LEED Comment Period Closes, Vote Nears

The comment period for the fourth proposed version of the LEED 2012 has closed, with CMRA and many others submitting comments. Voting on the new version will take place later in June.

While the fourth version fixed many of the problems in the C&D recycling credits that were in previous versions, there are still issues, notably that ADC was completely removed and that there remains no requirement for use of a certified C&D recycling facility to receive credits. Indeed, it almost seems as if the USGBC is moving away from relying on mixed C&D facilities for recycling. Below are the CMRA’s comments:

“The Construction Materials Recycling Association is a non-profit organization that promotes the recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) materials. In the recently released version 4 of LEED 2012, we applaud USGBC for simplifying the Construction and Demolition Waste Management MR Credit from previous versions. While improved, it still has opportunities for improvement that we would like to suggest.

The first is simple. For years the CMRA has been working to show that the material generated at construction and demolition sites is a valuable resource that should be recovered. Hence, we don’t call it waste. We suggest the name of credit be changed to Construction and Demolition Material Recovery Management.

We note again that USGBC has ignored the inescapable physical properties of the material that comes into mixed C&D recycling facilities. C&D fines, the 3-inch-minus material that is an inevitable part of the demolition and transportation process, has no other market other than use as alternative daily cover (ADC) in landfills. This end product does have a value and can replace virgin materials. To the industry, if the fines were used as a fill product it is little different than ADC. But the stigma of the landfill blinds some to the value of this product. We do agree that the amount of ADC counted under the credit should be limited. And if it is allowed the percentages cited in the credit would have to be increased. We recognize that LEED is for diverting materials from landfills, as is our industry. But there should be recognition that this product is made to a specification and provides a real need in society.

Unfortunately, there remains in this credit a tremendous opportunity to commit fraud under the LEED program. For some time there has been exaggerated recycling rate claims by some less than scrupulous operations. They will give the project manager whatever percentage point they say they need, no matter that most of the material is not actually recycled. The way this credit is written this practice will continue. We suggest two ways to stop it. First, remove the allowance that either volume or weight can be used to determine how much is recycled. Volume is too nebulous and allows for too much human judgment and will allow for a fudging of the numbers. Use only weight based numbers. This will help legitimize this credit.

However, even with this change, facilities can still claim whatever recycling rate they want. Currently LEED allows for what is reported to a third party, such as a state or local government, but many facilities don’t even report that truthfully. For that reason the Certification of Recycling Rates (CORR) program was developed to stop the fraudulent claims that have happened under green building programs. The program, administered by the Institute for Certification of Sustainable Recyclers, is an ISO compliant level auditing program that will certify what is the actual recycling rate of a recycling facility. In addition, it will break out and identify certain components of the facility’s end products, including ADC. CORR also has a three-party system, which includes the recycler, an evaluator to do the inspection, and an administrator (ICSR) to actually do the certification.

Outside, third-party certification is the only way to stop the fraud going on under this credit. It also has to be a certification program to this level of detail, because if the facilities get to choose their own program and hire the local consultant to do the certification, then it will be little effort to continue the outrageous claims. The consultant, knowing where his bread is buttered, will give the facility whatever rate it needs.

We understand that there is discussion of making the use of a certified recycling facility an exemplary point under LEED 2012, although it is nowhere in the current version 4. While a good first step, this will not stop the fraud because people will be getting the points with no real oversight on how they are claimed. In other words, there is no motivation to stop lying about the facility recycling rate. They will still give out documentation so the project can get at least one point, two points if desired. The fraud will continue. There needs to be a requirement for an ISO level program certification such as CORR or USGBC will continue to see the problems it already has in the recycling credit. Otherwise, LEED is already vulnerable to charges that credits were handed out under false pretenses. This is the time to stop it.”