Builders Association of the Twin Cities Sues Minnesota GreenStar

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MN GreenStar attorney Patrick Burns

The Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), known for the Parade of Homes, is suing MN GreenStar over intellectual property rights, breach of contract and nonpayment of loans. Critics of BATC, and green building advocates, call the association’s move “greenwashing” because it would allegedly water down the state’s high standards and remove third-party verification. MN GreenStar is a nonprofit that certifies eco-friendly homes, similar to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. BATC was a founding member of MN GreenStar, which launched in 2007 when the Minneapolis-based Green Institute received a $40,000 grant to establish a statewide green building program.

Green builder Harvey Sherman

GreenStar uses a “checklist” to certify new homes, which BATC claims is its own intellectual property. BATC sought a temporary restraining order against GreenStar for use of the checklist: “While GreenStar was authorized to use the Green Homebuilding Guidelines … the documents were to remain the intellectual property of BATC, and BATC never assigned or otherwise transferred its ownership of the Green Building Guidelines when GreenStar was formed,” the motion stated. BATC also asked GreenStar in October to begin making payments on a $306,418 loan agreement, but that loan was made less than nine months ago and the first payment isn’t due until January.

Green builder Peter Vojavich

MN GreenStar attorney Patrick Burns told Finance & Commerce that, according to GreenStar, BATC was just one of three founding members of GreenStar, and that BATC is now trying to claim sole ownership of a new homes checklist that was created “for the benefit of MN GreenStar and the community, not for the benefit of one of the founders.” Burns equated the temporary restraining order to “a minority shareholder trying to get a judge to tell McDonald’s not to any sell hamburgers until a dispute about the invention and ownership of the cheeseburger recipe is litigated in court.”

In general, MN GreenStar officials claim that BATC’s true intent is to create a “light” version of GreenStar’s “holistic” approach to green homebuilding — a “greenwashing” attempt that has national implications because Minnesota is viewed as a trendsetter in green building standards.

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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