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LEED standards not perfect fit for MILCON; change possible

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification standards help a developer create a building that strives to be more environmentally friendly and more sustainable than other building options.

When it comes to military construction, sometimes the standards do not translate well, but suggestions are welcomed.

"An office building and military building are very different," said Katrina Rosa, principle and director of LEED services for The EcoLogic Studio LLC. "The reviewers are trained to review an office building."

She said efforts to better train reviewers should help in the future. Input from contractors working in military construction can encourage other changes as well.

During the Designing and Building 2010 NAVFAC Symposium, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) California and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest, Rosa and other experts discussed sustainability and LEED certification for Department of Defense projects during a morning panel.

The discussion, in part, identified areas in which LEED certification could be improved for DoD projects.

James Robbins, principal at RJC Architects Inc., gave examples from his own work where items that gain certification points are not practical or possible on a military project.

Energy efficiency is one of the key focus areas for certification. Robbins said he planned to implement energy-efficient air conditioning at a Navy building in Monterey to earn credits.

Instead, he ended up with the most energy-efficient option -- the Navy didn’t want any air conditioning.

"The other side is, we lose LEED points," Robbins said.

On another project at a Marine Corps base, he said he ran into a different dilemma. An inexpensive option for gaining points would be adding a bike rack to the development, he said. But those Marines tended not to ride bicycles.

The company considered if providing bicycles to warrant the rack might be worthwhile.

"Not all LEED points are made for every project," Rosa said. "Some are just not going to work. But again, remember, these (standards) were made for office buildings where bike racks work."

Maintenance also must be taken into consideration on any project -- especially one for the military.

Panelist Kraig Hill, senior area project manager for Sundt Construction Inc., said there is some push-back from maintenance professionals regarding certain LEED efforts.

Robbins cited a boiler system at Camp Pendleton that repeatedly faced problems from the hard water. He said the military could not accommodate the necessary upkeep and preventative measures needed to use the new system.

Don Rashan, an engineer with NAVFAC Southwest, said a case like the boilers is an example of why it is important to communicate with the end user.

"Please, once you get a project awarded, share information with the user," he said.

A lot of good ideas are presented, he continued, but they are never discussed. If the contractor and user discuss options from the beginning, they can find the best solution.

Rosa also stressed the importance of communication, adding that the contractor should discuss any LEED points along the way to make the best decisions and see where exceptions can be made.

Rosa said credit could be awarded as long as the intent is met. In other words, if the intent is energy efficiency, there might be more than one way of achieving it.

But, she said: "The way we meet intent, might not be the way they wanted."

LEED standards continue to change as capabilities and technologies become available. Changing some requirements to better fit a variety of projects also is possible.

"They’re not stringent requirements, they’re guidelines," Rosa said. "We hope you’re going to help change those guidelines so they fit better for this complex (field of military construction)."

Send your comments to Erin.Bridges@sddt.com

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