Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

Green Building, Litigation and Risk

Green Building Litigation and RiskGreen Building is all the rage. From the latest version of LEED, LEED 3.0, to discussions of “LEEDigation.”

Every level of government wants in on the latest in sustainability. Musings discussed this trend in prior posts relating to Virginia and “green” building and Virginia Business Magazine chimed in as well. This trend is laudable, however, like any new technological or social change, risk follows.

We have new technology being used for the first time, and old technology being used in new ways. Insurance companies are dealing with a new standard of care and a level of risk created by longer time horizons on expectations relating to energy efficiency. Governments are looking for ways to legally enforce their mandates of LEED or other green certification. Contractors also have a particular level of risk that they did not face before.

Of course, this gives attorneys more work to do, and you the need to give them that work. Recently, newspapers have picked up on the potential for litigation based upon the new wave of green building and new mandates relating to sustainability. Hopefully, you will see this trend coming and prepare for it through and early consultation with a knowledgeable attorney. Your contracts, actions, and insurance will all need to be reviewed in order to assure that you are properly prepared for the next wave of innovation.

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7 Responses to Green Building, Litigation and Risk

  1. My concern is primarily from consequences of codifying a prescriptive Green Building Code, in particular since so much has yet to be learned about effective sustainability options. That event is just around the corner, and I fear will serve mainly to open up another can of worms, additional work for designers over and above existing codes and regulations and additional liability exposure. My own understanding of affairs leads me to believe reforming the way we build and rebuild cities, gross anatomy and physiology re: density and infrastructure, will positively influence sustainablility more than all the photovoltaics, low-voc, and high-performance A/C sytems it may be feasible to install – important as each of these may be. Once energy efficiency as a regulatory issue escapes the confines of state law, as with Californias Title 24, the genie will be fully out of the bottle, construction claims will increase exponentially, and attorneys will also have found yet another market niche along with all the LEED followers and commercial greenwashing. As usual, we are grasping for solutions via the high-tech magic rather than getting down to the gritty and very difficult sociopolitical realities surrounding habitat, city building, and sundry interests invested in the suburban status quo.

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