Georgia General Assembly House Bill 255 is proof that the “wood wars” surrounding the LEED green building rating system continue to be waged.

That said, the specific bill is Much Ado About Nothing.

Despite that the previous much debated LEED credit for FSC Certified Wood is gone from LEED v4, the new MRc3 credit, “Building product disclosure and optimization – sourcing of raw materials” is a new source of controversy. To receive the credit, a project must use “at least 25%, by cost, of the total value of permanently installed building products.” For wood products, the credit requires products “certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or USGBC-approved equivalent” (.. and, apparently, there are no such approved equivalents). 

Earlier battles in the wood wars, when the FSC Certified Wood credit was at the center of controversy, resulted in Congress halting funding of 2012 and 2013 Department of Defense LEED Gold and Platinum projects, lead Maryland and other states to enact laws and issue Executive Orders to not pursue the FSC Wood credit on government LEED projects, and more.

On August 10, 2012 by Executive Order Georgia Governor Nathan Deal decreed,

that any new or expanded state building shall incorporate “Green Building” standards that give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured, and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System and Forest Stewardship Council.

That Executive Order, having the import of not permitting use of LEED on Georgia state funded building, remains in place in Georgia.

So when HB 255 proposes to  memorialize the following,

Whenever green building standards are applied to the new construction, operation, repair, or renovation of any state building, the state shall use only those green building standards that give certification credits equally to Georgia forest products grown, manufactured, and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System, and the Forest Stewardship Council,

as a statute, will change nothing on the ground in the Peach state and is Much Ado About Nothing.

While this and other proposed anti-LEED laws should not be ignored, few think there is any crisis of purpose or legitimacy in the LEED rating systems and many believe opposition might be expected when LEED commands a 95% market share in the multi-billion dollar certified Green building market. Possibly the better question is whether the voluntary third party rating system is being misused when it is mandatory for government building, in Georgia and elsewhere?

At the end of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples. It is unlikely that the U.S. Green Building Council will similarly accept any of the more than 50 ‘forest management practice’ programs across the globe, and the organization’s longstanding exclusive relationship with FSC will continue. Some have suggested that the ongoing reworking of the v4 material credits will allow USGBC to ‘set things right’ not just with lumber but also with the larger controversies surrounding materials, stemming the anti v4 tide.

HB 255 is set for public hearing before the Georgia legislature’s State Properties Committee this Wednesday, March 4 at 2 p.m.