Raleigh, N.C. — Legislation that would have precluded the use of LEED certification for state-funded buildings was rewritten in the Senate Tuesday morning to permit such green building projects only if they cut long-term energy costs and permit North Carolina building materials in construction.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage builders to use energy-efficient designs and materials. Certifications under LEED are based on a points system.
Using sustainably farmed lumber is a factor in that points system, but LEED doesn't recognize most North Carolina timber as falling into that category. That means North Carolina timber companies are at a disadvantage when trying to sell lumber to state projects aspiring to a LEED certification.
House Bill 628 initially said no taxpayer-funded project can use a green building system, such as LEED, if the use of North Carolina lumber is scored unfavorably compared with lumber from other sources.
But the bill was overhauled in the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday to address concerns from the suppliers of other building materials and the architects and builders caught in the middle.
Under an amendment offered by Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, the bill would allow state and local government agencies to pursue LEED certification if an analysis shows that it would save them money in construction or in the first 10 years of operating costs. Also, buildings could use such ratings systems if they don't "put North Carolina materials at a disadvantage."
Several people spoke in favor of the amendment, including representatives of the U.S. Green Building Council, steel manufacturer Nucor, the Carolinas Ready Mixed Concrete Association and the American Institute of Architects.
However, some criticized the lack of definition for the term "disadvantage," and some said the 10-year limit when calculating cost savings would adversely affect contracts that major firms like Honeywell and Johnson Controls enter, where cost savings are calculated over 15 to 20 years.
Tucker said he understood that "disadvantage" means using specifications that would preclude North Carolina products from being used. He added that he is willing to work with the industry on possibly adjusting the 10-year limit before the bill goes to the Senate floor.
But House sponsor Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Yancey, balked at extending the limit.
The amended bill passed on a voice vote.