Uncle Sam Wants To Only Build Green

Proposal out for new and renovated federal government buildings to be green

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The Department of Energy today released a proposal to require that all new and renovated federal buildings across America meet a host of sustainable design, siting, and construction requirements. These standards will ensure that when a new post office goes up in your town, or when your local courthouse gets a building makeover, or when your military base builds a new facility, it will be green. And this green government building will stand as an example for the rest of the town, state and country.

We’re obviously glad to see DOE finally start to take important action, even though today’s standards are just a first step of what is needed, because of the impact that a full energy efficiency upgrade will make nationally once DOE addresses all of the current requirements.

Just to give it some perspective, in a typical year, federal buildings consume nearly 40 percent of all energy used by the government and represent 5 percent of all commerical buildings’ energy consumption in the country. Greening our federal buildings will dramatically reduce our nation’s overall carbon emissions and save us, the taxpayers, tens of millions of dollars in the process. In 2008, for example, the federal government spent $7 billion to purchase energy for its buildings. Reducing these buildings’ energy use will save us dramatically.

Then if these standards are finalized, there’s the symbolic victory: Finally, our government would be walking the walk inside its own buildings after so much investment in greening non-government buildings through stimulus funds. 

Of course, this is a great first step, but there is still a long way to go in greening the federal government’s buildings. Some important energy efficiency updates still need to be proposed by the Department of Energy and are overdue as of 2008, the deadline set by Congress for the federal government to put these standards into place.

We’ll be looking to the Obama administration to get moving on making sure our federal buildings are up to the level of the latest industry standards established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the International Code Council. We’re also waiting on standards to reduce new buildings’ use of fossil fuel-generated energy to achieve the required 100 percent reduction from 2003 levels by 2030, and we’re looking for the DOE to create an Internet-based tracking system so that the public can monitor the progress of federal agencies in achieving energy and water use reduction goals for existing federal buildings.






Liz Judge worked at Earthjustice from 2010–2016. During that time, she worked on mountaintop removal mining, national forests, and clean water issues, and led the media and advocacy communications teams.