The Harold Washington Social Security Administration Center in Chicago received a makeover beginning in 2009 that included rooftop solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, and low-flow bathroom fixtures. ()
The Harold Washington Social Security Administration Center in Chicago received a makeover beginning in 2009 that included rooftop solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, and low-flow bathroom fixtures.
On July 16, the building — which uses 20 percent less energy and 2 million fewer gallons of water a year — earned LEED Gold certification, the second-highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
The building is one of hundreds of federal projects seeking and receiving LEED certification, according to data provided by USGBC.
The number of federal LEED-certified projects that have been completed surged from 544 in 2011 to 821 for just the first eight months of this year — a nearly 51 percent increase.
The government has certified 277 projects so far in 2012 — more than the 268 certified in all of 2011, according to USGBC data.
Lane Burt, USGBC director for technical policy, said the rapid growth in federal agencies mirrors what is happening in the private sector.
One reason for the jump in LEED-certified projects is that feds have developed more know-how in planning and building sustainable facilities, he said. Agencies and the private sector both have learned to incorporate green building techniques as part of their standard designs and construction.
“It’s not just green building practices anymore — it’s become standard building practices. The growth in LEED is just a symptom of that process,” Burt said.
But while LEED continues to grow in popularity, industry groups — and lawmakers supporting them — are pressing the General Services Administration and other policymakers to change how things are done and do away with using the LEED system.
For example, PVC pipe manufacturers and the wood industry are two groups that would like to unseat the LEED system.
In 2010, 79 lawmakers sent a letter to the Green Building Council objecting to what they said was the exclusion of domestic sources of wood from the LEED rating system.
GSA and the Energy Department now are reviewing whether to stick with LEED as the government’s primary green building measuring stick, move to some other certification standard or perhaps adopt more than one standard. Other possible standards include the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes system and the International Living Building Challenge. A decision is expected this fall.
In a March assessment, GSA gave its highest marks to the Green Globes certification when evaluating new construction of federal facilities, while LEED standards scored highest for evaluating renovations of existing buildings.
The Energy Department has avoided picking one certification standard so far. In 2010, it proposed a rule that would allow agencies to use any third-party standard that met Energy Department criteria.
Other examples of federal buildings that have recently received LEED certification include:
The William Kenzo Nakamura Courthouse in Seattle received LEED Silver certification for reusing existing building materials, an energy-efficient air ventilation system and increased insulation.
The Peace Arch Land Port of Entry in Blaine, Wash., earned LEED Gold for its green roof and energy-efficient outdoor lighting.
The James H. Quillen Courthouse in Greeneville, Tenn., achieved LEED Silver certification by using energy-efficient lighting and reusing stored rainwater.