Decisions about investments related to new construction and major renovations of buildings at DOD installations are not reducible to a single decision rule (such as benefit-cost maximization), nor are facilities managers responsible to a single stakeholder. In fact, facilities managers must assess the relative merits of facilities improvement projects against performance with respect to multiple decision criteria and justify recommendations to stakeholder groups and governing bodies that hold different and sometimes conflicting priorities. Trade-offs are required for most building projects, including design and construction costs (i.e., first costs) versus operating and maintenance and deconstruction costs, resilience and flexibility factors versus worker productivity, and so forth.

Based on its findings and on its own expertise and experience with building standards and green building certification systems, the committee recommends that DOD consider the following approaches as it develops a comprehensive strategy for its entire portfolio of facilities to include standards for energy efficiency and sustainable design.

Recommended Approach 1. Continue to require that new buildings or major renovations be designed to achieve a LEED-Silver or equivalent rating in order to meet the multiple objectives embedded in laws and mandates related to high-performance buildings.

The preponderance of available evidence indicates that green building certification systems and their referenced building standards offer frameworks for reducing energy and water use in buildings, compared to design approaches and practices used for conventional buildings. They may also result in improved indoor environmental quality, improved worker productivity, and lower operations and maintenance costs, although the evidence is very limited. Green building certification systems can also help to establish explicit and traceable objectives for future building performance and a feedback loop to determine if the objectives were met.

The incremental costs to design and construct high-performance or green-certified buildings compared to conventional buildings is minimal compared to the total costs of a building over its life cycle. Over the 30 years or more that high-performance or green buildings are in use, the cost savings attributable to reduced energy use and reduced water use may be significantly greater than the incremental first costs of design and construction.

The limited evidence available indicates that the majority of LEED-Silver-certified buildings studied used significantly less energy and water than conventional buildings, although some LEED-Silver-certified buildings did not outperform conventional buildings. Based on the evidence and committee members’ own experience with green building certification systems, the committee believes the most prudent course for DOD is to continue its current policy. At the same time, DOD should establish practices to evaluate the performance of its high-performance or green buildings to ensure that performance objectives are being met, to continuously improve performance, and to ensure that the measures required to reduce levels of energy and water use are cost-effective.

Because DOD has developed standard designs for the types of buildings it constructs most often, using the LEED-Volume certification program may be cost-effective, although as yet there is little experience with or documented evidence about the program. DOD should consider a pilot study to determine whether volume certifications will in fact be cost-effective.

Recommended Approach 2. Retain flexibility to modify building standards and the application of green building certification systems in ways that are appropriate to the Department of Defense operating environment and mission.

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