Proclaiming that the federal government must lead the private sector by example, President Obama enacted Executive Order 13154 and commanded federal agencies to take measurable steps in establishing a clean energy economy for the United States. Federal agencies have been instructed to advance the design, construction and maintenance of high-performance sustainable buildings; leverage their acquisitions to foster markets for sustainable technologies and environmentally preferred products; and enact a host of other environmentally conscious measures. Through the following benchmarks and timelines, the Executive Order requires federal agencies to design, construct and maintain high-performance sustainable buildings:

  • By 2020, all new federal buildings entering the planning process must be designed to achieve zero-net-energy use by 2030.
  • All new construction, major renovation and repair or alteration of federal buildings must comply with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings (Guiding Principles).
  • By 2015, at least 15% of each agency’s existing buildings and building leases must meet the Guiding Principles, and every year progress must be made toward making all of the agency’s buildings compliant with the Guiding Principles.
  • Whenever an agency plans a building addition, it must identify opportunities to consolidate and dispose of existing buildings, optimize the overall performance of the agency’s buildings and reduce the environmental impact of the addition.
  • The rehabilitation of federally owned historic buildings must use best practices and technologies in retrofitting.
  • Federal agencies must pursue cost-effective strategies to minimize energy, water and material consumption, and manage existing building systems to reduce such consumption or identify alternatives to renovation that reduce an existing building’s deferred maintenance costs.

The Executive Order also utilizes the spending power of the federal government to advance sustainable acquisition practices. Federal agencies are directed to ensure that 95% of their new contracts are for products and services that are energy efficient (e.g., ENERGY STAR or Federal Energy Management Program designated), water-efficient, biobased, environmentally preferable (e.g., Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool certified), non-ozone depleting, contain recycled content, or are non-toxic or less toxic alternatives, where those products and services meet the agency’s performance requirements.

Additionally, the Executive Order contains a slew of other provisions designed to promote a clean energy economy and sustainable building practices, including provisions requiring federal agencies to improve water use efficiency and management, promote pollution prevention and waste elimination, advance regional and local integrated planning, promote electronic stewardship, and sustain environmental management. With an eye toward greenhouse gas reductions, the Executive Order also requires federal agencies to establish greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for 2020, report agency-wide emissions annually and consider emissions reductions that could be achieved by reducing energy intensity in agency buildings.

As federal agencies begin to implement the demands of the Executive Order, contractors and vendors will have the opportunity to capitalize on their experience with environmentally preferred products and sustainable construction practices. Given the timeframe associated with certain requirements, including deadlines set for 2015 and 2020, contractors and vendors seeking to work with federal agencies will likely benefit by developing skills that can assist the administration’s newly defined goals for a clean energy economy