Ten Ways to Minimize Legal Pitfalls of Sustainable Design and Construction

Design for a sustainable living space.
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Sustainable Design and Construction raises unique legal issues for all parties who touch the project. It affects sureties, insurance companies, banks, owners, design professionals, contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, vendors, and their respective employees.

Design professionals should work with the owner and contractor to develop sustainable goals that are attainable. Owners and banks want to be sure that they have adequate remedies in case costs exceed what was promised, tax incentives which were being sought by having a sustainable and energy efficient building are lost, or if the design or construction of a project does not result in LEED Certification.

Contractors and subcontractors need to make sure that they understand the unique requirements for ?green? projects such as: (1) following the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan adopted for the project, (2) avoiding disturbance of more areas than necessary or allowed by LEED on previously undeveloped land, (3) properly installing the right materials (i.e. materials with low VOC limits, high SRI values, which are recycled, reused, regional, or renewable) and equipment, (4) protecting materials and equipment during construction from moisture or construction debris, (5) collecting and submitting the required documentation for those materials, and (6) following the waste management plan for recycling construction waste materials. If a contractor fails to comply with one of these requirements which was tied to a sustainable goal or point needed for certification, then it may be liable for any resulting damages suffered by the owner.

Owners, design professionals, and contractors want to make sure that they have adequate insurance coverage in place to cover any potential risks. However, insurance companies are still evaluating whether special coverage is needed on sustainable design and construction projects; only a few companies are currently offering specialized coverage for ?green? projects. In addition to obtaining insurance coverage to help minimize the risks to your company, here are some ways to minimize the potential legal risks of sustainable design and construction…

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