Tapping the Business Opportunities in Green Government Buildings

Tapping the Business Opportunities in Green Government Buildings

The tremendous growth of the green building movement over the last decade has been driven in no small part by the leadership of federal agencies and state and local governments that embraced LEED and green building early and enthusiastically.

Nationwide, governments own and operate a significant portion of the existing building stock. Many have set portfolio-wide policies mandating LEED certification for publicly owned buildings. Of the more than 38,000 projects in the LEED pipeline, a full 28 percent are government-owned. This is due in large part to the tireless efforts by agency staff who led efforts to save taxpayer dollars by making these buildings more efficient, healthier places to work.

Keeping this momentum going is imperative given that the government sector, specifically the federal government, still has a lot of work to do to find these same efficiencies in the large stock of existing buildings and on-going new construction that is ripe with opportunity.

In recent years, the efforts of these leaders was rewarded by recognition of the importance of this work at the highest levels, both through executive orders and additional funding directed toward building efficiency.

This past February, the Obama Administration announced its plan to "win the future" by making America's commercial buildings more energy and resource efficient over the next decade. The president's plan, entitled the Better Buildings Initiative, catalyzes private sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and universities, hospitals and other commercial and municipal buildings.

With policies like the Better Buildings Initiative, energy efficiency issues in new and existing buildings can be addressed, capitalizing on the opportunity to better these structures while creating jobs, saving money and resources, and addressing the challenges facing our environment. U.S. Green Building Council members have paved the way for programs like the Better Buildings Initiative in that they are LEED certifying more than 1.4 million square feet per day and many have been at the forefront of the green building movement since LEED's inception in 2000.

Firms that participate as partners with the government in these efforts provide valuable services, creating enormous economic opportunity for green building professionals and businesses. The USGBC's Government Summit, which will be held May 10 and 11, 2011 in Washington, D.C., is the annual event for green building professionals and those working in the government sector to come together and propel the green building conversation forward. The educational sessions, conversations and networking that happen each year have lasting momentum and result in lasting changes in the way green building is implemented in the public and private sectors.

When Charlene Bayer and several colleagues presented "Green and Healthy Federal Buildings" session at the 2010 summit, she had no idea what it would lead to. But in the audience was Charles Blumberg, a research architect at the National Institutes of Health, and after the session, Blumberg approached Bayer, a Georgia Tech sustainability researcher, with an idea: a working group on healthy buildings based at NIH.

That working group has now become a large, multiagency group focused on a strong research agenda on the connection between green buildings and human health. The group will be a clearinghouse for everything we know about the impact of the built environment on our health and well-being, churning out all kinds of invaluable research, workshops and metrics.

These are the kinds of connections made over the past decade at the summit every year. "We would never have gotten together if we hadn't been at (the) summit," Bayer said, "never."

In its eighth year, the summit brings together both public-sector building professionals and the private-sector companies and contractors who work on government projects -- and those who want to. The summit is packed with policy-oriented sessions, education provided by both government and industry experts, ample networking, and an opportunity for professionals to earn continuing education hours to maintain the suite of LEED Professional Credentials.

This year's speakers will include Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and Distinguished Scientist Emeritus Arthur Rosenfeld among many others. Educational sessions will focus on topics ranging from the international perspective on green building, to U.S. federal agency action on sustainability, to sustainable communities and the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system. This diverse program offers something for those involved in sustainability at all levels of government.

More information on the Government Summit, including details on how to register and the list of education programs planned, is available at www.usgbc.org/GovSummit.

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Green Building Council's Blog and is reprinted with permission.

Image of the U. S. Land Port of Entry in Massena, New York, courtesy of the Government Services Administration.