Southern States Outlaw LEED Building Standards

1315 Peachtree, in Atlanta, achieved LEED Platinum Certification. However, will newer buildings in be held to the same standards? . Image Courtesy of Perkins + Will

The US Green Building Council’s federally adopted LEED certification system has come under legislative siege with lobbyists from the timber, plastics and chemical industries crying out, “monopoly!” Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama have lead efforts to ban LEED, claiming the USGBC’s closed-door approach and narrow-minded material interests have shut out stakeholders in various industries that could otherwise aid in the sustainable construction of environmentally-sensitive buildings.

Most recently, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, slipped in a last minute amendment to both the and Department of Transportation appropriation bills stating no tax money may be used to require implementation of any green building certification system other than a system that:

1) is based on voluntary consensus standards that have an American National Standard Institute (ANSI) designation or were developed by an ANSI- audited designator, and

2) only excludes a building material if the exclusion is based on robust scientific data and risk assessment principles.

In accordance to Senator Wicker’s legislative rebuttal to a universally-accepted green building standard another, more industry-friendly alternative to LEED, made up of alliances such as the Society of Plastics Industry, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates have united to form the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition.

“The danger,” says coalition member, Mark Colltaz, “in endorsing LEED as the single acceptable green building rating system for the federal government is it can lead to the USGBC’s further monopolization.” Consensus-based processes and voluntary building standards, claim the coalition members, would make up for the “scientific shortcomings” LEED has espoused by not awarding additional points in its 100-point rating system to the use of plastics and timber, among other materials.

However, earlier this summer, the USGBC — made up of 13,000 members from 46 countries and territories, including a diverse pool of industry representatives from manufacturing, education and construction — affirmed LEED’s continuing prominence as the green-building industry standard by voting to implement the newest version to the rating-system, LEED v4. The final tally was a resounding 86 percent in favor of the update. While this may not be a “voluntary consensus” according to Senator Wicker, 86 percent is a resounding victory for LEED.

Where do you stand on this issue? Take a look at the pros and cons of LEED and let us know what your thoughts in the comment section below.

Reference: USGBC, Building Green, Conversational AlabamaAmendment, American High-Performance Building Coalition, Inhabit, The Atlantic Cities

Cite: Jose Luis Gabriel Cruz. "Southern States Outlaw LEED Building Standards" 30 Aug 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • Laszlo Kovacs


  • Ryan Singer

    In order to truly be environmental, use less. The additive checklist that LEED requires is the opposite thinking of environmental in the fact that more is better rating when it’s the opposite. There are pros, but they are buried by the cons. I was working on a LEED project in 2008 which got canned because of the economy crash and the premise for all the ideas were to minimize extra materials, exposing concrete block, slab, and not adding finishes wherever possible. I had worked hard to restrain the material palate to whatever was locally sourced. When analyzed against the LEED checklist, the building only measured silver and the client was pushing for at least gold. To do that we had add finishes which went against the philosophy. It is an eye opening experience and doing it once makes you realize it’s not necessary and completely backwards.

  • Brendan Van Pelt

    What is a “voluntary building standard”?

  • Gregory Walker

    There’s a fundamental distinction – which shows up in the title of the article – between a state ‘outlawing LEED’ and not requiring it as a mandatory part of every project. For example, Connecticut does not (currently) mandate LEED for state funded projects. Neither does New York (although both ‘encourage’ its use). Are both states just as ‘wrong’ as Georgia, Mississippi or South Carolina, none of which mandate LEED as a requirement?

    Georgia currently has an executive order out, issued by Governor Deal, which prohibits state funded projects to seek formal LEED certification. You could do a little research and find the order on his website. This particular action was explicitly stated to be in reaction to FSC being the only agency to certify ‘sustainably managed’ wood. I don’t personally agree with his decision, which does seek to punitively single out a private company (USGBC). That said, whether LEED is the dominant market leader or not, having states rely on it exclusively is risky at best and anti-competitive at worst. There’s plenty of competition for LEED and other rating systems may be better for publicly funded projects in many cases. So, if a state wishes to create the standards/criteria which it finds are the most compelling and aligned with their interests, so be it.

  • DH-ATL

    Georgia (for one) has NOT outlawed LEED– they have decided not to pursue it for most state buildings– The state’s flagship Universities however, generally require it. private building owners are completely unaffected.

  • Middleton O’Malley

    The Jetson-Like appearance of many of these LEED buildings, say, like Brad Pitt’s well intended effort in the 9th Ward in New Orleans, and plenty of others I have seen, is a blight upon the landscape. On residential level, the end user has a right to designs that say “home” rather than “compliant”. Solar panels disfigure a roof-line, and have the same visual effect as a corrective shoe. As one of the first GREEN Certified real estate agent in Louisiana, I support sustainability in building practices…but not to the exclusion of competitiveness, and esthetics.

  • Michelle Ferguson

    1. The title of the essay told me the lumber lobby was involved. USGBC accepts FSC as the standard for sustainable wood. Plastics and chemical lobbies have joined, I believe, because LEED v4 lists specific chemicals to avoid using in the built environment. There are many sustainability standards that can be used other than LEED, i.e. the IgCC (International green Construction Code). The goal is the same-to build sustainably.
    2. Ryan Singer, it seems that your team did not use the Integrated Product Delivery method when planning, designing and constructing your building. An experienced LEED consultant along with engineers, architects, contractors, owners,and manufacturer’s reps working together during the design and planning stages would have predicted the level of LEED certification.