Blog Post

Army to Congress: LEED Doesn't Cost More

The Army is still going for Gold and Platinum despite recent legislation calling a halt to LEED spending.

Fort Carson is piloting net-zero energy, water, and waste--and expects to meet that target by 2020.

The federal government has been one of the biggest supporters of LEED certification in the last few years, with the General Services Administration (GSA) requiring basic LEED certification for all federal buildings starting in 2003 and then upping that requirement to LEED Gold in 2010.

The military has been on the cutting edge of green building from the beginning. The Navy adopted sustainable design principles before LEED even existed, as we reported way back in 1998. The Army embraced LEED in 2006 and recently began the much more radical work of moving all its installations to net-zero energy, water, and waste. As Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment, put it to EBN earlier this year, "Energy security is mission critical."

It doesn't cost more

We feared that might all change when we saw that the most recent military appropriations legislation requires explicit justification for any spending on LEED above the Silver level. What's worse, this decision pretends to be about money but appears to have been made over certified wood credits. (Watch this space for in-depth coverage of the "wood wars" in coming weeks.)

Hammack is having none of it. In a call with reporters yesterday, she reiterated the Army's commitment to net-zero and LEED and gave an update about some of the progress that's already been made. "We're finding it does not cost more to design and construct to LEED" standards, Hammack said.

On the warpath for LEED

Will the Army then be submitting cost-benefit analyses for each project, as the legislation seems to require? Hammack said no.

"The challenge right now is one of education," she explained. "If a building got a Gold-level certification and we were striving for Silver, that does not mean there was an incremental cost. We're working to help prepare a report for Congress so they understand the benefit of high-performance buildings."

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Hammack clearly views these benefits as, at least in part, financial.

Can they do this?

The legislation in question does have a loophole for LEED Gold and Platinum projects as long as they don't cost more. As we reported at the time, "Exceptions may also be made without a special waiver if achieving Gold or Platinum 'imposes no additional cost'."

That loophole is big enough to blithely drive a tank through without bothering to show ID at the checkpoint. You apparently don't have to prove that it didn't cost more--or the Army is interpreting it that way, at any rate, while working closely with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on "educating" Congress.

Build to the standard but don't certify?

Another reporter asked if you could bypass the requirements by building to LEED standards but not bothering with certification. Hammack wasn't warm to that idea.

"We like the LEED program because it gives another set of eyes on the construction details and helps guide the direction of architects and engineers," Hammack replied. "The cost of LEED certification is very minimal in comparison to the benefits of LEED certification and the recognition that the building has achieved certain goals."

Zero energy wasted on dithering

"With a limited amount of water, a limited amount of resources, and an increasing world population," Hammack said, "we need to improve our stewardship over the resources we have."

Most of the call with Hammack was devoted to the progress on net-zero pilot projects. She and the rest of the Army clearly are not wasting time on questions of whether to LEED or not to LEED.

Published February 2, 2012 Permalink

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Comments

February 7, 2012 - 8:23 am

Jim, I didn't read Paula's tank analogy as implying any disrespect. I think she was just trying to capture the attitude of the Army in taking advantage of the loophole that Congress left them. I think she was actually cheering their approach.

February 7, 2012 - 5:42 am

Paula and all.
While we may or may not support the overall goals of a military, the Army especially, and the other services to some extent, have taken the process of greening very seriously.

I don't think that I would be quite so cavalier in writing about this ("..That loophole is big enough to blithely drive a tank through..."). There are people's lives at stake in how the Army conducts it's business, as well as quite a bit of money. These folks are working very hard in a relatively hostile environment. They deserve a bit more respect, it seems.

jim

February 6, 2012 - 1:11 pm

Oh those wood wars. It is a happier day when one can at least fantasize the Army being on the same side as Earth First!

February 6, 2012 - 8:45 am

I don't think there's any evidence that the "greening" of the military reduces the military budget, or even those line item costs for fuel. If anything, I suspect it increases the cost. But this effort is not about cost-reduction nor about improving our world - it is about making the military more "resilient" in the face of peak oil and global petroleum market disruptions (such as Iran's threat to close the Gulf of Hormuz). It is about keeping the world's most powerful killing machine functioning and maintaining US hegemony over the resources, markets and economies of other nations. And it is our military and foreign policy which is perhaps the greatest deterrent to a national or global shift to a truly sustainable culture.

We CAN stop this madness, however, by refusing to pay taxes to fund it. Every American taxpayer is complicit in our military/industrial/government complex. I have refused to pay war taxes for 33 years. It really IS as simple as that, but it requires wisdom and courage.

February 3, 2012 - 4:54 am

Robert,

While I appreciate your point of view regarding the military - anybody's military - you can't expect it to disappear "overnite".

That being the case, "greening" it is one way to reduce that trillion dollar annual cost and free up even a little more money for better causes - while also reducing the military's CO2 emissions which contribute to global warming.

February 2, 2012 - 2:56 pm

The US wages wars for oil in order to "protect" the American Way of Life (AWOL = absent without leave from the Web of Life).

The Pentagon is the world's largest consumer of petroleum, and so control of the world's oil is necessary in order to control the world's oil in order to "protect" the American Way of Life (AWOL).

Half the Pentagon's oil goes to the Air Force, 85% of that for jet fuel to move fuel, personnel & weapons around the world in order to control the world's oil in order to keep fueling the war machine in order to "protect" the American Way of Life (AWOL).

The US military budget is now more than a Trillion dollars a year and larger than all the other military budgets on earth combined, requiring well more than half of total government revenues (that means your hard-earned money). This non-productive use of financial resources leaves the US well behind even "developing" nations in serving the common good, and undermines the economic health of the nation.

Which means that the "defense" of AWOL is the leading cause of economic collapse, lack of basic social services that every other industrialized democracy offers its citizens, global pollution, global warming and the consequent destruction of AWOL.

Additionally, the US Navy is the world's largest consumer of diesel fuel and now the largest user of "green" biodiesel from GMO soybeans that we can't sell to the EU because they don't trust its safety. As the largest converter of food to fuel, we are reducing the world's food supply, causing hunger, displacement and social unrest that fuels terrorism.

Which means that the "defense" of AWOL is perhaps the major cause of global strife that requires a defense of AWOL which is destroying AWOL.

Catch-22

"Greening" up the US military doesn't make it any less a tool of empire and global destruction.