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Green Building News

Florida Bill a ‘Backlash’ Against LEED Rules

State representative wants alternatives to Forest Stewardship Council lumber

Are certification requirements established by the Forest Stewardship Council too restrictive?
Image Credit: Forest Stewardship Council

A Florida state representative has introduced a bill that would loosen rules adopted in 2008 and allow state agencies to choose on a project-by-project basis what green-building standards to use when constructing new offices, The Florida Current reports.

The bill is an attempt to make it easier for the state’s tree growers to win green-building certification for its lumber. Rep. Halsey Beshears thinks LEED rules, which guided construction of three new office buildings in Tallahassee, favor only wood approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Beshears says that only 200 of Florida’s 16 million acres of forest are certified under LEED rules, while a lumber industry lobbyist complains that LEED certification is so difficult for lumber growers that most won’t participate, according to the newspaper’s report.

Beshears’ bill has won support from the Florida Forestry Association and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. Its introduction follows a move last week by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who directed state agencies they could also consider forest products certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the American Tree Farm System, the Current said.

FSC president Corey Brinkema, however, is quoted as saying locally grown lumber can already get credit under LEED requirements.

The sole vote against Beshears’ measure came from Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vaslinda, a Democrat from Tallahassee, who said it would be better to encourage Florida tree farmers to “move towards LEED.”

For more information on lumber certification controversies, see USGBC’s Wood-Certification Kerfuffle.

3 Comments

  1. Tyler Dotten | | #1

    Fascinating Topic
    In a lot of ways this debate parallels a huge percentage of debates on where to draw the line with green building regulations. Green-washing is a huge problem, but standards that are too strict will not achieve real change either.

    On the one hand I have talked to some forestry people, who's opinions I trust, saying that the FSC standard is too stringent. The process of certification takes too many resources for the small logging companies to consider it they say.

    On the other hand, having a regulation committee who gets their funding from the industry it's regulating (SFI) is clearly not the answer. We resist change and the large logging companies will do whatever they can to keep their current standards, so they can keep those profit margins high. The bigger the company, the more likely they are to put profit over doing the right thing. The big companies will ultimately have the most say in the SFI and that relationship makes any real change unlikely.

    As with so many things in life, the truth might lie somewhere in the middle. In order for a regulating body to be successful, their policies have to be economically viable. The standards have to be ones that we can realistically reach. We need some wholesale changes in the way we log our forests if we really want the industry to be sustainable. This sea change should sting a little, and we should expect the major logging companies to resist it.

    As gas prices rise, we are going to have to rely on local lumber more and more. It's entirely possible to log forests sustainably and have a healthy economic industry. It will cost more money than the cheaper lumber we are importing now, but not that much more. Doing the right thing often costs a little more money and if people are given the choice between unsustainable and cheap or sustainable and a little more money, a very small percentage will pay for the sustainability. That's exactly why it's important for the change to be driven by regulation. That's why it's so important to get this right.

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a thriving logging economy in this country again? Good local jobs and the money stays right here in our back yard. Well, we all have to be willing to pay a little more for it and the free market economy might just not drive this change.

    The link Martin provided has some great information on this subject for those who are interested. Thanks Martin.

  2. Joseph Ford | | #2

    Do not water down the standard.
    I have worked on several LEED certified projects in the Upper Midwest. I have had very few issues sourcing FSC products, nor have I found the price premium onerous. Maybe my locale has given me a narrow perspective on the issue. Then again, maybe Florida timber suppliers just need to try harder. Considering the vanishingly small amount of FSC acreage in Florida, especially compared to neighboring states, I think the latter is more likely the case.

    This does point to one of the inherent limitations of LEED; which is that the USGBC has tried to devise a national standard. As a result, not every single point in the LEED scorecard is going to be easily implemented, or even make sense to pursue at all, in every place in the country.

    One of the main points behind the LEED materials credits is to set an aspirational standard and try to actually move the entire market towards more sustainable practices. You don't accomplish that by validating approaches that have too much in common with business as usual.

  3. Charles F | | #3

    no respect for leed
    In my experience, LEED is full of greenwashing and nonsense - I literally have no respect for it. So no idea if the forestry part is nonsense too, but I'm inclined to ignore all of it at this point

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