LOUISVILLE—An attorney with Stites & Harbison has become the first lawyer in Kentucky to be named a Green Advantage Certified Professional.
Angela R. Stephens, whose practice focuses on construction contract litigation and alternative dispute resolution, was awarded the certification on March 18 by Green Advantage Inc. Green Advantage is an independent body established with grant funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and The Nature Conservancy, in collaboration with Science Applications International Corporation and the University of Florida.
Stephens completed a two-day course administered by the Kentucky U.S. Green Building Council chapter in Louisville and then passed an exam given at the University of Louisville.
Green building is one of the hottest trends in the construction business, and keeping abreast of the rapid changes is a huge challenge for the industry and all those who support it. Contractors, architects, developers, engineers, planners and others in the construction industry are among the professionals seeking Green Advantage certification.
“I’m pleased that Green Advantage recognizes my ability to implement sustainable design and construction practices on a project,” Stephens said. “As a construction lawyer who has spent a lot of time in the emerging field of sustainable design and construction, I know how to advise my clients about certain things they need to be aware of before they sign a contract. I make sure I know what’s going to be required of them out on a job site. So now when I’m writing a contract, I’m aware of some of the potential legal pitfalls and can try to minimize those risks.” An example, she said, might be that the general contractor needs to make it clear to the painting subcontractor that low-volatile organic compound paint must be used to meet LEED criteria.
Stephens, who joined the firm’s Louisville office in 2004, previously was designated as a LEED-AP attorney. LEED-AP is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Accredited Professional. LEED is an internationally recognized green building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in the 1990s to provide a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable building design.
The council says that to be LEED-certified, buildings or communities “must be designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.”
Stites & Harbison has 10 LEED-AP attorneys, more than any other law firm in the region, as well as two Green LEED associates.
The concept of green building – in which the built environment is designed to be more compatible with the natural one – is gaining considerable ground because of a variety of factors, from rising fuel prices and conflicts overseas to concerns over pollution and waste.
“Not only is green building more popular, it’s gradually moving from voluntary to mandatory,” Stephens said. The state of Kentucky, for example, now requires that most state-government building projects meet certain LEED standards. Eventually private construction might have to meet those standards as well. It will take some time to sort things out, Stephens said, such as the fact that some existing building codes conflict with sustainable practices. While initial construction costs may be 1 to 2 percent higher, a LEED-certified building will save money in the long run from lower water and utility bills, she said.
As the newly elected education chair for the Kentucky chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Stephens is now charged with teaching sustainable building construction throughout the state.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s unique and it’s fascinating. Really, sustainable building is about getting back to the basics.” Sometimes the simplest construction, such as adobe bricks, is all one needs for a safe, stable building.
“To me it’s almost comical, because really, sustainable design and construction is getting back to our roots. Use sunlight to heat your building. Use shading to keep your building cooler. And we’re having to re-learn it. We’ve been taught to think complex, but we don't have to.”