Transforming Existing Buildings Into High Performance Sustainable Buildings
In This Section
While the environmental performance of new commercial buildings in the United States has been improving dramatically in recent years, most existing buildings were constructed when energy was less expensive, technologies were less advanced, and environmental performance rarely a priority. Older, existing buildings generally use significantly more energy and water than new buildings of the same size and function. According to the Institute for Building Efficiency, existing buildings that are 20 years and older make up more than 70 percent of the built environment by square footage.1 Thus, existing buildings offer tremendous opportunities to conserve energy and water as well as provide healthier, more productive work environments.
The Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in January 2006, introduced the first federal requirements for green buildings, known as the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance Sustainable Buildings (commonly referred to as the Guiding Principles). Executive Order (EO) 13423, signed in January 2007, required that federal agencies implement the Guiding Principles at 15 percent of their existing building inventory by fiscal year (FY) 2015. In December 2008, the federal government issued its first guidelines establishing specific requirements for meeting the Guiding Principles in existing buildings. EO 13514, signed in October 2009, reaffirmed the federal government requirement to improve the environmental performance of its existing buildings.
To meet the requirements of EO 13423, EO 13514, and the Guiding Principles, EPA developed a comprehensive, multi-step process for converting its existing buildings into high performance sustainable buildings.
EPA's Approach to Transforming Existing Buildings Into High Performance Sustainable Buildings
EPA transforms existing buildings to meet the Guiding Principles by evaluating, improving, and documenting each facility's operations and environmental performance against the Guiding Principles. The process involves reviewing more than 30 different environmental performance aspects and relies on an integrated and coordinated effort by facility managers, facility operations and maintenance contractors, technical experts, and project managers to:
- Improve energy efficiency
- Reduce water consumption
- Enhance stormwater management
- Test and improve indoor air quality
- Standardize and document green operations and maintenance practices
Together, these efforts establish a framework to improve the future environmental performance of existing buildings.
Selecting Buildings to Upgrade
EPA used building sustainability assessments, performed between FY 2009 and FY 2011, to gauge the facilities' potential to meet the Guiding Principles. EPA reviewed each facility against the requirements and performance metrics of the Guiding Principles to identify gaps and estimate the effort needed to meet the Guiding Principles.
Improving energy efficiency is the most costly requirement in the Guiding Principles for EPA to meet, as the majority of EPA facilities are energy-intensive laboratories. In addition, energy-saving mechanical system upgrades in laboratories are complex and frequently take several years to design, complete, and commission. EPA narrowed the field of existing buildings for its initial Guiding Principles work by selecting buildings that were either scheduled for extensive mechanical system upgrades or had already reduced energy use via mechanical system upgrades.
These two approaches helped EPA identify candidates to pilot the Guiding Principles process and helped prioritize buildings for future efforts.
Initial Pilot Process
In FY 2011, EPA began developing draft policy and procedure documents to address the Guiding Principles in existing buildings; these documents became the basis for the model Building Management Plan templates for building operations and procedures. In conjunction with the facility staff and operations and maintenance personnel of its Large Lakes Research Station in Grosse Ile, Michigan, and its Environmental Science Center in Fort Meade, Maryland, EPA worked to validate, refine, improve, and augment the Building Management Plan templates. EPA simultaneously conducted technical assessments; addressed assessment findings; and implemented projects to improve energy efficiency, water conservation, and other aspects of building environmental performance not meeting the Guiding Principles. These facility-specific documents and projects addressed the following principles:
Employ Integrated Principles
- Using a collaborative and integrated team to develop and implement policy regarding sustainable building operations and maintenance.
- Creating a comprehensive building management plan that establishes basic protocols and provides a reference for the sustainable practices and procedures at the facilities. The components of the Building Management Plan include:
- Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems operations and maintenance plan
- Building exterior and hardscape management plan
- Landscape management plan
- Green cleaning plan
- Indoor air quality management plan
- Indoor air quality management plan for construction
- Integrated pest management plan
- Occupant feedback and response procedures
- Ozone depleting substance phase-out plan
- Smoking policy
- Solid waste management plan
- Construction waste management plan
- Stormwater management infrastructure maintenance procedures
- Sustainable purchasing procedures
Optimize Energy Performance
- Reducing facility energy consumption by at least 20 percent compared to the FY 2003 baseline through a combination of mechanical system replacements, onsite renewable energy where feasible, re-commissioning, and/or rightsizing of equipment.
- Saving energy by maximizing the use of daylighting within the existing building and improving lighting systems and controls.
- Benchmarking and tracking building energy consumption.
Protect and Conserve Water
- Completing projects that minimize water consumption used for:
- Landscaping and irrigation
- Sanitary fixtures
- Boilers and hot water systems
- Single-pass equipment cooling
- Cooling tower management
- Laboratory equipment
- Encouraging water harvesting and reuse
- Creating an inventory of existing stormwater management at each site and implementing improvements where appropriate.
Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality
- Testing indoor air quality against the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning (ASHRAE) standards 62.1-2007 and 55-2004 for ventilation and thermal comfort.
- Maximizing natural light and exterior views within the existing buildings.
- Providing appropriate task lighting and controls to match the needs of the building occupants and the work being performed.
- Creating plans, policies, and procedures to ensure onsite staff use environmentally preferable materials for building modifications, and maintenance and cleaning. This includes using products that are low-emitting and less toxic than conventional products.
Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials
- Creating policies, plans, and procedures to ensure the use of environmentally preferable operations and maintenance products that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment over their lifecycle. These include, but are not limited to, products that are ENERGY STAR® qualified, WaterSense® labeled, Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) designated, and BioPreferred®.
This pilot process resulted in one of EPA's facilities being certified in November 2012 as meeting the Guiding Principles for existing buildings—the Large Lakes Research Station. The Environmental Science Center was on the cusp of receiving certification in spring 2013.
After a lengthy period of policy and procedure reviews and refinements of the Building Management Plan templates, including extensive feedback from local facility managers and staff, and implementing energy projects and other facility performance upgrades, the pilot confirmed the value of the Building Management Plan templates and that the approach used produced an effective and efficient evaluation, improvement, and verification process for EPA’s existing buildings.
Using the Building Management Plan templates and the lessons learned from the pilot programs at the Large Lakes Research Station and Environmental Science Center, EPA will use this same approach at other facilities to help them meet the requirements of the Guiding Principles and increase the number of existing buildings that satisfy these requirements.