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Corps of Engineers ‘Builds Green’

USACE uses LEED standards to build sustainable facilities

Sustainable design has long been a part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) military construction program, but in recent years, USACE’s efforts to “build green” have made significant advances across the nation.

With the Army’s switch to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) rating system in 2006, construction in today’s military uses the same environmental design tool as the private sector. And in today’s age of environmentalism – where the drive to “go green” is sweeping the country – USACE strives to implement better ways to provide sustainable facilities.

“We’ve come a long way as far as conforming to LEED standards by the U.S. Green Building Council [USGBC],” said Judy Milton, architect and LEED expert with USACE’s Savannah District. “And we’re bringing all of our construction contractors and designers along with us. It’s part of how we do business now.”

The LEED rating system is a point-based rating tool that uses objective, measurable criteria to promote and recognize achievement in the design, construction, and operation of environmentally sustainable buildings.

A project using the LEED rating tool must meet all prerequisites and earn a specified number of credits. Credits are awarded in five areas of human and environmental health: sustainable sites, water, energy, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. A project can satisfy one of four levels of LEED achievement – Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum – based on the number of points earned.

The LEED rating system also offers independent, third-party certification of LEED achievement by the Green Building Certification Institute, a sister organization to USGBC. Currently, approximately 5 percent of USACE buildings go through the formal certification process, and this number will increase in coming years.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has entered into an Urban Waters Federal Partnership with the EPA. Seen here is the interior of the Army Test and Evaluation Command Headquarters building at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo

In 2006, the Army mandated that all new construction and major renovation projects satisfy LEED Silver criteria. The majority of those projects do not seek third-party certification from USGBC. Instead, USACE internally validates the buildings for achieving LEED Silver requirements.

“We have a significant volume of construction coming out of the Army, and the vast majority of it carries LEED Silver requirements,” Milton said. “The Army’s commitment is important to our nation, because we’re helping to transform the industry just by virtue of our demand for sustainable design and construction.”

One of Savannah District’s most prized sustainable projects is a Community Emergency Service Station at Fort Bragg, N.C., designed to achieve the highest LEED rating – Platinum. Once certified, the fire station will become one of the elite few LEED Platinum-certified facilities in the federal government.

The $2.6 million, 8,300-square-foot fire station was completed in March 2011. The design incorporates mechanisms that save 35 percent more energy than a similar fire station built to code. The station will receive operational monitoring during occupancy to ensure that it performs as designed.

“One of the credits for LEED Platinum certification for this facility requires follow-on testing/monitoring during the first year of occupation to ensure that the facility is operating effectively as it was designed,” said Greg Beers, resident engineer, Pope Field, located at Fort Bragg. “The conditions of the facility have to be measured under use to see if it’s going to actually produce better conditions and meet energy savings and other requirements for LEED credits points.”

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