Managerial and Legal Perspectives on the Green Building Movement

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article discusses the green building movement from managerial and legal perspectives. Green building is first defined and managerial perspectives on why companies build green are examined. Legal liabilities posed by green building are also raised with focus on the failure to achieve LEED(TM) certification, the impact of governmental mandates, and professional liability and warranty claims. Finally, recommendations for minimizing legal liability in green building are proposed.

INTRODUCTION

Once relegated to the realm of environmentalists, concern over the environment is now mainstream as public attitudes have shifted in favor of a green agenda. (Garber, 2009). Accompanying that movement is the rapid growth of the green building industry. In recent years, private developers, governmental entities, individual homeowners, and educational institutions have been moving towards the green building phenomena in growing numbers (Bardaglio & Putnam, 2009).

A generation ago, the interests of business and the environment appeared mutually exclusive; today that is no longer the case. This article discusses the green building movement from managerial and legal perspectives. Green building is first defined and managerial perspectives on why companies build green are examined. Legal liabilities posed by green building are also raised with focus on the failure to achieve LEED(TM) certification, the impact of governmental regulations and professional liability and warranty claims. Finally, recommendations for minimizing legal liability in green building are proposed.

WHAT IS GREEN BUILDING?

To a certain extent, aspects of green building have been around for millennia. Prior to the days of electricity and central heating and cooling, builders relied on a variety of sustainable practices such as transoms, awnings, large windows, etc. Many of these practices were discontinued and considered old-fashioned with advances in technology such as electricity, modern HVAC systems and the availability of cheap fossil fuels in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Today, green building is a term that can encompass a vast array of environmentally conscious building techniques. At one end of the continuum, green building could entail something as mundane as replacing old windows with energy efficient ones. At the other end of the continuum, green building could involve sustainable design and construction techniques in every aspect of the building. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2009):

Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout abuilding's life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruct on. This practice expands and complements the classical building design sustainable or high performance building. Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:

* Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources

* Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity

* Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation

In 2000 the U. S. Green Building Council launched a voluntary building certification program called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED(TM)) which acknowledged performance in five key areas:

* human and environmental health

* sustainable site development

* water savings

* energy efficiency

* material selection and indoor environmental quality

The LEED(TM) system awards points according to a strict set of criteria which consider such factors as indoor environmental quality, materials and resources, and water efficiency. Based on the number of credits earned on a 69-point scale, owners and builders can apply for LEED(TM) certification at one of four levels: Certified (26-32 points), Silver (33-38 points), Gold (39-51 points), or Platinum (52-69 points). …