Pacific Air Forces -- Building sustainable facilities for the future

  • Published
  • By Chris Wright
  • PACAF Civil Engineering
Pacific Air Forces is planning for the future by incorporating "sustainability" into all new facilities and major renovations across the command. "Sustainability" means to maintain, support or endure, and takes into consideration environmental, social and economic demands. Sustainable development improves the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems. A sustainable facility meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This type of facility has the potential for maintaining long-term well-being of both occupants and environmental counterparts.

To ensure all new facilities have sustainable features, to the maximum extent possible, PACAF embraces the use of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system for all new facility construction and major renovations. This facility rating system consists of five environmental categories (sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy & atmosphere; materials and resources; and indoor environmental quality) and emphasizes the importance of "green" or sustainable buildings. By following the LEED system in developing new facilities, one earns credits or points (69 points maximum) in each of the categories by addressing specific environmental impacts. Facilities achieving 26 to 32 points earn "certified" ratings; 33 to 38 points earn "silver" ratings; 39 to 51 points earn "gold" ratings; and 52-69 points earn "platinum" ratings. Air Force policy and PACAF requires all new vertical military construction to be designed so the facility is capable of meeting the LEED silver rating (or equivalent host nation rating for overseas bases).

One significant example of PACAF's sustainable development is the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska aeromedical services/mental health clinic project. This $21 million facility will be completed in October 2011 and will achieve LEED gold certification by incorporating such features as state-of-the-art heating, ventilation and cooling systems; high-efficiency lighting; advanced electrical meters; low-flow toilets and water fixtures; water-efficient landscaping; bicycle storage and changing rooms; a white "cool" roof; and alternate transportation (low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles) parking spaces with signage. In addition, workers are using low-emitting construction materials with recycled content throughout this facility. These sustainable features will reduce yearly energy usage by 698 million British thermal units -- enough energy to power 23 average homes!

[Chris Wright is an infrastructure energy manager in PACAF's Civil Engineering Operations & Support Branch.]