Leaders Ask Beard for a ‘Greener’ House

Responding to a request from House leaders, Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard will spend the next few months working with other Congressional officials to come up with new ways to make the Capitol more Earth-friendly.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Administration Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) wrote to the CAO last week to ask him to study how Congress can operate on a more environmentally sound basis.

The three directed Beard to provide a preliminary report on his findings by April 30, with final recommendations finished by June 30.

“The Capitol complex should lead the nation in preserving our planet for future generations,” they wrote.

In an interview Friday, Beard said he is looking forward to working with other Congressional officials on the study.

“We’re very excited about being able to undertake this review,” Beard said. “Companies all over America do this on a regular basis.”

The lawmakers specifically directed Beard to “include recommendations for benchmarking existing conditions; setting meaningful and measurable goals; timetables for implementing various changes in operating conditions; and measures to report progress on a regular basis.”

The CAO should work with the Architect of the Capitol’s office, the Appropriations Committee, House Administration and Senate officials, the letter reads.

Beard will look at three main areas he thinks can promote eco-friendly methods, he said.

First, there’s the buildings.

The House already promotes an energy conversation program, Beard said. Buildings employ motion-detector switches for lights so they go off when rooms are empty, and lights shut off when rooms are bright enough because sunlight is shining through windows.

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said there already are benchmarks that officials are following to reduce their energy costs.

The AOC’s office has exceeded those benchmarks, Malecki said, in part because of smaller maneuvers such as replacing windows with air-tight ones, installing low-flow pumping in restrooms, and replacing elevator and escalator equipment with energy-saving materials whenever routine maintenance is needed anyway.

“We’re doing simple things that people can do in their homes,” Malecki said.

There could be similar conservation methods just waiting to be undertaken: “These are the normal kinds of things that you look at, and are really now excepted,” Beard said.

Business practices in individual offices and facilities also will be studied, Beard said. The materials Congressional employees currently use could be replaced, for example.

“We use a lot of paper,” he said. “We have a waste-steam that comes from a lot of activity. How can we reduce that?”

The third area perhaps will be the most complicated to study: the 10,000 or so people who work in House offices and buildings.

One area Beard specifically will study is how officials can encourage employees to get to work via mass transit or carpooling, he said.

Most companies regularly analyze this area, Beard said, pointing to one of America’s largest corporations: Wal-Mart.

“They are capturing sunlight, and reducing, and doing everything they can for their energy costs,” he said. “It makes good business sense.”

It will not be the first time Beard, appointed by Pelosi to be the House’s head administrative official in January, will review environmental policy.

When Beard worked as commissioner of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation, he earned praise for his environmental efforts, including promoting water conservation among agricultural and urban water users.