Wasting Money by Cutting the GSA Budget for Efficient Buildings

Kevin Kampschroer, the Director of the Federal High-Performance Green Building Program at the General Services Administration, is an unsung hero of energy efficiency.  Literally.  Yesterday, the Alliance to Save Energy awarded Kevin an esteemed Unsung Hero award for his outstanding contributions in the field.  His team works hard to find, develop and promote practices that deliver real savings.  They work closely with GSA’s facility managers, other government agencies, and the private sector. 

The job is important.  GSA is the landlord for the civilian federal government, managing more than 360 million square feet of offices, courthouses, ports of entry, and other work places, and spends over $300 million annually on energy.  GSA is earning a reputation as a leader in energy efficiency and sustainability.  It’s on a path to reduce energy intensity (energy use per square foot) by 30% in 2015 compared with 2003.  Meeting this goal requires outstanding operations, including use of new tools to identify and eliminate wasteful use.  It also requires excellent maintenance and retrofits to old, inefficient lighting, HVAC, and windows.  And when new buildings are needed, it requires strong design and construction practices, and a host of other good management efforts.  Developing and implementing advanced tools and facility management approaches that deliver good economy also requires adequate funding. 

Unsung, indeed. 

For some reason, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee bill H.R. 1 appears to slash funding for building operations, alterations and repairs by over $220 million, or about twenty percent over the remainder of the year.  Much of this funding is used for basic activities, so there would be a severe risk that advanced efforts to improve operations, maintenance and retrofits, such as those promoted by the Green Building Program, would be severely set back. 

The result would be short term savings in the budget, but long term waste through higher operating costs.  It seems like a bad trade-off.