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Archive | LEED Commentary

LEED 2009 Creeps Into New York City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan

Although the costs of auditing were raised by opponents to the plan earlier this year, mandatory energy audits are now required every ten years, though buildings certified under LEED 2009 for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance or which receive EPA’s Energy Star label are exempt. It’s this exemption that’s of particular interest to us here at GRELJ.

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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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Do Third Parties Have Standing to Initiate LEED 2009 Decertification Proceedings?

The possibility that a LEED-certified project could be “decertified” by USGBC or GBCI in the event that any of the new LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements (“MPRs”) are not satisfied presents a variety of novel legal issues which we presented earlier this year here at GRELJ when the first iteration of MPRs was announced by USGBC. Today, Engineering-News Record (“ENR”) published an article that highlights a number of those issues, but also raises the question of who, exactly, would have standing to bring a decertification proceeding. If strictly limited to USGBC or GBCI, a recent comment here at GRELJ from Brian Anderson (“lawsuits are bad for marketing”) suggests that decertification would be a remote possibility. However, in the ENR piece, which is titled Building Rating System Requirement Raises Concern and authored by Nadine Post, my colleague Ujjval Vyas notes that “[a]ny third party has the right to initiate a non-compliance action by USGBC. This creates a huge risk and provides standing to any entity whatsoever to injure a building owner or tenant.” If third parties can compel decertification proceedings, the risks associated with failing to comply with the MPRs are far more serious than if that discretion rests exclusively with USGBC or GBCI.

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Victor Schinnerer: New LEED AP Program Raising Standards of Care, Changing Risk Profiles

Victor Schinnerer’s most recent quarterly report has some interesting commentary on the increased risk that the new LEED Accredited Professional (“LEED AP”) program may be creating for professionals that participate on LEED projects. Specifically, on page 4, the report notes that the new LEED AP program, which divides LEED APs into three tiers of increasing expertise, from LEED Green Associate, to LEED AP with specialization, and up to LEED AP Fellow, “has significantly changed the value of the program and the risks to [the] program’s participants.” However, although the report acknowledges that “[m]embers of the upgraded LEED AP [Fellow] program now will face a higher standard of care for their services,” it also states that “[c]urrently this increased exposure is a manageable risk. Current claims information does not indicate a need for additional insurance premiums to cover the exposure created by the higher standard of care.” I think that this latter point is critical- as I wrote previously here at GRELJ, most professional liability insurance policies contain an exclusion for assumptions of liability that are not imposed by law (i.e., because the LEED AP Fellow designation implies that the design professional will perform at a higher level than the prevailing common law standard, the design professional may not be covered for any resulting claims of negligent design services arising out of disputed green design services). It seems to me that if the LEED AP fellow designation implies a higher standard of care than is prevalent in the industry, this type of form exclusion would come into play. Accordingly, I am very curious to see if there is any reaction from insurance industry professionals on this crucial issue.

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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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USGBC: Legal Risk in Building Green Is “New Wine in Old Bottles”

In early March, USGBC released a white paper titled “The Legal Risk in Building Green: New Wine in Old Bottles?” The eight-page paper, which was presented as a panel discussion between four attorneys, concluded that “[p]erhaps surprisingly, in light of the increased attention in seminars and workshops . . . much of the discussion among the attorneys [in the paper] suggests that many of the legal theories advanced in those venues to suggest novel liability associated with building green are, instead, simply new wine in old bottles.” While the paper does not appear on the USGBC’s web site, it was circulated by individual chapters; I accessed a copy through our New York chapter’s weekly email blast and have included a link to download the paper from the USGBC-NY homepage below. I applaud USGBC for taking a critical step towards acknowledging the liability implications of green real estate development and construction, but do think it is important for attorneys practicing in this space to digest the paper’s conclusions. Although the paper does identify and discuss many important legal issues, I think that it ultimately falls short of elevating the analysis of such issues to the level necessary for legislators and stakeholders to make completely informed policy- and project-related decisions. Specifically, by suggesting that “[c]onjecture, anecdote, and even rumor swirl around recent presentations, workshops and discussions circling the question of what legal claims may be based on the design, development, and construction of sustainable buildings,” the paper seems to be an effort to sweep many of the thornier legal issues that may indeed ferment into “new wine” under the rug.

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LEED Goes to School: Considering Green Design in the Architecture Classroom

Having devoted his career to green design, Azizan Aziz, a senior research architect at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture, has watched with great interest as USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system has become a major force in in the buildings industry. With its slick branding and status symbol cachet, LEED represents the first successful mainstreaming of sustainable building. Through it, says Aziz, green design has been embraced by many who once dismissed it as “just for beatniks and hippies.” However, recent reports indicate that many of Aziz’s colleagues in higher education are less enthusiastic about these developments.

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