LEED Wood Certification Policy Creates Defacto Ban

By Bob Johnston, Executive Director, Tropical Forest Foundation

  While USGBC’s intentions to ensure rigorous certification of wood through the recent LEED wood certification policy revisions are good, the organization runs the risk of making it too difficult to find products that meet the LEED requirement, causing architects and construction companies to opt for non-wood, and often non-renewable choices. The Tropical Forest Foundation supports sustainable forestry practices and would encourage the adoption of LEED requirements that recognize any sound certification system based on sustainable forest management. 

In addition to FSC, PEFC (Programme for the  Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) sets requirements for forest certification standards, the process of certification and for the Chain of Custody. PEFC is not a certification system itself. It assesses and endorses approved certification systems by allowing them to use the PEFC label. PEFC has recognized numerous European and North American certification systems such as SFI and CSA.

In Europe, several countries have developed procurement policies to promote sustainable development including criteria for sustainable produced timber and wood products. Some of these policies are recognized as the most rigorous in the world. All of these European countries have accepted FSC and PEFC certificates as an assurance for sustainably produced timber.

 One of TFF’s founding principles, which is agreed to by conservation groups, scientists, and industry, is that when forests are managed for the value of their wood and other resources, there is a greater chance that they will be sustained in the long term. Therefore, LEED requirements that encourage the use of certified wood meeting rigorous, internationally accepted standards give greater value to forests and help in our effort to sustain the long-term value. This includes certifications endorsed by PEFC, FSC and beyond. If it becomes too difficult to find products that meet the LEED requirement, architects and construction companies will opt for non-wood, and often non-renewable choices.