LEED developers, critics content with GSA building rating system options

After a project design and contracting protocol review, the General Services Administration (GSA) is recognizing the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) 2009 green building rating system and Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes 2010 as third party certification standards.

GSA announced its position on LEED and Green Globes based on the findings of the Ad-Hoc Review Group on Green Building Certification Systems. The agency’s decision comes a year after 1,250-plus businesses and organizations lobbied for continued use of LEED in federal building contracts. In February, a National Academy of Sciences report on green building certification systems recommended that the Department of Defense construct its buildings to LEEDʼs Silver standard or the equivalent.

A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that GSA LEED-certified buildings use 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 internal report shows GSA has successfully reduced its energy use by nearly 20 percent since 2003 and water use by almost 15 percent since 2007.

“[LEED] has played a significant role in GSAʼs achievement of its energy and sustainability goals,” contends USGBC Senior Vice President, Global Policy and Law Roger Platt. “Any government agency that chooses to follow the private sector in using LEED certification does so because the result is better buildings and savings for the taxpayer.”

The American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC), a Washington, D.C., group of chemical and building materials interests that challenged GSA’s exclusive use of the USGBC rating system, applauded the agency’s decision on LEED 2009 and Green Globes, noting in a statement: “This increased competition will help the U.S. government improve the efficiency of its buildings, reduce the federal government’s overall energy use and save taxpayer funds. [GSA’s] announcement is a step in the right direction, however much more must be done to ensure that all green building codes, standards, ratings systems and credits used by the federal government are developed through confirmed, true voluntary consensus processes that are steeped in science, technical rigor, full transparency, broad stakeholder input and due process.”

On a related front, GSA will be evaluating responses this month following an invitation to industry, commercial interests, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations interested in submitting information on technologies that have the potential to improve federal buildings’ economic and environmental performance—especially through lower energy, water and operational costs. A Request for Information was issued in early-November for the agency’s Green Proving Ground program, where chosen technologies are evaluated in federal buildings to assist a) the agency in increasing facility efficiency, and b) the industry in deploying new construction materials, products, methods and practices into the broader market. — www.gsa.gov/GPG.