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Building Research

GSA is dedicated to improving building performance and reducing energy use and environmental and health impacts of  Federal buildings. In order to improve understanding of how sustainable technologies and approaches can improve building performance, GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings conducts demonstration research projects at selected Federal green buildings. These projects allow GSA to:

  • test new technologies and sustainable strategies;
  • identify best practices that are replicable and scalable;
  • integrate data findings into GSA best practices, guidance, and policies;
  • identify areas where additional research is needed;
  • develop benchmarks and performance metrics for design, construction and operations of the Federal real property inventory;
  • disseminate research results government-wide and beyond. 

Section 491 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) calls for GSA to initiate evaluation of at least one Federal facility, civilian or military, each year from FY2009 through FY2014.  These Federal facilities serve as research learning laboratories and provide lessons learned that advance understanding of high performance green building performance. The specific aspects of building performance to be evaluated will be determined in partnership by  the facility managers and the research team.  The first demonstration projects include these focus areas:

  • building energy use (overall, by subsystem, and by specific components such as data centers as well as occupant behaviors),
  • water use,
  • indoor environmental quality,
  • emerging technologies and practices (such as green or vegetated roofs), and
  • workplace functionality.

These studies go beyond initial design, construction and procurement decisions to focus on how technologies and approaches are working at different stages of the building life cycle, encompassing building diagnostics, post-occupancy evaluations, and management or operational effectiveness. GSA will use information and data obtained from the demonstration research projects to update existing building performance data, specifications and standards, inform Federal building professionals and selected green building industry sectors, and support ongoing Federal efforts. A technical report for each project will summarize findings of the building investigation, including lessons learned, areas for improvement, and recommendations for research, policy, and programmatic changes and specifications and standards. Additional communications and outreach means will be employed to educate the Federal sector and facilitate learning and better practices aimed at field personnel based on the results of this research such as best practices, webinars, and courses materials.

The site of the 2010 demonstration project was the EPA Region 8 Headquarters in Denver, Colorado. This project included multiple research studies with collaboration between GSA, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the DOE national laboratories.