The Foreign Service Journal - April 2014 - page 21

APRIL 2014
Today the State Department has more than 20
embassies and consulates around the world that have
earned the coveted Leadership in Energy and Environ-
mental Design, or LEED, certification. By reducing
annual and longer-term costs and overall environ-
mental impact through reduced GHG emissions,
these facilities model eco-diplomacy and showcase
U.S. leadership in green best practices and technology
around the world.
The Policy Foundation
In 2000 OBO’s “green team” consisted of a couple of
extremely dedicated professional staff within the Office
of Design and Engineering. Over time, best practice
became policy.This process began with a charrette, a
collaborative session in which the full project design
teambrainstorms solutions to a design problem.
Design teams for the new embassies in Sofia,
Yerevan and Abidjan studied those projects’ environ-
mental contexts, including climate, site characteristics
and program requirements, as well as appropriate
architectural and engineering responses.
The charrette was instrumental in defining oppor-
tunities and constraints in each location. In Sofia, the project
team designated an area for tree preservation, which earned a
Design Innovation point in the LEED green building rating system
and helped the project become the very first LEED-certified U.S.
embassy and the first LEED-certified building in Bulgaria.
In 2006, OBO signed a pledge with more than 20 other agen-
cies, committing itself to “implementation of common strategies
for planning, acquiring, siting, designing, building, operating
and maintaining High Performance and Sustainable Buildings.”
In 2007, the pledge was codified through Executive Order 13423:
Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy and Transportation
Management. OBO’s Green Team then began to reach beyond the
Office of Design and Engineering into areas of site selection, plan-
ning and cost estimating, as well as construction, facilities, area
management and even into other bureaus and offices.
In 2009, after Pres. Obama signed EO 13514: Federal Leader-
ship in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance,
former Secretary of State Hillary RodhamClinton launched the
Greening Diplomacy Initiative and formalized the existing ad hoc
Green Team into the Greening Council. The council is chaired
by Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, who also
serves as the department’s Senior Sustainability Officer, a required
position in every agency.
This policy commitment by management encouraged OBO to
aggressively strive for higher levels of building performance and
operational efficiency, thereby establishing the first pillar of eco-
The Buildings Platform
Since 1999, following the tragic U.S. embassy bombings in East
Africa, OBO’s mission and focus have been on providing safer,
more secure facilities. Although security was the priority, OBO
was an early adopter of LEED and most of the projects completed
during this period used it as a tool. But it wasn’t until 2008 that
LEED certification became a contract requirement.
Today more than half of the projects in OBO’s pipeline are on
target for LEED Gold, a notch above Silver, which has been the
minimum contract requirement since 2009. And recently the U.S.
Innovation Center in Helsinki earned Platinum, the highest award
in the LEED green building rating system. It was the department’s
first facility overseas to earn Platinum and an important milestone
for eco-diplomacy.
Eco-charrettes are now a formal part of OBO’s project develop-
ment process. Such sessions deliver the greatest project perfor-
mance benefits, because early planning decisions on how a site
is organized, how buildings are formed and oriented, and what
Embassy Managua will reduce energy purchased from the grid by 54 percent
through an Energy Saving Performance Contract with Lockheed Martin to
install a 1-MW photovoltaic array, replace interior and exterior lighting with
LED illumination and improve the chiller equipment.
Gil Fiallos
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