Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why Do Non-Public CIRs Mean LEEDigation?

From Chris Cheatham's Green Building Law Update

If there was a LEEDigation doomsday clock, I would move it up about 5 minutes towards midnight based on the following decision by the USGBC.*

Real Life LEED recently reported that the USGBC has decreed that, starting June 26, 2009, Credit Interpretation Requests (CIRs) will no longer be applicable to all projects:

"Effective June 26, 2009, credit interpretation requests (CIRs) submitted by any registered project will no longer be vetted by USGBC or its LEED Technical Advisory Groups. As a result, CIR rulings will now be applicable only to the project that submitted them. For LEED version 2 projects, rulings on CIRs submitted prior to June 26, 2009, will be honored until they are retired by USGBC or incorporated into general USGBC-issued project guidance, such as through errata or addenda."

All you non-practitioners out there may be wondering what the heck a CIR is and why this matters. The best way for me to explain a CIR is to compare it to case law.

When you are talking to a client that is thinking about a lawsuit, one step you may undertake is reading up on case law. You read case law to find a factually analogous situation to determine if your client has a good chance of winning.

CIRs function the same way as case law. To achieve LEED certification, a project must achieve a certain number of credits. But the requirements for each credit are often open to interpretation. To resolve this uncertainty, a technical advisory board evaluates each CIR to determine whether or not a credit should be granted. Historically, USGBC has published these credit interpretations to inform other builders and designers in future projects. The first comment after the Real Life LEED post really hits at the importance of CIRs:

Wonder why they decided to do this, public CIRs help project teams immensely. They give good information on how the USGBC look at and interpret credits so that we could submit proper documentation or know what is and isn't acceptable strategies to meet the credits. I don't think LEED is in the stage where it is clear enough to not be interpreted several different ways.

You probably already see why LEEDigation is more likely without public CIRs. Without public CIRs, architects, engineers and contractors are going to have more trouble interpreting credits and determining strategies that will successfully achieve a LEED credit. As a result, the likelihood that projects will fail to achieve LEED certification increases dramatically. As we've discussed, failure to achieve promised LEED certification leads toLEEDigation.

On Monday, we will look at why the USGBC had to do away with public CIRs.

But what do you think about this change?

*To be clear, the USGBC had to make this business decision. My post on Monday will go into more detail as to why this decision was necessary