It’s Earth Day, and LEED Grows Up

Today is the 39th Earth Day. Happy birthday, Earth Day. It goes without saying that the world is more environmentally conscious today than that first Earth Day in 1970. Green building methods that were in their infancy then are commonplace now. We have acknowledged the urgent need for sustainable development, and this new direction has dramatically altered how development is done.

This spring, real estate professionals will want to take note as another revolution occurs in the green building movement when the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gets a major overhaul, including updates of all rating systems; updates to accrediting procedures for green professionals; and a new online project management system.

What is LEED?

LEED provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction and design. These standards are increasingly adopted by local governments and recognized by the development community as a reliable measure of sustainability. LEED provides an objective certification process where the technical criteria proposed by the USGBC are applied to individual projects to determine whether a project meets defined energy and efficiency goals. Since its inception in 1998, LEED has been used in thousands of projects across the country.

Grandfathering for New Projects

Projects can still register under the existing LEED version 2 rating systems. Registration for projects under the new LEED version 3 rating systems will become available on April 27, 2009. From April 27, 2009 to June 26, 2009, new projects can be registered under either version 2 or version 3. Registration for certification under version 2 will not be accepted after June 26, 2009. Registration of projects is relatively quick and inexpensive. Projects registered under the LEED version 2 rating system can be transferred to LEED version 3 after April 27, 2009. This transfer will be free of charge until October 26, 2009, after which there will be a new registration fee. Projects that remain registered under LEED version 2 will be unable to use the new version of LEED Online. We generally believe there will be a benefit for projects proceeding under version 2, and so registering prior to the deadline is critical. For those projects that register under version 2 and that later realize version 3 turns out to be more advantageous for a project, a project can simply transfer registration to LEED version 3 at that time.

San Francisco Requirements

The City and County of San Francisco green building ordinance requires the use of LEED version 2 or a “more recent” version of LEED, such as the new version 3. San Francisco also permits projects to be verified as meeting LEED standards by a “green building professional of record,” which is typically an architect or engineer, rather than officially certified. Many San Francisco projects still seek certification for a variety of reasons, and thus sponsors for all covered projects should consider whether to register under LEED version 2 at this time if they have not already done so.

Projects in other cities or counties should also review relevant local green building ordinances closely, as regulations governing LEED version changes vary widely between jurisdictions.

Reuben & Junius LLP Can Help

Attorneys Andrew Junius and Stephen Miller are LEED Accredited Professionals, and can offer counsel on the issues arising from these LEED version changes, LEED requirements and process in general, and updates on the status of green building code requirements in San Francisco and other cities throughout the state. Reuben & Junius, LLP is also available to register projects with LEED prior to the June 26, 2009 deadline. This process can be completed quickly and without any specific commitment to achieve a specific LEED standard.

To learn more about changes to LEED, visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s website at:

Reuben & Junius, LLP is a full service real estate law firm. We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leases, purchase and sale agreements, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.