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November 11, 2009

Risks for a Sustainable Future (or How Eeyore Would See Green Construction)

by Christopher Hill

Eeyore via PolyvoreI am sitting here looking out at a wet, dark and windy day here in Richmond, VA.  In many ways I can relate to the clouds.  As an attorney I almost always feel like I am raining on the “sustainable building” parade.  On Build2Sustain conference calls, I always feel like I’m the one saying “whoa” we need to think about the liability.

As I’ve said at Musings before, Eeyore is one of my favorite characters from A. A. Milne.  Eeyore, you may remember, is the donkey on whom it’s always raining.  He is the loveable character that always feels like the sky is falling, but plugs along anyway.

I can relate.  I am firmly committed to sustainable building.  I think that the economic impact, combined with the moral imperative, make such a goal both worthy and required.  However, certain risks are inherent in any new use of technologies and any new mode of thinking, no matter how worthy.   Some of the issues that will need to be dealt with by contractors, architects, owners and, yes, lawyers, are the following:

  • Insurance- the insurance industry is still catching up with energy related underwriting
  • What standard of care applies due to a green building claim?
  • Potential Trademark claims
  • Longer time horizons and contractual or government requirements on energy goals

I sometimes feel like we are rushing past these issues without the careful thought that we need to give such risks in our (understandable) enthusiasm.  I tell clients to plan ahead, but it is human nature to be overtaken with excitement at a new venture and the vision of a better, cleaner, world.  However, until these issues are hammered out (hopefully without litigation to have judges tell us what to do), this march to a sustainable future will be a slow one.

The government can only do so much through mandate.  The private sector must be ready to move forward and pour money into sustainability.  Without some assurance and possibility to at least manage these risks, project owners and builders will be justifiably wary.  The sooner the risks are at least out in the open, if not resolved, the sooner the private sector will get fully behind sustainable construction and building management.

Until then, Eeyore and I will keep plugging through the rain.

Yahya E. B. Henry

About Yahya E. B. Henry

Merging his passion for cities, real estate, tech and travel, Yahya is introducing the world to a new model of real estate development that draws from best practices around the globe.

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6 Comments

  • As I thought more about this post, I know I could be seen as a green building skeptic. I just want to clarify that any skepticism is directed toward the thought that risk gets lost in the shuffle of moving toward a laudable goal. I hope that readers don't take this post as a pan on sustainability. I, like Eeyore, just want to make sure that the potential pitfalls (and Murphy's Law) are taken into account during the process so that any gains are cemented and not lost.

  • Not at all Chris…I get it. To continue your analogy, I'm probably more akin to a hybrid of Pooh Bear and Tigger. I'm often excited about anything innovate, new, fresh and have to 'reel it in'. Your views are no doubt respected and necessary. If everyone thought about the potential benefits without considering the potential pitfalls, we'd all be charting an unsustainable course.

  • Is it possible that the Winnie the Pooh analogies are getting a bit far afield? Nah! Thanks for the reply YahYa, I hope that this post starts some good discussion.

  • There are so many private sectors that are protected by the government for they can benefit with them, not thinking that these private sectors are taking advantages to several matters, green construction is a bridge that will connect us to a better and cleaner world

  • I definitely agree with you some government officials are taking advantage of their position without thinking of the possible effects to other persons

  • I definitely agree with you some government officials are taking advantage of their position without thinking of the possible effects to other persons

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