LEED and FSC work for Oregon lands, businesses, taxpayers
SNW Wood and the Portland green-building community articulate the many benefits of LEED and FSC certification
Last week The Oregonian published an op-ed on the socio-economic and environmental benefits of LEED and FSC. This op-ed was written by SNW Wood staff and members of Portland's green-building community in response to an August 25 article claiming that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards has caused problems for Oregon's forests. The op-ed has been re-printed here below:
The Oregonian's recent editorial about LEED and its use of FSC-certified wood products gets it wrong on all points ("LEED vs. Oregon wood industry," Aug. 25).
Not only is LEED a valuable tool for reducing buildings' operation costs, improving worker health, and protecting the forests and rivers on which Oregonians depend, its recognition of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood products directly benefits Oregon's timber industry. LEED and its preference for FSC promise continued and growing benefits to the industry members who sign on to FSC's promise of increased profitability through improved forestry.
Much of the editorial board's argument against LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is based on an incorrect analysis of its costs. The editorial makes claims about auditing costs but fails to mention that LEED certification saves taxpayers money year after year through efficient design and lower utility costs. A recent review of LEED-certified federal buildings found they used 27 percent less energy and reduced operating costs by 19 percent compared with the national average.
Additionally, while there is a cost associated with the LEED certification process, it doesn't have to increase a project's overall cost. LEED projects can cost less to build than comparable noncertified projects of the same scale because of savings realized through careful construction planning.
For instance, Clackamas High School was completed in 2002 and attained a LEED silver rating. This building's smart design saves the school district -- and taxpayers -- approximately $70,000 annually in reduced energy expenses. This project was built for $118 per square foot, significantly less than the $135 to $145 per square foot it costs to build a typical high school.
LEED and its preference for local, FSC-certified wood directly benefit Oregon's forest products businesses. One shining example of this is the Oregon Department of Transportation headquarters in Salem, which just last month was awarded LEED platinum status. This project features panels made out of Oregon white oak harvested from an FSC-certified family forest just 20 miles west of Salem. These panels were manufactured in Oregon out of Oregon-grown wood and generated income for no fewer than four Oregon forest products businesses.
Several of Oregon's largest timber companies, including The Collins Cos. and Columbia Forest Products, were quick to join FSC because they understand that certification opens up new markets and adds value to their products. More than 300 Oregon forest product companies have followed suit.
The editorial board downplays the differences between FSC and its industry-based competitor, SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), but the differences are drastic. A story in The Oregonian last month profiled the difficulties residents of Rockaway Beach are having after clear-cuts damaged the waterways that provide their town with its drinking water ("Seeking purity, from forest to faucet," Aug. 21). Residents also voiced concern about the effects that the use of chemical pesticides might have on their health after these chemicals wash down bare slopes and into the creeks that feed the water supply or drift from aerial sprayers into backyards.
SFI does not provide an alternative to this industrial model of forestry, but FSC does. FSC prohibits the use of certain controversial pesticides such as atrazine. FSC limits the size of clear-cuts like those that have turned a Google-map view of Oregon into a patchwork quilt of bald spots. FSC also prohibits the conversion of natural forest, with its habitat-building biodiversity, into the monoculture industrial woodland properties that dominate western Oregon.
Oregonians who see the whole picture understand that FSC and LEED can and do work for Oregon. Oregon's timber industry, our watersheds and wildlife, our citizens and our reputation will benefit from the improved forestry practices that FSC guarantees.
Clark Brockman is the co-founder of SERA Architects' sustainability resources group. Tom Kelly is president of Neil Kelly Co. KC Eisenberg is sales director of Sustainable Northwest Wood. Ryan Temple, president of Sustainable Northwest Wood, contributed to this commentary.