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An opportunity for development of certification standards for all building materials

On September 15, 2009 the USGBC Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group, with approval from the LEED Steering Committee, released the second draft of a Forest Certification Benchmark. The stated objective of the benchmark development effort is to set forth substantive requirements that forest certification systems will have to meet in order to become recognized in the LEED Green Building Rating System.

In our view, the Forest Certification Benchmarks as outlined in the second draft report are still in need of substantial revision. We believe they bring further complication to a process that was already too much so, lack sufficient clarity to allow consistent auditing, and are not likely to provide an incentive for more responsible forest management. These are problems that we believe must be addressed. But despite these problems we do see a significant opportunity for the USGBC – an opportunity to address an obvious and longstanding need for a certification standard for all materials used in building construction. The current draft, as we outline herein, provides an excellent starting point for this more substantial green building improvement.

A recent Dovetail report chronicled impacts linked to sourcing of raw materials and production of building materials of all kinds. That report also highlighted the need for due diligence in the sourcing of all materials used in building construction, and not simply those that originate in forests, and noted the similarity of issues related to extraction of raw materials in general. Proposed was development of a generic standard for materials used in building construction that addresses environmental and social concerns linked to raw material extraction, transportation, processing and use. The time for such development is now and the USGBC benchmarking proposal provides a very useful tool for beginning the discussion.

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