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Tag Archives | Green Roofs

Case Study: A Practical Look at the Risks of Green Roofs

Recently, there have been a number of articles suggesting that the risks associated with green roofs have been overblown. Over the past few days, I’ve spent some time looking for more concrete examples of green roof-related risks in practice. I started by looking for case law where a plaintiff alleged an attractive nuisance claim against the owner of a building arising out of a green roof or other rooftop landscaping. Westlaw did not return any results entirely on point, but I did find a number of interesting attractive nuisance decisions which I may present in a subsequent post here at GRELJ. The much more practical research that I turned up was the following except from an article by Kelly Luckett, the self-proclaimed “Green Roof Guy” who writes a column for greenroofs.com. In a column from the very end of 2008, Mr. Luckett describes how uneducated project teams may unwittingly expose themselves to unanticipated risks stemming from the maintenance requirements of green roof installations. His remarks also reflect a number of key points we’ve made consistently both here at GRELJ and over at gbNYC with respect to the additional risk management strategies demanded by new green building technologies and third-party certification programs.

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New Marsh Report Offers Construction Industry Feedback on Green Building Risks

It may have been lost a bit in the recent discussion over LEED 2009 decertification, but last month Marsh released a new report that solicited feedback from construction industry executives on the risks that they perceive as arising out of green design and construction across ten risk categories: brand and competitive edge or reputation, project consultants and subcontractors, education, finance, building performance, green building regulations, return on investment, standards of care and legal, supply chain and technology. To obtain the feedback, Marsh convened four forums in in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City in late 2008 and early 2009, which were attended by a total of 55 industry executives. While the executive summary to the report, which is titled “Green Building: Assessing the Risks, Feedback from the Construction Industry,” acknowledges that its findings “might be characterized as anecdotal,” I do think that the report is important to consider in the context of the types of risks that stakeholders identified as the most salient.

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Labor Law Issues May Begin to Impact Green Construction

There have been a couple of interesting articles recently that suggest the pending intersection of labor law and green building. First, you probably read about a complaint that was recently filed with the NLRB by workers who attempted to unionize while installing a green roof on the Target Center in Minneapolis. In addition to alleging a number of safety violations, the workers claimed that the contractor paid them the prevailing wage for landscapers- not for roofers, who earn $20 more per hour. The $5.3 million installation was a city project, and officials, along with OSHA, investigated the workers’ safety concerns earlier in the spring, finding that “the contractors lived up to the specifications of the contract to ensure safety.” From a prevailing wage rate perspective, is the installation of a green roof more akin to landscaping than roofing? This was the contractor’s argument and, I think, a neat example of how green construction practices continue to introduce legal wrinkles into even the most traditional of practice areas. However, what got me thinking a bit more seriously about the intersection of green building and labor law was an article (link after the jump) discussing the California Labor Federation’s two-day conference held earlier this month in San Francisco.

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Toronto Skyline

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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Mitigating Risks When Building Green Roofs

Green roofs have been a part of building for over a thousand years. The current green building movement has, however, had the greatest impact on the growth of the green roofing industry. A green roof is commonly defined as a roof that consists of vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. There are two basic types of green roofs: (i) an extensive roof, which has a few inches of soil cover; and (ii) an intensive roof that has two feet or more of soil for a variety of grass, trees, bushes and shrubs. Green roofs are used in a multitude of buildings, including industrial facilities, commercial offices, retail properties and residences. The benefits of a green roof include reduced storm-water runoff, absorption of air pollution, reduced heat island effect, protection of underlying roof material from sunlight, reduced noise, and insulation from extreme temperatures. A green roof can thus be a critical design element for a green building. As more properties across the country are attempting to obtain LEED certification, it is worth noting that a green roof can help a property obtain over a dozen LEED credits, including credits for reduced site disturbance, landscape design that reduces urban heat islands, storm water management, water efficient landscaping, innovative wastewater technologies and innovation in design. The increase in green roofs and the green building movement is also resulting in an increase in liability resulting from errors in the design, installation or maintenance of green roofs. As a result, owners, design professionals and contractors should carefully consider ways to mitigate the potential risks involved with building a green roof.

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Insurers Noting Increased Risks From Green Roof Installations

Green roofs may be pretty but they are a plaintiff construction lawyer’s dream come true. Many of them leak or contribute to indoor air quality issues and the growth of mold. Commercial insurers- including Zurich- are taking note, and advising their insureds to make sure that their green roofs are being properly maintained and were installed as required in the first place. Over at gbNYC, we pointed out an article in Property Week magazine that quoted a Zurich consultant noting these concerns. Part of the solution, as always, is to consider a comprehensive risk management program in advance of a green project designed to mitigate non-traditional sources of risk unanticipated by the project team.

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Trenton Aims to Grow Green Business Sector by Launching Public/Private Green Initiative

The Trenton Green Initiative, which was introduced last week by a partnership that includes the city of Trenton, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), PSEG, the Governor’s Office of Energy Savings, and Isles Inc., a Trenton-based builder of energy-efficient homes, will aim to lower energy costs in Trenton and create and expand the […]

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