GSA invests $4 billion in greener federal buildings

The General Services Administration has spent $4 billion in Recovery Act funds to convert federal facilities into higher performing, green buildings, the agency announced on Wednesday.

"GSA's aggressive Recovery Act obligations put people back to work across the country and leverage our buying power to invest in green jobs, energy-efficient technologies, and both traditional construction and emerging green markets," agency Administrator Martha Johnson said. "By creating a greener, higher performing federal buildings portfolio, GSA's Recovery Act investments will save taxpayer dollars in energy efficiencies and build a more sustainable economy."

As of last week, the agency had awarded stimulus construction contracts to more than 500 firms for 391 projects. The projects are in all 50 states, two U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Following a trend seen elsewhere with federal construction spending, GSA said many competitive bids came in lower than originally anticipated, allowing officials to reinvest an additional $173 million into green projects.

"By delivering on time and under budget on these green retrofit projects, we're not only making more cost-saving building improvements than anticipated, but creating new opportunities for more than 500 companies nationwide," Vice President Joe Biden said.

GSA's federal buildings fund received more than $5.5 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of that, about $4.5 billion was made available to convert federal buildings into high-performance green buildings.

According to data available on the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation Web site, GSA awarded the majority of its buildings contracts competitively and using a firm fixed-price structure. It is not clear from the data, however, how many of the awards GSA tacked on to existing construction contracts. More than $567 million -- or 14 percent -- of GSA's Public Buildings Service stimulus contracts went to small businesses, the data shows.

GSA said some construction projects were under way before the stimulus and that Recovery Act funding was used for additional phases of the work. "Other contracts were awards against previously competed IDIQ construction or professional services contract, while other awards were made by competing new contracts," the agency said in a statement.

High-performance green buildings generally use less energy, water and resources than typical federal facilities. The agency's Recovery Act plan states that green buildings also will improve indoor environmental quality, worker productivity and recycling opportunities while cutting air and water pollution.

GSA anticipates that its new construction and major buildings modernizations will achieve LEED silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for use of sustainable design and technology. Silver is the third highest of four certification levels available, after platinum and gold.

GSA received an additional $750 million in stimulus funds to renovate and construct federal buildings and courthouses. Those renovations need not be green. Another $300 million is devoted to upgrading land ports of entry.

Some of the agency's ongoing Recovery projects include the construction of a new energy-efficient courthouse in Austin, Texas; the installation of a solar roof on the Veterans Affairs building in downtown Philadelphia and the conversion of a former World War II munitions plant in St. Louis into a high-performance green building.

GSA is required to obligate at least $5 billion by Sept. 30, the agency said.

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