Federal agencies are gearing up to deepen their commitment to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system heading into 2011, despite some criticism of its effectiveness. During the Ecobuild America conference, held Dec. 6-10 in Washington, D.C., representatives from several agencies touted their green agendas.

The U.S. General Services Administration, the largest federal landlord, continues to stay out front as a champion of LEED ratings. In October, GSA announced that LEED Gold certification would be the minimum requirement for new federal building construction and renovation projects starting in fiscal 2011. Projects in design funded in FY 2010 or earlier are being evaluated to see where LEED Gold attributes could be added.

Charles Matta, national director for Federal Buildings and Modernizations at GSA, says that, although there has been some criticism about the actual performance of some LEED-certified buildings relative to their design intent, the general goals of LEED fit well with the GSA mission. “There are people out there throwing stones at the LEED system, but as one of the early adopters of LEED, we continue to not shy away from it,” he says.

Matta says GSA’s aggressive energy-saving goals on many projects will likely result in buildings that easily exceed the LEED Gold standard. Under the Energy Independence & Security Act (EISA) of 2007, GSA is pushing for 100% reduction of fossil-fuel use by 2030, using a fiscal 2003 baseline. In light of EISA and other requirements, GSA is pushing its Zero Environmental Footprint initiative as well as its Green Proving Ground program.

Furthermore, other agencies that continue to push for the LEED Silver standards also are showing more commitment. Dennis Milsten, chief of quality assurance at the Office of Construction and Facilities Management, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, says the VA will soon start requiring certification. “It’s part of advancing those green goals,” he says.