Energy conservation used to be an individual endeavor. Individually, we turned the water off when brushing our teeth, carpooled to work and turned the lights off when we left the room. Not that corporate America didn’t care about its carbon footprint; it just needed an upside to downsize.
As it turns out, going green has become big business. Government-contracting firms metrowide are cashing in on the greening trend, led in part by sustainability initiatives backed by the Obama administration. Contracting firms are building green and tapping into the sustainability market with new products designed to meet LEED standards.
Last October, the federal government began requiring Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for all new General Service Administration projects. New projects must now be built to LEED Gold certification standards.
LEED certification means building and community designs meet requirements for energy savings, water efficiency, reduced CO2 emissions, indoor quality and responsible use of resources. Gold status indicates a score of 60-79 points out of 100.
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED designs are a goldmine. The savings in energy use are almost immediately evident, designs are esthetically pleasing, inspiring better employee performance and the public loves them.
The government-contracting industry’s involvement in LEED is twofold. Many new contractor construction projects are being built to comply with LEED certification standards. Lockheed Martin’s Space Operations Simulation Center, built to house testing of the Orion project, is LEED Gold certified. BAE’s new Rockville, Md., facility is LEED Silver certified.
Beyond LEED, green buildings can also earn a ranking from the Environmental Protection Agency. Last week, Washington, D.C., appeared second on the EPA’s ENERGY STAR certified list of cities with the most ENERGY STAR-certified facilities.
From smartgrids, to alternative energy sources to internal conservation initiatives, government contractors are greening up their products and their processes. Northrop Grumman is developing the first offshore wind farm in North America, Cisco is designing eco-friendly real estate models, and Boeing is looking into biofuels. Siemens even turned skiing more eco-friendly with energy-efficient snow machines and ski lifts.
The market for sustainability products and construction is growing. It’s even growing overseas. Honeywell is taking its smartgrid expertise to China.
In the early days of calls for energy conservation and sustainability, it was easy to dismiss as hippy-ish and overreactionary. Now, not only is it making a positive difference to the environment, it’s just good business.