GSA Advised to Keep LEED

by | May 6, 2013

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An official advisory committee has recommended that the federal government continue to use LEED as its main standard for energy efficiency and other green building attributes, reports.

The Green Building Advisory Committee, set up to advise facilities management agency the General Services Administration, concluded by a 10-6 vote that LEED was the best standard to help the government comply with the Energy Independence and Security Act. There was one abstention.

The act requires federal agencies to use a green building certification system for new construction and major renovations. The GSA has required new buildings under its jurisdiction to be LEED Gold certified since 2010.

The committee studied the issue for over a year and a half. Kevin Kampschroer, the director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings at GSA, said the committee studied more than 160 tools and standards, and found that only three addressed buildings in their totality.

But not all members agreed with the decision. William Hall, representing the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, said choosing the monopoly of a single standard could raise costs and stymie innovation. He also questioned LEED’s transparency.

Last July, 27 business associations including the US Chamber of Commerce, American Chemistry Council and the Vinyl Institute formed the American High-Performance Building Coalition to support the development of a green building standard to challenge LEED. The groups had lobbied to stop the GSA from considering adoption of the proposed LEED v4 construction standards, saying a chemical avoidance provision could eliminate the use of many energy efficiency products, including heat-reflecting roofing membranes, PVC piping and foam insulation. Standards administrator the US Green Building Council plans to ballot the new v4 standard this summer. 

Also last July, 1,260 green building companies and organizations – including KB Home, Kohler, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Sherwin Williams and the cities of Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco – argued for retaining the LEED preference, saying a shift from the standard would make the building and leasing process more expensive across the industry.

In February, a National Research Council report recommended that the Department of Defense continue to require LEED-Silver or equivalent for new buildings or major renovations.

There are more than 4,000 LEED-certified government projects, and another 8,000 pursuing certification, according to USGBC.  A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that LEED-certified GSA buildings used 25 percent less energy than the national average and cost 19 percent less to operate, the USGBC says.

Kampschroer said GSA acting administrator Dan Tangherlini will review the committees’ recommendations and send them to Energy Department acting secretary Daniel Ponemon by mid-summer. Ponemon and Tangherlini will work towards a final decision with defense secretary Chuck Hagel and others.

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