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How to Avoid LEED Legal Pitfalls

Although he’s a LEED green building rating system supporter, J. Cliff McKinney II warns there are legal pitfalls that LEED participants should be aware of.

LEED can result in unexpected legal issues, he writes in an Arkansas Business column. For example, to obtain rezoning approval, a developer tells the city that a building will achieve LEED Silver — but the US Green Building Council isn’t obligated to grant a LEED rating to any project.

The fix? Agree that the development will be built to LEED Silver equivalent standards, rather than require the actual certificate, McKinney says.

Another potential legal issue: sometimes LEED conflicts with historic preservation easements. Keep this in mind and investigate the property’s title thoroughly when seeking LEED certification for an old building.

McKinney uses another example of a shopping center developer seeking to achieve LEED points by using a new type of permeable pavement. The green technology, however, has an inherent defect that results in sediment buildup, creating a slippery surface — and leading to lawsuits if customers fall.

While LEED encourages cutting-edge technology, consider the history of any products used and the strength of product warranties, McKinney says.

The US city with the highest percentage of green commercial space is Minneapolis, with 77 percent of its commercial real estate space certified as green, according to a study published last month by CBRE Group and Maastricht University.

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