FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Building sustainable facilities is a thriving business at Fort Carson. Several new construction projects here have achieved the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold rating certification since late 2008.
Pursuing LEED certification through the USGBC, a nonprofit organization founded in 1993, means a number of energy efficiency and environmental criteria have been met, and occupants will live or work in a building constructed with significantly less raw natural resources.
To date, the facilities that have achieved a LEED gold certification include the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, consolidated brigade and battalion headquarters, four new 1st BCT Soldier barracks and, most recently, the 4th Infantry Division Band training facility. The highest certification level is platinum.
To gain the LEED certification, facilities have to achieve a certain number of points or credits. While the cost of constructing sustainable, LEED certified buildings is approximately 2-3 percent higher than standard construction, some of the credits available, such as energy-efficient features, can reap rapid payback to offset the higher cost to construct.
Money isn't the primary driver or deterrent in pursuing these "greener" buildings for Joe Wyka, DPW Engineering Division chief. He believes one of the most important things about these buildings is that they increase the productivity of the workforce due to more pleasant and healthy working environments.
"What converted me to a believer have been the tangible benefits to the occupants of the building," he said.
"A person in a LEED gold building will typically experience fresher, cleaner air; more natural lighting; a temperature more comfortable to work in; fewer chemical contaminants; and improved walkability to and from the building," Wyka said.
Attaining LEED gold certification for new buildings is becoming the rule rather than the exception. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which provides contractual oversight of these projects, has a mandate to construct LEED silver certifiable buildings, which began in fiscal 2008. They have set the bar higher at Fort Carson by not only pursuing the actual certification, but elevating the standard for facilities to a gold rating. Construction companies have also gotten on board by pushing for LEED gold standards in the buildings they construct for Fort Carson while there is no additional monetary incentive.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Omaha District are committed to providing the best possible facilities for the Soldiers, civilians and families of Fort Carson," said Maj. Mark Himes, Fort Carson Corps of Engineers liaison. "LEED certification is a quantifiable way to measure the high-performance design, sustainable features and energy efficiencies that are a critical aspect of the first-class facilities which are being delivered."
Not to be discounted in the sustainable buildings movement are older facilities on Fort Carson in need of a makeover. Renovation of many of Fort Carson's 1960s and 1970s-era facilities is proceeding with sustainable standards in mind, said Wyka, including:
Aca,!Ac Building shower facilities to reduce vehicle traffic after physical training
Aca,!Ac Increasing natural lighting
Aca,!Ac Using "green" spray on roofing materials with heat and light reflecting properties
Aca,!Ac Using less toxic carpeting and paints to ensure healthier indoor air quality
Aca,!Ac Installing bike racks and focusing on pedestrian walkability between facilities to reduce vehicle traffic
Ultimately, the sustainability success or failure of any building, new or renovated, relies heavily on the occupants' behaviors. An older, less sustainably designed building with the occupants on board with energy conserving behaviors, recycling, etc., can create more efficiencies in a building than a new, sustainable building where occupants do not do so. Every individual counts toward the buildings energy use, recycling behaviors and comfort level.
Sustainable buildings are here to stay at Fort Carson and bring the installation tangible, cost-saving rewards, as well as more intangible, creature comfort pluses.
"Fort Carson has become a well-recognized in the local community for being a leader in sustainability," said Wyka. "Ten to 15 years ago, Fort Carson would likely have been seen as part of the problem, not the solution. Sustainability for the Army pays large dividends."
To learn more about USGBC and LEED certification of buildings, visit http://www.usgbc.org.