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

More Thoughts on “Green” (the Practice, not the Color) Building

20110504-RD-LSC-0654 (Photo credit: USDAgov)

It has been a while since I “mused” on the green building landscape. While I am a LEED AP and have presented on green (read “sustainable”) building in the past, I am not totally sold on LEED as the be all end all in sustainable construction (the USGBC is a private rating organization that, like the rest of us, is imperfect). I’ve also discussed, both here and elsewhere, the potential risks that come with any new(ish) building process.

A recent post by my fellow construction attorney Matt Bouchard (@mattbouchardesq) piqued my interest and started me thinking yet again. Matt’s recent post, entitled Is the U.S. Green Building Council Becoming a Not-So-Jolly Green Giant? outlines recent developments in the sustainable building world (remember “green” is not a specification, but a color), and some of the debate out there among those in the know. From a great infographic on the Top 10 LEED states (Virginia is 3rd) to some sniping from the USGBC (read the LEED folks) toward the GBI (Green Globes) to the fact that LEED is losing some traction as the primary governmental green building certification platform, Matt’s post is worth a read.

In short, what was once the almost exclusive province of LEED and the USGBC is now less so and in my mind this is not a bad thing. First of all, it encourages debate. Questions like “Is LEED really a great energy saver?” or “Will Green Globes help promote sustainability to a larger group of people?” or even (dare I say it) “Do we need rating systems in the first place?” are now viable because alternatives exist. Second, state legislatures and private owners seeking not just the recognition of a great “green” rating can now see that there are ways to “build green” that don’t necessarily involve any rating system. Personally, I think that sustainability can and should be a goal, whether that goal also includes getting a stamp of approval from LEED or Green Globes (with the additional paperwork and expense) is a personal or business decision that is up to you.

Once the admirable decision to build in a sustainable and energy efficient manner is made, just be sure to take the risks into account and to properly set expectations in your contracts (hopefully with the help of your friendly local construction lawyer) and specifications early on in your project. With the proper specifications, contractual provisions and risk management, your sustainable project (LEED certified, Green Globes certified, or otherwise) can be both well run and an environmentally and energy friendly.

Before you tag me with an anti-sustainability label, let me be clear that I am very much for sustainable building. I am however cautious and occasionally skeptical of the implementation, as opposed to the goal. I would like nothing better than to see a more sustainable world of constructed infrastructure. I’m just not sure that ratings necessarily get us there.

I am sure that you all have thoughts. Please share them below.

As always, I welcome your comments below. Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Construction Law Musings.

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7 Responses to More Thoughts on “Green” (the Practice, not the Color) Building

  1. I got to say I haven’t been following this latest round as much as normal but it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out – the biggest issue I have heard is LEED isn’t an ANSI standard & isn’t pursuing it while Green Goobers & many other “standard” bodies have gone after this selling point full tilt. The other big issue which continues to dog them (especially in certain lumber producing states) is the wood certification scheme, this they still need to address at least as it applies to “locally” grown wood

    Personally I think LEED is going to lose some market share, but will probably come out of this stronger like they have in many other “let’s bash the big dog”. With that only time will tell
    Sean @ SLS recently posted..FAQ: Smoke Detectors, Batteries, & DST?My Profile

  2. My pleasure Chris & agreed. is it the be all, end all, probably not as I think I addressed in part of my last musing. With that just a few quick thoughts that jump out at me based on your question.

    As for why not take X practices & just build that way… well in many cases the builders need an incentive to do so. Some cases it is a selling point, or required by the archy or even the government.

    The other item has to do with verification as I can say I did something & even tested it myself or I can choose to have it verified by someone else. This doesn’t even get to the risk part – would a client be better off testing & certifying something himself, or with a third party.
    Sean @ SLS recently posted..FAQ: What decking material should I useMy Profile

  3. I agree with the incentive/marketing portion of this. I was just talking with a builder today that brought up just this point. He stated that sometimes the buyer of a home wants to see the certification to know that someone has verified.

    On the risk, if the contract requires a certain certification, then the risk is lowered as far as the contract is concerned once that certification is granted. On the other hand, you are taking it out of your hands and trusting others. . .
    Christopher G. Hill recently posted..Be Careful When Walking Off of a Construction ProjectMy Profile

  4. Ahh trust, such a hard thing to come by. With that we all have to trust someone eventually – as a contractor your trade partners, accountant, lawyer, consultants (archies, engineers, factory reps, energy/green/building science), etc… When it comes to certain areas you need to use a specialist, though it does help if you have some knowledge of the subject so you can find the one that does understand & gets it – will work hard for you
    Sean @ SLS recently posted..Fix a Leak Week ReminderMy Profile

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