Building "green" involves legal risks: what to know when seeking LEED certification.

Author:Berman, Harvey
Position:HOW DO I
 
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Americans are rapidly going "green" for all the right reasons: energy efficiency, reducing climate change, preserving our supply of potable water, and improving our health, productivity, and enjoyment of life.

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Sustainability is especially important in buildings because they annually consume 39 percent of total energy and 72 percent of electricity use in the U.S. Fortunately, the pace of "green" building has quickened. By 2015, the number of retrofit and new "green" buildings is projected to rise to approximately eight billion cumulative square feet--more than a 15-fold rise in seven years. To spur creation of the workforce required to retrofit U.S. buildings, the U.S. Department of Energy is investing over $4 billion in training and education.

While the "green" stampede is historic, going "green" does require caution and education. Below are a few areas of legal concern arising from "green" building.

Rating Systems

While LEED is the most widely used "green" building rating system, there are many others. Selection of the right one may have important consequences. LEED is a comprehensive and rapidly evolving rating system that currently certifies existing buildings (operations and maintenance), new construction, homes, commercial interiors, core and shell projects, neighborhood development (in pilot), and schools, healthcare, and retail projects. LEED also accredits professionals who have attained a high degree of knowledge in the LEED rating system. For example, I am one of only 15 attorneys who are LEED-Accredited Professionals in the state.

Two other prominent rating systems are Green Globes and NAHB Green. Green Globes is an environmental design and management tool that delivers an online assessment protocol and rating system. It also provides guidance for "green" building design, operation and management. It is interactive and provides market recognition of a building's environmental attributes through third-party verification. The National Association of Homebuilders has developed a complete system, NAHB Green. It relates to certification of homes that meet its ANSI approved ICC-700-2008 National Green Building Standard or its Model Green Home Building Guidelines. Builders may also attain Certified Green Professional status through a course of training offered by the NAHB. For more information on these rating systems, go to: www.usgbc.org or www.nahbgreen.org.

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