The bill proposing to prevent state construction projects from seeking “green building” certification under LEED standards (House Bill 628) appears to be moving toward a compromise. An earlier post described the controversy over LEED standards for wood products. Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee approved a new – and entirely rewritten – version of House Bill 628. You can find the new bill draft here. The Senate version of House Bill 628 does two things:
- The bill adds entirely new language on energy efficiency standards for state construction projects. The Senate bill would change existing law to only require state construction projects to meet more aggressive energy efficiency standards adopted by the General Assembly in 2008 if the result would be a net savings in construction and operating costs. To calculate “net savings”, the bill uses construction costs added to operating costs for the first ten years after completion (as compared to building the same structure without meeting the energy efficiency standards). The committee heard some concerns about using ten years of operating costs to calculate net savings. Apparently most energy efficiency construction contracts use 15-20 years as the time period for recovery of costs and calculation of net savings. Senator Tommy Tucker, who offered the amended bill language in committee, said that he would be willing to consider a different time period as long as it is reasonable.
- The bill completely replaces the original House Bill 628 language on acceptable “green” building certification. The Senate version would allow state construction projects to use any energy efficiency/environmental design rating system that “(i) provides certification credits for, (ii) provides a preference to be given to, (iii) does not disadvantage, and (iv) promotes building materials or furnishings, including masonry, concrete, steel, textiles, or wood that are manufactured or produced within the State”. The LEED rating system seems to meet that requirement by providing specific credits for use of regional materials. You can find the list of LEED credits available for new building construction/major renovation projects here. A new commercial building must meet basic LEED requirements and earn a minimum of 40 points on a 110-point rating scale to get LEED certification. Use of wood products meeting Forest Stewardship Council standards can provide one point, but use of regionally sourced building materials can provide two points (if 20% of the building materials meet the regional material standard).
A footnote on the issue of LEED certification and use of N.C. wood products: There has been an ongoing fight over what should count as “sustainable” forestry. (See the earlier post on a recent complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission about “green” labelling for wood products.) Setting that aside, concerns about the impact of LEED certification on use of N.C. wood products may also come from the way architects translate LEED standards into specifications for individual construction projects The House bill sponsor, Representative Michele Presnell, used an example of major renovations at Tryon Palace (a colonial era building in New Bern) where the material specifications required use of wood products meeting Forest Stewardship Council standards. Although major wood producers are located within a stone’s throw of Tryon Palace, Representative Presnell said they were closed out of bidding because none of those producers operate under FSC standards. I don’t have any direct knowledge of the specifications for the Tryon Palace project, but if that happened it seems to be an unnecessary result even under LEED standards. With a 110-point rating system, there are many different ways to reach the 40 points needed for LEED certification. It is possible to reach LEED certification without relying on the one point for wood products at all. (And the wood products credit only requires that 50% of the permanent wood products used in the building meet the FSC standard.)
A conversation between the N.C. forest products industry and the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects about how specifications for LEED projects can be written to support use of N.C. products might benefit the industry even more than legislation.
House Bill 628 is on the Senate calendar today and will then go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.