Good leadership in Olympia, in the form of House Bill 1272. The bill would require all new public buildings that get state funding to meet national standards for energy efficiency.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s standards, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), rate commercial construction on a variety of measures (pdf) of sustainability. HB 1272 would mandate that state-funded public buildings meet LEED’s "silver" rating (the second most permissive of four LEED standards).
Green buildings have a demonstrated ability to reduce energy consumption. They promote better environmental practices. And they can be darn nice buildings to boot, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencerpointed out yesterday. According to the P-I, the bill’s primary opponent is the timber industry, on the grounds that green building standards discriminate against timber. But they don’t.
In fact, LEED certification awards points for using certain kinds of timber—namely, timber with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. FSC labeling is smart for a bevy of reasons: it promotes good (and secure) jobs in forestry, it’s easier on forest ecosystems, and it strengthens local economies. And FSC certification makes good business sense too. Public land managers, like Fort Lewis, and private land managers, like Idaho’s Potlatch Corporation, have certified large-scale forest holdings.
The timber industry’s argument is especially perverse in an increasingly globalized timber market. In fact, FSC labeling (and the LEED rating that encourages builders to use FSC wood) can actually promote a healthier local forestry sector. Because the FSC label is international, it can hold foreign timber operations to a higher standard of conduct if they want to market their timber to publicly funded buildings in Washington state. And in the meantime, there are increasing numbers of certified forest managers right here in the Northwest.
The House budget committee votes on HB 1272 on Thursday, February 10. Here’s to hoping it passes.