The green-building community has been rattled by a mid-October lawsuit filed in a New York federal court alleging that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) “intended to mislead the consumer and monopolize the market for energy-efficient building design” by falsely claiming that it verifies energy-efficient design and construction through its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The class-action suit — filed on behalf of “consumers, taxpayers, [and] building design and construction professionals” by New York mechanical-systems designer Henry Gifford — seeks $100 million to compensate victims, plus legal fees. Although the case concerns commercial development such as office buildings, it raises the possibility that similar lawsuits could target green rating systems for residential construction.

Points for design The LEED system, established in 2000, is a third-party certification program designed to rate the “greenness” of qualifying buildings by awarding points for such design features as energy savings, water efficiency, indoor air quality, and reductions in CO2 emissions. Depending on the number of points it earns, a building may be...

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