Sustainable forestry gains a boost as more products become eligible for LEED

25 April 2016

The range of responsibly sourced timber and forest products eligible for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) scheme has been expanded after the US Green Building Council (USGBC) issued an alternative compliance path (ACP).

The ACP rewards building projects that use "wood products from certified sources as defined by ASTM D7612-10", which includes internationally recognised voluntary forest certification standards such as PEFC’s. The ACP will apply to all LEED v4 rating systems including Homes v4 and to all LEED 2009 rating systems.

“Sustainable, PEFC-certified timber provides architects and the construction industry with great opportunities,” said Ben Gunneberg, chief executive of PEFC International. “The possibilities are rather exciting in helping to address challenges such as climate change, growing populations and urbanisation, especially as wood offers innovative building solutions with a minimal environmental footprint.”

With LEED now including PEFC-certified timber, construction projects can in the future obtain both LEED and PEFC Project Chain of Custody certification.

“The construction industry is one of the largest buyers of timber products – this means the sector is very influential in determining which type of timber is in demand,” Gunneberg added. “With PEFC-certified timber offering the widest choice of sustainable timber available to architects, specifiers and designers, we are poised to see an increase of wood used in construction globally.”

Wood is an increasingly popular choice for construction because of its aesthetic qualities, and numerous environmental benefits – including its renewability and recyclability plus a lower carbon footprint than other materials. Forest certification programmes such as PEFC’s provide evidence that wood originates from responsibly-managed forests.

Last year’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) review of public sector timber procurement policy (TPP) Category A Evidence, saw PEFC Chain of Custody once again judged to provide assurances of legal and sustainable timber sourcing.

Using PEFC-certified timber helps achieve Excellent and Outstanding BREEAM ratings and helps meet Passivhaus performance levels. It also plays a pivotal role in satisfying the requirements of Part L and Part E of the Building Regulations. In addition, PEFC-certified timber is a central component of the RICS Ska environmental performance standard for fit out projects.

Last year’s Next Generation report showed that Britain’s leading house builders participating in the annual survey had to demonstrate that only legal timber is purchased, with a supply chain audit showing that appropriate documentation for certified timber is in place. Participating companies were required to demonstrate that they have either PEFC or FSC Chain of Custody Certification for all timber purchased, and require all suppliers and contractors to prove that they have Chain of Custody certificates for the timber they are supplying.

PEFC-certified timber is accepted in green building procurement schemes around the globe including the National Green Building Standard and Green Building Initiative in the US, Built Green in Canada, CASBEE in Japan and the Singapore Environment Council.

Green building standards such as LEED and BREEAM together with industry and private sector responsible sourcing initiatives are vital in driving demand for certified timber. They send a strong signal to forest owners that their investment in sustainable forest management and certification is valued and appreciated by companies and customers requiring assurances of responsible sourcing.