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Energy Efficiency for New Buildings

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

New Building Design & Construction: Energy-Efficient from the Start

For new construction projects, EPA:

Green Buildings Program

Vast opportunities for implementing regulatory and executive order procurement requirements exist in building construction, renovation, and maintenance. For several years, EPA has been implementing Green Building strategies in a variety of ways, which are expanding with each construction and renovation project. To promote a healthful and productive working environment, the Green Buildings program incorporates principles of energy and resource efficiency, applies waste reduction and pollution prevention practices, ensures unpolluted indoor air, and uses natural light as a light and heat source whenever possible. The Green Buildings Vision and Policy statement, on page 22, serves as a guide for EPA and as a model for other agencies. It represents a holistic, systems approach to sustainable building design, renovation, and maintenance.

There are many examples of Green Building practices that are incorporated in numerous solicitation for offers (SFOs) for construction and/or renovation activities at EPA facilities. For instance, SFOs have specified the collection of recyclable waste materials, the recycling of construction and renovation debris, and the reuse of existing building material. Also, SFOs specify the use of environmentally preferable building products and materials, promote low VOC-content adhesives, and restrict the use of products made from endangered or restricted wood.

Several upcoming and recent EPA facility construction projects demonstrate technologies and concepts that integrate a systems approach to Green Buildings procurement using many of the practices previously described. These facilities include the New Headquarters Buildings (Washington, DC), the New Consolidated RTP Facility (Research Triangle Park, NC), the Region IV Science and Ecosystems Support Laboratory (Athens, GA), Region IV Office (Atlanta, GA), Region III Office (Philadelphia, PA), Region VII Central Regional Laboratory (Kansas City, KS), National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (Ann Arbor, MI), and the Fort Meade Environmental Science Center (Fort Meade, MD). The following EPA facilities provide examples of the variety of energy conservation and pollution prevention opportunities which were addressed through the Green Buildings program.

Athens, Georgia

A variety of pollution prevention opportunities were considered and incorporated into the design and construction of the new Region IV laboratory in Athens, Georgia. In incorporating Green Building concepts, OA was able to minimize off-gas environmental contaminants in materials and


In order to maintain leadership in environmental protection, EPA must lead by example. Through sustainable design and construction of EPA facilities we will model responsible environmental behavior and help create the framework within which the building industry as a whole can shift towards practices which will promote "Green Buildings".

Green Buildings are structures that incorporate the principles of sustainable design -- design in which the impact of a building on the environment will be minimal over the lifetime of that building. Green Buildings incorporate principles of energy and resource efficiency, practical applications of waste reduction and pollution prevention, good indoor air quality and natural light to promote occupant health and productivity, and transportation efficiency in design and construction, during use and reuse.

Agency facilities, both new and existing, should serve as models for a healthy workplace with minimal environmental impacts. To achieve this goal, EPA will utilize both innovative, state-of-the-art technologies and a holistic approach to design, construction, renovation, and use. EPA will work with the private sector to identify opportunities for innovation and help create markets for both products and design concepts. Important considerations in the design, construction and use of EPA-owned and -leased facilities include the following:

  • Site planning that utilizes resources naturally occurring on the site such as solar and wind energy, natural shading, native plant materials, topography and drainage
  • Location and programs to optimize use of existing infrastructure and transportation options, including the use of alternative work modes such as telecommuting and teleconferencing
  • Use of recycled content and environmentally preferable construction materials and furnishings, consistent with EPA Procurement Guidelines
  • Minimization of energy and materials waste throughout the buildings life cycle, from design through demolition or reuse
  • Design of the building envelope for energy efficiency
  • Use of materials and design strategies to achieve optimal indoor environmental quality, particularly including light and air, to maximize health and productivity
  • Operation systems and practices which support an integrated waste management system
  • Recycling of building materials at demolition
  • Management of water as a limited resource in site design, building construction and building operations
  • Utilization of solar and other renewable technologies, where appropriate

Evaluation of trade-offs will be an important component of the design of Green Buildings. Where the goals of a Green Building are contradictory (for example, increased ventilation vs. increased energy efficiency), the trade-offs will have to be evaluated in a holistic framework to achieve long-term benefits for the environment. Also, the physical considerations must be balanced with other policy objectives such as environmental justice, particularly with regards to site location. We anticipate that there may not be always be single answers to recurring building issues, but we will adopt a consistent approach to evaluating all buildings for sustainable design considerations.

products (e.g., adhesives, varnishes, carpets, paints), use CFC-free insulations and refrigerants, and avoid materials in limited supply or not from sustainable sources. OA was able to use recycled content products (e.g., insulation, wall board, and fly-ash concrete), maximize shading through liberal use of trees and shrubs, and include centralized recycling stations. A variety of conservation opportunities were implemented, such as improved efficiency of refrigeration equipment, a VAV HVAC system, split-task ambient lighting system, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and trickle irrigation systems for exterior landscaping.

