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GSA: More than the Government's Landlord


By Lurita Doan, GSA Administrator

For years, folks have described the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) as the Federal government’s landlord. While that’s only part of what we do, it’s a big part, and we take it seriously. Like any diligent landlord, we try to keep our 8,600 buildings in good shape and our tenants happy.

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Unlike most landlords, however, GSA is a government agency with an enormous responsibility to the taxpayers and the nation. That means, for instance, leading by example when it comes to saving energy. It means being on constant alert for a light-bulb moment when we can conserve resources, be it in the amount of gas used by the Federal fleet, or the electricity used to light our buildings.

Indeed, nearly 30 percent of the energy used in buildings today is consumed by lighting and office equipment. In the early 1990s, GSA saw an opportunity and began retrofitting buildings with new energy efficient lighting systems. In fact, we met our early goal of a 20 percent energy reduction between 1985 and 2000 primarily through these retrofits.

Since then, GSA has moved toward a new generation of integrated lighting products. We use daylight harvesting techniques to make maximum use of natural daylight and energy-saving control systems to turn off lights near windows. While such techniques and products are initially more costly and challenging, they’re worth it in the long run. That’s because they not only reduce the amount of energy used for lighting, they also cut the amount of heat produced by the lights. And that lessens the amount of air conditioning needed to cool the building, reducing the size of the mechanical system needed, resulting in even greater savings.  

Like the shin bone’s proximity to the thigh bone, this connectivity is critical and part of a bigger picture. It makes no sense to save energy in buildings and then squander the savings in, say, increased emissions from the cars of hundreds of thousands of Federal employees sitting in daily traffic. That’s why GSA developed 14 telework centers that saved nearly 2.8 million travel miles, almost 115,000 gallons of fuel, and kept 2.3 million pounds of emissions from the air.

Such topics and many more are about to be explored at GovEnergy, the Federal government’s premier annual energy conference in August in New Orleans. When I address the 1,400 attendees, an audience of mainly energy and facility managers from the public and private sectors, I’m going to talk about some of the challenges ahead, but I’ll also mention some of GSA’s successes, such as:

The San Francisco Federal Building, a marvel of sustainable design built to exceed the most stringent energy code in the country. GSA’s national average annual energy use for federal buildings is about 69,000 BTUs per square foot.  Remarkably, this one is designed to require only 27,000 BTUs per square foot.

Our Multiple Awards Schedules (MAS), through which agencies can buy everything from environmental assessments and energy management programs to recycled paper, energy-efficient lighting, paints, chemicals, and pollution-prevention systems.

GSA helps agencies reduce petroleum consumption by offering alternative fuel vehicles and hybrid electrics for lease and purchase. By the end of fiscal 2007, GSA’s Fleet will include about 70,000 alternative fuel vehicles.

GSA leads the development of alternative workplace arrangements for the federal community and, along with the Office of Personal Management, is a co-lead agency for federal telework.

GSA requires all new construction projects and major renovations to meet or exceed targets set by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. GSA has earned a LEED rating for 19 buildings and has registered another 70 buildings under the LEED system.

No, government landlord doesn’t begin to describe it.

Lurita Doan is Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration. The GSA’s 2007 GovEnergy Conference, geared to help federal agencies reduce energy use and costs and to meet requirements outlined in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, opened on August 6 in New Orleans.

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