The Best Kept Secret in Green Building - a Conversation with Jerry Yudelson

I had a conversation with Jerry Yudelson last week, six weeks after he became the President of the Green Building Initiative, .. the non profit with the rights to distribute Green Globes in the United States. 

Jerry is known to many in the green building world. He was a cofounder of the first USGBC chapter. And  in the room when the Greenbuild convention and expo was conceived. He served on the USGBC national board of directors and he has been a prolific author and speaker about all things green building, including LEED. So, some were surprised when he assumed the helm of the Green Globes organization.

But any shock at Jerry’s new job is resoundingly suppressed when you hear him say that with more than four and a half million commercial buildings in the U.S., we have certified less than one percent of them as green. He describes his job as “not to get you to change from Protestant to Catholic, but rather to convert those with no religion to green building.”

Jerry readily acknowledges with less than 1,000 Green Globes certified projects in the U.S. such is less than a five percent market share. He confidently says his goal is to increase certification to more than 10,000 in the next five years.

He suggests that expanded brand acceptance and market share will be lead by Green Globes’ independent onsite assessor model, something that differentiates his rating system from others. Not to mention that that his rating system is better, faster and cheaper.

Jerry sounds cautiously optimistic about both the changes in GSA and DoD policy in recent months to allow government projects to pursue Green Globes, but he points out that now individual agencies must see a benefit. And he sees the real benefit being GBI’s standalone software feature providing an assessment of the federal government’s Guiding Principles for new construction, with a report detailing compliance.

Touting his motto, “It is green building for practical people” Jerry sees the larger growth opportunity in the private sector, from retail to healthcare. And while the certification system is weighted heavily toward energy performance (390 of 1,000 possible new construction points), the new version of Green Globes launched in 2013, allows a project the flexibility to select between four paths for demonstrating energy compliance. He doesn’t disagree that some will be drawn to the fact that the cost of pursuing Green Globes is half the cost of LEED, in large measure because there is no need for specialized consultants, but Jerry wants to talk about the value added of Green Globes’ independent assessors who bring their professional judgment when visiting each site.

He does not advocate mandatory green building laws for private building and he sees a benefit of allowing the freedom of the marketplace to control this rapidly changing field, where performance counts.

Jerry makes clear the number one issue in green building today is the value added proposition. Green building must provide value or the whole industry will be out of business in ten years.

And while he has only been on the job since January 6th, it is clear the recent announcements of Whole Foods stores and Fidelity Investor Centers pursuing Green Globes are representative of perceived value he is pursuing in retail.     

It is clear that Jerry wants us all to know about “the best kept secret in green building.” 

And you can do that for free. The Green Globes Professional Credential online training program is available without charge through April 15, 2014.

Greetings from Stuart Kaplow

Greetings. My name is Stuart Kaplow and I want to introduce myself, as I assume the helm as the new publisher of the Green Building Law Update blog.

But first, thank you to Chris Cheatham, the founder of this blog, for his years of good work in spreading the word of green building. 

Second, an admission; I have never blogged. This is all new to me. As I find my voice on this blog, please cut me a little slack because I commit to you this blog will be a valuable resource for sustainability and green building. I do know something about green building law. I’m a sustainability and green building attorney and I have been doing this environmental ‘stuff’ for more than 25 years.

A bit about my perspective on green. I drank the green Kool-Aid. I believe green building can save the planet!

I am a huge fan of LEED. I also spearheaded the law making Maryland the first state to enable use of the International Green Construction Code. I am particularly impressed with the Department of Defense’s adaptation of the ASHRAE 189.1 standard published as its green building criteria earlier this year (.. and yes, the military is also pursuing LEED). I would be remiss if I did not also note my belief that Enterprise’s Green Communities criteria offers a great option for residential green building. Most of my green building clients pursue LEED, but there is more than one path to sustainability.

As the principal of the law firm that bears my name, I assemble teams of experienced attorneys, elite scientists, top of their field environmental specialists, talented engineers, and marketing gurus, on a project basis, to leverage the local real estate knowledge and nationally recognized technical ability necessary to assure that client objectives are swiftly and successfully realized.

I am a Maryland attorney and our law firm assists clients across the country, and increasingly internationally, working with their local counsel, or often through ajhon, an independent non law environmental consulting business affiliate of the law firm. ajhon is the Maasai language word for Green. The Maasai are among the fiercest warriors in Africa and it is that orientation that describes my view of “environmental risk as an opportunity”!

In an effort to gain some perspective on my view of sustainability and, admittedly to recreate, I have trekked to some of the wildest real estate on the planet from Kilimanjaro (.. where I met the Maasai) to Everest, with many summits and mountaineering adventures in between.

Second only to the joy I find in the mountains is the fun I experience practicing law. And I would like to be your sustainability and green building attorney.

Finally, I am working on my first substantive post on the appeals to USGBC member approval of the LEED v4 rating systems. I hope to post that article tomorrow ..

My Green Building Exit Memo

So this post is a farewell of sorts.  And, an introduction that I am very excited about.  

The Farewell 

I can't write for this blog anymore.  You may have noticed -- or not noticed -- that I stopped writing about one year ago.  It's not because green building doesn't interest me any more.  

I stopped writing because I just didn't have anything positive left to say.  And that is not what I wanted this blog to be about.  I started this blog because I was excited about the green building movement.  I started this blog because I had an "Aha!" moment when I studied for the LEED AP exam.  I started this blog because I wanted to help design and construction professionals navigate the legal hurdles certain to pop up from the green building movement.  I would like to think I helped in some way. 

(Quick plug:  I also stopped writing because I found a new passion: making ediscovery simple and affordable for small and medium sized law firms.  Check out ClaimKit if you are interested).  

But along the way, I came across one green building project that is a microcosm for all of the problems facing -- and created by -- the green building industry.  That project is Destiny USA.  

I was going to go into all of the details once again regarding that project.  But what's the point?  I've already written about it extensively.  Needless to say, I am skeptical that a mall expansion was deserving of LEED Gold certification or millions of dollars it received in government green subsidies.  

An Introduction 

Despite my lack of interest, I didn't want this blog to die because I really appreciate the community that came together around it.  I didn't want this blog to die, because I believe new green building programs, like energy benchmarking, will replace LEED certification as the primary driver of green building development.  

Thankfully, I have found someone to take over:  

Stuart Kaplow.  

Stuart is one of my favorite people.  I often refer to him as the Godfather of green building law.  He is the only attorney I know that has figured out how to make a living from green building law.  Stuart is incredible at fixing green building problems, whether through contracts, mediation or informal negotiations.  

And Stuart tells it like it is.  

Don't say I didn't warn you!  

So thank you to everyone for reading this blog.  Thank you for everyone that contributed.  And thank you for giving Stuart a chance -- I think you will enjoy his insights.  

Comings and Goings at Green Building Law Update

I try to keep announcement posts to a minimum.  This is an announcement post because I have lots of announcements. 

