Press Release

December 17, 2020
Cardin Calls for Improving Energy Efficiency and Environmental Performance of Government Buildings
Federal government can lead by example, create jobs and save taxpayer dollars by retrofitting current buildings and designing new ones for better environmental performance

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, has introduced legislation (S.5001) that will establish the federal government as a leader in improving the environmental performance of our nation’s buildings.

The GSA Resilient, Energy Efficient, and Net-Zero (GREEN) Building Jobs Act of 2020 would leverage new federal investments in upgrading existing facilities managed by the General Services Administration (GSA) and encourage the design of healthier, more efficient buildings in new projects. Investments made through this legislation would bring back many of the 850,000 jobs lost in the clean energy sector due to the pandemic and create projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that will save energy costs and reduce pollution.

This bill calls for a renewed commitment to increasing the energy and water efficiency of government buildings, the number of buildings achieving net-zero energy and waste, and the availability of infrastructure supporting zero-emission vehicles. It also pushes the GSA forward on work to enhance the resiliency of government facilities and protect the health of their occupants.

This legislation is also in line with President-elect Biden’s plan to accelerate investment in our nation’s infrastructure, including upgrading 4 million buildings across the country.

“Guided by strong science and a real need across Maryland and this nation, we can use the power and presence of the federal government to transform the future into one that exemplifies efficiency, reduces costs for taxpayers and cuts pollution in our air and water,” said Senator Cardin. “This effort will produce a better built environment for government workers, create jobs that draw on American construction, design, technology and innovation, and spur more investment in the private sector.”

GSA manages approximately 370 million square feet of space in over 8,700 owned and leased properties across the country, in every state, and in rural and urban areas. Embracing energy efficiency across these properties would have a tangible impact in their home communities.

“The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) applauds Senator Cardin for introducing the GREEN Building Jobs Act. This bill sets a new path for Federal leadership in buildings, with critical targets encompassing energy and water efficiency, net zero buildings, resilience, and health. Senator Cardin’s legislation will stimulate the economy through construction and clean energy jobs, while saving taxpayer money and creating a healthier, more resilient, and lower carbon Federal buildings portfolio,” said Elizabeth Beardsley, Senior Policy Counsel, USGBC.

“The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) strongly supports the GREEN Building Jobs Act.” NASEO’s Executive Director, David Terry, also stated: “This legislation promotes resiliency, energy efficiency, water efficiency and private financing of building improvements, which are all activities that have been pioneered at the state level.  Senator Cardin’s bill is a great model for public buildings and sets up opportunities for Federal-state collaboration to realize even greater savings in energy and taxpayer money.  It is a win-win.”

“ASBC and the 250,000 business we represent applaud Senator Cardin for introducing the GREEN Building Jobs Act. As businesses and investors, we understand that government can catalyze crucial movement for a clean healthier and more equitable economy and that this Act can create business opportunity, good local jobs, and a boost to Build Back Better,” said David Levine, Cofounder and President of the American Sustainable Business Council.

“We need the federal government to help show the way on climate including constructing zero-energy buildings, retrofitting the hundreds of thousands of buildings it currently owns, and using electric cars and trucks. We commend Senator Cardin for this excellent bill, which will set GSA to become a leader on efficient, healthy, and green buildings and vehicles,” said Steve Nadel, Executive Director, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

“The federal government is the largest energy user in the country, spending $6 billion a year on powering its buildings alone. This bill would not only save taxpayers’ money, but it would demonstrate federal leadership in energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating well-paid American jobs,” said Clay Nesler, Interim President, Alliance to Save Energy.

“As one of the largest real estate owners and tenants in the U.S., the Federal government has significant power to drive market action to improve buildings to secure a clean energy future. We applaud this bill in driving the GSA to lead by example in how building owners and tenants can refine leasing practices and undertake renovations that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save water, create jobs, improve community health and resilience, and save taxpayers money,” said Cliff Majersik, Senior Advisor, Institute for Market Transformation (IMT).

The GREEN Building Jobs Act of 2020 can be found at this link. A section-by-section summary follows:

Section 1. Short Title.

Section 2. Federal Building Leasing

$50 million to support a new GSA pilot program to provide additional financial incentives for landlords to achieve ENERGY STAR. Enacts reforms to close loopholes in the existing energy provisions for Federal leases. GSA to require new leases to earn the ENERGY STAR label and obtain green building certification.

Section 3. Energy and Water Efficiency, Net-Zero, and ZEV Infrastructure Goals

$500 million for construction and renovation projects to implement goals. Projects that leverage private funds in energy and water reduction are prioritized.

$50 million for new Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) charging and fueling infrastructure. Establishes goal, by 2030, half of all GSA facilities with over 200 daily employees or visitors must install ZEV infrastructure and ZEV-ready elements to be included in appropriate projects such as parking repavement.

Requires GSA facilities to meet goals for energy, water, and greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030. 

New GSA construction over 10,000 gross square feet must also meet several goals:


  • 2021-2025: 50% of floor area and 25% of all building projects must be designed to be net-zero energy
  • 2026-2030: 90% of floor area and 45% of all building projects must be designed to be net-zero energy

Where feasible, such projects shall also meet net-zero carbon, net-zero water, and net-zero waste requirements.

Each agency shall carry out deep energy retrofits at 3% of facilities representing 5% of total square footage, each year from 2021-2030.

Section 4. Resilient and Healthy Buildings

$300 million to implement resilience and health measures at GSA facilities, including flood protection, green infrastructure, and proven strategies for health and wellness. Codifies floodplain protections and requires new construction to place essential services five feet above the flood risk area. GSA administrator to implement metrics centered on facility resilience and occupant health, and conduct training. 

Section 5. Federal Building Improvements

$1 billion to implement energy efficiency improvements at GSA facilities by leveraging private funds with performance contracting and other public-private partnerships. Improvements based on energy audits conducted under current law. Funding shall enable deeper retrofits and to support goals listed in Sections 3 and 4.  

Section 6. Clean Energy Contracting

Would provide GSA with key reforms to enable longer-term and more effective clean energy contracting. 

Section 7. Recommendations

GSA, in consultation with other agencies, shall develop recommendations for sustainability and resilience at hospitals and health care facilities; and develop recommendations for systems to track energy use compliance and progress of both New Buildings and Existing Buildings. GSA to provide annual report on leveraging of private sector finance for energy projects.

This comprehensive legislation has the support of a wide-range of groups, including environmental advocacy orgs, professional associations, and private companies including:

ABM Industries, Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), Ameresco, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), ASHRAE, Copper Development Association, Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Federal Performance Contracting Coalition (FPCC), Hannon Armstrong, Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), International Well Building Institute (IWBI), Johnson Controls, National Association of Energy Services Companies (NAESCO), National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), NORESCO, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Schneider Electric, U.S. Green Building Council