The National Research Council has released their assessment of green building programs for use by the Department of Defense (DOD). Like many studies before it, the report found that high performance green buildings can significantly reduce energy and water use in DOD facilities and recommends that DOD stay the course and continue to require new buildings to be designed to achieve LEED Silver or equivalent. LEED is a green building rating system administered internationally by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The report was required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2012, which prohibited funds from being used to certify buildings at the highest levels of LEED, Gold and Platinum. This restriction seemed to be motivated by special interests, namely the timber and chemical industries, attempting to influence the LEED rating system for their benefit, and cast doubt on the policies at the Army, Navy, and Air Force. While all DOD facilities must achieve LEED silver, Secretary Ray Mabus instituted a policy for the Navy and Marines to certify their buildings to the Gold level starting in FY13 and pledged to do this at no additional cost. The provision restricting the use of DOD funds for LEED gold buildings and above was a significant loss for energy efficiency and healthy building policy.
With the new report recommending that the green building programs at the services continue, it looks like good green building science has temporarily triumphed over special interests politics, but for how long? The General Services Administration, which also has a LEED Gold policy, is currently soliciting comments on its green building practices and federal green building certifications continue to rise.
Let’s hope the positive momentum continues.