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The sponsor of Ohio Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 (SCR25), which would urge all state agencies to abandon LEED v4, is now asking for a delay of further hearings.

In an abrupt change from the ram-rod fashion that SCR25 was run (over vigorous opposition) through the Senate, sponsoring Sen. Joe Uecker now says he wants to slow things down. The resolution was slated for hearing this week before the Ohio House of Representatives Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee. But, as reported yesterday by Gongwer (Ed: full story requires a subscription), Sen. Uecker now thinks a postponement will make it “easier for me to get my proponents, industry witnesses to be able to testify in a jointed as opposed to a disjointed way.”

The “proponents” to whom Sen. Uecker refers include members of the same small but powerful group of protectionists who unsuccessfully attempted to convince the General Services Administration to abandon LEED.

SCR25 is an anti-competitive giveaway. Ohioans will be best served if our leaders vote down that flawed resolution and instead identify a preferred third-party green building rating system through a transparent rule-making process.

Until that happens, no system (LEED or otherwise) should be excluded.

Ed: The views of his article are exclusively those of Ohio Green Building Law and this author, a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Ohio Chapter of USGBC

In this fourth installment of our series on Ohio Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 (“SCR25″), the anti-LEED legislation which passed the Senate and now stands pending in Ohio’s House of Representatives, we find SCR25 under fire from a diverse group of significant Ohio employers.

SCR25 is assigned to the House Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Kirk Schuring (R) (48th Dist., Stark County). Rep. Schuring and House Speaker William Batchelder have recently heard from three major businesses, and one business association, opposed to SCR25.

Among the companies and organizations speaking out against SCR 25 are Johnson Controls (a Fortune 100 domestic manufacturer with 2,120 employees in Ohio), Nucor Corporation (America’s largest manufacturer of steel and steel products, with 730 Ohio employees) and United Technologies Corporation (employer of over 1,400 Ohioans).

SCR25 favors a mandate that Ohio use systems that are consistent with ANSI. LEED, for a variety of reasons, is not an ANSI-accredited standard. But the self-described “LEED-alternative” Green Globes system, which not coincidentally is supported by members of the same small but powerful group of protectionists who are pushing SCR25, claims to be based on an American National Standard. This claim has been the subject of much controversy.

Rounding out the set of industry segments voicing opposition to SCR25 is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), representing over 4,000 certified businesses in the U.S., including 216 companies in Ohio. FSC notes that the free market has chosen LEED as the preeminent third-party green building rating system and expresses concern that SCR 25 will undermine Ohio’s leadership in sustainable development.

Those who embrace competition, and who oppose government picking winners and losers, should join in opposition to SCR25.

Ed: The views of his article are exclusively those of Ohio Green Building Law and this author, a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Ohio Chapter of USGBC

give him a fair trial before hes hanged

This is the third post in a series on Ohio Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 (“SCR25″), which earlier today was passed by the Ohio Senate and will now be considered by the Ohio House of Representatives.

SCR25′s insidious true intent is masked by flowery recitals about supporting energy efficiency and environmental performance in public construction.  But yesterday’s committee hearing, and the vote earlier today, revealed the truth: The protectionist faction that is pushing SCR25 (basically the same clique who tried without success to convince the GSA to abandon LEED) fears competition.

This truth was revealed when Sen. Lou Gentile proposed to amend SCR25 to “delete the ban on LEED version 4 while supporting the review of all green building rating systems in the best interest of the state by the Office of Energy Services within the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC).” (Quote from Hannah News Service, Inc., Tues., Feb. 25, 2014.)  In other words, let’s check out all the rating systems out there before banning LEED, which despite its many imperfections has greatly benefitted Ohio.  Who could oppose a little friendly competition to see which rating system is best for Ohio?

For one, SCR25 co-sponsor Sen. Joe Uecker, who “said the amendment would gut the entire resolution.” (Quote from Hannah News Service, Inc., Tues., Feb. 25, 2014.)  In other words, we don’t even need to give LEED a fair trial before we hang it.

Maybe LEED isn’t the best rating system for Ohio.  Maybe Green Globes, or the IgCC, or the Living Building Challenge, or some other program would be better.  But considering the benefits that Ohio has already realized through use of LEED, don’t you think it would make sense to do some independent investigation and analysis before urging that LEED be banned?

Why is the anti-LEED faction so afraid of a little competition?

