Cabling and LEED

Jan. 1, 2010
In November the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) issued what it calls a pilot credit as part of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

In November the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) issued what it calls a pilot credit as part of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Organizations striving to have their properties recognized as “green buildings” apply to the USGBC for credits; those that accumulate enough credits attain what is known as LEED certification and are recognized as green buildings. USGBC issues pilot credits to test and refine its crediting program.

Of great significance to our industry is that the pilot credit issued in November specifically mentions cable and wire-jacketing, and in particular the chemicals within them, as considerations for the LEED credit. The credit is officially called “PBT Source Reduction: Dioxins and Halogenated Organic Compounds.” The term PBT is an abbreviation for “persistent bioaccumulative toxic” and in this case refers to compounds used to make up cable and wire jacketing.

While the official wording in USGBC documentation states “building-installed electrical cable and wire jacketing” (emphasis added), several indicators lead me to believe that communications cable will be considered as part of this pilot credit. Chief among those indicators is the specific mention in the credit description of chemicals and materials that are regularly found in communications cables and not so much in electrical cables. Namely, all chemicals containing chlorine and fluorine—including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP)—are on the list.

Over the past couple years several of our articles, including some of my commentaries in this column, have discussed the apparent lack of a tangible connection between the design and installation of cabling materials, and the opportunity for a property to earn LEED points as a result. It looks to me like the connection is finally here, although it may be difficult to attain.

When I first put word of this credit onto our blog the immediate reaction from those who commented was along the lines of “yabut.” As in, “Yeah, but … it’s such a small part of the building system it won’t make a difference anyway.” Or, “Yeah, but … my projects require plenum cable and good luck finding one without those chemicals.” Valid points, each of them. But I’m taking the content of this pilot credit from the USGBC as an indication that the organization is focused on the chemicals and materials that go into building products, far more than it is on the design or installation workmanship practices by which they are put in place.

Chief Editor
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