It probably comes as no surprise to you that lumber is the ultimate green building product! As the green building movement continues to gain momentum, some clarification on exactly what “green building” entails might be helpful.
For instance, it might surprise some builders that simply using sustainably, responsibly and legally harvested lumber does not necessarily translate into LEED points. The official certification program of the Green Building Council has an intricate web of certification levels based on using sustainable materials, yes, but also based on FSC certification. Because no other certification programs are recognized as valid by the LEED requirements, issues related to limited supply are wreaking havoc among green builders.
FSC Lumber Concerns
Of course, limited availability of FSC lumber combined with increased demand translates into rising delays and costs. The result is a smaller number of builders seeking the FSC credit from LEED and instead focusing on earning as many other points as possible. Because only one of the potential 110 points for LEED certification can be earned by using FSC wood products, most homeowners don’t see the 5% or more added cost of FSC lumber as worthwhile.
Because earning even the highest “Platinum” rating is still possible without the use of FSC lumber, builders are easily drawn to other lumber, leaving the FSC stuff sitting in lumber yards, depreciating by the day. Ironically, the attempted means to encourage builders to purchase FSC lumber (and, by extension, encourage more lumber to go through the steps of becoming FSC certified) is actually lessening the demand and market for that lumber.
Answering the Dilemma
Many within the lumber industry are recommending that LEED either expand its recognition of certification schemes to include other programs, such as SFI or establish its own list of criteria that lumber must meet in order to qualify for the coveted LEED point. If that change occurred, it would enable more builders to attain the materials needed for green status, leading to an increased market for green lumber, as well. The argument against such a shift is that by lowering the standard to allow less stringent schemes qualify, the health of forests will suffer.
From luxury resorts to corporate headquarters and even individual residences, many of today’s consumers who desire green building are starting to attach value to the idea of FSC lumber; FSC green lumber may earn only one LEED point, but for most consumers, that single point is far more significant than many of the others. From siding to flooring and even trim, builders can help satisfy their customers’ desires for green building even if they can’t always source official FSC lumber and keep on budget and within time constraints; builders can still find green lumber. Complete with documentation showing its sustainable harvesting, such lumber offers the satisfaction of purchasing environmentally friendly lumber products.