Washington, D.C., August 8 -- The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released proposed language modifications to its LEED green building program that could allow builders to earn certification points for using wood products certified by organizations other than the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is the only certification brand recognized under LEED.

The proposed wood credit language, which is open for public comment until Sept. 7, would allow forest certification programs, which also include the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System, among others, to undergo analysis that will evaluate governance, technical/standards substance, accreditation and auditing, and chain of custody and labeling. Programs conforming to the Forest Certification System Benchmark will then be recognized by LEED, and products carrying their labels can be used to earn points toward LEED certification.

Currently, only wood products certified by FSC earn buildings LEED points, a fact that has confounded many in the industry, from the competing certification bodies to LBM distributors to green builders. The USGBC has been evaluating the issue since May 2006, in response to what it says were significant changes to forest products certification. Part of that analysis included research conducted by the Yale Program on Forest Policy and Governance and Sylvatica.

"It was clear from our extensive research that the increasing internationalization of the wood supply chain, the changing ownership structure of American forests, and the increasing diversity of wood certification programs globally demanded a more holistic, transparent approach," said Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED technical development for USGBC, in an announcement.

SFI, which has said previously that it has never really been told by the USGBC why its program is not recognized, responded that it was pleased by this next step. "Certification standards, like the SFI Program in North America, deliver on key values such as independent third-party auditing, protection for biodiversity, endangered species and forest values, balanced social, environmental and economic decision making structure, and risk assessments to avoid illegal sources of supply in their non-certified content, and it makes sense for the USGBC to recognize this," the group said in a statement to EcoHome.

According to the USGBC, after 30 days, the LEED Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group will review and respond to comments, after which it will revise the proposed credit language and reopen it to public comment. Following all public comment periods, USGBC members will vote and ratify final proposed language revisions.