USDA promotes wood in green building rating systems

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made a major announcement March 30th strongly promoting wood as a green building material and recognizing multiple green building rating systems. According to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the USDA announcement was made during the International Year of Forests celebration in Washington, DC. The event was co-hosted by the American Forest Foundation, the National Association of State Foresters, and the USDA Forest Service.

According to a March 30th USDA press release Secretary Vilsack laid out a three-part plan addressing the Forest Service’s and USDA’s current green building practices. The strategy includes the following parts:
1. The U.S. Forest Service will preferentially select wood in new building construction while maintaining its commitment to certified green building standards. USDA will also make a commitment to using wood and other agricultural products as it fulfills President Obama’s executive order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.
2. The Secretary has asked the U.S. Forest Service to examine ways to increase its already strong commitment to green building by reporting to him on ways to enhance the research and development being done around green building materials.
3. The U.S. Forest Service will actively look for opportunities to demonstrate the innovative use of wood as a green building material for all new structures of 10,000 square feet or more using recognized green building standards such as LEED, Green Globes or the National Green Building Standard.
The plan explicitly recognizes the Green Globes standard and the National Green Building Standard, both of which recognize multiple forest certification standards. Opening the door to other green building rating systems increases opportunities for third party certified wood to be used and recognized in green buildings.
“This is just the market signal we need to expand markets for sustainably grown wood from ATFS,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation.