In my latest Daily Journal of Commerce Construction column, I discuss generally the grounds for, and the potential consequences of, certification challenges on LEED-rated projects. As LEED-certified projects grow in popularity and abundance in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, all project participants need to know the basis for challenging LEED certification and the impacts arising from
Despite the explosion of articles, seminars and webinars on green building and development during the last year or so, there is a dearth of information in the development world regarding what project owners and developers who do want to build a green project should actually put in their design and construction contracts.
Here is what I think is important regarding this subject:
General Green Building Certification Goal. The project owner first must decide in general what green building goal it wants to achieve. LEED certification (from the US Green Building Council), at a particular certification level (general, silver, gold, platinum), is an obvious option. But there are other general green building certifications, too, such as Green Globes (Green Building Initiative) and SBTool07 (International Initiative For a Sustainable Built Environment), as examples. The owner should make this basic decision early on, based on good information and analysis and the advice and recommendations of design and green building consultants, as applicable.
Industry-Specific Green Building Certification Goal. Deciding on an overall green building goal such as a LEED certification is not the only certification goal a project owner should consider, however. There also is a growing number of industry-specific certifications that the owner should evaluate, depending on the nature of the project and the owner’s business. For example, there are certifications available for health facilities (Practice Greenhealth), restaurants (Green Restaurant Association) and hotels (Hotel Pure Green). How important an industry-specific certification of this type is to an owner is a question to be addressed at the start of the design process.
Tax and Other Governmental Incentives Goal. Another element of green building goals to be considered is tax and other governmental incentives relating to green building. Particularly in Oregon and under new federal stimulus legislation, there may be tax credits, grants and other public sector incentives for green, sustainable and energy efficient construction that can be of substantial benefit to a project. However, these incentives must be identified as project goals early in a project’s design in order to ensure that the owner is able to take advantage of them.
Making Green Building Goals Explicit. Once an owner has sorted through its optional goals for LEED or other general certification, for industry-specific certification and for tax and other governmental incentives, these goals should be expressly set out in the owner’s design and construction contracts. Otherwise, the owner’s architect and contractor will not have any contractual obligations to achieve the owner’s green building goals. Typical form contracts, including 2007 American Institute of Architects (“AIA”) forms of contract, include minimal references to these kinds of obligations and do not include language in which to make the goals explicit.