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Highlights

Economic, environmental, and health concerns have spurred interest in "green building"--construction and maintenance practices designed to make efficient use of resources, reduce environmental problems, and provide long-term financial and health benefits. Federal laws and executive orders direct agencies to meet green building standards in federal buildings and to foster green building in the nonfederal sector; the latter includes private, state, local, and tribal entities and accounts for the majority of the nation's buildings. GAO was asked to (1) identify current initiatives by federal agencies to foster green building in the nonfederal sector and (2) determine what is known about the results of these initiatives. As part of the review, GAO sent questionnaires to the 11 agencies implementing the initiatives identified, including the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); examined agency documents; and spoke with agency officials. GAO did not report funding data because officials stated that agencies do not track many green building funds separately.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Energy To help assess the results of investments in individual federal initiatives to foster green building in the nonfederal sector, as well as their combined results, the Secretaries of Energy and of Housing and Urban Development should work with the Administrator of EPA in leading an effort with other agencies that are implementing green building initiatives to collaborate on identifying performance information, such as shared goals and common performance measures, for green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. This effort should include, if necessary, an exploration of the need for additional legislative or executive authority, such as the authority to establish a coordinating entity (e.g., an interagency working group).
Closed - Implemented
In 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in consultation with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), issued a preliminary report responding to GAO's recommendation. The report concurred with GAO's finding that, while a number of agencies have collaborated on specific green building initiatives, no single governmentwide effort--comparable to that for federal facilities--exists for collaborating on green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. The report explored the need for additional legislative or executive authority to establish a coordinating entity and concluded that, in the short term, cooperation can best occur within existing federal authorities but that, in the long term, a higher level of centralized collaboration may require additional legislative or executive authority. In 2013, HUD officials reported plans to survey the agencies identified by GAO and convene a follow-up meeting of these agencies to assess the extent to which common performance measures exist for green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. In July 2016, HUD developed a work plan to identify performance information on green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector, and in August 2016, HUD began surveying agencies to gather this information. According to the work plan, HUD expects to collaborate with DOE and EPA to issue a report in late 2016 that (1) summarizes the performance measures reported by agencies, (2) identifies common performance measures, and (3) reviews the potential for overlap or fragmentation among green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector.
Department of Housing and Urban Development To help assess the results of investments in individual federal initiatives to foster green building in the nonfederal sector, as well as their combined results, the Secretaries of Energy and of Housing and Urban Development should work with the Administrator of EPA in leading an effort with other agencies that are implementing green building initiatives to collaborate on identifying performance information, such as shared goals and common performance measures, for green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. This effort should include, if necessary, an exploration of the need for additional legislative or executive authority, such as the authority to establish a coordinating entity (e.g., an interagency working group).
Closed - Implemented
In 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in consultation with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), issued a preliminary report responding to GAO's recommendation. The report concurred with GAO's finding that, while a number of agencies have collaborated on specific green building initiatives, no single governmentwide effort--comparable to that for federal facilities--exists for collaborating on green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. The report explored the need for additional legislative or executive authority to establish a coordinating entity and concluded that, in the short term, cooperation can best occur within existing federal authorities but that, in the long term, a higher level of centralized collaboration may require additional legislative or executive authority. In 2013, HUD officials reported plans to survey the agencies identified by GAO and convene a follow-up meeting of these agencies to assess the extent to which common performance measures exist for green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. In July 2016, HUD developed a work plan to identify performance information on green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector, and in August 2016, HUD began surveying agencies to gather this information. According to the work plan, HUD expects to collaborate with DOE and EPA to issue a report in late 2016 that (1) summarizes the performance measures reported by agencies, (2) identifies common performance measures, and (3) reviews the potential for overlap or fragmentation among green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector.
Environmental Protection Agency To help assess the results of investments in individual federal initiatives to foster green building in the nonfederal sector, as well as their combined results, the Secretaries of Energy and of Housing and Urban Development should work with the Administrator of EPA in leading an effort with other agencies that are implementing green building initiatives to collaborate on identifying performance information, such as shared goals and common performance measures, for green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. This effort should include, if necessary, an exploration of the need for additional legislative or executive authority, such as the authority to establish a coordinating entity (e.g., an interagency working group).
Closed - Implemented
In 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in consultation with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), issued a preliminary report responding to GAO's recommendation. The report concurred with GAO's finding that, while a number of agencies have collaborated on specific green building initiatives, no single governmentwide effort--comparable to that for federal facilities--exists for collaborating on green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. The report explored the need for additional legislative or executive authority to establish a coordinating entity and concluded that, in the short term, cooperation can best occur within existing federal authorities but that, in the long term, a higher level of centralized collaboration may require additional legislative or executive authority. In 2013, HUD officials reported plans to survey the agencies identified by GAO and convene a follow-up meeting of these agencies to assess the extent to which common performance measures exist for green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector. In July 2016, HUD developed a work plan to identify performance information on green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector, and in August 2016, HUD began surveying agencies to gather this information. According to the work plan, HUD expects to collaborate with DOE and EPA to issue a report in late 2016 that (1) summarizes the performance measures reported by agencies, (2) identifies common performance measures, and (3) reviews the potential for overlap or fragmentation among green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector.

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