Why Building Green Might Land You in Court
There are many potential environmental and economical benefits associated with green construction. Examples include reduced uses of resources like energy and water, lower maintenance costs, and lower emissions. Since green building practices and standards are still relatively new and developing, however, there may also be an increased risks of lawsuits for those involved in the projects.
A few years ago the Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law & Policy Clinic came out with a study outlining the potential legal liabilities in green construction projects. Some of the risks that the study highlighted included a project not achieving the required or intended certification, which may be established through rating systems like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). A project may not qualify for tax credits which depend on a certain level of certification. Projects may also incur higher construction costs than expected due to problems obtaining the specific resources needed for the green design, such as bamboo flooring or special energy efficient windows.
Design professionals often play an integral role in the green building “integrated” process, and they too may face increased liability. They could face a higher standard of care if they are, for example, a LEED Accredited Professional. There may also be liability for design defects if systems or components fail to perform as represented. There are also issues concerning exclusions in insurance policies or warranties provided.
Green construction practices are becoming more common every year, as the demand and need for such projects grow. Contractors, design professionals, suppliers, and just about any involved in a green project should be aware of the new avenues for potential liability, and consider how to navigate those issues if or when they arise.