June 11, 2019

Chairs DeFazio, Titus Statements from Hearing on “Efficiency and Resiliency in Federal Building Design and Construction”

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV) during today’s hearing titled: “Efficiency and Resiliency in Federal Building Design and Construction.”

Chair DeFazio:

It's been ten years since this subcommittee held a hearing on energy efficiency in federal buildings and in those ten years much has changed. 

The General Services Administration now owns and leases over 376.9 million square feet of space in approximately 9,600 buildings throughout the nation.

The operation of federal buildings now consumes approximately $6.5 billion in utilities annually.

Energy savings contracts are being utilized by the GSA.

The United States committed to – and then abandoned – the Paris Climate Accords.

President Obama ordered the Federal Government to achieve energy, water, and waste net-zero buildings by 2030 – and President Trump rescinded that directive.   

GSA stood up its Office of High Performance Buildings.

There are now more building codes and more certified buildings.

Old buildings in GSA’s portfolio have been renovated to achieve net-zero energy consumption.

And forward thinkers are asking how buildings can improve human health.

I’ve heard that the Federal government sets the standard for the private sector because buildings owners want to build buildings that GSA will lease.

And I hope that is true – but I’m sure that the Federal government can do even better. Federal buildings can be more energy efficient, more resilient to the effects of climate change, and become healthier places in which to work. That is why we are holding today’s hearing.

I want to thank the witnesses for being here, and particularly Mr. Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg a professor of architecture at the University of Oregon. I look forward to hearing testimony on the current state of federal green building efforts and where we can improve.

Chair DeFazio’s statement as delivered can be found here.

Chair Titus:

I want to thank our witnesses for joining us today as we examine the state of energy efficiency and resiliency in the design, construction, and operation of Federal buildings.

The General Services Administration owns and leases over 376.9 million square feet of space in approximately 9,600 buildings throughout the country.

Such a large real estate portfolio results in an enormous amount of energy consumption.

Spending over $7 billion each year on utilities, the Federal Government is the nation’s largest energy consumer.

Our natural resources are not infinite, and it is imperative that the government lead by example to achieve efficiency in construction and operation practices for buildings.

Government action often sets the standard for best practices and innovation in the private sector, and successful and cost-neutral changes can have reverberating effects across the construction industry.

Recent extreme weather events and natural disasters have demonstrated the importance of incorporating elements of resilience into our public buildings.

With the increasing threat of climate change, it is now more important than ever that the Federal Government take preventive steps to curb its carbon footprint and ensure the long-term sustainability of its buildings.

It has been some time since this Subcommittee heard testimony regarding the “greening” of public buildings.

In fact, it was nearly a decade ago, that our first witness testified in front of this Subcommittee on life-cycle cost benefits and improved health of occupants in green buildings.

I look forward to hearing what progress has been made and where we continue to lag behind.

Third-party certification systems, such as LEED, ENERGY STAR, and Green Globes, are used to assess how well green building principles are incorporated into a building's design and operation.

It is important that this Subcommittee get a clearer picture of how those systems are perceived today and how they are being utilized by Federal agencies.

In 2015, President Obama issued an executive order providing specific, annual guidelines to significantly decrease energy consumption in public buildings, promote renewable energy use, and incorporate resilient design elements into public building construction.

That executive order was rescinded under the Trump Administration and in its stead, the current administration issued executive order 13854, which

states broad goals to achieve efficiency and resiliency yet fails to create meaningful standards when compared to the order issued by President Obama.

I hope our witnesses can discuss what impacts this new executive order will have in achieving our resiliency and efficiency goals.

My colleagues and I are eager to hear about progress from the witnesses, but we also want to understand how the existing state of regulations may be insufficient.

This morning’s hearing is an opportunity to examine what has and has not been effective and ensure that our government’s sustainability efforts are rising to the significant challenges we face.

We can be both responsible stewards of our environment and of taxpayer dollars – these are not mutually-exclusive goals.

Chair Titus’ statement as delivered can be found here.