GSA-commissioned Research Shows Sustainable Design Delivers

A U.S. General Services Administration white paper published in August shows that the GSA’s 12-year commitment to green building practices is paying back. The post-occupancy evaluations showed that, on average, the 22 buildings studied use less energy and water, emit less CO2, cost less to maintain, and have occupants who are more satisfied than those working in typical buildings. The GSA set its “typical building” benchmark performance standards based on measured performance of the broader building stock constructed during the same period as the GSA buildings, the white paper explains.

Among the key findings are that the 22 evaluated buildings averaged 25 percent less energy use (66 kBtu/yr. vs. 88 kBtu/yr.), 19 percent lower aggregate operational costs ($1.60/sf vs. $1.98/sf), 27 percent higher occupant satisfaction, and 36 percent fewer CO2 emissions.

Here is an excerpt from the report’s overview that puts the research in context:

“GSA commissioned the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL ) to evaluate 22 of GSA’s sustainably designed buildings. It wanted to know whether its green buildings were delivering the performance they promised.

“Because of GSA’s commitment to real-world results, the study evaluated actual, not modeled, building performance. Successes and shortcomings were identified, along with areas requiring further research. The 22 buildings selected reflect different US regional climates, a mix of uses (courthouses and offices), and a mix of build-to-suit leases and federally owned buildings. Sixteen of these buildings were designed to meet or exceed basic LEED certification. The other six were designed to meet the requirements of other programs, including ENERGY STAR and the California Title 24 Energy Standard.

“The research team used a consistent evaluation process for every building studied:
• Obtaining and reviewing one year of operating data
• Surveying building occupants
• Interviewing the building manager
• Conducting an expert walkthrough

“To understand how GSA’s green buildings measured up to commonly accepted national benchmarks, the team compared each performance metric with the national average for US commercial buildings. The latest available benchmark data come from widely accepted industry and government standards.”

Read the full report.

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