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WASHINGTON, DC-Federal buildings will be one winner under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, aka the stimulus bill, which passed last week. The Act has allocated $5.5 billion to GSA for building projects and $300 million for fuel-efficient vehicles. The federal agency has 45 days, under the bill, to submit a comprehensive project list, a spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com.

The Recovery Act does, however, provide some broad-brush direction to where the money will be spent: it will create a nationally managed, regionally executed program management office to support regional teams delivering the projects. The Act also directs $750 million to renovate and construct federal buildings and courthouses, $300 million to renovate and construct land ports of entry and $4.5 billion to convert federal buildings to high-performance green buildings.

Indeed, the subtext of this new wave of investment is that green or sustainable development by or for the federal government will receive a big boost. GSA, to be sure, has had a mandate to promote energy efficiency in its real estate operations since at least December 2007, when Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act. This Act required increased energy efficiency and the availability of renewable energy in federal buildings. Specifically, it established new energy-related requirements and standards for federal buildings and required GSA to establish an Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings to coordinate green building information and activities within GSA and with other federal agencies. Last year in June, GSA established this office.

Before this law went into affect, GSA had already established that USGBC’s LEED rating system must be used as a design criterion for all capital projects. It set as a goal a Silver certification. Anecdotal evidence, in fact, suggested that the government agency looked for even a higher rating when vetting prospective buildings, at least in the DC area. Last year after winning a large GSA prelease the developer told GlobeSt.com that he had deliberately pushed for a Gold design because he thought that would tip GSA towards his bid.

Unfortunately, GSA’s efforts under the 2007 law have been hampered by a lack of cash, according to a GAO report on the subject that came out last Fall. It found that the “principal barrier” to improving energy performance was lack of funding for a backlog of repairs and renovations that needed to be made. The report also noted that GSA was trying to fill in this funding gap through the use of Energy Savings Performance Contracts and Utility Energy Savings Contracts. The GSA spokeswoman would not comment on whether the Stimulus Act will provide the necessary funding to meet this legislative mandate.

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