Arsenal Builds Up To Energy Savings
October 26, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Redstone Arsenal is showing its "green."
New buildings built along Patton Road and Martin Road and out toward the Redstone Airfield are impressive showcases of what results when the Arsenal follows the aggressive standards for energy conservation set by the Department of the Army.
Many of those standards -- such as bike racks for employees who opt for bicycle transportation, solar-powered parking lot lights, and parking lots that are divided up with grassy islands that include shade trees to reduce asphalt heat emissions -- are evident to Arsenal employees. Even site locations -- such as the choice to build new facilities on underutilized land located in developed areas -- are visible signs of the Arsenal's commitment to lessen the impact new construction has on the environment.
But construction standards for energy conservation go much deeper to include building systems, construction materials, equipment usage and other architectural engineering elements that affect energy efficiency as the Army mandates that new buildings meet the requirements to become certified as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design facilities. LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system adopted by the Army to use resources more efficiently and provide healthier work environments.
The effect LEED has on Army facilities is most evident at installations such as Redstone Arsenal, where new buildings and major renovations create opportunities to go green.
"Generally, a building that makes less of an environmental impact and is more energy efficient and water efficient, and is efficient in terms of a nice place to work and a place that is easy to get to will eventually lower costs," said Bryan Merry, a mechanical engineer for the North Regional Area Office for the Mobile District of the Corps of Engineers.
"And, as an added plus, when you create an environment where people are more comfortable, you get higher productivity."
Merry works with Arsenal contractors to ensure that all new buildings and major renovation projects meet the LEED standards as required by the Army.
"The requirements to go green came from a number of Army documents starting all the way from Army headquarters," he said.
"Going green" is not a new initiative within the Army. In 2001, the Army began requiring that new buildings achieve its Spirit conservation rating. But that was an internal program and the Army moved toward using the industry-wide, third-party LEED conservation standards in 2008.
"Spirit was Army driven with the Army deciding all the requirements," Merry said. "But LEED is an industry standard. We want to be more like general industry in our processes. LEED is a national standard for both commercial and government buildings."
The Environmental Policy Act of 2005 required that all new federal buildings would be 30 percent more efficient than the energy standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers 90.1.
"Each agency is saying 'OK, what do we have to do to beat the requirements?' Since 2005, contractors have had to meet the 30 percent efficiency standard," Merry said. "LEED is a follow on to that. Now, we are striving to use 40 percent less energy. That is a definable cost savings that we should be doing anyway with or without LEED."
In October 2010, the Army provided a Sustainable Design and Development Policy Update that required all new buildings to be LEED certifiable. Certification requires following conservation requirements set by the U.S. Green Building Council and outlined in the Green Building Design and Construction Reference Manual. New buildings must earn 40 to 49 points to be LEED certified. Beyond that basis, they can become LEED certified at the silver level with 50 to 59 points, at the gold level with 60 to 79 points, and at the platinum level with 80 or more points based on the types of conservation that is implemented on a construction project.
"The Army said we were going to follow the requirements of LEED but we weren't going to get buildings certified," Merry said of that 2010 update. "But we decided here that we are going to go ahead and get the buildings certified. We not only want to build in accordance with LEED but we also want to be able to achieve the level of silver certification."
To date, six new Army facilities at Redstone are LEED certifiable -- the Army Materiel Command Band facility, Army Materiel Command/Security Assistance Command headquarters, System Software Engineering Annex at the Software Engineering Directorate/Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, Von Braun III (Missile Defense Agency), and Redstone Test Center's headquarters and rotary wing hangar.
Of those, the AMC/USASAC headquarters achieved LEED certification at the silver level in August. All other facilities are in the process of being LEED certified. In addition, the contractor of the AMC Band facility is working toward a gold LEED certification.
Working to actually achieve LEED certification put Redstone a step ahead of the Army, which, in January 2011, mandated through an Engineering and Construction Bulletin that all new buildings beginning in fiscal 2013 must be LEED certified at the silver level and all major renovations will require LEED certification.
"Every building the Corps builds from now on that is on Army property will be silver certified," Merry said. "The Army is the first agency to require LEED certification and it comes from several laws that generally require the federal government to reduce energy consumption to be more green."
