Green-Building Standards Update Draws Fire | July 2, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 27 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 27 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: July 2, 2012

Green-Building Standards Update Draws Fire

Energy: Proposed update to rating system sparks concern
Department: Government & Policy
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: LEED, building standards, House of Representatives
LEED certification is recognized by a plaque, such as this one displayed outside ACS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Credit: Robert Bryson/C&EN
LEED certification plaque outside ACS building. Taken June 28, 2012.
LEED certification is recognized by a plaque, such as this one displayed outside ACS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Credit: Robert Bryson/C&EN

Members of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee are moving to prevent the General Services Administration (GSA) from adopting a proposed green-building rating standard that would discourage use of certain chemicals and plastics in construction.

The standard, called the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), is a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council, an industry trade group. The system gauges how “green” a building is on the basis of various factors, including the type of materials used in construction. The council is in the midst of revising the LEED system in a way that would encourage builders and architects to avoid materials that contain “chemicals of concern,” such as polyvinyl chloride and titanium dioxide. Council members are scheduled to vote on whether to adopt the changes in June 2013.

Federal law requires GSA, which manages most of the federal government’s building projects, to evaluate various green-building certification systems every five years. The government has been using the council’s LEED system as the exclusive green-building standard since 2007.

Chemical industry lobbyists have been urging lawmakers to force GSA to reconsider. A draft spending bill, approved by the House Appropriations Committee in late June, would bar GSA from spending money related to LEED standards, unless the Department of Energy has reviewed and approved them.

In a report accompanying the draft spending bill, Appropriations Committee members say they are concerned that “GSA’s current green building policies and practices are tailored to reflect the standards of a specific third-party certification system rather than the public interest in greater energy and water efficiency.”

The report notes that sustainability goals can be achieved through proper building maintenance and systems for rating energy efficiency, in addition to building design and the selection of construction materials.

The American Chemistry Council, an association of chemical manufacturers, says it is concerned that the proposed materials restrictions in the update to LEED will “arbitrarily limit important products such as high-tech plastic insulations, reflective roofing membranes, and solar panels, and as a result, hurt U.S. manufacturing jobs and drive up taxpayers’ costs.”

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