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Hardwood and LEED

Choosing green hardwood flooring can help your eco–friendly building project qualify for LEED points which can contribute towards receiving LEED certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This is a program overseen by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to promote the development and use of green homes and buildings from the inside out.

There are 6 main LEED Certification Programs:

  • Homes (H)
  • Commercial Interiors (CI)
  • Core and Shell (CS)
  • Existing Buildings (EB)
  • Neighborhood Development (ND)
  • New Construction (NC)

The U.S.
Green Building Council (USBDC) LEED Logo

In this section we will focus on LEED for Commercial Interiors and LEED for Homes and list some of the most common LEED credits that you can earn, or work towards earning by using green hardwood floors. Before we begin, it is important to understand that hardwood flooring and other specific products cannot be LEED certified, but can help to contribute towards earning points which can help one qualify for LEED certification. LEED certified homes and buildings have many advantages. They are more eco–friendly, safer for your health, have higher asset values, and often cost less to operate than others.

LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED – CI) and Green Hardwood Flooring

LEED Materials and Resources – MR 3.1: Materials Reuse

2 points available

This LEED credit is earned by reusing salvaged building materials in your LEED project, resulting in a reduced demand for raw materials. By using a total of 5% salvaged materials (based on cost of the total building construction materials used), you can earn 1 point and by using 10% salvaged materials in your LEED project you can earn an additional point. Choosing eco–friendly hardwood flooring made of salvaged wood can help you contribute towards earning these LEED MR 3.1 points.

LEED Materials and Resources – MR 5: Regional Materials

2 points available

To earn the MR 5 LEED credits, one must choose building materials that are sourced and manufactured within a 500 mile radius of the installation site. By using a total of 20% of building materials and furniture that has been manufactured locally, you can earn 1 point. Once you meet these requirements, if 10% of the materials were also sourced (meaning extracted, harvested, or recovered) locally you can earn an additional point. By using hardwood flooring that is manufactured by a local manufacturer using locally resourced materials, you can contribute towards receiving these LEED Materials and Resources credits.

LEED Materials and Resources – MR 7: Certified Wood

1 point available

By using wood products that come from forest that are responsibly managed, you can use this LEED credit. To achieve this point, one must use wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). When using new wood materials, such as hardwood flooring made of newly harvested hardwood, one must use a total of at least 50% wood (counting building materials and furniture) that is certified using the FSC Principles and Criteria for wood building components.

Note on hardwood flooring and FSC labels – When searching for green hardwood that will help you qualify for LEED credit you may come across these labels: FSC Pure, FSC Mixed Credit, and FSC Mixed XX%. The FSC Pure label and the FSC Mixed Credit label means that the product can be counted at its full value towards the credit. However, a hardwood product marked "FSC Mixed XX%" contributes a certain percentage of its value towards receiving LEED credits. For example, $1,000 of flooring labeled as FSC Mixed 50% could only be counted at a value of $500 towards the total value of the building materials used in the project to receive the LEED credit in question. Additionally, products labeled "FSC Recycled" contribute towards MR 4: Recycled Content credits rather than the MR 7: Certified Wood credit.

LEED Indoor Environmental Quality – Low Emitting Materials: IEQ 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4

1 point available for each

When it comes to earning LEED points for indoor environmental quality using green hardwood can contribute to one or more of the following categories, as specified below.

LEED IEQ 4.1 Low–Emitting Materials – Adhesives and Sealants

Wood flooring adhesives as well as all other adhesives, sealant primers, and sealants used in the interior of the building must meet South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule 1186 for VOC limits to earn this LEED credit.

LEED IEQ 4.2: Low–Emitting Materials – Paints and Coatings

To receive this credit, floor coatings such as wood finishes, stains, and primers must not exceed VOC limits set forth by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule 1113. Additionally, other paints and coatings used in the building must meet specific Green Seal VOC standards to qualify for this credit.

LEED IEQ 4.3: Low–Emitting Materials – Flooring Systems

To qualify for this LEED credit, one must use a flooring system which reduces indoor contaminants and promotes the well being of both those installing the flooring and those occupying the building. Using FloorScore certified hardwood flooring coated with a finishing system that meets South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule 1113 requirements can qualify you for this LEED point.

LEED IEQ 4.4: Low–Emitting Materials – Wood and Agrifiber Products

When using wood and agrfiber products in your building's interior (which include engineered hardwood flooring) they must not contain any added formaldehyde beyond what is already naturally occurring in the wood to earn this credit LEED IEQ credit.

LEED for Homes (LEED – H) and Green Hardwood Floors

LEED Materials and Resources – MR 2 Environmentally Preferable Products

8 points available

When it comes to using green eco–friendly hardwood floors for building a LEED certified home, there are several different LEED credits you can earn under the MR 2 credits for Environmentally Preferable Products. You can either use hardwood flooring that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or use wood that contains a minimum of 25% post–consumer recycled content (pre–consumer content can also be counted, but at half its value) to receive one point. These floors must cover at least 45% of the total flooring area to qualify.

Additionally, if your hardwood floors account for a total of 90% of the entire floor area, you can earn another MR 2 credit for installing flooring with a hard–surface. You can also earn an additional 1/2 point each for using SCS FloorScore hardwood floors and floors that were locally manufactured.

To learn more about LEED certification and how it applies to green hardwood flooring, visit the USGBC.org.


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