Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Giant builder quits US Chamber in green-building struggle

Skanska says Chamber panders to chemical cos., slights pro-LEED construction cos.

Giant builder quits US Chamber in green-building struggle

At Skanska USA in New Castle, DE, pre-fab modular construction, much of which will be used to expand A.I. du Pont Hospital for Children, on Feb. 8, 2013. Here, carpenter Mark Redding cuts material for the ceilings of the pods.  (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
At Skanska USA in New Castle, DE, pre-fab modular construction, much of which will be used to expand A.I. du Pont Hospital for Children, on Feb. 8, 2013. Here, carpenter Mark Redding cuts material for the ceilings of the pods. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)

UPDATE: Response from US Chamber of Commerce spokesman Matt Letorneau: "The Chamber has long supported energy efficiency," including the Shaheen-Portman bill, and "developing the best possible standards for building efficiency. That includes consensus-based standards which will bring broader acceptance and more implementation of efficiency standards.

"In this case, [Skanska, which] has a business interest dependent on one particular green building standard chose to leave the Chamber because they disagree with our approach. Nevertheless, we will continue to be engaged in a constructive dialogue regarding ways to improve building efficiency."

EARLIER: Skanska USA, the American arm of the multinational construction manager that has lately built the University of Delaware's new dorms, Almac's U.S. headquarters in Montgomery County, the new AI du Pont Hospital, and many other big projects, says "it has resigned as a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest the organization's backing of a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED for government buildings." (LEED = Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, a program to certify efficient heating, drainage, recycled materials, etc.)

"The initiative, linked to lobbying efforts by the chemical industry related to the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill (S. 761)" in Congress, "threatens to halt years of progress in energy-efficient and environmentally responsible construction," writes Skanska.

"The Chamber is supporting the American High-Performance Building Coalition, a lobbying organization that harbors the American Chemistry Council and opposes the implementation of a new, stronger LEED certification program (LEEDv4), which encourages transparency in reporting the chemical composition of building materials." Chemical-makers want to " ban the use of pro-innovation and voluntary LEED certification by the government.

"The LEED program has helped grow the green building industry to where it currently contributes more than $554 billion to the U.S. economy and creates more than 7.9 million jobs annually.

"The LEED program is the most recognized and widely used green building program globally. It is maintained and implemented by the independent U.S. Green Building Council through a public and transparent comment and balloting process engaging its nearly 13,000 member companies....

"Skanska spent the last week in discussions with the Chamber, asking its leadership to reconsider its position and remove its support... When talks broke down, Skanska removed its name and its funding in protest of the Chamber’s decision.

Says Skanska president Mike McNally: “The Chamber is on the wrong side of this issue, and its support" for the retrograde chemical-makers against the progressive construction industry "is misplaced as well as misguided,

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was created to advocate for pro-business policies that create jobs and support our economy. The numbers prove that LEED and green building do just that. Because a few companies don’t like the current LEED program, they want to involve the government and create an entirely new system for government buildings.

"This is exactly the kind of redundancy and bureaucracy that we pay the Chamber to fight. Rather than support its members, who continually innovate to create new products that straddle the line between responsible and profitable, the Chamber has chosen to support a group of businesses who care more about protecting the status quo. Skanska can no longer lend its support to the Chamber when it does not do right by the community it purports to serve." 

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

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