Volume 7, Number 10
Navy at the Leading Edge of Green Design
Navy at the Leading Edge of Green Design
In what may be one of the most significant developments in green building in recent years, the Department of the Navy has become the first Federal agency requiring all facilities and infrastructure-related design and construction to incorporate sustainable design principles. While energy efficiency and sustainability have long been mentioned in federal building and procurement guidelines, the Navy became the first to actually put it into practice when it issued new policy statements covering design, design criteria, and architect/engineer (A-E) selection. This could be a very significant shot-in-the-arm for green building and a strong incentive for mainstream A-E firms to take green design and building seriously.
The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) handles domestic construction for the Navy, Air Force, and Marines, along with about half of domestic Army construction and about half of all offshore military construction. (The Army Corps of Engineers handles other military construction.) NAVFAC has an annual construction budget of about $5 billion—roughly one percent of all construction in the United States—and builds all types of buildings, from homes to schools to hospitals. NAVFAC’s Sustainable Design Program was initiated in 1993, with a policy directive from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. According to Terrel Emmons, FAIA, chief architect for NAVFAC, the Navy learned a difficult and expensive lesson with the environmental cleanup of Naval bases that were being closed. “Every time we went to close down a base, we found out how badly we’d done,” he told attendees of the EEBA conference in Washington this October.
Beginning in 1995, NAVFAC began holding regional design charrettes on greening Naval facilities and launched the first of eight pilot projects to test out the ideas emerging from the charrettes. Amory Lovins and Bill Browning of the Rocky Mountain Institute were instrumental in guiding the agency during much of this planning, and Emmons credits Lovins with convincing Navy officers that a sustainability agenda could be implemented without significantly increasing first cost.
The Navy’s new design approach is spelled out in three separate Planning and Design Policy Statements issued on June 18. These include significant detail and exhibit considerable understanding of, and insight into, green design. NAVFAC’s definition of sustainable design includes:
•Increased energy conservation and efficiency;
•Increased use of renewable energy resources;
•Reduction or elimination of toxic and harmful substances in facilities and their surrounding environments;
•Improvements to interior and exterior environments leading to increased productivity and better health;
•Efficiency in resource and materials utilization, especially water resources;
•Selection of materials and products based on their life-cycle environmental impacts;
•Increased use of materials and products with recycled content;
•Recycling of construction waste and building materials after demolition;
•Reduction in harmful waste products produced during construction; and
•Facility maintenance and operational practices that reduce or eliminate harmful effects on people and the natural environment.
In signing the new policies into effect in June, Rear Admiral David J. Nash, Commanding Officer of NAVFAC, stated that the policies will “entail new ways of conducting business.” According to Emmons, who authored the new policies, all A-E firms wanting to do business with NAVFAC will have to demonstrate “extensive knowledge and experience in applying sustainability concepts and principles to facilities and infrastructure problems through an integrated design approach.” In fact, he told EBN that A-E firms that have long done business with NAVFAC may no longer be able to do so. “There’s quite a bit of panic,” he said. He hears from A-E firms, “You mean I’m not qualified any more?” and responds, “No, you’re not.” Emmons explained that simply claiming to be a green designer or just bringing a consultant on for a project will not be enough. “We want A-E firms whose entire culture—how they think, how they operate—is this way,” he said. These mandatory requirements will be reflected in all future Commerce Business Daily announcements.
Specific evaluation factors that will be used for determining A-E firm knowledge and experience in sustainable design are described in the Policy Statements. For example:
•A-Es should be required to explain their expertise with environmentally responsible or sustainable facility design, and their specific expertise in applying “Integrated Design” concepts and methodologies.
•The A-E should be required to describe past projects demonstrating site planning that works with the natural environment, maximizes solar energy potential and use of natural light and ventilation, and minimizes off-site stormwater runoff.
•The A-E should be required to demonstrate experience using environmental life-cycle analysis techniques to select building materials which minimize environmental impacts throughout their life cycle (especially maintenance and ultimate disposal).
Some experts have questioned whether the goal of having no net increase in initial cost might preclude significant green building options, but Emmons strongly believes that dramatic improvements are possible without increasing costs. His early pilot projects are bearing that out. For the renovation of NAVFAC’s headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard, for example, sustainable design measures increased first cost by $95,000 (out of a $19.9 million budget), but have resulted in annual energy savings of $130,000. For a Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) complex in Illinois, a $600,000 reduction in first cost was achieved in the $60.1 million project and an annual energy savings of $110,000 is projected. (The project is also expected to achieve a “Silver” award in the LEED evaluation—see next news item for more on LEED.)
For more information:
Terrel M. Emmons, FAIA
Naval Facilities Engineering Command
Washington Navy Yard
1322 Patterson Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20374-5065