August 2011

Volume 20, Number 8

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Army Targets Aggressive LEED, Green Building Goals

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By Paula Melton


The Army’s high green building standards have resulted in projects like the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Fairfax County, Virginia, which is targeting LEED Silver.

Photo: U.S. Army

When the U.S. Army announced it was adopting the new ASHRAE 189.1 high-performance building standard, some in the green building community worried it was calling a retreat: the Army has required building to LEED Silver standards since 2006, and ASHRAE 189.1 jibes more closely with LEED at the Certified level. For now, though, the Army—which owns more than a billion square feet of building space—is not only keeping LEED Silver in addition to ASHRAE 189.1 but is also working toward net-zero energy, water, and waste at a number of its existing installations.

According to Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment, 189.1 is a more prescriptive “cookbook” approach that works well for the military and the federal government more generally. “We need to know how to build a really good LEED building and follow the guidance and direction of federal mandates,” Hammack told EBN, and the ASHRAE standard “tells us exactly what we need to do.”

Before being sworn into the Army in mid-2010, Hammack was on the committee that developed ASHRAE 189.1, which started in part as a response to jurisdictions adopting LEED as a building code, but the LEED rating systems are not written like ordinances; they intentionally give ample freedom of choice to design teams and building owners. ASHRAE 189.1, Hammack says, was designed to “put LEED into building code language.”

She anticipates that in the future the two design standards will be “much more closely nested,” with the ASHRAE standard referenced in LEED as a way to meet certain prerequisites and achieve certain credits. Far from trying to move away from LEED, Hammack said the Army has been reaching LEED Gold on many projects and even has several buildings targeting LEED Platinum.

These results, Hammack told EBN, are of a piece with the Army’s long-term goals for net-zero energy, water, and waste, which she said must begin with efficiency and conservation. “Energy security is mission critical,” she said. In the U.S. or overseas, “our facilities need to be able to function” regardless of disruptions brought about by disasters—whether natural or human-caused.

Hammack has initiated a net-zero pilot program at 17 existing installations of “all sizes, shapes, and geographical locations”; she hopes their diversity will lead to a variety of innovative strategies for achieving zero energy, water, and waste in a cost-effective way. Some, like the United States Military Academy at West Point, will pilot one aspect of net-zero (West Point is focusing on energy); Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland is targeting net-zero waste as well as energy. Two installations—Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Carson in Colorado—will be integrated net-zero locations, with a goal of net-zero energy, waste, and water.

While there is no getting around the fact that wartime operations are energy-intensive and environmentally devastating, most of the Army’s vast building stock—everything from housing and commercial office space to hospitals and high-tech training facilities—consists of buildings like everyone else’s. On the home front, at least, it looks like the Army is advancing rapidly into new, greener territory.

For more information:

Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment)

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July 1, 2011