Tuesday, December 2, 2008


As of TODAY! Green Building Law is moving to its new, fabulous site:


All the old content has been migrated over, including your fabulous comments.

No new posts here--reset your google readers and see you at the new site!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Lawyers?

As I mentioned briefly in my Greenbuild post at Green Building Law, legal issues, especially risk and liability associated with building green, were little discussed at Greenbuild.

A bunch of green building lawyers were sitting around and speculating why this might be. The conclusion we came to was that the U.S. Green Building Council did not want to highlight concerns or risks associated with building green at its feel-good festival. This is a mistake.

Lawyers, in their best role, are advisers that help clients avoid potential pitfalls. Someone once said that if you are involved in litigation, you have already lost. Litigation is expensive, time consuming and essentially a zero-sum game. Much litigation could be avoided if clients came to their lawyers and discussed potential legal liability ahead of time and took proactive steps to limit their exposure.

Read the rest of this post at Greenerbuildings.com

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pink Is The New Green

In my summary of my experiences at Greenbuild, I blogged:

The economy tanking may be the push needed to implement basic green changes like energy efficiency and conservation. The next big green thing is likely to be blown insulation, not photovoltaics.

Let's define our terms first. Futurelab has a nice succinct definition of both:

Energy efficiency means that users of powered devices can get the same enjoyment or use out of a more efficient device that uses less energy. Energy conservation is a planful pattern of human action by which energy use is avoided.

In order to effectively reduce our energy consumption, we need to do both.

To date, much of the action in green building legislation has encouraged higher complexity energy efficiency technologies, like tax incentives for photovoltaics. There is nothing wrong with incentivizing solar, but it is not the most efficient use of the first dollar invested in green building.

Instead, green building legislation should include incentives which encourage energy efficiency and conservation measures first, and longer term/higher cost measures later. One regulatory mechanism for acheiving this is to require each project seeking government funding to have an energy audit. The audit would identify a suite of energy efficiency and conservation measures to be implemented, and the cost and savings associated with each. The legislature could then tier its incentives to compensate the highest energy v. cost savings as determined by the audit.

In addition, the federal government could enhance national building standards for energy efficiency. States and local government could incentivize simple energy efficiency and conservation measures--like the afforementioend energy audits, enhanced insulation, cool roofs, efficient HVAC systems, and new windows and doors
[The DOE has a list of short and long term energy efficiency measures]

With fewer dollars, both public and private, available due to the economic crisis, we need to maximize the cost/benefit calculus by identifying the most efficient energy saving techniques. In other words, we need to make pink (insulation) the new green.

UPDATE: Christian Science Monitor had a nice little article on this subject. They did not, however, have many creative ideas about legislating for energy efficiency.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ASHRAE 189 Update

Green Building Insider has an article that USGBC is reconstituting the ASHRAE 189 standard committee, but is committed to going forward with the code version of LEED which local governments can incorporate into their regulations.

Green Building Law--Quoted!

I was quoted in an article at buildinggreen.com on the AHRI v. Albuquerque suit.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Listening To Greenbuild

Things have been a bit quiet here at GBL because I went to Greenbuild this week. Greenbuild is a conference of 30,000+ green building professionals.

I decided not to blog or tweet the conference, but rather to try to really listen to what my green industry fellow travellers were saying. So here is what I heard, in reverse order of importance:

10. Green is becoming mainstream. There were lots of green products providers, but the exhibit hall was primarily filled with the usual suspects in the building industry--Turner, Kohler, skanska, etc.

9. Data is becoming available. A lot of the exhibitors brought nice compilations of data on green building stock. The General Services Agency was giving away flash drives with new data on its large stock of LEED building, for example. The quntification of performance on green buildings should benefit the business case.

8. Fireman's Fund is leading the pack of insurers with green products for building green or insuring green replacement in the event of loss. They are also considering creating a risk product for designers of green buildings.

7. NAHB is going after LEED-H in a big way. A new, more robust NAHB green standard for residential should be out shortly which will give LEED-H a run for its money.

6. Green building policy was well covered, but carbon policy got short shrift. The one session dealing with carbon policy at the state and federal level was cancelled, with no explanation.

5. Enacting green building policies in major municipalities requires LEED APs in relevant municipal agencies to act as agents of change.

4. There was remarkably little concern over the economy's effect on getting buildings built, which seemed strange at a conference for the building industry.

3. The economy tanking may be the push needed to implement basic green changes like energy efficiency and conservation. The next big green thing is likely to be blown insulation, not photovoltaics. [Green Decoder has a nice article on green winterization for a head start]

2. Legal issues, especially risk and liability associated with building green, were little discussed. Where legal issues were highlighted, like a seminar on green leasing, the practioners did not appear to have deep understanding of the green legal issues [Caveat--there was a paid additional seminar on green leasing today that I could not attend--did anyone go and want to comment?].

1. There are no bars open after 2 am in Boston.

I will post more on each of these issues over the coming weeks, and I would welcome other greenbuild attendees to submit their thoughts on greenbuild.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Green Building Litigation In The Offing--Shade Trees v. Solar Panels

The LA Times had a story about a neighborly spat over shade trees v. solar panels. Apparently, the Shade Control Act in California prevents shade trees from blocking more than 10% of sunlight from a solar array:

It protects homeowners' investments in solar panels, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Property owners whose trees block the sun from more than 10% of their neighbors' panels can be fined as much as $1,000 a day if they refuse to trim them.

Although GBL has not heard of this particular strain of litigation before, NIMBY issues are not new to solar installations. See here for a story on local zonign laws which originally prevented Al Gore from installing solar panels on his Tennessee home.