NewsletterSustainable Design

USACE Advocates Sustainable Construction on Last Frontier

USACE works to meet sustainability goals by using construction practices that are as energy efficient as possible.

According to the U.S. Army, Alaska District achieved the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold rating on the 354th Operations Support Squadron’s F-35A weapons intelligence facility at Eielson Air Force Base. USACE uses LEED to ensure sustainable construction of military projects as it promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by providing a framework for the design, construction and operation of facilities.
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Each year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Alaska District constructs projects for the military valued in the millions of dollars to support readiness, training and quality-of-life initiatives for service members in the Far North. For each of these endeavors, the agency works to meet sustainability goals by ensuring the construction practices and new facilities are as energy efficient as possible.

“It’s a good practice,” said Jerry Ouzts, sustainable program engineer at the district. “It’s good for us, it’s good for the military community and it’s good for the environment.”

Since 2006, the Army has mandated that its facilities meet the environmentally friendly standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The third-party certification program provides a framework and validates compliance with specific requirements for sustainability from design to construction to operation of new facilities or the remodeling of older buildings. Over the last 10 years, the district has certified 42 buildings through the model.

“We were already doing a lot of these practices, but the formal program simplifies and documents it now,” said Monica Velasco, chief of the Construction Branch. “When we first started, it was a new system and large effort to really make sure we implemented it correctly. As the years have progressed, it has become part of what we do naturally.”

The U.S. Green Building Council recognizes the degree of achievement in sustainable design and construction practices by assigning a LEED rating to each facility. Projects are categorized into four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum. For new construction, USACE buildings must at least meet the silver level.

“Programs like LEED help us do the right thing from day one of a project and ensure the new facility meets energy and sustainability requirements,” Ouzts said.

This practice is no more evident than in the district’s delivery of the F-35A beddown program at Eielson Air Force Base. Construction began in 2017 to support the arrival of two new F-35A aircraft squadrons along with assigned airmen and their families.

So far, one project achieved LEED gold, nine earned silver and one, a remodel of an existing facility, secured a certified rating. Another three buildings accomplished certification under the Green Building Initiative’s Guiding Principles, which is the Air Force’s new preferred model for authenticating environmentally friendly building practices.

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