The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has, for the first time, recommended two green building rating systems for the federal government's buildings. After almost two years of review, both LEED and Green Globes got the nod from the agency, which sent its recommendations to the Department of Energy (DOE) on Friday. (See Green Globes Tops LEED in Federal Review, but Barely.)
Not a surprise
The decision to put Green Globes on equal footing with LEED is in keeping with a February 2013 request for comments (see Federal Government May Abandon LEED Endorsement), in which the agency indicated that both these rating systems aligned well (but neither aligned perfectly) with federal green building goals and suggested that each federal agency should choose its own preferred rating system. Today’s letter to DOE includes several other recommendations:
• Agencies should use third-party certification systems.
• Agencies should choose between LEED and Green Globes (rather than using both) and achieve at least Silver or Two Globes, respectively. Higher levels of certification are encouraged “if cost-effective or necessary to allow the agency to continue its mission.”
• Agencies should achieve credits that align with federal requirements.
• Agencies should have a process for responding to ongoing rating system development—and should participate in that development as well.
Not likely to end confusion
The practical implications of this recommendation are not clear. The U.S. military has already re-adopted LEED Silver or equivalent as its own standard, and its building portfolio dwarfs that of all other federal building owners.
GSA itself, the nation’s largest landlord, "will continue to use LEED as we do today, for new construction, major modernization projects and existing buildings," GSA spokesperson Dan Cruz says. The agency requires at least LEED Gold for federally owned buildings and at least LEED Silver for new construction projects it will lease.
GSA’s own choice to continue using LEED might have contributed to an over-enthusiastic press release from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) about the news, trumpeting that LEED remained the "preferred" rating system for federal buildings. While it is clear that LEED—with thousands more certified projects than Green Globes, including many federal projects—is more familiar to federal agencies and the contractors they work with, the GSA recommendation does not favor LEED.
In keeping with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (also called EISA), DOE is supposed to initiate formal rulemaking based on GSA’s recommendation. However, since DOE never made rules based on GSA’s 2006 LEED recommendation, the 2013 decision largely reflects the status quo in the federal government (see 4 Reasons Battles Over LEED in the Military Are a Distraction).
Copyright 2013 by BuildingGreen Inc.