It’s no surprise that this week’s edition of Crain’s reports an increasing number of real estate brokers, marketing professionals, and, yes, lawyers, who are sitting for the U.S. Green Building Council’s exam in pursuit of the LEED Accredited Professional (“LEED-AP”) designation. (The article is not yet available online). Depending on the industry, though, professionals are divided as to whether LEED-AP is a true value-addition. For example, John Seitz, a principal at architectural firm HOK, told Crain’s that “[t]he LEED system is for people who put the building together,” while Sally Wilson, CB Richard Ellis’ global director of environmental strategy, claims that her LEED accreditation has helped her garner five brokerage accounts that are seeking green office space in Manhattan, including one for Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management (as we previously reported here at gbNYC).
Of particular interest to me is that Crain’s perceives the legal industry as recognizing the risks associated with the LEED rating system. It refers to one attorney who has “been studying for the accreditation test because the environmental standards could lead to new types of litigation. He foresees disputes over whether new buildings actually meet the environmental codes and who is responsible if they do not.” The article notes that an architect, who was designing a green residence, retained this particular attorney to draft a contract to protect the firm in the event that construction “doesn’t measure up” to the plans.
Again, these types of issues are not surprising (we’ve written about them previously) but it’s significant that as mainstream a publication as Crain’s is recognizing them in such stark terms. As 2007 begins to draw to a close, it’s clear that professionals across numerous disciplines- real estate and law included- must be well-versed in the new landscape that sustainability is creating. Green counsel is an imperative, as are real estate and marketing professionals who can assist clients in negotiating the increasing number of projects and firms that are making sustainable claims.