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Oles Morrison

GSA Endorses Third Party Rating Systems for Federal Buildings

By on November 7, 2013 | Posted in LEED

On October 25, 2013, the U.S. General Services Administration (“GSA”) concluded that federal agencies should continue to use third party rating systems to evaluate the performance of federal buildings. Specifically, GSA advocated that agencies use U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED green building rating system or the Green Globes system to advance energy efficiency and to save taxpayers’ money. For more info on this decision, click here.

Earlier this year, the GSA released its initial findings surrounding green building in the federal government, but announced its intent to seek public input as to which rating systems “are most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to the certification of green federal buildings” before issuing its formal recommendation. See Feb 2013 DJC article.

Under Section 436(h) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), GSA is required to identify a certification system that is “most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to the certification of green buildings” and made a recommendation to the Secretary of Energy.

GSA’s decision comes a year after more than 1,250 businesses and organizations urged GSA to continue to use LEED to improve the energy and environmental performance of federal buildings, against push back from other groups. Now, based on the findings of the inter-agency “§436(h) Ad-Hoc Review Group on Green Building Certification Systems,” GSA continues to formally voice its support for LEED and Green Globes as third-party rating system for construction of government buildings.

To assist in making its recommendations, GSA engaged the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). A study by PNNL found that GSA LEED certified buildings used 25 percent less energy than the national average and cost 19 percent less to operate. There are currently more than 4,000 LEED certified government projects, with another 8,000 in the pipeline as registered projects. A recent report from GSA shows the agency has successfully reduced its energy use by nearly 20 percent since 2003 and water use by almost 15 percent since 2007.

GSA advised buildings should achieve at least LEED Silver or 2 Green Globes. In renovating existing buildings, agencies should set a minimum goal of LEED Certified or 1 Green Globe. In addition to recommending the use of third party rating systems and specifying that those systems be LEED 2009 and Green Globes 2010, the GSA made four other recommendations:

  1. Agencies should use credits that align with federal sustainability requirements, set forth by statute and Executive Order.
  2. Agencies should only use one third party certification system.
  3. GSA should establish a process to keep current with revisions to the rating system.
  4. Federal government should participate in ongoing development of green building rating systems.