According to a November 2011 green building report by the federal Government Accounting Office (GAO), a formally coordinated effort among DOE, HUD, and the EPA—which initiated 64 of the 95 federally funded green building programs identified in the report—could “achieve economies of scale and experience, avoid duplication, and ensure federal money is being spent as intended,” says Frank Rusco, director in the Natural Resources and Environment Team at GAO. “These agencies have the tools to evaluate green building programs in the nonfederal sector. The infrastructure is already there.”
“Green Building: Federal Initiatives for the Nonfederal Sector Could Benefit from More Interagency Collaboration” sets no timetable for the creation of the “coordinating entity” it recommends, and none of the agencies to date have reported to Congress regarding their response to the report’s proposal, as they are required to do.
In response to a draft of the report, DOE’s Kathleen Hogan iterated that a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding between her agency and the EPA to “enhance and expand” federal programs to the private housing sector effectively addresses the GAO’s recommendations for coordination among agencies and economies of scale and funding. HUD’s reply to the draft report, meanwhile, welcomed the GAO’s recommended course of action.
The big issue, expressed in the report and confirmed by DOE’s Hogan, is that while federal agencies and recipients of green building program funding in the public sector are mandated to measure and report the effects of their efforts (e.g., energy savings), the nonfederal sector is not required—or especially equipped— to do so.
“While the federal government can easily collect performance information on federal buildings … in many instances private building owners are disinclined to monitor the resulting benefits [of green improvements],” wrote Hogan. “The federal government may not be able to require monitoring in all instances from the nonfederal sector to measure progress,” as the GAO report suggests would be a natural extension of the agency’s public sector reporting experience.
If anything, the GAO report provides a snapshot of just how many federal green building and related programs exist for the private housing sector, who’s running them, and to what extent they define the concept.