WDMA Update

United We Stand
Supporting Development of Consensus-Based Sustainable Standards
by Ben Gann

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) has joined other leading associations representing a wide range of interests from the building and construction industry in the formation of the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC). The 31-member coalition includes groups such as the American Chemistry Council and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. AHPBC’s goal is to promote and support the development of sustainable building standards under accredited consensus processes and scientific performance data.

Why Now?
The formation of the coalition comes as the General Services Administration (GSA) is in the process of reviewing the use of green building standards by the federal government, and while the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) continues its efforts to revise its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system.

WDMA has expressed concern that some of the proposed revisions to LEED will limit building materials that can qualify unnecessarily. We also disagree with efforts requiring that new wood products can only be certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard or “better” and encouraging builders to avoid the use of PVC products.

FSC-certified forests account for approximately one quarter of North America’s certified forests; with the rest certified to other recognized standards such as Sustainable Forestry Initiative and American Tree Farm System. This means all wood from non-FSC certified forests in North America is ineligible for the LEED structural wood certification credit. And as the Vinyl Institute has pointed out, products made from PVC such as replacement doors and windows have a huge impact on reducing the energy footprint of thousands of buildings around the world.

AHPBC supports performance-based building codes, standards and rating systems developed in conformance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or International Organization of Standardization (ISO) consensus processes, and has criticized USGBC on the lack of openness and transparency in developing the LEED rating system. However, the AHPBC does not endorse or oppose any particular green building rating system.

Fighting Against a Monopoly
LEED is the only green building rating system GSA recognizes for all federal agencies and departments. Endorsing a single rating system creates a monopoly for LEED and rejects other consensus-based green building rating systems for commercial buildings such as the Green Building Institute’s (GBI) Green Globes program and International Living Building Institute’s Living Building Challenge program. Green Globes is the only commercial building rating system currently approved by ANSI.

AHPBC has said GSA should only endorse green building rating systems that are developed through an open, balanced and consensus-based approach. The current credit development process for LEED is not open, available or transparent to all interested stakeholders.

In its March 2012 report, GSA noted that the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction. In its review, Green Globes met or exceeded 25 of 27 federal requirements for new construction, while LEED only met or exceeded 20 of the requirements.

GSA operates, owns and leases more than 354 million square feet of space in 9,600 buildings in more than 2,200 communities nationwide; requiring LEED Gold for all new federal buildings and major renovations and LEED Silver for new construction of 10,000 square feet or more.

Prior to USGBC’s decision in June to delay balloting on the proposed update to LEED, Louisiana Senators Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R) led a group of 18 Senators in sending a letter to GSA requesting that the agency stop using LEED unless USGBC reconsidered banning the use of common chemicals and plastics.

Moving Forward
In July, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing highlighting impediments to job creation, and included the challenges with GSA’s preference for a single green building system. “In this case, GSA continues to award a monopoly to LEED,” said Steve Russell, vice president of American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Department, in testimony at the hearing. “The committee should urge GSA to construct performance-based criteria for selecting green building ratings systems, and then accept those private standards that meet the designated performance criteria.”

AHPBC supports the common objective of improving energy efficiency and environmental performance in buildings and will continue to engage members of Congress on the issue. WDMA is proud to be a member of the coalition and looks forward to working with building and construction industry stakeholders in the development and voluntary adoption of green building standards that embrace a consensus-based approach.

Ben Gann is director of legislative affairs and grassroots activities for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.

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