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Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers - Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: 05-28-2009

How does this relate to other federal programs?
The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers is intended to assist federal building project managers in meeting various mandates as established by statute and Executive Orders, as well as, EPA and DOE program recommendations, including:

How will use of these documents be enforced?
While certain provisions, where indicated, are required for U.S. federal agency projects, the Guide is not intended to establish procurement policy. Furthermore, EPA, the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, and the Whole Building Design Guide do not intend the use of this Guide to be mandatory. Therefore, there is no associated enforcement mechanism.

How are guide specifications intended to be used?
The Guide provides sample specification language intended to be inserted into project specifications as appropriate to the agency's environmental goals. Certain provisions, where indicated, are required for U.S. federal agency projects. Sample specification language is presented in the Constructions Specifications format used in traditional Owner-Designer-Contractor relationships in which the Owner issues a set of Bid Documents developed by the Designer for bid (and execution) by the Contractor. Sample specification language is numbered to clearly distinguish it from advisory or discussion material. Each sample is preceded by identification of the typical location in a specification section where it would appear using the SectionFormat™ of the Construction Specifications Institute. For Design/Build contracts, the Guide can assist the Design/Build Contractor in understanding the generally expected performance requirements for green building.

How much will these specifications cost?
The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers should assist in lowering design costs for green buildings as it provides preliminary materials/methods research and model Construction Specifications language in a readily accessible format.
The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers should assist in lowering construction costs for green buildings as it provides guidance that quantifies generally expected performance requirements for green building.
The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers includes a range of green building materials and methods, representative of that which is available in the market. For most materials and methods, the range reflects a spectrum of options in cost, aesthetics, and performance. Depending on project decisions, the materials and methods selected may be more, less, or equivalent to the less environmentally preferable material or method that is being replaced. While it remains true for many products that the green option costs more to install and less to operate, the market continues to evolve. For example, as contractors become more familiar with construction waste management techniques and as the national infrastructure to process recyclables expands, construction waste management becomes not only cost competitive but less expensive than landfilling.

How will these specifications affect other (non-green) project requirements?
The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers addresses only green performance requirements. These green performance requirements are intended to supplement other project requirements for materials, products, and systems. These green performance requirements are NOT intended to diminish or replace the functional requirements, aesthetic requirements, cost requirements or other project requirements for materials, products, and systems.

What size projects can use this tool?
Any size project can use the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers. Model language is presented in the Constructions Specifications format used in traditional Owner-Designer-Contractor relationships in which the Owner issues a set of Bid Documents developed by the Designer for bid (and execution) by the Contractor. It is intended to be adapted to project specifications as appropriate. For small projects that may not have Construction Specifications, the language can inform development of notes on the Drawings. For Design/Build contracts, it can assist the Design/Build Contractor in understanding the generally expected performance requirements for green building.

How might implementation of these model specifications affect small businesses?
One of the challenges facing small businesses is having the resources available to efficiently address environmental issues in design and construction. Such issues can require specialized consultants. It can require research and development in addition to that provided in contracts that do not include requirements for green building. The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers provides much of the preliminary research and development, allowing small businesses to compete more equitably with larger firms.

Why is the USGBC LEED® program referenced?
Recognizing that many federal agencies are requiring new construction projects and substantial renovations to utilize the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Rating System, an objective of the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers is to assist federal agencies in using this metric. For an overview of federal policies on green building, refer to OFEE's The Federal Commitment to Green Building: Experiences and Expectations (PDF 3.7 MB) .

Why is the USGBC LEED® v2.2 program referenced? Why not the pilot programs or LEED 2009?
Currently, the LEED® program for New Construction. LEED v2.2, is used by various agencies in their new construction projects. Pilots may result in modification to the pilot program being tested. As the pilot programs and LEED 2009, the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers may be revised as appropriate.

What level of USGBC LEED® will these specifications get me?
The targeted LEED® level is a project decision. Achieving a level of LEED® involves planning, building design, building materials and construction methods. Planning and building design are beyond the scope of Construction Specifications. Building materials and methods are delineated in Construction Specifications. However, in most of the LEED® credits, building materials and methods can only contribute to achieving LEED® points. Therefore, it is not possible to predict a level of LEED® that may be achieved with the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers.

