ANNAPOLIS, MD. (July 18, 5 p.m. ET) — More than 27 building and construction associations have formed the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition to support the development of sustainable building standards that are based on consensus and scientific performance data.
The announcement of the new coalition is the latest salvo in the battle between chemical, plastic and vinyl manufacturers and the U.S. Green Building Council and its green building standard known as LEED — the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
The majority of the groups in the new coalition — including the Vinyl Institute, the American Chemistry Council, the Vinyl Siding Institute, the Flexible Vinyl Alliance and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. — argue that USGBC has developed its LEED standards with a disregard for science, without involving industry and without using a consensus-based approach as is done by organizations such as the American National Standards Institute
Smack dab in the center of the disagreement is USGBC's continuing effort earlier this year to discourage the use of vinyl in construction.
The announcement of the coalition July 18 comes as the General Services Administration is reviewing whether to continue using LEED as the green building standards for the federal government. GSA could decide to switch to either the Green Globes or the Living Building Challenge rating systems.
LEED is the most-used green building standards globally, as well as in the United States, where more than 400 cities and communities, 39 states and 14 federal agencies currently require builders to meet LEED standards.
However, nearly 60 members of Congress have sent a letter to GSA asking it to reconsider its endorsement of LEED if certain anti-chemical provisions are not removed.
“We are deeply concerned that the LEED rating system is becoming a tool to punish chemical companies and plastics makers and spread misinformation about materials that have been at the forefront of improving environmental performance—and even occupant safety—in buildings,” said the letter. “This transformation [of LEED] into an anti-chemical system runs counter to the government's objectives of increasing energy efficiency and utilizes a European standard called REACH [when] U.S. manufacturers have [had] no ability to participate in the development” of that standard.
The latest uproar stems from USGBC's attempt earlier this year to give builders a material avoidance credit under LEED for not using vinyl. That flap caused USGBC to delay its planned revision and member vote last month on the latest version of LEED – called LEEDv4 — until June 2013, after it issues a revision and another draft for public comment on Oct. 2.
“To the dismay of many industry trade groups and manufacturers, LEED 2012 proposes ‘chemical avoidance credits' that would serve to de-select many products containing PVC including roofing materials, floor products, wall coverings, piping, insulation, paints and adhesives,” said Kevin Ott, executive director of the Flexible Vinyl Alliance, in his July newsletter to members.
Craig Silvertooth, president of the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, and a member of the new coalition, agreed.
“Green building certification systems and standards should promote the use of ... today's highest performing building materials [that] combine long-term durability with energy efficient properties and numerous other environmental benefits ... rather than penalize their selection” as LEED attempts to do, Silvertooth said.
“We are concerned with the continued scrutiny of PVC products and the lack of consensus decision-making by USGBC,” said Bill Hall, a partner with the Washington law firm of Venable LLP in a presentation at the vinyl compounders conference of SPI's vinyl products division, held July 16-18 in Annapolis.
“We need to do something or we will only have delayed a potential defeat” in 10 year-long battle with USGBC over LEED. “And we have to have the dialogue [with USGBC] before Oct. 2.
Industry also is up in arms over USGBC's effort in its latest planned LEED revision to give companies material avoidance credits if their materials comply with the REACH program in Europe.
“That has significant adverse implications for U.S. companies that do not market in Europe and also would import a European standard into the U.S.—without any explanation from USGBC about how companies who haven't have been subject to reach would comply with that,” Hall said.
With the creation of the new coalition, Hall said the industry was “pulling out all the stops to do battle with the USGBC.”
The coalition said it would work to promote and support performance-based building codes, standards and rating systems that are developed in conformance with an ANSI-style approach where a balance of interests are represented in an open and transparent fashion to achieve consensus.
“We believe this is the best way to create high-performing buildings that are energy efficient and practical to implement,” said Stephen Eule, vice president of climate and technology at the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy. “The U.S. Chamber is pleased to be part of this important coalition to advocate for sustainable building using science, performance and consensus-based standards.”
“As energy efficiency and building performance become increasingly important priorities for the public and private sectors, green building standards and rating systems should be based on the best available data, gathered from a range of stakeholder with relevant expertise,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the ACC. “This coalition brings together industry leaders ... who will ... advocate for performance- and consensus-based standards for green building [as] the best way to achieve exceptional energy-efficiency.”
Building use approximately 40 percent of the energy in the United States.
The other members of the coalition are the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Adhesive and Sealant Council, the American Coatings Association, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Supply Association, the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association, the EPDM Roofing Association, the Expanded Polystyrene Industry Alliance, the Extruded Polystyrene Foam Association, the Industrial Minerals Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the Plastic Pipe & Fittings Association, the Polyisocyanurate Manufactures Association, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, the Southern Forest Products Association, the Treated Wood Council, and the Windows & Door Manufacturers Association.