News Brief

LEED Ban Lifted in New Military Spending Bill

A two-year halt on spending for LEED Gold and Platinum was called off in the 2014 federal defense authorization act.

The Community Emergency Services Station at Fort Bragg achieved LEED Platinum certification not long after Congress began restricting funding for buildings certified above the Silver level. (The building was completed before the law went into effect.) Those restrictions have now been lifted.

Photo: USACE Savannah District. License: CC BY 2.0.
Congress has lifted its restriction on LEED spending by the U.S. military.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed by President Obama on December 26, 2013, does not renew a two-year prohibition on use of Department of Defense (DoD) funds to achieve LEED Gold or Platinum (see “Two New Laws Restrict Use of LEED”).

Although there had been an exception for projects that could achieve Gold or Platinum at no additional cost (see “Army to Congress: LEED Doesn’t Cost More”), the provision was just the tip of a political iceberg involving the timber industry; statements by Roger Wicker (R–Mississippi), who introduced the restrictions, suggested the ban stemmed from “the wood wars.” LEED recognizes only the strict Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard for certified wood, a sore point with the mainstream timber industry.

According to Stuart Kaplow, who reported on the change in Green Building Law Update, such a targeted restriction on LEED may no longer be necessary. That’s because Green Globes, which recognizes the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification favored by vocal forestry lobbyists, now shares equal status with LEED for the federal government.

Additionally, “this is a big deal because the act includes $527 billion in base defense spending for the current fiscal year,” according to Kaplow. Most major renovations and new construction funded by those billions will have to adhere to DoD’s internal regulations, the United Facilities Criteria (UFC), which require third-party verification of sustainable design and construction through an approved rating system. Current UFC wording designates “LEED Silver or equivalent” as the minimum standard, and DoD has historically left the word “equivalent” open to interpretation within each military department (see “4 Reasons Battles Over LEED in the Military Are a Distraction”).

Published February 3, 2014

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