Visit this link for more information about SCR25 and what you can do about it: http://usgbcohio.org/scr25/.

Ed: The views of his article are exclusively those of Ohio Green Building Law and this author, a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Ohio Chapter of USGBC

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Yesterday saw further Ohio Senate testimony on Concurrent Resolution 25, urging that LEED v4 be banned for public construction.

Opponents of SCR 25 included Nadja Turek, an Air Force veteran and director of sustainable design services at Woolpert, Inc.  Asked if Ohio could build green without LEED, Ms. Turek explained how the U.S. military tried without success to do so, and why our armed forces now trust the third-party verification and standardization that LEED provides.

Dan Roberts, retired superintendent of Miami Trace Local School District, explained that passing SCR 25 and banning of LEED “would be saying to the public, ‘no, we don’t want the best buildings for our kids anymore.’ It would be an incredible disservice to our students and our constituents to take away such a strong, effective and proven program.”

Tyler Steele, vice chair of the board of directors at USGBC Central Ohio, testified that LEED schools result in “taxpayer savings through energy and water efficiency, reduced water waste, and most importantly, healthier students and teachers.”

Project manager and small business owner Karen Joslin explained the folly of banning v4 at the behest of a narrow industry segment, clarifying for the record that “there are no new prohibitions on products of any composition in the LEED v4 update. Early draft credits proposed a variety of avoidance or chemicals of concern restrictions, but these were all completely removed” as part of the consensus process followed by USGBC.

Instead of urging that LEED v4 be banned, Ohio’s leaders should figure out the best way to fulfill SCR25′s aspirational recital that the State should achieve “energy efficiency and environmental performance” in all state buildings.

If nothing else, all sides appear to agree upon that eminently sensible objective.

Additional testimony against SCR 25 was offered by Michael Berning (senior principal at Heapy Engineering), Tyrone Hissong (a parent and farmer in Troy, Ohio), Jim Volkert (sale director, Go West 765), and Allison McKenzie (architect, SHP Leading Design).  Proponent testimony was offered by Justin Koscher (Washington, D.C. – based Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing).

Look back, look ahead

The most cynical lawyers say that the best client is angry, rich, and wrong.

While that sad truth sinks in, one can’t help but wonder if the Ohio senators who introduced Concurrent Resolution 25 (SCR25), the pending legislation urging that LEED be banned in Ohio, see how well this description fits the special interest groups who influenced them to do so.

Ohio is #1 in the U.S. in green school construction, prudently investing tax dollars in buildings that are designed to be 35% more efficient and use 37% less water than buildings built to previous standards and diverted over 188,000 tons of construction waste from landfills, thanks to state policy for new public school buildings to earn minimum LEED silver certification.

Enter a small but well-funded faction of protectionists who complain that the latest evolution of LEED, called “v4,” puts them at a competitive disadvantage.  This faction of vinyl, plastic, chemical, and other carbon-intensive industries, is angry, rich, and dead wrong.

They are so angry that they are pushing legislation to ban LEED v4 in Ohio without offering any better alternative.  Following recitals that whisper sweet nothings about jobs and green building rating systems, SCR25 delivers its punch line, “RESOLVED: That the LEED v4 green building rating system no longer be used by Ohio’s state agencies and government entities…”

LEED hasn’t been good for Ohio.  It’s been great for Ohio.  In addition to those energy and water savings, and diversion of waste from landfills, Ohio’s green schools have obtained 35% of material from regional sources, benefitting the local economy while curbing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.  Yesterday a diverse group of sustainability-minded professionals, and one inspired and inspiring high school student, delivered powerful testimony against SCR25.

But this faction of protectionists is angry with LEED v4, and they’re rich.  So rich that they could afford to hire one of Ohio’s leading influence-peddlers to curry favor with well-placed senators who are championing their cause through SCR25.

So why is this faction so angry, and what makes them so wrong?  They complain that LEED v4 creates a “blacklist” of certain products that unfairly discriminates against their stuff.  Only problem: The blacklist doesn’t exist.  Strike one.

They complain that LEED v4 doesn’t meet “American National Standards Institute voluntary consensus standard procedures.”  Only problem: An independent, multi-year study commissioned by the United States General Services Administration and prepared by division of Battelle, confirms that LEED is indeed a “consensus” standard:

consensus

Strike two.

