Building Green Embassies

Bureau of Resource Management
December 16, 2009

Photo showing the U.S. Embassy, Geneva, Switzerland.  Inset photo is of photovoltaic cells on the roof to generate power from sunlight.

U.S. Embassy, Geneva, Switzerland. Inset photo is of photovoltaic cells on the roof to generate power from sunlight. Department of State/OBO

Our Embassies represent much more than diplomacy to their host nations – they are icons of American values. Therefore, the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, responsible for the worldwide construction and maintenance of America’s embassies abroad, has established a “Green Team” to ensure these buildings embody the U.S. commitment to global environmental stewardship.

The Green Team’s technical experts incorporate energy- and water-saving technologies, work to improve indoor air quality and specify environmentally sustainable materials in the Department’s overseas facilities. As a result, there are magnetic-levitation chillers cooling the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, photovoltaic panels producing electricity for the U.S. Embassy in Geneva, co-generation systems saving energy for the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and rainwater harvesting being designed for the U.S. Embassy in Freetown.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification was awarded to the U.S. Embassy in Panama City in 2008 by the U.S. Green Building Council. The nine-year-old rating system grades projects’ sustainability based upon their energy use, water efficiency, indoor air quality and other factors. LEED certification has become a status symbol, a label of environmental consciousness and responsibility. Every future new compound built by the Bureau will earn LEED certification.

U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Michael M. Woods launched a movement to support the goals of eco-diplomacy by establishing the League of Green U.S. Embassies. The 30 embassies in the league have committed to adopting environmentally responsible practices. Additionally, the Green Team is working to achieve climate-neutral operations. The actions of the Green Team and the League of Green U.S. Embassies will help create international models of sustainability as solid platforms for eco-diplomacy by greening U.S. embassies and consulates.

-from an article appearing in State Magazine, April, 2009 by Donna Mcintire and Melanie Berkemeyer, Architects with OBO and members of the Green Team.