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Status of GSA's Implementation of Selected Green Building Provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007

GAO-09-111R: Published: Oct 31, 2008. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 2008.

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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, buildings in the United States account for 68 percent of the nation's total electricity consumption and 39 percent of its total energy consumption. In December 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) to, among other things, increase energy efficiency and the availability of renewable energy in federal buildings. Specifically, the act established new energy-related requirements and standards for federal buildings and for the agencies that oversee them. For example, it required the General Services Administration (GSA) to establish an Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings to coordinate green building information and activities within GSA and with other federal agencies. The act also required GAO to report to Congress on the implementation of certain provisions contained in EISA by October 31, 2008, and October 31, 2009. As determined in consultation with Congressional offices, this report fulfills the 2008 requirement by addressing the status of GSA's implementation of selected EISA requirements related to high-performance federal green buildings. We selected GSA as the focus of our initial report because GSA is responsible for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of thousands of federally owned or leased facilities and GSA's tenants represent a wide cross section of federal agencies. Specifically, this report provides general information on the status of GSA's (1) establishment of an Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, (2) designation of energy managers for federally owned facilities, (3) adoption of a certification system for federal green buildings, and (4) efforts to accelerate the use of more cost-effective technologies and practices at GSA facilities.

In March 2008, GSA appointed an Acting Director for the Office of Federal High- Performance Green Buildings and a few months later, in June, announced the establishment of the office within GSA's Public Buildings Service. GSA plans to designate the facility manager for each of its 8,600 federally owned properties as the energy manager for that facility and said it plans to have all energy managers in place by mid-November 2008. According to GSA officials, a facility manager may also oversee more than one facility and, in those instances, the energy manager would be responsible for more than one facility. In 2003, GSA adopted the U.S. Green Building Council's Green Building Rating System, LEED, which requires third-party verification that a project is certified to meet green building standards. Since that time, GSA has required that the LEED green building rating system be used as a design criterion for all capital projects and has set as a goal for all such projects that they receive at least a "silver" certification. GSA has begun to establish a program for accelerating the use of more cost-effective technologies and practices at GSA facilities, according to GSA officials. GSA officials said that such technologies and practices provide opportunities for energy reductions within their facilities. As part of this technology acceleration program, in the spring of 2008, GSA reviewed the use of cost-effective lighting technologies in GSA facilities. GSA also indicated that it would evaluate the use of geothermal heat pumps in its buildings on a case-by-case basis as it undertakes major renovations of federal facilities.

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