ANSBACH, Germany (Sept. 13, 2012) -- Passive energy homes and greener facilities are just some of the ways U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach is addressing energy conservation.

Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, visited Ansbach Sept. 12-13, to see some of these energy-saving measures at work.

Ansbach is the command headquarters for the Army garrisons Ansbach, Bamberg and Schweinfurt, informally known as the Franconian Military Community, or FMC.

"What are garrisons doing to achieve better energy conservation goals?" asked Hammack.

Col. Kelly J. Lawler, USAG Ansbach garrison commander, and his staff met with Hammack and provided her with examples of how the FMC is tackling energy conservation.

"We are proud of what we have accomplished here," Lawler said. "In our Urlas housing area we have some of the Army's first passive energy homes."

Passive energy homes maintain good air circulation and low-level energy usage. The houses are built using energy efficient materials designed to make use of all forms of energy to both heat and cool the home. Whether it's a person's body heat or heat generated from energy efficient light bulbs in the house, all the energy is put to good use.

The houses are designed to maintain cool temperatures on the warmest of summer days, and warm temperatures on the coolest of winter nights, with little to no energy consumption rates during both times of the year. All energy generated in and around the houses help to maintain this reality.

"Persons living in the houses thus far seem to love and appreciate what passive energy homes brings to the table, but best of all, there is no loss in quality of life standards in order to bring these conservation efforts to fruition," said Lt. Col. Adam Gamez, Ansbach director of public works.

Lawler said the new Post Exchange, which opened Aug. 30, also uses greener technology.

Bradley Nisbett, an Exchange Europe marketing officer, said some of the more energy-efficient systems put in place include "solar panels on the roof which will be used in part to provide pre-heated water, which will in turn reduce power consumption," and "variable illumination lighting for the main store which will reduce the electrical load within the store."

"We have also installed high efficiency storefront glass which reduces heating, ventilation and air conditioning requirements within the store," Nisbett said.

"The bottom line is these efforts not only reduce power consumption but also lowers our costs," Lawler said. "This is a win-win for the Army and Ansbach."

Lawler said additional conservation efforts will be included in the new commissary, which is being built near the new PX and slated to open in early 2013.

The construction cost for this building is a little more than $15 million. But the money is well spent, as this facility will be, "the greenest commissary to date," according to Roseanna Alcantara, who works for the Army Corp of Engineers European District.

"Energy saving, green features incorporate extensive sustainable and energy-saving design features," Alcantara said. "Some of the features to be seen in the commissary will include high-efficiency HVAC systems, enhanced freezer and cooler insulation, non-ozone depleting refrigerants and photovoltaic (solar) power generation."

While in Ansbach, Hammack was able to see these new facilities and homes firsthand as well as visit the Directorate of Public Works to gain more information about the solar energy projects used in the garrison.

She said that the garrison efforts are "very good" and "well done" as they relate to USAG Ansbach's solar energy implementation.

"The solar energy program is an example of how we are trying to be good stewards in our conservation efforts," said Gamez.

Hammack has spearheaded the Army's energy and environment initiatives since taking office, including the Net Zero program she has put in place.

The intent of the Net Zero program is to move installations toward a more balanced approach of attacking conservation coupled with waste management, efficiency and technology in order to bring the consumption of these resources to zero.

"Though we have made major headway in these areas, while striving towards the Net Zero concept, we also recognize there is still much we can do, but we will achieve the goal even within today's fiscal realities," Lawler said. "It just takes creative, out-of-the-box thinking."

Additionally, another area of importance to Hammack while visiting USAG Ansbach was single parents and women who work within the military. During her visit, she took time to meet and have lunch with several Soldiers at the Storck Barracks Dining Facility. Hammack used the time to encourage the Soldiers to open, frank and direct dialogue about energy issues.