The workspaces of 1.2 million federal employees are slated to become more energy-efficient as a result of changes to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) standard lease language. The GSA, the nation’s largest public real estate organization, leases a total of 190 million square feet in 8,000 buildings. The Institute for Market Transformation, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit promoting energy efficiency and green building, provided technical guidance to the GSA in revising its lease language.

One of the primary changes to the GSA’s standard lease will make more green buildings eligible for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star rating, a prerequisite for structures to be leased by the federal government. Currently, Energy Star requires a building to be operating at over 50 percent occupancy for 12 months in order to achieve certification. Under the GSA's provisions, if lessors can prove they have a reasonable expectation to meet Energy Star certification, they will be considered as a lessor and will have 18 months from the start of occupancy to achieve Energy Star certification.

Water conservation is another priority under the new standard lease. The agency will now require its buildings’ plumbing structures to meet the EPA’s WaterSense guidelines, which reduce toilet flush rates by 20 percent and urinal flush rates by 15 percent. Other provisions lower federal buildings’ required plug load—the amount of energy per square foot that their outlets must be able to sustain—from 7 watts per square foot to 4 watts per square foot. The GSA will also require its landlords to deliver quarterly utility-consumption reports.

These changes are the latest in a series of measures that the GSA has introduced to increase sustainability. Starting in 2008, the agency mandated that all build-to-suit leases over 10,000 square feet in which the government is the sole tenant must be LEED Silver certified or better.