USGBC Appears Poised to Miss Opportunity for Certification Development

4th Comment Period on Forest Certification Benchmark Opened


(Mpls, MN) - On June 14, 2010 the US Green Building Council opened its 4th comment period on proposed revisions to its forest certification benchmark, extending the revision process into its 22nd month. While continuing to focus attention on responsible sources of wood, the USGBC has yet to benchmark the known environmental and social problems linked to extraction and processing of other basic materials used in construction, including steel, concrete, and plastics.


“The drawn-out forest certification benchmark revision process could, and should, have focused on development of a generic benchmark standard for construction materials in general,” notes Dr. Jim Bowyer, Director of the Responsible Materials Program within Minneapolis-based Dovetail Partners.


When certification programs were developed for forests and wood, the original focus was on imported tropical wood as the product category most often linked to environmental degradation, illegal activity, corruption, and social upheaval.  A similar problem exists for non-wood construction materials.  The worst examples of mining for metals and other materials can be found in the tropical countries and where less rigorous environmental standards, laws, and law enforcement exist.  The United States is an importer of vast quantities of these materials.


“Because of a lack of oversight as to where materials other than wood originate or how they are produced, there is little doubt that some materials finding their way each day into “green” buildings are anything but green,” says Bowyer.  He also points out that the current system can actually encourage use of materials with known severe negative environmental impacts.


Certification of building materials is no longer an abstract concept.  Certification of wood is well established, as are mechanisms such as source separation and chain of custody for ensuring the veracity of certified content.


“If the elements of responsible production are important,” observes Kathryn Fernholz, Executive Director of Dovetail Partners, “it is time to ask why such assurances are not expected for building materials in general, and why the nation’s leading green building program hasn’t taken action to address this issue. There is nothing standing in the way of USGBC initiating the development of a generic building materials standard.”




Further information regarding responsible materials for green building and a template for generic standard development can be found at:

Certification of Building Materials: Important or Not?


USGBC Forest Certification Benchmarks: An Opportunity for the Development of Certification Standards for All Building Materials