Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

May 21, 2013

Unintended Consequences of Green Codes

Source: Construction Executive, May 2013
By: George H. DuBose

The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) issued a year ago is a noble step forward for the design and construction community because it includes measures intended to create more efficient and higher performing buildings. However, the push toward green codification has some looming consequences that should not go unnoticed.

What are considered best practices now will soon be the minimum standard of care—increasing the risk profile of many projects and closing the gap in market differentiators such as experience and unique technical expertise among firms. Additionally, designers and contractors will be forced to implement complex components that may not be fully understood, leading to more frequent building failures.

Contractors must anticipate the unintended consequences of many of the IgCC’s requirements, which may not take into consideration the unique aspects of differing regions around the country. Variations in climate will quickly identify deficiencies through building failures that codification cannot accurately predict.

Two characteristics of most sustainable buildings are the use of innovative products and the implementation of new design and construction techniques. The intent of these new materials and procedures is to achieve a structure with less of a negative environmental impact during construction and throughout the building’s life cycle.…

April 5, 2013

Toward Resilient Architectures 2: Why Green Often Isn’t

Source: http://www.metropolismag.com, April 4, 2013
By: Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros

Something surprising has happened with many so-called “sustainable” buildings. When actually measured in post-occupancy assessments, they’ve proven far less sustainable than their proponents have claimed. In some cases they’ve actually performed worse than much older buildings, with no such claims.

A 2009 New York Times article, “Some buildings not living up to green label,” documented the extensive problems with many sustainability icons. Among other reasons for this failing, the Times pointed to the widespread use of expansive curtain-wall glass assemblies and large, “deep-plan” designs that put most usable space far from exterior walls, forcing greater reliance on artificial light and ventilation systems.


Before its cancellation, the Anara Tower was planned to be one of Dubai’s tallest buildings, and an icon of sustainability — despite its west-facing glazing, high embodied energy in materials, and, remarkably, a giant non-functional (i.e. decorative) wind turbine. The building offered the consumer packaging of an “image” of sustainability at the apparent expense of real sustainability. Illustration by WS Atkins PLC.

January 4, 2013

Green Building Watch

Source: Sustainable Industries, January 1, 2013
By: Jerry Yudelson

Green building will continue its rapid expansion globally in 2013 in spite of ongoing economic difficulties. More people are building green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its constituent elements. However, the continuing slowdown in commercial real estate and the lower level of government project development will continue to put a crimp in new green building projects. In putting together my Top Ten trends for 2013, I’m taking advantage of conversations I’ve had with green building industry leaders in the U.S., Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia during the past year.

Yudelson Associates’ Top Ten Green Building MegaTrends for 2013:

  1. Green building in North America will rebound strongly in 2013, using LEED project registrations as a proxy for this growth. The reduction in commercial real estate construction has not been offset by other sectors such as government construction, which continued to falter, and so the growth rate of new green building projects fell dramatically from 2010-2012. Even so, in 2012, new LEED construction accounted for about 20% of all put-in-place space, with domestic LEED project registrations up significantly from 2010. However, we continue to foresee faster growth in green retrofits, and note that surging college and university projects, along with NGO activity, are serving to backstop the fall in commercial and governmental construction. In addition, LEED growth has been and will be rapid in China, the Middle East, Latin America and other fast-growing regions for new buildings.
December 17, 2012

Construction company survey reveals latest findings on new green building and LEED certification trends

Source: http://www.lexology.com, December 4, 2012
By: Elizabeth A. Holden, Hodgson Russ LLP

A new Market Barometer survey published by Turner Construction Company, the largest green builder in the United States, provides an updated look on sustainability practices in new building projects. The study, which included a survey of more than 700 executives from a wide variety of fields, showed a continued commitment to environmentally-sustainable construction practices but questioned their commitment to obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The survey results are the latest sign of concern with the LEED system.