New EPA Headquarters, Washington, DC

EPA has completed construction of a consolidated headquarters facility in downtown Washington, DC. The Agency occupies a portion of the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and the adjacent Customs/Connecting Wing/Interstate Commerce Commission and Ariel Rios Buildings. EPA’s new

Headquarters operates with many energy-saving features, described below. The variety of solutions implemented by EPA highlights the dynamic diversity of available responses to energy conservation needs.

HVAC System


Fort Meade Environmental Science Center, MD

Environmentally sound materials and processes will be incorporated into the various phases of design at the new facility in Fort Meade, MD. For example, materials for the interior finishes will be selected to minimize chemical off-gasing. Lighter colored finishes will be used in order to maximize the lighting reflectivity. In addition, no mercury, asbestos, or halon will be used within the facility, and no lead is to be used in the water piping connections.

Examples of Green Building practices incorporated into the site design phase include stipulating that existing trees will be transported on-site where possible and that, to reduce the need for fertilization, new planting will include native species and grasses. Also, the existing tree stands will be preserved to the extent possible. Another example in this area is the use of recycled asphalt for wearing surfaces for parking and roadway areas.

The architectural/structural design phase also provides for many practices that use environmentally benign materials and practices. For example, it is specified that building materials should include recyclable materials where possible, such as within the facility’s insulation and in concrete. In addition, wall bases and selected flooring areas will contain rubber with reclaimed material. Carpet and ceiling tile that are to be used within the facility have been specified to allow these materials to be recycled in the future. Also, a recycling center will be provided for waste materials.

Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC

The new 635,000 square-foot consolidated campus at RTP will house about 2,000 EPA staff and contractors in the Agency’s largest laboratory and office complex. Energy efficiency has been stressed in every aspect of the design of this new facility, which is now under design and set for completion by early 2001. For example, an integrated systems approach has maximized daylighting while keeping heat gain to a minimum. Although the orientation of the building along the steep slope of the site yields a large amount of southwestern exposure, large forests of tall pines and hardwoods have been carefully preserved to provide the building with much-needed shading. Light-colored pre-cast concrete and roofing material will help reflect radiant heat, and the articulation of the building facade will help to shade the windows from excessive mid-day sun. Insulated, low-E glass will further deflect heat gain while maximizing the daylight benefit of the abundant windows. Motion sensors and daylight dimmers will be combined with high-efficiency electronic fluorescent fixtures which comply with EPA’s Green Lights program.

Variable speed drives and high-efficiency motors and pumps are used extensively throughout the facility. VAV units and outside air economizers in the office wings keep the energy demand to a minimum. A direct digital control building automation system will tie all heating, cooling and lighting into an integrated system which will minimize energy use throughout the complex.

Since laboratories are particularly energy-intensive, special care was given to the custom-designed chemical fume hoods. Each hood will have a specially designed sash which will cut the air demand by 20% in full operation. When the hood is lowered and the researcher turns off the light as he or she leaves the laboratory, air flow is cut dramatically—yielding a 70% total reduction from the energy demand of a standard fume hood. This energy savings will be realized with no compromise in worker safety protections.


Refer to Appendix C for information on EPA’s vehicle fuel consumption.


EPA has taken many positive steps to conserve energy over the last year. Since EPA met its 10 percent energy reduction goal in 1995, the Agency has moved beyond the traditional conservation approaches of lighting retrofits and building upgrades to a more aggressive, all-encompassing program. EPA’s partnerships with other government agencies and the private sector, use of innovative technologies and designs, and incorporation of pollution prevention programs into daily activities—as well as continuing to use the tools that helped the Agency reach past goals and milestones—is already proving useful in pursuing the 20 percent and 30 percent reduction goals. The Agency’s mission to protect the environment make meeting the 2000 and 2005 goals natural commitments, and EPA intends to turn these commitments into success stories.

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