Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Legal Issues to Consider in Green Construction

I recently participated in a webinar for Professional Builder Magazine called Legally Green: Deliver the Green You Promise. In that presentation, I discussed the additional risks for liability in green construction and how builders can protect themselves. I am going to publish a series of posts that summarize the areas that I have identified that may cause disputes as time goes on.

First some statistics from around the Internet regarding the current status of green construction on the residential side:

Green building is up even though construction is down. The National Association of Home Builders recently released figures from a survey of multi-family builders and developers.

74 percent of respondents said that their buyers and renters are willing to pay more for green amenities. However, the median additional amount that they’re willing to pay is just 2 percent.

89 percent of respondents (again, multi-family builders and developers, nationwide) said they are currently installing energy-efficient appliances and lighting in their projects; 79 percent are installing low-E windows; 64 percent are incorporating recycled materials and 50 percent are installing greater insulation than required by local code.

On the residential side, McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2008 summary shows that 56% of green home purchasers earn less than $75,000 per year and that 29% earn less than $50,000. Homeowners are attracted by lower operating costs and receive less expensive utility bills because of energy and water efficiency measures. Green homes are more comfortable and have relatively even temperatures throughout the home, with fewer drafts and better humidity control. Environmental quality is improved because builders pay extra attention to construction details that control moisture, choose materials that contain fewer chemicals, and design air exchange/filtration systems that can contribute to a healthier indoor environment.

Green homes have enhanced durability and require less maintenance. They incorporate building materials and construction details that strive to increase the useful life of the individual components and the whole house. Longer lasting materials not only require fewer resources for replacement but also reduce maintenance and repair costs. Green homes have lawns that require less weeding and watering, building elements that require less maintenance, and more durable building components that reduce the time needed for upkeep.

It is important to note that a builder can do only so much when it comes to how the home will perform. Homeowners play a big role in the house performance and, therefore, should be instructed on how to operate the green home as it was intended. Anecdotally, builders are adding green features even without advertising them.

The next post will discuss types of certification available.