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Toronto Star Investigates “Shady” Ontario Green Building Industry

In a two-part series that was published last weekend, Diana Zlomislic of the Toronto Star reviews the green building landscape in Ontario and concludes that although “[s]hoddy building is not unique to the green sector . . . with governments aggressively promoting green construction and green building still an emerging practice, consumers who opt for more eco-friendly homes and renovations are more vulnerable.”

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What Is Builder’s Risk Insurance and Should I Purchase It For My Green Construction Project?

One area of the property insurance market which has seen an increase in green building policy endorsements over the past year is the builder’s risk market. GRELJ takes a look at exactly what builder’s risk is meant to insure, and then reviews some of the available green building endorsements to such policies that are currently available.

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Jerry Yudelson: “Dereliction” of Duty by Architects & Engineers Who Fail to Advocate for LEED Certification

Green building consultant Jerry Yudelson’s recent remarks provide a good opportunity to review the risk management implications of the design professional’s representations to his or her clients about the possibilities and potential pitfalls of green building, including the LEED certification process.

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Energy Performance in LEED Buildings: A History

“LEEDing from Behind: The Rise and Fall of Green Building” is a survey piece by Community Solutions executive director Pat Murphy that reviews the significant body of critical commentary on the energy performance of LEED buildings that emerged beginning in 2005 with Randy Udall and Auden Schendler’s seminal “LEED Is Broken – Let’s Fix It” article. Mr. Murphy’s stated purpose in writing his piece was to “show the history of the dialogue about LEED energy performance.” Many of the articles cited will be familiar to you, but this is the first time that I have seen all of them organized chronologically with their key points about LEED-related building performance highlighted. I think that reviewing the piece is extremely instructive in terms of framing both green building policy-related issues, as well as corresponding risk management considerations, from a much broader perspective. Mr. Murphy concludes that “[t]here has been concern with the LEED rating system relative to energy and CO2 since its inception. . . . LEED has failed to lead in the important areas that are measurable. Initially, [USGBC] adopted a weak status relative to energy consumption. [It] did not recognize and incorporate accountability and verification, unfortunately wasting years that could have providing important feedback relative to energy use. [It] has also not clearly and honestly communicated that LEED is not an exemplary indication of energy performance.”

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Seattle’s KING 5 Calls Washington Green School Claims “Oversold”

Washington State’s High-Performance Public Buildings Act requires LEED Silver certification or a design that complies with the state’s Sustainable School Design Protocol for schools larger than 5000 square feet. In a video describing the benefits of green schools that is available on the State Superintendent of Public Schools’ web site, certain claims are made about the promise of “clean, high-performance, money-saving schools” that are “a wise business choice for cost conscious schools. Relatively small increases in design and construction costs, usually less than 2 percent, ultimately bring 10 to 15 percent reductions in long-term operating costs.” The folks at KING 5 television in Seattle caught wind of these claims and decided to do some digging; you can view the station’s full report through the link at the bottom of this article. As you might guess, the station concluded that the state’s claims about green building premiums, decreased operating expenses, and higher student test scores were highly exaggerated.

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Henry Gifford & USGBC’s Brendan Owens Consider Merits of LEED at NESEA Forum

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (“NESEA”) held its annual Building Energy conference last week in Boston and sparks apparently flew during a panel discussion that featured Henry Gifford, whose controversial and well-disseminated “Lies, Damn Lies, and… (Another Look at LEED Energy Efficiency)” paper critiqued both LEED generally and the USGBC-promulgated New Buildings Institute study which concluded that LEED buildings were using 30 percent less energy than non-LEED buildings. The panel was moderated by BuildingGreen.com’s Nadav Malin and also included USGBC vice president for LEED technical development Brendan Owens. Boston-based blogger Michael Prager attended the panel and has authored an extremely insightful summary of the event, including quotes from both panelists and audience members. Many of the quotes in Mr. Prager’s article ring particularly salient in light of the uproar over the recent NAIOP study which I noted here at GRELJ last week in the context of using predicted performance as the basis for making building policy decisions. It’s clear that thus far in 2009 there has been a significant shift in attention towards building performance-related issues with respect to both LEED and green building policy generally. As states and municipalities prepare to receive close to $7 billion in stimulus funds to, in part, craft and implement local green building legislation, I think that the substance of the discussion at the NESEA event should become of increasing utility to both stakeholders and policymakers. Of course, as always, it also suggests the overarching importance of vetted contract language in connection with LEED or any other types of green building projects.

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