Green Building Law Update has moved

My family and I have re-located to Kansas City, Kansas.  My entire family lives in Kansas City.  My business partners live in Kansas City.  The move was a no-brainer and we are loving it here.

My new contact information: 

Chris Cheatham, Esq., LEED AP


phone: 202-553-3181

What am I doing now? 

Over the last year, I have been working through two companies -- Cheatham Consulting, LLC and The Law Office of Christopher W. Cheatham, LLP.  During this time, I have also learned that to create a successful business you have to have laser focus and ignore distractions.  Ultimately, I realized that I needed to focus on one entity.  

Going forward, I am working through Cheatham Consulting, LLC.  We have an incredible new service called Surety e-Claims™ that allows sureties to collect, organize and identify construction documents in a more efficient manner.  I have been told that Surety e-Claims™ could start a revolution for the surety claims industry, which is keeping me both busy and excited.  

If you are interested in Surety e-Claims™, send me an email at and I will send you our new white paper, Leveraging Technology for Surety Claims.  

Upcoming Posting Schedule

Due to my recent move, my new boy, and my new service, I have not been as active on Green Building Law Update.  And frankly, there is not as much going on in the industry because commercial construction is stagnant. 

In the coming weeks, I will be covering the following topics: 

  • An update on Destiny USA 
  • An update on the EPA headquarters protest
  • A GAO report on Energy Star that may have implications for LEED
  • An update on the Chesapeake Bay trial
  • A review of the FTC Green Guides and how they apply to green buildings

What else are you interested in reading about?  

Photo credit: planetschwa

Want to Pick My Green Building Legal Brain...for Free?

I am ready to hit the road and start talking about green building risk management.  I finally have enough cases and stories to weave together a compelling narrative about the topic.

And for a short time, I will give my presentation for free to interested companies. 

The presentation is entitled "LEEDigation: Current and Future Green Building Legal Issues."  It received great reviews from the crowd at the University of Kansas International Conference on Sustainable Design & Construction.  In fact, I was asked to make the same presentation for other companies and associations. 

I believe the presentation is unique in that we will discuss real life green building cases AND risk management strategies that companies can implement to avoid similar fates.  As I get more comfortable wearing my consulting hat, I am also getting more comfortable sharing risk management advice in lieu of litigation strategy. 

If your company has any interest in green building risks, liabilities and/or lawsuits, you will benefit from this presentation. 

If you are interested in hosting my free presentation, there are two options: 

  • We can setup a date at your company.  All I ask is that you cover travel expenses.
  • Or we can host a webinar for your company.  All I ask is that you cover the webinar costs. 

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.  Why am I doing this?  I am interested in developing relationships with companies that could use my company's claims consulting and risk management services.  But more on that July 1. 

Please send me an email ( so we can set it up.  Thanks! 

The New Green Building Law Update

For some time, I have been looking for an opportunity to shift the focus of Green Building Law Update.  That opportunity has presented itself. 

On April 28, 2011, Stone Murry Cheatham was born into the world. 

Having a son has caused me to reconsider what I am doing with this blog.  I have been writing for nearly three years, mostly about green building disputes and failed green building policies. 

Frankly, the focus of the blog has me down a bit.  I don't want my son to think I am some sort of green building curmudgeon.  I don't want to be that guy who always writes about green building problems.  I have always believed that by pointing out green building disputes and litigation, and make green buildings more successful.  But I think we are at a point where the key players in the green building industry recognize many of the unique risks. I hope this blog has contributed to that awareness.  

Thankfully, many new areas of sustainability are emerging.  I intend to write about these new trends, as well as the regulatory and legal implications. 

For example, in past posts, I have focused on LEED certification and policies.  But we are entering a new phase of green building policy -- green building codes.  The LEED rating system was the name of the game in the 2000s; green building codes will push the industry forward even further. 

And did you know there are sustainability rating systems for roads and other infrastructure projects?  These systems are in their infancy, and we all need to start discussing them. 

These are just a couple of the topics I plan to cover in the future.  The new focus of the blog will not only be more positive, but hopefully it will also provide insights into business opportunities for you. 

Thanks for reading Green Building Law Update. 

An E-book, A Conference, an Intern and a Hiatus

I finally finished the Destiny USA e-book (PDF).  If you read the blog posts, then the e-book is probably a waste of time.  If you don't know what I am talking about, download the story (PDF).  And if you want to share the story of the Destiny USA Debacle with friends and loved ones, then the e-book is the most convenient way.  Enjoy.  

I will be in Kansas City next week for the University of Kansas Green Building and Sustainability conference.  If you are in the area, I recommend that you attend.  I will be presenting on Friday about green building liability.  I have a totally new presentation ready to go based on a slew of green building lawsuits that have come out.  Register today for the event!  

Thanks to Kirk Dryer for all of his help with the Destiny USA research.  Kirk is the first-ever intern at Green Building Law Update.  He knows a ton about green buildings and he's a self starter.  I really enjoy working with him.  Glad to have you on board, Kirk.   

Finally, I am going away for one month.  I have another blog in the works and I am going to focus on getting it launched.  While I am away, Kirk and I will be posting guest articles and interviews.  If you are interested in being featured, contact me:  

It's time to go watch some basketball.  Rock Chalk Jayhawk! 

Best of Green Building Law 2010, Part I

It is the week between Christmas and New Year's, which can only mean one thing:  bloggers are getting lazy and doing "best of" posts. 

In years past, I have highlighted three of my favorite blog posts from my own blog but in retrospect, that seems a bit self-aggrandizing.  Make no mistake, I am still going to point out one of my own posts, but I am also going to point out some other posts from around the interwebs that I found interesting. 

One such post was an interview conducted by fellow green building legal blogger, Stephen Del Percio.  Stephen was responsible for breaking what was easily the biggest green building legal story of the year:  the Henry Gifford class action lawsuit against the US Green Building Council for $100 million dollars.  While the content of the lawsuit was certainly interesting, I have found the posture of Gifford and his attorney to be fascinating, which Stephen details in his interview with Gifford's counsel.  Enjoy!

Late last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Norah Hart, counsel for Henry Gifford in his class action suit against the USGBC in the Southern District of New York, which has elicited some very strong reactions throughout the green building community. According to Ms. Hart, USGBC has retained outside counsel to defend it in the action, and is currently working with Mr. Gifford (through Ms. Hart’s office) to understand Mr. Gifford’s intentions in filing the suit. Here’s, specifically, what Ms. Hart told me she has communicated to USGBC through its attorneys:

USGBC has said that its goal is ‘market transformation’ and indeed they have achieved remarkable results and are in the fortunate position to be able to truly effect change.  We believe that the disclosure of utility bills – which some districts are already requiring – is the fastest way to bring an energy efficiency premium into the market. Markets are most efficient when accurate information is available. If buyers can see the past energy use bills of a property, they can weigh its energy efficiency into the price they will pay. If developers and planning officials see the actual energy bills of existing buildings in their region, they can choose design and construction techniques that are proven to work, and inevitably, will begin to adopt practices that save fuel and money. The disclosure of actual energy use bills will transform the market.

