Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Q&A with Co-chair of the House High-Performance Building Caucus, Rep. Carnahan

Bryan Howard
Legislative Director
U.S. Green Building Council

Congressman Russ Carnahan of Missouri is a long-time supporter of green building initiatives, and the co-chair of the House High-Performance Building Caucus. Rep. Carnahan recently introduced a new bill, the High-Performance Federal Buildings Act. We sat down with Rep. Carnahan to discuss the work he has done on behalf of green building over the past years.

You founded and serve as a co-chair of the House High-Performance Building Caucus. Can you discuss the role of the caucus and why you have taken a leadership role on building efficiency issues?

Bipartisan Congressional caucuses find consensus across party lines on important policy issues, and High-Performance Buildings are a perfect example. The caucus also actively works with those in the private sector who are invested in these issues. Many of the ideas coming from this partnership with the private sector have received broad bipartisan support in the past because they halt the waste of taxpayer dollars and reduce our energy footprint. And many of the products used in efficiency systems are manufactured here in the United States – in this economy, I think everyone can get behind that.

For those who don’t know, you’ve been able to work with a group of bipartisan legislators to advance legislation on federal buildings in previous Congresses. Can you talk about that effort?

As some of you may know, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and I started the High-Performance Buildings Caucus in 2007 after we saw an opportunity to educate and bring Members of Congress together from both sides of the aisle to make a real difference in our economy and environment. Last year, Congresswoman Biggert and I introduced the “Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act.” That piece of legislation ensures that people working on federal buildings are properly trained to do the work their job requires. This bill was signed into law at the end of 2010 and I am continuing to work with General Administration Services (GSA) to ensure its proper implementation. This bill is a great example of people working across the aisle to pass good legislation.

We greatly appreciate your work to make sure that facilities that are built and designed with high performance attributes are meeting these goals. Tell me more about how the High Performance Federal Buildings Act builds on the previous legislative work, why it is needed and how it benefits tax-payers?

I introduced the High-Performance Federal Buildings Act because we can’t be a penny wise and a pound foolish when it comes to building construction. The Act would save taxpayer dollars spent on energy costs in buildings owned by the Federal Government by allowing the government to analyze the full life-cycle cost of overall spending on a building as the basis for cost analysis, instead of short-term cost alone. The legislation will also require standard regulations for the use of energy and water in federal buildings to reflect the most current codes and standards used in the private sector. If passed, it will reduce our energy footprint, save taxpayer dollars, and make it easier to comply with mandated standards.

A number of the bill’s provisions, like updating old design plans, look to eliminate road blocks in current federal operating process. Are there other legislative initiatives or regulatory changes that could also help the federal government do more to increase the way it operates?

I worked for quite some time with a number of different stakeholders to ensure that this bill, the High Performance Federal Buildings Act, is a comprehensive approach to increase the efficiency of federal buildings. Not only does the bill allow of updating of old design plans, but it also requires that future prospectuses submitted to Congress for construction, alteration or acquisition of a building must describe the use of life-cycle cost analysis and how its use impacts long-term costs for a facility. The bill also requires the GSA to issues regulations for the commission of buildings. As some of you probably know, commissioning is a process to evaluate buildings and systems to assure they are functioning in accordance with the design intent and the owner’s requirements. These are just two other important aspects of my bills that will vastly improve the way the federal government develops and operates federal facilities.

What can readers do to help advance causes like this?

I encourage Americans to stand up and make their voices heard -- your input will be essential to passing this bill. The best way to make progress is to contact your representatives in Congress and in the Senate. Together, we’ll pass this bill and start saving on energy.


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