One of the most robust markets for real estate developers continues to be sustainable design and construction. As the significant demand for firms capable of delivering high-caliber environmentally friendly construction increases, many developers are having difficulty staying on top of new standards in the sustainable building industry. Some of the most controversial standards facing sustainable designers and developers are those set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
Since its introduction in 2012, LEED has been beset by opposition, specifically as it deals with the content of construction materials. The LEED standards take what is seen by many as un reasonable stand against the use of construction materials which contain "chemicals of concern." These chemicals are claimed to have a significant potential impact on human health. Some proponents of LEED claim that newer, more space-efficient building methods may have the effect of creating "perfect gas chambers" for occupants of sustainable developments who are exposed to dangerous chemicals while residing in the new construction. LEED standards are intended to address these concerns, but many developers have raised concerns that the cost of compliance is prohibitive.
October 2016 will see a new iteration of LEED standards implemented in LEED v4, leaving many development firms scrambling to meet certification requirements. The primary difficulty seems to be in the pre-construction phases, where designers are struggling to identify building materials that meet the new standards. Some in the industry have described the push to achieve certification under the new LEED v4 standards as "a herculean task."
Developers wishing to stake out a claim in the sustainable development industry face numerous hurdles when it comes to understanding the requirements set forth by various agencies who may certify their projects as being officially sustainable. Any builders or developers wading into this complex system will find that the guidance of experienced legal counsel can help them navigate this complex landscape of often shifting building and design requirements.
Source: enr.com, "The Top 100 Green Designers and Contractors: New Standards Beyond Buildings," Gary J. Tulacz, Aug. 11, 2016