According to Ms. Hart, the plaintiffs are also currently “formulating a list of the injunctive measures [they] want to see, namely, that actual energy bills for all [LEED-certified buildings] are available, databased in an accessible, meaningful way, so information is available with which honest assessment can be done.”

It’s interesting that the parties seem to be – at least on the surface – engaged in these discussions at such an early stage in the litigation. However, the negotiations raise a number of questions, particularly with respect to the building performance data that Ms. Hart hopes to obtain. First, as Larry Spielvogel has pointed out, that raw data is not particularly useful without other pertinent information about each building (such as its occupancy levels, user types, etc.). Second, much building performance data is highly proprietary; as attorney Brian Anderson noted in an email to me, what would be the implications for that raw data becoming public knowledge? “Can USGBC really force building tenants and owners to give information if they have not signed off on such disclosures in their leases?” Anderson asks.

Independent from this latest development, I have also been getting quite a few inquiries over the past few weeks about next legal steps in the action and, assuming something isn’t worked out between the parties in the interim, here’s a rough outline of how the action could move forward:

  • The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a party to respond to a complaint within twenty (20) days, unless the time to respond is extended by mutual consent of the parties’ attorneys (which it has been here for USGBC, according to Ms. Hart).
  • Unless the parties are able to reach some sort of resolution, I expect that USGBC will move to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (which permit a party to make such a motion in lieu of answering on a number of bases); 
  • Finally, my guess is that such a motion would not be successful (at least with respect to all of the causes of action in the complaint). At that point, the parties could go back to the negotiation table, or the plaintiffs could move to certify the class under Rule 23(a). In deciding that type of motion (which USGBC would oppose), a court is permitted to order limited discovery, which might (or might not) create a pressure point encouraging settlement. It’s also important to note that the timeframe during which these procedural mechanisms will play out are significant (months, if not years), so this is a story that we will likely be tracking for some time.

As always, we’ll stay on top of any further developments in the suit and keep you posted here at GRELJ.

Happy Holidays From Green Building Law Update

I want to wish all of the Green Building Law Update readers a Happy Holidays!   I am in sunny Phoenix this week with my wife's family and I was astounded to learn yesterday that both my father-in-law and my wife's uncle both read this blog.
To my family, friends, colleagues and associates, thank you for sticking with my blog and thank you for contributing to the conversation, whether via posting a comment, a tweet, an email or a phone call or conversation.  I could not have kept it up without each of you. 

As always, I would love to hear about your projects and plans for 2011. Feel free to email me or call me next week or anytime in the future.

Thank you,

Chris Cheatham

Follow Developments at Green Legal Matters

I am excited about the Green Legal Matters conference in New Orleans this week.  If you can't join us in person, I will be providing live tweets from the event (and hopefully getting a few others to join me).  If you would like to follow tweets from the event, please follow the tag #GLMN for updates on the green building legal conference.  I will try and send at least one tweet from each seminar I attend.  

Thank you to Douglas Reiser for joining me on a panel entitled "The Green Building Legal Apocalypse."  Doug and I will be presenting on the Smart Cities track, so we have decided to tackle the subject of why cities and states need to stop mandating LEED certification for private construction.  As the title suggests, cities and states that do adopt private construction LEED mandates will likely be the hotbed of LEEDigation.  We will be making the presentation available next week.  

And don't forget to check out the Twitter tag #GLMN and let us know what you think. 

Don't Miss This Green Building Legal Conference

Before we jump in to more substantive posts, I wanted to highlight an upcoming green building legal conference that is simply a must attend. 

The Green Legal Matters conference is running from October 13-15 in New Orleans.  I have never been more excited to attend a professional conference.  The speakers are a who's who of green building legal practitioners including many of my blogging friends, like:

The one presentation I am most looking forward to is Susan Dorn's "LEED From Where I Sit."  Susan is the General Counsel for the United States Green Building Council and she will have interesting thoughts on the future of LEED and the law.  In addition to green building legal topics, there will be presentations about other sustainability issues, like renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions.  I am speaking on October 15 and while my topic and co-presenters are up in the air, I promise I will make it interesting and innovative.

I am going to do my best to cajole my fellow bloggers out for a big night on Bourbon Street on October 14, and I hope you join us as well.  If you are interested, email me at

Go sign up for Green Legal Matters right now! 

Photo Credit:  traffik

The World is Your Green Building Oyster

I will be taking a break from blogging over the next two weeks for a vacation.  But I promise you that I will be thinking about green building - much to the chagrin of my wife.  I will be thinking about green building because I am more excited than ever by the opportunities that are out there.  Two recent encounters opened my eyes to these opportunities.

I have been in the Midwest this week meeting with contractors and attorneys about green building and construction issues.  As I sat down with one contractor, he told me about a school he was building that would hopefully be the city's first LEED school.  The first!  You can't throw a rock in Washington, D.C. without hitting a LEED building.  He also told me about the local United States Green Building (USGBC) chapter that had recently launched in his city.  As I looked out the window at the downtown, I imagined all of the green buildings that would be developed in the coming years.  And I grew very excited.   

Later in the week, I visited my friend Kim, her husband and her six-month old baby.  We started talking about our old high school friends and their crazy Facebook status updates, which inevitably led to my green building blog.  "What exactly is a green building?" she asked.  Its not a question I get very often in Washington, D.C.  I pointed to the windows in her home.  Imagine that you seal those windows to prevent drafts.  I pointed to the roof.  Imagine if you insulated your attic and walls to reduce the amount of heating and cooling you needed.  That is green building.  I then explained that the LEED rating system was being used to identify green buildings, particularly in the commercial sector. 

"Oh yea, I have heard of that, that is for people that want to brag!" her husband exclaimed. 

As I stifled laughter, I also thought about the fact that green building simply is not an accepted practice in the Midwest - yet.  LEED certification is "bragging."  Cities are just now getting their first LEED projects and launching USGBC chapters.  Its important to realize the state of green building, and the perceptions about it, outside of our bubbles, like mine in Washington, D.C. 

That is what I will be thinking about the next two weeks.  How about you?

Photo credit: tlindenbaum

What's Going On In Your World?

This blog post has nothing to do with green building.  It has everything to do with you and me.  

Something transformational is going on in the world right now; or at least in my little sliver of the world.  People are changing jobs left and right.  During the last few years of the Great Recession, everyone hunkered down and tried to hold on tight to their existing jobs.  But now that there is a glimmer of economic hope, people are itching to pull the trigger on new jobs or ventures.

I pulled the trigger.  I left my law firm job to launch a consulting firm -- Cheatham Consulting, LLC

By launching a own consulting firm, I now have the flexibility to respond to the needs of the construction industry.  Over the last few years, there were so many times that I was contacted by one of you with a great idea or a question.  Unfortunately, my rates and the time demands of my job prevented me from collaborating with many of you.  

