GSA Recommends LEED and Green Globes for Federal Buildings
October 31, 2013

On Oct. 25, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) sent to the U.S. Department of Energy its long-awaited recommendations for the federal government’s use of green building rating systems.  GSA recommends that agencies use either the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) 2009 or the Green Building Initiative’s (GBI) Green Globes 2010 — with a minimum goal of achieving LEED Silver or 2 Green Globes certification levels for new buildings.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires GSA to review these systems on a five-year basis and recommend to the Secretary of Energy the rating system and certification level that would be most likely to deliver high performance and green objectives for federal buildings.  GSA released its Green Building Certification System Review in 2012, held public listening sessions and made the review available for public comment, all before GSA issued its recommendation letter last week.  The Secretary of Energy uses this report, along with GSA’s recommendations and other consultation, to decide which system(s) will be used across the federal government.

The six recommendations GSA sent to the Secretary of Energy are summarized below.  Read the full recommendations here.

  1. Agencies should continue to use third-party certification systems.
  2. Agencies should choose between LEED 2009 and Green Globes 2010.  New construction and major renovation projects should aim to achieve at least a LEED Silver or 2 Green Globes rating level.  Existing buildings should set a minimum goal of achieving LEED Certified or 1 Green Globe rating level.  (USGBC and GBI offer rating systems for existing building.)
  3. Agencies should use credits that align with federal requirements.  In addition to mandatory requirements, the rating systems provide option credits that individual projects can seek to achieve.  GSA is recommending that agencies choose credits that align federal requirements, which would aid the agencies in using the rating systems as a tool to achieve their statutory and executive order green building requirements.
  4. Agencies should select only one system on an agency, bureau or portfolio basis.  GSA does not recommend that a single agency use both rating systems interchangeably; although, it does not suggest prohibiting that practice.
  5. GSA should establish a process to keep current with revisions to the rating systems.  LEED 2009 and Green Globes 2010 have both been revised (see Observer articles here and here) since GSA’s 2012 review and subsequent recommendation.  GSA proposes to work with other agencies within one year of a third-party finalizing a new version of its rating system to discuss whether the federal government should adopt the newest version.
  6. The Federal government should participate in the ongoing development of green building rating systems.

About the 2012 Green Building Certification System Review

For the 2012 review, GSA evaluated three systems: Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes (2010), U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (2009), and the International Living Building Institute’s Living Building Challenge (2011).  According to GSA, the systems were evaluated against 27 new construction and 28 existing building statutory and Executive Order requirements.  The review found that Green Globes aligns with more of the federal requirements for new construction than LEED or Living Building Challenge; while LEED aligns with more of the federal requirements for existing buildings than Green Globes or Living Building Challenge.  The 2012 report also found that none of the existing green building certification systems meets all of the federal government’s needs for high performance building metrics and conformity assessment.  Click here to read the 2012 review.

GSA Green Building Advisory Committee Meeting and Conference Calls

On a related note, GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings is holding a series of task group conference calls related to net zero energy buildings and building labels prior to the Green Building Advisory Committee meeting in November 2013.  The conference calls are to explore two motions raised by committee members 1) to strengthen net zero energy commitments for new and existing federal buildings and federal leased buildings; and 2) to require building performance labels, including current energy and environmental performance.  The task groups will make their recommendations to the full committee at the November 12 meeting.  AGC of America is observing both task group conference calls and will attend the November 12 committee meeting.

For more information, contact AGC’s Melinda Tomaino at or (703) 837-5415.