Timber!

by Michelle Saxton and Marimar McNaughton
Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Supplied photo courtesy of BMH Architects 

Chip Hemingway, AIA, LEED AP, of BMH Architects, Wilmington, earned LEED platinum certification for the state-owned Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head in 2011.


House members passed a bill on Monday, May 13 that will benefit North Carolina timber producers by requiring that sustainable building standards encourage the use of building materials produced in state. The House voted 70-43 to pass HB628 on its third reading. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.

“It protects North Carolina jobs and promotes our homegrown and manufactured products,” bill sponsor Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Haywood, Madison and Yancey, said in an online audio feed of the floor session.

But the bill, if passed, said Republican Conference Leader Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County, would make LEED ineligible in North Carolina for public projects once it takes effect in October.

“You will not be able to use LEED for North Carolina projects unless the national association changes their requirements between now and the effective date of the bill,” Samuelson said.

Local architects who engage in environmentally sustainable and energy efficient designs, and seek the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design credits to earn LEED certification for their projects, have weighed in on the consequences of the proposed legislation.

Chip Hemingway, AIA, LEED AP, of BMH Architects, Wilmington, designed the recently re-opened Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. It is the first state-owned building to earn LEED platinum certification.

Hemingway said via email on Friday, May 10, “LEED currently requires the wood, lumber or timber used to satisfy the credit, MRc7 Certified Wood, to be FSC certified.”

The use of certified wood is but one step toward earning LEED certification. To qualify for basic certification the project must earn 40-49 points; silver certification 50-59 points; gold 60-79 points and platinum, 80 points or more.

Yet, the MRc7 certified wood credit is worth only one point on LEED’s tiered rating system which specifies Forestry Stewardship Council certified lumber, most of which is produced in the northwestern U.S. and Canada. The structural wood for Jennette’s Pier, Hemingway said, is non-FSC wood from Alabama and the pier decking is yellow pine from Georgia.

The FSC is an independent nonprofit that established principles and criteria for sustainable forestry practices. Among its 10 principles published on its website is one that spells out its environmental impact stance: Forest management shall conserve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and, by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest.

“House Bill 628 requires the rating system must also allow wood that fits within the Sustainable Forest Initiative and the American Tree Farm System,” Hemingway said. “These two additional lumber rating systems are not currently recognized by LEED. In my experience with LEED there are no FSC forests or lumber yards in North Carolina.”

Of New Hanover County’s House representatives, Rick Catlin and Ted Davis Jr., both Republicans, voted for the bill, and Susi Hamilton, a Democrat, voted against it.

Catlin also was a primary sponsor of the bill.

North Carolina will continue building energy-efficient, environmentally sound buildings, with or without LEED, and can include standards for state lumber and steel, said Rep. Mark Brody, R-Anson and Union.

Almost all state buildings are constructed from steel studs or heavy steel and concrete, said Chris Boney, AIA, LEED AP, of LS3P Wilmington, a third generation architect whose family has specialized in the design of public buildings — schools, universities, libraries, hospitals, banks — and who is currently completing designs for Cape Fear Community College’s new cultural arts center. 

“All this legislation is doing is taking one small tool out of the belt that people have to be able to meet LEED certification,” Boney said by telephone on May 13. “As a North Carolinian I think it’s pretty smart, in a way. Some people think it’s shortsighted and harmful but I don’t have a problem with it because it’s only a small point, a; and b, generally state built buildings are not built using wood structure anyway.”

Boney said LS3P pursued the wood credit during the design and construction of a federally funded building completed in 2012, the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitors Center at the north end of Roanoke Island near Manteo. The project, pending LEED silver certification, may have earned the one point for FSC certified wood, but did not qualify for another one of LEED’s point-based criteria that the majority (90 percent) of all building materials are manufactured from within a 500-mile radius of the building site.

“By taking that credit you get the point for the FSC certified-timber but you may lose the one for the materials,” Boney said.

Even though LEED has become the industry standard, it is just one of four or five energy efficiency rating systems, he said. 

Lawmakers have been trying to address LEED certification issues with North Carolina lumber for a long time, said Republican Deputy Majority Whip Pat McElraft, who represents Carteret and Jones counties.

“LEED will either look at other certifications and allow North Carolina lumber, or we’ll find another green way to certify our buildings,” McElraft said.

The bill sends a national turf war message, Samuelson said.

“LEED needs to reconsider how they’re doing things,” Saumelson said. “However this bill will unfairly impact — negatively — jobs in North Carolina without creating one single job.”

“The idea that we have to send off to Brazil or someplace else to buy our flooring is absolutely ludicrous when we have perfectly good flooring in this state,” Brody said.

“This bill helps, and we need all the help we can get in northwest North Carolina when it comes to employment,” said Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Alleghany and Wilkes.

“Our North Carolina forestry industry has been disadvantaged for many years,” Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin and Wayne, said. “It’s time to level the field.”

Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Tyrrell, and Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Pasquotank, both voiced concerns that Nucor Steel in Hertford County, and its high-paying jobs, would be harmed if the bill passed.

Mobley noted the lumber industry is just as important as the steel industry but said the bill would affect the steel industry and potentially other companies with regard to LEED, as well as LEED-accredited professionals in North Carolina.

“We’re talking about a striving, fighting economy that we are currently in,” Mobley said. “We don’t need to be possibly losing jobs. We need to try to build jobs and bring in jobs.”

Email michelle@luminanews.com email marimar@luminanews.com


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