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Author Archive | Stephen Del Percio

Green Construction Claims Demonstrate Need for Design Professional Due Diligence

Yesterday, I gave a presentation to a local architecture and interior design firm on current trends in green construction law. I was impressed at how willing the firm’s design professsionals were to listen to my thoughts on the emerging risks associated with green design. In addition to suggesting a number of other legal issues, I selected a handful of claims reported by Maryland-based attorney Frank Musica at the 2007 AIA National Convention in San Antonio to open up a discussion on form contract language – particularly from the AIA documents – and suggested how certain applicable provisions might be amended to reduce the architect’s risk when rendering green design services. The claim that made the biggest splash with my audience yesterday was where Musica reported how an architect failed to perform sufficient due diligence in crafting green building specifications for a particular project and specified what turned out to be a patented solar shading system. After the project was complete, the patent holder approached the owner and demanded a licensing fee for its use of the system. The owner pointed a finger at the architect and sought indemnification under the terms of the parties’ agreement.

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Bailout Provides Significant Expansion & Extension of Business Energy Tax Credit

In a previous article here at GRELJ, I discussed the Section 179D Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction, which was extended by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (again, the formal title for the $700 million federal bailout that was passed back on October 3). As I also noted previously, the Bailout also significantly expands the Business Energy Tax Credit that was previously enacted as Section 48 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The duration of available tax credits for solar energy, fuel cell, and microturbine installations has been extended for 8 years until December 31, 2016. The Bailout also increases the available credit amount for fuel cell installations and provides new credits for small wind energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and combined heat and power systems. Generally speaking, in order to qualify for the Business Energy Tax Credit, the original use of the system must begin with the taxpayer, or the system must be constructed by the taxpayer. It must also meet any performance standards in effect at the time the system is acquired (such as those set forth by the manufacturer). The equipment must also be operational during the year in which the tax credit is claimed in order for the taxpayer to earn the credit. This article provides a brief overview of the available credits for each qualifying type of technology.

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Shaw Development, LLC Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

Shaw Development, LLC – the developer of the Captain’s Galley condominium project in Crisfield, Maryland that was the subject of the Shaw Development v. Southern Builders litigation that I have discussed extensively both here at GRELJ and over at gbNYC – recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Since the development was completed back in 2006, only 3 of the 17 units available had proceeded to contract. In late December, a foreclosure auction was to take place for the remaining units, but Shaw filed for bankruptcy protection in order to restructure and allow the pending sales to ultimately proceed. Asking prices now start at $250,000.00 for the remaining units (apparently Shaw expects to close on a number of additional contracts by the spring), though all prices are off 50 percent from when the project came on line back in 2006. When I saw the article detailing Shaw’s Chapter 11 filing, I was curious to very generally consider whether the specter of a bankruptcy filing might allow us to add an additional twist to the discussion of the Shaw Development litigation.

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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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Green Building Liability Piques Interest of Residential Sector

Much of the discussion with respect to the liability issues surrounding sustainable building has focused on the commercial sector, so I was interested to see my friend Brian Anderson, a real estate partner in the Madison, Wisconsin office of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C, quoted in a brief article suggesting risk management best practices for home builders in a recent article posted by Professional Builder. The article suggests that LEED for Homes and NAHB’s National Green Building Program may soon open the doors for insurance claims and litigation arising out of green projects that do not perform as promised. In the article, Mr. Anderson actually describes a matter his office handled where a builder did not obtain the anticipated level of certification for a residential project. “We were struggling to determine the value of the certification when the claim settled,” he told PB. At least in the commercial context, a jumping off point for plaintiffs who assert these types of claims could be the studies- many of which are promulgated by the USGBC and its constituents- that tout the higher leasing and purchasing figures for LEED-certified buildings.

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Surety Industry Continues to Critique Performance Bond Requirements of D.C. Green Building Act

I have often used Washington, D.C.’s 2006 Green Building Act as a paradigm for green building legislation that is enacted quickly, fails to define key terms, or fails to address other important legal ramifications that were not contemplated by the drafters. A little over a year ago over at gbNYC, we linked to a letter that Mark McCallum, general counsel for the National Association of Surety Bond Producers, had written to the D.C. City Council expressing his concerns over certain provisions of the Act. I had been wondering where the NASB’s efforts stood because certain provisions of the Act are scheduled to take effect beginning in January. Accordingly, I was interested to recently see an article in the Washington Business Journal noting that the D.C. Department of the Environment has created a working group in cooperation with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to address Mr. McCallum’s concerns.

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Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008: Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction Extended Through 2013

I had the pleasure earlier today of leading a conference call with Studley to review provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the formal title for the $700 federal bailout that was passed back on October 3, referred to herein as the Bailout) relating to energy efficiency in commercial office buildings. Most of the applicable provisions of the Bailout actually extend existing tax deductions and credits, though it does provide additional incentives that I will detail in a subsequent post. Perhaps the most critical provision for commercial owners, operators, and tenants to note is the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction, which was enacted back in 2005 as Section 179D of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Prior to the Bailout, Section 179D was slated to expire at the end of 2008, but has now been extended through December 13, 2013. In this article, I will review Section 179D in detail. A subsequent post will detail the Bailout’s significant expansion of the Business Energy Tax Credit that was previously enacted as Section 48 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

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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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Green Building Liability Pictorial

I am consistently amazed at the disparities in how green building projects are promoted. Some projects make it very clear that they are simply “aiming for” or “registered” in pursuit of LEED certification, while others brand themselves as “green” without any real discussion with respect to what (if any) those sustainable design features might be. You can see a good example of how these inconsistencies may wind up exposing green construction project stakeholders to unanticipated liability in this photo that I took over the summer. It shows sidewalk bridging at one of Manhattan’s highest profile green construction projects. The building in question is seeking a LEED Gold rating from USGBC (it is pre-certified under LEED for Core and Shell, but by no means is it “LEED Gold Certified” yet as claimed by the bridging). What happens if the ultimate rating that is conferred by USGBC is not Gold but Silver?

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What is Green Real Estate Law?

Over the past six months, the number of attorneys that have become active in the green building space has increased exponentially. But what, exactly, is a green building, construction, or real estate lawyer? How do we define green real estate as a practice area? Over the past two years at gbNYC, I believe that we started to define the parameters of this space, and my aim here at GRELJ is to continue expanding my analysis of the emerging opportunities (and corresponding risks) that green real estate presents to industry stakeholders. To this end, perhaps our most important article at gbNYC was our “Top 5 Legal Issues to Consider on Green Construction Projects,” which we presented a little over a year ago. Two of these issues were at the very heart of the Shaw Development case, and all five are absolutely imperative for stakeholders to consider, particularly given how the current state of the economy is driving so many projects towards litigation.

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