Energy Efficiency in Congressional Buildings
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Energy Efficiency in Congressional Buildings
Specialist in Energy Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
This report describes energy efficiency requirements applicable to congressional
buildings and the energy saving activities being undertaken in the Capitol complex. The
Architect of the Capitol (AOC) has the authority and responsibility to provide energy
services and implement energy efficiency measures in congressional buildings. Congress
has used legislative appropriations bills to establish energy efficiency measures under
AOC. In the early 1990s, Congress funded an energy efficient lighting initiative for
congressional buildings. In 1998, Congress set a goal for 2005 to improve energy
efficiency by 20%. A brief comparison with the 30% energy efficiency goal of the
executive branch suggests that the current goal for AOC is lower in absolute percentage,
but calls for a higher rate of improvement. Also, AOC does not currently have access
to the funding and staff resources that the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy
Management Program provides for executive branch agencies.
By law, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) operates and maintains the Capitol
complex’s buildings and grounds.1 Specifically:
The Architect is charged with the operation, maintenance, and improvement of the U.S.
Capitol and adjacent buildings and grounds – some 285 acres that include the Capitol
Building, the House and Senate office buildings, the three Library of Congress
buildings, the Supreme Court, the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, the
Capitol power plant, the Capitol Police headquarters, and the Robert A. Taft2
1 The legal responsibilities of the AOC appear in several titles of the United States Code. For more
details, see: CRS Report RS20189. Architect of the Capitol: Appointment, Duties, and Operations,
by Mildred Amer and Paul Rundquist.
2 CRS Report RS20189, p. 2.
Congressional Research Service The Library of Congress
Responsibility for the Capitol power plant is subject to direction by the House Office
Building Commission. The plant provides heating and cooling services to the buildings
listed above as well as to Union Station, Folger Shakespeare Library, Government Printing3
Office, and former District of Columbia Main Post Office (now called Postal Square).
However, many buildings in the Capitol campus receive heating and cooling services from
other sources. For example, the Ford House Office Building receives steam for heating
from the General Services Administration (GSA) and chilled water for cooling from the4
Food and Drug Administration. Further, the AOC’s maintenance and energy service
responsibilities will be extended to include the $265 million Capitol visitors' center,
scheduled to be completed in 2005.5
AOC funding comes primarily from annual Legislative Branch and Judiciary
Appropriations Acts. In addition to funding through the Appropriations Committees,
statutory authorization for the AOC’s work comes primarily from four congressional
standing committees: House Administration, House Transportation and Infrastructure,6
Senate Environment and Public Works, and Senate Rules and Administration.
Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Measures
In FY2000, AOC’s total energy use was about two trillion British thermal units (Btu)
or, alternatively, about 600 million kilowatt-hours (kwh). This is equivalent to the output
of a 110-MW (million-watt) power plant. Energy input to the Capitol power plant7
accounted for about 390 billion Btu, which is about 20% of the total energy use. Thus,
most of the energy used in the Capitol complex is obtained from utility companies and
Energy Management System (P.L. 100-458). In 1988, the Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act for FY1989 (P.L. 100-458) appropriated nearly $1 million for the
AOC to develop a systemwide energy management and control system (EMCS).8 This
system monitors indoor and outdoor air temperatures and provides centralized control of
air conditioning systems throughout the Capitol complex. By reducing mechanically-
produced cooling energy, the EMCS has saved more than $2.0 million in utility air
3 At one time the Capitol power plant did produce electricity ("power"), but since the mid 1950s
it has only produced steam for heating and domestic hot water and chilled water for cooling
4 Personal Communication with Mr. Scott Birkhead, AOC, May 29, 2001.
5 CRS Report 98-920 GOV. The Capitol Visitors’ Center: An Overview, by Stephen Stathis.
6 CRS Report RS20189, p. 6.
7 AOC. Personal communication with Mr. Rick Khan. June 22, 2001. Of the total use, electricity
provided about 51%, natural gas provided 49%, and coal and oil provided less than 1%. The
Capitol power plant only provides steam for heating and chilled water for cooling. It is supplied
almost exclusively by electricity, aided by tiny amounts of natural gas, coal, and oil.
8 AOC. Personal communication with Mr. Rick Khan. The provision was contained in House
Report 100-621, which accompanied H.R. 4587.
conditioning costs since 1990.9 Also, AOC has used several utility incentive programs,
including customer rebates and incentives for new building design and curtailable load.
Energy Efficient Lighting Initiative (P.L. 102-486). Section 168 of the Energy
Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT, P.L. 102-486) directed the AOC to undertake an analysis and
retrofit program for the Capitol and its grounds and the House and Senate office buildings,
including a lighting efficiency program and a report on other potential energy efficiency
measures.10 EPACT specified that the House Committee on Public Works and
Transportation and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration were to review and
approve the identified measures before AOC implemented them. The law also encouraged
AOC to seek utility incentive programs and directed that cost savings from such incentives
be applied to additional energy and water conservation measures. EPACT authorized such
sums as might be necessary to carry out the program.
