- Aesthetic Challenges
- Aesthetic Opportunities
- Balancing Security/Safety and Sustainability Objectives
- Construction Waste Management
- Facility Performance Evaluation (FPE)
- Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA)
- Measuring Performance of Sustainable Buildings
- Psychosocial Value of Space
- Retrofitting Existing Buildings to Improve Sustainability and Energy Performance
- Sustainable Historic Preservation
- Sustainable Laboratory Design
Last updated: 11-15-2012
Building construction and operation have extensive direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Buildings use resources such as energy, water and raw materials, generate waste (occupant, construction and demolition), and emit potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. Building owners, designers, and builders face a unique challenge to meet demands for new and renovated facilities that are accessible, secure, healthy, and productive while minimizing their impact on the environment.
Considering the current economic challenges, retrofitting an existing building can be more cost effective than building a new facility. Designing major renovations and retrofits for existing buildings to include sustainability initiatives reduces operation costs and environmental impacts, and can increase building resiliency.
Source: EPA, 2004
Recent answers to this challenge call for an integrated, synergistic approach that considers all phases of the facility life cycle. This approach, often called "sustainable design," supports an increased commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation, and results in an optimal balance of cost, environmental, societal, and human benefits while meeting the mission and function of the intended facility or infrastructure.
The main objectives of sustainable design are to avoid resource depletion of energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental degradation caused by facilities and infrastructure throughout their life cycle; and create built environments that are livable, comfortable, safe, and productive.
EPA's New England Regional Laboratory (NERL) achieved a LEED Version 1.0 Gold rating. From conception the project was charged to "make use of the best commercially-available materials and technologies to minimize consumption of energy and resources and maximize use of natural, recycled and non-toxic materials." Chelmsford, MA
While the definition of sustainable building design is constantly changing, six fundamental principles persist.
- Optimize Site Potential
Creating sustainable buildings starts with proper site selection, including consideration of the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings. The location, orientation, and landscaping of a building affect local ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use. It is important to incorporate smart growth principles into the project development process, whether the project is a single building, campus, or military base. Siting for physical security is a critical issue in optimizing site design, including locations of access roads, parking, vehicle barriers, and perimeter lighting. Whether designing a new building or retrofitting an existing building, site design must integrate with sustainable design to achieve a successful project. The site of a sustainable building should reduce, control, and/or treat storm water runoff.
- Optimize Energy Use
With America's supply of fossil fuel dwindling, concerns for energy independence and security increasing, and the impacts of global climate change arising, it is essential to find ways to reduce energy load, increase efficiency, and maximize the use of renewable energy sources in federal facilities. Improving the energy performance of existing buildings is important to increasing our energy independence. Government and private sector organizations are increasingly committing to building and operating net zero energy buildings as a way to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy.
- Protect and Conserve Water
In many parts of the country, fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource. A sustainable building should use water efficiently, and reuse or recycle water for on-site use, when feasible.
- Use Greener Materials
A sustainable building is constructed of materials that minimize life-cycle environmental impacts such as global warming, resource depletion, and human toxicity. Environmentally preferable materials have a reduced effect on human health and the environment and contribute to improved worker safety and health, reduced liabilities, reduced disposal costs, and achievement of environmental goals.
- Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
The indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of a building has a significant impact on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. Among other attributes, a sustainable building maximizes daylighting, has appropriate ventilation and moisture control, optimizes acoustic privacy, and avoids the use of materials with high-VOC emissions. Principles of IEQ also emphasize occupant control over systems such as lighting and temperature.
- Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices
Considering a building's operating and maintenance issues during the preliminary design phase of a facility will contribute to improved working environments, higher productivity, reduced energy and resource costs, and prevented system failures. Encourage building operators and maintenance personnel to participate in the design and development phases to ensure optimal operations and maintenance of the building. Designers can specify materials and systems that simplify and reduce maintenance requirements; require less water, energy, and toxic chemicals and cleaners to maintain; and are cost-effective and reduce life-cycle costs. Additionally, design facilities to include meters in order to track the progress of sustainability initiatives, including reductions in energy and water use and waste generation, in the facility and on site.
Building resiliency is the capacity of a building to continue to function and operate under extreme conditions, such as (but not limited to) extreme temperatures, sea level rise, natural disasters, etc. As the built environment faces the impending effects of global climate change, building owners, designers, and builders can design facilities to optimize building resiliency.
Building adaptability is the capacity of a building to be used for multiple uses and in multiple ways over the life of the building. For example, designing a building with movable walls/partitions allow for different users to change the space. Additionally, using sustainable design allows for a building to adapt to different environments and conditions.
Relevant Codes, Laws, and Standards
Codes and Laws
- Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA 2007) (PDF 738 KB)
- Energy Policy Act of 2005
- Executive Order 13423, "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management"
- Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance"
- ASTM E2432 Standard Guide for the General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Building
- ASHRAE 189.1-2011 Standard for the Design of Green Buildings, except Low-Rise Residential Buildings
- IGCC-2012 International Green Construction Code, International Code Council
Building Types / Space Types
Information in these Sustainable pages must be considered together with other design objectives and within a total project context in order to achieve quality, high—performance buildings.
