The Pentagon spending bill that Congress passed on Dec. 15 will force the military to provide a cost-benefit analysis and return on investment on its sustainable building efforts and will prohibit, through Sept. 30, any spending on reaching LEED gold and platinum certification.

Section 2830 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which was expected to be signed shortly by President Barack Obama, will force the Defense Department to review its energy efficiency building practices, especially LEED, as well as other sustainability standards. Its report to Congress also must include a strategy for its continued use of design and building standards as well as data on the long-term payback for meeting several other building standards. The prohibition could affect construction supply dealers selling to government contracts by changing the type and amount of products purchased under those contracts.

That report is due by June 30, 2012, which ostensibly should give Congress three months to review it before the 2013 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2012. On the other hand, the bar on LEED spending will take place as soon as the bill becomes law. It reads: "No funds authorized to be appropriated by this act or otherwise made available for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2012 may be obligated or expended for achieving any LEED gold or platinum certification."

The prohibition on spending for LEED status is not set in stone, as the secretary of defense may seek a waiver by submitting a notification--containing a cost-benefit analysis and showing a return on investment--to congressional defense committees at least a month before funds toward LEED certification are needed. The Pentagon can also win an exception when LEED certification is reached at no additional cost to the department; this exception does not require a waiver and notification to congressional committees. Also, while the bar on spending affects the top two certifications for LEED, the Defense Department is still permitted to spend money to seek LEED certified or LEED silver status.

The USGBC sees the waivers as beneficial in proving the worth of green-building investments. “This is going to demonstrate what we already know about LEED,” says Bryan Howard, legislative director for the USGBC. “The Navy, for example, is continuing to build to LEED Gold and Platinum at no extra cost to the department. Furthermore, we believe that the cost-benefit study will put us in the positive light in that it will showcase our return on green investment to taxpayers.”