What’s it mean to be green? - Commercial Building

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“I became involved because of environmental awareness; it was kind of personal,” says Hal Moore, owner of Adirondack Hardwoods, a retail lumber dealer in Saranac, N.Y., who uses solar energy and a sawdust furnace to power and heat his 7,000-sq.-ft. facility. “When I started in 2000, I sold $100 of FSC-certified stuff. So I wasn’t getting a lot of calls. But last year I probably did $80,000 in sales of [certified] cabinets and lumber. It’s been a slow, but steady increase.”

“At times it can be a headache, but it is still a worthwhile cause,” says Mike Mamrak of Lewis Lumber Products in Picture Rocks, Pa. “Our COC (chain of custody) number is 56, which is way down there, so we were on the very front edge. Our sawmill owns roughly 17,000 acres of timber, which is all FSC-certified. It’s definitely twofold; it’s to let everyone know that we’re interested in not just harvesting the timber, but also in providing it for the environment. It’s also for a monetary gain at the same time. We’re able to quote and do [certified] jobs that other people can’t do.”

Commercial building
The real change in the green landscape is in the commercial market. Many local, state and national government jobs now require the use of certified materials. Private institutional and educational jobs also fall into the same category. As an example, if a wood products company wants to bid on a job to supply wood for a government project, in most cases the supplier would have to be FSC-certified.

The U.S. Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System program, which promotes green building and development practices. LEED for new construction and major renovations is designed to guide and distinguish high-performance commercial and institutional projects. LEED provides a point system that gives a green rating to a particular project. The more points a project can accumulate, the greener the project is judged to be.

The LEED for Homes Rating System has four certification levels and a maximum of 136 points can be obtained. Points are offered in eight main categories, one being “Materials and Resources.” A maximum of eight points can be earned under the heading of “Environmentally Preferable Products.”

It’s no secret that the use of certified wood products in homes gets shortchanged in the current LEED system. As an example, only one-half point is awarded for cabinets made with certified, recycled or reclaimed wood. There are no points awarded for furniture built with certified wood, so certified wood suppliers and furniture makers using the material feel they are getting a raw deal in that respect.

“I think the Green Building Council is increasingly aware of those unfairnesses and we need to work with them to get them modified as quickly as we can to encourage more use of wood,” French says. “If you look at life-cycle analysis and compare wood with the other building materials — like glass, metal, aluminum and steel — [wood] comes out stellar. But what really offends us is (LEED’s) Rapidly Renewable Credit, which [encourages] people to put bamboo flooring down from China instead of using locally sourced red oak.”

Green growth
Statistics point to a definite growth in green building in this country. LEED for Homes states that, as of October 2008, it had 13,651 registered homes in its program, of which 1,084 had been certified. On the commercial end, depending upon which statistic you want to rely on, between 10 and 20 percent of current building projects are LEED projects, and the number is predicted to increase dramatically in the next decade.