New Study Reveals Federal Green Buildings Best Practices

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is committed to creating a more sustainable government. GSA recently completed a five-year research project that looked at how to reduce operating costs and carbon emissions as well as improve energy and water performance in the federal government’s green buildings. The report,  “Living in a High-Performance Building: The Story of EPA’s Region 8 Headquarters,” has details on one of the most extensively studied federal buildings in the country — the regional headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in downtown Denver, Colorado.

The Wynkoop Building was one of the most extensively studied buildings in the country for its sustainable features.

Academics, scientists, and private sector experts, worked together to assess the Wynkoop Building’s water performance, data center energy use, under-floor air distribution effectiveness, daylight effectiveness, thermal comfort air quality, occupant experience, workplace functionality, and green roof applications for the Denver climate.  The study reveals how technologies and approaches are working at different stages of the building life cycle.  Serving as research learning laboratories, the evaluation of these federal facilities helps to advance the understanding of high performance green buildings.

For example, energy analysis showed that desktop equipment contributed significantly to building energy use. An experiment on different ways to reduce desktop energy showed that the most effective method was to automatically shut down computers and other equipment when they were not being used. This method was more effective than an information campaign urging workers to turn off devices or a competition among workers who received feedback on their group’s performance compared to other groups.

Operating costs for the building are 43 percent below the industry baseline and carbon emissions 50 percent below industry baseline. The building features the first planted roof in the City of Denver, which is just one of its many green features. Solar panels, elevators that generate power, a daylit atrium wth an innovative technology to reflect light into the building interior,window shades that vary depending upon the building orientation, underfloor air distribution, recycled materials, and restrooms that use less water all contribute to the building’s overall performance. However, the study also found that occupants’ behavior is just as important to performance as the technology and construction materials. People can improve the building’s performance by operating the shades effectively, turning the lights off, and powering down electronics when they are not being used.

The building was designed and constructed through a design-build public-private partnership to be as sustainable as technology and budget permit, incorporating sustainability elements developed jointly by GSA, as the government lessor, and EPA, as the tenant agency.

For more information on  “Living in a High-Performance Building: The Story of EPA’s Region 8 Headquarters,” click here.

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