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Posted 2/24/2012

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By Susan C. Galentine
Fort Carson

FORT CARSON, Colo .— The lights click on, detecting when people occupy rooms, motion sensors on water fixtures dispense just the right amount of water and inviting colors were selected for the building's interior color scheme.

Directorate of Public Works and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff, the new occupants of the sustainably-renovated building 1219, were greeted by these energy- and water-efficient features and more, as 165 people moved into their new facility in December.

The cost to transform the 1950s barracks building was about $5.1 million; the tab for a new building constructed to the same specifications would have been about $20 million.

The cost savings yielded by the renovation underscores the value of such projects in a budget-conscious era, said Hal Alguire, DPW director.

"We are testing some features in building 1219 that we hope to replicate in future building renovation," he said.

"The building had good 'bones,'" said Kelly Hanna, DPW Engineering Division lead architect for the renovation. "It was basically selected due to its central location in the cantonment area and, because we knew we had a lot of similar barracks across the Army, we knew this type of renovation could be easily duplicated here and at other installations."

The facility will be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver-level renovated facility on Fort Carson if the certification paperwork, on track for submission in spring, is approved by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Attaining LEED certification means the building includes sustainable features to ensure the facility is energy efficient, constructed with recycled-content materials and includes elements that provide for the comfort and well-being of the occupants.

Standout features of building 1219 include the two gas-fired condensing boilers that produce hot water pumped through a mile-long network of pipes to heat the building. The boilers heat 264 gallons of water to 120 degrees instead of the normal 180 degrees found in most buildings, and are therefore much less energy intensive and expensive to run, said Mike Henderson, the DPW Engineering Division mechanical engineer technician who designed the building's plumbing, heating and cooling systems.

Most of the "waste energy" generated by the boilers is captured and fed back into the system, bumping the efficiency of the boilers up to 97 percent over traditional boilers, which are approximately 80-percent efficient. Additionally, 2-inch thick pipe insulation plays a major role in keeping the water temperature constant to heat the entire building.

"Traditional heating makes up 70 percent of total energy cost in a Colorado building," said Hanna. "This system will reduce the 'energy bill' approximately 40 percent."

Domestic hot water for the sinks and showers comes courtesy of the sun by way of five, 25-square-foot solar panels perched on the second floor roof of the building.

Cooling for the building is provided by chilled water flowing through a separate insulated pipe system similar to the heat system, and this system will require about 25 percent less energy compared to cooling in similar size buildings, Henderson said.

DPW is piloting the installation's first "green roof" on a section of the second floor that covered the former dining facility. The garden features native grasses and plants.

"It acts as a test garden for Fort Carson to test out different native plants to figure out just how maintenance-free they are," said Hanna. The data collected from the green roof will help DPW determine the best use of plants and grasses on the installation, which contends with Colorado's semi-arid climate.

One primary focus of the renovation project was to meet the Army's guidance on flexibility of space in buildings. The second and third floors of the building have areas that can be used for cubicles or classroom space and all office spaces are similar. These design elements can accommodate any future layout changes without incurring additional renovation costs.

Of equal importance to the building's design and mechanical systems are the attitudes of the building's new residents.

"Our DPW team has really bought into a new way of occupying a building," said Joe Wyka, DPW Engineering Division chief.

"Sharing printers, copiers and coffee pots is a way to build teamwork as well as save energy."

The DPW staff is already realizing some of the benefits of its new location.

"We had an idea of a centralized customer service campus in this area to consolidate the functions," said Tom Wiersma, DPW Master Planning Division planner. "If the majority of garrison support activities are consolidated into a centralized area, we can offer better and more efficient services to our customers. The customer can interact with several agencies in one trip rather than needing to travel all over the installation."

Before the move to building 1219, the DPW staff had to travel from one of its four old buildings to another to get the job done. Now they can attend meetings and see the individuals they need to in one centralized location.

"I think it's a beautiful building and gives us the opportunity to get to know people that we didn't usually see, being in different buildings," said Tina Leeling, management analyst for the DPW Operations and Maintenance Division. "Being in close proximity to (contracting, resource management and civilian personnel) allows us to walk to meetings and hand-carry (distribution)."

DPW plans to renovate one building per year. Next up is the education center, which is slated for renovation in 2013.