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Posted 6/8/2012

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By Susan C. Galentine, Fort Carson
Fort Carson

FORT CARSON, Colo. — A milestone in building construction was reached at Fort Carson in April when a brigade and battalion headquarters building on Wilderness Road received the first U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification for the installation.

Since 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has built and certified 31 facilities at the LEED gold level and achieved 22 silver certifications.

The LEED facilities must meet rigorous criteria and are a fiscally-sound return on investment from utility savings achieved through their design. The buildings are certified based on points earned from energy and water conservation features, the use of recycled-content construction materials, low-water use landscaping, reducing the use of toxic paints and adhesives and alleviating traffic congestion by developing area footprints to promote walking instead of using personal vehicles.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, brigade and battalion headquarters building design specifications incorporated an energy-saving system with cutting-edge lighting control designed to reduce energy consumption by about 22 percent. Other primary features include low-flow water fixtures; a solar hot water system, which is heated in part by solar panels installed on the roof of the building; and a 2.7-acre on-site solar array, which supplies approximately 62 percent of the 138,000-square foot building's electrical power needs.

"We often find that LEED gold is achievable and without extra cost by just incorporating smart building practices such as utilizing recycled and regional materials and diverting construction waste from landfills," said Shauna Smith, Fort Carson Corps Restationing Office project manager for the headquarters building. "In addition to smart building practices, simple design features can be incorporated such as designing a 'tight' building with minimal air infiltration or heat losses, incorporating more windows and adding skylights for natural daylighting and lighting occupancy sensors to shut lights off when no one is occupying a space."

Energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems and the on-site solar array are expected to yield a 73-percent improvement in energy use over a traditional building of the same size, said Smith. Water-saving technologies used in the building are projected to save 42 percent over the baseline annual water consumption for this type of facility.

Some of the sustainable features of the building that directly impact occupant comfort include an abundance of windows to provide views and natural light for task lighting, air quality-friendly paints and carpets to eliminate off-gassing smells and an advanced and "smart" system that controls lights when there's no occupancy or when natural lighting provides adequate lighting levels.

These types of features are no longer unique to the 4th BCT building, they are being incorporated into the designs of all military construction projects at Fort Carson, Smith said.

"The next step is focusing facilities toward 'net zero.' We are pushing the envelope on making facilities net zero where they are producing the energy they use through passive and renewable energy features," she said.

To achieve net-zero water objectives, the Corps is exploring gray water technologies to enable reusing a building's waste water for landscape irrigation.