The Root of All 'LEEDigation'

The Root of All 'LEEDigation'

"LEED is about people."  

Bob Kobet made this insightful comment on October 1, 2010 at an AIA of Virginia panel.  The comment immediately stuck in my brain, and I soon found myself jotting down the following:

"LEEDigation is about people."  

LEEDigation is not about a building.  LEEDigation is about the people that built the building.  LEEDigation is about an owner's or tenant's unsatisfied expectations and I have the perfect article to demonstrate this point:

The greening of the Olympic Village has resulted in flooding toilets and leaky entrance ways, says one disgruntled tenant.  "I have had nothing but nightmare problems, including a flood," says Lee, 56, a renter who asked her last name not be used.  "This is not acceptable in a brand-new building. I came here in good faith. They haven't stepped up to the plate," says Lee, who has been living at the village since early August.

The building in question is located in Vancouver's Olympic Village.  Normally, you would not expect the LEED rating system to be blamed for problems with the HVAC, irrigation and sewage systems.  But LEEDigation is about a tenant's expectations of its LEED building:

More than 1,000 condo units at the Olympic Village were built with some of the latest in LEED -- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -- technology. . . . Lee says the expensive, high-end equipment is adding another layer to the challenges facing the development.  She says pumps for the sewage system, which recycle grey water, have broken down several times, and may be the cause of her toilet overflowing and her bath becoming backed up with dirty water

...

She says the heating and cooling systems don't work properly, leaving the apartment feeling like a furnace on hot days.  According to LEED practices, the pipes are placed in the ceiling, but they are bare. There are no buffers to dampen the noise.  "It's humming all the time with the sound of running water. I can't sleep," Lee says.

There is no such thing as "LEED technology" or "LEED practices".  LEED does not certify technologies; the LEED rating system applies to buildings.  There is no LEED prerequisite that requires exposed HVAC pipes.  That was the decision of the developer and architect.  Surely, the developer would clear up these misnomers about the LEED rating system?

Millennium manager Kerry Shular admits there have been startup problems.

"We are a new building. There are growing pains," she says. "A lot of the LEED equipment is brand new. Things need to be tweaked. There are probably still things that need to be addressed."

LEEDigation is about people and a person's unsatisfied expectations.  While it's easy to roll your eyes at expectations that are based on misconceptions about LEED, it is important to ask yourself whether your owners, developers or tenants may have similar misconceptions that may result in disputes and litigation.  A little education can go a long way to preventing LEEDigation.


Chris Cheatham, J.D., LEED AP, is managing partner of
Cheatham Consulting LLC. He publishes the blog Green Building Law Update, where this post originally appeared.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Sam Howzit.