Feds’ LEED leanings linked to broader regulatory burden

In a mid-July hearing, “Continuing Oversight of Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation: Job Creators Still Buried by Red Tape,” the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard how the General Services Administration’s exclusive use of a single green building rating system—the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standard—adversely impacts energy efficient building product sources.

Steve Russell, vice president of the American Chemistry Council Plastics Division, noted his group’s support of the broad objective of energy efficiency and related laws and regulation, plus members’ work with LEED developers. “Unfortunately, GSA has given its stamp of approval only to LEED, and LEED is currently being revised in a way that could jeopardize U.S. jobs and our industry’s competitiveness, not to mention building performance and efficiency,” he said.

The current proposal to update LEED is a significant departure from the previous version of the green building rating system, he added. Called LEED v4, it proposes several dramatic changes that are intended to reduce or eliminate the use of trusted, proven and beneficial products of chemistry used in building and construction products, without regard to American jobs or costs to taxpayers.

Russell described specific concerns the industry has about GSA’s use of any private standard as creating a monopoly in the federal construction sector for one private green building standard; resulting in a system which is increasingly not science-based or data-driven; and impairing the ability of small businesses in the building and construction sector to compete.

Describing how GSA has severely reduced healthy competition among green building standards by picking a single rating system, the agency “effectively creates a monopoly for federal buildings,” said Russell. “When the entire federal government picks just one private, standard, competition—the engine that drives lower prices, greater efficiency, and higher quality products—is removed.”

“Once a standard captures the entire market there is no competition, and no incentive to keep the price of implementing the standard down, so in the end the taxpayer pays more,” Russell affirmed.

The lack of scientific justification in LEED v4 should make it unsupportable for the federal government, he added, noting “The recently-proposed LEED update is so poorly grounded in science that the system gives ‘credits’ for avoiding proven U.S.-made products.”