South Carolina Avoids LEED Ban, Adopts Compromise Language

Originally published by: Eco Building PulseApril 16, 2014

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On April 7, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) signed into law a bill that restricts the pursuit of certain credits in the LEED green building rating system. The bill, amends a 2007 law that required state-funded building projects to achieve LEED Silver or Green Globes certification so that local manufacturers that would now not qualify for certain credits under LEED v4 can still partake in government-funded green building projects. Under the law, a state committee can also now dismiss LEED credits that are deemed to be unnecessary, although it cannot drop a building’s total credits below the 50-credit LEED Silver threshold.

The bill, H3592, was introduced in the House on February 21, 2013, by State Rep. William E. “Bill” Sandifer, III (R- District 2, Oconee & Pickens Counties) and State Rep. Dwight A. Loftis (R- District 19, Greenville County), and originally proposed to ban LEED. However, after contentious debate in the House, it was modified to serve as a compromise between the state’s environmentalist and manufacturing crowds, and provides the best way to address the concerns of manufacturing constituents without destroying the green building program, according to Rep. Sandifer.

Anti-LEED proponents argue that LEED imposes unnecessary negative impacts on local businesses, primarily manufacturing industries, in South Carolina. In response, the law uses specific language to restrict the pursuit of credits related to material transparency and states that projects requesting third-party certification “shall not be allowed to seek a rating credit or point for building product disclosure and optimization credit that requires material ingredient reporting.” While this amendment states that it applies to any subsequent systems developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Green Building Initiative (the developer of the Green Globes certification system) and other third-party certifications, it is an obvious reference to the materials and resources credits introduced in LEED v4. The bill also advocates preference for the use of materials such as wood, masonry, plastics, textiles, concrete, and steel that are grown or produced within the state.

Organizations that oppose the LEED credits applauded the bill’s passage. The v4 credits would reward projects for deselecting specific building materials and products based on specific chemical ingredients, according to Scott Openshaw, senior director of advocacy communications for the American Chemistry Council. Restricting the use of the products, Openshaw says, could potentially negatively impact manufacturing businesses and employees that produce them.

Openshaw also represents the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC), an organization formed by multiple chemical companies such as the American Chemistry Council, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, and the Vinyl Institute in 2012 to represent the interests of building- materials manufacturers and advocate for consensus-based green building standards.

This bill marks a trend in which chemical and plastic trade groups have opposed the integration of LEED standards in the Southeast. In 2013, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas saw anti-LEED state-level policies introduced for debate.

According to the South Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the passage of the South Carolina law is actually a win for green building systems because it avoids an outright ban. Under an amendment proposed by State Sen. Paul Campbell (R- Berkeley), the law also forms a Sustainable Committee in the Office of the State Engineer that will be compromised of state government employees along with members recommended by state chapters of organizations such as the AIA and ASHRAE. The committee will review new versions of LEED and other green building rating systems, with the intention of promulgating regulations to amend the rating systems and remove specific provisions deemed inappropriate or unnecessary, according to the office of Representative Sandifer.

LEED advocates still argue against the law. "South Carolina remains committed to LEED as a critical part of our future. USGBC-South Carolina Chapter is proud of the coalition of organizations, businesses, and lawmakers who were successful in overcoming powerful special interests to bar the use of the world's most popular green building certification program," Michael Criss, chair of the USGBC South Carolina Chapter's advocacy committee said in response the law. "However, H.3592/Act 150 continues efforts by the vested interests of the timber and chemical lobbies to weaken the use of LEED. Instead, South Carolina should be expanding the many benefits of green building, and LEED in particular, to schools and other State-funded buildings that will save taxpayer money and improve occupant health."

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