GSA's green building rating system a heated issue on the Hill

Industry groups are upset with changes slated for next year.

Talk of green building is heating up on the Hill, with the General Services Administration's use of a green building rating system likely to come up during Thursday morning's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the red tape surrounding job creation.

The GSA requires all new federal construction to adhere to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED gold rating. But the rating system is set to change next year, and a proposed set of credits have set off alarms within the plastics and chemical industries.

They're so concerned, in fact, that 27 business groups and associations have formed the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition, which includes major players such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chemistry Council. Members have also been hitting the Hill, meeting with congressmen and senators and talking up what they deem is a bad process to develop a rating system, and some proposed LEED credits in particular they say will hurt the industry.

Policy strategy director Lane Burt points out that LEED is voluntary and that the inclusion of a few credits doesn't mean that builders have to actually adhere to them, since you could theoretically choose which credits you want to qualify for.

But the USGBC is doing some politicking of its own. The council has communications firm HDMK pushing its message, although the USGBC media manager Ashley Katz says there is no major media campaign planned. This year, USGBC has had one in-house lobbyist and contracted the Podesta Group, spending a total of $60,000 on lobbying.

USGBC will also hold a staff briefing after the morning's meeting, bringing in industry people who have used the LEED rating system, including people representing Texas real estate firm Hines and Mississippi-based Yates construction company.

(Image via vician/