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As brownfield redevelopment proliferates and interest in green building increases, one trend has become clear: it’s a good time to be an environmental consultant. New accounting rules published by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) regarding the due diligence in transactions of distressed properties–as well as the growing complexity of green technology and standards–will lead to growing reliance on outside experts, the consultants themselves say.

A December 2007 revision of Financial Accounting Statement No. 141 requires that a buyer recognize all assets and liabilities, including environmental liabilities, in a transaction at fair value. The new rules arose from the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which established new or enhanced financial reporting standards in the wake of major corporate scandals including the collapse of Enron.

“The accounting standards board saw this as a way of getting around liability, making it much more difficult to get out of reporting liabilities,” David Robinson, vice president of remedial services for The Whitman Co.–an East Brunswick, N.J.-based environmental engineering and management firm–says to GlobeSt.com. Robinson, with Edward Sullivan, a Whitman project manager, has written on the effect of these changes on the transaction process. Outside experts, they say, will need to provide detailed analyses regarding the need for environmental investigations or remediations, the technologies to achieve it, relationships with the regulators, range of potential outcomes, the “expected value” of the liability and even the possibility of natural resource damages.

Remediating brownfields are not the only cause for a greater reliance on consultants. As “green” building continues to take off, developers are looking for outside expert assistance even as they build internal staffs. “It’s never been a bad time to be a consultant,” said Jerry Yudelson, a principal of Tucson-based Yudelson Associates, a green building consultancy. “There is a huge interest in green and sustainable building.”

Retail and other real estate sectors are joining office developers in creating energy-efficient buildings. In fact, the maturity level has risen so quickly beyond a casual, faddish interest that now all sectors are coming to what Yudelson calls the “Jerry Maguire” question–show me the money. “We’re moving into the period where you have to perform,” Yudelson said. “I think we’re in the ‘era of good feeling.’ But the next step is to do what Wal-Mart has done, rolling out its high-efficiency prototype.”

The result is that companies and associations are now starting to bring in full-time staff, though it is important that these new hires have true clout and the support of the CEO, he said. Yet outside opinions will continue to be important. “To grow your profits, you have to grow your business,” Yudelson said. “And to grow your business, you have to have people.”

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