LEED-ing Questions: What Do I Need to Know About Green Building Rating Systems?

Many owners and developers seeking to distinguish a new project in a tough market are relying on "building green.” Whether they intend to make a property more energy efficient, consume less water or make the interior environment more comfortable, builders are relying on green building rating systems to signify that their building is green. Moye White is uniquely qualified to assist builders, developers, architects, engineers, contractors and tenants to navigate the world of green building. We are members of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and boast several LEED accredited professionals among our attorneys.

A green building rating system is, essentially, a shorthand way of communicating that a building has achieved some level of environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. A green rating system is usually a proprietary system and typically aggregates a variety of “green” measurements and standards, translating the results into a readily understandable certificate of achievement.

The USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most recognized rating system in the United States. Nearly 1,950 completed projects in the US have achieved certification under the LEED systems, and nearly 15,000 other projects have applied for certification. The rating system scores projects—including new construction, commercial interiors and existing buildings—under a point system. Points are awarded to projects based on achieving items on a checklist that includes energy efficiency, water conservation, transportation, indoor air quality and use of environment-friendly materials. The USGBC not only assesses new construction and existing buildings, but is expanding its rating system to address neighborhood construction, schools and other types of development.

A rating system like LEED essentially aggregates a project’s achievements using not only its own criteria, but also integrating local government mandates, incentive program criteria, and third party standards and guidelines. For example, LEED relies heavily on the standards established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioner Engineers (ASHRAE) to determine a building’s energy efficiency. Likewise, it relies on the Forestry Stewardship Council to determine whether lumber used in construction was sourced in a sustainable way.

Achieving certification as a green building can result in a marketing advantage in a soft real estate market, satisfying new tenants' and potential buyers' growing desires for efficient, sustainably built and environmentally friendly spaces. Further, many local governments in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins, are seeking to integrate green rating systems' principles into their building and development ordinances.

This is a new environment, and pitfalls exist for even the most seasoned builders, developers, contractors, owners and tenants. Who bears the risk, and the liability, if a building fails to certify, or if it certifies at a lesser level than required by the documents? Who bears the risk if the anticipated energy savings don't materialize, or if other key systems fail to achieve the requisite green criteria? Moye White can help answer these questions.

If you prefer not to receive any unsolicited e-mails regarding Moye White information, please contact us at

Moye White LLP has prepared this bulletin to provide general information; however this bulletin does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Moye White. No legal or business decision should be based solely on the content of this bulletin.