There is no such thing as a LEED-Certified product!

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It bugs me when I see a product advertised as ‘LEED-certified’.  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system established by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).  It’s a measurement tool for evaluating the sustainability of a building, not a product, across major attributes like energy efficiency, resource efficiency, site selection, etc.  The way it’s structured, products qualify for POINTS, and this aggregation of POINTS will help your project reach CERTIFICATION. There are a bunch of competing ‘green’ ratings for products, but as of today, there is no single comprehensive certification that applies generally to building products – there’s no standardized equivalent of ‘organic’ for ‘green’.  To name a few of the well-known product certifications, there’s FSC and SFI which certify sustainably harvested wood products, Green Seal (whose paints and coatings certifications are recognized by LEED), Energy Star which certifies a wide range of products (including cool roofing like EverGuard TPO) but only measures one specific attribute (energy efficiency).  Or there’s GreenGuard which certifies products for low chemical emissions, among other things.  But as far as I’m aware,there is no single overall rating system for green building products, and there probably won’t be for many years.  If you are building a project, you must pull all that information together yourself – asking the product manufacturer to substantiate claims of recycled content, rapidly renewable resource content, or other attributes that qualify for points. (GAF has a lot of products that may qualify for points.  We use a web-based tool called ecoScorecard to make finding and submitting them easier for you).  You then submit that information to your LEED Green Rater, who is certified by the USGBC/GBCI to do these evaluations, as backup for the choices that you made (speaking specifically here about how LEED for Homes works, LEED-NC is a little different but the effect is the same).  So no, the USGBC does not certify products – it certifies buildings and professionals (all this via its certification body the GBCI).  Do you get asked for “LEED Certified Products”?  How do you handle this question?



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  1. Rosie

    Hey Mike,

    I agree with you so much about this. I actually am looking for green and/or energy efficient items that can be representative and educational about our LEED homes and deceptive items pop up so much when you are doing google searches for LEED items. We have built 40 LEED Silver homes and are planning on building a lot more. If you have any ideas or exhibits we can make that you have seen that would help tremendously. Right now we are get GAF Shingles donated that are more sustainable than traditional shingles because they are 30 years. You can check out our website at dallas-habitat.org

    Thanks!
    Rosie

  2. Martin Grohman

    Caroline – thanks for the comment. I haven’t seen packaging mentioned anywhere in any of the LEED standards (New Construction, Homes, etc). But it is a legitimate question. I will ask my contact at the USGBC.

  3. Caroilne Barnett

    Thanks for the insight and clarification on LEED. As a supplier of packaging to the roofing industry, I have wondered what place packaging might play in the accreditation process for products used during the construction phase. Do you think it will ever matter? Retail packaging is such a critical component to the buying and decision making process for consumers but industrial packaging hasn’t been elevated to that level of importance. Could LEED be a driver for changing that? For example, if company A offers products that use carefully chosen packaging that minimizes the impact on the environment, and company B’s packaging contains, for example, three products that have to be landfilled, do you think there will ever be an incentive to choose one over the other if other attributes of cost, and product benefits are equivalent?


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