I think most facility executives who have built green buildings feel good about their efforts. But it’s a little harder to maintain the warm glow that surrounds the idea of minimizing the environmental footprint of a new facility if you picture a lawyer at the table during the design charette.
That’s one of the growing pains the green building movement is going through. In the United States, lawyers are part of the construction process, so it was only a matter of time before a book like The Law of Building Green appeared. It covers topics ranging from zoning and codes to liability for non-performance, tax incentives and regulations. Useful information from the law firm Stoel Rives, perhaps, but not exactly fun.
Not exactly a surprise, either. To understand why, look no further than the subject of liability. The reason sustainable design is increasingly moving into the mainstream is that organizations expect a green building to perform better than a conventional one. But what if it doesn’t? What if a tenant wants out of a lease because the base building doesn’t deliver the green performance it was supposed to? As more organizations decide to build green for business reasons, questions like those become more and more pressing.
Climate change may well add to the legal complexities. With candidates of both major parties supporting federal action to address climate change, it’s possible that decisions about energy efficiency will have to factor in the impact of federal programs regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Decisions about energy efficiency and green design are increasingly moving out of the realm of altruism. Whether the requirements come from the market or the government, it’s looking more and more like the real question about green design isn’t whether to do it, but how.