Design Professionals Grow Leery Of “Green” Promises

Mar 02, 2011

Press Release: March 2, 2011 FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (March 2, 2011) — Legal claims over sustainability promises vs. performance of certified green buildings are beginning to mount—and so are warnings to A/E/P and environmental consulting firms, The Zweig Letter reported in its Feb. 28 issue. In February, insurance broker and risk management firm Ames & Gough issued warning urging design professionals to consider carefully the contractual language regarding “standard of care” and “scope of services” in addressing projects that pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification. One of the most critical provisions in any contract for professional design services relates to the standard of care under which the design professional will be required to render its services. In the absence of contract language to the contrary, a design professional will be held to a common law standard of care commensurate with that of other professionals providing the same services to a geographically similar community. “However,” Manhattan-based construction and real estate attorney Stephen Del Percio told The Zweig Letter, ZweigWhite’s weekly management journal that caters to the design industry, “on a green building project, an owner may seek to hire a design firm specifically because of its sustainable design expertise. Accordingly, it may attempt to hold the design professional to a higher standard of care than that which prevails in the industry. The standard of care has shifted." “In the spectrum of liability,” Del Percio continued, “legal challenges to green construction are making people more careful in what they’re promising.” According to this Motley Fool review, contractual wording that stipulates attaining certain levels of LEED certification and guarantees of specific percentages of energy reduction “can be affected by owner and contractor decisions, or otherwise beyond a design professional’s control,” said Dan Knise, CEO of Ames & Gough. Performance-based language such as “this design will achieve a LEED Gold rating” or “will reduce operating costs by 50%” in a standard of care provision may be problematic if the insurer believes that the design professional has provided the owner with the equivalent of a warranty or guarantee. Said Del Percio, since professional liability policies generally exclude coverage for claims arising out of the breach of a warranty or guarantee, owners and design professionals should review language in their construction agreements for provisions that could potentially be construed by an insurer as the equivalent of a warranty or guarantee. ABOUT ZWEIGWHITE Twice named to the Inc. 500 list of best firms, ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, controlled-circulation magazines, industry reports, executive training, business conferences and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. ZweigWhite is owned by investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and MZ Ventures, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs. For more information, visit or call (479) 582-5700. ###

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.