Class-Action Suit Against USGBC Alleges
Deceptive Trade Practices, False Advertising and Anti-Trust in Promoting
October 21, 2010
A class-action lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Green Building
Council (USGBC) earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for
the Southern District of New York. The class-action lawsuit, filed
by Henry Gifford of Gifford Fuel Saving Inc. and others, claims
that the USGBC has engaged in deceptive trade practices, false advertising
and anti-trust in promoting the LEED certification program.
documents state, "USGBC's LEED rating system is supplanting
building codes in many jurisdictions, undermining marketplace competition
and obscuring other building standards that are proven-unlike LEED-to
reduce energy use and carbon emissions
" The suit goes
on to state, "When LEED accredited professionals design and
build buildings instead of skilled professionals
of experience making safe, comfortable and energy-efficient environments,
the marketplace, consumers and the environment, often suffer."
Gifford has spoken out about the LEED rating system before. In
a September NPR interview,
he said, "It's impossible to go out and buy a building with
a guarantee for how much energy it won't use. And the LEED system,
by basing everything on energy predictions, continues that. This
is one of the reasons why it's so popular-because it's painless."
Court documents note that the class-action suit is brought on behalf
of the following classes:
- "All those who paid for LEED certification for property
they own in reliance on defendant's deceptive marketing claims
that LEED-certified properties use 25 percent less energy and
achieve CO2 emissions reductions over non-LEED-certified properties
- All persons who design energy-efficient buildings and whose
livelihoods are injured by USGBC's monopolization of the market
through fraudulent and intentionally misleading representations
in the marketing and promotion of their LEED product line
- All taxpayers whose city and state tax dollars are spent on
the costs of LEED certification in publicly commissioned buildings
- Trades injured by USGBC's deceptive trade practices because
they lose money and valuable time to comply with LEED specifications
and the buildings they do build do not use 25 percent less energy,
or any less energy, than non-LEED certified properties."
While a class-action lawsuit may or may not generate change and
awareness, some in the fenestration industry point out that programs
that take a holistic approach to design and construction are important.
"What is needed is for any rating or certification program
to focus on the integrated design, construction and occupancy phases
more holistically, taking into account post-occupancy performance
and verification that the energy-efficient and sustainable design
and construction strategies are successful," says Kerry Haglund,
a senior research fellow with the University of Minnesota, Center
for Sustainable Building Research. "The Minnesota Sustainable
Building Guidelines is such a program that leads to a full accounting
of the actual costs and benefits of sustainable building design
and energy efficient strategies. The quick development of the LEED
programs has resulted in a lot of good design and construction practices,
and more importantly, awareness in the area of sustainability and
at some point USGBC will probably integrate required post-occupancy
performance metrics into its rating systems, which will be a natural
progression of its ever-developing guidelines."
Ashley Katz, manager, communications for USGBC, told USGNN.com
she could not comment on pending litigation.
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