Vinyl Industry Sees New Threat Emerging at USGBC

March 2, 2010

Members of the Vinyl Institute and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association are protesting a proposed credit in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Part of a new LEED Pilot Credit Library, the proposed credit would reward projects for not using vinyl products.

LEED v3, introduced in April 2009, included the pilot credit library as a way to introduce proposed new credits and prerequisites to LEED through a credit-by-credit pilot process so LEED could add new provisions without waiting for the launch of entirely new versions of the rating systems. Last fall, USGBC followed that move issuing Pilot Credit 2: PBT Source Reduction: Dioxins and Halogenated Organic Compounds, as well as five other pilot credits.

"AAMA Vinyl Material Council members have been encouraged by Vinyl Institute President Greg Bocchi to express their concerns to USGBC President Rick Fedrizzi," reports Rich Walker, AAMA CEO. "The U.S. Green Building Council's Pilot Credit 2 gives credit for the avoidance of the use of all vinyl building products. This punitive and unsupportable pilot credit is a backdoor tactic to placate an ongoing and vocal anti-vinyl material campaign waged by radical environmental activists for years. USGBC has neither the scientific nor due process justification."

The letter to be sent to USGBC that is being circulated for signatures among building product manufacturers states: "This pilot credit penalizes materials that have proven themselves extremely effective in making buildings and homes safer, easier to construct and maintain, and more efficient to operate. Furthermore, PVC (vinyl), one of the affected materials, has proven itself environmentally competitive in respected life-cycle studies, including your own. By publishing and endorsing Pilot Credit 2, USGBC appears to support credits not based in good science.

"The council’s multi-year review of the life-cycle impacts of PVC and competing building materials in pipe, siding, windows and flooring showed that no material has the best or worst footprint. It found that trade-offs are inevitable. In fact, it found that PVC can have less impact than competing materials. As a result of the review, the USGBC Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee urged that LEED credits address issues, not materials."

A Greenpeace co-founder and now vocal critic of the anti-vinyl movement, Patrick Moore is also publicly critical of the pilot credit. Also pointing to USGBC's previous studies of vinyl's pros and cons, he states, "This new anti-vinyl credit contradicts the USGBC's own findings." The credit also runs counter to another pilot credit in LEED that encourages life cycle assessments. "Vinyl scores very well on life cycle assessments and requires less energy to manufacture on a per unit basis than other plastics, but under this new pilot credit you would not be rewarded for using it," Moore notes.

Moore also points out that chlorine and chlorine-based products are vital to medicine and the cleanliness of hospitals, that many pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry, and that adding chlorine to drinking water represented one of the greatest advances in the history of public health.
"Does the USGBC want to remove chlorine from the water supply in hospitals? Do they want doctors to stop using medicines that contain chlorine? Such a stance is both unthinkable and ridiculous. This anti-vinyl credit has no basis in science but is being pushed by groups with a political rather than a scientific agenda," he asserts. "The USGBC must take a stand for evidence-based analysis and rescind this ill-thought credit."

Under the pilot credit program, LEED project teams are encouraged to pilot test any proposed credits they believe fit their projects, USGBC officials explain. Participants submit evaluation forms offering input regarding the proposed credit's strength and weaknesses. Feedback is then to be reviewed by a pilot working group that will look to improve the proposed credit or determine whether it should be introduced into LEED.

Because the pilot credits are not yet part of LEED, points are not awarded for achieving the pilot credit itself. Projects that help pilot test a credit and offers feedback, however, receive one Innovation & Design or Innovation in Operations credit regardless of whether it would have achieved the actual credit being piloted.