GSA's Contribution to Our Nation's Economic Recovery Through Green Modernization and Construction of Our Buildings

APRIL 22, 2009


Good Morning Madam Chair, Ranking Member Inhofe and members of this Committee. My name is Paul Prouty and I am the Acting Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA).  Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss GSA’s contribution to our nation’s economic recovery through the green modernization and construction of our buildings. 

GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS) is one of the largest and most diversified public real estate organizations in the world. Our inventory consists of over 8,600 assets with nearly 354 million square feet of rentable space across all 50 states, 6 territories and the District of Columbia. Our portfolio is comprised primarily of office buildings, courthouses, land ports of entry, and warehouses.  GSA’s and PBS’s goal is to manage these assets responsibly while delivering and maintaining superior workplaces at best value to our client agencies and the American taxpayer.

The funds Congress has provided us through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Recovery Act) are a sound investment in several respects.  First, the money will help GSA reduce its energy consumption and improve the environmental performance of its inventory.  Second, the funds, in large part, will be invested in the existing infrastructure, which will help reduce our backlog of repair and alteration needs, thus increasing the assets’ value, prolonging their useful life, and ultimately further conserving our country’s resources.  Third, the money will lessen our reliance on costly operating leases by providing more government owned solutions for the long-term requirements of our customers.   Finally, we will stimulate job growth in the construction and real estate sectors and long-term improvements in energy efficient technologies, alternative energy solutions, and green building technologies.

Today, I will describe the steps we have taken to carry out PBS’s portion of the Recovery Act.  With me is Tony Costa, Acting Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, Bill Guerin, the Recovery Executive in our newly established Recovery Program Management Office in PBS, and Kevin Kampschroer, Acting Director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings.

We know that this is not business as usual and we are moving forward with speed, tempered by careful consideration of our procurement responsibilities and our ultimate accountability to the taxpayer.  In order to streamline business processes and provide tools and resources to assist GSA’s regional Recovery project delivery, we have established a nationally managed, regionally executed Project Management Office (PMO). The PMO works closely with counterparts in the core PBS organization to leverage PBS resources and expertise.  This national operation will be accountable for the following:

  • Develop and maintain consistent processes, policies and guidelines;
  • Manage customer requirements and expectations at the national level;
  • Drive successful project oversight and management;
  • Ensure accurate tracking and reporting of Recovery Act funds;
  • Manage cross-agency resources; and
  • Enable PBS to adopt leading practices in the PBS organization generally. 

PBS and the PMO have moved forward quickly.  On March 31st, GSA delivered to Congress a list of 254 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories to be completed with funds provided by the Recovery Act.  These projects fall into the following categories:  new federal construction; full and partial building modernizations; and limited-scope, high-performance green building projects.  In the new federal construction category, we will invest $1 billion in 17 projects; in the building modernization category, we will invest $3.2 billion in 43 projects; and in the limited-scope green buildings category, we will invest $807 million in 194 projects totaling over $5 billion.  GSA selected the best projects for accomplishing the goals of the Recovery Act based on a detailed analysis of a number of factors.  Our goals in developing this list were to both put people back to work quickly and increase the sustainability of our buildings to the maximum extent possible.  

Many of the projects in the new federal construction and building modernization categories have previously received partial funding.  These are projects for which we can start construction quickly while also identifying ways that existing designs can be improved.  These categories include projects such as the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building in Fort Snelling, Minnesota, a multi-tenant office building project where HVAC, plumbing, electrical and life safety improvements are expected to deliver 23.6% energy savings once the project is completed. This is over and above the 20% in energy savings we have achieved in this building in recent years.

Examples of ways in which we will improve new construction and major modernization projects we have selected include:

  • Adding thicker insulation than required by the newest energy codes in climates where it makes sense;
  • Installing variable frequency drives to reduce energy and extend the life of mechanical equipment;
  • Converting parking structure lighting to LED (light-emitting diode), which dramatically lowers energy consumption, improves safety and visibility and  reduces maintenance as LEDs can last two to three times as long as typical parking lot lights;
  • Retrofitting or replacing less efficient windows — this component is often eliminated from a building renovation because of the initial expense and long payback period; and
  • Specifying dual flush toilets and waterless or low water urinals to save water and reduce demand on aging city sewer systems.

An example of the innovative improvements we will be making in some of the construction and modernization projects is the Edith Green - Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon.  As part of this project, GSA will install a new high-performance double glass enclosure over the entire building which will dramatically enhance energy performance and blast resistance.  On the west façade, vegetative “fins” will provide shade, reducing the load on the new high-efficiency HVAC system that will be installed.  These are just some of the “green” improvements that GSA will make as part of this project.  We expect the building to attain a LEED Gold rating.

By using well-established contracting techniques, such as design-build contracts, we can start work quickly, and make simultaneous improvements to the existing designs. 

In the limited scope category, we have identified a number of projects that can rapidly be deployed in many buildings at once – buildings as varied as the Oklahoma City Federal Building, the Burlington Federal Building US Post Office and Courthouse, and the J. Caleb Boggs Courthouse and Federal Building in Wilmington, Delaware.  Through these projects, we can make significant improvement to the energy performance of a building and also improve the working conditions for the people in them.

Three examples of such improvements include:

  • Installing intelligent lighting systems that provide daylight and provide controls for occupants to adjust for ambient light versus task light.
  • Replacing flat roofs with ENERGY STAR membranes; integrated photovoltaic panels bonded to the membrane; or planted roofs.  These options offer benefits ranging from increasing the life of the roof, to producing energy and to reducing the “heat island” effect of a black roof.
  • Accelerating the installation of advanced meters—required under the Energy Policy Act to be completed by 2012.  Advanced meters enable us to better manage buildings by instantaneously providing information on a building’s energy use and encouraging immediate operational changes.

For these projects, we have developed standard national scopes of work, some of which were provided by the national laboratories run by the Department of Energy (DoE).  DoE’s Federal Energy Management Program, in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has provided specifications for the four most common types of solar installation.  The Commercial Buildings Program at DoE and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have provided specifications for three classes of lighting and control strategies.  We have also developed standards using GSA’s past projects as models.


Today, I have described the unprecedented and exciting opportunity that lies before us to contribute to our nation’s economic recovery by investing in green technologies and reinvesting in our public buildings.  Greening our buildings will be an ongoing process.  As this Committee knows, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and other laws require GSA, among other things, to reduce its energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015; reduce fossil fuel-generated energy consumption in our new buildings by increasing amounts – from 55 percent in 2010 to 100 percent in 2030; and “green” an even greater portion of our inventory.  Although the Recovery Act will accelerate our progress in these areas, it alone will not enable us to meet these goals.  We look forward to working with you and members of this Subcommittee as we engage in this important work.

Madam Chairman, Ranking Member Inhofe, this concludes my prepared statement. I will be pleased to answer any questions that you or any other members of this Committee may have.

Last Reviewed 2010-04-30