Credit: Jessica Rubenstein
It's looking like Ohio, a state long recognized as a pivotal political battle ground in national elections, may have a new legislative dust-up brewing after two state senators put forth a resolution in the state senate
last week that seeks to ban the use of LEED in public construction. Will the Buckeye state buck the nation's most visible building performance ratings system? While that's up for debate, we do know that we now have to change Ohio to orange in our map tracking the status of pro-LEED and anti-LEED state policies
The bone Ohio Senators Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, and Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, have to pick with LEED is a now-familiar argument: that LEED does not follow American National Standards Institute (ANSI) consensus procedures and therefore should not be used as a rating system of record. However, unlike some other states that have moved to ban the use of LEED in public projects this year, which danced around specifically naming LEED, the Ohio resolution, SCR 25, takes on LEED v4 directly, asserting that LEED v4 should no longer be used by Ohio state agencies and government entities and that the state's Office of Energy Services begin an immediate review of alternative rating systems, codes, and standards.
From an observer's standpoint, it's beginning to look like a national game of whack-a-mole for USGBC, having tackled similar challenges in North Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. In the southern states, the battle seemed to be more about the use of timber in LEED, as the Atlantic Cities reported in August, asking "Why Are Some States Trying to Ban LEED Green Building Standards?" In Ohio, the point of contention—the use of ANSI processes—is the same position taken by the American High-Performance Buildings Council during the multiple rounds of debate over LEED v4, as well as during the review period by the U.S. General Services Administration over what rating system should be used by the federal government.
One of the elements at play in the debate on LEED and its use, or lack thereof, of ANSI processes is the amount of transparency that is given into how LEED is modified and updated. However, in countering the rising anti-LEED legislation, supporters of the rating system contend that it's concern about a different sort of transparency that is driving such proposals. In an Op-Ed in Thursday's Columbus Dispatch, Tyler Steele, the chairman of the USGBC's Central Ohio chapter asserts that the Ohio senate resolution is the work of an out-of-state consortium of chemical companies that is "upset that the latest version of LEED would make occupants aware of the chemical ingredients within their building materials." This should sound familiar by now: It's the same chain of thought that led Skanska USA to resign its membership from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in July.
In gearing up its opposition to the proposed resolution, the Ohio green building community is framing the debate around one central argument: LEED works, a refrain the USGBC has adopted. Within this framework, the counterargument is focusing on green schools, since Ohio has the most LEED-certified schools in the country. In his O-Ed, Steele notes that "since adopting LEED, Ohio's green schools have outperformed baseline energy performance by 34 percent, almost 200,000 tons of construction waste has been diverted from landfills and occupants report improved educational outcomes."
Search #LEEDworks and #greenschools on Twitter to tap into the campaign. In addition, a campaign has been set up at change.org by USGBC's advocacy team to petition Ohio Senate President Keith Faber to oppose SCR 25.
UPDATE: Despite legislative challenges, North Carolina and Florida continue to support LEED, as does Tennessee, which faced a similar political challenge, says USGBC director of technical policy Jeremy Sigmon. The challenge in Ohio, he notes, is "a single industry's attempt to tear down LEED when they disagree with one or two credits. Most industries innovate to contribute to LEED—the chemical industry is choosing to lobby." However, he notes, Ohio carries strong support for the rating system and revoking its use in public buildings would be "akin to California turning its back on green building leadership."
This story features additional reporting by Caroline Massie.