It’s A Beautiful Day In This LEED Neighborhood

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Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is my 2 year old’s favorite show.  Since she could talk, she has looked up at me and asked for, “Rogers?”  If you have children, you know, what a 2 year old wants, a 2 year old generally gets.  So, I watch Mister Rogers, every day, twice a day.  After literally watching hundreds of episodes (most of them at least twenty times) I’ve relearned old songs (“Shoo Turkey Shoo”) and found out that Mister Rogers is just as relevant now as he was when I little.  In fact, he was ahead of his time.  (In one favorite episode, Mister Rogers test drives an electric car, complete with 15 car batteries linked together to run the car.)  After spending many hours in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, I wondered whether Mister Rogers’ neighborhood is the type of neighborhood that the LEED Neighborhood Development Certification strives for, an integrated neighborhood of smart locations, neighborhood design, and green infrastructure and building.

A seldom discussed LEED certification area is the LEED-ND Certification.  By integrating LEED Neighborhood Development polices, profit and non-profit developers, builders, city and neighborhood planners can build a more sustainable, attractive and vibrant community.  Here is a brief overview of what the USGBC looks for and the general process for certifying a neighborhood project.  Visit the USGBC site () for more information regarding getting your project plan certified LEED-ND. 

Projects that qualify for LEED for Neighborhood Developments can range from small infill projects to large master planned communities.  Existing communities may also be retrofitted using LEED standards and policies. 

The following credit categories are included in the rating system:

Smart Location and Linkage assesses location, transportation alternatives, and preservation of sensitive lands and discouraging sprawl.

Neighborhood Pattern and Design assesses overall design for vibrant neighborhoods that are healthy, walkable, and mixed-use.

Green Infrastructure and Buildings assesses the design and construction of buildings and infrastructure that reduce energy and water use, use of sustainable materials, and renovating existing and historic structures.

Innovation and Design Process recognizes exemplary and innovative performance reaching beyond the existing credits in the rating system, as well as the value of including an accredited professional on the design team.

Regional Priority encourages projects to focus on earning credits of significance to the project’s local environment.

There are three stages of certification, which relate to the phases of the real estate development process.

Stage 1 – Conditionally Approved Plan: provides the conditional approval of a LEED-ND Plan available for projects before they have completed the entitlements, or public review, process.

Stage 2 – Pre-Certified Plan: pre-certifies a LEED-ND Plan and is applicable for fully entitled projects or projects under construction.

Stage 3 – Certified Neighborhood Development: completed projects formally apply for LEED certification to recognize that the project has achieved all of the prerequisites and credits attempted.    

The rating system can be downloaded for review by interested parties.  If you are developing a project its worth taking the time to review the rating system for possible incentives or as an evaluation tool.

Mister Rogers believed strongly in living a deep and simple life.  He invested in our future and community. He taught us all to make the same investment.  His legacy will always live on through his good work on television.  In fact, the Fred M. Rogers Center building officially opened on the Saint Vincent College Campus in October 2008.  It’s only fitting that the facility was awarded the LEED gold rating. 

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.  -Fred Rogers

Contactors and Green Building: I feel the need … the need for LEED!

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This , which discusses whether contractors and subs should get LEED accredited (or pursue a working knowledge), can be found on , Christopher Hill’s terrific construction law blog, where I have the honor of guest posting (click ).  So travel on over to Musings to read more, but don’t forget to write!  Seriously, your comments are appreciated, either there or below.

Green Building Cites: Green Litigation

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In honor of the conference being held this week in Chicago*, we are pleased to bring you “Green Building Cites,” a periodic post bringing you news concerning green building issues and the law.  If you are like me, it may seem like the green building landscape changes daily and keeping up with it can be overwhelming…  Green Building Cites is designed to summarize the key developments in an orderly fashion. 

For our first installment, we bring you a basic overview of green litigation.

Green litigation or LEEDigation (as coined by construction attorney/consultant ) can encompass the following situations, among others: the failure of a building to achieve LEED certification when specified by contract; improperly designed or constructed LEED projects; or the decertification of a previously LEED certified building.  The latter may become even more prominent with the coming 2012 rating system, as the USGBC has recently indicated it may be decertifying buildings that are not performing as anticipated (see ).

Essentially, the key issue is who bears the liability, if any, for the owner’s losses (tax credits, financing, property value) for failure to achieve certification of later loss of certification – the design professional?  The contractor?  The LEED consultant?  No one?

I recently read an commenting on how remarkable it is that green building has spawned little litigation to date.  A review of the landscape confirms that there are very few such cases.  However, there are a handful of cases that provide an indication of (possible) things to come.    

For example, in Shaw Development v. Southern Builders, the owner desired LEED Silver certification in order to receive certain tax credits related to a project in Maryland.  The building did not achieve certification and a lawsuit followed.  It appears that there was no clear allocation in the contract of who was responsible for certification.  Thus, the case would have squarely addressed LEED certification and related liabilities.  Unfortunately, the case settled out of court before any such guidance was provided by the court.

In another matter that did not even reach the ligation stage, a group of “concerned members of the community” challenged the award of LEED Gold certification to Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wisconsin.  Five community members and two professional engineers alleged non-compliance with two prerequisites and filed the challenge over a year after the school was certified.  The USGBC hired two professional consultants to conduct investigations that yielded two reports, both of which concluded that the Gold certification was proper.  Thus, the USGBC upheld the certification. 

Finally, an individual recently brought a class action against the U.S. Green Building Council, alleging, in essence, that LEED promises outcomes it can’t deliver.  Excellent coverage and .     

Although there have been few lawsuits to date, given our ever-litigious country and the growing presence of green building and LEED, more green litigation is likely coming.  Green professionals should plan carefully and seek qualified legal assistance.  We will continue to bring you news of any new green lawsuits on the horizon.

* as a former Chicagoan, for anyone attending GreenBuild and looking for local fare, I highly recommend (deep dish), (hot dogs), and (steak).  You won’t be disappointed.

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