To achieve LEED certification, contractors can choose from hundreds of standards detailed in the Green Building Design and Construction Reference Manual from which they gain points that, when totaled, confirm if a building can be LEED certified and at which level. For Army facilities, the Corps of Engineers has said that LEED silver certified buildings will gain at least 40 percent of those points from areas that contribute to energy and water conservation and that include points pertaining to sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.
"The categories that are important to the Corps involve energy efficiency, water efficiency and general environmental stewardship. Within each category, there are prerequisites that the building has to meet to get certified. Then, after that, points are earned and how many points that accumulate over the requirement determine what level of certification," Merry said.
"For example, a water efficiency credit of one point can be given if the contractor limits or eliminates the use of potable (drinking) water for landscaping. To do this, they would choose plants and grass that don't need to be irrigated. This lessens the amount of electricity that would be used to water those plants and also meets the federal goal of water usage efficiency."
Another example, in the area of construction materials, states that a contractor can achieve one point for recycling or reusing 50 percent of construction waste and two points for recycling or reusing 75 percent of the waste. And if a contractor chooses a regional materials credit, they can get a point for buying 10 percent of building materials from a source within 500 miles of the construction site and two points if that amount of materials reached 20 percent.
In yet another example, in the area of energy performance, the Army requires 40 percent reduction, which will gain 15 points toward LEED certification. But if the contractor achieves a 48 percent reduction then 19 points are awarded toward LEED certification.
Before new construction on Redstone begins, the Corps of Engineers reviews the contractor's plans of what LEED points they will try to achieve in the construction of a building.
"One choice might be to build a building with a green roof (covered with plants and trees). But base management probably doesn't want to maintain a green roof. So, I am the go-between between the maintenance needs of the base, what the contractor wants to do to earn points and what the Corps of Engineers wants to see in the buildings based on Army requirements," Merry said.
The Corps also monitors the requirements and keeps records of LEED efforts at the construction site.
"For the materials recycling credit, we have to keep records of how much is recycled and how much is taken to the landfill. For an energy reduction credit, there has to be an analysis of the system and what it's saving," Merry said. "We have to be able to verify everything."
Initiatives to reach LEED certification for Redstone's recent construction projects included some innovative ideas.
"It's almost like a game because you have these points and you have to choose how you will earn those points. Sometimes contractors get pretty creative in how they earn points. It's interesting to see their different approaches," Merry said.
For instance, at the System Software Engineering Annex Phase 3, an energy recovery ventilation system was installed to recover energy from the restroom and general building exhausts and to transfer it to the fresh outside air being used for ventilation. The NASA 4602 laboratory facility also utilizes this type of system on a much larger scale with three energy recovery wheels that are more than 10 feet in diameter.
In another example, the AMC Band facility was built with a building envelope air barrier that greatly reduces outside air infiltration, lowering the energy use that is attributed to conditioning unwanted outside air. This barrier was tested with a blower door fan pressurization system and was shown to leak less than 0.10 cubic feet per minute of air per square foot of building envelope at a certain level of pressurization. The Army goal at the time of the test was to leak less than 0.25 cubic feet per minute.
In yet another example, all new Arsenal facilities are equipped with energy efficient light fixtures that distribute light more effectively to reduce the amount of energy used for lighting, and to, subsequently, reduce the load on the heating and air conditioning system. In the LEED certification process, the AMC/USASAC headquarters building received its highest points in the areas of indoor environmental air quality, and energy and atmosphere related to the lighting that is being used in the buildings.
Merry said LEED certification is the standard for all future new buildings and new construction on Redstone.
"Von Braun IV will be a LEED silver certified building. So, too, will be Department of Justice buildings that will be built on Redstone," Merry said. "The Corps of Engineers is even recommending that bases extend LEED requirements to enhanced use lease areas.
"Energy efficiencies keep going up. First we had to beat the standard by 30 percent. Now it is 40 percent. Next, requirements will call for fossil fuel usage and onsite energy products like solar panels and geo-thermal heath pump systems. In the next 10 years we will see buildings partially fueled by onsite power sources and rain water collection systems used for waste disposal. This is a movement in the Army that will continue as we work toward more energy and water efficiencies, and lessening our environmental impact."