Every silver cloud has a black lining, to twist an old cliche. In this case, the silver cloud is the burgeoning industry of green building, one of the stalwarts of the larger green power movement. Green building techniques have become the principal means by which buildings, existing and new, and their various supporting trades and professions reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

All green power industries have faced obstacles in their quest for mainstream acceptance. Renewable power, for example, has had to overcome the challenges faced by high installation costs. Now, a new study reveals that green building poses its own set of issues for the practitioners who have embraced it.

Released in February by the British Columbia Construction Association, the study highlights several inherent risks and potential liabilities that are beginning to emerge. “A Study on the Risks and Liabilities of Green Building” asserts that these issues affect all sectors of the construction industry, including owners, designers, contractors, material suppliers, educators and tenants. It identifies legal risks associated with contracts and tort claims, and places much of the blame on governmental desire to make projects conform to so-called third party standards, in particular, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process.

The study concludes that conformity to the certification process complicates projects because of the additional coordination involved, the delays it causes and the expectations it creates. For example, the study suggests that legal claims could be filed for a breach of contract if a project is perceived to have lost value or not sold because it failed to gain certification. Similarly, lawsuits could be filed against contractors if green building materials fail, cause problems or are installed improperly.

The report offers several suggestions for addressing these challenges including careful review of language in contracts, better education of specialists in the industry and more openness in the bidding process on government projects.