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Bibb Promotes Ambitious GSA Environmental Agenda

Remarks by
David L. Bibb
Acting Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Federal Administrative Managers Association
Spring Conference
May 16, 2008

 

Thank you very much.

I always welcome the chance to exchange ideas and information with all of you. It’s been awhile . . . This used to be an annual visit for me when I was with the Office of Governmentwide Policy.  FAMA, of course, is comprised of many of the key agency representatives who interact with GSA on a near-daily basis. You depend on us for services and, in many cases, guidance.  And I certainly welcome your feedback, input and guidance in return.

I’ve always considered this association to be a major voice representing not only your own agencies, but all our clients and customers. I've always listened to what you’ve had to say, and your views have often influenced the policy and decisions that I have made at GSA.

I’m in a little different position than when I’ve spoken to you in the past.  I am now serving as both Acting Administrator and as GSA’s Senior Environmental Official. I am excited about this opportunity, which has put me in a unique position to help GSA mount and lead an aggressive campaign to help us all become better stewards of our nation’s precious natural resources.

That is what I’d like to speak to you about today.

I’ll start by saying there was no thunderclap that suddenly awakened us to our responsibility to help the government go green. GSA has been the premier supplier of best-value goods and services since President Truman signed us into existence in 1949. And environmental-friendly products and services did not abruptly appear on our schedules the day green took over the rainbow.

Nor is this a concern that’s just shown up on my radar. All of us, I think, are influenced somewhat by where we grew up. I’m from Tennessee, a state with 53 state parks and a long commitment to environmental preservation. The year I joined GSA – 1971 – was the year Tennessee passed a law called the Natural Areas Preservation Act. Since then the General Assembly has designated 77 state natural areas. They have idyllic names like Taylor Hollow, Cedars of Lebanon and Hampton Creek Cove that make you want to pack up the family and go camping. I’m from the town of Clarksville, which has a wonderful waterfront park. Besides being a great recreation area, the park pays tribute to the role that the Cumberland River played in Clarksville’s development as one of America’s great southern river towns.  If any of you are fishermen, the Cumberland is one of the top catfishing spots in the U.S., according to Field and Stream magazine.

I’m proud that Tennessee’s dedication to preserving, protecting and wisely using the state’s natural resources is shared by GSA at the federal level.

For instance, we’ve long been a leader in incorporating the principles of sustainable design and energy efficiency in our building projects. 

As the government’s lead procurement agency:

  • We offer some 10,000 green goods and services;
  • We have made eco-friendly procurement easier and easier for federal agencies; and
  • We have for many years helped agencies with energy-efficient, cost-effective recycling programs.

GSA recycling programs today serve more than 650,000 government employees and contractors in more than 1,100 government-owned and leased buildings.

So you see we’ve always taken our environmental responsibilities seriously.  What may be a little different today is an increased awareness on the part of the public and more data pointing to what we’ve always known to be true – that our resources are not infinite, and that we must do more to protect and preserve our planet for the generations that will follow us.

There is a Chinese proverb. It goes:

"The rose has thorns only for those who would gather it."

All of us are feeling the thorn a little these days. We pay dearly for gas, sit in awful traffic, and have little to show for it besides aggravation.

As government leaders, it is our responsibility to safeguard our natural resources … to ensure that all the generations that follow can enjoy the soft side of the rose. The rule should be: we will not take more than we need, and we will replace what we take.

We believe we have an exceptional chance as the federal government’s chief provider of goods, services and workspace to promote an aggressive agenda focused on significant, positive environmental change.

Think about it: you turn to us for:

  • Your buildings;
  • The cars in your fleets;
  • The lighting that illuminates your offices;
  • And millions of other supplies and services.

That has given us the opportunity to promote:

  • Buildings that are environmentally friendly;
  • Hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles;
  • Energy efficient lighting systems;
  • And supplies and services that will help you, our sister agencies, meet your missions as well as make us all more responsible stewards of our environment.

You can take a look at GSA’s full range of green/sustainable products and services all arrayed in one place at gsa.gov: How to Go Green.

GSA has worked hard to improve its efforts and those of other federal agencies to comply with President Bush’s Environmental Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management. You will hear more about this later this morning from Dana Arnold of the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive.

In keeping with the president’s order and recent legislation, GSA has created a new “Office of High-Performance Green Buildings.”  Housed in our Public Buildings Service, this office ensures that all federal buildings meet sustainable design and energy-reduction targets mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  It is also a center for research and best-practice-sharing.

