  Meanwhile, other, alternative green building ratings systems place greater reliance on data, science and a consensus from various stakeholders.  Therefore, the better policy is to encourage sustainable development by recognizing all credible certification program options.

December 13th, 2012 at 5:01 pm
New Studies Show Need For LEED Reform
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Earlier this year, we examined how land management regulations for our forests significantly alter economic activity in timber markets.  Since that time, more recent reports and studies underscore the importance of maintaining a level regulatory playing field, and how policies based on faulty assumptions can have economic and environmental consequences.

Specifically, forest certification programs like the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) recognize when a landowner or business complies with benchmarks that signify responsible forest management.  Tree farmers and businesses seek “certification” from these groups to preserve their property and sell “green” goods in the market.  Numerous studies and testimony from land managers and conservationists support all three systems as beneficial to the environment.  However, environmental activists continue to pressure private companies and government officials nationwide to favor FSC over the other two programs, which themselves certify tens of millions more acres of forests in America than FSC.

Specifically, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED system only defines FSC-certified wood as sustainable.  As a result, SFI or ATFS timber cannot enter LEED projects, of which there are more than 13,000 nationwide.  The USGBC is nominally a nonprofit organization, but local, state and federal agencies accept its guidelines without question, and mandate them in building projects.

The National Legal Policy Center underscored the wrongheadedness of that framework in a recent white paper entitled “The Ethics of Forest Certification: When Unintended Consequences Result.” The paper explains the anti-competitive nature of the LEED system, and how it forces taxpayer dollars to finance projects to benefit a private organization – FSC – over its competitors.  Additionally, the paper questions whether consumers get a “bang for their buck” when they pay price premiums in excess of 15% for FSC wood.  These questions occur due to documentation of “clear-cuts” of forests on FSC-certified land overseas, and the fact that FSC recognizes 90% of its forests in countries outside the U.S. – many of them with lower environmental standards.

The American Consumer Institute published another study, “Comparing Forest Certification Standards in the U.S.,” which highlights how the actual practices of certification programs in the U.S. do not always match public perceptions.  The study shows auditors for FSC readily acknowledging discrepancies between FSC’s implementation on the ground, and how land managers and FSC differ on common definitions for forestry terms.   This confusion leads to companies “leaving clumps of unmerchantable trees in scattered areas, usually in riparian areas, draws and inaccessible corners” on FSC property in the southern U.S.”

Given the anti-competitive nature of the current LEED rating system, the negligible environmental benefits of an FSC-only regime and the misinformation resulting from these frameworks, the time is long overdue to support a level playing field that allows all certification programs to compete equally among consumers, businesses and foresters.

A freer market would be a better market.

October 29th, 2012 at 2:20 pm
USA Today Analysis: “Green” Certification Means Big Tax Breaks for Builders, But Little Environmental Benefit
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Last week, graciously ran our commentary “End the USGBC Green Certification Monopoly,” in which we asserted that adopting the proposed LEEDv4 standard in its current incarnation as the new government-approved rule is unacceptable, and called for the era of the USGBC’s taxpayer-subsidized monopoly to come to an end.

Now, a damning USA Today analysis concludes that the certification regime allows thousands of “green” builders win tax breaks, exceed local restrictions and win expedited permits with meaningless, easy and low-cost steps:

Across the United States, the Green Building Council has helped thousands of developers win tax breaks and grants, charge higher rents, exceed local building restrictions and get expedited permitting by certifying them as ‘green’ under a system that often rewards minor, low-cost steps that have little or no proven environmental benefit, a USA TODAY analysis has found.

The council has certified 13,500 commercial buildings in the U.S. as green and become one of the most influential forces in building design by helping persuade public officials and private builders to follow its rating system, known as LEED.  More than 200 states, cities and federal agencies now require LEED certification for new public buildings, even though they have done little independent and meaningful research into LEED’s effectiveness. LEED can add millions to construction costs while promising to cut utility bills and other expenses.”

Importantly, the analysis also highlights the self-interest that often underlies such LEED advocacy:

There are now LEED-certified breweries, stadiums, dormitories, bus depots, parking garages, shopping malls, libraries, fire stations, warehouses, boathouses, locker rooms and prison buildings.  LEED’s growth has been driven partly by the building council itself, a 13,000-member non-profit chiefly run by architects, builders and building suppliers. Many specialize in — and profit from — the type of design the council certifies and promotes. The council collects up to $35,000 in fees for each LEED certification.  Building council members have boosted their own LEED-related businesses by helping persuade officials to require or reward LEED certification.  LEED also helps developers market buildings to tenants and investors and collect higher rents and sales prices, University of California economist Nils Kok said.

‘A lot of the fuel for LEED, to be honest, is marketing advantage,’ said Bill Walsh, executive director of the Healthy Building Network, which promotes non-toxic building materials. ‘People are interested in how they get the (LEED) credits, not in thinking deeply about it.'”

As one illustration, the study notes, “The most popular LEED option – earned in 99.7% of the buildings – has no direct environmental benefit but generates millions of dollars for the building council by giving one point if a design team has a LEED expert.”

In other words, government-facilitated, make-work cronyism at its worst.

This report merely confirms CFIF’s point:  LEEDv4 is an unacceptable government-imposed standard, the USGBC’s monopoly must end, the core mission of LEED must be reformed and the federal government must allow greater flexibility and the use of alternative green building certification systems.