More Thoughts on “Green” (the Practice, not the Color) Building

It has been a while since I “mused” on the green building landscape. While I am a LEED AP and have presented on green (read “sustainable”) building in the past, I am not totally sold on LEED as the be all end all in sustainable construction (the USGBC is a private rating organization that, like the rest of us, is imperfect). I’ve also discussed, both here and elsewhere, the potential risks that come with any new(ish) building process.

A recent post by my fellow construction attorney Matt Bouchard (@mattbouchardesq) piqued my interest and started me thinking yet again. Matt’s recent post, entitled Is the U.S. Green Building Council Becoming a Not-So-Jolly Green Giant? outlines recent developments in the sustainable building world (remember “green” is not a specification, but a color), and some of the debate out there among those in the know. From a great infographic on the Top 10 LEED states (Virginia is 3rd) to some sniping from the USGBC (read the LEED folks) toward the GBI (Green Globes) to the fact that LEED is losing some traction as the primary governmental green building certification platform, Matt’s post is worth a read.

In short, what was once the almost exclusive province of LEED and the USGBC is now less so and in my mind this is not a bad thing. First of all, it encourages debate. Questions like “Is LEED really a great energy saver?” or “Will Green Globes help promote sustainability to a larger group of people?” or even (dare I say it) “Do we need rating systems in the first place?” are now viable because alternatives exist. Second, state legislatures and private owners seeking not just the recognition of a great “green” rating can now see that there are ways to “build green” that don’t necessarily involve any rating system. Personally, I think that sustainability can and should be a goal, whether that goal also includes getting a stamp of approval from LEED or Green Globes (with the additional paperwork and expense) is a personal or business decision that is up to you.

Once the admirable decision to build in a sustainable and energy efficient manner is made, just be sure to take the risks into account and to properly set expectations in your contracts (hopefully with the help of your friendly local construction lawyer) and specifications early on in your project. With the proper specifications, contractual provisions and risk management, your sustainable project (LEED certified, Green Globes certified, or otherwise) can be both well run and an environmentally and energy friendly.

Before you tag me with an anti-sustainability label, let me be clear that I am very much for sustainable building. I am however cautious and occasionally skeptical of the implementation, as opposed to the goal. I would like nothing better than to see a more sustainable world of constructed infrastructure. I’m just not sure that ratings necessarily get us there.

I am sure that you all have thoughts. Please share them below.

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