Stepping back, you can see that GSA environmental initiatives touch many parts of daily life.

For example:

Telework reduces gridlock in major urban areas, saves gasoline, and reduces harmful emissions:

  • It enables employees to balance work and personal responsibilities. Telework has helped make GSA one of the “best places to work in the federal government,” as rated by an independent survey.
  • Our goal was to have 20 percent of eligible employees teleworking at least one day a week by the end of this year, and 50 percent by the end of 2010.  As of March 31, 2008, participation is at 18 percent and we’re moving closer and closer to the 20 percent target.
  • Meanwhile, GSA has developed 14 telework centers that each year save 2.8 million travel miles and keep 2.3 million pounds of emissions out of the air we breathe. If you haven’t seen one of our centers, I urge you to drop by and check it out.

Related to telework is GSA’s Green Procurement Program, which promotes the purchase and use of recovered material content products, environmentally preferable products and services, and biobased products.

This program is mandated by:

  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which requires agencies to procure and use products containing recovered materials, and environmentally preferable and biobased products. 
  • It is also mandated by Executive Order #13423, and the Energy Policy Act, which requires agencies to purchase products that are Energy Star qualified and designated by the Federal Energy Management Program.

Closely aligned with the procurement program is our nationwide effort to turn public and private data centers into “green” data centers.  As you know, these facilities house computer servers, databases, and related systems. The key here is that consolidation presents opportunities for tremendous energy savings and operational efficiencies:

  • Data centers account for roughly 1.5 percent of the total energy consumption in the U.S.;
  • The costs of cooling and electricity are 40-50 percent of a center’s total cost of ownership.
  • Experts in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service are assessing those opportunities and will be executing a plan later this year.  In fact, some green data center services are already available on GSA Schedule.

We also have environmental initiatives that impact our schedules:

For example, an environmental aisle has been added to GSA Advantage.  This allows federal buyers to purchase thousands of energy efficient products and services online.

We’ve also added an energy services schedule specifically designed to help meet the goals of Executive Order 13123. This schedule offers items such as energy management  program support and energy audit services. The schedule also offers our clients management and procurement services for natural gas, electricity and energy from renewable sources.  Also, we hope soon to be offering energy savings performance contracts on schedule for projects that fall below the level of the Department of Energy’s Super Energy Savings Performance Contracts.

Some of our green offerings are targeted at new buildings. I’m talking about things like:

Green roofs, which you’ll find in the design of the NOAA Satellite Operations Building in Suitland, Maryland, the Social Security Administration Building in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the U. S. Department of Transportation Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  These planted roofs can substantially reduce rainwater run-off during storms and provide significant insulation for the buildings.

Underfloor air distribution is another feature that we’ve used in places like the Regional Headquarters Building of the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver, Colorado, the Wayne Morse Courthouse Building in Eugene, Oregon, and the new Bureau of the Census Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland.  Underfloor air distribution delivers cooling and heating air at floor level instead of from the ceiling.  It’s energy-efficient, enhances indoor air quality, and increases flexibility for space configuration.

As an aside, we have a number of new facility-related offerings on, or soon to be on, GSA Schedule. Our Public Buildings Service and Federal Acquisition Service have worked very closely to develop these schedules.  It’s part of our effort to perform much better as “One GSA.”  As you may know, “One GSA” extends far beyond the schedules to encompass a fully integrated approach to space and workplace delivery.

Some of these new initiatives are aleady being implemented.

Some will be implemented in the fall.

The bottom line is that GSA is working hard to help other federal agencies meet their environmental obligations by:

  • Providing a wide range of environmentally friendly services and products such as energy-efficient lighting;
  • Offering alternative fuel vehicles & hybrid electric vehicles for lease and purchase;
  • Purchasing and using renewable power from utility companies;
  • Helping to maintain cost-effective waste prevention and recycling programs;
  • Buying green services - from waste management services to hazardous material management; and by
  • Incorporating green requirements into our contracts. 

Green buildings deserve special mention, for they are critical to protecting and preserving our natural resources today and in the future. That is why our agency is fully committed to leadership in the design, construction and operation of high-performance, sustainable federal buildings. 

“Sustainable design” and “green building” are terms we use for facilities that are located, designed, built and operated to consider impacts on the natural environment. These buildings use natural resources efficiently, improve building performance, and address the health and comfort of building occupants.
 
