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LEED Gains GSA Panel’s Favor

Thursday, May 9, 2013

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While the General Services Administration has yet to officially recommend a green building standard for use in all federal buildings, the LEED system appears to be the front runner.

GSA's Green Building Advisory Committee voted 10-6  with one abstention last week to recommend that GSA continue to use the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to measure building efficiency in federal buildings. LEED was devised by the U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED government buildings
Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris / defenseimagery.mil

GSA is considering whether to endorse LEED as the go-to green building certification system. The Army Reserve Center (pictured) in Fort A.P. Hill is LEED Gold certified.

Other green-building rating systems vying for GSA’s official nod include the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes and the International Living Building Institute’s Living Building Challenge.

Process Ongoing

The committee’s recommendation is not the last step in the process.

GSA's Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini is expected to review all recommendations and send them to Acting Energy Secretary Daniel Ponemon by mid-summer. Ponemon will then work with Tangherlini, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and other agency representatives to arrive at a final decision for all federal buildings.

A GSA spokesman said the formal recommendation for all federal buildings would be posted to the GSA website this summer.

The LEED program is a voluntary certification system intended for commercial buildings. Available since 1998, LEED covers siting, water use, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environment, and innovation.

Comments Mixed

GSA’s Green Building Advisory Committee made the LEED recommendation after a public comment period that closed April 8.

Langley Headquarters NASA
General Services Administration

The GSA has pushed to make federal buildings more energy efficient to save public money. NASA's Langley Research Center (pictured) is certified LEED Platinum.

More than 400 comments from 162 stakeholders in the building and academic industries, as well as local and federal government agencies, weighed in during the comment period, USGBC said.

While the comments generally supported adopting an existing third-party certification system and key goals of green building, many disagreed on whether the government should adopt one standard, multiple standards, or give agencies the flexibility to use the system that best meets their individual needs, according to a report by Federal News Radio.

Those comments are expected to be released in the coming weeks.  

Green Building Work

The ad-hoc review committee, composed of key federal portfolio holders, has been evaluating the green-building systems since 2011. It has held public listening sessions and completed an initial evaluation report. A summary of previous findings is available here.

Every five years, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) requires the GSA to identify a system “deem(ed) to be most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to certification of green buildings,” GSA said.

In a 2006 review, GSA identified the USGBC’s LEED certification system as a reference for use in the federal sector. The current review is expected to decide whether LEED will retain that coveted status.

"Green building certification systems are just one tool that GSA uses to deliver better value and savings to the taxpayer and meet the Obama Administration’s sustainability and economic performance goals," according to the GSA.

‘Best Option for the GSA’

USGBC says it is not surprised with the recent recommendation, calling its system the “best option for the GSA.”

In a statement, Roger Platt, senior vice president of Global Policy & Law, USGBC, said, “Every single time green building and LEED have been evaluated by our most prestigious institutions, like the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council and the National Laboratories, the practice of green building and LEED certification have been shown to save taxpayer dollars and increase energy efficiency.”

“Lawmakers should see these repeated conclusions and continue supporting public sector use of LEED.”

However, supporters of the other two green-building systems are less than enthusiastic and continue to question whether LEED is transparent and built on consensus standards.

   

Tagged categories: Building design; General Services Administration; Green building; Green design; Green Globes; LEED; Living Building Challenge

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