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Posted 6/5/2012

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By Susan C. Galentine
Fort Carson Directorate of Public Works public relations

A milestone in building construction was reached at Fort Carson in April when the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade and Battalion Headquarters on Wilderness Road received the first U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification for the installation.

Constructing LEED facilities is nothing new here. Since 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has built and certified 22 facilities at the silver level and achieved 31 gold LEED certifications. Platinum LEED is the highest rating.

The LEED facilities must meet rigorous criteria and are a fiscally-sound return on investment from utility savings achieved through their design. The buildings are certified based on points earned from energy and water conservation features, the use of recycled-content construction materials, low-water use landscaping, reducing the use of toxic paints and adhesives and alleviating traffic congestion by developing area footprints to promote walking instead of using personal vehicles.

The 4-4 BBHQ design specifications incorporated an energy saving system with cutting-edge lighting control designed to reduce energy consumption by approximately 22 percent. Other primary features include low-flow water fixtures; a solar hot water system, which is heated in part by solar panels installed on the roof of the building; and a 2.7-acre, onsite solar array, which supplies approximately 62 percent of the 138,000-square foot building’s electrical power needs.

“We often find that LEED Gold is achievable and without extra cost by just incorporating smart building practices such as utilizing recycled and regional materials and diverting construction waste from landfills,”  said Shauna Smith the Fort Carson Corps Restationing Office project manager for the 4-4 BBHQ. “In addition to smart building practices, simple design features and can be incorporated such as designing a ‘tight’ building with minimal air infiltration or heat losses, incorporating more windows and adding skylights for natural daylighting and lighting occupancy sensors to shut lights off when no one is occupying a space.”

Energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems and the on-site solar array are expected to yield a 73 percent improvement in energy use over a traditional building of the same size, said Smith. Water saving technologies used in the building are projected to save 42 percent over the baseline annual water consumption for this type of facility.

Some of the sustainable features of the building that directly impacts occupant comfort include an abundance of windows to provide views and natural light for task lighting, air quality-friendly paints and carpets to eliminate off-gassing smells and an advanced and "smart" system that controls lights when there's no occupancy or when natural lighting provides adequate lighting levels.

These types of features are no longer unique to the 4-4 BBHQ and are now incorporated into the designs of all military construction projects at Fort Carson.

“The next step is focusing facilities toward ‘net zero’. We are pushing the envelope on making facilities net zero where they are producing the energy they use through passive and renewable energy features,” said Smith.

To achieve net zero water objectives, the Corps is exploring gray water technologies to enable reusing a building’s waste water for landscape irrigation.