Frequently Asked Questions

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What is building green?

There are many terms and phrases that encompass “green building”. High performance building and sustainable design are two of the most common ones. All these terms refer to the process of planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining a structure so that it has less negative impact on the environment while at the same time improving the health and productivity of the occupants. “Green” buildings are also advertised to have lower maintenance issues & costs and improved performance related to energy efficiency in relation to conventionally built structures.

Is green building simply a fad?

Green building is currently not as prevalent as conventional construction; however, there are many government and private “green” buildings in the United States. The U.S Green Building Council ( estimates that between five and ten percent of all commercial construction in the U.S. is pursuing accreditation under its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. A wide variety of federal, state, and local government agencies have committed all future projects will be constructed in a “green” manner. This type of building has also attracted nonprofit organizations at both the national and local level.

Does building green cost more?

The cost of green building does not have to be much more than traditional construction as long as efficient, effective plans are set forth in the beginning of the project. To keep costs affordable, it is usually best to focus on simple, yet effective green building strategies, such as energy and water efficiency, that will maximize savings on the operating costs. It must be kept in mind that “green” building materials can be more expensive than traditional building products; however, often green strategies will reduce overall operations and maintenance costs of the structure.

Will green building make the construction process longer?

Green building emphasizes an integrated design process which can require additional meetings in the early planning stages of a project. Depending on the materials selected, procurement time can be lengthened over that of conventional building materials. However, it must also be kept in mind that one of the goals of green building is to use locally-available building material to reduce shipping cost, reduce the carbon footprint and strengthen local economies.

Is there financial support for green building?

Some state and local governments offer financial support such as grants, reduced permitting or impact fees, or direct technical assistance. Energy, water and other utilities may offer incentives for efficiency measures or technical assistance, as well as a reduced rate for buildings which meet efficiency guidelines. However, one must also take into account the economic advantage of green building by considering the long term effects of reduced water and energy bills, lower operation and maintenance costs, and improved workforce productivity.

How do buildings affect climate change?

The energy used to heat and power our buildings leads to the consumption of large amounts of energy, mainly from burning fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) which generate significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most widespread greenhouse gas. Buildings in the U.S. contribute 38.1 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions produced by buildings is therefore fundamental to the effort to slow the pace of global climate change. Buildings may be associated with the release of greenhouse gases in other ways, for example, construction and demolition debris that degrades in landfills may generate methane, and the extraction of manufacturing of building materials may also generate greenhouse gas emissions.

If I make the investment in green products, how will this benefit me and my customers?

Cabinet shops, Millwork houses, and lumber yards can gain market share by offering a broad range of green products. Your customer can benefit through energy savings and possible tax credits offered for the use of green products.

What is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)?

The USGBC is a non-profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. Utilizing the LEED rating system, the USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education. Their stated mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated; therefore, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

What is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)?

LEED was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide a green building rating system accepted as the national benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED provides building owners and operators the necessary tools to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance by incorporating a third-party certification program. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health, sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor air quality.

How does the wood products industry effect or benefit me on LEED Projects?

The wood products that you use on these projects are reflected in the number of credits or points awarded by LEED. The use of more green products can result in higher revenues for you and more credits or points for the end user. Gaining more credits or points can result in a higher tiered LEED accreditation.

How many points can be earned by using wood proudcts in a LEED for Homes project?

Through the Materials & Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality section, there are 15 points available from the use of wood products.

Are wood products the only material that can gain points in a LEED project?

No, all material used in the construction project can have an effect on the total points earned. Examples of other products used to gain credits would be Low-E insulated glass windows, low emitting paints, Recycled water irrigation systems, and Energy efficient HVAC systems.

FAQ - If a home is built to code does that mean it is a green home?

Not necessarily-a true green home has been 3rd party inspected and performance tested by an accredited inspector from the NAHB or a local HBA inspector or a USGBC inspector.

What are the 7 categories where credits can be earned in a LEED for Homes project?

Sustainable Sites, Locations and Linkages, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Awareness and Education. Materials and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality are the categories that affect our industry.

What purpose do the credits serve?

To make a house healthier, more comfortable, longer lasting, more energy efficient, more environmentally responsible, higher resale value, or possible tax credits.

How does the National Association of Home Builders compare to the USGBC?

The NAHB is a national program that the USGBC recognizes and works with locally and regionally.

Who can become a FSC member?

Anybody who supports the idea of improving forest management around the world can become a FSC member. FSC members are divided into Social, Environmental and Economic chambers. Each of these chambers is divided in North (industrial countries) and South (developing countries). Each chamber carries the same vote. This guarantees that no one interest can dominate.

What is certification and how do I get certified?

