ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 8, 2011 -- Emma Smith, a fifth grader living in Alexandria, Va., asked her mom if they could buy a recycling bin for their apartment. Her mother didn't want to because the bin was large and their home is small.

Smith didn't stop there.

"I went down to the front desk of our apartment building and asked them, and now we have a recycling bin in our building's mailroom for the entire building to use," she explained.

What inspired such a young girl to recycle? It was an educational tour she took of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project - the new Department of Defense administrative office complex - that's being constructed on Fort Belvoir, Va., at the Mark Center.

The project's many energy savings features are expected to save 30 percent of the energy of a traditional office building and save taxpayers millions.

The project team invited one hundred 4th and 5th graders from John Adams Elementary School to take part in their Go Green Education Program. The project's team includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, Duke Realty Corporation and Clark Construction.

"The goal of this program is to extend our sustainable impact into the community in which we live and work," explained Joe Gabel, who works for Clark Construction, developers of the Go Green Education Program. "This complex is an excellent example of a green building and we wanted to show it to these children."

"This project is a success story," said Sean Wachutka, program manager, Base Realignment Commission, or BRAC, 133 Project, New York District. "This is going to be the first project of this size the Corps of Engineers has done that has stayed on schedule to becoming Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Gold certified."

The project implements Recommendation #133, one of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission Recommendations, and when completed will become part of Fort Belvoir. This design-build complex is a 1.7 million square foot facility that sits on a 16-acre campus.

When completed, it will include two multi-story towers -- 15 stories and 17 stories respectively, two parking garages, a visitor center, remote inspection facility and a public transportation center. This fall, 6,400 personnel from multiple DoD agencies will start moving into the new complex. Currently, they occupy leased space throughout the National Capital Region.


Wearing hard hats and other safety gear, the students were taken to four hands-on educational demonstrations named Team Energy Efficiency, Team Water Use Reduction, Team Recycling and Team Erosion Control.


The goal of this station was to show the students simple concepts of energy efficiency used on this construction site. The station was divided into three sections, each presenting a different energy efficient concept- Controllability, Light-emitting diode (LED) Lighting and Energy Recovery. The students were escorted into a room where their movement triggered a motion sensor which turned on lights and a utility fan. After showing the students the motion sensor and wiring, they were escorted out and encouraged to count down aloud from 30 seconds until the motion sensor automatically turned off the lights and fan.

Next, the students were escorted into a room where incandescent lighting and LED lighting were displayed and they were shown the advantages and disadvantages of using both lighting sources. The new complex will have LED and fluorescent lighting which costs a bit more to purchase upfront, but will reap tremendous savings down the road because this lighting requires less electricity to run and LED and fluorescent light bulbs last more years then typical bulbs - up to eight years! Natural lighting is also going to be used to the fullest. The complex is being constructed with large windows that will allow a lot of outside light into the buildings.


The goal of this station was to show the students some of the steps the project team took to reduce water on the project. They were taken through the following two activities.

The students took part in an activity called - "Go with the Flow," which consisted of a station that had a faucet mock-up with a bathtub head, shower head, and energy efficient shower head.

The students were asked if they thought it was more energy efficient to take a shower or a bath. The students took turns running each faucet for 10 seconds and compared the amount of water used by each.

It was concluded that two factors influence whether to shower or bathe: flow rate and duration. If you typically shower for over eight minutes, you would save water if you switched to a low-flow shower head or opt for a bath instead.

The students also took part in an activity called - "The Running Toilet," which showed them how they can save water by using a low flush toilet versus a standard one. The students did a foot race where they carried a full jug of water, representing a standard toilet, to a half-way point and swapped it for a half full jug, representing a low flush toilet, to the finish line.

The idea was to have them feel the significant weight difference and how this relates to reduction in water use.

"The new complex will be using low flush toilets in all restrooms and faucets which will yield enough water savings in one day to fill a standard swimming pool," said Gabel.

Water will also be saved outside of the complex. The landscaping will consist of drought tolerant native plants that will not need any supplemental irrigation other than natural rain water. In total, the entire complex will use almost 50 percent less water than a traditional building of the same size - a savings of 4.5 million gallons of drinking water annually.


The goal of this station was to show the students how recycling at home compares to recycling on a construction project. The team explained to the students that on the construction site recycled materials are being used to construct the project and they are also recycling materials discarded from the project.

