Join Me for a Free Webinar: "Retrofitting Cities"

Lots to Know About Greenbuild

I honestly can't wait for Greenbuild this week.  Here are a few reasons why.

Sustainable Cities Collective

In addition to publishing Green Building Law Update, I recently became an advisory member of Sustainable Cities Collective (SSC).  SSC is a helpful website because it aggregates articles and blog posts from some of the top green and environmental authors throughout the world.  I am honored to be part of the advisory board with other luminaries like Kaid Benfield and Geoff Wilkinson. 

As part of my new role, I will be writing for SSC this week from Greenbuild.  Look for my posts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday over on the SSC website.  Additionally, I will be tweeting under the twitter name "Sustaincities".  If you want live updates throughout Greenbuild, feel free to review the SSC twitter feed and let me know what you want to hear about. 

Greenbuild Legal Forum

I have already written about the Greenbuild Legal Forum that I will be participating in on Thursday.  The topic of my short presentation will be LEEDigation.  Feel free to download my LEEDigation white paper (pdf), and let me know what you think.  You can also bet that my co-presenters - Shari Shapiro and Stephen Del Percio - and I will discuss the Gifford v. USGBC lawsuit.  Whether you are an attorney or not, I think the Legal Forum will be extremely valuable and I hope you will consider attending. 

Greenbuild Meetup

Finally, and most importantly, if you are going to be at Greenbuild, I would like to meet you.  An informal meetup has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 16, at 5:30 pm at the Gage (24 South Michigan Avenue).  If you can't make that meeting, please email me ( or call or text me (202-553-3181) so we can arrange a separate meeting.  I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

Photo credit:  jikatu

Green Professionals Happy Hour - Welcome Back!

This year is going to be the year of the green professional.  Green professionals are going to be providing instrumental services, particularly in the D.C. Metropolitan area, which is serving as an incubator for numerous green programs.  In order to bring all of you like-minded green professionals together, we are reviving the Green Professionals Happy Hour. 

Nearly thirty green professionals got together in August for a similar event.  Among the group were two published authors, multiple government employees and some of the more successful green contractors in town. 

The plan is to host bi-monthly Green Professional Happy Hours in 2010.  Ethan Landis of Landis Construction has been kind enough to volunteer to host our first event in 2010.  I have been to his headquarters and was blown away by all the features of his green building. Here are the details (or take a look at the flyer)(pdf):

Who:  Green Professionals (feel free to invite others)
What:  Green Professionals Happy Hour
Where:  Landis Construction Headquarters
   7059 Blair Road Northwest
   Washington, DC 20012
   (202) 726-3777
   Nearest metro:  Takoma Park - Red Line
   Plenty of parking available
When:  Tomorrow - Wednesday, January 20, 6 to 8 pm

Please send me an email if you have any questions or would like to RSVP:

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. 

Photo:  Limonada

Happy Labor Day

I hope everyone is having a great Labor Day.  No new post today.  Instead, I would suggest you read or re-read the New York Times article about LEED and energy performance. 

The article is one of my most important to come out on green building in awhile.  As I said on Friday, the most interesting part is the USGBC's suggestion that re-certification will be required in the future. 

What do you think? 

Shh, Don't Tell the Blog But Here are the Birthday Party Details

No substantive news today.  Instead, here are the details about the blog birthday party happy hour coming up on August 20: 

Who:  All of the Green Building Law Update readers and friends
When:  August 20, 6:00-8:00 pm
Where:  Darlington House, 1610 20th St. NW , Washington, D.C.
Why:  So we can finally meet each other.  Or so you can complain about my blog to me.  Or both! 

Check out the nifty flyer (PDF) I put together for all the details. 

I am really excited about the happy hour.  I have teamed up with my friends over at the Horinko Group for a great night at one of our favorite local bars, the Darlington House (formerly the Childe Harold, if you are a DC local).  Hopefully, I will get to meet a bunch of you at the event. 

Six people have already RSVP'ed before the details were even put together.  Those six people will be receiving a very special party favor in the mail.  Fourteen more of you who RSVP to attend can get in on the free gift as well.   So don't wait!  And please invite your friends. 

Have a great weekend everyone. 