I am done with that.  Let's figure out how we can work together to solve the problems that are facing the construction industry.  Eventually, I will introduce you to the services of Cheatham Consulting.  But for now, I just want to hear from you and hear about what you are doing or where you have moved to.  Please send me an email ( or call me (202-553-3181) or leave a comment or a tweet or head over to the Green Building Law Update Fanpage and let me (and everyone else) know what you are up to. 

What's going on in your world? 

Photo Credit: hownowdesign

Green Building Registrations Decline in 2010

This week, I have been morbidly fascinated with stories about the state of the economy and construction.  Not surprisingly, the construction downturn has dramatically decreased the number of projects registering for green building certification in 2010. 

The Business Journal recently came out with an excellent analysis of LEED registrations in 2010 and the results were not pretty:

"Where there were 367 LEED projects registered in North Carolina in all of 2009, only 57 were added to the pipeline in the first five months of 2010. Nationally, there were 10,498 registered projects in 2009, and only 3,071 so far in 2010.

One major cause for the drop is undoubtedly the overall contraction in commercial construction. According to estimates by industry research firm McGraw-Hill Construction, commercial and industrial projects in North Carolina fell by 19 percent in 2009, and are expected to drop by another 16 percent in 2010.

LEED registrations were still increasing in 2009 even as that broader decline took hold, but many of those projects were likely already far along in the planning process by then."

Predictions that the economic downturn would not effect the green building industry are not panning out.

In coming weeks, we will be discussing construction industry statistics and likely recovery scenarios.  Unfortunately, it's not going to get better any time soon.  

Photo Credit: Hillarie

A Brief Green Building Guide to Social Media

What would you tell a green building insider interested in social media and web 2.0? 

I recently had to answer this question, and I thought my answer might be helpful to some Green Building Law Update readers.  I decided to keep it simple.  For me, social media starts with two platforms:  blogs and Twitter. 

A number of tremendous green building blogs are now available and the best way to keep track of them is through an RSS reader.  I prefer Google Reader.  What is RSS?  I like to describe it as an online mailbox where your subscriptions to websites and blogs are delivered.  The video below also does a good job explaining RSS:

What green building blogs would I recommend?  I recommend you start with one blog that aggregates many of the best green building blogs:  Sustainable Cities Collective.  By subscribing to the Sustainable Cities Collective RSS feed, you are subscribing to a handful of green building blogs. 

The next web 2.0 platform I use is Twitter.  The first step to using Twitter is to create a user name -- I highly recommend using your own name (@chrischeatham).  After setting up your Twitter account, you need to start following people and join the conversation.  There are hundreds of green building experts on Twitter, but I am going to mention two to get you started.

  • @kilrwat - This is Rob Watson, the Father of LEED.  He is also the editor at and is not afraid to share his opinions about green building and the environment.
  • @elaineishere - Elaine Hsieh is on a bunch of LEED committees and is always in the know about the future of green building.  She regularly provides new information and helpful green building links. 
The key to Twitter is to mix it up.  Use the "@" symbol followed by someone's name to start a conversation.  Or re-tweet a link of interest.  If you think there is a problem with the LEED rating system, tell Rob.  I bet he responds.  If you have a question about the best solar strategy in California, ask Elaine.  Do something more than reading through tweets.  I have found that much of the conversation regarding Green Building Law Update occurs in Twitter and not in the comments section of my blog.  Let me know what you think (@chrischeatham). 

Once you are comfortable with Twitter, you can upgrade to power Twitter by using Hootsuite.  Hootsuite allows you to search for key terms, manage all of your online profiles and so much more in one central location.  Thanks to Matt Handal for suggesting Hootsuite. 

That is the green building version of social media. 

What did I miss?

Some New Green Building Ideas

One of the first publications that peaked my interest in green building was the AGC's SmartBrief. Each day, I would read about a new green building project or development in SmartBrief. In large part because of SmartBrief, I began to explore the legal implications associated with green building.

Last week, my blog post "Does Your Construction Project Require Davis-Bacon Wages?" was featured as SmartBrief's headline article. I was humbled and reminded that we should all support others when given the opportunity.

I have recently come across two intriguing green building legal projects that caught my attention:

  • Joshua Naggar has developed a LEED legal clinic at the University of Illinois Law School. Law students frequently contact me regarding developing a green building legal practice. Joshua came up with an innovative program to develop green-building expertise. The clinic is working with a local developer to write contracts and administer the LEED certification process. This is an interesting clinic that I expect to see replicated at other law schools.
  • Monty Lunn launched what is, to my knowledge, the first green building legal conference.  Green Legal Matters will be held April 26-28 in New Orleans -- which conveniently overlaps with Jazz Fest. I won't be able to attend due to another commitment. But many of my friends in the green building industry will be speaking including Shari Shapiro, Timothy Hughes and Chris Hill.
  • I very much wish I could attend Susan Dorn's keynote at the Green Legal Matters conference on April 27. Susan is the United States Green Building Council's General Counsel. I recently spoke to Susan about the legal issues facing the USGBC and the green building industry and I can report that she is in sync with the legal challenges we are facing. Thanks for meeting with me Susan.

Do you have an interesting green building event, idea or publication? Feel free to send it to me at

Related Links:

The University Of Illinois College Of Law is Creating Sustainable History! (University of Illinois)

Green Legal Matters Schedule (Green Legal Matters)

What's On the Horizon for Green Building Law in 2010?

[Happy New Year!

Today we are highlighting the green building legal story from 2009 that will have the most impact on the industry in 2010.  At the beginning of 2009, Congress and the Obama Administration spent months crafting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which eventually included over $25 billion for green projects.  Less attention was paid to how these ARRA funds would be administered.  The story below suggested that states and cities may have trouble administering ARRA green funds.]

"The Stimulus: Now for the hard part"

On February 17, CNN ran the above headline after President Obama signed the stimulus bill.  To me, a more perfect headline could not have been written. 
Ever since I read about the stimulus bill, one particular nuance has interested me:  the package does not include earmarks.  Due to the lack of earmarks, the hardest part of the stimulus bill may be administering the $787 billion in funds. 

The lack of earmarks has important implications for state and federal energy programs throughout the country.  Without earmarks, state energy offices will have wide-ranging discretion in doling out large sums of money not previously seen: 

The biggest test of the administration’s energy goals may come in spending the billions that have been devoted to states and cities for improving energy efficiency.  To get the money out quickly, the plans sends it through a range of programs that are not accustomed to seeing funding on this scale.  State energy offices that annually receive less than $100 million combined from Washington are slated to receive $3.4 billion. 

A recent NPR story, "Earmark-Free Stimulus Bill Lacks Spending Direction", focused on the potential problems that may arise when the money is sent to the states:  
When this bill passes, a Niagara Falls of money will flow out of Washington and into the accounts of state highway commissioners, governors and legislatures, local school boards, county executives -- even mayors, [the Brookings Institution's Sarah] Binder says.

"It raises a whole host of questions about how efficiently money can be spent, how effectively it will be spent, how quickly money can be spent, just because there's no set process here for determining how money will get out the door to create jobs or, as the president said, to save jobs," she says.

