In part two, we reviewed the new products offered via the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design green building rating/certification program. In part one, we saw how a statement made by USGBC President/CEO Rick Fredrizzi ("If it's not LEED, it's not green") at the November 2004 Greenbuild Conference held in Portland, Ore., caused quite a lot of controversy. Also, we saw how two reports and a user survey gave the LEED program its first "report card" after five years of implementation. This time, we'll conclude our review with a look at the international scene for LEED and a recent USGBC decision that will affect the walls and ceilings industry directly.

North of the border

Besides the two new LEED "products" or programs, LEED-Existing Buildings and LEED-Commercial Interiors, announced at the 2004 Greenbuild Conference in Portland, also announced was the intention of the Canada Green Building Council to launch its own licensed version of LEED-New Construction. As mentioned previously, LEED-NC is ongoing and is the initial LEED program for "New Construction and Major Renovation." Designated as Version 1.0 (v1.0) by the CaGBC, under this novel licensing agreement with the USGBC, buildings LEED certified by CaGBC will be recognized by the USGBC and vice-versa. This adaptation of LEED-NC is as/or more stringent as LEED-NC v2.1 in the U.S. and supercedes another program launched in April 2004: LEED for British Columbia.

Though it is similar in its spirit and goals to LEED-NC v2.1 in the U.S., there are some significant differences and adaptations based on need and culture. Canada's program has expanded the radius for "regional products" from 500 miles (U.S.) to 1,500 miles for materials transported by rail or barge. However, the country's criteria for this credit and points system recognizes materials extracted and manufactured within the region. The CaGBC has raised the bar for credit/points for recycled content thresholds to 7.5 and 15 percent, rather than the U.S. program's of 5 and 10 percent. Another change allows for a special calculation for the use of "fly ash" and other supplementary cementitous materials and credit for a building's durability. These changes/adaptations are being watched closely in the U.S. for possible inclusion in the USGBC's LEED programs.

South of the border

Another significant announcement at Greenbuild '04 came from the Consejo Mexicano de Construccion Sustenable-aka Mexico Green Building Council. The MexicoGBC is a member of the World Green Building Council and the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment. In November at Greenbuild, MexicoGBC announced its mission statement:

"To promote sustainable development through the realization and construction of a superior built environment."

MexicoGBC intends to work with research organizations, industry groups and governmental agencies to achieve their objectives. Initially, MexicoGBC will: dispense relevant information, provide professional development, advocate and promote sustainable practices, facilitate collaboration and promote alliances/partnerships with industry associations and members of the green building community, etc. At the same time, it will develop a national green building rating system of its own through programs such as the National Green Building Awards.

Looking east

When you consider the fact that China has the largest population in the world (1 billion plus), any proactive initiatives in the realm of green design/construction are bound to have significant global impacts. It is expected that half of all construction worldwide for the next 20 years will be in China. Urban areas in China are expected to grow by half again-50 percent in the next 25 years. With 21.5 billion square feet per year, China leads the world in new construction.

The same day MexicoGBC announced its future intentions at Greenbuild '04, China's vice minister of construction announced China's green building strategy for the future. Newly approved, China's building energy efficiency standard requires all new construction projects to reduce their energy consumption by 50 percent and a building retrofit program-targeting 25 percent of existing residential and commercial buildings in urban areas (lower percentage in rural areas) is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2010. To provide an incentive, like Mexico, China has initiated a National Green Building Innovation Award, which recognizes green building practices based on, "A scientific and standardized evaluation system."

The power of inclusion

Though they are technically designated "trade associations" by the IRS, professional organizations, such as the American Society of Landscape Architects and the American Society of Interior Designers, are eligible for membership in the USGBC. That hasn't been the case for construction industry trade associations since the USGBC's inception in the mid-1990s.

In April of 2004, the USGBC Board of Directors reaffirmed its earlier decision not to include construction trade associations as members. Leading opposition for inclusion of trade associations was the Northern California Chapter of the USGBC. In its opinion, trade associations claim support for sustainability while actively opposing progressive policies thus, they are considered "obstructionist" and were/are considered the greatest obstacle to sustainability on a "local-to-global" scale. Though the USGBC continued to deny trade associations membership status pursuant to this decision, it was declared that trade associations would be included in shaping and creating LEED rating standards.

No doubt, the USBGC's decision to continue to exclude them did not sit well with industry trade associations. In response to this perceived affront, construction industry trade associations formed a group to support green building principles and to oppose the adaptation and use of LEED exclusively by governmental agencies. With 34 members, the North American Coalition on Green Building stated as its goal: "To support green building standards that are developed through an approved standard-setting organization and are based on scientific methods and criteria."


In August, the USGBC announced that it had amended its bylaws to accept construction trade associations as members of the council, thus reversing its April 2004 decision. As it turns out, the USGBC's nationwide chapters played the most meaningful part in this reversal of fortunes for construction trade associations. Fredrizzi was getting feedback from local and regional chapters that the USGBC/LEED program was now strong enough to engage constructively rather than remain adversaries with trade associations. Also, the decision for inclusion-rather than exclusion-removed the buzzing from his ear and the stigma often vocalized that held that since they did not allow trade associations as members, the USGBC was elitist and not an "open, consensus-based" organization as it claimed.

With the chapters feeling their oats, national USGBC is backing off somewhat by adopting a philosophy of "dynamic governance" designed to replace top-down decision-making, as it currently exists. Known as "sociocracy," this method-developed in the Netherlands in the '70s-allows for a decentralized, "neutral-network" model for organization and management of the USGBC.

There's also a pragmatic reason for this sea change in thinking. By allowing trade associations to be members, the USGBC is now eligible for formal accreditation by the American National Standards Institute as a "standard-setting body." With their political influence, federal agencies were encountering resistance from trade associations when applying LEED to their projects. Rather than developing their own standards, pursuant to an Office of Management & Budget directive (OMB Circular A-119), federal agencies were encouraged to use accepted "industry standards." With the main obstacle for ANSI accreditation removed, LEED now has the very real potential for becoming the recognized "standard-setting body" for environmentally sustainable design and construction.

As of July 2005, there were 40 provisional chapters of the USGBC and six affiliates. The latter being regional organizations predating the formation of the USGBC chapter network. With their goal of decentralization, national USGBC (headquartered in Washington) is providing a total of $300,000 ($50,000 each) in challenge grants to six of the eight larger, full chapters (Chicago, Colorado, Delaware Valley, Los Angeles, New York, Northern California) for hiring additional staff.

As important as LEED is to the green building movement, it's also important to keep it in perspective. It's the scoreboard, not the game. With that in mind, I'll keep track of the latest developments concerning LEED and promise to keep you informed of the latest goings-on in future columns. W&C

* Note: "Certified" level has replaced the original "Bronze" level of certification status