As part of its drive to make federal buildings more environmentally sustainable, the U.S. General Services Administration has awarded a $22.7-million contract to Johnson Controls Federal Systems to electrify the 3.1-million-sq-ft Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. 

The project is a key element of GSA's program to make environmental and energy-efficiency upgrades at more than 100 federal buildings. To fund the buildings program, announced in June, GSA is drawing on $975 million from last year's Inflation Reduction Act.

GSA awarded the contract to electrify D.C.'s largest building on Nov. 17 and announced it on Nov. 30. The switch to electric power combined with other energy-efficiency steps is expected to reduce the Reagan building’s energy use by about 50% and trim greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50%, the agency said. GSA also estimates the project will save more than $6.2 million per year in utility expenses.

According to GSA, the project is scheduled to begin this spring and reach substantial completion in a year.

Elements of the Plan

The conversion plan calls for installing electric heat pumps for heating, ventilating and air conditioning and replacing all domestic hot water heaters, which use steam, with electric boilers. This would remove the building from the D.C. central steam plant loop. The loop, which is powered by natural gas, is operated by GSA’s Heating Operation and Transmission Division.

Funds for the project come from last year's Inflation Reduction Act–also called the Climate Act–which provides a total of $3.4  billion for GSA to spur the use of low-embodied carbon construction materials and increase federal buildings’ sustainability.

GSA is aiming to meet  a net-zero emissions goal for its federal buildings portfolio by 2045.

When GSA announced the Reagan building project in June, the project cost was estimated at $13.5 million. 

A GSA spokesperson told ENR via email that the increase in the dollar value to $22.7 million is due to the agency funding more improvements "and to address current market conditions."  

John Kleim, Johnson Controls' director of federal energy strategy, called the planned upgrades "transformative." Kleim said in an email that the Reagan facility "will become the government's first fully electric building in the national capital region with high-efficiency electric heat pumps, eliminating dependency on district steam plant natural gas."

Construction of the Reagan building, located on an 11-acre site along Pennsylvania Avenue between the U.S. Capitol and the White House, began in 1990. The building was dedicated on May 5, 1998.

Story updated on 12/4/2023 with comments from Johnson Control.