The Impact of High-Performance Buildings

Image of The Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
The Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Grand Junction, Colorado, shows that buildings can achieve high performance regardless of age. It was built in 1918 and, thanks to its 2013 modernization, it is now one of the nation’s most energy-efficient historic buildings. Photograph by © Kevin G Reeves Photographer

The Impact of High-Performance Buildings [PDF - 3 MB] , a recent study by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), finds that high-performance buildings save energy, save water, cost less to operate, produce less waste, and have more satisfied occupants compared with typical buildings. In short, they deliver cost savings and tenant satisfaction.

The study compares 100 GSA high-performance buildings to 100 GSA legacy stock buildings, looking at actual performance data in five key metrics over three years. High-performance buildings are defined as those that meet the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings, while legacy stock buildings are defined as those that do not. The Guiding Principles are a set of common performance goals for federal agencies to meet energy efficiency and sustainable design requirements.

Compared to legacy stock buildings, GSA’s high-performance buildings have:
• 23% lower energy use,
• 28% lower water use,
• 23% lower building operating expenses,
• 9% less waste landfilled, and
• Higher overall tenant satisfaction.

Energy and water savings are even greater when compared to industry benchmarks rather than GSA legacy stock buildings – 43% for energy and 35% for water. If the 100 legacy stock buildings in this study met the average performance rates of high-performance buildings, they could save taxpayers over $44 million per year.

Last Reviewed: 2021-05-05