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Jul
2013
23

Massive Construction Co. Leaves Chamber of Commerce Over Sustainable Building Reluctance

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A short time after Skanska USA CEO Michael McNally wrote a Washington Post op-ed titled, “Don’t Let Green Standards Wither,” the company announced its departure from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to the organization’s attempts to “halt progress in sustainable building.”  Before making its decision, the construction giant participated in a series of failed talks with the Chamber which refuses to support LEED certification.

According to the Engineering News-Record:

At issue is the U.S. Chamber’s membership in the American High-Performance Building Coalition (AHPBC), an advocacy group formed by the American Chemistry Council and other trade organizations to support green building standards developed through the ANSI [American National Standards Institute] or ISO [International Organization for Standardization] consensus process. Although AHPBC claims it does not favor one rating system over another, its emphasis on ANSI mirrors the Green Building Initiative’s claims for its Green Globes rating tool. Chemical and plastics companies have objected to new credits in LEED v4 that will reward project teams for using alternative materials.

McNally argues that in going against LEED certification the Chamber is going against what it has traditionally believed in:

I believe in a lot of what the U.S. Chamber does.  They do a good job of representing business. I’m really disappointed in this position that they took.”

He further argued that there is a moral imperative to LEED and construction’s role in creating higher standards for environmental responsibility.  

““We’re building these things that are lasting a hundred or more years, and we need to be responsible. It’s, for me, kind of a moral issue.”

McNally believes that the powers that be are trying to keep LEED standards out of the federal government and are using the Chamber’s lobbying powers to ensure this.  He points to the Shaheen-Portman energy bill.  The bill has an amendment that would prevent federal agencies from using LEED on its projects. McNally suggests Skanska’s timing is intended to inform the industry about the situation.

“What I’m trying to do is raise awareness,” McNally explained. “The vast majority of businesses would be upset and outraged that this is going on, but they’re not aware of it. It’s one way to get the issue out in the open.”

Specifically, Skanska USA aims to killing off the amendment.  McNally further explained his position:

They hide behind words like ‘consensus,’ which is nonsense,” he says. “They know better.” McNally adds, “How could you ever have a standard like this and have 100% yeses? If you [were to] wind back the clock, we’d still have lead paint—because God forbid we push the lead-paint people out and not get consensus!”

Skanska USA still supports the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is not encouraging others to resign, according to McNally. “The goal was the kill the [anti-LEED] amendment,” he said. “Success, to me, looks like the amendment doesn’t get attached and the chemical industry and this coalition give up.”

LEED certification and the energy efficient buildings it has created have been a positive for the construction industry. Unions train workers to meet these standards. To end something that both results in a better environment and an educated workforce — all in the name of a few donors — is ludicrous.

There is no set timeline for Congress to vote on the Shaheen-Portman energy bill.

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