• Molly Jones

The History of Guiding Principles

Three executive orders are currently being tracked in the realm of sustainability:


  • Executive Order 14030 - Climate-related financial risk.

  • Executive Order 14008 - Climate crisis at home and abroad.

  • Executive Order 3990 - Protecting public health and the environment and restoring science to tackle the climate crisis.


Note: Some statutes that support sustainability in the federal sector include the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

This goes back to 1976, the National Energy Conservation Act, enacted in 1978, the Energy Policy Act of 92, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, and the Energy Policy Act of 2005.


And then lastly, the latest is the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. So that lays the groundwork for the evolution of the guiding principles. The guiding principles started in 2006, starting with a memorandum of understanding called Federal Leadership and High Performance and Sustainable Buildings.

Guiding Principles

So if you've run in these circles for a while, you have heard the shortening of that previously. In 2006 established, five guiding principles in five categories.


Essentially, being updated in 2016, and at that time, the six guiding principle was added to the 6th category. And then again updated in December of 2020. So we're working with the December 2020 version. It is the latest version.

The original signatories in the original 2006 version, there were 23 different agencies. But essentially, most of the federal agencies initially signed on at this point, updating the guiding principles. They guide implementation and what the guiding principles are - all within one document.


So if you've been hanging around the federal sector for a while or are employed in the federal sector, you may remember when we had guiding principles as one document and then the implementation instructions that followed along later as a separate document.

At this time, they're both together in one document. So not only implementation, but it also provides the implementation for new construction, modernization, and existing buildings. Interestingly, it now also addresses the third-party certification systems that can be used. Some criteria and checklists are also in the document, with instructions for tracking and reporting your compliance.


Note: These are employee-integrated design principles, optimize energy performance, protect and conserve water, enhance the indoor environment, reduce the environmental impact of materials, and assess and consider building resilience.


Green Building Rating System

If you have worked in the lead rating system, Green Globes, or any other green building rating system, these categories will look very familiar to you. And there is a lot of alignment, especially between a couple of the rating systems and the current guiding principles. Their overarching purpose is to establish minimum requirements so that you can consider these as code minimums in the federal sector for sustainability.

Each agency then takes these and enhances them. In some cases, they increase them. In other cases, they will identify third-party rating systems that they prefer to use, and in some cases, they will add additional requirements to them based on their specific needs.


But again, they're essentially the code minimum for sustainability in the federal sector.


So there are two assessment pathways:


  1. The first assessment pathway is to go through the associated instructions with the guiding principles outlined directly within them.

  2. The second pathway essentially is what you're going to see is, in some cases, a couple of options per principle, and in other cases, you'll see a handful of options. In essence, what is happening is you have a set of prescriptive criteria that you could meet, or you can meet a specific chapter and verse of the International Green Construction Code.


So how do we accomplish a building that complies with the guiding principles?

They've done a lot of great work to clarify this for us. And in essence, you need to achieve 30 of the criteria.


They have split that up into core criteria and non-core criteria:

  • The core criteria are 18 items, and all 18 need to be met on every project subject to the guiding principles.

  • The non-core criteria comprise the remaining twelve, and you can select which ones your project can achieve within those twelve.

Having said that, if your building can achieve more, you should achieve more. And I will show you why at the end of our time together. You'll see how all of this rolls up the federal level.

I'm hoping this has been helpful.


Thanks for stopping by.


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