What is the purpose of the Specifier Notes?
Specifier Notes provide additional information to assist the user in adapting Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers as appropriate to the user's project goals. Specifier Notes may appear throughout the specs. Specifier Notes at the beginning of the Technical Sections in Divisions 2-16 highlight general environmental issues associated with products typically specified in each Section. They do not provide exhaustive studies on the topics. They do highlight the associated environmental issues in a consistent format under the headings: resource management, toxicity/IEQ, and performance. 'Resource Management' addresses environmental impacts that may be associated with the products. 'Toxicity/IEQ' addresses the human health impacts that may be associated with the product. 'Performance' addresses the efficiency and durability issues that may be associated with the product.

Why are some items bolded?
Bolded items indicate that the user must make a selection among the bracketed options. If none of the suggested options is satisfactory, the [xxxx] provides a fill-in-the-blank option.

Why do some Sections appear incomplete?
The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers does not include complete Specifications. It is intended to supplement other Model Construction Specifications and to provide guidance in developing Project Construction Specifications.
The Specs address only environmental aspects in support of the federal government's green mandates and related programs. Other performance requirements and procedures are not included. Also, environmental performance requirements and procedures that represent typical, conventional practices are not included.
Please submit your suggested model green language for future consideration.

Why do some Sections appear to be missing?
Some Sections were outside the current scope of work. It is anticipated that new information, including new Sections, will be incorporated into the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers over time. Where new Sections are in development, they may be referenced in the current documents. Occasionally, it may be necessary to cite coordination issues in the Specifier Notes. Such citations may reference Sections typically included in project specifications whether or not such Sections are included in the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers. This information is intended to assist the Specifier in adapting the Specs as appropriate to project specifications. Please submit your suggested model green language, including suggestions for new Sections, for future consideration.

What were the results of the 2004 public comment period?
A draft of the Guide was open for public comment from July 27, 2004 through January 14, 2005. We were pleased by the overwhelming response to our call for public comments. Approximately 100 comments, many which contained multiple parts, were submitted over the extended six-month period. Comments received can be viewed at regulations.gov (Advance Search > Document Search: "EPA-HQ-OPPT-2004-0092"). The majority of comments received provided helpful technical suggestions for updating the model language in the Guide. We have adopted these changes in the new version. Unfortunately, we were not able to accommodate the development of new sections at this time. However, we look forward to working with Federal agencies and the private sector to assist us in expanding the guide to address new green building approaches and materials over the next few years. Finally, there were some comments that we were not able to completely accept but we have attempted to address, e.g., to respond to concern that the specifications would become mandatory, we changed the name of the Guide to make clear that it is for Federal Specifiers. The objective of this voluntary guidance document is to recognize approaches that go beyond minimum compliance with regulations and assist federal agencies in meeting pollution prevention, EPP, and other green mandates already in place. EPA is given the authority under EO 13423 to provide guidance to agencies in meeting these requirements.

How is EPA working with other federal agencies in developing the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers?
Since the inception of this project in 2000, EPA has worked with numerous federal construction and facility staff and managers directly and, more generally, has coordinated agency input via the Interagency Sustainability Working Group, the Whole Building Design Guide, the Federal Facilities Council of the National Academies of Sciences, the USGBC Federal Summit, and the major subscriber-based e-mail lists serving the federal building community (reaching 10,000+ individuals). EPA has received numerous technical comments from these stakeholders. Convinced of the importance of this work in assisting agencies in meeting their Greening of Government mandates, the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive signed on as an early partner to this effort.
The Department of Defense Naval Facilities Command has been using the Guide to green the Unified Facilities Guide Spec, which governs DOD, NASA, and VA construction projects.

What are EPA's future plans for the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers?
As with most technical construction documents, we recognize that it will be necessary to continually improve upon existing sections in the Guide to reflect new approaches in the marketplace and new environmental information. Also, we welcome others to partner with us in expanding the Guide into new sections. Throughout this process, we will be working with stakeholders in government and industry.