They complain that their concerns weren’t heard during the LEED v4 development process.  Only problems: Their own literature details their extensive input into LEED v4, which was approved only after an unprecedented six comment periods resulting in over 22,000 public comments, with 86% of overall membership in favor of adoption, including majority approval from each major stakeholder group (89% of producers/contractors/builders, 90% of users, and 77% in the general interest category of utilities, manufacturers and organizations).  As I routinely explain to my daughters, there’s a big difference between not being heard and not getting your way … this is the latter. Strike three, you’re out.

This attack on LEED in Ohio is a tired rerun of the same industry attack against LEED at the federal level.  In response to that study cited above, the GSA decided to keep LEED along with Green Globes as rating systems of choice.  Yet Ohio stands poised to ban LEED v4 without conducting any independent investigation and solely at the behest of the angry, rich, and wrong.

LEED isn’t perfect.  Some say it should be stricter, some say it should be more lax.  But it is the consensus worldwide standard for making better buildings, and banning LEED v4 in Ohio at the whim of a small but powerful group of protectionist lobbies who offer no data to substantiate their scare tactics about jobs and economy would be a short-sighted and tragic mistake.

Ed: The views of his article are exclusively those of Ohio Green Building Law and this author, a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Ohio Chapter of USGBC

ghostsxmas
After introducing my young daughters to the movie Scrooged earlier this week, I’m inspired to close 2013 with visits from the ghosts of Ohio green building law past, present, and future.

In the past OGBL published a series on the lawsuit between the Ohio Green Building Forum and the State of Ohio involving allegations of improper use of grant funding.  The lawsuit grinds on, with the Forum having filed papers on December 20, 2013, seeking to preclude a trial on the merits.  The State of Ohio has until mid-January to file its response.

The present offers a mixed bag of good tidings and threats, as the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission this month announced its 100th LEED Certified public education facility, and the Ohio Assembly introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 25, urging the state to abandon the LEED as the green building rating system of choice (with this author featured in a Columbus Business First article on the topic).

The future of green building in the Buckeye State is up for grabs, as competing visions (encapsulated by editorials in the Columbus Dispatch in opposition to, and support of, SCR25) vie for supremacy.

Will the Ohio Assembly abandon LEED without first undertaking any independent analysis of the cost/benefit of the Buckeye State’s multibillion dollar investment (OFCC reports that the 100 schools certified to date are 35% more energy-efficient & use 37% less water than buildings built to previous standards, obtained 35% of their material from regional sources, and diverted over 188,114 tons of construction waste from Ohio landfills), and without offering any comparable third-party verification system as an alternative?

If SCR25 goes down, will the powerful and well-financed forces opposed to LEED simply fold their tent, or will they return with a vengeance?

Here’s to hoping that, no matter how things play out, we all put a little more love in our hearts in 2014.

Viva las vegas

On Friday, August 23, a state court judge in Las Vegas approved the demolition of the Harmon Tower, a building that was to be the primary design point for the sprawling $8.5 billion CityCenter complex.  Originally intended to be a 49-story hotel and centerpiece among numerous properties within the 18-million-sq-ft urban metropolis that already earned LEED certification, the Harmon was subsequently downsized to just 26 stories and eventually relegated to being just an outrageously expensive billboard after an engineer’s report concluded that it could collapse in a strong earthquake.

Since the report was issued back in 2011, lawyers for owner/developer MGM and general contractor Tutor Perini Corp. have argued about what to do, with MGM insisting that the hazard be taken down, and Tutor arguing that the building should stay up to preserve evidence.  The judge vacillated for years before a recently-completed fourth round of testing convinced her that implosion was the best (or, rather, least bad) option.

Notwithstanding the Harmon debacle, the CityCenter project was already a distressingly powerful engine of attorney employment, as Tutor sued MGM for $191MM in disputed unpaid bills, MGM counterclaimed for up to $400MM in allegedly nonconforming work, and various third-and fourth-party actions ensued against the steel installer, the installer’s successor-in-interest, and the designer, among other skirmishes.  Trial is scheduled for February 2014.

The litigation has already resulted in a significant decision from the Nevada Supreme Court regarding whether the economic loss doctrine applies to bar a claim alleging negligent misrepresentation against a structural steel engineer on a commercial construction project.  Stay tuned for a follow-up post on Nevada’s take on the economic loss doctrine, and how it compares with Ohio’s.

Thanks to OGBL friend DuWayne Baird for the idea to discuss this topic.

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