In one particular instance, a South Carolina official who runs the state’s energy efficiency programs, will be tasked with managing large sums of money and finding proper projects and programs for the money:
In South Carolina, the state energy office is so small that its director, John Clark, answers the phone.  He said his office, which receives $.15 million per year, has put out an urgent call to state offices and school districts for energy-saving projects to receive.  He will also have to advise the state’s cities and counties, which have even less experience in big energy efficiency projects and are slated to get $35 million of their own from a separate $3.5 billion block-grant program in the package.”  
While Republicans, Democrats and the President argued over the stimulus package for weeks, the real battle may arise when state agencies and officials attempt to divide up the stimulus funding and choose the projects that receive funding.  How are you planning to seize the opportunities that arise from the stimulus? 

The Most Important Green Building Legal Story of the Year

[Today we are highlighting the what is, in my opinion, the most important green building legal story of 2009

With the launch of LEED v. 3.0, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) announced it would revoke certification of projects that failed to meet minimum requirements.  The possibility of LEED de-certification creates new liability issues for all parties involved in any green building project and emphasizes the growing emphasis on building operations. 

This post resulted in a firestorm of comments (31) that are more interesting than the original post.  Thanks to everyone for contributing to the informative conversation.]


This Post is Really Important and Is Not for the Faint of Heart

Disclaimer:  If you are sensitive to or frightened by new risks and liabilities in the green building industry, please skip this post.

On Monday, I highlighted the USGBC's decision to create requirements to ensure a building's performance matches modeled energy savings.  I finished the post by asking, what happens to projects that do not comply? 

Okay, brace yourself


It is time to introduce a new word into your green building vocabulary:  de-certification. 

Every time I start thinking about the implications from de-certification, my head starts spinning and I have to sit down. 

It just happened again. 

I have definitely not uncovered all of the potential issues, but here are three that immediately jump to mind:

1.  De-certification makes regulations tied to LEED certification very difficult to enforce.  What does a jurisdiction do if a project is de-certified?

2.  Insurers and sureties are going to be extremely concerned about coverage issues after design and construction work is complete.  Could an architect or contractor remain on the hook for potential de-certification long after a project has been completed? 

3.  For you owners out there, the commitment to provide energy data must carry forward if a building or space changes ownership or lessee.  How in the world do you write this into a contract? 

The room is starting to spin again.  Please elaborate on any additional risks and liabilities implicated by de-certification in the comments.

Photo:  Kevin (iapetus)

What Do You Want to Discuss?

You may have noticed that I have moved to a new law firm, one of the top law firms in the world. I am working in the government contracts group, widely regarded as the preeminent government contracts practice, hands down. I get to speak to and work with incredible lawyers on a daily basis, and now have tremendous resources at my disposal.
So the question is, how can I use these resources to benefit you? Some topics that I think might be of interest are:
  • Government contracting under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Financing mechanisms for green building
  • Legal issues surrounding renewable energy
  • Start-up issues for green businesses
  • Antitrust issues related to green building products and certifications
  • Deceptive trade practice claims that will impact green businesses
But you need to let me know what topics are of interest to you.

What do you want to read about, learn about and discuss?


Green Building Law Update Gets a New Home

Today, I am starting work at a new law firm: Crowell & Moring.  I am excited and I think you will see why with a single story. 

My last day at my previous law firm was August 19.  What did I do on my first day off?  Sadly, I wrote blog posts.  I have to keep all of you happy!  As I was reviewing clipped articles for story ideas, I came across the following: 

Green Building Construction: Rewards, Rules and Risks

Increasing public awareness and government attention has jumpstarted market demand for environmentally-friendly or “green” building designs, construction practices and final products.  Green building construction is the wave of the future and is inevitable for any company constructing in America.  However, the possibility for liability is huge, which makes it vitally important to think-out projects from contracting, through construction, until the desired certification level has been achieved.  This session will inform contractors and owners of the best way to situate themselves now to mitigate the inevitable litigation fall-out.


Randy Erickson, Administrative Partner and Construction Practice Group Co-Chair, Crowell & Moring LLP

Deborah Arbabi, Counsel,  Crowell & Moring LLP 
Rosemary Carson, Associate, Crowell & Moring  LLP 
Bernadette Stafford, Associate, Crowell & Moring LLP

Sponsor: Crowell & Moring LLP

Incredible!  My first day off, and I am already reading about my new firm's involvement with green building law.  Fantastic. 

If you are going to be at the Construction Superconference in December, I would highly recommend dropping in on this session.  Say hello to my firm's attorneys.  We would love to hear from you.  I would love to hear from you.  In fact, here is my new contact information:

Chris Cheatham
Crowell & Moring
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.  20004
P - 202.624.2717

Photo: Merrick Brown

Demystifying Green Roofs

[I am on vacation this week in Phoenix and then Kansas City so I bring you GUEST POSTS!  I met each of the guest authors somewhere along the way and asked them to contribute.  Hope you enjoy.]

By Linda McIntyre

Does the notion of plants on a roof seem bizarre, even dangerous, to you? If so, that’s understandable--there aren’t a lot of green roofs in the US yet. But their numbers are growing, because green roofs--relatively simple installations usually featuring low-growing herbaceous plants, not park-like roof gardens with furniture and trees--can be useful functional tools when properly designed, installed and maintained.

A green roof has a waterproofing membrane like any relatively flat roof. Above the membrane, plants grow in a layer, usually four to six inches deep, of mostly mineral-based medium that looks like gravel, not soil. A drainage layer comprising coarse aggregate or synthetic sheets ensures the system will drain properly after it reaches field capacity, and fabrics are available to protect the membrane from roots if the material isn’t naturally repellent. These layers make up the green roof assembly. Think of a ballasted roof with plants growing among the stones.

Why put a green roof on a building? It can help control stormwater runoff (a big and growing problem in cities), reduce energy costs (especially for air conditioning), and provide amenity space for employees or residents (if a building’s loading capacity allows for such access, a green roof assembly can provide a cost-effective garden). The green roof assembly, when properly designed and installed, protects the membrane, extending the lifespan of the roof. It can earn LEED points and make a building more marketable. If built on a mass scale, green roofs can mitigate the urban heat island effect that makes densely-built cities so uncomfortable in hot weather. A green roof aggregates benefits in a way that other approaches, such as reflective white roofs, which also save energy, can’t. And it will almost certainly look better than a black tar roof.

Maybe you’ve seen a couple of green roofs and been unimpressed. Not every green roof is flamboyantly beautiful, and not every project is successful. There’s no “Consumer Reports” for green roof components, and trial and error is unavoidable with any new technology. Green roofs are common in Europe, but still relatively new here, and we have a more variable climate and a different building culture. Research, project data, and the accumulation of experience are helping to fill knowledge gaps and making it easier to design and install successful green roofs.

A green roof isn’t the right choice for every building. It’s always going to cost more, and installation will always be more complicated. Especially for the first year or two of its life, it will require more maintenance than a conventional roof. But, more and more, it’s a choice worth considering.

