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The Antitrust Implications of Green Building Legislation (Abstract)

While California’s recent adoption of a state-wide green building code once again has green building legal practitioners focused on the legal issues surrounding green building legislation, the antitrust implications of incorporating LEED or other third-party green building rating systems into state- and local-level legislation has yet to be fully explored.

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Bad Breath(e): New Study Reflects Urgent Need to Green NYC’s Black Smoke

If you’ve been on the street in New York City — and it’s doubtful you’re able to avoid that, unless you use FreshDirect more than I do — then you’ve seen the black smoke belching, all Dickensian and foul-smelling and just-plain-awful-looking, from the chimneys of some of the city’s bigger buildings. The likelihood is that you’ve breathed it in, too. And while it would certainly be a great “whodathunk” story if we could tell you that somehow all that dense black smoke was good for you, this is one of those instances where the intuitive conclusion happens to be the right one — according to a new study by New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity, the soot-laden black smoke that is the main byproduct (along with heat) from so-called Number Four and Number Six Heating Oil is every bit as bad for you as it looks.

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National Institute of Building Sciences Identifies Risk & Policy Problems Flowing from Green Building Rating Systems

In September of 2008, the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Building Sciences (“NIBS”) assembled a Task Group of design professionals, builders, and its own staff members to review third-party building performance rating systems and associated individual accreditation programs currently in use across the United States. The Task Group identified twenty systems and programs and interviewed representatives from AIA, ASHRAE, BOMA, GBI, NAHB, EPA, USGBC, and Victor O. Schinnerer & Co.. among others, in compiling its “Report on Building Rating and Certification in the U.S. Building Community,” which was released last month.

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Baltimore Developers Raise Questions About Green Premiums Under New LEED-Driven Legislation

On July 1, new green building legislation applying to private development took effect in Baltimore. Council Bill 07-0602, which was signed in August of 2007, required that the city establish green building standards for new or substantially renovated commercial and multi-family residential buildings larger than 10,000 square feet. City-owned buildings were required to comply with the new legislation beginning January 1, 2008, city-subsidized buildings by January 1, 2009, and all other buildings this past July 1. While the city is developing its own Baltimore-specific green building standards that should be released by the end of 2009, in the interim, in order to obtain a building permit, all buildings applying must be “equivalent” to LEED Silver. The legislation does not require formal LEED certification, but owners must submit a checklist for the appropriate LEED rating system as part of the plans submittal for a new building permit. Checklists must set forth specific credits the project will pursue, briefly describe how each credit will be achieved, and (interesting to note from a legal perspective) the parties responsible for each credit. The checklist must also be signed by a LEED AP who is not an employee of the building owner at the time of submittal. Again, although certification is not required, in order to obtain a building occupancy permit from the city, at the time of occupancy permit application, project teams must submit a completed checklist indicating which credits the project met successfully, signed by a non-employee LEED AP. As we’ve discussed frequently here at GRELJ, all of these requirements could raise interesting- and novel- liability issues in the event that a project fails to receive a building permit or certificate of occupancy as originally contemplated. However, the city’s development community is calling for Baltimore’s City Council to reconsider the legislation based on perceived additional green building first costs and asking it to propose an incentive-based structure in its place.

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Section 201 of Waxman-Markey Could Impose Energy Efficiency Mandates as Decried by NAIOP

As the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation heads to the Senate, I think it’s important to note that, as currently drafted, the bill includes provisions that could impose the types of energy efficiency mandates which NAIOP argued against in its controversial report that was released earlier this year. Section 201 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) would first set baseline standards for all commercial (ASHRAE 90.1-2004) and residential buildings (the 2006 IECC code) and dates for certain percentage reduction targets in energy consumption over those baselines. The Act would require an immediate 30 percent reduction over those baselines once enacted (likely in 2011 or 2012 if the bill proceeds through the Senate and is implemented as drafted), followed closely by a 50 percent reduction by 2014 for residential buildings and 2015 for commercial buildings. The reduction mandate would increase by 5 percent every 3 years through 2029/2030 for a total reduction of 75 percent over the baselines. However, the Department of Energy would have the ability to increase or decrease the reduction targets based on technological feasibility. Section 201 further obligates state and local governments to adopt the codes, or their own codes that meet or exceed the established targets; the federal government itself will enforce the national codes if state and local governments fail to comply. If you recall the comments from NAIOP President Thomas Bisacquino in the aftermath of the uproar created by the NAIOP study, Waxman-Markey may ultimately create the precise scenario that NAIOP and its constituents feared: 30 to 50 percent reductions over ASHRAE 90.1-2004 in the short-term.

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Toronto to Mandate Green Roofs for Most New Construction

Notwithstanding many of the persistent- and still emerging- concerns over the increased risks from their installation, Toronto is on the verge of becoming the first city in North America to mandate green roofs for most types of new construction. By a vote of 36-2 which, according to the National Post, “was adopted after remarkably little debate on the floor of council,” the sweeping legislation requires green roofs on all residential buildings over 6 stories, schools, affordable housing developments, commercial, and industrial buildings.

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