Welcome to our first afternoon edition of Green Building Law Update. 

No one is quite sure whether the challengers to the Northland Pines High School LEED certification have grounds for an appeal.  But I figured two statements by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) regarding the "appeal" warranted a special blog post.  First, Brendan Owens, USGBC’s vice president, was quoted yesterday in ENR regarding the LEED challenge controversy:  

"Brendan Owens, USGBC’s vice president of LEED technical development, says USGBC is using the challenge as a case study for the certification team, noting, ‘We can do continuous improvement and still have been right in the past.’"

I also received the following statement from Susan Dorn, USGBC General Counsel, regarding the recent "appeal" by the LEED challengers: 

"USGBC stands by its conclusion that the Northland Pines High School project and project team complied with all the requirements necessary to achieve LEED Gold certification.  In response to a complaint, USGBC followed its certification challenge policy, which requires a thorough and technically rigorous review of the project. Given the vociferous and confrontational nature of the complaint, we further asked for two additional and separate technical reports detailing the expert professional opinions of highly regarded independent consultants. Their findings agreed with ours.

Anyone who has actually been through a LEED certification review knows that it is a  dialogue between the project team and the reviewer. After reviewing the documentation submitted by a project team, the reviewer issues a request for more information in a "Preliminary Review".  The project team responds to any reviewer comments and resubmits.   The reviewer then reassesses the project and issues a ‘Final Review’.

The process USGBC used to deal with this appeal was similar to our standard process but in addition to having the original submission and reviewing everything we normally review we also had the complaint document.  There were issues in the complaint document that were not (from our independent consultant’s point of view) adequately addressed by the 2007  submission so we asked for and received additional clarifying documentation from the project team.  This additional documentation answered all open questions and made it possible for USGBC and the independent consultants hired to provide their expert technical opinions to conclude that the project does in fact comply with LEED Gold requirements.

LEED’s intent, and USGBC’s mission, is about helping people learn about and understand how to design, build and operate better buildings.  Buildings are complex systems of systems and any of the 100,000 of decisions associated with design, construction and operation can always be second-guessed. We are confident that our due diligence has been more than sufficient to put these issues to rest, and we are moving forward to focus our efforts where they do the most good — advancing the market uptake of green buildings and communities that is at the heart of our work."

As Stephen Del Percio has said, this has been a wild week for LEEDigation.  I have linked to some reactions from around the interwebs below.  Be sure to check them out if you have a moment.

Any reactions to this controversy? 

Photo credit:  realmofreals

Related Links

Rating Controversy Heats Up (ENR)
Wild Week for Green Real Estate Includes Response to USGBC from Northland Pines Appellants (GRELJ)
Needling Naysayers or Constructive Critics–The Tough Case Of Northland Pines (GBLB)
LEED Certification Challenge in Less Than 140 Characters (BPCL)
First Ever LEED Challenge Goes to Appeal (Builders Counsel Blog)