As with every emerging trend that hits the design field, green design presents challenges for both the design firms that eagerly pursue a future developing environmentally friendly buildings and those who would rather not enter this new frontier.
Here are a few of the liabilities you can expect to encounter with green projects:
1. Guarantees and warranties
Promises, promises, contractual promises. That’s what your client will likely seek from you when it comes to LEED certification or other accreditations for a green project.
The problem is that if you make such promises, you might not be able to keep them, resulting in a breach of contract. What’s more, that breach of contract may not be covered by your professional liability insurance policy since it is a liability you voluntarily accepted by signing the contract.
It is not up to you to certify that a building is LEED compliant or meets some other green regulation or code. That’s up to an outside agency or regulatory body who just might disagree with your assessment of how green a building really is.
2. Schedules and budgets
Clients who are building their first green project often underestimate the time and money it takes to build green. They hear stories of dramatically improved energy efficiency and the cost savings that result, but fail to recognize that creating this energy efficiency typically requires added upfront costs and extended time schedules.
This can result in an underfunded project that is not robust enough to deliver the anticipated efficiencies, or a project that takes much more time to complete than the now irritated owner and/ or occupant expected.
3. Scope creep
When you accept a green project with a tight budget, scope creep is usually not far behind.
All of a sudden the owner starts demanding more and more of your time to make the project perform as the owner anticipated. These added services were not contracted for, and the owner has no intention of increasing your fee. Your profit margin shrinks as your time on the job increases.
4. Nonperformance of maintenance
Even green buildings that pass the initial performance tests and are successfully commissioned can present problems later on if the owner and occupants fail to perform proper maintenance.
The failure to replace filters, clean vents, and provide other routine scheduled maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer can lead to a dramatic drop in the performance of the building and irate clients and occupants.
5. Regulatory challenges
Green laws, regulations, performance standards and certification requirements continue to evolve. What might have been sufficient yesterday in terms of meeting green design mandates may be considered inadequate tomorrow. Similarly, what might be sufficient in your jurisdiction may not suffice if you do a project across the nearest border.
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