One of the biggest problems I have with the LEEDv2.2 and LEEDv3.0 MR credits is with MR Credit 5: Regional Materials. This credit currently defines regional materials as materials that are both harvested and manufactured within 500 miles of the project. The INTENT of the credit is to support the use of indigenous resources and reduce the environmental impacts resulting from transportation.
The following is an example to illustrate my concern:
Product A is harvested 500 miles east of the project and manufactured 500 miles west of the project. Therefore, the total traveling distance of the product from cradle to grave (from the harvest location, to the manufacturing location, and then finally to the project) is 1,500 miles. Product B is harvested 700 miles east of the project and manufactured 300 miles east of the project. Therefore, the total traveling distance of the product from cradle to grave is 1,000 miles.
This is the flaw within MR credit 5. Product A is transported 500 miles more than product B, yet product A contributes towards the credit because it was both harvested and manufactured within 500 miles of the project, and product B does not. This contradicts the credit intent: To reduce environmental impacts resulting from transportation.
It is unfortunate that this flaw was overlooked in both LEEDv2.2 and LEEDv3.0; however, it looks like LEED 2012 will eliminate this flaw by eliminating the harvesting requirements all together, and making more stringent requirements for manufacturing and purchasing locations. The proposed modifications to the reference guide will be addressed in two new MR credits, which address both structural and non-structural building materials. The intent of these credits is (in part) to reduce environmental harm from materials manufacturing and transport. The portion of these credits titled “Support Local Economy,” requires that project teams use building materials and products that are manufactured and purchased within the Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA) as defined by the US Office of Management and Budget statistical area that the project is located in. For projects located outside a prescribed CBSA, materials and products shall be purchased within the projects county.
While the proposed LEED 2012 requirements do eliminate local harvesting requirements, it is generally in the best interest of the product/material vendor to harvest/extract materials locally anyway. I believe the new MR credits address the more important issue of buying local materials (both manufactured and purchased locally), which will accurately address the intent of the credit by reducing transportation between purchasing & manufacturing locations and the project.