Since its introduction in 1999, LEED® has been a leader in promoting green building practices. Its goal is to reduce the impact building materials, and the building industry in general, have on the environment. Some of the global problems it was designed to protect against include pollution of potable water supplies and degradation of forests. Unfortunately, having a LEED certification does not mean that all of the wood used was harvested legally.
Illegal logging is a pervasive problem world-wide. It can include harvesting protected species, cutting more wood than permitted from a given area, harvesting wood from preserves, failure to pay the proper fees and taxes on lumber, cutting wood on private property or stealing lumber from its proper owners, and even introducing radioactive lumber into a continental supply chain!
These actions can cause enormous damage to forests and the vital habitats they provide for numerous species of wildlife. It's also damaging to local economies that might depend on legally harvested wood for their survival. Illegal harvesting on a large enough scale can even impact an entire producer country's economy.
You might wonder how something as “simple” as illegal wood could impact an entire economy or ecosystem. According to this article, 15 to 30 percent of all the wood sold throughout the world each year is illegal. The amount increases to 50 to 90 percent when it comes to key tropical forests, such as those in Southeast Asia, Central Africa, and the Amazon Basin. This highly lucrative trade in illegal lumber is estimated to total between $30 and $100 billion annually.
It is for these reasons that LEED has taken steps to keep illegal lumber out of LEED certified buildings. As it stood until recently, a project could include illegal wood and still receive LEED credits because only a percentage of the wood in the project counted toward the credits. However, in April of 2016, the USGBC introduced a new pilot program to help eliminate the use of illegal wood in LEED projects. The Alternative Compliance Path (ACP) credit will promote the use of wood that is verified to be legally harvested. It is hoped that LEED’s unparalleled power in the marketplace will act as leverage to promote responsible wood sourcing.
In order to earn this new point, project teams must meet all requirements by establishing a chain of custody throughout the wood's journey and proactively verifying that the wood is legal. Hopes are high that, by building on the robust LEED infrastructure, this ACP will be just the first step in weeding all irresponsibly sourced or illegal materials out of the supply chain. Contact us for information about our legally harvested and sustainably sourced recycled wood.