Building an energy sustainable Corps
By LaDonna Davis
DALLAS -- In the 80s "Reuse, Renew, Recycle" was the way ahead for conquering the earth's energy and pollution problems. Today, energy and environmental sustainability has become so much more vast and complicated, that those three verbs don't cut it anymore.
The Department of Defense is looking at new ways to tackle our nation's ever growing energy crisis and ways to become a more sustainable, efficient and environmentally responsible agency. Today, DOD is looking towards its own organizations to take on the challenge within its own installations.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, strives to protect, sustain and improve our natural and man-made environment. A series of public laws and Executive Orders since 2005 have reinforced the Corps commitment to energy conservation and environmental sustainability.
In October 2009, the Corps' efforts were focused by Executive Order 13514, titled "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance." It stated sustainability means "to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations."
The Executive Order emphasizes that sustainability should not only be a natural part of all USACE decision processes, but should also be part of our organizational culture.
"Buildings as well as recreation parks are our major sources of energy, water and waste usage within the SWD Civil Works program," said John Morris, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Southwestern Division, or SWD, energy sustainability manager. "Recycling waste, conservation, and improving energy, water efficiency with added renewable energy sources will help SWD meet federal sustainability energy, potable water and waste reduction goals.
The Southwestern Division U.S. Army Corps of Engineers compliance with the sustainability executive environmental order is three-fold.
1. The military projects that SWD designs and constructs must meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design criteria.
2. SWD will work toward energy independence and environmental sustainability and
3. The buildings and infrastructure that SWD owns and operates need to become more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SWD has established a Regional Energy Center of Expertise to lead the energy, water and waste, sustainability engagements and solutions within the SWD region.
To achieve building certification, the projects that SWD design and constructs must meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, criteria. The LEED certification program provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
There are four LEED certification levels: certification, silver, gold and platinum.
SWD's Fort Worth District manages the military construction projects at Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas, and Fort Polk in Louisiana. As part of USACE's commitment to energy sustainability, each military construction, or MILCON, project must meet a minimum of LEED silver.
"To achieve LEED Silver ratings for our military facilities, we need to work closely with the installation to assure that we can receive these points on a project," said Morris. "It is necessary to have the contractor maintain LEED documentation throughout the life of the project to assure that the proper validation or certification can be processed at the completion of the work."
Earning LEED silver or higher certification doesn't just apply to SWD MILCON projects, the goals also apply to SWDs civil works projects. In April 2012, Little Rock District completed construction and opened the LEED Gold certified Dewey Short Visitor Center at Table Rock. The building includes thermal glass, geothermal heating and air conditioning, and outlets for electric vehicles.
Additionally, landscaping for the center also meets all LEED criteria for low-maintenance sustainable xeriscapes, which are landscapes and gardens that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation.
By the end of fiscal year 2012 SWD will have awarded 22 sustainability contracts totaling more than $2.3 million and by FY 2013 the number of awarded sustainability contracts is projected to also total $2.3 million.
The Army has also initiated a "net zero" pilot study to reduce the amount of energy, water and waste consumed at our Nation's military installations. Net zero installations will consume only as much energy or water as they produce and eliminate solid waste to landfills.
Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations Energy and Environment announced the net zero pilot study as a first step to attain energy independence and environmental sustainability at our Nation's military installations. Net zero installations will consume only as much energy or water as they produce and eliminate solid waste to landfills.
Six net zero pilot installations were identified to achieve success in one of the energy, water, and waste categories and two integrated installations are striving to achieve all three net zero categories by 2020.
"This is a significant step in addressing the Army's sustainability and energy security challenges," said Hammack. "Striving for net zero is operationally necessary, financially prudent and critical to our mission."
A net zero energy installation produces as much energy on site as it uses, over the course of a year. A net zero water installation limits the consumption of freshwater resources and returns water back to the same watershed so as not to deplete the groundwater and surface water resources of that region in quantity and quality over the course of a year; and a net zero waste installation reduces, reuses, and recovers waste streams, converting them to resource values with zero landfill over the course of a year.
Three military installations within SWD have been identified as part of the pilot study. Fort Bliss has been designated a net zero base for energy, waste and water while Fort Hood and Fort Polk have been designated a net zero base for waste.
All new civil works construction and major renovations must meet net-zero energy usage by 2020 as well.
The reduction of greenhouse gases is the third major way SWD is involved in environmental sustainability. SWD is reducing its carbon footprint is by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the buildings and infrastructures that SWD owns and operates. This includes SWDs locks and dams, project buildings and park and recreation areas.
SWDs civil works energy goals mirror those of the Army and are as follows:
1. Reduce Energy Consumption
2. Increase Energy Efficiency Across Facilities
3. Increase Use of Renewable / Alternative Energy
4. Assure Access to Sufficient Energy Supplies
5. Reduce Adverse Impacts on the Environment
Over the next three years, $7.5 million has been appropriated to SWD to reduce green house gas emissions in all of their civil works projects. As part of that mission, by 2012 SWD will reduce their electricity bills by 12.8 percent by converting old HVAC systems with more energy efficient, geothermal systems, replacing all incandescent light bulbs with LED lights and replacing inefficient windows and roofs with more energy efficient products.
"Districts have accomplished many energy savings building related projects and are continuing to upgrade insulation, air-conditioning, heating, ventilation systems and more efficient lighting systems," said Morris. "However, with each upgraded system additional energy savings will become more and more expensive. At some point additional energy savings will require renewable onsite energy production in the form of solar PV panels or wind energy production in order to meet existing Federal energy reduction goals. SWD is installing a small wind generating pole mounted turbine (220 watt capacity) at their Council Grove Lake, Kan., project office in order to supplement commercial power usage."
While accomplishing all of these energy sustainability goals will take a lot of time and effort, The SWD Regional Energy Center of Expertise, located in Fort Worth District provides the tools, research and support to ensure that SWD meets and exceeds all federal energy mandates.
"The SWD Center of Expertise provides the focus for energy sustainability and renewable energy technologies assisting customers to maximize limited resources, said Robert Vineski, Fort Worth District Regional Energy manager. "Based on military construction funding going down, we need to focus more on what federal agencies can do to maximize sustainability, restoration and modernization money."
The Center of Expertise goals are to provide energy sustainability and conservation measures, program management actions, technical support, and finance and contract vehicles for the SWD area of responsibility.
The Center of Expertise program provides services to customers in the following areas:
• planning, environmental and regulatory energy services and programming support for master planning in civil works and military projects throughout SWD districts and USACE wide
• design support for engineering and construction services for all energy related programs and activities
• energy audits permitting installations to perform detailed in house programming actions or request SWD to provide complete project programming documentation
• Comprehensive Army master Planning System to meet federal energy policies through the metering of building energy consumption data to establish baseline use and reduction goals
• energy master planning to include life cycle cost analysis, economic cost-benefit studies and the monitoring of energy activities at installations.
In the future, SWD hopes to be able to grow the sustainability program through projects like the Tulsa District Red River Basin Chloride Control project; which seeks to transition the Truscott Brine Lake, located about 50 miles northwest of Wichita Falls, Texas, into solar ponds to generate renewable energy and execute electric vehicle charging stations on some of their military installations.
Complying with the new sustainability requirements isn't an easy task, especially in these constrained fiscal times. But, it is an important goal that the DOD is determined to make work. The end result will be a more efficient, less wasteful and more environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible organization.