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“The Green Tragedy: LEED’s Lost Decade” Now in Print

The Green Tragedy: LEED’s Lost Decade was released while I was away last month. Author and Community Solutions executive director Pat Murphy traces the historical argument promoting minimal green building cost premiums, reviews the ongoing marketing effort behind LEED, and concludes that policy makers should demand energy efficiency standards more akin to the German Passive House rather than “cheap quick ‘green’ solutions.”

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Can USGBC Improve the Performance of LEED Buildings by Collecting More Data?

Mireya Navarro’s recent piece in the New York Times about the energy performance of LEED buildings does not really shed much new light on a topic that many of us have been paying close attention to for the past two years, particularly in the aftermath of the controversial New Buildings Institute study that claimed LEED buildings performed, on average, 25 percent better than the CBECS database. Nevertheless, Navarro’s piece seems timed to coincide with USGBC’s press release of August 25 that announced a new Building Performance Initiative which will complement the LEED Version 3.0 Minimum Program Requirements’ ongoing performance data reporting obligations in order for projects to maintain their LEED rating and avoid the unsavory potential consequences of decertification. Any commentary on this press release – at least in the blogosphere – appears to have been lost in the August doldrums, but I think it is worthwhile to consider an effort which could ultimately have major repercussions for the underpinnings of the LEED system itself. However, many building scientists will tell you that simply collecting more data does not necessarily translate into improved performance. Consider (after the jump) the following letter that was submitted to the New York Times by ASHRAE Fellow and Distinguished Lecturer Larry Spielvogel, P.E., in response to the USGBC press release announcing the Building Performance Initiative, which Mr. Spielvogel was kind enough to allow us to reprint here at GRELJ.

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Initial Legal Thoughts on the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements

As you may know, USGBC’s LEED v3 program launched this past Monday, April 27. Project teams currently pursuing LEED certification under any of the Version 2 programs can opt into LEED v3 for no additional registration fee through the end of the year. The Version 2 programs will be available to project teams for registration until June 26; after that date, all projects must proceed with registration under LEED v3. LEED v3 is comprised of what USGBC calls “LEED 2009″ revisions to the suite of LEED rating systems (other than Homes and Neighborhood Development, which are not changing under v3), a new online interface for project teams, and a shift in the administration of the LEED certification process to the Green Building Certification Institute (“GBCI”). USGBC calls the LEED 2009 credit revisions “a reorganization of the existing commercial and institutional LEED rating systems along with several key advancements.” The revisions contemplate harmonization (i.e., credits and prerequisites are consistent across all LEED 2009 rating systems), credit weighting (i.e., greater emphasis on energy efficiency), and regionalization (up to four bonus credits for projects that address a local environmental issue of import). Although they are important to review for background purposes, the thrust of this article is not to detail the mechanics of the LEED v3 program. Rather, a number of the new minimum program requirements (“MPRs”) present some novel legal issues for project teams- and their attorneys- to consider in connection with drafting construction agreements or leasing documents in connection with LEED v3 projects.

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Green Building Litigation Notable Omission From CoStar’s Top 10 Green Building News Stories of 2008

Andrew Burr of the CoStar Group recently listed his top ten green building stories from 2008. I thought a glaring omission from his compilation was his failure to include any discussion of either of the green building litigations that surfaced during the course of the year. Shaw Development v. Southern Builders and AHRI et al. v. City of Albuquerque may ultimately become seminal green building law cases, so I was disappointed that Burr’s list focused on mostly cosmetic, feel-good stories like “the LEED economy” and “green building trumps recession,” the latter of which has most certainly not been true in New York City over the past couple of months as a number of green projects have stalled or been canceled outright.

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Understanding the Business of Green: Special Focus Issue from the Counselors of Real Estate

It is with great pleasure that, in connection with the launch of the Green Real Estate Law Journal, the Counselors of Real Estate and the DePaul University Real Estate Center have allowed me to upload a .pdf copy of the most recent issue of Real Estate Issues, titled Understanding the Business of Green, into this GRELJ post for your review. Many of these articles grew out of presentations at last February’s Managing Risk in Sustainable Building conference in Chicago, which was the first conference in the country exclusively devoted to a detailed discussion of the intersection of risk and green construction. I encourage you to download a copy of the issue (available after the jump) and review it at your leisure. Many thanks to Carol Scherf, the DePaul University Real Estate Center, and the Counselors of Real Estate for allowing me to upload this important work into GRELJ.

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