Buried in the 500-plus pages of the defense budget signed by President Obama on Dec. 31 is a curious provision that prohibits the Department of Defense from spending any of the $662 billion to certify that its buildings meet rigorous environmental standards.


The National Defense Authorization Act bars the Pentagon from spending money to certify projects Gold or Platinum, the two highest certifications of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Program (LEED), reports The Federal Times.


But the restrictions are unlikely to have significant impact on the Pentagon’s programs to reduce energy use, said Bryan Howard, the legislative director of the U.S. Green Building Council. There is enough flexibility in the language “that the federal agencies doing good work will be able to keep on keeping on,” Howard said Thursday.


In a blog post, Howard noted that the provision is “is irrational and misguided at best” but the Department of Defense “can still LEED certify to Gold and Platinum levels if there is no additional cost or they document a positive return on investment, which they have done and will continue to do.”


The Department of Defense, Howard said, “has been a partner of the U.S. Green Building Council for more than a decade.” The department has the largest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings owned or occupied by any federal agency, Howard said, adding that more than 800 LEED-accredited professionals work in the Department of Defense.


The LEED rating system takes into account several factors: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and LEED innovation credits. A project can earn a total of 69 points. The higher the points total, the higher the certification: A score of 33 points earns LEED Silver status, a score of 39 points scores LEED Gold and a score of 52 points or higher earns LEED Platinum.


The scoring is based on a review of a project’s design and construction. Fees for those reviews are based on the square footage of a project, Howard said in a telephone interview. The certification fee doesn't vary with the level of certification — silver costs the same as gold.


“Unless they are doing something highly unusual the cost of certification should never exceed $25,000,” Howard wrote in an email Thursday.