USACE, Bauamt -- Sustaining through the challenges
By Carol Davis
BAD DURKHEIM, Germany — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District and Landesbetrieb Liegenschafts -- und Baubetreuung Neiderlassung Landau co-hosted representatives from the German state and federal ministries, and various regional German construction offices at a Feb. 22-23 partnering workshop in Bad Durkheim.
The annual event is an opportunity to continue to cultivate our partnerships with the Bauamts, German ministries, introduce new district and ministry employees, and say farewell to those retiring.
"The goal of the event was to sustain our partnership with the Bauamts and fine tune issues to improve project delivery," Col. D. Peter Helmlinger, district commander, said.
This year, as part of the fine tuning, the workshop addressed the issues of sustainability and energy conservation.
During a breakout session, 16 U.S. and Bauamt representatives gathered to discuss everything 'green' from contracting for an expert in Leadership in Energy and Environment Design to finding common solutions for U.S. LEED standards and German energy standards.
Rich Gifaldi, a sustainability engineering manager, said the breakout sessions gave him an opportunity to not only share new LEED requirements, but participants were able to discuss challenges, concerns and fears about using the rating system.
Up until recently, Gifaldi said, a majority of the German effort was focused on the energy savings portion of a project. He said the construction market is starting to turn around and recognize the value of a green building certification, whether it is LEED or one of the other rating standards.
"They [German Bauamts] are a lot like us when it comes to construction," Gifaldi said. "They are recognizing the value of sustainability, and taking into account other factors like indoor air quality, sourcing of materials, and building methods of the projects."
Matthias Stohr, a Landesbetrieb Liegenschafts -- und Baubetreuung Kaiserslautern program manager, said his company is just starting to use the LEED certification process, but there are some challenges.
"Sustainability is more and more playing an important role in the design and construction process," Stohr said. "However there are different national approaches to the issue."
He attended the breakout session to get as much input as possible on the LEED process.
"Since this is the first time we are using LEED, everything is relatively new to us," Stohr said. "It was very important for me to listen to the experiences of others, but also to make suggestions and give ideas."
He said in some of their current projects, they are trying to achieve their goal of a higher sustainability using the LEED certification process, but the problem is that LEED is based on U.S. regulations and models which are not part of the German design and building process.
"Our biggest challenge is actually two-fold," Stohr said. "First, how can we integrate the LEED requirements into the heavily regulated German design and building process? Second, how to create a contract which resembles the LEED process and is in accordance with German contract law?"
One solution discussed was to create a LEED consultant.
Gifaldi explained that the consultant needs to understand American and German standards, and would guide the design team and the contractor through the LEED process, letting each know if pieces are missing. Then, a project could incorporate the German standards and the American standards without being over designed.
"In the past we've had projects where we tried combining the two and designing to both standards," Gifaldi said. "The result was a project that was over designed and really expensive. So, we're trying to find solutions that eliminate cost and still meet all of our sustainability requirements."
Not expecting to solve all the challenges during the event, Stohr said the most important part about the breakout session was the opportunity to understand each other's possibilities and limitations.
"Sometimes the German-U.S. cooperation is still marked by some form of 'cultural clash,'" Stohr said. "But, it's important to keep in mind, there are good people working on each side of the table trying their best. After all, our projects' foundations are the people working on them."