The Matchmaker

Stuart Kaplow, ESQ. builds his clients much-needed roadmaps through the confusing world of sustainable building.

There’s no one-stop shop when it comes to third-party certifications. And that includes the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED rating system.

Here’s where Stuart Kaplow, ESQ comes in. His eponymous Baltimore, Md.-based law firm specializes in advising owners, operators, designers, architects and many other players in the built environment on the most appropriate certifications and standards to use for their specific project. He and his team begin by asking their clients about their sustainability-related objectives and simply go from there.

“There is no homogenous building type in this country, and no one, single definition of a green building,” says Kaplow. And therein lies the problem.

We sat down with Kaplow to learn more about his process and take a look back on his career to understand where green building was then, is now and will be going next.

i&s: You are known as a bit of a rebel in the green building and sustainable business law arena. Tell us about your exploits that led to that reputation.
kaplow: I was recently selected by the American Bar Association as one of their 10 Legal Rebels for my work in creating and advancing the emergent body of law that is green building and sustainable business law. I was arguably one of the first green building attorneys—admittedly an aggressive and risky business move.

i&s: How long have you been doing this, and what are your thoughts on how green building has evolved since you started?
kaplow: Seven years ago when I began practicing sustainability and green building law full-time, green building was less than 3 percent of new non-residential construction. McGraw-Hill Construction reported in 2012 that more than 44 percent of new non-residential construction activity was green. Market demand for green building is now huge.

i&s: You must hate the word “green” by now.
kaplow: I’d rather characterize our work as “sustainability.” A 1987 document issued by the World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need,” and it became known as the Brundtland Report. It was a big step toward businesses’ appreciation of sustainability.

i&s: What are the green codes, standards and rating systems you advise on, and what kind of clients do you represent in the green building certification process?
kaplow: There are green standards including ASHRAE 90.1 and ASHRAE 189.1; rating systems including Energy Star and LEED; and codes including the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

I represent a wide breadth of interests that range from business owners who want a more sustainable business operation to design professionals determining how to green a building or tenant space.

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