Following months (if not years) of hostility and robust legislative battles throughout the U.S. (including here in Ohio), the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Chemistry Council will now work together to advance LEED.

The truce announcement has already been optimistically embracedintelligently dissected, and compared to the rise, fall, and redemption of Darth Vader. But what does it really mean and what happens next?

USGBC has established a working group, the “Supply Chain Optimization Group,” made up of ACC and USGBC staff and member company experts who will discuss how building materials are addressed in LEED. One particularly hot topic for this group will be risk assessment—the method used by policymakers and others to determine how dangerous a hazard is when assuming a certain level of exposure—as the ACC yearns for this concept to receive “greater consideration throughout USGBC’s process.” Details are still being worked out.

OGBL appreciates the value of communication and compromise, and we recognize that often the best resolutions are those in which both sides leave equally unhappy. Here’s to hoping for better than that as USGBC and ACC work to align their goals.

Green Globes (or, more specifically, its parent organization the Green Building Initiative, “GBI”) describes itself as an alternative to LEED, so the two rating systems would seem to be natural competitors. 

But LEED’s parent organization the U.S. Green Building Council and GBI are both nonprofits, and if Green Globes truly seeks to “advance the overall environmental performance and sustainability of commercial buildings” (as its website proclaims), then why would the same folks who support Green Globes also support Ohio Senate Concurrent Resolution 25, which urges that LEED be banned in all Ohio public construction?

The answer to that question is part of an insightful expose by Tristan Roberts and Paula Melton at EBN. Well worth a read, as they connect the dots between GBI, Green Globes, and the industry special interests who support both Green Globes and Ohio SCR25.

OGBL embraces fair competition as a means to spur innovation and improvement, in the green building realm and otherwise. Roberts and Melton suggest that Green Globes’ backers are pressing the opposite agenda, using questionable tactics in a race to the bottom.

Anybody who appreciates savory sausage gravy and biscuits knows that Bob Evans is down on the farm. But not as many know that Bob Evans is down with LEED.

A key component of Bob Evans Farms, Inc.’s $190,000,000 “Best to Invest in Ohio” campaign is the company’s new headquarters campus, currently tracking LEED gold for the main building and LEED silver for two other buildings. Designed by Columbus, Ohio-based m+a architects, the inspiration for the design was to “think like a farmer.” Explains Joe Eulberg, Bob Evans EVP, Human Resources, “Bob Evans himself was a noted conservationist. However, we knew that we also needed to ensure responsible use of shareholder resources for this major project… Based on our experience, I would and have recommended the pursuit of LEED certification to others considering similar projects.”

Contrast this real-world endorsement from a sophisticated corporation, which has successfully balanced profitability with responsibility, against the ongoing astroturf anti-LEED campaign being waged by the Environmental Policy Alliance. One Alliance-related operative recently placed an op-ed in Forbes that cryptically cites un-named “studies” in support of her conclusion that “the only leading LEED does is from behind.”

Meanwhile, back in the farm fields (and the farm-inspired modern headquarters of major corporations) of Ohio, our legislature debates the merits of a resolution that would urge that LEED be banned in all public construction. Here’s to hoping that our leaders will look to the wisdom of a homegrown and homespun success story, and that they not be fooled by the under-informed ramblings of a shadowy PR firm.


 Two recent events starkly illuminate the difference between those who seek to ban LEED in Ohio and those who do not.

On one side stand organizations and groups working to objectively analyze whether or not data substantiate a positive return on Ohio’s investment in LEED. Leading this analysis is Battelle, which just announced that its scientists have been hired to define, by way of advanced statistical modeling techniques, whether or not there is an association between schools with LEED certification and educational outcomes (such as student attendance rates, discipline, and test scores). Green schools are just green buildings, so the results of this analysis could either prove or disprove many claimed benefits of LEED for any building. There are no promises or guarantees, caution the project’s lead investigator and a senior research scientist Ian MacGregor, as the true goal is simply “to better inform the public debate about sustainable design.”

