Projects like the LEED Platinum Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia will no longer be allowed under new legislation just passed in both houses of Congress.
The U.S. Congress is calling a halt to certain military spending on green building in a newly passed defense authorization bill (H.R. 1540). The bill prohibits use of Department of Defense funds to achieve LEED Gold or Platinum, with waivers possible if a cost-benefit analysis for the project can demonstrate payback. Exceptions may also be made without a special waiver if achieving Gold or Platinum “imposes no additional cost.”
The bill also requires that the Secretary of Defense submit a cost-benefit report by June 30, 2012 on the sustainable design standards used by the military for new construction and renovations. The report will look at cost, payback, and return on investment of each level of LEED certification individually, of LEED volume certification, and of ASHRAE standards 90.1 and 189.1.
The bill “represents a rollback of the federal government at the forefront of pushing green building and LEED,” according to green building attorney Shari Shapiro, Esq. “Over the last five years, the federal government has been one of the largest customers for LEED,” she told EBN, and she sees indications in other legislation that Congress is trying to “push back at the use of LEED particularly but also green building in general.”
The General Services Administration (GSA), part of the executive branch of government, has responded to executive orders by requiring LEED Gold certification for all new construction and major renovations of federal buildings—putting GSA and Congress on a potential collision course. According to Shapiro, when an executive order and congressional legislation are in direct conflict, the matter often ends up in court—and the legislative branch almost always prevails.
In a similar move, Maine Governor Paul LePage has signed an executive order that effectively bans the use of LEED—formerly required by law—in State construction and renovation projects. The order requires that green building rating systems used for State buildings must offer equal recognition of wood products certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the American Tree Farm System, and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification systems (an international group allied with SFI).Certified wood credits in the LEED rating systems recognize only materials certified by FSC—and statements suggest that some federal legislators had this in mind while writing the military appropriations bill.