GSA Pushes For Reforms to Green Building Certification

GSA Pushes For Reforms to Green Building Certification

The green building industry has been besieged the last few years with stories about buildings not performing as anticipated. It appears the federal government has taken notice and is pushing for reforms to green building certification, based on comments by one high-ranking General Services Administration official (subscription required): 

“'One of the things that I tease the USGBC about is that they really need to re-brand from ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ to ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Performance,’ and they are picking up on that,' [Kevin] Kampschroer said. 'The GSA is as well, with the idea of continually improving the maintenance of existing buildings.' "

I was surprised to read this comment from a high-profile GSA official. The GSA relies on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to demonstrate that its new construction is green. Now the GSA is apparently pushing the USGBC to reform its LEED rating system to account for building performance.  

In the article, Autodesk Vice President Phil Bernstein took it a step further and suggested that the federal government needs to completely overhaul the procurement system to ensure improved building energy performance:

In order to demand more energy-efficient government buildings, he said, federal officials must change their procurement model from the typical system of outlining what they want built, setting an estimated price and awarding a contract to the lowest bidder.

"You have to blow that to smithereens," said Bernstein, who believes federal officials must start setting broader energy-efficiency guidelines and rethink their incentive structure. "The government should say, ‘I want this schedule, this LEED rating, this operational efficiency and these design-quality standards,’ and all the profit is a measure of achieving those things.' "

I have no doubt that the USGBC will be revising the LEED rating system in the next few years to include re-certification for new buildings based on energy performance. The government has been dabbling with performance contracting -- contractors that get paid based on reducing energy bills -- for some time.  But would the federal government blow up the existing procurement process and require actual energy performance as part of new construction contracts? 

I wouldn't put it past the GSA.   

Chris Cheatham, J.D., LEED AP, is managing partner of Cheatham Consulting LLC. He also publishes the blog Green Building Law Update, where this post originally appeared.

Artist's rendering of the Dr. A.H. McCoy Federal Building in Jackson, Miss., and GSA logo courtesy of the General Services Administration.