15 November 2012 — GreenBuild 2012: The PVC industry and Vinyl Institute are massing behind  the American Chemistry Council to stop disclosure of toxic chemical requirements in the new version of LEEDS building rating system under development.

The US Green Building Council said at GreenBuild this week that its LEEDS v4 was well on the way to finalisation.

But during a dazzling plenary session on Wednesday USGBC founder and chief executive Rick Fedrizzi rallied thousands of delegates to help fight the “vested interests” opposed to a more transparent green building industry in terms of materials component disclosure. He rattled off a number of toxic chemical components in typical modern building materials and then said, “if you can’t even pronounce these things, why have we got them in our buildings?”

Scot Horst, senior vice president LEED and strategic innovation for the USGBC,  told The Fifth Estate after a media conference to the progress of LEED V4 that the American Chemical Council had lobbied 40 US senators to sign statements opposing federal government engagement with LEED in its buildings, and some states had followed suit.

Mr Horst said the technique used by the lobby group was to claim that LEED was not scientifically based.

But the chemical companies have gone one step further. They have now set up their own rating system called the American High Performance Buildings Coalition to rate their own buildings.

At least 27 trade associations, including the Vinyl Institute, the Vinyl Siding Institute, and the Flexible Vinyl Alliance, have joined according to Bill Walsh’s Healthy Building News.

The Healthy Building News report said:

“[The new rating system] appears to be designed primarily to stop new, voluntary credits proposed for LEED that would reward efforts to slightly reduce the use of highly toxic chemicals in LEED-certified buildings, by threatening the LEED franchise among its government customers.

“The ‘Resources’ section of the AHPBC website offers an exhaustive compendium of the organisation’s leadership initiatives: two letters, one to Congress and one to the General Services Administration, seeking to disqualify LEED from use by federal agencies.

“The complaint voiced by the AHPBC is that the LEED revision process is not transparent or consensus-based. With the proposed revisions now moving toward their fifth public comment period, following two years of experience with a pilot credit program, it is difficult to comprehend the basis for this charge.

“What seems more to the point is that the transparent, consensus-based process used by the USGBC is not producing the outcomes that these trade associations want, and usually get on Capitol Hill. It involves a process – voting by USGBC members – that is deaf to the dog whistle of trade association lobbyists who bring Congress to heel with campaign contributions. We see this as a strength, not a deficiency.

“With the proposed materials credits in LEEDv4 the USGBC is finally offering those who want to reduce the exposure of building occupants to toxic chemicals a way to earn a LEED credit for their efforts. Far from being a radical departure that threatens energy and cost efficiencies, as claimed by the AHPBC, this is a modest step forward to improve health that has earned widespread support.

“When the American Sustainable Business Council spoke in defence of the new LEED chemical avoidance credits, companies like Construction Specialties, Inc. and Dignity Health were quoted on the record. Thirty manufacturers proudly display their logos as participants in the Health Product Declaration Working Group’s Pilot Project as they work together with their customers to perfect an open standard format for product content disclosure in anticipation of the new LEED credits.

“These companies reflect the real, and growing, consensus among building industry leaders: that the time has come to address chemical health risks. ‘Radical industrialist’ and long-time USGBC leader, Interface Corporation, described in a recent GreenBiz article, its decision to embrace an unrivalled level of product content disclosure in order to elevate the dialogue with stakeholders concerned about health risks from chemicals, noting: ‘If a company is perceived to be flippant about these concerns, then poof – an entire segment of your audience turns their back on you.‘”

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