Continued Commitment to Green Construction

Executives surveyed included those in the development field as well as real estate owners and corporate owner-occupants. Among those surveyed, 64 percent indicated that they expect to commence construction projects over the next twelve-month period—up from 46 percent in 2010. The number is even greater for renovation projects. Seventy-one percent of participants expected to start renovation projects over the same period. With regard to those construction projects, 56 percent of survey participants reported that their companies were either extremely or very committed to environmentally-sustainable practices. Another 34 percent stated that they were somewhat committed.

Factors Contributing to Continued Green Construction

Important factors contributing to continued use of green construction included the potential to reduce energy costs and operating and maintenance costs. Other factors included the impact such construction had on their brand/reputation, requirements from customers, and the belief that it was the “right thing to do”.…

October 3, 2012

LEED rating system for green building grows into global phenomenon

Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA), October 2, 2012
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Twelve years ago, the U.S. Green Building Council launched a rating system called LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, hoping that architects, engineers, designers and real estate firms would improve energy efficiency and increase the use of recycled materials and nontoxic paint in their projects to win LEED-certified recognition.

Now LEED has grown into a powerful brand and global phenomenon. There are 14,044 LEED-certified commercial projects, covering more than 2 billion square feet, in 140 countries. Another 34,601 projects are in the pipeline. Northern California is home to hundreds of LEED buildings, including San Jose City Hall, San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and the Oakland Public Library branch on 81st Street.

“Green building is not a curiosity anymore — it’s a huge market,” said Aditya Ranade, a senior analyst with Lux Research in Boston. “The green building sector will be a $280 billion global industry by the end of the decade. LEED is dominant around the world, but there are other standards. Malaysia has its own Green Building Index, and China has developed its own three-star-rating system.”

The Green Building Council offers four levels of LEED certificates. They range from certified, in which 50 percent of the requirements are met, to platinum, in which at least 80 percent are met. Facebook’s data center in Prineville, Ore., for example, achieved LEED gold status.

But as LEED has grown and green building technology evolves, so has the need to update the rating system. The Green Building Council, a nonprofit with 14,000 member companies, on Tuesday will release proposed changes known as LEED v4 that member companies can comment on. The draft changes, which will be subject to a public comment period through Dec. 10, include increased technical rigor for energy performance and new categories that focus on integrated design, life cycle analysis of materials used and issues like indoor air quality.…

June 21, 2012

New Sustainable Design and Construction Contracts

Source: Construction Executive, June 2012
By: Kenneth Cobleigh

Meeting Expectations and Managing Risks

Sustainable design and construction is a rapidly evolving area for owners, architects, contractors, and others involved in the design and construction industry. This year, the International Code Council released its International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and the Green Building Certification Institute is poised to update its LEED rating system.

Building codes and rating systems attempt to define and often place parameters around what is required for a project to be considered sustainable. Owners, architects and contractors are faced with an increasingly diverse set of standards to apply to their projects. In jurisdictions adopting green building codes, such as the IgCC, projects must meet mandatory baselines for energy and environmental performance. In the absence of green code requirements, or as a supplement thereto, owners may undertake voluntary measures, such as LEED certification, to achieve energy savings or other environmental benefits. Often, these code-mandated or voluntary requirements cannot be achieved without each project participant accepting new roles and responsibilities. Clearly defining a project’s sustainable requirements and appropriately allocating responsibility for the elements necessary to achieve those requirements can greatly reduce the potential for mistakes, misunderstandings and disputes on a sustainable project. To avoid confusion and misunderstandings, design and construction agreements for sustainable projects must outline a clear process to help the project team develop and implement a plan for achieving the code-mandated or owner-initiated sustainable requirements.…

May 21, 2012

Sustainable Construction: The Changing Climate of Professional Liability Risk

By:  Jeff Slivka, New Day Underwriting Managers, LLC
Posted on:  http://www.irmi.com

The world of sustainable construction is constantly evolving with the introduction of new green construction products and the rising interest in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified projects. Approximately 20 different states have green buildings codes with a new array of “eco-friendly” products seemingly being introduced every day. As a result, we are now seeing a rapidly changing climate of professional liability for architects, engineers, and contractors surrounding new “green” exposures.