"Approximately, 50 percent of the precast concrete, 20 percent of the windows and 80 percent of the structural steel are from recycled materials," said Gabel. Enough structural steel is being used in this project to build the equivalent of two and a half Eiffel Towers.

Gabel said, "We're also recycling discarded waste from the project. About 2 million pounds of wood have been recycled, which is equal in weight to 72 school buses and about 2.3 million pounds of concrete have been recycled, which is another 83 school buses."

Some of this recycled wood came from area trees that had to be removed to perform the construction and was used to create wall paneling for portions of the complex's interiors.

"When the complex is completed it is estimated that 90 percent of construction waste will be recycled and not placed in disposal sites," said Joanne Hensley, chief, project development, BRAC 133 Project.

To help teach the students about recycling, they were divided into teams and did a scavenger hunt in which they had to collect and sort four types of recyclable material - wood, metal, plastic and cardboard. The team that did this the quickest won a sticker for their hard hats. Stacy Isaac, one of the students said, "Before, I thought that recycling wasn't a big deal, but when I went to the construction site, I learned that recycling can have a huge impact on life."


The goal of this station was to show the damage that erosion and sediment deposition can have on our waterways. To illustrate this, the project team constructed a demonstration called "Happy Fish," which consisted of two mud slopes side by side - one with erosion control, "Mount Control," and one without, "Mount Erosion," with a small plastic pool at the base of each slope.

The students watched as a hose was turned on at the top of both mountains and they saw that the water from Mount Control was much clearer than the water from Mount Erosion.

Next, the students were told to fill a paper cup with water from both mountains and pour the water into a fish tank filled with colorful fake fish. When the student's saw how Mount Erosion's water clouded up the fish tank they realized how important erosion control was in order to keep our fish happy.

The new complex will be controlling erosion by having bioswales outside most of the main structures. Bioswales are ditches that catch rain water and slow the water runoff from the site to capture sediment and contaminates before they go into the storm drains.

In addition, no fertilizers or sprinklers will be used on the complex's landscape, which will eliminate runoff to the Chesapeake Bay, which already experiences runoff-related environmental problems.

Besides what's being shown to the students in the Go Green Education Program, the project team is taking additional steps with air quality and transportation to reach LEED Gold certification.


The complex will have an energy efficient central air system that will keep the indoor air comfortable year-round. To keep the indoor air clean and healthy, highly insulated windows were installed and a system was developed to allow fresh outside air into the building. The team also used paints, carpets and wooden furniture that emit lower levels of toxic fumes. Before the complex is opened to DoD personnel it's going to be aired out.

In addition, pedestrian bridges and other structures will be covered with green roofs, which are roof tops with vegetation. These tops hold warm indoor air during the wintertime and keep interiors cool during the warmer months.
Other structures will feature special roofs that reflect sunlight away and keep indoor air cool during the warmer months.


DoD personnel working in the complex will be encouraged to take alternate ways to commute to work; this will save energy and reduce pollution. The complex's two parking garages will provide special parking for van pools, carpools and fuel efficient hybrid vehicles.

These special parking allocations will help the facility reach its goal of having only 60 percent of its employees travel to work in single occupancy vehicles. The facility will have outdoor bicycle racks to accommodate up to 300 bicycles and indoor commuter showers for those who bike to work.

The complex will also have its own mass transit center with access to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Bus, the City of Alexandria DASH Bus and DoD Shuttle services.

As a key element in decreasing the level of energy used by employees at the Mark Center, DoD has developed a shuttle service that will link with four Metro rail stations within a few miles of the building.

The shuttle service will reduce the number of cars driving to and from the Mark Center. The shuttle service can carry 2,895 passengers in the morning and another 2,895 passengers in the afternoon, for a total of 5,790 daily commuter trips.

This means the shuttle service will be able to carry 45 percent of the total daily commuter trips to and from the building. This reduces the amount of fuel used by employees to drive to and from work decreasing green house gases, thereby reducing not only the congestion, but also the level of energy used by the employees of the DoD.

The project team is proud to be creating a LEED designated "green" building and this came across to the students.

"The team was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about creating a green building," said Emily Stefanski, Fourth Grade General Education Teacher, John Adams Elementary School. "They showed the students all of the thought and effort that goes into building a structure of this magnitude and all of the small details that need to be taken to make it energy efficient and as green as possible,"

"What I really liked most about this visit was that the kids were engaged the entire time," Stefanski said. "The project team served as positive role models for them and opened their eyes to recycling and water conservation. Many of the students have taken what they've learned and applied it to their own lives."