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The Tatler

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March 7, 2013 - 8:17 am

Specially green-certified government structures are consuming more water and energy resources than less expensive conventional buildings, a new life-cycle analysis by the National Research Council has found. Shocked, we are.

A recently-released report by the NRC revealed the Department of Defense is spending upwards of 8 percent more on green certified buildings than conventional buildings for design and construction costs while reaping negligible, if not negative, energy rewards.

DOD construction regulations stipulate that new or renovated military structures be built to the specifications established by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Twelve other government agencies, including the mammoth Government Services Administration, also mandate adherence.

“Research studies indicate that the incremental costs to design and construct high performance or green buildings typically range from 0 to 8 percent higher than the costs to design and construct conventional buildings,” the 231-page report reads. It also noted that “not every individual … green building building achieved energy or water savings when compared to similar conventional buildings.”

The certification program has weathered intense congressional criticism for restrictions levied on common plastics, like bullet proof glass and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping, and a ban most certified US timber, and was forced to table even tighter regulations last year.

Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, who requested the NRC study, said DOD should “remain flexible” and abandon its LEED-only standard.

“The findings made by DOD and the National Research Council show that a strict LEED policy for green buildings does not achieve consistent and significant energy, water, or cost savings for military construction across different geographic areas,” Wicker said in a statement.

Amid increasing congressional and industry concerns, some government agencies have expressed an apparent willingness in recent weeks to ease its LEED-only standard.

The GSA, which serves as the landlord for the civilian federal government, published a notice earlier this month that it would accept public comments on the three competing certification systems for green building standards, LEED, Green Globes and the Living Building Challenge.

In its report, though, the NRC recommended DOD maintain its current certification standard. Wicker said the counsel ran counter to the agency’s own findings of diminished environmental and energy benefits.

“I am disappointed that despite negativing findings and mixed results, the NRC recommended DOD continue its LEED policy for green buildings. DOD should consider all the rating systems and standards available and remain flexible in its policies to better ensure energy and water savings.”

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There are some non-energy related complaints too. My wife works in a "green certified" building and no one can get cell service. They used windows with a metallic coating to reflect light (i.e. reduce need for cooling) but the effect is the building is a giant metal box - so no cell coverage even when standing by the window.
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