GSA presses ahead in greening of federal buildings

Agency selects 16 emerging energy-efficient technologies to test and evaluate at government facilities.

Federal buildings are about to get more energy-efficient.

The General Services Administration announced on Thursday, the eve of Earth Day, that it has selected 16 sustainable building technologies to be tested and evaluated at a number of federal facilities throughout the country.

The agency, which manages 9,600 government-owned or leased properties, will next determine whether the emerging technology can be replicated, and then deployed, on a wider basis at federal and commercial real estate properties nationwide.

After technicians conduct enhanced measurement and verification, findings from the projects will also be used to support development of performance specifications for GSA's real estate portfolio, officials said.

"GSA is leading the way in sustainable design and construction operations," said GSA Administrator Martha Johnson. "By using our real estate portfolio as a test bed for new technologies, we can then provide further innovation in energy efficiency standards and implement best practices that will lead the market."

Sustainable building technologies, specialists say, optimize energy performance, protect and conserve water, enhance indoor environmental quality, reduce waste and environmental impact from materials, curb greenhouse gas emissions associated with building operations, and promote integrated design.

Through its new Green Proving Ground program, GSA evaluates innovative or underutilized technology that can help make federal facilities more energy efficient and therefore less costly to taxpayers.

An October 2009 White House executive order directed agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2020, to boost energy efficiency at facilities and reduce the federal fleet's petroleum consumption. GSA is one of the lead agencies on these initiatives. It also has announced its intention to eventually achieve a zero carbon footprint on all of its facilities. "Pursuing zero environmental footprint is a cool, up-to-date way of saying no waste," Johnson told Government Executive last year. "You're using everything well, that goes to the notion of value and it also goes to the notion of using the taxpayer dollar really, really appropriately. It makes us effective and efficient in a higher-order way."

As part of the program, GSA in November 2010 issued a request for information from commercial organizations, educational institutions and nonprofit groups for new sustainable building technologies and practices.

The submitted products will then be added to a new GSA registry of sustainable technologies and, if proven successful, could potentially lead to a government contract down the road.

Roughly 140 technologies and practices were submitted, and 16 were short-listed for testing because they have the greatest potential to meet GSA's sustainability goals, officials said. The determinations were made after evaluations by GSA officials and the Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

For fiscal 2011, GSA is testing out a promising wireless temperature sensor for heating and cooling, electrochromic windows that control sunlight allowed in, a nonchemical water treatment system that could significantly reduce water consumption, and a condensing boiler that extracts additional heat from the waste gases by condensing this water vapor to water.

Many of the technologies are being installed as part of building modernization projects funded by the 2009 Recovery Act.