Tag Archives: economic difficulties

Green Movement

Top 10 Green Building Trends to Watch in 2011

While we may have just begun 2011, many industry analysts predict that the green building and sustainability movement will rebound in 2011 in spite of the continuing economic difficulties in most developed countries. This overall trend runs counter to the thrust of the overall worldwide recession, but this is due to to the overwhelming public and private sector support for the trend at all levels of government globally.

Here are the Top 10 Trends to watch for in 2011 as noted by many within the industry, including fellow green building consultant, Jerry Yudelson:

1.    The worldwide green building movement will continue to accelerate as more countries begin to create their own green building incentives and develop their own Green Building Councils. More than 70 countries, on all continents, will show considerable green building growth in 2011.

2.    Green building will rebound in 2011 as measured by the new LEED project registrations as a proxy for this growth. “The reduction in commercial real estate building in many countries,” Yudelson said, “was not offset by other sectors such as government, and so the growth rate of new green building projects fell dramatically in 2010.”

3.    The focus of the green building industry will continue to switch from new buildings to greening existing buildings. “The fastest growing LEED rating system in 2010 was the LEED for Existing Buildings program, and I expect this trend to continue in 2011,” Yudelson said. “My 2009 book, ‘Greening Existing Buildings,’ documents the strategic components of this trend.”

4.    Blue will become the New Green. Awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh water supply will continue to grow, leading building designers and managers to take further steps to reduce water consumption to increase sustainability. This will be done in buildings through the use of more conservation-oriented fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new water technologies.

5.    Green building in the U.S. will continue to benefit from the Obama administration with a continued focus on greening the executive branch. New announcements of a commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold for all new federal projects and major renovations confirm and highlight this macro-trend.

6.    Zero-net-energy designs for new buildings become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR ratings become too common to confer competitive advantage.

7.    Performance Disclosure will be the fastest-emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California and other states. Commercial building owners will have to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers.

8.    Certified Green Schools will grow rapidly as part the LEED System. This trend will accelerate as understanding of the health and educational benefits of green schools grows. Already by mid-year 2010, green schools represented nearly 40  percent of all new LEED projects in the U.S.

9.    Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings for both themselves and the private sector. We’ll see at least 20 major new cities with commercial sector green building mandates. The desire to reduce carbon emissions by going green will lead more government agencies to require green buildings.

10.    Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow. This trend will be enhanced by the increasing focus of municipal utilities as they need to comply with state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2015 and 2020. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop systems, such as on warehouses. However, we may very well see a slowing of large solar and wind systems as federal grant support, in lieu of tax credits, is phased out.

While we we have already run in the new year, it will be interesting to see how the green building initiative will take shape in light of ever shifting political realities in Washington, D.C.

Changing Course

Law Firms Are Altering Their Strategies To Cope With The Recession

The downturn in the economy that is affecting all businesses has not spared law firms. Like all other businesses, law firms have been forced to cope with fewer and thriftier clients. Specifically, law firms have had to deal with sharp reductions in transactional and real estate work, large increases in litigation and bankruptcy matters, and clients who are often unable to pay for legal services. Providing legal services to clients that may declare bankruptcy in the near future has become commonplace.

Law firms have responded to these trying times with various strategies. Many law firms have primarily focused on reducing costs through hiring and compensation freezes, recruiting cutbacks, and event cancellations. Other firms have started to transition transactional attorneys to bankruptcy or litigation work.

Not all strategies, however, are created equal. The reduction of costs is always a worthwhile aim, but when conducted without strategic vision, it can leave a firm with frustrated employees and choke off any avenue for organic growth. The transfer of attorneys to other divisions certainly creates revenue for the firm by keeping otherwise inactive attorneys productive, but the work product can suffer. For example, transactional attorneys will not necessarily provide the highest level of service to a client with litigation or bankruptcy needs.

Firms that take a different approach may be best suited to not only survive the current economic difficulties, but to emerge on the other side as stronger firms. This approach is simple: Focus on the client. While all law firms profess to keep the client’s interest at heart, in these times, paying more than lip service to that ideal is the key to success. Now more than ever, many clients are not able to afford full service legal representation. Obviously, providing the highest quality legal service to the client is always the first priority, but providing value should be a close second. Focusing on the client and its specific needs allows attorneys to add value by identifying and zeroing in on the particular requirements of that client. Once the particular needs are identified, it is simple to eliminate any superfluous services that do not add value, and to concentrate only on the services that really move the client closer to its ultimate goal. This focus keeps the representation more efficient, less costly, and will ensure that the client is satisfied with all of the legal services provided.

One major example of how an increased focus on the client is more important than ever is the looming prospect of bankruptcy. Recognizing that a bankruptcy could be on the horizon for a client is very important to shaping any legal strategy. Most importantly, a bankruptcy provides unique legal challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed in a timely manner. Identifying the possibility for a bankruptcy, and when it might occur, allows the lawyer to properly gauge which long-term strategies will be ineffective, and how to use the limited time and resources as efficiently as possible. Moreover, a possible bankruptcy underlines the client’s absolute necessity for value from legal services. Particular attention from the attorney at the outset of a representation can identify a possible bankruptcy, shape the representation, and let the law firm know which services will be most valuable to the client under the circumstances.

With the need to adjust to the current economic difficulties paramount for all law firms, smaller firms may be the best equipped. Like the tugboat and the ocean liner, smaller firms are more nimble and able to focus resources to needed areas more quickly than larger firms. Most importantly, small firms often provide a higher level of personal attention and a greater focus on the client’s needs. Focusing on the client is the best way to ensure success for both the law firm and the client.

Charles J. Morrow also contributed to this article.  He is an associate at Galbut & Galbut. He can be reached at cmorrow@galbutlaw.com.