A team from the Omaha District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with the Department of the Army and the Department of Public Works at Fort Carson to quietly turn the post into one of the �greenest places on earth.�
Since 2007, more than 70 new buildings have been programmed for construction at Fort Carson. Currently, 12 of those projects have resulted in 26 buildings achieving the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification: 13 have achieved LEED Gold and another 13 are LEED Silver. Those 26 buildings make Fort Carson one of the highest-concentrated areas of LEED-certified buildings in the country.
An additional 50 buildings are part of 30 projects presently pursuing LEED certification. The facilities are at various stages of the certification process, including design, under construction and awaiting certification.
Previous projects used the Army’s Sustainable Project Rating Tool, or SPiRiT, which offered a checklist, strategies and scores to help Army installations rate themselves on their demonstrated abilities to create and maintain sustainable facilities as well as plan improvements to those processes. In 2002 the Corps successfully adopted SPiRiT for designing military facilities.
These initiatives took a “whole-building” perspective toward preserving the environment and improving facility life-cycle management. It also integrated environmentally responsible practices into the facility-delivery process from its design stages. In 2006, the Army began a transition from SPiRiT to the LEED system, with all buildings built for the Army required to be at least LEED Silver.
At the same time these initiatives were taking place, Fort Carson was undergoing a transition of its own. An entire combat brigade was scheduled to relocate there from Fort Hood, Texas.
Foreseeing the potential impacts of implementing LEED on several construction projects led the district to step back and look at the ramifications.
“We took the time to get LEED training so that we understood the philosophy and the processes associated with the new LEED requirements,” said Matt Ellis, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resident engineer for the re-stationing workload surge. “When you boil it down, it really is something that we, as stewards of the earth’s resources, should have always been doing. It is all about doing what is smart and aiming to be less wasteful.”
Corps project engineer Cambrey Torres agreed. “The LEED process is something that requires a change of habit,” Torres said. “It is a change in the overall mindset for designers, contractors, the military and, ultimately, the end-user.”
According to Ellis, the performance-based design-build contracting method used in this fast-paced environment to meet project critical need dates is ideal for constructing facilities to meet LEED standards because the contracts have flexibility for implementing solutions. Whether the goal is achieving energy efficiency or identifying sustainable solutions like procuring recycled or locally produced materials, the process encourages teamwork and collaboration.
“When we recognized that simply changing the orientation of the Battalion Brigade Headquarters Building would improve its available daylight, the project team sat down to figure out how to make it work,” Ellis said. The BBHQ became the first LEED-Gold certified facility for the Army.
According to Torres, designing a building to be energy efficient is only one step.
“Sometimes in our efforts to achieve standardized facility designs or meet the requirements of Force Protection standoff zones, our efforts to achieve energy efficiency and sustainability are stunted,” Torres said.