Environmental Observer
The Associated General Contractors of America | Quality People. Quality Projects.
www.agc.orgMay 6, 2011 / Issue No. 3-11
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On the Inside
Editor's Note
Construction Stormwater Issues Update
Proposed New Construction General Permit Guaranteed to Change the Way Contractors Manage Stormwater Runoff; Comments Due June 24
Obama Administration Proposes New Guidance With Expansive Federal Control Over Construction in U.S. Waters
Green Construction
AGC Works Towards Building a Green Future, Hosts Roundtable Discussion
AGC and AIA Chart the Future of Sustainability and Risk in the New Green Codes Era
AGC and AIA Chart the Future of Sustainability and Risk in the New Green Codes Era

On April 25, 2011, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) hosted an industry summit on issues of sustainability and risk.

Launching from a discussion of the AIA/AGC Joint Committee in February 2011, the summit brought together representatives from various industry stakeholder groups including architects, contractors, engineers, building owners, professional liability carriers, sureties and attorneys. The day-long meeting was organized around presentations and panel discussions related to the rapidly shifting legal landscape in the building industry as it relates to codes, whole building rating systems, products and life cycle assessments.  Key themes for the day were collaboration, education, practice transformation, accountability and metrics.

“Collaboration is key to our ability to solve these big industry challenges we are facing,” said Mike Kennedy, General Counsel for AGC of America, at the opening of the summit. “Increased risk for contractors and other members of the building construction team when working on sustainable projects is an issue we want our members to be out in front of.”

To set the stage for the discussions, the group heard presentations that provided overviews of sustainability trends, the cost of sustainability and recent litigation.  A representative of the U.S. General Services Administration spoke on the impact of the federal government’s leadership in sustainability and the breadth of the movement.  They also heard from construction consulting firm Davis Langdon—An AECOM Company on recent studies of the cost of implementing green codes and constructing high performance buildings. Current research shows that sustainable building features are not statistically significant factors in determining project costs.  The majority of green buildings have been initiated by first adopters.  However, owners are closely watching the implementation of mandatory provisions currently seen in California’s green codes (CALGreen) and those proposed in the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) through a variety of lenses, including direct and indirect costs.  The moderator, from Cheatham Law, then gave examples of legal cases that fall into three main categories: materials and techniques, regulatory compliance and those related to certification under rating systems.

Insurance providers covered changes occurring within the insurance industry, and outlined their reactions to the IGCC and its subsequent changes to the professional standard of care for architects and other design professionals. Although professional liability carriers have not identified specific changes to the standard of care for architects, there were a number of questions regarding the downstream consequences of mandating sustainable measures in both the design phase and operations and maintenance, and uncertainty around consequences for default or non-compliance based on post occupancy behaviors beyond the control of the design professional.

The group also discussed the effects that the adoption of voluntary building certification programs and mandatory codes and standards are having and may have on the design and construction industry.  In depressed economic times, the impact of increased code requirements will not be felt as strongly as when the market returns to normal.  As state and local governments adopt and customize model green code language, there will be less consistency—making it harder to train effectively.  Education was identified as a significant challenge for all stakeholders, particularly building officials who will be expected to administer newly adopted high performance codes.

Participants saw the future of rating systems such as USGBC/GBCI’s LEED program as continuing to raise the bar for the industry. Conversely, according to attendees, a legally enforceable green construction code system like the IGCC would serve as a building performance floor, or minimum standard of compliance.

“There is a practice impact for architects that extends beyond the projects that are ‘sustainable’ to every project in their portfolio,” said Ken Ross, FAIA, AIA Vice President of Design and Practice, at the close of the summit. “The AIA, through events like these, will help its members anticipate new practice and business models that aid them in delivering maximum value to the client.”

Resources from the summit, including a joint white paper that investigates these trends and their impacts on the building and construction industry, will be made available online once the meeting findings are analyzed.

For more information on green construction, contact Melinda Tomaino at (703) 837-5415 or tomainom@agc.org. Return to Top

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