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From the White House to the Green House

white house2President Obama plans to upgrade the White House, with the goal of obtaining LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Federal Energy Management Program will work with the White House Council on Environmental Quality to implement changes in procurement, energy and water systems, and waste.

Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and president of USGBC, told National Geographic that updating the White House will be difficult because of the building’s historic status and the security required to protect the Obama family.

Still, USGBC has offered to advise the White House as it goes through the process.

“A normal building is already a challenging assignment, and this is something that’s a historic structure, one of (the) nation’s most historic structures,” Fedrizzi said.

For instance, in a normal green building retrofit, all windows would be replaced. But windows in the White House are revered for their historical significance, including the glazing. One option would be to add a film to cut UV rays.

The green building certification will cover the White House Complex of buildings at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Changes also may include toxicity and life cycle when making purchases for the facilities, such as using biodegradable cleaners, equipment made with recycled content, and paints and sealers with low volatile organic compounds.

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6 thoughts on “From the White House to the Green House

  1. This is such an obvious attention seeking ploy on the part of USGBC, the same folks who, halfway through the most recent Summer Olympics, announced that the Beijing Olympic Village had “attained” LEED Gold status. If I am not mistaken, the person who headed up communications for USGBC at that time now has a job with the Administration. These people are masters at creating “news” about themselves and their organization. The actual performance of their “certified” buildings is another story.

  2. It’s great to see that President Obama wants to make the White House more “green”. This is an important statement to make to our country and to the world. Can climate legislation be far behind?

  3. The windows in The White House are probablly much more energy efficient than the huge expanses of glass in most LEED buildings. That’s because they are tall and narrow,most of them are at least 30″ above the finished floor, and most importantly, they cover a relatively small percentage of the total exterior of the building. In general, pre-war buildings are more energy efficient than modern ones.

    I don’t mean to question the validity of LEED. As a matter of fact, I recently wrote a couple of blog entries suggesting reasons why some LEED buildings cannot achieve Energy Star ratings. But we all have a lot to learn from older, vernacular buildings if we’ll only listen.

    My blog has two entries on greening the white house. The URL is http://www.idsgreen.com.

  4. The White House was already ‘deep greened’ by the Rocky Mountain Institute. Agree with Ron Jones – just another media campaign by the USGBC . . Always ask: “Do I want a plaque – or high performance – or both 🙂 Important to know that a LEED plaque just means you could get enough points – not necessarily that the building will be less energy or materials intensive.

  5. Regardless of the motivation/intention, it’s great attention for the revitalization of existing buildings along more sustainable lines. The more building owners that undertake these initiatives the greater the momentum… ideally it becomes ‘table stakes’. Optimistic, I know, however the profile of the buildings in question will do a lot to garner attention. While LEED might not be the most desirable it is the most reputable in the U.S., and this in and of itself is of value.

    I wrote a very brief blog on the value of retrofitting while working at ISIS, a sustainability research centre operating out of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, here in Vancouver. Some interesting numbers on retrofits vs. new buildings http://bit.ly/aVy4gB

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