Nelson Symposium Focuses on Prospects and Pitfalls of Green Building Practices For Local Governments

Published: February 11th, 2008

Category: News

Nelson SymposiumThe implications of a wide range of efforts on the local, state and national levels designed to encourage and require green building practices will be explored at the Seventh Annual Richard E. Nelson Symposium, Friday, Feb. 15, at the University of Florida Hilton Conference Center.

Presented by the University of Florida Levin College of Law and co-sponsored by The Florida Bar Environmental and Land Use Law Section and The Florida Bar City County and Local Government Section, this year’s conference is entitled “Green Building: Prospects and Pitfalls for Local Governments.” The event will draw experts from law and related fields to discuss topics such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and other certification programs, state and local climate change initiatives, private environmental lawmaking, building industry and local government programs, and national trends.

The state of Florida is positioning itself to be in the forefront of governmental efforts to incorporate design and construction practices that will yield energy efficiency, enable the conservation of resources, and protect the environment. Some local governments and universities have also been experimenting with their own green building programs. This rapidly changing field presents challenges and potential problems for local government counsel, as well as attorneys who specialize in real estate, land use, environmental and construction law.

“There are certainly a lot of positives to green building practices,” says UF Law Professor Michael Allan Wolf, Richard E. Nelson Chair in Local Government Law. “Local governments can promote themselves as being green. They might provide incentives for people to build green-certified buildings and create a green corridor or green district, and that can sort of promote the city, because there are a lot of people when they are choosing where to live or where to shop who are cognizant of these issues.

“But ultimately there might be some strings attached that might prove troublesome for local governments. There might be some extra regulatory hoops that they have to jump through, additional costs that the state could pass on to them, or legal challenges that could arise from these green building incentives and requirements.”

UF has been one of the leaders in the state in the green movement. UF’s Rinker Hall (pictured above) became Florida’s first LEED Gold-Certified building in 2004, and last year Library West became the second building at UF to attain gold status. Other UF buildings are now certified by LEED and several more are being renovated to meet these standards.

Scheduled presenters include Douglas Buck, director of governmental affairs, Florida Home Builders Association; Kristen H. Engel, professor of law, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law; Douglas E. Meyers, III, a lawyer at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, Jacksonville, Florida; Charles J. Kibert, professor, University of Florida M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction; Errol E. Meidinger, vice dean for research and professor, University at Buffalo Law School, State University of New York; Joshua Yaffin, energy coordinator, Florida Department of Management Services; Jeffry S. Wade, director, Environmental Division, Center for Governmental Responsibility, UF Levin College of Law; and Jariel Bortnick, J.D. candidate, UF Levin College of Law.

This is the seventh symposium honoring Richard E. Nelson–who served with distinction as Sarasota County attorney for 30 years–and Jane Nelson, two UF alumni who gave more than $1 million to establish the Richard E. Nelson Chair in Local Government Law, which sponsors the annual event. Their support of the Levin College of Law’s Environmental and Land Use Program has been key to the program’s success and national recognition for excellence.