Linda McIntyre is a writer specializing in environmental and urban issues. She is working with nurseryman and consultant Ed Snodgrass on a book about designing, installing, and maintaining green roofs, to be published by Timber Press in 2010.

Who Am I?

Recently, I was asked about my involvement with green building.  Why do I keep pointing out potential legal issues that the green building industry may have to confront?  Am I just an impediment to the green building industry? 

Here is my answer.  I am going to use this in the About section up above. 

I am a construction litigator.  I am also a LEED Accredited Professional (AP).  If you want a standard biography describing the articles I have written, the organizations I am a part of, or the schools I went to, go ahead and view my law firm profile, or better yet, my LinkedIn profile.  This section is going to be about why I started Green Building Law Update.

When I studied for the LEED AP exam, I got hooked on green building and became convinced this was the future for the construction industry.  Just after I passed the exam, I began reviewing the D.C. Green Building Act of 2006.  As I stated in one of my first Green Building Law Update posts, when I read the “Performance Bond” section of the Act, I gasped.  In that moment, I realized lawyers have an important role to play in the green building industry.

With any new industry, there will be issues and conflicts that must be resolved.  The green building industry is no different.  Through Green Building Law Update, I aim to point out the problematic regulations and industry trends that are ripe for litigation (i.e. LEEDigation) in order to hopefully prevent some of these issues and conflicts from arising.  If the issues and conflicts do arise, hopefully Green Building Law Update will lead you to contact me.  

These are my goals.  How am I doing? 

What do you think?  Are you convinced? 

Green Building Thoughts: The Stimulus, The Bond, LEED AP, and Rock Chalk

It may surprise you to learn that I have a real job.  Seriously, I do and I love it!  I am a construction litigator and I am currently involved in a major construction delay claim.  I have been preparing a motion the last few days, hence the late filing of today’s post. 

There is a lot going on in the green building world.  The Stimulus.  D.C.’s unique green building bond (i.e. the green building unicorn).  LEED AP exam deadlines.  And also a little basketball.  I often don’t have time to touch on all the issues I would like, so today, I provide you my thoughts on these many issues. 

The stimulus.  In my “Green in the Stimulus” slideshow, I indicated that the General Services Administration has until April 3, 2009 to prepare a list of federal projects to receive stimulus-funding.  While that is true, apparently the GSA does not intend to release this list on April 3:  “Morris said a list of stimulus-funded projects is being vetted by the administration, but he could not give a date for the list’s release.”  Stay tuned for further details.

The D.C. Bond.  You may have noticed that I have been writing a lot about the D.C. Green Building Act's performance bond requirement.  It seems the issue takes a new turn everyday.  The most recent rumor is that the D.C. may incorporate the green building bond into zoning requirements.  How are we going the wrong way on this?  Look for a guest post next week on the issue. 

The LEED AP Exam.  I get a lot of google hits from people trying to decide if they should take the LEED AP exam.  My general thought is that if you are interested in a career in green building and you have some free time and money, you should take the exam.  You do know the deadline to sign up for the LEED AP exam is March 31, right?  Also, the Green Building Certification Institute recently announced that you actually have to take the LEED AP exam by June 30, 2009.   

The Defending Champions.  Finally, it is my favorite time of year.  It is the time of year when the University of Kansas Jayhawks take flight.  In addition to my job and this blog, I also am just a little bit COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY (ed: my fiancee made this change) obsessed with Kansas Jayhawks basketball.  Always have been, always will be.  I hope Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Bill Self and company continue rolling and dispatch of the Spartans in quick fashion tonight.  Rock Chalk Jayhawk! 

Photo:  ruralocity

Sensible Interview: Me

Recently, I took part in an interview with LexBlog, the company responsible for creating this and many other legal blogs.  Today's "Sensible Interview" includes three of my favorite questions from the LexBlog interview.  If you would like to read the full interview, go here


Lisa Kennelly: Is the blog helping you become a better lawyer?

Chris Cheatham: Yes. I write about green building law, which is really an emerging legal practice. As a result, I have to point out where the legal issues are going to arise. I don't have case law to rely on. Having to point out potential green building law issues has helped me recognize issues and problems that my clients may face down the road.

Lisa Kennelly: Is the blog helping further enhance your reputation from a client development standpoint?

Chris Cheatham: Most definitely. A perfect example occurred in a client conference call a few months ago. Before the conference call began, we were all exchanging greetings. Out of nowhere, our client's general counsel says, "Chris, I have really enjoyed reading your green building blog." I was stunned for a minute and finally stammered out a thank you. Other clients and prospects have invited me in to do green building presentations. The client interaction created by the blog is great.

Lisa Kennelly: What's been most rewarding about blogging?

Chris Cheatham: The most rewarding part of blogging is seeing something happen that you have been talking about. I can think of a couple examples. In December, the DC City Council announced that they were going to revise a component of their green building act that was problematic for the surety industry. One of my first posts, and many subsequent posts, discussed the problems with the specific component of the act. That was very rewarding, to think that I contributed to the change in the act (even if I didn't!).

The other example was actually the emergence of the first instance of green building litigation. The general premise of my blog is that the green building industry is going to have legal issues that need to be resolved. In one of my first posts, I predicted the emergence of significant green building litigation very soon. Low and behold, a few months later, I learned of the first example of green building litigation. I like to think that I am helping my readers avoid this type of litigation as they get involved in green building projects.

Related Links:


Why Build Green in Virginia? It Just Makes Sense

[Green Building Law Update is achieving another first:  our first guest post!  Christopher G. Hill is a Virginia construction attorney and recently started a legal blog, Construction Law Musings.  I first met Chris through Twitter and I appreciate his willingness to discuss green building legal issues.]

By:  Christopher G. Hill
Lately terms such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Green Building have been thrown about in the press, by politicians, and by local zoning and building officials in Virginia. 
Nationally, the Obama administration has shown support for green building.  Locally, the Richmond City Counsel recently passed Resolution 2008 R 152 that will require all new city buildings to meet the LEED Silver Rating (defined by the U. S. Green Building Council (“USGBC”)) by 2010.  Tim Kaine, the Governor of Virginia, issued Executive Order 48 indicating his support for green building and the LEED standards and has recently shown support for the use of green related job creation in the face of the recent recession.  Other localities, notably Arlington, Virginia, have passed building code standards or zoning ordinances requiring green certification.  In short, green building is here to stay.


Aside from the governmental impetus to learn green building techniques, two factors require that Virginia contractors learn to build green.  These two factors are simply 1.  project owners want green buildings and 2.  those contractors that do not keep up with the “greening” of construction are likely to fall behind and struggle to stay afloat in today’s economy.


Project owners want green buildings for many reasons.  Owners want to be seen as environmentally friendly and civic minded.  Additionally, and possibly more importantly, owners save money (both initially and over time) by building green.  As an example, use of integrated green building methods requires less up front costs for irrigation piping and the like and leads to use of less than one quarter of the water that a non-green building uses according to a recent study.  Lower water usage means lower operating costs.  Couple these factors with tax incentives and the like provided by the government and the benefits of green building to owners are obvious.


