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DOE Proposes New Green Standards for Federal Buildings

The U.S. Department of Energy has proposed standards that would require new and renovated federal buildings to include sustainable building design elements which should lead to less energy and water use and less impact on the local environment.

The newly proposed rules, if finalized, would require that all new or renovated government buildings are green by design, siting, and construction.

The Joseph P. Addabbo Federal Building improved energy efficiency 12 percent annually by replacing its entire chiller plant and upgrading building control systems. The result saves nearly 1.5 million kWh per year. (Photo credit: DOE Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)

The proposal would also require the installation of on-site renewable energy generation and of solar hot water heaters by the government whenever cost effective over the life of the building, would set a minimum level of daylight in work areas, and establish indoor air quality requirements to protect the health of the public, government employees, and families living in government buildings such as military bases.

The proposed standards would apply to new and renovated federal buildings, such as post offices, courthouses, military bases, social security buildings, and other facilities located throughout the country.

The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the United States and has buildings all across the country. In a typical year, federal buildings consume nearly 40% of all energy used by the government and represent 5% of all commercial buildings' energy consumption in the United States. In 2008, the federal government spent $7 billion to purchase energy for federal buildings, out of a total of $24.5 billion on overall energy costs.

Efficiency upgrades to a single building have the potential both to cut energy use and save tens of thousands of dollars. For example, some green government buildings have achieved energy cost savings greater than 40% and water consumption savings greater than 54%, as compared to the average office building.

"It is encouraging to residents of the Metro Washington area see DOE move forward with new sustainable building standards. We still need urgent action on all of the energy efficiency standards, because having the federal government stop wasting energy will mean cleaner air and cheaper energy bills for everyone in this region and other parts of the country with a strong federal presence," said Chris Weiss, director of the D.C. Environmental Network.

This proposal makes progress on some requirements established by Congress in recent years to make federal buildings more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable that the prior administration failed to address. These standards also support the goals of the Executive Order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance issued by President Barack Obama last fall.

DOE stated in the proposal that it will address a host of other important energy efficiency standards that are required by law in separate rulemakings. For example, still remaining are standards to bring existing government buildings up to the level of the latest industry standards established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, as well as new standards to reduce new buildings' use of fossil fuel-generated energy to achieve the required 100% reduction from 2003 levels by the year 2030.

DOE also is required to create an Internet-based tracking system for the public to monitor the progress of federal agencies in achieving energy and water use reduction goals for existing federal buildings.

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