Green Building Law Update

Highlights from the Greenbuild Legal Forum

This year, the US Green Building Council hosted the 2nd Annual Legal Forum at Greenbuild 2011.  The fact that lawyers are now allowed to congregate and make presentations at the Greenbuild conference is an achievement.  The green building community seems to understand that green buildings do present new risks that must be managed and attorneys can help.

Attorney Dan Sheridan provided a thorough recap of the Legal Forum on his blog, Legally Green.  There were two presentations that I found most interesting: 

  • Stephen Del Percio, of Green Real Estate Law Journal, reviewed the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides, which regulate environmental claims.  Del Percio's presentation left me wondering how the Green Guides might apply to LEED plaques. 
  • The always entertaining Stuart Kaplow provided a list of ways to generate work as a green building attorney.  We will be discussing both of these presentations in future posts. 

It may surprise you to learn that I attended many non-legal presentations at Greenbuild as well.  If you would like to read more about some of these presentations and topics, please head over to Sustainable Cities Collective, where I published the following posts: 

The last post highlights a CBRE study, Dollars and Sense 2011, that will soon be released.  The report discloses that support for "green" waned among CBRE customers in 2011.  How will companies like CBRE shift gears if demand for green buildings decreases?  It should be an interesting topic for next year's Greenbuild in San Francisco.  

During his Greenbuild opening plenary, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman stated that we would know a green revolution had occurred when the word "green" went away.  But I don't think that's what we are seeing with the CBRE study.  

What is happening to "green"?  

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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Stephen Del Percio - October 11, 2011 1:25 PM

Glad you enjoyed my slides, Chris, as always it was great seeing you in Toronto and wish we had more time to catch up. Looking forward to reading your other articles at SCC. One thought on the CBRE study comes from a UK-based study that I wrote about at GRELJ last year (or the year before), which talked about commercial owners/operators seeing value in specific green metrics (energ/water efficiency, etc.) but not general labels like Energy Star/LEED. Maybe there's some correlation there too with the FTC Green Guides that's worth exploring.

Chris Weatherly - November 11, 2011 1:35 PM

5 years ago; "Green" was an interesting concept...doing more with less.

2 years ago; everyone and everything was "Green".

Today; "Green" has become the 40 y/o guy at the bar,way past happy hour, wearing the "Members Only" jacket with the tan line aroun the wedding band finger.

I don't want to see "Green" hear about "Green". In fact, when my 4 y/o daughter watches "Seasame Street" and Kermit the Frog coems on, I change the channel. - August 24, 2012 4:35 AM

There are many Green Building Certification around the world that based on qualitative assessment which are based on scoring points to achieve 'level of green'. This lead to many intepretations on how to strategise and achieve the target points. The designers interpretations might be different than the green building verifiers interpretation. There are many cases where buildings that going to be built or retrofitted have difficulties to comply some of the criteria that have been outline in the green building system. This is because the criteria are not relevant to them. The problem is, to comply the irrelevant criteria will increase cost unnecessary. But without complying the said criteria will make them lost the marking points. Nowadays people already start to argue, "how green is green". It should be justified.

Some countries already start to look into green metric that can be used as reference to measure & monitor the performance, thus to justify the investment of achieving 'green'. One of them is to use carbon emission or carbon footprint as metric. The green building that uses carbon as metric (or low carbon building system) can be considered as quantitative assessment system (based on actual performance). The good of quantitative system is it will reduce the descripancy or misinterpretation of achieving 'green'. The 'green' level of a building can be measured based on calculation/assessment of carbon reduction. The higher carbon reduced the higher merit given. This method will answer the common problem, 'how green is green'.

Furthermore, with low carbon building system the building designers can have more flexibility to design a 'green' building with reasonable cost and with high environmental impact (lower $$ spending over carbon emission reduction).

UNEP Sustainable Building Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI) had come out with Common Carbon Metric (CCM) for Buildings. It is a kind of protocol for low carbon building. A few countries had adopted the CCM and developing their alternative green building system. (source:

Example on how the Low Carbon Green Building that uses CCM is at;
- (,
- ( and
- (

In Malaysia, they had expended the CCM into the part of the Low Carbon Cities Framework (LCCF) (

Stuart Kaplow
Sustainability & Green Real Estate Attorneys
15 East Chesapeake Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21286-5306 USA
Tel 410-339-3910
Fax 410-339-3912