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Risk Allocation Provisions Prominent in ConsensusDOCS 310 Green Building Addendum

On November 10, 2009 the Virginia-based ConsensusDOCS organization released its Green Building Addendum. The document joins the AIA’s B214-2007 scope of services document as a form contract exhibit for green building projects promulgated by a major North American A/E/C industry organization. Unlike the B214, though (which purely addresses scope), the Addendum includes a section that specifically addresses the allocation of green building risk. The Addendum is also important to note in a variety of other contexts; it is rating-system neutral, for example, and is designed to be implemented as an exhibit to a set of underlying design and construction agreements (which, from the construction lawyer’s perspective, may raise other important issues with respect to implementation).

The Addendum also creates a new role for design professionals, contractors, or consultants: the Green Building Facilitator, responsible under the terms of the Addendum for coordinating and facilitating the process of obtaining the owner’s desired green building status or certification, identifying green building measures (both procedural and physical), potential design and construction alternatives, and other services as required by the terms of the Addendum. The Green Building Facilitator is identified explicitly in Section 4 of the Addendum and can be the architect, engineer, contractor, or other corporate entity (or individual). However, the Addendum places certain risks on the Facilitator, and parties that choose to accept this role pursuant to the Addendum should review its terms and conditions carefully.

What’s most interesting for purposes of this article, though, is that Article 8 of the Addendum is devoted exclusively to risk allocation. Article 8.2 provides that the parties- including the Green Building Facilitator- will be subject to any limitations on liability that are included in their underlying contracts. However, this provision explicitly acknowledges that the owner’s “loss of income or profit or inability to realize potential reductions in operating, maintenance, or other related costs, tax, or other similar benefits or credits, marketing opportunities and other similar opportunities or benefits, resulting from a failure to attain the [project’s green building goals as defined in the Addendum] shall be deemed consequential damages subject to any applicable waiver of consequential damages” in any underlying design or construction contract. Compare this provision to the discussion which arose out of the Shaw Development litigation, where many commentators wondered what types of damages flowing from the breach of a green building contract would be deemed consequential in nature rather than direct. It’s therefore particularly noteworthy that the Addendum (i) acknowledges the types of unique damages that may flow from the breach of a green construction contract; and (ii) actually makes an initial effort at defining them. Of course, parties are free to negotiate the terms of the Addendum, including (depending on the project’s scope) (i) the types of damages which would be included in the provision; and (ii) any waivers – mutual or otherwise – in the underlying agreement. In Shaw, as you will recall, the issue was whether the lost tax credits were consequential and therefore waived by the owner through the A201′s mutual waiver provision; under the form terms of the Addendum, they would have been explicitly categorized as consequential. Had the parties in Shaw implemented a document like the Addendum, it would have assisted them in more comprehensively assessing the green building-related risk associated with the project and allocating that risk accordingly.

The Addendum also makes it clear that no project participant other than the Green Building Facilitator will be “liable or responsible for the failure of [any procedural or physical green measures] to achieve the [project’s green building goals as defined in the Addendum],” including the project’s failure to earn any third-party certification as designated in the Addendum. However, the Addendum also makes clear that these limitations on the project team’s liability do not relieve them “from any obligation to perform or provide [procedural or physical green measures]” as required by their underlying contracts. It will be interesting to see if additional form green building contracts and/or addenda are issued in 2010, whether they take these types of risks and limitations on liability into account, and, if so, in what particular fashion.

As you may know, ConsensusDOCS was founded in 2007 and, to date, its suite of form design and construction agreements has been endorsed by 23 different A/E/C organizations. You can download a copy of the Addendum via the link below. As always, the Arent Fox Green Building & Sustainability and Construction Practice Groups are happy to assist you with any additional questions you might have about either the Addendum or working with construction contracts generally.

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3 Responses to Risk Allocation Provisions Prominent in ConsensusDOCS 310 Green Building Addendum

  1. Aaron Brotman January 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    In my review of the 310 Green Building Addendum, one of the things I became most concerned about was the possibility of creating a fiduciary relationship between the Owner and the GBF. I don’t doubt that any failure will probably result a suit for breach of fiduciary duty, whether or not it really amounts to anything.

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