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NRMCA Testifies Before Oregon Legislature on Wood Preference Interest

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Although the ‘Wood First’ Bill, establishing a preference for wood as the material of choice for state building construction, did not advance in the Oregon Legislature this year, a more subtle attack on an energy tax provision was introduced to advance Oregon forestry interests. Tien Peng, NRMCA’s senior director of sustainability, codes and standards along with local partner the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association (OCAPA), testified at the Oregon House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to clarify the role of concrete as a material of choice in sustainable strategies.

The hearing was information only and no action was taken. Earlier in the session, the House Energy and Environment Committee considered HB 4166, which would give equal or better consideration in lieu of the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for energy tax credits to projects using wood products produced under certain forest industry certification programs. Since LEED only recognizes the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) program, the wood interests wanted to dismiss the use of any rating system that did not give equal recognition and treatment to the more mainstream industry supported programs such as SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and the American Tree Farm System.

This would leverage the use of the tax credit provision and promote wider use of wood in building projects. In its testimony, NRMCA clarified the importance of operational energy use in buildings while supporting LEED as a credible rating system that focuses on use phase of structures while addressing other environmental impacts. The debate regarding wood certification is, in fact, a red herring to the broader sustainability goals of increased energy efficiency. The message delivered also reflected upon the inequity of rating systems that provided preferential treatment to any one material, such as LEED’s FSC credit, as opposed to considering the whole life cycle impacts of structures.

Last year, it was announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Forest Service would preferentially select wood in new building construction. USDA will also make a commitment to using wood and other agricultural products as it fulfills President Obama's executive order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. These actions are manifestations of the broader attempts at the federal and local level by wood interests to build market share through the distribution of questionable research conclusions. NRMCA has directed its efforts at all levels to educate and inform decision-makers the true nature material selection in buildings.

For more information on the Wood First legislations, please contact Tien Peng at or 206-913-8535.


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