A few weeks ago, the High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC; hpbccc.org)—a collection of leading building industry organizations and companies that aims to serve as Congress' information clearinghouse on all things related to sustainable construction—sent Congress a list of six recommendations the government should follow in developing high-performance federal buildings.

"There is no 'buildings department,' no place that Congress can go to get technical information, or scientific information, about buildings," Douglas Read, program director of government affairs for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE; ashrae.org), tells ARCHITECT. ASHRAE is part of the HPBCCC's executive committee, as are the AIA, the U.S. Green Building Council, the International Council Code, and eight other organizations.

The group's recommendations (available in PDF form here):

  • Require true life-cycle analysis and decision-making for the acquisition of federal buildings.
  • Require total building commissioning for the federal building stock.
  • Require integrated project delivery—including whole-building design, procurement, and construction—for federal buildings.
  • Require building information modeling (BIM) and support building data interoperability for federal buildings.
  • Require comprehensive education and training and higher levels of competence in the federal building design, property management, operations and maintenance, and procurement communities.
  • Require the collection, storage, dissemination, and utilization of federal building performance data.

Read calls the list "the low-hanging fruit for federal buildings," adding, "They are very insulated up on the Hill. Most of the congressional staff are very young, inexperienced, and they don't really have access to information in regard to buildings."

The coalition has 60 organizational and corporate members and serves the High Performance Building Congressional Caucus, which is chaired by Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.). Both the coalition and the caucus started after 2005 federal legislation directed the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to develop high-performance building standards and tests. The work is being done by the High Performance Building Council, a group within NIBS. The caucus was formed so that Congress could hear from industry groups, and at its first meeting it heard the report from the council.

While the coalition, which Read describes as the council's "policy arm," does not lobby Congress, Read notes, it does use caucus meetings to bring topic and industry experts to speak on issues concerning energy efficiency and sustainable design. "We're basically just coming together to educate [Congress] on various subjects," Read says.

In an effort to increase congressional involvement in the caucus, the HPBCCC's member groups will ask their own members to contact their congressional representatives the week of June 15–19, requesting them to join the caucus and pay closer attention to sustainable building issues.