The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was aiming for high marks in sustainability when it designed some elaborate green features into the Pentagon's new $1 billion Department of Defense Office Complex in Virginia, and the good folks at the U.S. Green Building Council just rewarded it with LEED Gold certification earlier this month. Regular readers of TriplePundit are already familiar with some of the Defense Department's sustainability actions, but it's worth taking a closer look at this USACE project to see how it fits into the greater scheme of things.
Making LEED Gold Out of Clay
The project pulled together more than 6,400 employees who were working out of multiple leased spaces in different parts of the Washington, D.C. metro area and consolidated them into two adjacent office towers, so while it missed out on the opportunity to reclaim or re-purpose existing buildings, there is potentially some offset in creating a more cohesive workforce that can communicate more efficiently, and get things done with less need to travel between different locations. The project also provides the opportunity to consolidate multiple facilities such as a visitor center (which sports a green roof, by the way) and to coordinate mass transportation.
Invisible Green Features in a Billion-Dollar Office Complex
Some of the key LEED-winning features of the new complex are practically invisible to those who visit or work in the buildings. This includes the construction phase, in which 6 million pounds or almost 90 percent of the construction waste was recycled. The complex itself features advanced HVAC system and LED lighting with "smart" controls, water saving fixtures, and drought-wise landscaping and stormwater management. The project also involved purchasing enough renewable energy to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 40 percent over a four-year period.
Building Public Awareness into a LEED Gold Project
The most visible green features of the project do not necessarily make the most significant contribution to the complex's overall efficiency, but they are worth the investment in terms of identifying the complex as a LEED Gold awardee. This includes the green roof on the aforementioned Visitor Center and green "screens" around one of the parking lots, along with bioswale (meandering, landscaped depressions) for natural stormwater management.