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Dating the enemy? LEED teams up with American Chemistry Council

Rick Fedrizzi at the Greenbuild conference in 2012.
Rick Fedrizzi at the Greenbuild conference in 2012.

A peculiar email hit The Fifth Estate inbox today (Thursday) titled “US Green Building Council and the American Chemistry Council to Work Together to Advance LEED”.

For anyone who has been following the politics of the LEED tool in the US, and the ACC’s unrelenting attempts to hamper its use in government buildings due to the inclusion of a credit point for disclosing “chemicals of concern” such as polyvinyl chloride, the pairing seems more than a little odd.

“The US Green Building Council and the American Chemistry Council today announced a new initiative designed to ensure the use of sustainable and environmentally protective products in buildings by applying technical and science-based approaches to the LEED green building program,” the statement said.

“This new initiative acknowledges USGBC’s success in leading the transformation of the built environment and sets up a pathway to take advantage of the materials science expertise of ACC and its members.”

Chief executive of chair of USGBC Rick Fedrizzi said the two councils shared “the goal of advancing sustainability in the built environment” and that “the looming impacts of climate change and the possibilities of improving human health and wellbeing favour collaboration and engagement as key strategies”.

ACC president and chief executive Cal Dooley said that building sustainability wouldn’t be possible without the products of chemistry.

“From windows to insulation, adhesives to flooring, chemistry provides solutions that enable the energy efficient and sustainable buildings that consumers expect in today’s world,” he said. “By combining USGBC, a leader of the green building movement, with the scientific know-how of ACC, we can develop a path to stronger, science-based standards that achieve measurable progress in sustainability.”

According to Treehugger, the two councils will set up a “Supply Chain Optimization Working Group”, with the ACC saying it will “continue to advocate for ensuring that green building rating systems used by governments are performance-based, have a strong technical basis founded on science, and are developed with broad stakeholder input including building material science experts”.

Whether the partnership will lead to changes in how PVC is treated in LEED is as yet uncertain, but it is interesting to note the repeated use of the term “science-based” in the media release, which has been the ACC and Vinyl Council’s key point of contention regarding PVC’s inclusion on the “chemicals of concern” disclosure credit.

Jerry Yudelson of the Green Building Initiative, which the vinyl industry has been pushing as an alternative rating system to LEED, this year told The Fifth Estate that the LEED v4 tool’s decision to award a point for disclosure of “chemicals of concern”, including PVC, was based on science that was “inconclusive and not risk-based, as required in the US for government action against specific chemicals”.

“I haven’t seen persuasive data on the health outcomes of common building materials beyond those that relate to mould and mildew and things like off-gassing of volatile organic compounds,” he said.

We’ll provide more information and industry responses as they come to hand.

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