Why Choose Sustainable Features on Your Next Project?

By Colleen Telling, Esq., Manager and Counsel, AIA Contract Documents

February 25, 2022

Sustainable projects incorporate design and construction practices that can benefit the environment, enhance the health and well-being of building occupants, increase building life cycle, or increase energy efficiency.

There are various reasons for constructing a sustainable building. A common reason is to achieve brand name recognition by a certification system, such as LEED®, Energy Star, or Green Globes. Another reason is to reduce the environmental impact through design or performance metrics, such as decreased energy or water use. Moreover, some jurisdictions may require sustainably designed and constructed buildings, depending on the applicable federal, state, or local codes. Still other reasons for constructing a sustainable building can include lower operational costs and an increased value at the point of sale.

Oftentimes, sustainable buildings consist of features that are not readily obvious to a building occupant. For instance, buildings can be sustainable if their size and orientation produce a more energy efficient structure. Lighting can be a sustainable feature in a building by optimizing access to natural light or employing photo-sensors that control continuous dimmers for energy conservation.  To maximize thermal comfort, a building can be designed with quality insulation, windows and fans can be spaced evenly, and air registers can be located strategically. Anyone striving for healthy indoor air quality can implement several strategies:   1) replace gas ranges, boilers, fireplaces, or water heaters – all of which can release harmful gases into the atmosphere – with electric appliances and equipment; 2) select low-VOC paints, cabinets, and furniture to minimize off-gassing; and 3) use HEPA air filters.

Regardless of the type of building or the desired sustainable features to be designed and installed, parties should work together as early in the project as possible to define the sustainable objective, determine how it will be measured, develop a sustainability plan, and understand the requirements to achieve certification.

E204-2017 Sustainable Projects Exhibit , has been developed for use on a wide variety of sustainable projects, including those in which the Sustainable Objective includes obtaining a Sustainability Certification, such as LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), or those in which the Sustainable Objective is based on incorporation of performance-based sustainable design or construction elements. E204–2017 addresses the risks, responsibilities and opportunities unique to projects involving substantial elements of sustainable design and construction (sustainable projects). E204–2017 is not a stand-alone document, but is intended to be attached as an exhibit to an existing agreement on a project that includes a Sustainable Objective. E204–2017 is intended to replace the Sustainable Projects documents included in the Conventional (A201) family of AIA Contract Documents.

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.