A Tale of Two Cities (and Their LEED Platinum Embassies)

On Wednesday, January 28, the Embassy of Finland in Washington hosted the diplomatic and green building community for a celebration of the recently-achieved LEED Platinum certification on their embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. The Embassy of Finland is the first LEED Platinum-certified embassy in the United States. However, it's not the first one in the world. That title goes to the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard is a global certification scheme that helps drive more sustainable construction. LEED Platinum is the highest certification a building can receive, a fact that did not escape the Finnish Secretary of State who joked in his remarks that now that they’ve achieved the pinnacle level, he wished there was a higher certification to strive for.

The U.S. Department of State Under Secretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy, congratulated the Embassy of Finland on their accomplishment and expressed delight that Finland and the United States are contributing to each other’s economies and sustainability goals through their green buildings.

A growing part of the State Department’s global building portfolio is LEED certified, due in large part to the Department’s requirement that all new buildings and extensive renovations achieve at least LEED Silver certification. Here in the United States, the Department has six LEED certified buildings in its owned and leased portfolio, including a LEED Platinum, net-zero building in Charleston, South Carolina, and a newly-certified LEED Silver renovated building here in Washington on Potomac Hill.

Overseas, the Department has 27 LEED certified embassies and consulates around the world -- 16 of which were the first LEED certified building in their host country. These green buildings perform better and cost less to run. The total estimated cost avoidance from our certified facilities overseas, for example, is approximately $3.7 million per year.

Under Secretary Kennedy explained that, “There are three primary reasons why we so doggedly pursue LEED. First, we believe embassies should demonstrate and showcase the very best in green building technologies, policies, and innovation. Second, we believe that embassies and diplomatic facilities should use their operations and policy priorities to help drive more sustainable cities. And third, we believe that embassies should be good stewards of the financial and environmental resources entrusted to them by U.S. taxpayers and the global community.”  

The Department is constantly working to improve its operations to save environmental and financial resources. As one example, the Department’s Washington and Maryland-area facilities receive more than half of their power from solar and wind farms built through a Power Purchase Agreement with Constellation Energy. The Department tries to use its cleaner energy as efficiently as possible and its headquarters in Foggy Bottom is among the oldest and largest Energy Star Certified buildings in the region. 

The Embassy of Finland’s LEED Platinum certification shows that diplomatic communities are an important contributor and driver of more sustainable cities and economies. 

As Under Secretary Kennedy mentioned, “The United States looks forward to continuing our special 'Green' friendship with Finland.  We hope to have many more of these celebrations to come both here in D.C. and at our countries’ future LEED Certified embassies around the world.”

About the Author: Caroline D’Angelo serves as a eco-management analyst in the Department of State’s Greening Council Executive Secretariat in Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation (M/PRI).

The Newly LEED Platinum Certified Embassy of Finland
January 30, 2015

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