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Skanska Quits Chamber over LEED

Monday, July 15, 2013

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Striking a blow for LEED, global construction and development giant Skanska USA has cut ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its failure to support the green building rating system.

Skanska announced its resignation from the Chamber on July 9 to protest the Chamber's support for what Skanska calls “an initiative to halt progress in sustainable building.”

At issue is the Chamber's support for the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition—an initiative led by the chemical industry—and its opposition to mandating the LEED system for government buildings.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA has constructed hundreds of green projects around the world. The company recently pulled funding from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because it supports an anti-LEED initiative, the company says.

Specifically, the initiative’s lobbying efforts on behalf of an amendment to the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill (S. 761) “threaten to halt years of progress in energy-efficient and environmentally responsible construction,” Skanska says.

The proposed amendment would prevent the General Services Administration from using green-building rating systems that are not certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). LEED is not an ANSI-certified standard.

LEED v4 Approval

"Sustainability is one of Skanska's core values," CEO and president Michael McNally wrote in a blog post about the resignation.

"And we will not be a part of an organization that supports the American High-Performance Building Coalition, which harbors the American Chemistry Council and opposes the implementation of a new, stronger LEED certification program."

Skanska's announcement came a week after the U.S. Green Building Council reported that its members had approved LEED v4, a comprehensive update to the green-building certification system. The Council says it will roll out LEED v4 this fall.

The Buildings Coalition, a vocal opponent of LEED, complained that the LEED approval process did not address substantial technical comments made by many building material makers and other stakeholders.

'Wrong Side of the Issue'

While Skanska officials say they believe in “a lot of what the U.S. Chamber does,” its opposition to LEED goes against the grain.

“The Chamber is on the wrong side of this issue, and its support of the AHPBC is misplaced as well as misguided,” said McNally.

American High-Performance Buildings Coalition

The American High-Performance Buildings Coalition has nearly 40 members, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Coatings Association.

“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.”

Aided in part by the LEED program, the green-building industry now contributes more than $554 billion to the U.S. economy and creates more than 7.9 million jobs annually, Skanska reports.

“Rather than support its members, who continually innovate to create new products that straddle the line between responsible and profitable, the Chamber has chosen to support a group of businesses who care more about protecting the status quo,” according to McNally.

Where Coating Makers Fit

The Chamber is a member of the Buildings Coalition, which was formed by the American Chemistry Council, the American Coatings Association, and other trade organizations. The coalition says it supports green building codes, standards and rating systems that are developed in conformance with ANSI or ISO-type consensus processes.

Skanska says it asked the Chamber leadership to reconsider its position and remove its support for the Coalition's position on LEED before removing its name and pulling funding, but talks broke down between the parties.

Chamber officials did not immediately respond Friday afternoon to a request for comment.

However, a Chamber official told Environmental Building News that the organization did “not view our membership in the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition as inconsistent with our support of building efficiency, or even of LEED standards in the future.”

US Chamber of Commerce
Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business organization, representing the interest of more than three million businesses.

Spokesman Matt Letourneau said, without elaborating, that the Chamber was a “strong supporter of the Shaheen-Portman energy-efficiency bill."

“We believe it is constructive to have a dialogue regarding the criteria used in future green building standards,” Letourneau told the news outlet. “A consensus-based approach to stronger efficiency standards will ensure broader acceptance and implementation.”

‘Consensus’ Concern

However, McNally told Environmental Building News that the Buildings Coalition and the Chamber were hiding behind words like “consensus.”

“They know better.” McNally said, “How could you ever have a standard like this and have 100% yesses? If you wind back the clock, we’d still have lead paint—because, God forbid, we push the lead-paint people out and not get consensus!”

McNally said Skanska’s goal in terminating its Chamber membership was to “kill the [anti-LEED] amendment” in the Shaheen-Portman bill.

“Success to me looks like the amendment doesn’t get attached, and the chemical industry and this coalition give up,” he told the News.

The Buildings Coalition declined to comment Friday evening.


Tagged categories: American Chemistry Council; American Coatings Association; American High-Performance Buildings Coalition; Building materials; Certifications and standards; Construction; Good Technical Practice; Green building; Green design; LEED v4; U.S. Green Building Council

Comment from William Talbott, (7/15/2013, 7:44 AM)

The 300 pound gorilla in the room has spoken. It would be beneficial if the research for the job claims and other LEED benefits were made known to all so they can be reviewed. And who were the authors the research. If you want others to agree, educate us all. Currently, LEED is an economic and cumbersome burden to the whole design and construction process. And if any entity challenges the "sacred cow" they are a planet destroyer. There is no doubt there are some LEED benefits but it does not mean it is perfect and needs to be approved in total. The construction industry struggles with constructing air tight buildings. In stead of adding more bureaucracy and political motivated agendas why not fix the basics before adding more requirements.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/17/2013, 1:01 PM)

There are so many things to look at in designing a "green" building. I've seen examples of "green" buildings that have sick building syndrome because they were too air tight and other buildings that, although not LEED (or any other source) certified, would definitely be called "green." Certainly, LEED seems to be the principal standard being used for certifying "green" buildings these days, but the current issues associated with v4 seem to highlight the fact that it is not perfect. Personally, having seen how imperfect regulations can make an absolute mess of things, I'd love to see a much better process so you don't get the Chamber, LEED, AHPBC, industry and industry associations all involved in pissing matches. If you want one "standard" sit down and see what the lowest common denominator is for everyone and go from there. Once you have a common base, it is far easier to grow.

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