For Immediate Release: July 23, 2010
For more information contact EESI at (202) 662-1884 or communications [at]

In testimony before the U.S. Congress on July 21, 2010, EESI Policy Director Ellen Vaughan discussed the importance of the federal government incorporating high performance building practices into the renovation and construction of existing and new U.S. government buildings. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) defined a high performance building as one that optimizes energy conservation, environment, safety, security, durability, accessibility, cost-benefit, productivity, sustainability, functionality, and operational considerations.

Accounting for more than 40 percent of our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the building sector can either be our worst enemy or our best ally in the battle for a sustainable future. EESI believes there is a full spectrum of opportunities for the building industry to shrink its environmental impact and become stewards of the natural systems on which we all depend, while enhancing comfort, saving money, and achieving multiple goals through good design. Low-energy design strategies and technologies, use of renewable energy, water-efficient systems and environmentally preferable, nontoxic materials must become the benchmark for all building construction and renovation, and be maximized in retrofits. The federal government, which owns and operates nearly 500,000 facilities, has an opportunity and responsibility to lead by example, and this will allow the revolution in the buildings industry to truly get underway.

Key points from Ms. Vaughan’s testimony:

  • With about three billion square feet of floor space, federal buildings have a substantial environmental footprint, consuming 1.6 percent of the nation’s total energy use at an annual cost of $24.5 billion.
  • There is no single technology, rating system, or magic bullet that achieves high performance buildings; rather, it is a holistic approach from project planning to building operation that can provide measurably better performance for a range of metrics.
  • Retrofit is very important because new construction adds only a small percentage to our national building inventory each year.
  • Countries such as Switzerland and Germany are leading the United States in building design and efficiency, and are building thousands of structures that are 60 to 90 percent more energy efficient than conventional buildings.
  • Congress and the White House, over several administrations, have recognized and acted on the critical need to make federal buildings better environmental citizens and provide healthy, comfortable, safe, and secure places to work by setting performance targets through statutes and Executive Orders.
  • Federal agencies have worked hard to implement these requirements through rulemakings, memoranda of understanding, interagency meetings, procurement specifications for energy- and water-saving technologies, and progressive contracting and financing instruments.
  • Another bold step forward is the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published by the Department of Energy on May 28, 2010, which seeks to implement the sustainable building design provisions of EISA.
  • However, the Department of Energy decided in the May 2010 rulemaking to defer action to implement Section 433 of EISA, which requires agencies to reduce their use of fossil-fuel generated energy.
  • To achieve high-performing buildings, federal agencies must have clear and consistent performance goals and metrics, adequate funding, and policies that enable them to provide buildings that perform over their lifetimes.
  • Energy remains first among equals in high performance building values, but optimization of overall high performance is the way to obtain the most value for each dollar spent on federal buildings and to ensure buildings are durable and fit for their intended purposes.

Click here for Ms. Vaughan's full testimony.

Click here for accompanying slides.

Click here for an audio recording of the entire hearing. (Ms. Vaughan's testimony begins at 1 hour and 19 minutes.)

Testimonies from the other witnesses are available here.


The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 by a bipartisan Congressional caucus dedicated to finding innovative environmental and energy solutions. EESI works to protect the climate and ensure a healthy, secure, and sustainable future for America through policymaker education, coalition building, and policy development in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, agriculture, forestry, transportation, buildings, and urban planning.