Frequently Asked Questions about LEED credit achievement and FSC-certified material

The following questions and answers relate specifically to earning credit for using FSC-certified materials in LEED green building projects. For additional questions about LEED, please visit www.usgbc.org.  

FSC provides Continuing Education for architects, project teams, and anyone interested in learning about sourcing FSC-certified materials for green building. See the link here for access to the Continuing Education for Green Building and FSC. 

Q: How do I find FSC-certified building materials? 

To find FSC-certified building materials that are eligible for use in LEED and other green building standards, use the links below to learn how to use the different tools available. The FSC Certificate Database can be used to verify FSC claims, search for FSC certified companies and find FSC certified products. Click here to learn more. FSC-certified building materials will almost always need to be purchased from an FSC Chain of Custody certified company (see FAQs below for more specifics on the Chain of Custody requirements). 

The Product Inquiry Form is an online form that can be used to find FSC-certified building materials suppliers. Click here to fill out the form. 

Q: How does FSC-certified wood contribute to LEED certification in LEED 2009 and LEED v4? 

In the LEED 2009 commercial rating system (NC, CI), the Certified Wood (MRc7) offers a single point if at least 50% by cost of permanently installed wood products are FSC certified. Under the LEED 2009 system, projects can be rewarded for the FSC credit even if wood is a relatively minor part the overall materials used. 

In the LEED v4 commercial rating system, FSC is recognized in the Building Product Disclosure & Optimization: Sourcing of Raw Materials credit which has different options for credit achievement. In one of the two available points, credit may be earned by using products that meet “leadership extraction practices” for at least 25%, by cost, of the total value of permanently installed building products in the project. Under this option, FSC-certified wood is one of a few products (other options include reused and recycled materials) that can count toward the 25% threshold. 

While the credits specific to FSC-certified material sourcing for LEED 2009 and LEED v4 are different (see here for LEED credit library and the exact credit language), using FSC-certified materials on a LEED project will contribute towards credit achievement no matter which LEED version the project team is using.  

Q: What are the requirements for documenting the use of FSC certified wood in LEED? 

First, FSC-certified materials will need to be purchased from FSC-certified suppliers. All companies along the supply chain that take legal ownership of FSC-certified forest products and wish to claim that their products are FSC certified must have an FSC Chain of Custody certificate. This includes all manufacturers, distributors and offsite fabricators such as cabinetmakers and millworkers who sell wood products into a LEED project.  

NOTE: General contractors and subcontractors, and companies that do not manufacturer products offsite and ONLY install FSC-certified materials onsite (such as flooring and furniture installers) do not need FSC Chain of Custody certification. 

FSC-certified materials purchased from certified suppliers will come with FSC claims on the invoices for the certified products. These invoices with the FSC claims are required for the documentation purposes of the credit (unless the alternative documentation process is employed, see FAQ below). Each invoice will need to have following:

  • Each wood product must be identified by line item
  • FSC-certified products must be identified as such with their corresponding FSC claim* The dollar value of each line item must be shown
  • The company’s FSC certificate code must be shown on any invoice that includes FSC-certified products  

*FSC claims include FSC 100%, FSC Mix Credit, FSC Mix NN%, FSC Recycled Credit, FSC Recycled NN%. Wood products that are identified on invoices as FSC 100% and FSC Mix Credit are valued at 100 percent of cost. Wood products identified as FSC Mix NN% are valued at the indicated percentage of their cost (e.g. a product identified as FSC Mix 75% is valued at 75 percent of the total cost). 

IMPORTANT: The documentation requirements for LEED 2009 and LEED v4 are different. For LEED 2009, credit achievement is calculated by comparing the total cost of wood used in the project to the total cost of FSC-certified wood used. Therefore, all invoices for wood materials (FSC-certified and non-certified) must be collected. For LEED v4, only the invoices with FSC claims are required for documentation towards the credit. 

Q: What is the Alternative Documentation Process? 

The Alternative Documentation Process is an option only available to architectural woodworkers who supply custom manufactured FSC-certified products to LEED projects and install the products on the project site. The alternative process was created because woodworkers face unique challenges in producing FSC-certified products due to short turnaround times and the variety and specificity of the materials they often use, making it difficult for woodworkers to provide an FSC claim on their final products. Therefore, this alternative process replaces the need for the woodworker to submit the invoice with an FSC claim to the certified products, and instead woodworkers will provide a separate document.  

Woodworkers who choose to work with the alternative documentation process must:
1.    Be FSC Chain of Custody certified and list their FSC certified code on the project invoice.
2.    Install the custom products (millwork, casework, furniture) on the project site.
3.    Provide a document, separate from the invoice, which includes their total cost of FSC-certified wood used on the project as well as the total cost of wood materials.   

Q. How do FSC-certified products containing recycled materials contribute toward LEED credits? 

FSC Recycled and FSC Mix products count toward the credits in different ways. Products identified as FSC Mix Credit or FSC Mix NN% may contain pre- and/or post-consumer reclaimed material, both of which are eligible inputs into an FSC-certified product. Products identified as FSC Recycled Credit or FSC Recycled NN% do not contribute to the LEED 2009 Certified Wood credit (MRc7), but instead contribute to Recycled Content credit (MRc4). In LEED v4, FSC Recycled products are treated as recycled inputs and contribute as such. FSC-certified material cannot be double counted in LEED v4 or contribute simultaneously to the LEED 2009 Recycled Content credit (MRc4) and the Certified Wood credit (MRc7).  

Q: If I purchase materials from an FSC certified company does that mean my products are FSC certified? 

Not necessarily. Certified companies have the right through their certification to make and sell FSC certified products, but this does not mean that all the products they sell are FSC certified. Most certified companies sell both certified products and non-certified products. To ensure the products you source from the company are FSC certified, you must specify this requirement in the beginning with the supplier and check the invoice from the company to ensure it carries an FSC claim and the company’s FSC certificate code. 

Q: What building specification language should I use if I want FSC-certified materials? 

FSC does provide Sample Specification Language for project teams if needed. See the link here for the sample language.