Sustainably designed federal buildings, such as the U.S. Courthouse in Seattle, cost 19% less to maintain on average, according to a new PNNL report. Photo: U.S. District Court
In addition to emitting less carbon dioxide and using
less water, sustainably designed federal buildings cost 19% less to maintain,
according to a report by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National
Laboratory. The results are included in a white paper recently released by the
Government Services Administration, or GSA.
The GSA commissioned PNNL to conduct a post-occupancy
evaluation of 22 “green” federal buildings from across the country.
In the report, PNNL found that, on average, green buildings, compared to commercial
buildings in general:
less to maintain, by 19%,
less energy, by 25%, and less water, by 11%,
less carbon dioxide, by 34%, and
more satisfied occupants, by 27%.
“To measure green building performance you must look
at the building holistically, which includes the occupants and maintenance
impacts in addition to the commonly targeted energy and water use,” says
Kim Fowler, a senior research engineer and buildings relationship manager at
PNNL, who is lead author of the paper. “One can design and construct a
building well, with the greenest of specifications, but if it’s not operated
well or isn’t meeting the needs of the occupants, the grandest intents go out
the operable window,” she says.
The PNNL team conducted the analysis in seven of GSA’s
national administrative regions to evaluate how well its sustainably designed
buildings are performing in comparison to average commercial buildings and to
GSA’s baseline measurements of its sustainably constructed buildings.
Researchers worked with building contacts to collect data from utility bills
about energy and water use, maintenance and operations costs, and waste and
recycling costs. They also conducted a survey to glean information about
occupant commute and satisfaction. They then compared those results to national
One of the buildings evaluated is the United States
Courthouse in downtown Seattle.
The courthouse has been deemed one of the safest structures ever built. In 2004
the courthouse won GSA’s award for construction excellence. It features radiant
floor heating, high efficient lighting, an energy management system, natural
gas boiler, and waterless urinals. PNNL’s analysis found that, despite a
slightly higher janitorial cost, the U.S. Courthouse’s operating costs are 35%
lower than the industry baseline.