Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sourcing FSC for LEED

Understanding how FSC and LEED work together can be complicated, and trying to source FSC can be downright frustrating.

Here are some sources and tips to make the most of your FSC-sourcing experience for a LEED project. The first places to start are the Designing and Building with FSC Guide and FSC's LEED webpage.

1. Confirm which LEED program your client is trying to achieve
Each LEED program has different requirements for obtaining points through wood materials. While most have similar criteria relating to FSC, a few are a little different.

Below is a simplified view of the FSC "certified wood" credits within LEED. See specific program guides for detailed information.
The USGBC has recently updated some of the standards overall, so make sure you are working from the most recent version.
  • All programs require that tropical hardwoods must be FSC-certified (no points are rewarded), while other FSC-related credits are voluntary and qualify for additional points.
  • LEED-Homes recognizes different building components separately and requires that a component be made of 90% FSC-certified material to get the FSC "certified wood" credit. This 90% is calculated by weight or volume.
  • LEED-Healthcare is currently under construction and will most likely have its own set of FSC-related standards.
Understanding the basics of LEED will be also be a valuable asset on future projects. Some contractors are even becoming LEED Accredited Professionals to enhance understanding and get an edge in the market. Click here for some tips on taking the LEED-AP exam.
2. Identify your FSC Chain-of-Custody number.
Your chain-of-custody number is necessary to prove your product's FSC authenticity on the LEED submittal.

Does your product even need FSC Chain-of-Custody certification? To sell a product as FSC, your company must hold CoC certificates for FSC wood products that your company has changed in any way from the time it became your inventory. This sometimes includes distributors and retailers, but not always. Go to FSC's FAQ regarding the LEED certified wood credit page for certification requirements.

Are you looking to become FSC certified? Visit FSC's "Getting Certified" webpage for more information, or go directly to the list of FSC Certifiers to set up an audit. One tip: get multiple quotes from different certifiers as prices can differ between auditing companies and per location. The FSC Chain-of-Custody Fact Sheet can also answer any and all questions about the auditing process.

Are you a small business owner? Chain-of-custody group certification can be a way to lessen the initial and annual costs of FSC certification, and link you to other FSC-certified companies.

Can you use the FSC logo on your product, website, or marketing materials? Read FSC's Clarification and Guidance to Trademark Use to find out. Proper logo placement is very important. If you are unsure, contact your FSC auditor.

Still want to learn more about FSC? Changes to FSC criteria just happened recently. Read more on documents related to FSC, the complete FSC certification standards and policies, or any of Dovetail Partners' Reports on FSC-certification.
3. Research what FSC materials are available in your area
FSC-certified high-character birch from Aitkin County, Minnesota;
created by Custom Creations

To maximize financial benefits and provide high-quality FSC-certified materials, first find out what is available in your region, and then use that material.

Designers often specify FSC-certified clear-grade wood without realizing that it may not be readily available - yet. Sometimes in sustainably-managed forests smaller diameter trees are harvested first to encourage forest diversity and allow medium-sized trees to grow larger. This can give the impression that FSC has to cost a lot more or that there is no FSC available, when character-grade material might be readily available locally at a fraction of the cost. Shopping according to what is available increases your chances of securing an FSC product, and buying locally supports your local economy, reduces costs, achieves LEED points and decreases environmental impacts from transportation.
This FSC-certified basswood ceiling and birch staircase from Aikin County, MN demonstrate how
character-grade material creates a beautiful impact
Here are a few resources for finding FSC-certified wood*:

FSC search engine
Forest Certification Resource Center (Metafore)
Smartguide to Sourcing Green Building Products
Sustainable Woods Network
Healthy Forests Healthy Communities
Upper Mississippi Certified Forests Products Group

(*Please note: these databases may only search manufacturers and distributors, not retailers. To find products carried by your local retailer, contact them directly. Remember that a product made from FSC-wood that was purchased from a retailer without chain-of-custody certificate may not be called an FSC product [even if your company is has its own CoC] because it breaks the chain)

Image courtesy of Dovetail Partners, Inc.
Finding local FSC is not easy for everyone. Forest ownership patterns in the US have influenced the concentration of FSC forests. For example, areas with a large number of family forests or Federal Forests may not have a lot of FSC. Small group certification can help small businesses and family forest landowners increase the amount of FSC-managed forests and create a centralized hub of FSC wood product supply. Currently there is no comprehensive list of group certificates, but you can find out more about group certification and see some examples at the Family Forest Alliance.

The amount of federal forestland in your state may also reflect a limited supply of FSC (National Forests currently cannot be FSC-certified). This is understandably a very controversial debate. If you would like to see National Forests in your area become FSC certified, talk to the National Forest Service and also to FSC-US. For an example of a drafted letter concerning this topic, go here.

If there is still no FSC in your region, there may be products from other sustainable forestry programs in your area, such as SFI, PEFC, CSA, and ATFS. While LEED does not recognize any other sustainable forestry standards besides FSC at this time, the other certification systems may still fit your sustainability criteria. You may also be able to obtain points through the "regional materials" credit by using one of these alternatives if they are local. To see detailed reports on the different certification systems and their own specific criteria, go here.


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LEED said...

Thanks for sharing the article about LEED, I am impressed by your research and how much time you have spent to get it. LEED has become a necessary part for you and your house protection and people are using this for more benefits, now a day’s LEED are coming in various design which is good looking.