Federal Green Buildings

Federal Green Buildings: New 2016 Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings

The federal government has over 500,000 facilities comprising more than 3 billion square feet including national park buildings, airport towers, federal courthouses, offices, hospitals, laboratories, defense facilities, and research facilities. If you’re a contractor, architect, supplier, distributor, or manufacturer working with federal buildings you’re going to need to know about the Federal Guiding Principles.

On February, 26, 2016, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued the 2016 version of the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings along with the following documents:

The 2016 Guiding Principles update and replace the December 2008 Guiding Principles with the intent to reflect the evolution of sustainable building design, construction, and operating practices since 2008. The Guiding Principles also incorporate other building-related Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, which reaffirmed Federal green building efforts and called for revised Guiding Principles to reflect progress in green building design, construction, and operation practices; broaden considerations around protecting occupant health, wellness, and productivity; and address climate change risks.

As noted, the 2016 Guiding Principles are updating existing principles that have been around since 2006 when sixteen federal agencies signed a memorandum of understanding known as the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High-Performance and Sustainable Buildings. The Guiding Principles are the same for new construction and modernization as for existing buildings but each have their own performance targets. The six Guiding Principles are similar to other green building certification and they are:

I. Employ integrated assessment, operation, and management principles
II. Optimize energy performance
III. Protect and conserve water
IV. Enhance indoor environmental quality
V. Reduce environmental impact of materials
VI. Assess and consider climate change risks

Key Features:
• The Guiding Principles for new construction and modernization apply to all new federally owned buildings with more than 5,000 square feet.
• For existing buildings, agencies must ensure that they meet the Guiding Principles with at least 15% of their existing buildings (either by building or by square footage) no later than FY 2025.
• The percentage of each agency’s building inventory meeting the Guiding Principles will be calculated by: 1) gross square footage of subject buildings and (2) number of subject buildings.
• Once an agency achieves 15% compliance, it should set annual targets.
• Buildings that met the 2008 Guiding Principles are considered to meet the Guiding Principles through fiscal year (FY) 2025 as long as they continue to meet ongoing requirements such as ongoing commissioning, benchmarking, and operating and maintenance requirements.
• There is a new sixth Guiding Principle to address climate resilience in building design, construction and operations.

Third Party Certification:
• There is no requirement for a federal agency to use third party green building certification.
• Documentation developed to meet the requirements of consensus-based third-party green building rating systems can be used to document compliance with the Guiding Principles.

However, green building rating systems may meet many, but not all Guiding Principles. Therefore, required elements or sub-elements of the Guiding Principles not tracked by the third party rating system must also be met.
photo by Ken Lund, flickr, Supreme Court Building, United States Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.

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