Lawsuit Challenging LEED, USGBC Reshaped, Scaled Back

Lawsuit Challenging LEED, USGBC Reshaped, Scaled Back

You remember the $100 million dollar lawsuit against the U.S. Green Building Council, right?  

It’s back in the spotlight, and it has taken a new form through an amended complaint filed by multiple plaintiffs. No longer is the plaintiff asking for $100 million. No longer is the plaintiff asserting a class action lawsuit that would have represented essentially anyone that ever took a step into a LEED building.  

You can download a copy of Henry Gifford’s amended complaint (PDF), which was filed on February 7. [Editor's Note: Disclosure -- The original lawsuit named Rob Watson, who chaired the LEED steering committee for its first 12 years and is now executive editor of, among the defendants.] Here are the basics of the amended complaint:

  • The plaintiffs are four design and construction professionals: Henry Gifford, Elisa Larkin, Matthew Arnold and Andrew Ask.
  • The plaintiffs allege that the USGBC has falsely led consumers to believe that LEED buildings are more energy efficient. The plaintiffs claim that the USGBC’s own data proves that LEED buidings are actually not more energy efficient. The plaintiffs also assert that the USGBC never actually verifies that buildings are designed and constructed to save energy.  
  • To prove the USGBC’s alleged lack of verification, the plaintiffs point to the Northland Pines High School LEED certification challenge. You may recall that I covered this story extensively in 2010. [Coverage on by Cheatham, Watson and attorney Shari Shapiro is available here.]
  • The plaintiffs do not assert how much they have lost due to the USGBC’s actions. 

I have always wondered how the plaintiffs would argue that the USGBC’s alleged false advertising cost the plaintiffs’ actual jobs and income. You can see the foundation for the plaintiffs’ argument in the complaint:  

“USGBC's false advertising causes consumers of building design and construction advice to utilize a LEED-certified professional instead of Plaintiffs because consumers mistakenly believe that LEED-certified professionals will design a LEED-certified building that is verified by a third-party to be more energy-efficient than the building that Plaintiffs would design. . . .”

What do you think of this argument?

The original version of this post appeared on the Green Building Law Update and is reprinted with permission.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Payton Chung.