The Foreign Service Journal - April 2014 - page 20

APRIL 2014
U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are becoming showcases for
American leadership in best practices and sustainable technology.
he term eco-diplomacy, coined by
the Department of State, means: “the
practice of conducting international
relations by facilitating and advancing
a shared commitment to conserving
natural resources through sustainable
operations and responsible environ-
mental stewardship.” It stands on three
foundational cornerstones: environ-
mental policy that defines a shared commitment; green buildings
that act as tangible demonstrations and platforms fromwhich to
communicate; and operational results that record advances in
In November 2009, President Barack Obama announced a U.S.
commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent
Building the Foundation
Donna McIntire is chief of the energy and sustainable design unit for the
Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. She is an architect and has
been a leader in the green building industry since her early work with
SmithGroup, where she designed the very first Platinum-certified build-
ing using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®)
green building rating system. She also served as buildings and climate
change officer for the United Nations Environment Program.
below 2005 levels by 2020. The president knew this policy would
require practical demonstration by government. He also knew
that in its fourth assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change had pointed to the building sector as having
the greatest potential, more than any other, to make quick, deep
cuts to emissions at little or no cost. So he called on the federal
building sector to lead by example.
To be sure, high-performance building technologies and
strategies existed, and the seeds of a green initiative had taken
root within the Design and Engineering office of the Bureau of
Overseas Buildings Operations nearly a decade earlier. But it
took this type of national policy—and setting a target—to create
momentum for significant building and operational changes.
The new policy required an annual inventory of greenhouse
gas building emissions from each federal agency. With this target
now on everyone’s radar, professionals working on federal build-
ing stock focused on long-term operational energy efficiency in
design and construction. But even the greenest structures still
require proper operation to realize efficiencies—much as the driv-
er’s habits and operations and the occupants’ behavior ultimately
determine a car’s fuel efficiency. In fact, the very lowest-hanging
fruit, the lowest-cost improvements that produce the optimum
results, reside with the user.
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