Along a quiet, sunny street called Shelton Court, a young mother leads her two toddlers down the sidewalk and into a grassy play area. Their giggles fill the air as they skip through the clipped green grass.

This could be a suburban neighborhood in almost any town in the United States, but this particular neighborhood of meandering streets, beautiful homes, and a grassy play area for small children is new military housing at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

During the past five years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has built about 650 new family housing units on Fort Huachuca. Beginning in 2001, Sundt Construction has been awarded contracts totaling $126 million to build single family and duplex residences in suburban-style neighborhoods in the central section of the post.

By building these homes to the Gold Star Energy standard, the Corps provided military families with comfortable quality housing and insured the preservation of natural resources through energy and water conservation measures.

One area where water conservation has been stressed is landscaping.

"Starting with the FY02 housing project we have moved toward water-conscious landscaping," said Michael Brown, project engineer at the Fort Huachuca Project Office. "FY02 still had a large common area of irrigated turf. The FY04 project called for a 50/50 turf/gravel landscape with the common area irrigated turf. The FY05 and FY06 projects called for a 40/60 turf/gravel landscaping. We did modifications on the '02, '04, and '05 to reduce the amount of turf while adding gravel and drought resistant plants. Grass remained only in the back yards and around the Tot Lots."

The elastomeric-coated stucco-over-frame construction implemented throughout makes the exterior durable and aesthetically pleasing, while allowing ample insulation areas. These homes have an insulation factor of R-19 in the walls and blown insulation in the attics for an abundant R-30 in the ceilings.

With these high insulation factors, combined with the Seer 13 high-efficiency air-conditioning unit and programmable thermostats, the interior comfort of the military families living in these homes is ensured.

In Arizona, the brilliant sunshine is an ever-present light source. But with that energy-saving light comes penetrating heat. To overcome the heat, energy-efficient windows were installed in every unit.

The windows are General Aluminum out of Dallas, Texas," said Michael Gosman, project manager for Sundt Construction. "They're Low E (tinted) dual-glazed, insulated windows. They have a one-inch sealed air gap between the glazing to better hold in the thermal qualities of the interior temperatures."

Designers made use of the abundant Arizona sunshine by installing Solartube skylights in bathrooms, kitchens, interior bulk storage rooms, and utility rooms where no window is provided. Designed to refract and redirect sunlight from every direction, Brown explained that the 14-inch round Solartube was chosen because "it provides more light with less heat gain."

Through attention to water and energy-saving designs in lighting, appliances, and plumbing fixtures, as well as basic construction, the Corps added to the water and energy efficiency of these homes. By building in all these measures, the Corps balances the need for saving water and energy while creating a pleasant environment for military families at Fort Huachuca.

(Sherrie Stewart serves with the USACE Los Angeles District.)