Birthday Party for Green Building Law Update

Last week, my blog had one of those moments when I realized it was growing up before my eyes. 

Robert J. MacPherson is the Chair of the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry.  In the recent issue of The Construction Lawyer (the Forum's Journal), Mr. MacPherson published a farewell column as outgoing Chair (PDF).  I was stunned to read the following:

I was stunned that an established construction lawyer who is chair of the ABA Construction committee would use his farewell column to recognize my blog.  I was stunned to even learn that Mr. MacPherson was reading my blog.  And I was honored. 

I am honored that all of you continue to read this blog and I want to thank you. 

On August 13, Green Building Law Update will turn one year old.  So I am going to throw a blog birthday party on August 20.  The party will be located somewhere in Washington D.C. after work hours. 

The best part?  There will be party favors!  For the first 20 people to RSVP, I will send you one party favor consisting of my new favorite book.  If you would like to RSVP, just send me an email or respond in the comments section below. 

More details on birthday party to follow.  Hope to see you there. 

I Can't Define Green Job (But Maybe I Can Help You Find One)

[You may notice a new tab up above: Green Jobs. As part of our continuing experimentation here at Green Building Law Update, I am creating a makeshift green jobs board. See details below. Please take this free opportunity to share your green jobs!]

"It's hard to define what a green job actually is."

I hear a lot from people interested in obtaining a green job.  Once upon a time, I was asked "What is a green job?" in an interview and fumbled around for an answer.  

You know what? I don't care how to define this phrase.  It may matter to someone conducting a census of jobs, but it does not matter to me and it does not matter to the people looking for "green jobs." 

Instead of trying to define a "green job," I want to help connect my readers to these jobs.  So I am going to start a makeshift green jobs board

If you are interested in publishing your green job, post it in the comments section below using the following format: 

Name of job
Contact Information
Job description:  100 words or less. 

I will review and approve comments before each job posting goes live.  I reserve the right to reject any green job that is submitted.  I want to keep this simple for now to see if it works out.  If this takes off, and we hit 50 green job advertisements, I may require a nominal fee for job placement.   

Happy green job hunting.  And check out the first job - it's a good one

Tags: ,

I Will Buy You a Beignet

A while back, I read a blog post describing how to prepare for a conference.  I am going to the ABA Construction Forum's Talking Green Blues event in New Orleans this week and decided to apply one idea to my conference preparation.

There are two questions in the forefront of my mind and I am not leaving New Orleans without the answers:

1.  What are people doing with contracts involving green building?
2.  How should I start studying up in order to become a renewable energy expert?

If you have answers to any of these questions, email me.  If you are going to be at the event and would like to meet up for a chat, a drink or some gumbo, email me.  If you have an answer to any of these questions and you will be in New Orleans this week, you have to email me.


Photo:  Phillipe Leroyer

Freed: Design Winner Will Build Actual City Block

My friends over at Sensible City recently offered me the opportunity to interview Eric Corey Freed.  It's not everyday I get to interview someone who was just interviewed by the New York Times so I jumped at the chance.  Even better, Eric is an "organic architect" and studied under a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  I am getting married in October at Wright's Arizona home, Taliesin West, so I couldn't pass up this opportunity. 
Eric is involved in a tremendous design competition called Urban Re:Vision, and he describes how Dallas was chosen as the site for the competition:  "The mayor, Tom Leppert, was fantastic.  He's got 30 years in the building industry and he understood Urban Re:Vision right off the bat.  So the City of Dallas gave us this block next door to city hall and said 'Here, this would be perfect,' and everything kind of came together.  Now we have what we always wanted, a real city block, with real stakeholders behind it and the winning entry will really get built."
In Part I of the interview, Eric and I discuss "organic architecture" and the Urban Re:Vision competition in some detail.  Eric also provides insight into liability concerns surrounding the competition.  On Wednesday, we will discuss broader legal issues surrounding the green building industry and a controversy that arose over Eric's New York Times interview. 


Continue Reading...

