A resolution that would discourage state agency use of the newest version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards drew considerable opposition testimony in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Feb. 11. SCR25 (Uecker) would urge state agencies and other government entities to only use green building rating systems, codes or standards that are consistent with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) policies.
LEED version four is not ANSI-certified for being a “consensus-based” standard, although LEED supporters say version four was subject to substantial industry and public scrutiny before being approved by 86 percent of United States Green Building Council (USGBC) members. LEED is a USGBC initiative, and over 100 Ohio school buildings have been LEED-certified since the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) required LEED use in 2007 for OSFC-funded buildings.
Tyler Steele, vice chair of the board of directors at USGBC Central Ohio, said LEED certification of schools results in “taxpayer savings through energy and water efficiency, reduced water waste, and most importantly, healthier students and teachers.” “Where we learn matters. Students perform better in schools with optimal indoor environments – clean air, access to daylight, innovative technologies, the best building materials, and more,” Steele said. “LEED has proven to be an effective program that helps to deliver these benefits to buildings, to the people inside of them and to the surrounding community.”Steele told the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), that while it is possible to build an energy-efficient building other ways, LEED is the “best available way” to work toward the goal of consistently building more efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. Sens. Uecker and Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) told witnesses Tuesday and in the previous hearing that the resolution does not discourage use of LEED overall, just the new version four.
Karen Joslin, owner of Joslin Consulting, said project teams currently seeking LEED certification have the option to register and use either LEED 2009 or version four rating systems. “However, after June of next year, just 15 months away, there will no longer be an option to choose the current 2009 systems,” Joslin said. “So please be clear that by attempting to prohibit LEED version four by state agencies and government institutions, there will no longer be any way for Ohio schools or universities to continue their LEED successes.” Uecker said project managers could continue to use the 2009 standards, saying he is “more impressed with results than a [LEED certification plaque.”
Joslin said people should think of the LEED certification plaque like a college diploma. “Someone has looked over what you did, and validated it. It’s the single biggest aspect of LEED,” Joslin said. “Designers have been saying for years they build ‘green.’ But they are not sustainable.”
Sens. Kris Jordan, (R-Powell), Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), Uecker and Schaffer questioned witnesses regarding certain materials being discouraged by LEED version four, which they said could negatively affect Ohio jobs. Nadja Turek, director of sustainable design services at Woolpert, Inc., said LEED version four incentivizes, but does not require, transparency of product ingredients.“Disclosure, transparency, and choice are hallmarks of the 21st century marketplace, and that’s what the LEED version four materials credits incentivize,” Turek said. “But those credits are options on the ‘menu,’ and if I am working with a building owner that wishes to use a particular material, furnishing or finish they may certainly do so and still achieve LEED certification…. As engineers, we can use any and all materials that lead to a life-cycle cost-effective building, period.”
Justin Koscher, vice president of public policy at the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, was the only proponent at the hearing. He said LEED should be commended for their success, but that the process in developing version four “eschewed the input of building experts and favored special interests over consensus.” He said his group and others who sent critical comments to USGBC regarding the product disclosure credits were not seriously considered in the decision making process. He said their lengthy comments were responded with a “generalized and ambiguous reply” thanking them for their comments. “The lack of a true consensus-based process surrounding the development of LEED version four has not only violated the trust between USGBC and many stakeholders in the green building community, but it also has produced a rating system that will have severe consequences for Ohio businesses and jeopardizes the public’s ability to evaluate the energy and environmental performance of buildings constructed under current Ohio policy,” Koscher said. Other testifying in opposition were Michael Berning, senior principal at Heapy Engineering; Tyrone Hissong, a farmer in Troy; Allison McKenzie, architect from Cincinnati; Jim Volkert, sale director for Go West 765; and Daniel Roberts, former superintendent of Miami Trace Local School District.