FSC accredited, independent, “third-party” certification bodies or “certifiers” certify forests. They assess forest management using the FSC principles, criteria, and standards; each certifier uses their own evaluation process. This allows FSC to remain outside of the assessment process, and supports the integrity of the standard, and of the FSC system. Certifiers evaluate both forest management activities (forest certification) and tracking of forest products (chain-of-custody certification). There are 12 FSC-accredited certifiers around the globe. If you are interested in obtaining an FSC-certification, please contact an FSC accredited certifier. They will be able to provide you with information regarding how the assessment process works, costs, and a timeline for certification completion.

How are FSC products evaluated/rated?

The logic for labeling FSC 100% products at 100% is obvious, as they do, in fact, contain 100% FSC material.

“FSC Mix Credit” products are also labeled at 100% because the amount of material carrying this label corresponds to the amount of FSC material in the production batch, representing a “pass-through” of FSC-certified material: if 90% of inputs into the production batch are FSC certified, then 90% of the products that come out can be sold as FSC certified.

Products labeled “FSC Mix [NN] %” refers to the percentage of actual FSC certified content, because this is consistent with past LEED practice and the intent of the Certified Wood credit.

For LEED NCv2.2, use only the percent of the value. The NC Reference Guides provide more detail for complex assemblies. Please note that if the label does not contain a percentage, (for example, such as in the case of “FSC 100%” and “FSC Mix Sources” labels) then 100 percent of the product value can be counted.

What environmental issues do the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) attempt to address?

Forests provide us with clean water, fresh air and even help combat global warming. They also provide food, medicine and important natural resources, such as timber and paper. If managed responsibly, forests and plantations benefit people both dependent on forests and the global community at large.

However, in some countries as much as 80% of the timber is harvested illegally, often involving the violation of human rights and destruction of protected forests. A key factor behind the threats faced by natural forests is the perception by many societies that they lack economic value. The extraordinary social and environmental value of forests in comparison to other land uses is often not considered. In other words, forests are often converted to other land uses which lack many of the social and environmental values of forest but promise higher economic returns.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

How does FSC certification make a difference in the world's forests?

When a forest manager decides to become FSC certified, he/she must conform to all applicable FSC rules before earning FSC certification and the right to use the FSC label. Managing forests with FSC guidelines means following the highest social and environmental criteria. This is how FSC has a direct and permanent positive impact on the world’s people and forests

Who develops the FSC guidelines?

At FSC IC (International Committee), a group of experts facilitate the development, review and continuous improvement of FSC rules and procedures. The Principles and Criteria form the basis for all FSC forest management policies and standards. And again, it is the members who ultimately define what rules need to be further developed or reviewed and through their representatives on the FSC Board of Directors have the final say in what rules are adopted. All policies and standards go through at least two rounds of public consultations. In these consultations everybody interested in the fate of the world’s forests can comment.

If I have a millwork shop that runs custom moulding for FSC certified companies, do I have to be certified?

Yes, if the material is to maintain its certification Policies regarding product eligibility and documentation were revised with a ruling established July 19, 2010. The following is an excerpt from the FSC regarding this issue as it pertains to CoC and the associated LEEDs credits: “Organizations that install an FSC-certified product or products on the project building/site (typically project contractors or subcontractors such as flooring installers or framing contractors, but also furniture installers and the like) do not require FSC CoC certifications as long as they do not modify the product’s packaging or form except as is required for installation. All other organizations will need to be FSC CoC certified in order for the certified wood products they fabricate and install to count toward MRc7. This includes organizations like cabinetmakers and architectural millworkers that manufacture products off-site and then install them on-site (even if considered a subcontractor).”

Do I need to be FSC certified to install FSC certified products?

No. Not if you fall under the following categories:

  • You are a general contractor who buys the product from architectural woodworking companies that employs trim carpenters that install the material (Note: the architectural woodworking company has to be FSC certified.)
  • You are an independent contractor that only installs the product and you do not modify the product’s packaging or form except as is required for installation
What if I am a distributor purchasing a product from a primary manufacturer and reselling to a lumberyard. Both the manufacturer and lumberyard have COC certification, and I am not taking physical possession of the product. Do I need COC certification?

Yes, anyone involved in the legal possession of the product (even if not in physical possession of the product) must have chain-of-custody certification. Without COC, the chain will be broken, and the lumberyard cannot resell the product to the project contractor as FSC-certified.

What documentation is required to achieve the FSC products LEED credit?

All vendor invoices for permanently installed wood products, both FSC-certified and not, purchased by the project contractor and subcontractors must be complied. Vendors are defined as those companies that sell products to the project contractor or subcontractors.

Each vendor invoice must conform to the following requirements:

  • Each wood product must be identified on a line-item basis;
  • FSC products must be identified as such on a line-item basis;
  • The $ value of each line item must be shown;
  • The vendor’s chain-of-custody (COC) certificate number must be shown on any invoice that includes FSC products.
    Note that this means that each wood products vendor that invoices FSC-certified products must be COC-certified by an FSC-accredited certifier.
What is SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative)?