Because of the environmental benefits and cost savings inherent in a green building approach, contractors versed in green building can sell their services more readily than those that do not.  First of all, a “green” contractor will be among a limited set of contractors to whom an owner seeking green certification for its building will look.  Second of all, if an owner asks you for input, you can sell him or her on the benefits of your services over a comparable non-“green” contractor.  In both of these instances, being knowledgeable in green construction and its benefits will serve your business well.


As always, be sure to consult with a legal professional regarding the contract requirements on such a project before bidding on the job to avoid headaches at the end of the project.  As with any new area of business, you are better off anticipating issues rather than responding to them.   


Green Building Law Update Gets Interviewed

Today, we bring you a first on Green Building Law Update:  my first radio interview

Vik Duggal, over at Konstructr, was kind enough to invite me to be a guest on his KCast interview series.  Konstructr is basically Facebook for the construction industry. 

Some of the topics we discuss include green building attorneys, President Obama's proposed economic recovery package, Twitter and Washington D.C.'s Green Building Act. 

There is one correction I need to make from the interview.  Despite what Vik says, I do not have a "LEED AP" tattoo (or any tattoo for that matter).  Enjoy and please send me your suggestions for future radio interviews! 

"What is Green Building Law?"

I like categories.  I like to categorize ideas, issues and thoughts in order to develop my understanding.  The same is true for green building law; I like to think of this emerging practice in terms of categories.

The other day I was asked "what is green building law?" by an environmental attorney.  I had never really been asked that question before so I reverted to my categories.  This is what I told the environmental attorney, almost word for word:

Green building law has both front-end and back-end components.  At the front end, you have the contract.  Additionally, you have to deal with financing, land use and real estate legal issues.

At the back end, green building law deals with potential disputes.  These potential disputes fall into one of three categories:  

(1) Certification - Disputes arise from green building certification when a project fails to achieve certification.  Which party will be responsible for the failed certification?

(2) Regulations - Regulations refer to those green building regulations that require or incentivize green building development.  Failure to comply with these regulations can result in green building litigation.

(3) Green building strategies -  Specific components of a green building  that can result in litigation.  The example I give is a green roof that leaks.  Who will be responsible for the leaking green roof?

Do these categories properly define green building law?  What am I forgetting?  Most importantly, do you have a better understanding of what a green building attorney can do for your business?  

All A-Twitter About Green Building Law

If you are reading this blog, you are likely well-versed in social media or have at least heard of Twitter.*  Through Twitter (follow me here), I have had some amazing conversations about green building and the law and I would like to share one of them with you that really highlights how quickly a green building project can go bad. 

Sara Sweeney is an architect in New Jersey specializing in sustainable building research and consulting.  She is also a twitter user and recently started a blog.  The following is an actual conversation she and I had on Twitter: 
sarasweeney: Working on LEED application. Totally confused myself. Had 1 pt down for LEED Energy & Atmosphere Credit 1, when we had 6. Phew. All is right with world again.
chrischeatham: Glad you fixed that. Makes me wonder what happens when someone doesn't actually catch this type of mistake...
sarasweeney:  Yes, was wondering what I was going to tell the client for about 15 minutes. Um, we actually are Silver now...
Sara is smart and, thankfully, she caught her mistake.  But this short conversation demonstrates how easy it is to make a mistake that costs a project LEED certification.  For every 100 consultants or architects correctly filling out LEED applications, there will be one that does not.  One mistake, like what Sara described, could result in a project obtaining LEED Silver certification when the owner was anticipating LEED Gold certification.     

*If you would like to learn more about twitter, watch this video.  You can also follow my twitter stream here.  Twitter is going to be all the rage in 2009, you should jump on board now.

GLBU Prediction 2009: It's All About the Retrofit

"Green" was the buzz word in 2008.  In 2009, Green Building Law Update predicts that green buzz words will become more nuanced and the focus will be on "energy efficiency," "retrofits," and "existing buildings." 

I don't mind making this prediction because it is not much of a stretch.  There are three factors that will contribute to the popularity of retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy efficiency. 

First, as we have been discussing all week, President-Elect Obama is pushing a large stimulus package aimed at, in part, improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings and homes.  Yesterday, President-Elect Obama again stated his plan "to modernize 75 percent of federal buildings and improve energy efficiency in 2 million homes to save consumers billions of dollars on energy bills."

The second factor that will contribute to increased popularity for retrofitting current building stock is a slowdown in new building project developments.  At this point, we have all heard the dire warnings of a construction slowdown.  This construction slowdown is due, in part, to tightened lending options.  We also know that tenants are now demanding green buildings.  The result will be that building owners will look to "retrofit" their existing buildings so as to offer more green building options. 

Finally, climate legislation in the form of cap-and-trade is coming.  Early investments now to reduce energy use through retrofits will pay off for big businesses. 

What do you think?  Are my predictions off?  What is your one prediction for the green building industry in 2009?   

Related Links:

Best of 2008 According To GBLU!

As we close out 2008 here at Green Building Law Update, we must acknowledge all of the people, contributors and thought leaders out there that helped us come up with our content.  

This list could go on forever but neither you nor I are interested in long posts this time of year.  Please feel free to make a comment below and link to your website or tell the world how you contributed to the green building community in 2008.  

Without further ado, here is the Best of 2008 according to Green Building Law Update:  

•    Best Bloggers of 2008 – I read a lot of blogs but two bloggers really stand out:  Stephen Del Percio and Shari Shapiro.  Stephen blogs over at GreenBuildingsNYC and Green Real Estate Law Journal.  When I first got into blogging, Stephen showed me the ropes.  Shari blogs over at Green Building Law Blog.  She has been a great source of thoughts and ideas and was nice enough to include me in a book writing project.  If you haven’t checked out their blogs, do so now!

•    Best Find of 2008 – As you may recall, Green Building Law Update spent a lot of time discussing the Shaw Development v. Southern Builders case.  Stephen Del Percio was the enterprising attorney who found this case originally.  Even better, he was nice enough to share it with us all.  If you aren’t concerned about green building liability yet, you should read the complaint.  

•    Best Legal Marketers of 2008 – This one is not even close.  The developers of the blog software I am using, LexBlog, get this accolade hands down.  If you are looking to develop a legal blog, you should look no further than LexBlog.

•    Best Software of 2008 – Anything Google.  If Google were to go away, this blog would go away.  Aside from the obvious Google Search, which drives traffic, I have also come to rely on Google Alerts, Google Docs and Google Reader to maintain this blog.  If Google produces it, I will try it.  You should too!

•    Best Hardware of 2008 – My MacBook Pro.  Santa really knew what he was doing when he delivered this item last Christmas.  The switch from a PC to a Mac is so much easier than I realized.  

