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Army Corps Helps Drive “Green” Successes at Fort Carson

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Omaha District is working with the Department of the Army and the Department of Public Works at Fort Carson, Colo., to quietly turn the post into one of the “greenest places on earth.”

Since 2007, more than 70 new buildings have been programmed for construction at Fort Carson. Those projects have resulted in 33 buildings achieving the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification: 15 have achieved LEED Gold certification and another 18 are LEED Silver certified. These 33 buildings make Fort Carson one of the highest concentrated areas of LEED certified buildings in the country.

An additional 40 buildings at various stages of the certification process, including design, are under construction and awaiting certification are pursuing LEED certification.

In 2006, as the Army began transitioning to the LEED rating system requiring all buildings built for the Army to be LEED Silver certifiable, Fort Carson was preparing to receive an entire combat brigade from Fort Hood, Texas.

Foreseeing the potential impacts of implementing LEED on several construction projects led Omaha District personnel to get LEED training to understand the philosophy and the processes associated with the requirements.

“The LEED process is something that requires a change of habit,” said Cambrey Torres, Omaha District project engineer. “It is a change in the overall mindset for designers, contractors, the military, and, ultimately, the end-user.”

To achieve LEED certification, contractors have new responsibilities that require focusing attention on recycling and using recycled materials as well as tracking and recording the source of project materials and the quantity of material diverted from landfills.

“We’ve all had a huge opportunity to think and be innovative,” said Matt Ellis, USACE resident engineer for the restationing workload surge. “We were challenged to develop solutions for waste disposal, lighting, building orientation, and how to measure and ensure we were meeting the standards for LEED certification.”

Pursuing LEED certification from a project’s start is less expensive than performing a review after completion, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars to hire a third party to audit records, designs, and perform building commissioning to determine certification.

Identifying a project to pursue certification from the start includes reviews by USGBC throughout design and construction with documentation taking place along the way resulting in a cost of about $6,000.

With construction bidding during the last year beating cost estimates by 10 percent to 30 percent, the Army challenged project teams to reinvest the savings in further efficiencies by emphasizing energy conservation, sustainable design, and low-impact development as well as energy independence.

Director of Public Works for Fort Carson Hal Alguire said, “We need to credit the employees who encouraged focusing on sustainable construction by making sure that [everyone] knew decisions were made with the goals for LEED in mind.”

“When the people who are driving this initiative come to the project meetings, it is clear we are led by a generation that is latching on to these goals for environmental responsibility and running with it,” said Vince Guthrie, Directorate of Public Works Utility program manager. “We are benefiting from the return on investment, marketability, and the positive attention for implementing what is, essentially, the right thing to do.”

This article first appeared in the 2011-2012 edition of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Building Strong®, Serving the Nation and the Armed Forces publication.