The U.S. General Services Administration recently released a report  designed to help the Army attain net-zero energy by employing high-impact energy-efficiency strategies. The report presents the findings of a green-building demonstration project completed at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colo.

As a flagship in the Army's Net Zero Initiative, Fort Carson has set a net-zero-energy goal for the entire base by the year 2020, which means that the base—home to approximately 900 buildings equaling about 14 million sq ft of real property—will need to generate as much energy as it consumes by then.

As part of GSA’s mission to green the federal government, the agency conducted the study in partnership with Fort Carson, the Army, the Dept. of Energy and two national laboratories. GSA analyzed strategies to help Fort Carson achieve net zero, including improving building systems and working with building occupants. Many of the findings are applicable to other agencies and organizations as well.

GSA identified four breakthrough areas: thermal envelope optimization, daylighting and lighting system performance, net-zero building system retrofit strategies and occupant behavior. Building system strategies were evaluated and prioritized based on their payoff over the lifetime of the buildings.

Fort Carson has constructed more than 70 LEED-certified green buildings on base, which have contributed to a 17% decrease in energy use per square foot since 2003.

The base has also installed solar panels, solar hot water heaters and ground source heat pumps, which have helped to increase the share of Fort Carson’s energy use provided by renewable sources to 3.5%, and growing.

GSA Senior Sustainability Officer Ruth Cox said the study demonstrates that net-zero-energy federal facilities are possible and can be achieved affordably over the lifetime of these facilities. “GSA is proud to partner with Fort Carson to help the base achieve its 2020 net-zero-energy goal. The agency will continue its energy and environmental performance research at other federal facilities to gain the highest return for taxpayers, reduce energy use, and mitigate the threat of climate change.”

Mark Hunsicker, the Fort Carson directorate of Public Works Operations and maintenance division chief, said the study conclusions are already helping Fort Carson focus its net-zero efforts. “The GSA study helped Fort Carson understand how behavior change can be a useful approach to energy conservation. Part of the study analyzed how green buildings performed in areas of envelope and lighting controls, emphasizing the importance of monitoring facilities as part of building operations and maintenance programs.”