The lighting retrofit program was allocated $4.0 million through three public laws:
P.L. 102-90 appropriated $1.0 million for FY1992, P.L. 102-392 appropriated $1.0 million
for FY1993, and P.L. 103-69 appropriated $2.0 million for FY1994. Congressional intent
was clearly to achieve both energy savings and cost savings. The House Report (H. Rept.
directed the AOC to show how these goals would be achieved:
... the Architect is directed not to obligate these funds until he has forwarded an analysis
and recommendation to the Committees on Appropriations regarding the proposals
received from energy service companies who are experts in this field and which may
enable the savings of the original Federal investment. Also, the Committee believes the
pilot test report does not fully explain how the Architect intends to dispose of those
installations which indicate negative present values (an indication of a non-cost-effective
investment), and how that will affect total estimated project costs. That will need to be
clarified before proceeding. The funds provided, subject to their release, will enable
Phase I (emergency, corridor, 24-hour lighting) retrofits to be made throughout the
Capitol complex, and sufficient funding is available to comply with the first year11
requirement of the 4-year proposed plan.
However, the Conference Report (H. Rept. 103-424) for the Emergency
Supplemental Appropriations Act for FY1994 (P.L. 103-211) reprogrammed $3 million
of the appropriations for the lighting initiative and instead provided authority for AOC to
seek private sector services to conduct the project. The Report says
The conference agreement does not include a rescission of $3,000,000, as included in
the House bill, of funds made available to the Architect of the Capitol for energy
efficient lighting retrofitting in the Capitol complex. The Senate deleted this rescission
and directed the Architect of the Capitol to use these funds for converting and
9 AOC, CECMP, p. 7-9.
10 For each building, the report was to cover heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment,
insulation, windows, domestic hot water, food service equipment, and automatic control equipment.
For each of these measures, the report was to include projected installation cost, energy and cost
savings, and payback period.
11 U.S. Congress. House. Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 1994. Report to accompany
H.R. 2348. June 8, 1993. p. 19-20.
maintaining property and facilities at Fort Meade for long-term storage needs The
conferees agree with this directive. The energy efficient lighting funds are not needed
because the conference agreement provides authority for the Architect of the Capitol to
use the services of energy services companies to underwrite the cost of the retrofit12
Another $100,000 of the original $4.0 million in appropriations was also reprogrammed
to other non-energy uses. The remaining $900,000 was used to survey the opportunities
for a lighting retrofit project in congressional buildings. The survey results formed the
basis for issuing a request for proposal. The selected contractor was to be paid from the13
energy cost savings over the eight to 10 years following installation.
The energy service company (ESCO) engaged by AOC completed the lighting project
in 1998. Across the Capitol complex, more than 160,000 energy-saving fixtures with
fluorescent lamps were installed along with motion sensor light switches in public
bathrooms. As a result, electricity use dropped from 329 million kwh in FY1990 to 298
million kwh in FY2000. That represents an annual savings of nearly 31 million kwh, a
Energy Plan and Goal
Comprehensive Energy Conservation and Management Plan (P.L. 105-
275). Section 310 of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act for FY1999 directs the
AOC to undertake several energy efficiency measures for buildings in the Capitol
complex.15 AOC completed the Plan in July 2000. It describes AOC’s current and planned
energy efficiency activities. To prepare for the Plan’s execution, AOC is compiling
baseline energy use information starting with 1991.16 As its first step in executing the
Plan, AOC will conduct surveys to identify energy saving opportunities through building
retrofit projects.17 To comprehensively address the opportunities in the Capitol complex,
the surveys must include 16 major buildings, 14 million square feet of floorspace, and a
number of challenges arising from older buildings and historic preservation concerns.18
Another significant challenge is that most organizations in the complex are not under
12 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Making Emergency Supplemental
Appropriations for FY1994 [To accompany H.R. 3759]. Report 103-424. February 11, 1994.
13 AOC. Personal Communication with Mr. Jack Boertlein and Mr. Scott Birkhead, May 29, 2001.
14 AOC This Week. May 21, 2001. p. 1.
15 Also known as the “Gutierrez Amendment.” The provisions of §310 appear in Appendix 1.
16 AOC, CECMP, p. 31. As of July 2000, AOC had compiled electricity data and was in the
process of collecting data for natural gas, water, oil, and coal.
17 AOC, CECMP, p. 1,17, 27.
18 AOC, CECMP, p. 10. Eight of the 16 major buildings are more than 60 years old. Many of
their mechanical and electrical systems have exceeded normal lifetimes.
