Green Building is Big Business and Carries Potentially Big, But Manageable, Liability Risks

By:  Josh M. Leavitt, K&L Gates, Chicago


While there are those who debate whether green building is effective from an environmental impact point of view, no one seriously debates that it is big business.  One researcher reports green expenditures were approximately $10 billion in 2005 and between $36 billion and $49 billion in 2008.  Hupp, Recent Trend in Green Buildings Laws: Potential Preemption of Green Building and Whether Retrofitting Existing Buildings Will Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Save the Economy, The Urban Lawyer Vol. 41, No. 3 (Summer 2009).  Paul Primavera, Senior Vice President of the Lockton Companies predicts that “within the next three to five years certified green buildings will account for 25 percent of all new construction in the United States.  Green Buildings: New Construction Concepts and Risks, (Fall 2009) available at

Certainly political forces and public awareness are at work, but there is no doubt that the green building explosion has been driven by the belief that it is profitable.  The work product of researchers and consultants projecting benefits from green building improvements, the sales representations of green building product manufacturers and public and private incentive programs have fed those expectations.  Project owners expect to receive specific and often quantifiable benefits from their investments, including energy savings, reduced overhead and maintenance, more tenant interest, increased lease income, and government incentives (such as tax credits, low-interest loans, density bonuses, zoning waivers, fast-track permitting, and reduced permit fees), and other financial incentives.  They also expect less quantifiable benefits such as energized work forces, general goodwill, and marketing benefits.

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