By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)July 21, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- In 2008, Fort Carson became the first installation in the Army to build a facility that met U.S. Green Building Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification standards. This year, the Mountain Post is striving for the new brigade and battalion headquarters building for 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to meet Platinum standards for LEED, a feat that only 5 percent of LEED-certified buildings throughout the U.S. have achieved.
“It’s not about getting the points, although that’s how you get LEED silver, gold and platinum,” said Hal Alguire, director of Public Works at Fort Carson. “It drives us toward a number of sustainable design improvements like putting features within a facility that make it more energy efficient, that reduce the water consumption in a building, that improves the air quality … It allows us to provide more day-lighting into a facility to reduce the amount of lighting that’s needed so we reduce our energy bills.”
Alguire said saving money is crucial.
“At the end of the day, it’s about saving resources, saving money on the operations of that building, but also providing an environment that improves quality of life and training,” he said. “So if we can do that through this scoring system, then we’re excited about that.”
In the past 18 months, construction crews on the Wilderness Road Complex completed 14 buildings to better support units of the 4th Inf. Div. New buildings, all of which are eligible for LEED Gold status, feature tight “envelope” construction, solar water heating systems, low-flow water fixtures, heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls as well as lighting controls.
In addition to the gold-certification-level features, the 140,000-square foot brigade and battalion headquarters building has advanced lighting controls, a 480-megawatt photovoltaic array system and light-emitting diode exterior lighting. If it meets requirements, it will become the Army’s first LEED Platinum building.
LEED is a program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and meeting standards is no easy task.
“LEED certification is based on points and levels,” a LEED representative said. “It’s not an easy thing to get.”
Of the more than 9,500 buildings in the U.S. that retain a LEED certificate, only 536 have achieved Platinum certification. Currently, Colorado has 12 LEED Platinum buildings.
As Fort Carson continues construction on Wilderness Road for the 4th Inf. Div. buildings as well as preparations for the new combat aviation brigade, the installation remains dedicated to meeting LEED and Net Zero goals. Fort Carson was recently designated as one of two Army installations to pursue Net Zero in energy, water and waste by 2020.
“The Net Zero designation gives us a great opportunity as we build out the CAB site,” said Alguire, adding that plans for additional buildings include a control tower, aircraft hangar, barracks and operational facilities. “That’s where the major construction dollars will be. We can actually look to getting those facilities closer to Net Zero " energy, water, waste " as we build at the airfield.”
To meet Net Zero goals, Alguire said central energy plants made up of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass technologies would be built around Fort Carson to reduce the amount of energy purchased from outside utility companies.
The challenge for the DPW and the Army Corps of Engineers is funding these energy plants.
“It’s still cheaper to use fossil fuels,” Alguire said.
Until the costs of alternative energies come down or the cost of fossil fuels rise, Fort Carson will continue to reduce its energy consumption through equipment upgrades and a change in culture that encourages people to decrease the energy they use, he said.
Over the past decade, Fort Carson has made tremendous strides in conserving water, according to Alguire.
“We’ve reduced over 45 percent of our water consumption since 2002 … by really focusing on our outside watering,” he said, highlighting changes in landscaping and turf management.
Alguire said the use of low-flow fixtures in new facilities, using treated waste water to irrigate the golf course and requiring military units to use the Central Vehicle Wash Facility has also helped reduce water use.
“We want to expand that (nonpotable) system to Ironhorse Park and the softball fields,” he said.
Fort Carson has also increased recycling levels on post to help decrease the amount of waste heading to landfills.
“We’ve upped the number of recycle containers within all facilities,” Alguire said. “That’s the key, we’ll all recycle if it’s easy.”
But, he said, unless Fort Carson invests in a waste-to-energy operation, meeting Net Zero waste goals may prove elusive.
“In order to get to the goal " nothing to the landfill " we can recycle, we can look at the procurement stream and buy less packaging and stuff that we’re just going to have to throw away,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, we’re still going to be left with something that would have to go to the landfill. So if we had some kind of waste-to-energy operation … then that would get us to 100 percent.”
Although Fort Carson has made great progress toward its sustainability and Net Zero goals, Alguire said the Mountain Post has a long way to go.
“We are not going to get to our goals on Fort Carson without strong support from everyone. And everyone includes (the Defense Commissary Agency, Army and Air Force Exchange Service), Balfour Beatty Communities, military units and everyone who owns or operates facilities on Fort Carson. We cannot get there without support from everyone.”