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By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor
Green Article Use Policy
Sit in on any educational session about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) and you’ll almost certainly be treated to a litany of facts and figures about how the money has been and will be distributed. It may seem as if billions and billions of dollars are being tossed around at whim and fancy. But when you look into precisely how those billions are being distributed and spent, you start to realize there is a method to all this stimulus madness, especially when it comes to the government’s own buildings.
While it hasn’t always been smooth sailing in the 11 months since ARRA was formally signed into law, the General Services Administration (GSA), as well as city, county and state governments, are making progress on their two main goals for stimulus funds: transforming the government’s portfolio of buildings into high-performance green buildings and creating jobs while doing so.
The Recovery Act, as it is referred to in the shorthand parlance of government facility managers, allocated $5.5 billion to GSA, $4.5 billion of which was expressly earmarked for “federal building conversion to high-performance green buildings.” By the end of December, just short of half of the GSA’s $5.5 billion had already been distributed and many projects were already underway. All funds are expected to be released by early 2011.
The money is being distributed among GSA’s 11 geographic regions, with the National Capital region (about $1.2 billion) and the Great Lakes region ($700 million) receiving the most. Those two regions have the largest portfolios of GSA-owned buildings.
“The Recovery Act represents an unprecedented opportunity to improve our physical infrastructure,” says Charles Hardy, regional recovery executive for GSA’s Great Lakes region. “We're focusing on projects to put people back to work quickly and that can transform our buildings into high-performance green buildings.”
Projects fall into two categories: major modernizations and limited scope projects.
As one of example of a major modernization, the Great Lakes region is using $102 million to upgrade the 43-story John C. Kluczynski Federal Building and Post Office in Chicago, Ill., which was built in 1975. The project includes dozens of upgrades, including new air handlers and other mechanical systems, new water-efficient restroom fixtures and advanced metering systems.
Hardy says Great Lakes GSA is also in the first phase of working with DOE to design and build a photovoltaic (PV) array on the 1.4-million-square-foot Major General Emmett J. Bean Federal Center just outside of Indianapolis, Ind. Are expensive PV systems with a long payback a worthwhile use of recovery funds? Hardy explains GSA’s position.
“Part of the goal is to be a proving ground,” says Hardy. “We’re looking to turn our inventory into a proving ground for green building and therefore drive growth in the industry because of our buying power.”
Another facet of that goal of market transformation is data collection and analysis. Hardy says that all Great Lakes Region recovery projects will include advanced metering, so performance can be carefully monitored and data can be disseminated to the public about the value and paybacks of green building strategies.
GSA will continue to work within existing guidelines regarding specific energy efficiency and green building goals, Hardy says. For instance, per the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, federal facilities are required to reduce energy intensity 3 percent per year from a 2003 baseline. GSA already requires that all new facilities be LEED-certified at least at the Silver level.
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