Friday, December 5, 2008

Museum + LEED Friday: making sense of certifications [Part 1]

LEED, museums, stewardship, certifications, green materials, sustainable practices, gyroscope inc, maria mortati, museums [Hi Scott Moulton posting.] With all the focus on "green materials" I thought it would be useful to talk about a few of the certifications that relate to materials . I'll start this week with certification for wood. Ok first I'd like to make a pitch for solid wood. It is a beautiful, durable, natural material that can be sustainably produced and will biodegrade. After building furniture with it for about 10 years I am still totally enamored with solid wood. (plywood is another matter) So if you are like me and want to use wood and wood that is sustainably forested you will be seeing the logos of FSC and SCS and trying to make sense out of what they mean. The Forest Stewardship Council is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. They are the ones who set the most widely accepted standard as to what it means to call something sustainably forested. They have established 10 Principles and 57 criteria that address legal issues, indigenous rights, labor rights, multiple benefits, and environmental impacts surrounding forest management. I've always been impressed by their commitment to a rather broad interpretation of what sustainable forestry means. A lot of the exotic woods come from some troubled regions of the world so along with ecological concerns come some even more serious issues around the impact this trade has on the local people. SCS stands for Scientific Certification Systems and they provide independent third party certification for everything from coffee to flowers. You can see a wood product with both the FSC and SCS logos or only one which has always been a bit confusing to me. The thing to remember is that SCS is primarily a company that verifies environmental claims and performance based certification. So SCS verifies that a forestry practice adheres to the guidelines set out by FSC. Now things get messy because SCS also has their own competing guidelines which they will then verify and you can have the SCS logo show up. In addition, they offer Chain of Custody Certification, Life Cycle Assessment (I'll get into this next week) and single attribute certification for terms like salvaged recycled recovered and so on. All of this points to the interesting fact that while FSC certainly has established itself as the standard, there are differing views on what "certified wood" can or should mean. It is worth investigating the SCS website. I'm still trying to get my head around the extent of everything they are involved in and it raises interesting questions. Is it ok that these "independent third party" folks are also helping Starbucks and Home Depot set up eco guidelines that they will then use as marketing? While it may not be the purist path, I think this work with huge corporations is a really promising development. As ecological concerns become mainstream they will become part of our broad economy the commitment to verification and standards is critical to preserving some meaning behind terms like of "eco, sustainable, or green".

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