"The Stimulus: Now for the hard part"

Update:  For a rundown of green building provisions in the stimulus pacakge, see this post.
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? 
I will be speaking on this and other topics surrounding the stimulus package on March 3 and you are invited to join me.  Additionally, I am putting together a "Green in the Stimulus" program that may be of interest to many readers.  Stay tuned as we continue to discuss implications for the green building industry in the stimulus package.
Related Links: 

The Stimulus: Green Building Provisions

Update:  For a rundown of green building provisions in the stimulus pacakge, see this post.
Love it or hate it, the stimulus package was signed into law yesterday.  In the coming months and years, $787 billion is going to be used to support new projects, developments and tax cuts throughout the country.  Set aside your exhilaration, worry, excitement or anger over the stimulus package.  You should be thinking about one thing now: 
How are you going to take advantage of the opportunities presented through the stimulus package
On March 3, I will be speaking on this very issue in Arlington, Virginia.  My friends at Rutherford were kind enough to include me in their symposium:  "Trends In Green Building - Effective Strategies for Existing Buildings and the Federal Stimulus Package."  Other speakers and their topics include:
Thomas C. Mawson - U.S. Green Building Council
Executive Director, National Capital Region Chapter
2009 LEED Rating System Changes and their Impact on Property Owners and Developers

Richard M. Silberman - Healthy Buildings International, Inc.
Chief Executive Officer
Earning the Ventilation-Related Credits Within LEED-NC

Eric M. Oliver - EMO Energy Solutions
Looking for Energy Savings In All The Right Places

Bobby C. Christian - Tangible Software Solutions, Inc.
Simplifying Energy – Buy. Use. Manage.
I am very excited to hear the other speakers talk about energy efficiency in both new construction and retrofits.  This is a very timely panel and one you should not miss.  If you would like to attend, please RSVP to me ( or Nancy Shipley (703-813-6575 or 
Over the next few weeks, I am going to focus on the stimulus package and hope to develop my presentation before your very eyes here at Green Building Law Update. 
Let's start with the basics today.  The following is a list of funding for green building projects included in the stimulus package, according to the Associated Press:
  • About $50 billion for energy programs, focused chiefly on efficiency and renewable energy, including $5 billion to weatherize modest-income homes; $6.4 billion to clean up nuclear weapons production sites; $11 billion toward a so-called "smart electricity grid" to reduce waste; $6 billion to subsidize loans for renewable energy projects; $6.3 billion in state energy efficiency and clean energy grants; and $4.5 billion make federal buildings more energy efficient; $2 billion in grants for advanced batteries for electric vehicles.
  • $4 billion to repair and make more energy efficient public housing projects
  • $44.5 billion in aid to local school districts to prevent layoffs and cutbacks, with flexibility to use the funds for school modernization and repair
That last entry caused me to do a double take.  Money set aside for education was previously touted as funds to modernize schools.  The final version appears to have modified the language to allow the funds to be used for teachers and administrators. 

Did I forget anything? 

Related Links:

Thank You Mr. Fedrizzi

To start this post, I want to thank Rick Fedrizzi , CEO of the United States Green Building Council.  On February 12, I attended a breakfast hosted by Bisnow at which Mr. Fedrizzi was the guest speaker.  I really appreciated his speech - he did not ignore the current economic climate but talked about the opportunities that will emerge from the green building industry.  
Even more important, at least for me, was the positive tone of his presentation.  Right after attending the breakfast, I was scheduled to speak to members of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments regarding suretyship.  You can see the slideshow presentation I used below.  After I left Mr. Fedrizzi's presentation, I thought about how I wanted to sound as positive as he did about the green building industry.  
Instead of focusing on problematic language in the D.C. Green Building Act surrounding the use of the word "performance bond" (a type of surety bond), I instead tried to emphasize how the Act could be corrected. 
Guess what?  It worked.  One of the members thanked me for providing a positive presentation instead of harping on the problematic language.  Another member told me that I had made learning about suretyship fun (or at least bearable). 
So Mr. Fedrizzi, thank you. 
But wait, there is a post-script for all of the Green Building Law Update readers.  You all have the opportunity to help draft new language for the D.C. Green Building Act.  I am seeking input on what enforcement mechanism should be used instead of a "performance bond."  I have ideas, but I want to hear what you think. 
What do you think?  Here are some resources to get started:
 My presentation: 

Slideshare: Regulating Green Building in Virginia

Last week, we talked about the William & Mary Environmental Law Review Symposium "It Ain't Easy Building Green."  Today, I am going to try yet another new blog trick and make my slideshow available from the Symposium. 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the slides in detail, just post a comment and I will be sure to respond.  If your company or organization would be interested in hosting this or a similar presentation, please contact me ( 

So what do you think? 


