It really bothers me that so many of the links on this blog are to articles about how green Chicago is becoming. Not in a “wow, I wish they wouldn’t do that” sort of way, but I guess I’m just jealous that the Second City blows us away when it comes to green building. Sure, New York has some green buildings, some big-time developers that are committed to the cause, and a few statutes that purport to encourage green projects. But it seems, at least from everything I’ve been reading, that Mayor Daley has really pushed green building into the Chicago mainstream. Bloomberg’s legacy will be an extended 7 train to nowhere and the failed Olympic bid. Just pointing that out.
That being said, what Chicago has done with this permitting program is fascinating. I like how they’ve created it around LEED but also required additional green features from a “menu” of Chicago-specific elements. The program came into existence back in April of 2005.
Projects fall into one of three tiers, and greener projects gain greater benefits. The owners of Tier I commercial and other non-residential projects, including 300 North LaSalle, promise that they will be LEED-certified. These buildings also feature one item from a menu of sustainable building strategies that include, among others, a green roof, extra affordability, and transit-oriented development. Owners who accomplish LEED Silver building with one menu item advance to Tier II, which waives the consultant review fee in addition to 30-day permitting. Tier III projects must earn LEED Gold and feature two menu items, for which the consultant fee is waived and a permit issued within 15 days. Olsen explains that LEED status verifies an application (residential projects must conform to the Chicago Green Homes rating system), while the menu items act as billboards for sustainability.
Of particular interest, to me, from a legal perspective, was the following:
Besides submitting a LEED project registration number as part of a permit review, developers must file a proof of submission for LEED certification within 180 days of completion. They are also required to sign contracts binding them to their sustainability plans, and there are considerable consequences- fee reimbursement or permit revocation, for example- for not following through.
Whether the word “contract” just sets alarms off for lawyers, I don’t know, but I think as the green building movement continues to move forward this will become an increasingly active area of construction litigation. If such a developer didn’t follow through, who was responsible? The architect? The engineer? Contracting for high performance buildings seems to raise all sorts of liability issues that are not contemplated by traditional construction law. I think this is something that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.