USGBC Members and Stakeholders Speak at the GSA Listening Session

Melissa Gallagher-Rogers, LEED® AP
Director, Government Sector,
U.S. Green Building Council

If you got an A+ on your report card, you would rush home to bask in the glow of your family’s approval, right?

Of course you would. But if you are a federal agency that goes by the acronym GSA, then an A+ on the OMB scorecard only gets you so far. Granted, GSA has had some troubles lately, but what they have done on building energy and water efficiency is worth commending. The statistics speak for themselves.

  • 19.2 percent reduction in energy use per square foot of space since 2003
  • 13.7 percent reduction in water use since 2007
  • 20.3 percent reduction in emissions since 2003

Obviously whatever they are doing is working, and we are thrilled that LEED has contributed to this success.

USGBC and its members spoke at the session yesterday, complementing the progress GSA has made. Dr. Chris Pyke, vice president of research at USGBC offered comments about the federal government’s long history of using LEED as a common language to define sustainable buildings and a transparent framework for goal-setting, tracking and accountability for high performance federal buildings. Dr. Pyke reiterated that the consensus process for the creation of LEED continues to be the strongest part of our member organization with 22,000 public comments on the next version of LEED.

This remark was echoed by the private sector when representatives from Skanska and Smith Group spoke about the wide use of LEED in both the public and private sector. LEED is considered the common language in sustainable design and using LEED as that common language reduces confusion and therefore cost for both the public and private sector. In addition the third-party verification of performance is a critical part of the process. The Forest Stewardship Council called on the federal government to exceed the status quo rather than embrace it by working with LEED as a leadership standard for green buildings. Representatives of these organizations also cited benefits of LEED such as a preference for healthy building materials and improved work environments with reduced sick leave.

As background, the 2007 Energy Information and Security Act required the General Services Administration (GSA) to evaluate green building certification systems. GSA provides the findings from that evaluation to the Department of Energy so that the Secretary of Energy in consultation with the Department of Defense and GSA can name a certification system for the federal government. The study is completed on a five year cycle and the original 2006 study named LEED as the certification system that most closely aligned with the federal green building goals and requirements.

Now GSA is studying the green building certification system options in order to determine the next recommendation. The 2012 study of LEED and other green building rating systems found that LEED was closely aligned with the new construction version of the federal guiding principles for high performance buildings and the most closely aligned rating system with the guiding principles for existing buildings.

Green building is growing, entering the mainstream and rapidly becoming a global phenomenon. McGraw-Hill reports that LEED-based green building practices are specified in 71 percent of large, new construction projects. The federal government has consistently used LEED as a tool to meet its green building goals. For example, the GSA joined the USGBC Volume Program and plans to use LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance to certify roughly 75 million square feet of its existing buildings. The best innovation occurs when the public and private sector are aligned to innovate, grow the market and create new jobs. In addition, if the public sector moves away from generally accepted practices of the market it increases cost which is an unnecessary use of taxpayer dollars.

USGBC applauds GSA, DOE and DoD for the leadership they have shown in green building an encourages them to answer the request of the speakers at today’s listening session by continuing with third-party verification of their green buildings through the LEED rating system.

The first of a series of listening sessions at GSA was held yesterday, June 25. GSA welcomes public comments and the second listening session is Tuesday, July 10 at 2 p.m. ET. USGBC encourages members of our community to participate in these sessions and provide written comments. You can RSVP to participate here: GSA RSVP.

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