WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Defense should continue to require that its new buildings or major renovations to facilities be designed to achieve a LEED-Silver or equivalent rating, says a new report from the National Research Council. Based on a review of empirical studies related to energy-efficiency and green building standards, the report
concludes that green building certification systems such as LEED offer frameworks for successfully reducing energy and water use in buildings.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires federal agencies to use a green building certification system for new construction and major renovations of buildings. One of the most commonly used systems in the U.S. are theLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, co-developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and Green Globes and licensed by the Green Building Initiative. Buildings can qualify for four levels of LEED certification -- certified, silver, gold, or platinum.
DOD established a policy in 2010 that new construction and major repair and renovation projects be certified at least LEED-Silver or its equivalent. In 2012, Congress requested a report from DOD on the energy-efficiency and sustainability standards used for military construction and major renovations of buildings. The DOD's report must include cost-benefit analysis, return on investment, and long-term payback for the building standards related to energy use and high-performance buildings and for the LEED and equivalent green building certification systems. To obtain independent, objective advice in developing the response to this congressional request, DOD asked the National Research Council to conduct a review of the existing literature.
The committee that wrote the report found that DOD's current policy is sound, although not every high-performance or green building will have significant energy and water savings -- even if it is certified at a LEED-Silver or equivalent rating. The research studies did not provide sufficient evidence to draw generalizations as to why, but building type as well as the specific technologies employed to reduce energy or water use were factors.
DOD should establish practices to evaluate its high-performance or green buildings after construction to ensure that objectives are met, performance continues to improve, and the measures required to reduce levels of energy and water use are cost-effective. Specifically, for all new construction and major renovations, DOD should measure actual performance for at least three years after initial occupancy and use the resulting information to modify its policies as needed. In addition, data for conventional DOD buildings should be gathered to establish baselines for performance measurement. The report also recommends that DOD retain the flexibility to modify building standards and the application of green building certification systems in ways that are appropriate to the department's operating environment and mission.
Using an investment approach that looks at the total cost of lifetime building ownership with the full range of benefits and expenses will also aid in decision-making about investments in DOD buildings, the report says. This approach would account for variations in geographic conditions, climate, type of building, and local prices for energy, water, and other utilities. To be effective, however, DOD will need to ensure that the data used in the analysis are accurate and reliable.
Because high-performance or green buildings incorporate integrated design practices and new technologies, facilities managers will need to be trained
to understand how to operate them effectively. Implementation of the Federal Building Personnel Training Act of 2010 should help ensure that DOD facilities managers are certified in the required competencies and skills, the report says.
The study was sponsored by U.S. Department of Defense. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to NAS in 1863. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org
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