FIGURE 1.1 Planning for buildings at larger scales; campus of U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. SOURCE: Pat Corkery.

of interrelated systems and components, including facades, roofs, foundations, windows, mechanical, electrical, ventilation, air conditioning, and plumbing systems. The quality of a building’s performance over the 30 or more years it is used will be the result of numerous, individual decisions about location, siting, design, construction, materials, function, operation, and maintenance. Performance will also be a function of how the building is used by occupants.

Today, a building’s performance can be measured in terms of its indoor environmental quality (e.g., quality of air, ventilation, lighting, comfort of occupants), its use of materials, energy, and other natural resources, and its emissions into the air and water. Improved evaluation has led to the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use, and to provide power through renewable sources. Among these technologies are “cool” roofs,2 high-performance lighting, Energy Star rated appliances and equipment, WaterSense fixtures, and windows and control systems that optimize the use of natural daylight while minimizing heat loss.

The scale at which buildings are managed and evaluated is also changing: The focus has shifted from individual buildings to entire portfolios (groups of buildings under a single ownership or management), neighborhoods, communities, regions, watersheds, airsheds, and economies. As the scale of design has increased, so have the opportunities for sharing infrastructure and conserving land and open space. Larger-scale planning allows architects, engineers, planners, and others to leverage infrastructure systems, to cluster development and conserve land and open space, and to think in terms of environmental restoration and regeneration. At larger scales, the use of technologies such as district energy systems, combined heat and power (co-generation) plants, geothermal conditioning systems, water capture and reuse, and others can result in greater reductions of energy and water use than can be realized through a building-by-building approach (Figure 1.1).


During its 200+ years of existence, the federal government has acquired facilities (buildings and other structures) worldwide to support its various missions and programs for the American public. These facilities enable the conduct of foreign and public policy, national defense, the preservation of historic,


2Cool roofs include both white roofs, which stay cooler in the sun by reflecting incident sunlight back into space, and green (vegetative) roofs, which absorb rainwater and then cool by evapotranspiration.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement