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Ohio legislators look to ditch new green building standards

By: Gayle S. Putrich

March 12, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Ohio state legislature could soon vote to ditch the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED v4 green building standards.

A resolution penned last year by Sens. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland) and Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) encourages the state government to stop using USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building practices when constructing anything with Ohio’s taxpayer dollars, from schools to offices.

The measure was passed by the Senate and now heads to the House, though a vote is not yet scheduled in the second chamber.

The non-biding resolution urges but does not require the state to use a different green building standard because the “LEED v4 green building system fails to conform to recognized voluntary standard development procedures, including but not limited to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) procedures, and fails to base environmental and health criteria on risk assessment methodology,” echoing the complaints many in the plastics industry have voiced on the new LEED v4 standards since before they were introduced last year.

The latest LEED standards include a credit that rewards builders for using certain materials. If a company uses materials that are not on the list, such as foam insulation or vinyl, the project will not earn the points needed to become LEED certified as easily.

Sen. Uecker has said part of the reason he introduced the resolution was because the LEED v4 credits have the potential to isolate certain products, such as vinyl windows, which would isolate an entire industry as undesirable for new construction, which will ultimately cost jobs.

Allen Blakey, vice president for industry and government affairs at the Vinyl Institute in Arlington, Va., is also concerned about the credit and the way the latest version of LEED was designed.

“The material credit is threatening to our material, vinyl, and others,” Blakey said. “We didn’t have a chance to have any meaningful input into that credit.”

The plastics industry and USGBC are at least in agreement on that.

“There’s no question that more member of the chemical and plastic industry could have been involved earlier,” said Jeremy Sigmon, USGBC’s director of technical policy. The green building non-profit is talking with the chemical and plastics industries now, he said, and there will be more back and forth before the next version of LEED standards is released—whenever that may be.

But for now, Sigmon and USGBC see the Uecker resolution in Ohio as “the national chemical lobby taking its aggressive action to the states.”

If LEED was impeding economic growth or job development, Sigmon said, USGBC would be the first to try to fix that. But with major retailers Walmart and Target requiring verifiable chemical and content information from manufactures about products sold on their shelves, the global market is favoring material transparency, he said.

“LEED 4 offers voluntary credits rewarding material transparency,” Sigmon said. “It’s fair to say that… some views of some commenters were not in the majority but that how consensus works. The reality is that the market is already moving that way.”