Top 5 Things I Learned at Green Building Law Symposium

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the William and Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review symposium "It's Not Easy Building Green."  The students did a fantastic job and the audience was large and engaged. 

In particular, Mark Pike organized an interactive web 2.0 experience for the symposium that was quite impressive.  Many of the symposium participants used Twitter to discuss the event.  Additionally, Mark set up a blog (in less than 12 hours!) and live blogged each of the presentations.  From what I have heard, the event was even taped and should be made publicly available. 

In addition to the technology, there was plenty of substantive discussion about green building law.  Here are five things I learned at the symposium:

1.  Stephen Del Percio correctly pointed out that state legislation may run afoul of antitrust law if it only incorporates one green building rating system, like LEED.

2.  North Carolina's green building regulations focus on two specific green building strategies -- energy efficiency and water usage -- instead of requiring certification through a rating system.  This seems like a good idea to me. 

3.  If I am going to describe techniques to reduce water usage, I should be able to list more than just "low flow urinals."  Furthermore, I should not emphasize the awkwardness by repeating the word "urinal" and then pausing.  Thanks to everyone for pointing this out to me.

4.  Darren Prum described a ridiculous scenario in Nevada surrounding a property tax abatement that went awry.  Essentially, the property tax abatement that was provided to projects achieving LEED certification almost bankrupted the state. 

5.  There is a Property Tax Reduction regulation in Virginia for projects that achieve LEED certification or certification under another energy preferred standard.  You will definitely be hearing more about this at Green Building Law Update. 

Green Building Law Update will be looking at these issues in more depth in future posts.  Thanks to all of the symposium participants for their hard work and important ideas.

Related Links: 

Have a Beer With Green Building Law Update

Back in the summer of 2008, Green Building Law Update was nothing more than a pipe dream.  During that summer, Brian Maxted, a William and Mary Law student and summer intern at my firm, was relegated to hearing about my crazy green building law ideas. 

Brian just happened to be on the William and Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review Executive Board.  The Board was looking for a topic for their annual symposium.  And so we hatched the idea for "It's Not Easy Being Green: W&M Environmental Law & Policy Review Symposium."  The William and Mary students have since run with the idea - special thanks to Kim Piro and Sarah Simmons for their hard work. 

Here are details about the event: 

"It's Not Easy Being Green: W&M Environmental Law & Policy Review Symposium

Starts: January 30, 2009 at 12:00 PM
Ends: January 31, 2009 at 12:00 PM
Location: William and Mary Law School, Room 120
Contact: Kim Piro,

The Symposium will explore legal and political issues related to green building standards and sustainable development legislation.  See here for a list of speakers and more details.

On Friday, I will be speaking about "Green Building Regulatory Trends in Virginia."  On Saturday, I will be taking part in a green building regulation panel.  For you lawyers out there, the symposium may provide CLE credits.  If that is not enough, if you are around Friday after the symposium, I will buy you a beer at the Green Leafe!  Hope to see you there.

What's the Matter with Kansas Green Building?

For Thanksgiving, I returned to my original home, Kansas, fully expecting to take a break from green building.  Turns out, green building was waiting for me in Kansas as well. 

On the Saturday evening following Thanksgiving, I attended my high school reunion.  Just like any other reunion, my classmates and I discussed our jobs and what we were up to.  The responses amazed me.  One person told me about her parents roofing business in Kansas that was now preparing to install solar panels throughout Kansas.  She and I agreed that as soon as Kansas implemented incentives for solar panels, the business would take off. 
Another former classmate explained how he designs "green" acoustics for LEED certified schools.  I was amazed to learn that there is already one LEED certified high school, Staley High School, in the Kansas City area.  Finally, I spoke to another former peer who is involved with sustainable finance. 
As if that was not enough, I woke up Sunday morning and read yet another article about the green building revival of Greensburg, Kansas.  The article sums up the story of how Greensburg rebuilt itself "green" after a devestating tornado and what the Greensburg example means for the rest of the country:

America can learn a lesson from the recovery of Greensburg, Kan., and two men from Lawrence plan a cross-country tour to spread the town’s “green” gospel.

