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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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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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