19 AOC, CECMP, p. 26.
As part of the survey effort, AOC requested that DOE perform an energy audit of the
Capitol complex.20 Also, AOC has a number of individual building projects and studies
underway. This included, as of July 2000, a renovation design underway for the Botanic
Garden; a project funded to upgrade electricity and air conditioning equipment in the
Capitol; a study underway to improve the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
(HVAC) system in the Cannon House Office Building (HOB); a plan for replacing
mechanical, electrical, and plumbing equipment in the Supreme Court; and a proposal to21
study the mechanical system of the Rayburn HOB. Further, AOC reports that the EMCS
has become obsolete and that a consultant has been retained to study needs and propose
a plan for a new system.22
AOC also has programs related to vehicle fuel efficiency, substitution, and
conservation. Employees are encouraged to use mass transit and car/van pools, and AOC
actively promotes the acquisition of alternative-fueled and fuel-efficient vehicles. AOC
states that it plans to continue these programs and indicates that it will assist other
legislative branch entities, such as the Capitol police, with developing programs to acquire
such vehicles and to promote use of mass transit and car/van pools.23
AOC indicates that it is presently understaffed for energy responsibilities, causing
“numerous slippages” in energy management activities and “loss” of some energy
efficiency opportunities. To ensure compliance with the law and effective implementation
of the Plan, AOC proposes to create a new Energy Management and Conservation Branch
under its Mechanical Engineering Division. This Branch would require additional staff24
resources, including three to seven energy managers, and additional office space.
Further, AOC intends to use DOE technical assistance and utility incentive programs to
support surveys and projects. After exhausting free assistance from DOE and certain
service contracting opportunities with local utilities, AOC indicates that it would then
seek direct appropriations from Congress to meet the requirements of P.L. 105-275 and
the objectives of the Plan.25 Anticipating that DOE will not be able to perform all building
surveys at no cost to AOC, the Plan says that AOC anticipates the need for appropriations
in FY2002 to hire a consultant to help with the survey requirements of P.L. 105-275.26
Also, in compliance with the law, AOC says it will submit annual reports to Congress that
describe energy use and expenditures for each facility, energy management and
conservation projects, and future priorities
Energy Efficiency Goal for 2005. For buildings of the Capitol complex, a major
provision in P.L. 105-275 required AOC to set a goal to reduce energy use per square foot
relative to 1991 by 20% in 2005. AOC expects that completed, ongoing, and planned
20 AOC, CECMP, p. 17. As of January 2000, DOE had committed to audit the Capitol Building,
but its own resource limits may preclude it from committing to do any others in the complex.
21 AOC, CECMP, p. 10-11.
22 AOC, CECMP, p. 19.
23 AOC, CECMP, p. 25-26.
24 AOC, CECMP, p. 15.
25 AOC, CECMP, p. 28-30.
26 AOC, CECMP, p. 18.
initiatives (many of which were underway before the legislation was enacted) should
enable it to meet that goal.
AOC says a project to replace aging and outdated chillers is the best example of what
its future efficiency efforts will achieve. These devices provide chilled water to cool the
buildings on the Capitol campus. At the Capitol power plant, new equipment in the West
Refrigeration Plant Expansion will replace vintage 1950s chillers in the East Refrigeration
Plant. The new equipment will include high efficiency chillers, steam-driven chillers used
in a combined heat and power (CHP) arrangement, and “free” cooling that employs
outside cold air to chill water.27 If the project keeps to its schedule, AOC estimates a
AOC says the estimated investment of $5.6 million will avoid other capital costs of $2.5
million and provide annual electricity savings worth $700,000 to $800,000 per year,
yielding a simple payback in about 4.5 years.29
Energy Savings Goal Comparison. Parallel to the AOC goal, Executive Order
13123 directs executive branch agencies to employ energy efficiency measures to achieve
goals for reducing building energy use relative to 1985 levels by 30 percent in 2005 and
by 35 percent in 2010. The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) at the
Department of Energy has the primary responsibility for implementing the Order. The
table below compares these goals with that for buildings under the AOC.
P.L. 105-275,1991down 10% in200520%
E.O. 13123,1985Energy use down200530%
June 199918.7% in 1998*201035%
* DOE. FEMP. Annual Report for 1998.
The executive branch agencies have been subject to energy efficiency goals for a longer30
period of time than the AOC. Further, EO13123 contains more detailed requirements
than P.L. 105-275. This includes requirements to employ Energy Star equipment and to
find uses for renewable energy. However, these agencies also enjoy an advantage of
technical assistance and support from extensive staff resources funded at FEMP.31
27 Personal communication with Mr. Scott Birkhead, AOC, May 29, 2001.
28 AOC This Week. May 21, 2001. p. 1.
29 AOC. Comprehensive Energy Conservation and Management Plan. July 2000. p. 12.
30 In 1994, Executive Order 12902 had previously set a goal for reducing energy use relative to
31 AOC, CECMP, p. 31.