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Government Unveils Plans for Country’s First Net-Zero Energy Historic Building

February 4, 2011

GSA to transform 92-year-old Western courthouse into a lab of efficiency and innovation.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson was in Grand Junction today to unveil plans to turn the 92-year-old Wayne Aspinall Federal Building and Courthouse into the country’s first net-zero energy usage historic building.

“This building is on track to be the first of its kind in the entire nation,” said Johnson. “GSA will partner with regional businesses to maintain the historic features that make the building unique, while investing in sustainable technologies to make it one of the most energy- and cost-efficient buildings in the country. The result will be something special that the entire country can look to as a model of innovation and efficiency.”

The building design is aiming to achieve net-zero energy usage, meaning the building will produce as much energy as it consumes in a year. If the goal is reached, this would be the country’s first net-zero building on the National Register of Historic Places. The project is also targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, USGBC’s highest level of certification.

"People don't usually associate innovation with the federal government. But our industry does. We know GSA innovates and partners with the private sector for results," said Paul Westlake, managing principal at Westlake Reed Leskosky, an architecture and engineering firm. "GSA drives norms that have a ripple effect throughout the private sector."

GSA will install an energy-saving geothermal heating and cooling system that uses the warmth or cold of the ground to control temperature, and a solar panel array that is projected to generate enough energy to balance out the electrical demand of the building. Additional energy produced in excess of the building’s needs will be exported to Grand Junction’s electrical grid. The building will also feature state-of-the-art fluorescent light fixtures with wireless controls to adjust lighting to respond to natural light levels, and storm windows with solar control film to reduce demand on heating and cooling.

“These renovations will ensure that the building is running at top efficiency,” said Johnson. “Ultimately, sustainability is about no waste. And no waste ensures that we are being as efficient as possible with taxpayer dollars.”

Government buildings that are renovated with sustainable technologies often see double-digit energy reductions, cumulatively saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year, she said.

After touring the Aspinall building, the administrator met with representatives from the region’s robust geothermal industry to discuss the opportunities and challenges they face, and Johnson expressed interest in continuing to expand the use of geothermal technologies at federal buildings across the country.

Originally designed by renowned architect James Wetmore, the Wayne Aspinall Federal Building was constructed as a post office and courthouse and completed in 1918. In 1939, a large extension was added. Project completion is scheduled for January 2013, at which time the state-of-the-art building will host nine federal agencies.


As the federal government's workplace solutions provider, the U.S. General Services Administration works to foster an effective, sustainable and transparent government for the American people. GSA’s expertise in government workplace solutions include:
• Effective management of government assets including more than 9,600 government-owned or leased buildings and 215,000 vehicles in the federal fleet, and preservation of historic federal properties;
• Leveraging the government’s buying power through responsible acquisition of products and services making up approximately 14percent of the government’s total procurement dollars;
• Providing innovative technology solutions to enhance government efficiency and increase citizen engagement; and,
• Promoting responsible use of federal resources through development of governmentwide policies ranging from federal travel to property and management practices.

Last Reviewed: 2019-04-24