Products and Systems
- 01 10 00 (01100) Summary
- 01 30 00 (01300) Administrative Requirements
- 01 40 00 (01400) Quality Requirements
- 01 41 00 (01411) Regulatory Requirements
- 01 42 00 (01421) References
- 01 50 00 (01500) Temporary Facilities and Controls
- 01 74 19 (01351) Construction Waste Management
- 01 78 23 (01830) Operation and Maintenance Data
- 01 78 53 (01780) Sustainable Design Close-Out Documentation
- 01 79 11 (01821) Environmental Demonstration and Training
- 01 91 00 (01810) Commissioning
- Federal High Performance and Sustainable Buildings
- Department of Defense
- Department of Energy
- Building Technologies Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
- Commercial Building Initiative, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
- High Performance Buildings Database, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
- Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
- FEMP Sustainable Buildings and Campuses
- FEMP Interagency Sustainability Working Group
- Smart Communities Network—Green Buildings
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Sustainable Design website, Office of Construction and Facilities Management (CFM)
- Environmental Protection Agency
- General Services Administration
- Sustainability website
- Field Guide for Sustainable Construction by the Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office, Department of Defense. 2004.
- The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse (PDF 10.5 MB), National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Greening Federal Facilities Guide by U.S. Department of Energy. 2001.
- High Performance Federal Building Database
- Implementing Instructions—Sustainable Locations for Federal Facilities (PDF 490 KB) Council on Environmental Quality
- Innovative Workplace Strategies by U.S. General Services Administration, Office of Government-wide Policy, Office of Real Property. Dec 2003.
- Managing Your Environmental Responsibilities: A Planning Guide for Construction and Development by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2005.
- NASA Agency Sustainable Policy Handbook for Facilities. 2010.
- Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings FEMA P-798
- The New Sustainable Frontier: Principles of Sustainable Development by U.S. General Services Administration. 2009.
- Office of Federal Environmental Executive
- Real Property Sustainable Development Guide by U.S. General Services Administration, Office of Government-wide Policy, Office of Real Property.
- Sustainability Matters (PDF 11.06 MB) by GSA
- Sustainable Building Rating Systems Summary
- Sustainable Development and Society (PDF 20.8 MB) by U.S. General Services Administration, Office of Government-wide Policy, Office of Real Property. Oct 2004.
- Organizations, States, and Universities
- Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings - A Fire and Safety Guide to Green Construction by the National Association of State Fire Marshalls.
- Governor's Green Government Council Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- High Performance Building Guidelines (PDF 2.2 MB) by New York City Department of Design and Construction. April 1999.
- Minnesota Sustainable Design Guide by Regents of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
- UB High Performance Building Guidelines by the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. 2004.
- Green Building Costs and Financial Benefits (PDF 471 KB) by Gregory Kats. 2003.
- Sustainable Federal Facilities: A Guide to Integrating Value Engineering, Life-Cycle Costing, and Sustainable Development by Federal Facilities Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.
- Magazines and E-Newsletters
- The Green Building Initiative (GBI)
- National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) / Green Buildings and Fire Safety Project
- Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC)
- U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)
- ASTM International—A globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards. Today, some 12,000 ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade, and build consumer confidence.
- Austin Energy Green Building Program
- Building Green from Principle to Practice—Online resource created by the Natural Resources Defense Council guides building professionals through green building process, from putting together a business case to design, construction and marketing.
- FedCenter.gov—FedCenter, the Federal Facilities Environmental Stewardship and Compliance Assistance Center, is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, and the U.S. EPA Federal Facilities Enforcement Office. FedCenter replaces the previous FedSite as a one-stop source of environmental stewardship and compliance assistance information focused solely on the needs of federal government facilities.
- Green Building Advisor
- WBDG05 Daylighting Principles and Strategies for Sustainable Design
- WBDG06 Sustainable Roofing Design Considerations and Applications
- WBDG07 Defining, Evaluating, and Selecting Green Products
- WBDG09 High-Performance EIFS for Sustainable Construction
- WBDG12 Window and Glazing Design Strategies for Sustainable Design
- WBDG13 Strategies for Sustainable Historic Preservation
- WBDG17 Achieving Sustainable Site Design Through Low Impact Development Practices
- FEMP02 Planning an Energy Assessment for Federal Facilities
- FEMP03 Launching a Utility Energy Services Contract (UESC): Getting to Yes!
- FEMP04 Federal On-Site Renewable Power Purchase Agreements
- FEMP05 Advanced Electric Metering in Federal Facilities
- FEMP06 Managing Water Assessment in Federal Facilities
- FEMP07 Selecting, Implementing, and Funding Photovoltaic Systems in Federal Facilities
- FEMP08 Sustainable Institutional Change for Federal Facility Managers