For example, the Carl Curtis Midwest Regional Headquarters of the National Park Service in Omaha, Nebraska is a build-to-suit lease that features underfloor air distribution throughout, abundant daylighting, native landscaping, waterless urinals, dual flush toilets, and 100 percent green power purchase. Waterless urinals don’t sound very glamorous, but it turns out that these devices save 40,000 gallons of water per urinal, per year.

The Oklahoma City Federal Building has an underfloor air distribution system and light shelves outside that increase natural light while reducing heat radiating into the building from the sun. High ceilings help direct daylight deep into the work environment.

GSA started incorporating sustainable design requirements into its standard business process a decade ago.  This commitment is spelled out in technical publications such as the Facilities standards for PBS (the design guide for all GSA construction), the Design Excellence Program Guide (which guides selection of architects and engineers), standardized scopes of work (for a/e’s, feasibility studies, and commissioning), and our solicitation for offers for leased space.

Examples of sustainable design include: high efficiency lighting which uses less energy, provides more light, and is less costly than fluorescent lighting, and high efficiency coolers, which use less energy than the older models.

In 2001, GSA also was the first federal agency to join the U.S. Green Building Council. Today we require the Council’s LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certification for all major capital projects.

As many of you know, LEED is a third party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.  LEED provides building owners and operators with the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their building’s performance.

We believe that GSA has the most LEED-rated buildings of any government organization.  We have 75 projects registered for LEED certification and have earned LEED ratings in 25 buildings.

Does that mean we’re satisfied? No. In fact, we recently completed a study to determine if gsa green buildings are operating at peak performance. 

The twelve buildings studied ranged from “designed for exceptional energy efficiency (energy star)” to, “achieving LEED gold certification.”  Compared to U.S. commercial buildings, GSA buildings produced 33 percent lower carbon emissions, used 26 percent less energy and 3 percent less water, and their occupants were 29 percent more satisfied than U.S. commercial building occupants.

The LEED gold buildings performed markedly better, using 34 percent less energy, and 54 percent less domestic water and their occupants reported 34 percent greater satisfaction.

What does this tell us? It tells us that fully integrated design delivers higher performance, lower costs and happier tenants.

The buildings I’m talking about include:

  • The Coyle Courthouse and Federal Building in Fresno, California, notable for high efficiency lighting, under-floor air distribution systems, water-cooled chillers, and natural gas boilers; 
  • The courtrooms of the Davenport Courthouse in Iowa incorporate techniques to bring in daylight and the mechanical systems use variable speed drives. 
  • The Omaha Department of Homeland Security, a LEED Gold Building, incorporates daylight and rainwater harvesting systems, a ground source heat pump, and green seal janitorial products; and …
  • The Duncan Federal Building in Knoxville, Tennessee incorporates high-efficiency lighting, enhanced metering techniques, and low-flow fixtures.  The roof reduces the heat island effect.

I’ll also quickly mention that the company that manages the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, which is owned and operated by GSA, recently launched a green meeting and event package for conference clients. 

This package is part of a vigorous campaign to find innovative and environmentally sound practices that enable guests to hold first-rate, five-star events in a way that does not harm the environment.

Highlights of the green meeting package include:

  • The use of cloth, ceramic and glass whenever possible, minimizing the use of disposable products;
  • Cream, sugar and condiments bought in bulk and served in bowls rather than individually packaged;
  • All documents printed double-sided on non-bleached, non de-inked paper; and
  • Appropriate recycling bins used in all areas, located in central locations, readily available and clearly marked.

Responses from clients on this green meeting package have been excellent. That’s encouraging.
 
In a similar vein, GSA’s environmental efforts are getting international attention. Recently, our Rocky Mountain Region provided a tour of its one-megawatt solar park for a delegation of 13 visiting government officials from south Asia.  Their objective was to learn best practices regarding government policies that promote renewable energy, analyze commercially proven renewable energy technologies, and work to apply that knowledge with practical applications in South Asia.

You know, the encyclopedia says green is not a primary color, that it’s created when you mix blue and yellow. I hope you realize from the items I’ve highlighted that GSA has a broad and ambitious environmental agenda, the centerpiece of which is green as the spring grass, and that we are able and anxious to help you with goods and services that conserve energy and resources while still enabling you to achieve your missions of service for the American people.

Thank you very much.