LEED Chain of Custody Confusion

A cabinetmaker gets into trouble because of mis-communication over LEED standards on a job. May 20, 2009

The company that I work for just finished a project that spec'ed two Leeds credits - one was the use of NAF-free products, and the other was the use of FSC certified lumber. The engineering department in our office caught the spec that called for the NAF, but unfortunately did not catch the FSC spec. In short, the project did not meet the specs.

I'm still owed a little over $60,000 on the project. Does anyone know what the value of these credits is (aside from the good for the planet aspect)? I am trying to negotiate a credit for the mistake so that I can collect some of the remaining money for the project.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor B:
Very situational. If somehow the GC could prove the one point caused them to gain a Gold certification instead of a Platinum, then I would think the amount would be significant. I would think all the planets would need to align for that to happen, but you never know. If they were right on the edge when the design was formalized, one point could make the difference.

We have had companies in our market get into this very situation. They were not FSC CoC and the GC was uneducated on what would be required. The GC lets a non-CoC company provide the work, then the LEED audit happens at the completion of the job and the bomb explodes. Some have gotten away light because they didn't need the one point, while others have ended up in a giant mess.

Ultimately the GC has to shoulder some of the blame by allowing you to continue into the project without verifying your CoC license number.

From contributor J:
This really doesnít help with the solution, but I have a question. How is it that your engineering department missed the FSC spec, and not your estimator? If your shop isnít already FSC certified, why did your estimator bid the project, and did he include enough money to go through the certification process? The next question is, did the estimator pass this information on to the Project Manager, and/or the Engineer? And lastly, did the Project Manager pass the information to the purchasing department, which is who it affects the most?

From the original questioner:
To help you understand... We provide commercial casework and not lumber. The specs require me to build from FSC certified lumber, not to be FSC certified. My suppliers have to be certified, in which they are. Chain of custody has to be shown. This lets the architects know that the lumber was grown in an FSC certified forest and was purchased by a certified mill, then sold to me. This spec typically applies to framing lumber and running trims. This project had none of these items. We had also recently done a fire station that was very close to the same design. Its Leeds credits only required that the material be no NAF and low VOC. We did meet these specs in the project. To answer your other question, no, the estimator did not allow for the additional cost of certified lumber, which is where the problem started.

The Leeds organization is becoming a more frequent factor in the millwork industry. I am trying to get our company to budget some training to keep up with the specs. I wish vendors and the organization itself would promote industry education, but that doesn't seem to be the case. At least not in Texas. All that said, we learned a lesson. I am personally project managing all jobs that come across with Leeds specs until the company gets trained properly.

From contributor J:
A few months back I attended a LEEDS seminar, and according to what was said in the seminar, if you purchase FSC material and modify it in any way (i.e. build it into casework), then your shop becomes part of the chain of custody, and therefore needs to be FSC certified. The rules and regulations for getting certified take some time to complete. The bad side is the cost can be high, and if you do not follow the rules to the letter, they can come back and fine you more money yet.

As far as I am concerned, this is just another feel good money grab. I also feel that after you are through with the project, the GC has taken possession of your products, and in turn passes possession of them to the building owner, the GC should be FSC certified. Then if the owner of the building sells it as a green building, he should be FSC certified.

From contributor B:
I know the previous regulations on this matter have been foggy at best, but presently and in the future you will be required to have FSC CoC to supply FSC material on LEEDs projects if you are re-manufacturing certified raw materials into product (cabinets, trim, etc).

From contributor H:
As an example, an architectural woodworking company is independently owned, buys FSC materials and cuts them up to make custom wood items such as cabinets... The same work gets attached to a building and installs the product itself. The woodworking company is considered a subcontractor and therefore does not need to be certified, according to USGBC LEED NC2.2 page 283. In this case the vendor's FSC materials invoice and COC number are used.

From contributor B:
I'm afraid that you do have to be certified. That particular passage has been rewritten recently to clear up the confusion associated to it. Check the FSC website. If you buy certified materials and modify them in any way, you have to be CoC certified to resell the product as certified. Does not matter if you are installing them or not.