SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - When the dust has settled at Island Palm Communities, following construction of more than 5,200 homes and renovation of more than 2,500 existing homes, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii will be among the largest solar-powered communities in the world. Complementing a six-megawatt photovoltaic system that will provide up to a third of families' energy needs, are some of the most energy-efficient homes built on a military installation.

New homes feature radiant-barriers on roofs, which repel heat from the sun's rays to dramatically reduce temperatures in the home; deep overhangs (eaves) that provide window shading that reduces a home's heat-gain load; and low-emittance glazed windows, which help reduce heat in a home.

Also, Energy Star-rated appliances, low-flow water fixtures, and energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning contribute to a home's efficiency. However, sustainable design and construction are only part of the picture.

Equally as important is ensuring that Island Palm Communities' residents know what their homes are intended to do, why they are unique and how to use them efficiently and effectively. This information includes providing instruction on the use of low-flow showerheads, controlling house temperatures to maximize air conditioning efficiency and teaching kids what roles they can have in their family's conservation efforts.

Even the best energy-reduction efforts throughout the development and design phases of a project can be expunged by residents who do not know how, or do not have the right tools, to make the small changes that lead to more sustainable living.

To help effect change among residents, Island Palm Communities is working to enhance its Saving Your Nation's Energy, or SYNERGY, program, a strategic approach to resident education that concentrates on energy conservation by increasing awareness of how to create tangible outcome.

The SYNERGY program has been successful in creating awareness among hundreds of families at Island Palm Communities' annual Earth Day festivals and Arbor Day celebrations, through new home orientations that introduce families to the energy-efficient features of their homes, as well as through newsworthy articles and helpful tips in resident newsletters and on its website.

In July, USAG-HI launched the Department of Defense's mock utility billing program, which will make the SYNERGY program and similar programs more valuable to families. As the manager of USAG-HI's utilities program and a partner in the Army's effort to reduce energy, Island Palm Communities is working closely with its utility provider and staff to ensure families are provided with information that will help reduce their energy consumption.

This information can range from informative articles and tips, to online access to families' daily energy use for monitoring and home energy audits. As the mock utility billing program continues to be developed, more programs and information will become available.

Through regular, interactive educational programs for adults and children alike, Island Palm Communities looks to change its residents' outlook on living sustainably, ultimately having them adopt sustainable habits.

(Editor's Note: This article appeared in the Hawaii Army Weekly's Oct. 22 special insert on sustainability. Click here to view the entire 8-page feature.)