Following the construction industry and related legal topics in the United States.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Green Building Not Green Enough?

This writer is not aware of any formal actions arising from a green building not achieving its intended "greenness" -- yet. We are monitoring a $20 million hotel project in American Canyon, California, in which the City Council agreed in 2003 to give a tax rebate of up to $1 million once it received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating. The LEED rating is an independent nationally accepted standard for energy efficient and environmentally sound design.

The hotel opened on October 31, 2006, and still no LEED designation. The developer reports "the delay in receiving the LEED rating can be attributed in part to some consultants dragging their feet and not being entirely knowledgeable about green building practices." The City Manager says "until they have the designation, they don't get the credit." The developer reports that he expects to receive gold or silver certification within two months.

And what if the independent LEED designation doesn't come through? This case illustrates that it is just a matter of time before disgruntled building owners utilize the legal system to recover foreseeable damages if their green building turns out not to be green enough. (Today's entry was published by Ken Michael of Womble Carlyle's construction and real estate development group.)


Anonymous Stephen said...

I think this project is extremely interesting because it helps demonstrate what the 2006 Building Design + Construction Green Building White Paper describes as "LEED creep," where municipalities tie financial incentives or compliance with a locally-enacted green building ordinance, applying to private development, to the LEED system. This is dangerous because such compliance rests with the discretion of a third-party- the USGBC- and not the municipality which is handing out the incentive. Moreover, the LEED system is constantly evolving. D.C., for example, has mandated that private development over a certain square footage must comply with LEED. However, this requirement will be phased in over the next few years. By then, what will LEED look like? On the other hand, Boston created its own system to evaluate compliance with its green building ordinance (albeit closely modeled on LEED). In any event, if I were a developer, the Napa Valley project might make me hesitant to build in a location requiring compliance with a certain level of LEED.

11:37 AM  

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