SFI is a fully independent, registered non-profit organization, with a governance structure with equal representation across three chambers: social, economic and environmental. SFI is a single standard covering 135 million acres certified to it across North America. FSC has 13 different standards across North America, 9 in the US and 4 in Canada. Only 10% of the world’s forests are third-party certified – the majority of which is in North America. By sourcing certified products, from a variety of credible standards, buyers are sending a message that they support sound forestry and buy responsibly. The SFI Standard acknowledges that there is a significant amount of wood fiber that is not from certified forests and requires SFI companies that source wood directly take measures to ensure all of the wood fiber they use, certified or not, is procured from known and legal sources.

What is PEFC (Programmer for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)?
  • The PEFC Council is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization which promotes sustainably managed forests through independent third party certification.
  • PEFC certification assures buyers of wood and paper products that they are promoting the sustainable management of forests.
  • PEFC provides compatibility and quality assurance between international forest certification schemes.
  • PEFC is one of the largest schemes in the world for certifying sustainable forest management.
How does PEFC help forest and people?
  • PEFC is a solution to address the global problem of illegal logging
  • PEFC protects the rights of indigenous people
  • PEFC safeguards communities’, workers’ and local people’s rights
  • Social and environmental groups participate in PEFC’s decision making
What are the PEFC's safeguard mechanisms?
  • The logo indicates that the products contains at least 70% certified material
  • Only timber and paper products from PEFC endorsed systems can be traded and labeled with the PEFC logo
  • PEFC assures that the uncertified content in PEFC certified products does not originate from illegal logging (controversial sources)
  • PEFC certification is based on several hundred very detailed criteria
  • PEFC certified forests and certified companies are inspected annually
What is CARB (California Air Resources Board)?

CARB is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. On April 26, 2007, CARB approved an airborne toxic measure to reduce the formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products including hardwood plywood, particle board and MDF. The measure also includes furniture, cabinets and other products manufactured or constructed with composite wood products. The first criteria for limiting formaldehyde emissions went into effect January 1, 2009 with additional restrictive limits to follow. For more information about emission restrictions and the corresponding compliance dates, please visit

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent gas and a common volatile organic compound (VOC). It is used as an ingredient in many common products used everyday such as preservatives, disinfectants, textiles, clothing, and plastics. Formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment; humans and plant life actually produce small amounts on a regular basis.

When formaldehyde is reacted with urea, a hard resin is produced. These resins are commonly used in bonding agents that are in turn used to produce hardwood plywood, particleboard, and MDF. Urea Formaldehyde can emit gasses from the finished product for some periods of time even after the manufacturing process is complete.

What is a VOC (Volatile Organic Compound)?

A VOC is defined by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as any organic compound that participates in photoreaction. VOCs are carbon based chemical compounds that are often found in various household products that vaporize into a gas at room temperature such as paint thinners, carpeting, cleaning products and room deodorizers. Upon VOCs being inhaled, the toxins can be stored in the body with potential long term health effects associated.

What is phenolic glue?

Phenolic glue is a formaldehyde based adhesive that is most commonly used in the manufacturing process of pressed wood products. It is the primary glue in structural softwood panels such as CDX, BC pine, etc. Phenol formaldehyde (PF) based adhesives are actually better at binding(containing) the formaldehyde molecules in the cured/dried form and therefore emit much lower levels of formaldehyde in comparison to urea formaldehyde based adhesives. PF resins are darker in color than urea formaldehyde and often leave a visible “black line” behind in the finished product.

What is PVA (Polyvinyl acetates) glue?

PVAs are most recognizable as the common yellow and white carpenter glues being used and sold every day. PVA has no added formaldehyde in the manufacturing process of the glue. Upon being cured, a thermo plastic bond is formed rather than a rigid thermo bond produced by other types of adhesives.

What does the term formaldehyde free mean?

This term is used to describe construction materials that have no formaldehyde of any kind added during the manufacturing process. This specifically refers to the binding agents used in the production of composite panels, veneer cores, LVLs, etc. Basically, no formaldehyde UF, PF or otherwise is added to the wood or the resins during the production of the various products. It must kept in mind that formaldehyde exists naturally and occurs in wood, but “formaldehyde free” means that no additional formaldehyde (other than what occurs naturally) is added to the given product during its production process.

What does the term NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) refer to?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has adopted the no added urea formaldehyde terminology under the credit EQ 4.4. Because LEED has become so prominent in the construction industry and media; the term NAUF has been catapulted to the forefront due to the fact that more people have become aware of and concerned with the issue of indoor air quality. Urea based formaldehydes are the ones that have been deemed to be an irritant to the eyes and respiratory systems of humans. Therefore, alternative adhesive systems that qualify as NAUF approved are Phenol Formaldehyde (PF), Poly Vinyl Acetate (PVA), and Soy.