ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 1 - Issue: 14 - 08/06/2012

New Coalition Applauds USGBC for ‘Raising the Profile of Sustainable Construction through LEED,’ But …

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.



This dialectic presents a seminal moment in our society's collective response to the core reason for LEED's existence: climate change, with a hodgepodge of other environmental accounting thrown in. Ultimately, it's a wager, as Pascal's analogy has asserted. If literally hundreds of writers are correct (Dianne Dumanoski's End of the Long Summer is only one example of a thoughtful analysis of the issues) and a small handful of counterveiling arguments (Bjorn Lomborg's Skeptical Environmentalist represents the other pole) are wrong, then what we have to gain is enormous efficiencies, vastly improved technologies, and some meaningful amount of self-restraint. If the "skeptics" are right, then it should be very easy to readjust course toward greater consumption of fossil fuels. Back to "business as usual."

I find this an easy choice!
Posted by: Ivan Weber - Thursday, August 09, 2012 5:02 PM

The problem with LEED as I see it is that it does not take into account the possibility for other systems that could present the issues of sustainable design in different ways. Consequently a LEED building becomes constrained by the format. As you may be suggesting in the article, LEED is not necessarily the only format now or in the future even though claims are implied to that effect.
Posted by: Ogden Ross - Thursday, August 09, 2012 5:42 PM

The newly-formed AHPBC is courageoues enough to state "the emperor has no clothes." USGBC has always been in business to promote its own agenda. Th LEED rating system is fornulaic but is not scientifically grounded. Without the voluntary participation of manufacturers this past generation, how easy would it be to achieve a truly low-VOC buildng interior? I advocate mandated (codified) green building systems that depend on building controls, which can provide real-time information for true high performance. Let's get the USGBC out of the way and work toward this important goal together.
Posted by: Marc Beique - Friday, August 10, 2012 11:41 AM

As the CTO of a large Sustainable Consulting firm in the Middle East over the last 4 years, utilizing the USGBC LEED rating system and in the process of certifying 30 buildings, mostly in Dubai, I have found the USGBC LEED system to be flexible, reliable, and scientifically grounded. The USGBC Guidelines rely heavily on many US standards that have been developed by the specific building industries, such as ASHRAE, ASTM, and government bodies such as US Department of Energy, Us Environmental Protection Agency, and many others.

The USGBC has Improved its LEED rating system over the years, and the new version 4 is much better than the original version, which came out more than 12 years ago. As with all rating systems, there will always be room for improvement, mostly due to the everchanging advance of new technologies and methodologies, socio-economic influences, and pressure from the over -arching advance of climate change aggravated by population growth and unbridled consumerism.

Green Regulations also have an important role to play in the advancement of sustainable building and development, but sustainable regulations have proven to be difficult to pass and implement, particularly in the U.S. Regulations set minimum requirements, while certification rating systems provide incentives to exceed minimum requirements. Therefore, I believe that both regulations and rating systems will be the best way forward for all countries seeking a sustainable future.
Posted by: Thom Bohlen - Saturday, August 11, 2012 2:02 AM


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