LEED rules attacked by SFI as 'artificial'

SFI Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program, has issued a statement criticizing the third and latest draft of LEED 2012 for only issuing LEED points or credits for certified wood that is “FSC or better.”

SFI maintains that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which administers the LEED program, continues to put up artificial barriers, shutting out 75% of North America’s forests that are certified by programs other than the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

“This new language raises more issues than it resolves: Who will decide what is ‘better than FSC’ and on what basis?” asked Kathy Abusow, SFI’s president and CEO. “SFI clearly has requirements that are not matched by FSC standards, a fact that continues to go unrecognized by the USGBC.”

In response, Ashley Katz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Green Building Council, said that the LEED rating system is designed “to choose materials that have verified green credentials. LEED references today's best certifications and labels for all materials, including wood but retains the flexibility to allow recognition for new, emerging and substantially improved certifications that may appear between versions. This approach is consistent throughout the rating system, including in the energy, water, location and indoor environmental quality categories.”

LEED 2012 is still in public comment stage; the deadline is March 20. “We welcome and encourage input,” Katz said. Comments can be submitted at usgbc.org/leed2012.

Abusow of the SFI urged supporters of forest certification to vote no and send USGBC a message that it is time to accept all forest certification programs if LEED cares about responsible forestry.