GSA: green buildings key to lower emissions

Wednesday - 10/6/2010, 9:31am EDT

Kevin Kampschroer, director, Office of Federal High Performance Green Buildings, GSA

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Federal agencies are under Presidential order: reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As the landlord for the federal government, much of the heavy lifting will fall to the General Services Administration, and especially to Kevin Kampschroer, the director of the Office of Federal High Performance Green Buildings at the GSA.

Kampschroer says when it comes to greenhouse gases, buildings are the place to start. "Green buildings make a huge difference," he told Federal News Radio.

That difference, explained Kampschroer, isn't just in the amount of energy the building consumes. He spoke nearly lyrically about the confluence of the way people work and the housing within which that happens, the interplay between human behavior and the physical environment. Improving a building can improve productivity, reduce the cost to the taxpayer and improve the product delivered to the taxpayer, he waxed. "This is a tremendous opportunity and it's an exciting place to be."

While Kampschroer said every single new project proposed by GSA to Congress is a high efficiency building, "the main thing that we need to be doing going forward is looking at how we get the existing building stock to improve, not just concentrating on new buildings."

The low hanging fruit, he said, "is in operation maintenance of existing buildings and how we can make them perform better. That is tricky because it's not as glitzy and glamorous as a brand new building but the opportunity is there."

Especially in older buildings. But, said Kampschroer, not in the oldest buildings in the GSA portfolio. It's really the buildings in the 70's and 80's that are the worst performers.

Some of the older buildings that have narrow sections, lots of daylighting, the ability to have cross ventilation, they actually perform better from an energy standpoint than some of the 70's and 80's buildings where I don't think we quite understood all of the interrelationships of building parts.

Changing building operations can result in big savings, but so can using technology, even if a building is relatively new, said Kampschroer.

Almost every office building that's more than five years old in its lighting system, you can make a significant improvement in both the quality of the lighting, the performance of lighting for the people in the building and the energy consumption. So lighting is a huge, huge payoff. If I were going to pick just one thing to work on, I would sort of be flipping a coin between building operation and maintenance on the one hand and lighting retrofits on the other.

For more from our series, The Greening of Government, including results of our survey and tips for making your office more energy efficient, click here.