Under newly enacted legislation, the Dept. of Defense will put more focus on life-cycle costs as it considers future construction projects.

The $612-billion 2009 DOD authorization bill, which President Bush signed into law on Oct. 14, requires the department to consider the long-range cost-effectiveness of proposed future projects, looking not only at their sustainability, but also their durability.

The National Concrete Masonry Association pushed for the life-cycle provision, calling for the Pentagon to consider construction materials that will hold up for a building’s expected life.

“If a stick-built structure is wiped out by a hurricane, why replace it with another stick-built structure?” asks Bill Plenge, NCMA government affairs liaison. “If the intent is to have some of these structures last for 50 years or more, it’s common sense to build them with materials that will hold up.”

Plenge says that while the federal government has paid a lot of attention to sustainability in recent years, durability has gotten merely lip service.

“There are lots of materials you can use to get sustainable credits that aren't durable,” he adds. But he points out that credits can be garnered for items such as concrete if it contains recycled materials. We’re saying, ‘Build it out of something durable and rugged that also gets you the credits for sustainable design,’” he says.

The measure does not specify how DOD will calculate life-cycle costs, but it does list maintenance expenses and replacement costs among the factors to be considered. The legislation could create the opportunity for planners to specify materials such as concrete block, even if initial costs are higher than other materials under consideration, Plenge says.

Under the new rule, DOD will have to verify life-cycle evaluations in project documents submitted to Congress with the budget for the fiscal year in which a contract is proposed to be awarded.