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GSA to create virtual meeting centers

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Starting early next year, federal agencies will have access to telepresence centers at General Services Administration buildings across the country.

The technology will initially span across 14 GSA buildings including 11 regional offices and central offices, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson told reporters today at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va.

“People appear much more life like” and “they engage in eye contact with each other,” said Johnson about the new technologies. “The sound really works, and you feel as if you’re sitting at the same table even though you’re sitting virtually.”

The systems will be set up in rooms throughout select buildings, and services will be offered to other federal agencies using a scheduling system, she said.

Rooms will likely include three high-resolution screens, and a half-circle table with chairs designated for each screen or a stadium style seating arrangement, said Michael Robertson, GSA chief of staff.  “It creates the illusion that users are at the same table. It’s the next level in video conferencing.”

Specific details about the costs and the contract amount were not readily available, but Johnson said “pricing will be such that people will think twice about getting on a plane.”

AT&T is going to manage and develop the virtual network under GSA’s Networx Enterprise contract.

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Don’t forget to power down

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If all 16,000+ participants follow through with their pledge tonight, Power IT Down Day 2010 should be a huge success.

The initiative has nearly 500 supporters on Facebook, more than 100 Twitter followers and thousands who have signed up directly on the site.

The nationwide event encourages government and the private sector to shut down their computers, printers, monitors and other devices at the end of the work day to save energy. I was told that about two-thirds of those who have registered are from government agencies.

Citrix, HP, Intel and GTSI are sponsoring the initiative and will make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, representative of the money saved from Power IT Down Day. Last year’s donation totaled $45,000.

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OK, we get it, you’re going green

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So yesterday at the GSA Expo, Administrator Martha Johnson was walking around in a black and white outfit, if I remember correctly. But by the time she arrived at the Coalition for Government Procurement dinner to announce GSA’s new goal of eliminating the government’s carbon footprint (good luck with that, by the way), she had changed into — you guessed it — a green jacket.

Johnson’s speech received what sounded like polite applause last night, from a crowd made up mostly of vendor representatives. And CGP president Larry Allen was fairly critical of Johnson today, even after he’d had a night to sleep on it. He sent me an e-mail that included the words “an arbitrary goal that makes for good press but has no basis in
reality,” although he later said he didn’t necessarily think Johnson had set such a goal, but simply that he hoped she wasn’t. It’ll be interesting to see whether setting this lofty goal spurs federal agencies and contractors to action as Johnson hopes it will, or if setting the bar so high will be counterproductive.

UPDATE: I should clarify that Allen’s group has pledged to work with Johnson on her initiative and wants to play a role in developing the specifics of her plan. I don’t mean to paint this as a GSA vs. industry fight; Johnson also stressed that the private sector should play a key role in reducing the government’s environmental impact, and the fact she delivered her message at an industry-sponsored event only underscores that.

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On the floor at the GSA Expo

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Green is the name of the game here at the GSA Expo in Orlando. The training session schedule is rife with the words “green” and “sustainable” and it’s all that any of the GSA folks here can talk about. It seems clear that new administrator Martha Johnson is taking President Obama’s green-government agenda to heart, and that Johnson’s commitment is trickling down to all levels. We’ll see whether government agencies and vendors are willing to get on board.

The exhibition floor had its share of environmentally friendly stuff — many booths had green products prominently displayed — according to Federal Acquisition Services chief Steve Kempf, 32 percent of exhibitors were peddling green goods. (That’s still a far cry from the 95 percent of federal contracts that are supposed to be sustainable as per Obama’s October executive order, but it’s a start, I suppose.) The green stuff ranged from furniture to storage devices to hand sanitizer. The expo has a dizzying array of products — walking around one sees booths hawking pocket knives, athletic playing field surfaces, mattresses, forklifts, Christmas lights … the list goes on. It’s a big government we have indeed, folks.

After the jump, a few photos from the floor: Read the rest of this entry »

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Getting the 411 on cutting energy use

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The Energy Department’s Federal Energy Management Program is offering free online training sessions to help federal energy and environmental professionals learn the basics about cutting energy consumption in their facilities and operations.

The sessions, held the first Thursday of each month, will discuss requirements to report greenhouse gas emissions, install advanced electrical meters on facilities, cut water consumption and make existing buildings more energy efficient, among others.

The 90-minute sessions will be offered live via satellite or through streaming video at your desktop. Registrations are now being accepted online.

The first session was an overview of the executive order President Obama issued in October on greening the government’s operations. It’s already occured, but an archive of the webcast is available here.

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CFOs, CIOs…and now CGOs?

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The General Services Administration is adding to the government’s alphabet soup of executive-level acronyms with the newly created position of Chief Greening Officer.

GSA currently is seeking applicants for the position, which will report directly to the commissioner of the Public Buildings Service.

The Chief Greening Officer will develop and execute greening strategies for all new construction and for GSA’s existing inventory of 1,500 buildings, according to a job posting. The new position “will define a nationwide strategy to ensure that PBS becomes ‘the most sustainable real estate organization in the country,’” the posting says.

GSA apparently is seeking an outsider for the position, since it isn’t posted on the government’s official jobs site, USAJobs. Instead, interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to PBSGreening@gsa.gov.

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Leading the (green) way

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Federal agencies having a tough time meeting the plethora of green government mandates should take a close look at the 15 federal teams who have been recognized this year for spearheading environmentally sustainable practices at their agencies.

Winners of the 2009 White House Closing the Circle Awards — handed out Wednesday during the middle of the three-day 2009 Federal Environmental Symposium East in Bethesda, Md. –  are demonstrating best practices in areas such as recycling, green purchasing and fuel conservation.

The big winner was the Air Force, which received four awards for initiatives under way at local bases and headquarters. The Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Denver was the biggest individual winner, taking home two awards.

A complete list of the winners — along with some of their accomplishments — is after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Video tour of federal green roofs

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Last week, I wrote about how federal agencies are using some of the billions of dollars in stimulus funds flowing to them for facility and energy projects to replace or retrofit their building rooftops with green alternatives.

Options being considered include thin solar films that are imbedded into roofs, additional insulation to repel heat, and vegetative roofs such as a 5,000-square-foot garden patch atop the seven-story Interior Department headquarters building in Washington.

Other agencies have outfitted their roofs with vegetation, recognizing both the environmental and economic benefits. Our videographer, Colin Kelly, recently toured two examples outside the nation’s capital in Suitland, Md. Follow the links for video of green roofs at the Census Bureau headquarters and at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility.

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