Battelle’s research was the subject of a Columbus Dispatch article to which one anti-LEED voice took umbrage. The head of Wooster, Ohio-based company argues in a responsive op-ed that the article “misses facts,” and he warns that LEED v4 “could cause unwarranted exclusion of materials made right here in Ohio” without providing “facts or science to support the banning of these materials.” Critics such as this are misguided and hypocritical, as they demand vigorous scientific proof of a materials ban that does not exist, yet they offer no studies, data, or other facts to support their claims that LEED v4 could harm any business (in Ohio or elsewhere).

Whereas critics such as the op-ed author from Wooster rely on a USA Today article that has been thoroughly debunked, those fighting the effort to ban LEED in Ohio point to a GSA study of actual building performance which concluded that the portfolio of LEED and other green buildings “use less energy and water, emit less CO2, cost less to maintain, and have occupants who are more satisfied than those working in typical buildings.”

Rather than taking either the USA Today or any other more credible resource as gospel, Battelle will apply scientific principles to conduct research that will be unique to Ohio and subjected to peer review. The facts will be revealed, and the truth will set us free. For Ohio’s government to urge that LEED be banned in the meantime would be short-sighted and wrong.

Now begins a new chapter for Ohio Green Building Law. This author has accepted an offer to join as a partner, and create a new Columbus office, with the Cleveland-based law firm Kohrman Jackson & Krantz.

With a broader platform, and renewed enthusiasm, we will continue to be the Ohio green building and construction law resource.

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The sponsor of Ohio Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 (SCR25), which would urge all state agencies to abandon LEED v4, is now asking for a delay of further hearings.

In an abrupt change from the ram-rod fashion that SCR25 was run (over vigorous opposition) through the Senate, sponsoring Sen. Joe Uecker now says he wants to slow things down. The resolution was slated for hearing this week before the Ohio House of Representatives Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee. But, as reported yesterday by Gongwer (Ed: full story requires a subscription), Sen. Uecker now thinks a postponement will make it “easier for me to get my proponents, industry witnesses to be able to testify in a jointed as opposed to a disjointed way.”

The “proponents” to whom Sen. Uecker refers include members of the same small but powerful group of protectionists who unsuccessfully attempted to convince the General Services Administration to abandon LEED.

SCR25 is an anti-competitive giveaway. Ohioans will be best served if our leaders vote down that flawed resolution and instead identify a preferred third-party green building rating system through a transparent rule-making process.

Until that happens, no system (LEED or otherwise) should be excluded.

Ed: The views of his article are exclusively those of Ohio Green Building Law and this author, a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Ohio Chapter of USGBC

In this fourth installment of our series on Ohio Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 (“SCR25″), the anti-LEED legislation which passed the Senate and now stands pending in Ohio’s House of Representatives, we find SCR25 under fire from a diverse group of significant Ohio employers.

SCR25 is assigned to the House Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Kirk Schuring (R) (48th Dist., Stark County). Rep. Schuring and House Speaker William Batchelder have recently heard from three major businesses, and one business association, opposed to SCR25.

Among the companies and organizations speaking out against SCR 25 are Johnson Controls (a Fortune 100 domestic manufacturer with 2,120 employees in Ohio), Nucor Corporation (America’s largest manufacturer of steel and steel products, with 730 Ohio employees) and United Technologies Corporation (employer of over 1,400 Ohioans).

SCR25 favors a mandate that Ohio use systems that are consistent with ANSI. LEED, for a variety of reasons, is not an ANSI-accredited standard. But the self-described “LEED-alternative” Green Globes system, which not coincidentally is supported by members of the same small but powerful group of protectionists who are pushing SCR25, claims to be based on an American National Standard. This claim has been the subject of much controversy.

Rounding out the set of industry segments voicing opposition to SCR25 is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), representing over 4,000 certified businesses in the U.S., including 216 companies in Ohio. FSC notes that the free market has chosen LEED as the preeminent third-party green building rating system and expresses concern that SCR 25 will undermine Ohio’s leadership in sustainable development.

Those who embrace competition, and who oppose government picking winners and losers, should join in opposition to SCR25.

Ed: The views of his article are exclusively those of Ohio Green Building Law and this author, a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Ohio Chapter of USGBC


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