Certified Wood: A New Approach
Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) Principles and Criteria to earn one point.The requirement for earning the certified wood credit in LEED has always been easy to understand: 50 percent of all new wood-based products and materials in a project must be certified in accordance with the
Simplicity aside, others in the forestry industry have been unhappy with FSC’s exclusivity, particularly the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Many environmentalists criticize SFI for being too cozy with its developer, the American Forest & Paper Association, a trade group and forest product companies. However, SFI and some furniture manufacturers have been urging USGBC, for years, to recognize other wood certification programs in addition to FSC.
USGBC released a credit revision for certified wood last week. The proposed new credit provides an opening for SFI, though it doesn’t appear to get them there quite yet. If enacted, a still-to-be-established process would be used to evaluate whether a wood certification program meets the criteria of the new "Forest Certification System Benchmark." This measurable benchmark establishes transparent criteria, a direction USGBC wants to take all its LEED referenced standards.
It is widely assumed that FSC will likely meet the new criteria, while SFI will not. Here’s the genius of this proposed change: non-conforming programs will receive feedback on the modifications necessary to become compliant. I’m not eager to see FSC dethroned as LEED’s sole wood certification program—it’s a great organization that has been protecting our world’s forests for many years. But I am in favor of raising the bar by forcing SFI to get its act together or get out of the way.
The long term success of this strategy is entirely dependent on the adequacy of the provisions of the new benchmark. It’s up to us, the green design community, to weigh in on that. Following the protocols established for all major changes to LEED, the certified wood credit revisions are open for public comment and will eventually go to the USGBC membership for ratification.