Recognizing the magnitude of the investment in federal buildings and the effects of buildings on resource use and the environment,1 Congress and several presidential administrations have enacted laws and issued executive orders to reduce the energy and water use of federal facilities, reduce operating costs, and reduce the total amount of square footage (overall footprint) owned and operated by federal agencies (Table 1.1). The laws and executive orders also include objectives for improving indoor environmental quality and worker productivity and objectives related to transportation and land use.

Each mandate calls for the use of a life-cycle perspective or life-cycle costing, establishes goals and objectives, and establishes baselines and performance measures for evaluating progress in achieving the goals. A life-cycle perspective requires evaluating a building’s performance through several different phases: initial programming, design, and construction; occupancy/operations and maintenance; renewal; and decommissioning/demolition. A focus on the life-cycle costs of a building is important for effective decision-making, because once a building is in use, the investment made in operating, maintaining, repairing, and renewing it will be six to eight times greater than the design and construction costs (often referred to as first costs) (NRC 1998; 2012a).

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007; Public Law 110-40) defines a high-performance building as one that during its life cycle, as compared with similar buildings (as measured by Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) data from the Energy Information Agency, has the following characteristics:

(A)   Reduces energy, water, and material resource use;

(B)   Improves indoor environmental quality, including reducing indoor pollution, improving thermal comfort, and improving lighting and acoustic environments that affect occupant health and productivity;

(C)   Reduces negative impacts on the environment throughout the life cycle of the building, including air and water pollution and waste generation;

(D)   Increases the use of environmentally preferable products, including bio-based, recycled content, and nontoxic products with lower life-cycle impacts;

(E)   Increases reuse and recycling opportunities;

(F)   Integrates systems in the building;

(G)   Reduces the environmental and energy impacts of transportation through building location and site design that support a full range of transportation choices for users of the building; and

(H)   Considers indoor and outdoor effects of the building on human health and the environment, including improvements in worker productivity, the life-cycle impacts of building materials and operations, and other factors considered to be appropriate.2

Executive Order 13423 requires that new federal buildings and major renovations comply with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High-Performance and Sustainable Buildings (see Appendix E).

Ever-increasing knowledge about the impacts of indoor environments on people and the impacts of buildings on the environment has led to new processes and tools for measuring and evaluating


1 The federal government as a whole manages 399,000 buildings with a total square footage of 3.35 billion square feet and an additional 490,000 structures. The annual operating cost for these facilities is estimated at $31 billion (GSA, 2012).

2 The terms high-performance buildings, green buildings, and sustainable buildings are often used interchangeably. In this report high performance refers to buildings specifically called out as meeting the EISA standard. Green is a more inclusive term used to indicate build ings that are designed to be highly energy efficient, to meet green building certification systems, or to be otherwise regarded as sustainable.

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