By Steve Rizer
In an exclusive interview with ConstructionPro Week (CPW), a spokesperson for the recently formed American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC) applauded the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for “raising the profile of sustainable construction through its LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] program” but did raise some concerns. The new AHPBC consists of 27 member groups involved in manufacturing, material science, and building performance and whose collective stated mission is to promote and support the development of sustainable building standards that are “based on consensus and scientific performance data.”
During the interview, although AHPBC spokesperson Justin Koscher credited USGBC for bolstering the industry’s sustainable-construction profile, he added that “all green building rating systems have room for improvement, and [AHPBC] will offer its experience and expertise as systems evolve. There are concerns among coalition members with the process used by USGBC to develop and update LEED. USGBC itself has said that it does not care to use the ANSI [American National Standards Institute] process. This is unfortunate given that the ANSI process is transparent, open, and constructive, which yields the highest-quality results.”
Koscher asserted that LEED v4 “was not the product of a consensus process and was not informed by all stakeholders, but we are seeking the opportunity to work with USGBC to improve the process going forward.”
In response to the formation of the coalition and CPW’s questions about it, USGBC provided this statement from Robert Platt, the association’s senior vice president of global policy and law: “We welcome the announcement of the formation of the American High Performance Building Coalition, but as Ronald Reagan once said, we will ‘trust but verify.’ Like the newly formed coalition, we also support the use of green building codes and standards, in addition to third-party rating systems like LEED, and have proudly worked with leading code development organizations to co-release the leading mandatory green building codes. In the voluntary world of rating systems, LEED is transforming America’s commercial real estate market, providing immediate financial benefits to building owners, operators, and [others] through a private, voluntary, transparent, and democratic process governed by the 15,000 member organizations of our organization.
“We know just how crucial industry participation is to high-performance-building success. The 1.5 million square feet per day of commercial space we certify would not be possible without the full active participation of leading architects, engineers, builders, contractors, and product manufacturers. If this coalition is sincere in its interest to advance high-performance buildings over the status quo, we welcome them to the table and sincerely look forward to engaging together to make green buildings more valuable to Americans.”
When asked to define what AHPBC considers a “consensus-based process” that the organization would support, Koscher said that his organization defines the term “by identifying ANSI and ISO [International Organisation of Standardization]-type standards [as] examples of consensus procedures. These procedures are technically based, open to participation by all stakeholders, balanced, and transparent. Within this process, stakeholders are able to provide detailed technical comments to the consensus body, which must be thoroughly considered and addressed in an appropriate manner and provide for an appeals procedure. These procedures result in standards that have been fully considered in an open manner and are based on science.”
Koscher reported that AHPBC has yet to create a timeline for its activities. Also, he clarified that the new organization will not draft standards of its own.
Coalition members include the following: the American Architectural Manufacturers Association; the American Chemistry Council (ACC); the Adhesive and Sealant Council; the American Coatings Association; American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers; the American Supply Association; the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing; the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association; the EPDM Roofing Association; the Expanded Polystyrene Industry Alliance; the Extruded Polystyrene Foam Association; the Flexible Vinyl Alliance; 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 Plastic Industry; the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates; the Southern Forest Products Association; the Treated Wood Council; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Vinyl Institute; the Vinyl Siding Institute; and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association.
“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 stakeholders with relevant expertise,” said Steve Russell, ACC’s vice president of plastics. “This coalition brings together industry leaders with an incredible range-relevant expertise in manufacturing, material science, and building performance who will work to bring needed perspectives to this important work. The coalition will advocate for performance- and consensus-based standards for green building, which are the best way to achieve exceptional energy efficiency.”
The coalition announcement comes as the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is in the process of reviewing the use of green building standards by the federal government and as USGBC revises its LEED green building rating system.
AHPBC said it will communicate its support of certification systems that are based on sound data and scientific methodology with GSA and other federal agencies as well as through other venues where green building certifications are undergoing consideration.