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Green Building Curmudgeon

Musings on Lawsuits, Spiritual Energy, and Metal Roofs

Or, damn, Henry Gifford out-curmudgeoned me!

The powers-that-be have decided that a standing-seam metal roof is not appropriate in my historic district.

As most people in the green building world have recently learned, Henry Gifford has filed a class action suit against the USGBC and several executives of the organization. His claims include fraud and monopolistic practices. He claims that the USGBC is attempting to monopolize the building industry at the expense of anyone who doesn’t have a LEED AP credential. He does have a point that being a LEED AP has no direct correlation to whether or not you know anything about how buildings work or perform. It mainly means that you passed a test, although the newer iteration of the accreditation does require some experience with green building.

Regardless of the merits of his suit, I feel humbled by the curmudgeonliness of his lawsuit. I do plenty of complaining, both verbally and in writing, about the USGBC and LEED, as well as the NAHB and any other group I happen to have in my sights. But filing a class action suit—now that is being a world-class curmudgeon. Although I don’t know Henry very well, I have met him and heard him speak. I’m very impressed with his wealth of knowledge, particularly about how boilers and heating systems work in mid- and high-rise buildings, two subjects I know very little about.

The real costs of lawsuits

According to a crisp analysis of the suit by BuildingGreen, his chances of success are not clear, but that is pretty much the case with most lawsuits. I have always been of the opinion that in business you may have to sue someone for one reason or another, but if you actually go to court, the chances of winning anything are pretty slim. And beyond the lawyers’ fees, your time, and having to absorb all those costs—and maybe more if you lose—there is the spiritual energy loss.

When you run a business or a practice, you need to focus on your core work and your clients. The time you spend with lawyers takes away from that work on your business. Even if you win the lawsuit, your business probably suffers in the interim. Through most of my 25-year career as a contractor, I worked hard to avoid prolonged legal fights, and many times either walked away from unpaid bills or even paid people to go away, just to get back to the business of my business: making very objective, financially based decisions that ultimately worked out better than fighting extended legal battles.

Enough of this, now back to my problems

This all leads me to my pending new home project. As I mentioned in my last post on it, the powers-that-be have decided that a standing seam metal roof is not appropriate in my historic district. While this happens to be a complete pile of irrational crap, I am stuck with this decision, unless I either continue to appeal at another hearing or choose to sue them. I probably have a good case for a lawsuit, as they have already set a precedent by recently allowing a corrugated metal roof. But I have to decide if it is worth my spiritual energy to go through a fight with my neighbors. I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I will keep you posted.


  1. MichaelAnschel | | #1

    Jesus H.G. Christ
    Is Gifford just bored? Perhaps he and Amory should hang out together. Gifford may know boilers and heating systems, but based on what I've read, he doesn't know green building. The sad thing is that I agree with him that USGBC is monopolistic and they got caught skewing data for marketing (which makes them guilty of something, but I'm not sure it is fraud). But as unhappy as I might be with the LEED products and the leadership (at least on the homes side) a lawsuit seems a bit extreme. Let's face it, Gifford should be grateful for the USGBC; without them he would have nothing to do.

  2. Isaac | | #2

    Metal roof
    It's probably worth it to pursue some further action as your new roof will be in there for a long time.

    On the other hand, you could just put the metal roof on and force them to do something about it. How powerful is this organization?

  3. Nick from WI | | #3

    Careful with neighbors...

    Murphy's law clearly states: Good neighbors come and go, but pi$$ed off neighbors stick around FOREVER!

    Take it from someone who unintentionally pi$$ed of their neighbors time and again during the build process, it's no picnic. We hear more often from their lawyer than our own family. Granted, I live on the lake, which seems to give people some exaggerated sense of entitlement, but threatening legal action unless we trim the "potentially life threatening limbs" off our trees near the property line is out of hand.

    Believe me, I feel your pain. A standing seem metal roof is the way to go all around... looks, longevity, efficiency. It's tough to consider giving it up, but if your neighbors are set against it, you'll never hear the end of it. Next year they'll call the police because the snow pile from your driveway melted onto their lawn "killing the trees!" (true and painful story!)

    Have you considered getting creative? There are metal shingle systems that look like shake but have some of the benefits of a standing seam roof. I know... it's not the same. Just scraping for a nugget of help... Godspeed!

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