“I look at Greensburg as a sort of experiment for the entire country,” Fraga said. “It can be a template for all of rural America, proof that these little towns don’t just have to fade away.”
While cities like Washington, D.C. and New York City have enacted sweeping green building regulations, much of the country is still learning about green building strategies.  Based on my experiences in Kansas over the Thanksgiving holiday, I am confident that the rest of the country is well on its way to embracing green building in 2009. 
Related Links: 

Photo Credit: Hometown Invasion Tour


Thanks for Attending!

Thanks to all of the Green Building Law Update readers that attended Rutherfoord’s symposium, “Green Building: Opportunity or Legal Quagmire.”  I went to bed last night without a voice, but thankfully, the laryngitis let up and we were able to discuss green building litigation issues. 

If you are interested in having me speak on green building legal issues with your company or organization, please email me at or call me at (703) 749-1056. 

So what did you think of the presentation?  Any outstanding issues that you didn't ask?  

GreenBuild Recap Part I: Government Regulation

While at GreenBuild, I had the pleasure of listening to Jeff Harris of the Alliance to Save Energy speak about the Presidential Climate Action Project.  Two of the points raised by Jeff really got me thinking and I want to share these ideas with you.

During his presentation, Jeff stated that the U.S. government is the largest user of energy in the world.  As a result, the U.S. government should lead the green building movement.  

Green Building Law Update agrees with Jeff.  While it may not be appropriate for cities and states to mandate LEED certification, governments that require green building strategies for public projects are creating two benefits.  First, the government is creating a market for green building products and players.  Additionally, the public projects that incorporate green building strategies will educate the public. 

Jeff also presented a model for the implementation of green building codes that seems very workable:

(1) Create incentives to incorporate green building strategies;

(2) Train individuals about green building; and

(3) Obtain market recognition of green building strategies. 

Green Building Law Update will be elaborating on these ideas in the future. Check back as we discuss other programs and ideas that were discussed at GreenBuild. 

Two Days Until GreenBuild!

As you may know, this week is the United States Green Building Council’s national event, GreenBuild, in Boston: 

USGBC's Greenbuild conference and expo is an unparalleled opportunity to connect with other green building peers, industry experts, and influential leaders as they share insights on the green building movement and its diverse specialties.

This year’s theme is "Revolutionary Green: Innovations for Global Sustainability” and Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be the keynote speaker.  I am very excited to attend, and, in particular, hear about green building regulatory schemes.  I wonder if others will argue that LEED certification should not be mandated through government regulations? 

If you are going to be at GreenBuild and you would like to meet up, please send me an email ( or leave a comment below.  It would be great to meet some of my readers!

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!  

On Tuesday, Vote for Green Building

On Tuesday, hopefully you are planning on exercising your civic duty to vote.  Here at Green Building Law Update, we try to remain non-partisan but we could not ignore this monumental election.  Thankfully, though, the candidates have made it easy for us.  Did you know that a vote for either Barack Obama or John McCain will be a vote for green building? 

It's true.  While the two candidates may hold substantially different opinions on other issues, both hold similar positions on green building energy efficiency standards:
"There really is a lot more alignment between the two platforms than folks may at first expect," says Jason Hartke, director of advocacy and public policy for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). "They both do a very good job of emphasizing energy efficiency in their platforms."
There are some differences in the specifics of each candidate's green building policy and you can read more about Obama's plan here and McCain's plan here.  But the general positions are the same. 
  • Obama and McCain both support increased energy efficiency standards. 
  • Obama and McCain both want to "green" the federal government by applying a higher efficiency standard to government buildings. 
  • Obama and McCain both believe that global warming is real and that a cap-and-trade program should be instituted. 
You getting the picture yet?  If you cast your ballot on Tuesday for one of these two candidates, you are voting for change in federal environmental policy.  As these changes begin to take shape in 2009, is your business model ready to respond?  Maybe it's time you start thinking about incorporating green building practices.  
Related Links: