how it works
Under MRpc80, all level-certified furniture products may contribute to LEED certification credits based on a sliding percentage scale for level 1, 2, or 3 conformance tiers. According to the USGBC, a project must include at least five different third-party certified products that account for at least 50 percent of the total interior finishes and furnishing materials by cost.
In other words, earning LEED points on a project can be as simple as specifying level-certified products, whether it is done within LEED v4 or an older version
of the rating system. To be clear, MRpc80 is not yet part of LEED v4—it is currently being evaluated by industry stakeholders as part of the pilot credit process. As the USGBC gathers feedback on its language and considers alternate compliance paths, the credit will continue to evolve, with the goal of having MRpc80 (as well as several other new pilot credits) approved for the next version of LEED.
In the meantime, designers working on projects targeting LEED certification can use MRpc80 by specifying level-certified products, and may receive a point under the Innovation in Design credit category in return.
the next level
A number of furniture manufacturers have already undergone the rigorous process of achieving multi-attribute certification for their products, which many believe will help level the playing field (pun intended) for the entire industry.
“I would say that for the most part, the product manufacturers and the broader industry are actually embracing the shift to an LCA-basis of LEED rather enthusiastically,” says Owens. “That gives them the ability to talk about the way that they think about their products, rather than just talking about one aspect of their product.”
According to Brent Kress, eco-strategist at Versteel, the focus in recent years on single-attribute testing and certification programs, while providing a starting point for market transformation, has ultimately confused specifiers about what constitutes a sustainable product.
“The market, in my opinion, has been kind of brainwashed into thinking that GREENGUARD and VOC testing is the end all, be all,” he says. “What they don’t realize is that VOC testing is only two points out of 90 of level. It’s not even an apples-to-oranges comparison, and that’s the mindset.”
In the past, the limited number of sustainable, affordable, aesthetically-pleasing and high-performing products was a legitimate concern and a challenge for designers. That’s no longer a valid excuse.
“There are thousands of level-certified products out there right now, so there are plenty of options, whether it’s seating, casegoods or tables,” suggests Nick Blessinger, marketing communications manager for National Office Furniture. “Designers really have no reason to not specify a level-certified product” now that it is recognized by the USGBC, he says.
While BIFMA’s level is presently the only product standard named in the credit—a fact that some industry groups have criticized as a tacit endorsement—the USGBC says it is currently seeking input on and evaluating other multi-attribute, third-party product certification programs to include in the near future. “What we’ve discovered is that many of the programs that are out there aren’t necessarily as directly aligned to the outcomes that LEED v4 is seeking,” Owens explains, adding, “I don’t think it’s too disparaging to say that the BIFMA e3 program is like LEED for office furniture.”