As more attention is focused on going green, a bill is making its way through the Mississippi Legislature that promotes energy conservation and green building in state-owned buildings. Several organizations, including the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA), are advocating that this bill include more than one green building standard.
If the language of the bill is to include a specific building standard for going green, the Mississippi Green Building Coalition is fighting to include the Green Globes rating system. It believes the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system discriminates against wood and vinyl products and is therefore against the state’s timberland owners, manufacturers and a number of Mississippi-made building products.
“We think it’s good that the state is looking to build more environmentally friendly, but we think the options should not discriminate against Mississippi companies,” said MMA’s Mark Leggett, director of governmental affairs. “We prefer that the bill not specify any building standard, but if it does, we don’t want it to be LEED.”
He points out that other states and the federal government use the Green Globes standard, which he feels is more compatible with manufacturers and tree growers in Mississippi.
At press time, the bill was in a Senate and House of Representatives conference committee to work out differences in the language of the two versions. Leggett says the chances of passage are better this year than in previous years when a compromise over green building standards was not reached.
“We feel that having LEED in the bill would not be wise as it will have a negative impact on Mississippi companies. Wood products mean $1.2 billion to the state’s economy each year. It’s the number two industry in Mississippi, and furniture-making is number one with $1.3 billion to the economy,” he said.
Leggett adds that Mississippi leads the nation in the number of wood products and the number of tree farms, 3,500. More than 52,000 people are employed in forest products that include paper and furniture with one in four manufacturing jobs in Mississippi forestry related. The forest products industry creates more than $11 billion per year in economic impact. Timber consistently ranks in the top three agricultural crops in the state.
State tree farmers use a sustainable method of growing trees, but it’s not the one recognized by LEED.
Bruce Alt represents the Mississippi Forestry Association’s 8,000 members, who have an interest in promoting energy conservation. Although the current legislative bill affects only government-owned buildings, he says it’s just a matter of time before the commercial and residential markets will be affected.
“There are two building standards competing, and we don’t think the government should declare one over the other,” he said. “We want the free market system to prevail.”
The timber industry is made up of three components — growers, those who work in timber harvesting and those in manufacturing. All sectors, Alt says, are supporting and working toward more energy efficiency and a better environment.
“We just want to make sure the Legislature gives us equal points for the renewable methods we are using,” he said.
Manufacturers such as the Weyerhaeuser Company support the bill as long as the LEED method is not the only standard included.
“Our concern is to get energy efficiency legislation that recognizes renewable forest products,” said Jackie Walburn, public affairs manager for Mississippi and Alabama. “We’re working with other companies and some legislators who understand forest products. We support legislation that recognizes any forestry management certification that is sustainable and doesn’t discriminate.”
She says the bill is not so much favorable to companies as it is not unfavorable, and she is hopeful it will pass without specifying a certain standard.
Weyerhaeuser has two pulp facilities and its timberland headquarters in Columbus, and has lumber facilities in Bruce, Philadelphia and McComb.
Senate Bill 3007 would promote energy conservation in state owned buildings, ensuring that government leads by example as the use of green building rating systems becomes more common. This bill also provides for an increase in the demand for building and construction materials, finishes, furnishings and other products made in or incorporating materials produced in the state. While new construction would adhere to a green building standard, the bill recognizes that retro-fitting some existing buildings would be cost prohibitive.
Leggett and Alt point out that the federal government and 12 states are using the Green Globes standard in their sustainable building construction policies, along with a growing list of private buildings.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.