Go Army! For Going Green

by ‐ Tags: alternative energy, water efficiency, green living

Earlier this year, the green building community was rattled when it appeared the military projects would no longer be pursuing LEED certification.  The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed by President Obama on New Year's Eve, included language which stated that no funds authorized in the act could be used for LEED Gold or Platinum certification.  It also requires the Pentagon to report how cost effective LEED certification is to Congress.  Many were worried that these measures would cause the military to stop pursuing it.  In fact, a number of articles started circulating around the end of March stating that the Army was dropping LEED.

 

This turned out to be a false alarm.  The Army is firmly behind LEED and energy efficiency, knowing that it will yield cost savings and reduce its energy consumption.  The Army has a long track record of pursuing sustainability.  In 2001, they began the use of Sustainable Project Rating Tool (SPiRiT), which was a required tool based on LEED v2 and tailored to the needs to the Army.  It included a checklist, strategies, and scores.  It wasn't until 2008 that USGBC's LEED rating systems started to be used.  In the 10+ years since they started using rating tools, there has been ample time to gauge the real-life effect on energy and water usage, as well as assess the actual up-front costs.  

In fact, Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and the environment has said, "We're finding it does not cost more to design and construct to LEED standards," which means payback starts immediately.  

The Army not only pursues LEED for new construction projects, but also for renovations of existing structures.  A recent example of modernization is the barracks at Fort Benning, an old WWII structure that is saving significant resources and raising morale.  Some notable new construction projects include 232 LEED certified houses at Fort Hood, the largest ENERGY STAR certified community at Fort Drum and a pilot of two net-zero houses at Fort Campbell. The pilot at Fort Campbell is part of their larger goal of making the entire base net zero.

Even if the Army were to drop LEED at some point, they would not drop their committment to energy and water efficiency.  The goal is that, by 2030, all of their installations will be net zero.  When most people think of net zero they think energy.  But the Army is doing one - or two - better, by also seeking to be net zero for water and waste.  This is great from an environmental perspective, but most importantly, it will increase safety and security by helping to create bases that can be independent of the grid and installations that don't need to be re-supplied as often.