Blog Post

This Week’s Un-News on GSA and LEED

Cool your super-efficient jets, green building world. We still have no idea what GSA is going to do about LEED.

As GSA goes, so goes the federal government? Maybe...maybe not.Photo Credit: Shalom Baranes Associates

It’s been a long and confusing year for people who track federal green building policies.

Between the military’s LEED battle and the loooong interagency review by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)—both of which are sure to be complicated by sequester and politics in ways we don’t yet understand—we’ve had newsroom motion sickness for months.

A Friday press release from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), republished in Building Design + Construction and covered by Lloyd Alter at Treehugger, unfortunately hasn’t brought clarity to the conversation.

This is not the news you are looking for

We’ve known for a while now exactly how the Green Building Advisory Committee (which, as its name suggests, advises GSA about green building policy) came down on the issue of LEED vs. other rating systems.

Committee member Greg Kats, president of cleantech investment firm Capital E, told BuildingGreen back in February, “There was a strong recommendation on the part of the congressionally mandated government advisory board that LEED is the most proven, most effective option.”

We didn’t report on his remarks because we were waiting on much bigger and more consequential news—namely, the recommendation of a different GSA committee, the one that does the green building certification system review.


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What’s the difference?

Confused yet? You’re not alone. Federal News Radio even seems to conflate the two committees’ processes, and federal bureaucracy is their bread and butter. 

In short, this is the difference between a small, standing committee advising GSA on its own buildings and a larger, ad hoc committee advising GSA on what GSA should recommend to all the other federal agencies.

That might sound like it amounts to the same thing, but it really doesn’t. Especially since, last we heard, GSA was asking for feedback from the public about its latest Solomonic brainwave: letting each agency decide for itself which rating system to use. So even if GSA keeps LEED for its own use, other agencies might just do as they please.

That’s kind of the status quo already—despite lobbyists’ attempts to portray LEED as having a “monopoly” in the federal government. To see which federal agencies are doing what, check out our chart of the Top Ten U.S. Government Building Owners.

This could mean what it looks like … or not

We’re not at all sure why GSA chose this moment to release its news. Maybe the interagency review is almost over, and this is a way of preparing everyone for another solid LEED recommendation.

Or maybe they’re testing the political waters. As Lloyd Alter reported, it didn’t take long for trade groups to lash out about LEED… again. Could they be trying to gauge the industry reaction so they can craft their message for the bigger release?

Maybe?—but trying to decode Beltway dog whistles and shots across the bow is a fool’s game.

Let’s just all calm down and stock up on Bonine. And please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until this maddening, wild, dizzying political ride comes to a full and complete stop.

Published May 7, 2013

(2013, May 7). This Week’s Un-News on GSA and LEED . Retrieved from’s-un-news-gsa-and-leed

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October 30, 2013 - 10:06 am

Thanks for the feedback, James! We're indeed trying to stay on top of things. You might not have seen our coverage Friday of the final decision by the larger green building review committee. It confirms what we alluded to here: GSA has recommended both LEED and Green Globes for federal agencies. GSA itself will continue to use LEED.

October 28, 2013 - 9:59 am

This is the only article I've seen that properly summarizes what has been happening, and all the confusion caused by it. It's obvious your team is paying very close attention to what's happening. Thank you for getting it right, and for helping to clear things up for your readers.

May 21, 2013 - 10:51 am

GSA has sent us a statement that concurs with our reporting on this issue:

"The committee's vote serves as additional input in our overall process of engaging the public and stakeholders in GSA's review of third-party green building certification systems. GSA's recommendation will be made this summer. Once GSA makes its recommendation this summer, it will then be considered by the Secretaries of Energy and Defense, along with multiple agencies that manage federal buildings. Following this review, a decision will be made for the entire federal government." -- Dan Cruz, GSA Spokesman