(The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)
(The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

LEEDing the way in green construction

When it comes to green construction projects, it’s important to make sure all parties communicate about environmental considerations from the very beginning.

That’s what Tracy Steedman, partner at Niles Barton & Wilmer in Baltimore, had to say to the Real Property Law and Environmental Law Sections at their session of the Maryland State Bar Association annual meeting on Friday.

Some recent local projects, like the University of Baltimore Angelos Law Center and the Maryland House service area, were constructed with the environment in mind, and earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

But no matter the intent, lapses in communication between the owner, architect, contractors and others involved in a project could lead to an end result that doesn’t meet the levels of environmental friendliness that the owner intended, Steedman said.And some projects are planned to be energy efficient, but are ultimately used in a way that cancels that effort.

“It’s not going to be energy efficient if it’s an apartment building and the residents aren’t turning off the air conditioning when they leave,” said Steedman.

She recommended that buildings be mock tested, so it’s clear how the property will be used, and potential problems can be fixed. In some cases, she explained, a feature that is chosen for its efficiency might take away from the intended use of the building.
She also suggested that if a project is intended to be LEED certified at a certain level, those involved should aim for a higher level, building in a buffer in the likely case that adjustments are needed along the way.
Ultimately, however, the attorney on the project can not force this behavior if the owner does not follow.
“You have to impress upon the owners,” said Steedman. “It’s the owner that ultimately has to make the decision.”
A good example, she said, was the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach, California. The building’s architects and other contractors communicated throughout the process, choosing everything down to the light bulbs in a way that would fit the function, efficiency and desired appearance of the courthouse. And, of course, said Steedman, they mocked up courtrooms to make sure it would all work.

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