Energy efficiency advocates are battling a resolution discouraging following the latest version of building standards in public construction projects. As Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, some legislators believe the new standards are over-reaching their purpose.
Right now public buildings, such as schools and government offices, are drawn up using what’s known as LEED requirements, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
A resolution sponsored by Republican Sen. Joe Uecker from Clermont County would urge state construction officials to avoid the latest version of LEED when designing a building.
“The reason why this came up is that the new version -- LEED Version 4 -- by the U.S. Green Building Council kind of goes beyond the scope of energy efficiency and enters into the realm of environmental politics," Uecker said.
Uecker says there are several industries in fear of losing construction work because of these new standards.
LEED Version 4 is the first update by the U.S. Green Building Council in five years. David Scott is with the council’s central Ohio chapter. He defends the new guidelines and says it’s a common sense upgrade.
“LEED is like a typical building code," Scott said. "Codes evolve over time. For example, a long time ago we used lead paint, a long time ago we used asbestos. Well now those things aren’t allowed anymore pursuant to building code. So building codes get tougher, LEED is designed to get tougher.”
Scott says the chemicals and plastics industry is the driving force behind this resolution. He believes their opposition to the new LEED version is misguided.
“They’re irritated because they believe that certain types of products they have said will be blacklisted," Scott said. "The fact of the matter is the newest version of LEED has no blacklist at all. That does not exist.”
But according to Uecker, LEED gives out points for using certain materials. So if a company uses materials that are not on the list, such as foam insulation or wood that comes from controversial logging, then they don’t earn the points they need to become LEED certified.
“It’s a very convoluted and difficult process that these buildings go through for certification," he said. "And we just think that putting Ohio jobs at risk is unacceptable.”
Uecker notes that building planners must still follow an energy efficiency program such as Green Globe or Energy Star, just not the latest version of LEED. That means previous version of LEED would even work.
In a study of 100 LEED schools in Ohio, Scott says, those buildings are saving 34 percent more energy and saving 37 percent more water.
“They’re doing away with something that’s proven to be good—the LEED rating system, without offering anything better," Scott said.
Scott adds that this resolution could impact tax payers.
“If you’re a taxpayer in Ohio you should be concerned about this, because LEED has been proven to save energy and water and deliver and good return on our tax dollars’ investment in any public building,” he said.
But Uecker strongly disagrees.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous and absurd," said Uecker, "to say that you can only have an energy efficient building if it’s LEED certified is absolutely ludicrous," he said.
Uecker makes sure to note that his measure is only a resolution and doesn’t carry the amount of weight or teeth that a law would bring. But, as he explains, some legislators are wondering if they should take a different path.
“As a result of all the opponent testimony, it does beg the question, 'Should this be a bill mandating as opposed to a resolution suggesting?'” Uecker said.
The resolution, which has had three hearings, is still in the committee stage.