Energy Department Sets Green Certification Standards

WASHINGTON — The Energy Department issued a final rule on Oct. 10 that requires new and retrofitted federal buildings to verify energy and water performance through green building certification systems in the private sector.

The department said it will help ensure that in cases where agencies choose to use green building certification systems to meet federal sustainability and energy standards, they must choose a system that verifies enhanced energy and water efficiency. The rule goes into effect Nov. 13.

The department is also requiring reassessments every four years to help ensure that the energy and water savings will continue well beyond the initial building opening or retrofit.

In a statement, the department said system requirements for the verification of energy and water performance in new construction and major renovations will lead to reduced consumption through active energy and water management. The considered use of green building rating systems advances federal high performance buildings by focusing on modernized, integrated building systems that minimize inefficiencies and waste and enhance cost-saving benefits. LEED’s Silver certification is one of the systems the department is allowing for verification as well as the Green Globes program, an alternative to LEED, under certain circumstances.

The department said it would provide a webinar in November discussing the rule’s requirements, but it did not say what date the webinar would take place.

The department also announced that the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) recently updated its Federal Building Energy Use Benchmarking Guidance, which designates the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager as the only benchmarking tool for federal agencies. The department expects to release guidance for federal building metering that will help prioritize buildings as they get ready to measure energy and water consumption to meet federal energy and water reduction goals.

The department is also seeking additional public comment on its proposed rule to phase in designs of new federal buildings and major renovations that significantly reduce consumption of non-renewable energy commodities. The 60-day comment period ends Dec. 15.

“I commend the Department of Energy for taking a critical step forward to advance green building technologies and to cut carbon pollution with today’s proposal to implement section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., in a statement regarding the proposed rule. “Under this practical and effective proposal, new federal buildings will save energy and reduce costs and new federal buildings from 2030 on will be carbon-neutral. I urge the Department of Energy to complete this rulemaking expeditiously to lock in the benefits of reducing energy use, operating costs, and carbon pollution from new federal buildings, while growing our advanced building technology industries and jobs.”

“Buildings use 40 percent of all energy in the United States, and are a significant source of greenhouse gas pollution,” added Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in a statement. “As one of the largest owners and tenants in the country, the federal government can play a major role in making our buildings cleaner and saving taxpayers money by increasing efficiency. I applaud the Department of Energy for its continued leadership combatting climate change.”