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Legal Concerns With “Green” Or Environmentally Friendly Buildings

EnvironmentallyFriendly

Green construction is very popular nowadays, and as awareness of the environment increases, green construction will be more and more prevalent. You may be wondering what “green” construction actually is, even if you have a general idea that the term “green” means environmentally friendly or ecologically sustainable. If you’re wondering just what exactly that word means in terms of construction projects, you’re not alone.

No Legal Definitions

That’s because there is no legal definition of “green.” Yet, many construction contracts require that property be constructed in a “green” manner (or they use other environmentally friendly terms, such as “stainable” which have no clear legal definition).

The problem with these terms is that they can turn an otherwise acceptable job performed in a workmanlike manner, into a job that violates the terms, intentions, or spirit of a construction contract. In other words, a building can be built absolutely perfectly, but still be a breach of the agreement if it is not “green” or “sustainable.”

If you are the party seeking to enforce the construction contract, you may find your hopes of receiving a “green” structure dashed, due to the failure to properly define what that even means in your construction contract.

Putting Terms in Contracts

Parties that are truly seeking environmentally friendly buildings should take measures in their agreements to define what they want, and avoid using vague terms.

If the intention is to use solar energy, or have low-water-usage toilets, or to have a structure that meets certain environmental certifications with organizations that do that, then the construction contract should specifically state these desires. If certifications are sought, are those certifications guaranteed? If there’s a chance that a body outside of your control may deny certification, parties should make sure they aren’t guaranteeing something they have no control over.

Think of a judge trying to enforce the agreement. Can the judge enforce “green” or “environmentally friendly?” Likely not. But can a judge look at a contract that says a building should be made of X, Y and Z materials but the building was made with A, B or C materials? Absolutely.

Will achieving the environmental goals in the construction contract cost extra money? Will those charges be incurred after the building is completed? If so, the extra costs should be listed in the agreements. A builder who fails to account for these extra charges may not be able to later increase charges to account for these additional construction requirements.

Obligations of Other Parties

Any subcontractors or independent contractors should also be made aware of the “green” requirements, if it will be on them to complete those provisions of the agreement. Additionally, your contracts should detail who is ultimately responsible for the failure to meet “green” goals-the general contractor, the subcontractor or some other party?

Call our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954 440-3993 if you have a construction legal problem. We can help you avoid legal problems from the start of your construction project.

Resource:

usgbc.org/articles/what-green-building

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