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Today’s truth check: Green building is good for Ohio!

Published on Written by Posted in Advocacy and policy
Photo Credit: OZinOH via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: OZinOH via Flickr Creative Commons

Ohio’s green building industry stands strong to support green building in the Buckeye State…

This morning, USGBC joined expert witnesses from across Ohio’s diverse green building industry to tell state legislators that LEED works for Ohio. A handful of DC industry lobbyists flew in for the second time, today, to say that it is not.

The purpose of this morning’s convening in Columbus was a hearing before a state senate committee.  The committee heard testimony on the merits of an ill-advised resolution designed to pull the plug on the state’s green public building programs, including the state’s remarkable green schools work.

If you were in the senators’ shoes, I’d bet you’d have been confused. Why are these industry lobbyists trying to take away Ohio’s amazingly successful green building leadership programs?

LEED continually creates space for innovation, competition and growth of so many American industries.  Cleveland’s own Sherwin-Williams is a great example of a company that found an opportunity for innovation available in LEED’s voluntary credits and has emerged as a market leader in the production of low-emitting paints and coatings.

In addition, 88 of the Fortune 100 use LEED as an essential tool for validating investments and outcomes in their real estate. Major Ohio employers also rely on LEED to build better, more energy efficient buildings – such as Proctor & Gamble, Kohl’s, Fifth Third Bank, Target, American Electric Power, PNC Financial Services Group, Duke Energy, the Home Depot and many others.

For the private sector, and for federal, state and local governments, LEED is a smart business decision – and it’s the kind of leadership communities expect from public institutions.  That’s what seven professionals and one brave high school student lined up to say this morning.

But they weren’t the only ones who showed up.  It became quite apparent who was behind the effort when a drove of chemical industry lobbyists from DC joined the bill sponsor for testimony last week. Ohio businesses that support green building and LEED were not invited to that hearing, but this week anyone could testify… and testify they did!

Why, I must ask, is the national chemical lobby so opposed to green building progress? These big special interest groups are attacking LEED because it includes a few voluntary points (out of a total of 110) that reward companies that share some basic information about building materials. Information transparency is the foundation of our free market system.  (It seems the real question is what do they have to hide?)

Here’s a series of powerful statements shared by proponents of green building who submitted testimony to oppose SCR 25:

“Ohio must not abandon its use of LEED certification. The system promotes energy efficiency, preservation of our natural resources, and encourages state projects funded by state taxpayers to use locally-sourced materials, thereby benefitting Ohio-based businesses like Nucor.”

—Brenda Schulz, Controller, Nucor Steel (Marion, OH)

“At a time when taxpayer funds and public resources are stretched more than ever, green schools rank among the very best uses of public dollars. I can tell you that across our company, which includes our manufacturing facilities here in Ohio, UTC takes sustainability very seriously.”

— Neil Beup, Manager, State Government Relations, United Technologies Corporation (on behalf of UTC “and the over 1400 UTC employees and their families in Ohio”) 

“I cannot overstate the benefits of LEED for schools – they are tremendous…  Attaining LEED certification provided an incentive to design the building to be as efficient as possible and ultimately saves the district precious operating dollars.

— Michael Huff, Architect, Ruetschle Architects (Dayton, OH)

“By urging that LEED v4 be banned in public projects, SCR 25 undermines competition in the market based economy we value, prevents the innovation that can drive Ohio’s economy forward, and abandons a proven, successful, consensus based program that has already delivered documented energy and water savings, demanded accountability in the investment of public money, and diverted hundreds of thousands of tons of waste from landfills while creating new jobs and opportunities for Ohioans.”

— Karen Joslin, owner, Joslin Construction Consulting (Columbus, OH)

I am proud to come from a school that is an example to others in improved learning environments and green initiatives.”

— Jesica Ferguson, Milton-Union High School Senior (West Milton, OH)

“Milton-Union is not a rich district so when we do spend money, we want it to be spent wisely on quality materials that last… The LEED rating system provided us with a framework with which to begin… As we reduce our energy costs and truly take advantage of all the benefits of our green initiatives, more dollars are freed up for instruction! Preparing our students for their future is the ultimate return-on-investment.”

— Dr. Ginny Rammel, Superintendent, Milton-Union Schools (West Milton, OH)

“In response to the claim in SCR 25 that LEED is not science-based, we point to our own expertise and experience – expertise that has been appropriately represented in LEED’s consensus development process – and also to the National Academy of Sciences which, in a 2013 study, endorsed the use of LEED for public buildings and military facilities.”

— David Brehm, a principal architect, NBBJ, on behalf of AIA-Ohio (Columbus, OH)

For example, studies have shown that in some schools, increased access to daylight has increased test scores up to 26% while proper ventilation rates can increase student test scores up to 10%. Rigorous third-party testing such as provided for in the LEED system ensures that such conditions are achieved for the benefit of our students.”

— Neil Beup, Manager, State Government Relations, United Technologies Corporation (on behalf of UTC “and the over 1400 UTC employees and their families in Ohio”)

“Ohio is #1 in the U.S. in green school construction, with over 100 buildings certified and over 200 more registered to become certified. On average, Ohio’s LEED schools: are 35% more energy efficient and use 37% less water than buildings built to previous standards (prudent use of taxpayer dollars); obtain 35% of material from regional sources (benefit Ohio's economy); and [have] diverted 188,114 tons of construction waste from landfills (less waste).”

— David Scott, Board Member, USGBC-Central Ohio Chapter (Columbus, OH)

“If I were designing a project to be certified under LEED V4, I would be free to choose the best available products to fit the owner’s needs and budget. If vinyl flooring and windows are the best option to meet the owner’s needs then that is what we specify… There is no mandate or prohibition for any product. Installing specific products does not prevent a building from achieving LEED certification.”

— Michael Huff, Architect, Ruetschle Architects (Dayton, OH)

Consider for a moment that in 2012, 44% of all non-residential construction in the U.S. was green buildings, up from 2% in 2005. What is remarkable about this statistic is that the percentage of green buildings in new construction has steadily increased during this time period, even during the 2008 recession, indicating that even in a capital constrained environment, investing in green buildings is the wise decision.”

— Neil Beup, Manager, State Government Relations, United Technologies Corporation (on behalf of UTC “and the over 1400 UTC employees and their families in Ohio”) 

After hearing all this testimony, you’d think we would all want to work together to help advance the benefits of green building, for our kids and for our communities.  The committee chairman, however, offered the well-funded, DC-based chemical industry lobbyists twice the opportunity to share their testimony (which included blatant misinformation about green building and LEED).

I am hopeful that today’s truth check with Ohio’s green building industry left the senators with a common sense perspective.  If the lobbyists want to tear down one of Ohio’s renowned success stories, shouldn’t we ask what they’re offering in return?

As a green building professional and also as a parent of two amazing kids... I think each of us owes it to our children, to our communities, and to our economy to say no to SCR 25.”

— Brendan Owens, Vice President, LEED Technical Development, U.S. Green Building Council

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Jeremy Sigmon

Director, Technical Policy U.S. Green Building Council

2 commentsLeave a comment

Property Manager, Hines
Thanks for sharing this, Jeremy! David Scott, board member of USGBC Central Ohio Chapter, testified at this hearing and shared his perspective on what’s going on. It’s a great read and provides a some perspective to the debate: Angry, Rich and Wrong; The Fight to Ban LEED in Ohio. -Tyler Steele USGBC-Central Ohio Chapter
Owner, JOSLIN Consulting
Thank you Jeremy for the coverage and Brendan Owens for making the trip. We are hopeful!

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