Why does Big Chem hate LEED 2012 so much that it cajoled a bipartisan group of 56 House lawmakers to send a letter urging the GSA to abandon LEED unless the USGBC lightens up on chemical companies and plastics makers?
Rather than simply answering this question with a cynical “duh, because our politicians are bought and paid for by wealthy industrialists,” let’s instead consider whether or not the fears of our esteemed public servants (and their wealthy industrialist benefactors) are grounded in truth.
First we’ll set the stage. The aforementioned letter dated May 18, 2012 explains that our lawmakers are “deeply concerned that the LEED rating system is becoming a tool to punish chemical companies and plastics makers,” most notably those who make “vinyl flooring, roofing, [and] wire.” After some obligatory fear-mongering about “significant job losses” to chosen industries, the letter delivers its punch line by asking the GSA to “stop using the LEED rating system” unless USGBC reconsiders “these harmful provisions in LEED 2012.”
Now we’ll separate fact from fiction by taking quotes from the letter and following them up with some data:
- “The proposed LEED 2012 rating system … will eliminate the use of dozens of materials and hundreds of proven building products.”
FACT: The latest draft of LEED 2012 doesn’t “eliminate” any of the chemicals or products referenced in the letter. Rather, the credit at issue (“Avoidance of Chemicals of Concern”) has already been modified to incentivize use of less harmful products and materials; it does not punish or “eliminate” anything.
- “US manufacturers have no ability to participate in the development.”
FACT: There have been four separate public comment periods on each evolving draft of LEED 2012, the most recent of which remains open through May 28. There have been thousands of comments received, and considered, and the comments themselves are even available for review online.
- “[T]he federal government should not base these decisions solely on a program whose reach has grown to be counterintuitive to this mission … while wasting taxpayer dollars.”
FACT: A recent study of a sampling of U.S. government LEED buildings found that “sustainably designed buildings use less energy and water … cost less to maintain, and have occupants who are more satisfied than those working in typical buildings.” Compared to national averages, buildings in the study consumed 25% less energy and realized 19% lower aggregate operational costs.
Please check the list of lawmakers who signed the letter to see if your representative is among them. If so, consider helping inform your representative about the truth, because the truth will set LEED 2012 free.