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Law student completes sustainability fellowship

August 20, 2010

Lon Johnson, a second-year student at the College of Law, was selected for a Student Sustainability Fellowship by the North American Transborder Studies and the Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research & Policy at Arizona State University, and recently completed a research paper on LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification as part of the fellowship.

Johnson’s paper, “Being Legally Green: An Analysis of the USGBC’s LEED Rating System,” examines the emergence of green building, which has spurred a new wave of environmentalism in the United States. Green building is creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle.

“The benefits of this movement can be seen in worker health, economic savings, and environmental conservation,” Johnson writes. “Additionally, it should not be forgotten that, although difficult to measure, many of those benefitting from green building have yet to be born.”

However, he cautions that it is easier to encourage or require a level of green building design than to ensure such designs match current building codes, and it also is easier to apply a predetermined rating system than to consider the needs of each site individually.

“As the green building movement grows, there will inevitably be legal problems relating to such issues,” Johnson predicts. “In the interests of efficiency and equity, the process should be as transparent as possible, and governments that establish LEED requirements should actively promote dialogue with the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council).

Andrew (Sandy) Askland, Director of the College of Law’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation, and Johnson’s faculty advisor on the project, said he did “excellent work exploring the relationship between LEED certification standards and local building ordinances and codes. He also provided a workable solution to the conflicts that periodically arise between them.”

As part of the fellowship, Johnson, whose undergraduate degree from Princeton University is in anthropology and African Studies, received a $1000 award.