Risks for a Sustainable Future (or How Eeyore Would See Green Construction)
by Christopher Hill
I 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.
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.