Client News

Sunshine State News: Let Florida’s Wood Market Thrive

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

By Rick Watson

The building community in Florida carefully monitors the government’s policies for “green” construction projects. Builders, as well as the economy as a whole, gain from a framework that promotes competition and allows the free flow of commerce in the timber industry.

Allowing more Florida wood in our buildings will improve sustainability and increase economic growth.

Too many policies do not allow for this. The LEED rating system, supported by hundreds of cities, blocks the entry of Florida wood into construction projects all across the country. This occurs because LEED only awards sourcing credits to wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a program that recognizes only a small minority of American timber, and hardly any in Florida.

Barely any materials harvested from our 16 million acres of forests can get this recognition from LEED, while at the same time this code certifies lumber from countries like Russia and Brazil as sustainable. Since American timber is more durable than wood from these countries, this policy harms the loggers and tree farmers who procure timber, the wood-based businesses that refine these materials, and also those who want to use domestic lumber in construction projects.

In effect, LEED imposes a ceiling on the number of markets builders can gain entry to, if they do not adhere to FSC standards. This restricts jobs and revenues in the construction industry.

There are promising signs on the horizon, however. Florida enacted House Bill 269 earlier this year, which allows builders who use timber certified not just by FSC, but also by the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), equal access to taxpayer-funded projects in Florida.

More states should follow Florida’s lead. Doing so will increase the amount and quality of domestic materials in our buildings and provide real economic relief to wood-based businesses and industries throughout the state and country.

Tallahassee-based Rick Watson is chief lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida.

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