The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced Aug. 27 that they will be working together on a new initiative that applies science-based approaches to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building program.
Yes, the ACC and USGBC will be working together.
The collaboration surprises many who have watched the two groups and their supporters duke it out for years within the USGBC over chemical disclosures and whether certain plastic products were being discouraged as well as outside the USGBC in several states. Earlier this year in Ohio, the state's senators voted to ban the latest version of the program — LEED v4 — over a so-called lack of technical standards that could hurt the area's manufacturers of foam insulation and vinyl products.
So why the seemingly sudden change from contention to cooperation?
All those heated debates turned into some fruitful talks, according to Taryn Holowka, the USGBC's vice president of marketing and communications.
“ACC and USGBC entered into a constructive discussion about ACC's concerns with LEEDv4, and in turn [it] led to this groundbreaking agreement to work together to advance LEED around building material use,” Holowka said in an email.
Ann Kolton, the ACC's vice president of communication, put it this way in a phone interview: “Over time it became apparent something could be gained by combining our expertise in building materials, science and technology, and their expertise in sustainability and green buildings. We really do both have very similar goals. This is an effort to try to bring those unique areas of expertise together and share information and try to develop approaches that are science-based and incorporate life-cycle analysis as well as sustainability.”
To that end, USGBC has established a working group — formally to be called the Supply Chain Optimization Group — made up of ACC staff, experts from ACC member companies and USGBC experts who will discuss how building materials are addressed in LEED.
LEED is updated regularly through a process that includes public comments, technical review and balloting. USGBC and ACC will work within that framework to incorporate any changes.
“Our goal is to get things started right away and achieve a solid outcome as soon as possible,” Holowka said. “We are not currently focused on a specific timeline. We want to get the approach right.”
The new group will be able to take advantage of its strength and experience in advancing sustainability in the built environment, according to Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC president, CEO and founding chair.
“The looming impacts of climate change and the possibilities of improving human health and wellbeing favor collaboration and engagement as key strategies,” he said in a news release. “The goal is forward progress.”
Gains in energy efficiency gains, advances in building safety and reductions in carbon footprints wouldn't be possible without the products of chemistry, added ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley.
“From windows to insulation, adhesives to flooring, chemistry provides solutions that enable the energy efficient and sustainable buildings that consumers expect in today's world,” he said in the same news release. “By combining USGBC, a leader of the green building movement, with the scientific know-how of ACC, we can develop a path to stronger, science-based standards that achieve measurable progress in sustainability.”
Both the ACC and the USGBC point to their roles in advancing different building technologies and operating practices that have helped spur the green building sector.
LEED is the most widely recognized and used green building program in the world with more than 1.7 million square feet of commercial space certified each day. The USGBC reached a milestone in April, when 3 billion square feet of green construction had earned LEED certification around the globe. In the United States, the USGBC says LEED supports and creates 7.9 million jobs in all 50 states and contributes $554 billion to the economy annually.
The ACC says the business of chemistry employs nearly 800,000 Americans and supports nearly 25 percent of the U.S. GDP. The ACC also says energy savings made possible by innovations in chemistry in homes in the United States prevented nearly 283 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2010, which is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 50 million passenger vehicles.