Construction giant quits U.S. Chamber over LEED flap

A controversy has begun over the new version of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building standards, and the case has already reached the halls of Congress.Senate Bill 761, dubbed the "Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013," will no longer acknowledge the LEED standards, now in its fourth version, as a standard for government buildings.In fact, the legislation, also known as the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill, doesn't mention LEED v4 at all.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports the omission in the new bill, urged on by the American High-Performance Building Coalition. The lobbying organization represents the American Chemistry Council.AHPBC opposes the implementation of the new, stronger LEEDv4 certification program, drawn up by the U.S. Green building Council and approved last month. On July 9, Skanska USA, part of a Stockholm-based global construction, civil and development corporation, withdrew its membership and funding from the US Chamber over the issue.Skanska USA Building's local projects have included construction of the Pasco-Hernando Community College Spring Hill Campus and the PHCC Porter Campus, in Wesley Chapel. It joined the Pasco Economic Development Council board in 2011."The chamber is on the wrong side of this issue, and its support of the AHPBC is misplaced as well as misguided," said Mike McNally, president and CEO of Skanska USA. LEEDv4 encourages transparency in reporting the chemical composition of building materials, something we at Skanska think is essential for anyone wanting to build responsibly, McNally further commented on his blog."The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was created to advocate for pro-business policies that create jobs and support our economy. The numbers prove that LEED and green building do just that. Because a few companies don't like the current LEED program, they want to involve the government and create an entirely new system for government buildings," McNally said. McNally added that Skanska invites the Chamber and the AHPBC to a public discussion in any forum of the issues at stake, including LEED's consensus-based voting process, the value of green building to the nation's economy, and the potential health benefits of building with materials resulting from green chemistry.The House fiscal 2014 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill includes the following language: "None of the funds made available under this heading may be obligated or expended to implement or use green building rating standards for new construction or prospectus level renovations unless such standards are voluntary consensus standards, as that term is defined in Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119."The AHPBC issued a statement regarding the bill that said, "There is a growing concern in Congress over the wide use of green building ratings standards that have a broad influence on the marketplace and taxpayer dollars, yet do not prioritize performance or allow for balanced stakeholder input."Jared Blum, President and CEO of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, commented in a column, saying, "the complexity surrounding chemistry materials can raise questions and uncertainty." He calls for leaders in the chemistry field to work in partnership with standards developers, including the U.S. Green Building Council and others, in developing standards.
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