•    Second Biggest Political Story of 2008 – In the aftermath of the Obama win, another political move occurred that didn’t get as much press coverage as expected:  Rep. Henry Waxman successfully won his bid to take over the Energy and Environment Committee next year.  The ramifications of this move on future environmental laws is much bigger than most realize.  Look for a GBLU post on this in the near future.   

This list would be remiss without one more best of, but this best of can't be put in a bullet point.  I often get the question, "how did you get involved with green building?"  For those that don't know, my fiancee, Melissa, is a big deal in the environmental world.  One day, on a whim, I asked her, "what is the deal with all of these green building articles I am seeing?"  She patiently explained to me green buildings.  I was skeptical at first, but her patience wore me down and now I can't stop talking about green building.  Melissa, thanks for your patience with all this blogging nonsense. 

There you have it, a recap of the Best of 2008 according to Green Building Law Update.  On Wednesday, we will return to our traditional posts regarding green building laws and disputes.  Thanks for bearing with us over the Holidays! 

Thank You

As we all settle in for the Holidays, I want to extend a thank you to all of my readers.  Green Building Law Update has far exceeded my expectations in just a few short months.  None of this could have happened without all of you reading my blog, subscribing to my blog and telling other people about my blog.  I cannot thank you enough.

In its most simple form, Green Building Law Update provides a forum for us to discuss interesting articles and green building legal developments.  In its most complicated form, Green Building Law Update is a snapshot of the development of an entirely new legal field and design and construction industry.  The latter is quite overwhelming and so I prefer to think of this blog in its simple form. 

What I am most amazed by is the interest that everyone has taken in the articles I select on a weekly basis.  I know there is a lot of information available and we only have a limited amount of time to consume this information.  Please do not ever hesitate to let me know what information you want to hear about or what information I should stop talking about.  Or just drop a quick email so we can chat or meet sometime (my email:  

Green Building Law Update will take a short break until next Monday.  Thank you and Happy Holidays! 


The State of Green Building

In anticipation of GreenBuild, Green Building Law Update is going to step back and ask: what is the state of green building? 

These are definitely interesting times for the green building industry.  On the one hand, as I have highlighted, green building projects may have to be shelved due to the tight lending market.  But making conclusions based on a snapshot of the current green building industry is short-sighted.  Prior to the economic crisis, we were in the middle of a “green revolution” and the revolution will continue when we emerge from the slumping economy. 

I am not the only one voicing these long-term positive expectations for green building: 

"The state of the art will be green," said Block, partner at Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt LLP. "There’s no question about that." Block pointed out that as part of their more stringent standards, lenders will insist on the-state-of-the-art when it comes to financing new construction. Moreover, government is leading the way in mandating green standards, he added.

If the state of the art is going to be green, maybe it’s time you learn about green building.  Stick with Green Building Law Update and we will lead you through the “green revolution.” 

Related Links


Come hear construction, design and surety experts speak about emerging green building litigation and risks:

Green Building:  Opportunity or Legal Quagmire? 

Green Building: Opportunity or a Legal Quagmire?

Sorry, I won't be answering this rhetorical question today.  Instead, a group of construction, design and surety legal experts will attempt to address this difficult question at an upcoming symposium: 

What:  Trends in Green Building Seminar

Who:  Tom Mawson - The USGBC and Trends in Green Building; Chris Cheatham - The Emergence of Green Building Litigation; Bryan Phillips - Green Construction: A Legal Perspective, Dan Knise - Designing Green - With Reward Comes Risk, Geoff Delisio - A Surety Perspective on Green Building

When: Tuesday, December 2, 2008  9:00 - 12:00 AM

Where:  4301 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203

You can also download a complete invitation here

I will be speaking about the emergence of green building litigation with a focus on the Shaw Development v. Southern Builders case.  Other speakers will address green building issues from a construction, design and surety perspective.  Seating is limited so please RSVP by November 21 to Nancy Shipley at

Let me know if you have any questions regarding the event.  If you are going to attend let me know ( -- I would love to meet some of my readers!  

When Should I Take the LEED AP exam?

During my speaking engagements regarding green building legal issues, I have noticed that the same questions keep coming up.  I thought I would begin to answer some of these questions for Green Building Law Update readers that have the similar questions.

Question:  When should I take the LEED Accredited Professional (AP) examination

This is a tricky question.  You may or may not know that the current version of the LEED rating system is Version 2.2.  In 2009, the USGBC is releasing a new version of the LEED rating system, version 3.0.  What does this have to do with the LEED AP exam?  The LEED AP exam primarily tests your knowledge of the LEED rating system.  When a new rating system is implemented, a new version of the LEED AP exam must be created. 

When the Green Building Certification Institute (the entity responsible for administering the LEED AP exam) creates the LEED AP exam for version 3.0, the exam will likely be more difficult.  According to Professional Publications Inc., "the LEED 2009 exams will be more difficult than the current versions with an expected pass rate of only 20%, compared to 34% for the current exams."  Furthermore, Professional Publications Inc. states that "the GBCI will stop administering the current LEED exams in late December, and availability of the LEED 2009 exams has not yet been announced." 

In short, you are best served to take the LEED AP exam before 2009.  

Have questions for Green Building Law Update?  Send your questions to or post them in the comments section below. 

UPDATE:  GreenBuild Recap Part II: New LEED AP Program Announced

Related Links


Welcome to Green Building Law Update

It has been a long time coming, but Green Building Law Update (“GBLU”) is finally launching today.  GBLU is a legal blog dedicated to monitoring green building trends, regulations and codes, and potential disputes and litigation. 

Green Building Law Update is based on the premise that new and unique legal issues will arise as green building becomes more commonplace.  For example, a recent AIA study recently reported a 400% increase in County Green Building Programs.  Not surprisingly, construction industry groups recently filed the first challenge in federal district court to a green building codes.  GBLU will anticipate, analyze and react  to this and other legal challenges as they emerge.  

The plan is to post a weekly update regarding green building issues but posts will become more frequent as these issues increase. GBLU would welcome any green building, construction or legal questions or comments.  With your permission, these questions may be used as a post topic. Also, GLBU invites you to take advantage of RSS feeds or email updates by signing up on the right hand side of the website under “SUBSCRIBE.”  Thanks for reading GBLU! 

Green Building Law is coming...

    During a recent Green Building Institute Webinar, I had the pleasure of hearing Dan Murphy, Senior Vice President of Environmental Systems Design, speak about potential liability resulting from green building projects.  Dan poignantly stated what I have been thinking for awhile:

"There has been no significant green building litigation, yet.  I emphasize the word yet."  

    Dan is right.  So far, the green building world has avoided major litigation.  Some green building claims have arisen but were subsequently settled.  Major litigation has been avoided because those undertaking green building did so for non-financial reasons (e.g. the environment or goodwill).  Two factors will result in the beginning of significant green building litigation:

•    Parties undertaking green building projects for purely financial reasons will expect to make a profit
•    Cities and states will require (unwilling) parties to build green

Cities and states can require green building?  How can they do that?  More later…