FMA Attendees Cautioned on Green

May 4, 2010

Duck Key, Fla.–The legal profession is seeing "green" in the green building movement, suggested David Toney of Adams & Reese, speaking at the annual meeting of the Fenestration Manufacturers Association held here at the end of April.  The agenda also featured Jeff Lowinski of the Window & Door Manufacturers Association, as well as several technical and networking sessions. 

Toney outlined the growth of the green building movement, pointing out that various steps to stimulate the economy are acclerating the pace of that growth with green criteria becoming code, particularly in the area of energy efficiency.  Law firms are ramping up their research in this area in order to better challenge representations made by firms about their green, energy-efficient products, from LEED to labeling.

According to Toney, about 100 law firms now have one or more LEED-certified attorneys. He suggested they are laying the groundwork for class action lawsuits claiming that fenestration and other building product companies have made false representations about the actual environmental benefits of their products/services. Firms need to review their marketing materials and other public representations to be certain they are not exposing themselves to any potential liability, he advised.

Jeff Lowinski, WDMA's vice president of technical services, echoed some of Toney's concerns in his presentation on his organization's strategic initiatives for the fenestration industry. He explained that some of the problems associated with industry certification and labeling may be the result of confusion over "nebulous marketing terms." In an effort to appeal to customers, some firms use overly generous terminology when describing their products' energy efficient attributes.

He also reviewed the sea change occurring in the federal regulatory environment, reporting an  increasing trend of "regulations on-the-go," citing new filing requirements added to the lead paint rules as one glaring example. Another, he suggested, is a Home Star bill provision that one in five renovated homes will be inspected—not to see whether the job was done right or wrong, but whether the job was done at all.

The reach of government into the industry is broadening, Lowinski predicted, adding that in response, the industry needs to simplify and prioritize certifcation programs and its standard setting practices.

The FMA meeting featured a variety of other speakers.  More information on the event, as well as other FMA activities is available from the organization's Web site