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Instructions for Implementing Sustainable Locations for Federal Facilities

Federal agency location decisions represent significant opportunities to design, construct, maintain, and operate high performance sustainable buildings in sustainable locations, and strengthen the vitality and livability of the communities. Federal, state, and local governments invest significant resources in promoting economic development, increasing availability of affordable housing, providing transportation choices, and ensuring environmental stewardship. Federal agencies have a duty to make responsible choices in location decisions and it is important that agencies have clear guidance for achieving a balanced approach towards sustainable locations.

On September 15, 2011, in accordance with Executive Order 13514 to have an integrated strategy toward sustainability in the Federal Government, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a set of implementing instructions to provide direction to all Federal agencies seeking to acquire or develop owned or leased space as well as anticipated moves, expansions or consolidations that significantly impact the overall built environment and community, such as transportation (i.e., vehicle miles traveled, commuting time, congestion), infrastructure, economic development, water and air quality. These instructions will improve Federal agency sustainability performance by ensuring a balanced evaluation between land use and the built environment, cost, security, mission need and competition on facility location decision-making. 

Federal agencies will be required to review agency business practices and develop internal policies and procedures that align their facility decision-making to the following recommended Principles:

  1. Advance local and regional planning goals

    a) Consider sustainable locations from a regional perspective, consulting with local officials and considering their recommendations

    b) Consider recommendations of local officials in light of Federal sustainability goals

  2. Seek location-efficient sites

    a) Prioritize central business districts and rural town centers

    b) Prioritize locations that promote transportation choice

    c) Promote walkable and bikeable sites

    d) Locate in areas that are accessible to a diverse range of employees and visitors

  3. Maximize use of existing resources

    a) Leverage investment in existing infrastructure

    b) Prioritize brownfield/grayfield and infill development

    c) Promote the preservation of historic resources and other existing buildings

    d) Maximize use of existing Federal space

  4. Foster the protection of the natural environment

    a) Preserve existing ecosystems

    b) Avoid development of green space

    c) Promote climate change adaptation planning

  5. Review workplace standards to promote more efficient facility development

  6. Reduce parking demand for single occupancy vehicles

Finally, CEQ will provide Federal agencies assistance in meeting the requirements of the implementing instructions through the annual reporting of the strategic sustainability performance plans. Click here to read the implementing instructions.

Article by Michelle Moore, Federal Environmental Executive at the Council on Environmental Quality