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Johnson Praises Design Award Winners For Sustainability, Design Innovation

As Prepared for Delivery

Remarks by
Martha N. Johnson
U.S. General Services Administration
2010 GSA Design Awards
Washington, DC
January 20, 2011

Welcome to the 2010 GSA Design Awards. It is great to have you all here, and I am delighted that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; Commissioner Amanda Burden of the New York City Department of City Planning; Editor in Chief Cindy Allen of Interior Design; 2010 GSA Design Awards jury chair Billie Tsien; and so many other distinguished guests and civic leaders could join us this afternoon.

We are gathered to honor the work of some of the country’s top architects, designers, engineers, and building professionals.

In so honoring them, we reaffirm our belief that federal buildings offer us an opportunity to express and celebrate our shared national values.

Today, I would like to call out one of those values in particular. It is a value that President Barack Obama has also called out and particularly challenged us to lean into with all the creativity and inventiveness we have. That value is sustainability.

The General Services Administration has embraced that sustainability challenge, and within the last year has agreed to and engaged in seeking the aspirational goal of achieving a zero environmental footprint or ZEF.

Each of the buildings highlighted today moves the General Services Administration closer toward that goal.

Setting such a goal is like raising our line of sight up to the roofline of our buildings – and beyond.

It is what President John F. Kennedy did for the nation when he announced that we would put an astronaut on the moon and bring him safely home.

Such goals galvanize people; they capture the imagination and unlock our potential and creativity.

I am pleased to report that ZEF is galvanizing GSA, which, in turn, can support the entire federal system as it shifts to norms, decisions, and a culture of sustainability.

One of the ways that GSA's Public Buildings Service is engaging in ZEF is by linking it to our long tradition of superb design.

The leadership and risk-taking evident in the projects we are describing today are the results of that linkage.

In the buildings recognized this afternoon, you will see clever, inventive, progressive, and imaginative ways of meshing design and sustainability.

ZEF allows us to be a showcase, a proving ground, for the best in clean, high-performance buildings; they can be laboratories for clean technologies.

And it doesn’t stop there.

ZEF resonates across our business lines. It underscores our commitment to growth in green construction, green jobs, green products, green fleet, green services, and green contracting.

GSA is a catalyst for innovation and change, and we are working closely with our partners in the private sector to bring sustainability to the buildings, operations, and supply chain of the Federal Government.

ZEF is also affecting GSA in our own self-definition and awareness.

ZEF is about “no waste” and focuses us on both our magnificent design capacities and our daily office behaviors.

Furthermore, it has provided interesting new ways to think about our skills and offerings.

We are a significant player in the design world. We are also a significant player in the disposal world. We are unique in our perspective and ability to link design to disposal, to close the loop of consumption, to practice the cradle-to-cradle thinking we must do to be truly sustainable.

The buildings and the designers that we recognize today are leaders, innovators, and pioneers.

They represent the highest caliber of design and the new edges of sustainability.

The portfolio is varied, ranging from a parking garage to a courthouse to the gateways of our country.

Yet though these buildings serve very different functions; they also reaffirm GSA’s commitment to an innovative government today and a healthy world tomorrow.

Thank you.

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