However, in reality, these green risks are actually quite similar to traditional construction or non-green construction exposures, with the exception of building information modeling. This is because most of the risks are merely examples of elevated design innovations that use new or experimental products to significantly raise expectations of “living” building benefits.

For example, a LEED-certified hospital was recently completed on time and within budget. But, after several weeks of occupancy, the administration reported numerous warm and humid spots throughout the building. An investigation then determined that the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems were all undersized, resulting in a restricted flow of air to various parts of the building. Design and installation errors, not green building, were then to blame for these problems and resulting litigation.…

April 12, 2012

A Smart Approach to the Green Construction Marketplace

Source: Construction Business Owner, December 2011
By: Robert J. Connor, New Day Underwriting Managers LLC

Establish expectations and carefully assess sustainable products to successfully complete LEED projects.

The eco-friendly construction movement has become a powerful force that has spread throughout the world at an incredible speed and forced designers and contractors to either go green or risk becoming irrelevant in this expanding marketplace.

With this growing movement, general contractors face more exposure to risk. To add to this, building owners expect general contractors to be the single entity responsible for projects in most situations.

As a result of this expanded exposure to liability, contractors must understand every area that can affect their businesses when working on green projects.

Understand the Client’s Expectations

The increase in liability exposure starts well before any design or construction phase. It begins with the project owner’s expectations and motivations. When bidding on a project or prior to accepting a bid, a contractor must ask detailed questions about the client’s goals and gain a thorough understanding of the specific project. Three examples demonstrate why this step is necessary:

The first green lawsuit, Shaw Development vs. Southern Builders, involved a 23-unit condominium project in Maryland that was completed in 2006. The contractor did not file the necessary documentation for LEED certification to the Maryland Energy Administration within the established time limits. As a result, the developer was denied the desired tax credit, which was a driving force in his decision to initiate the project.…

January 11, 2012

Liability Is a Gray Area for Green Buildings

Source: National Real Estate Investor, January 9, 2012
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

When sustainability standards for commercial buildings were introduced in the mid-1990s, contractors were often expected to provide guarantees that the property would receive certification for the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or Energy Star. But since professionals and owners lacked experience in meeting green standards, if a building ended up not qualifying for certification, it wasn’t always easy to see who was at fault.

Sustainable buildings are becoming more commonplace-the USGBC certified its 10,000th project in mid-2011, and is currently certifying an additional 1.6 million feet each day around the world-so both owners and contractors understand the certification process for new green construction much better than they did even just a few years ago.

It’s easier to find language that holds contractors accountable for following, say, LEED-compliant practices, without making them liable for factors beyond their control, says Dan Probst, chairman of energy and sustainability services for Jones Lang LaSalle. He also finds owners and contractors more realistic in their expectations. “Certain credits are easy to get and some are not possible or not cost-effective,” he says. “Then there are a few that are possible or probable, but not certain. So we might not be certain of the outcome, but we know exactly where the uncertainty factor is.”…

July 26, 2011

Professional liability risks grow with green construction

Source: http://www.businessinsurance.com, July 24, 2011
By: Judy Greenwald

Challenges facing risk managers and insurers in developing errors and omissions coverage for “green” construction projects are similar to but also different than standard construction risks.

The difference generally is found in new technology and materials, which are untested and often experimental, and can lead to unfounded expectations, observers say.

Despite recent attention on the subject, “green building sustainable design has been around for decades,” said Paul Ablan, Minnetonka, Minn.-based senior vp and managing director of professional liability at OneBeacon Professional Insurance, a unit of Hamilton, Bermuda-based OneBeacon Insurance Group Ltd.

Professionals long have sought to operate more efficiently and economically while taking the environment into account, but it is only in the past several years that sustainable design has gained more governmental and public focus, Mr. Ablan said.

“There are lots of buzzwords that are thrown around on these projects,” including that they are “healthier, more energy efficient more environmentally friendly,” said Edward B. Gentilcore, a partner at Duane Morris L.L.P. in Pittsburgh. “Translating those buzzwords into contractual language and then performance reality proves to be a challenge.”…