It’s Easy Being Green: The Pentagon Goes Green One Wedge at a Time
This year, the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review—a strategy document that lays out the Pentagon’s vision for its missions and force structure every four years—identified climate change as both a potential source of conflict and a factor in military operations. But the Pentagon building itself, located in Arlington County, Virginia, is currently undergoing a big green renovation.
The iconic building was constructed on a swamp wasteland in 16 months and completed on January 15, 1943 at an approximate cost of $83 million. Efficiency was a priority even then. The building consolidated 17 buildings of the War Department to cover 29 acres—the largest ground area of any office building in the world. But despite the 17.5 miles of corridors, it takes just seven minutes to walk between any two points in the building.
The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992 and had never undergone a major renovation until the Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office, or PENREN, began modernizing the 6.5 million square foot structure a year later. The renovation is currently 80 percent complete and expected to be completed three years ahead of schedule in 2011. So far, five renovation projects are LEED certified and the Pentagon Library and Conference Center is LEED silver.
The renovation is occurring in five sections or “wedges” that encompass different types of renovations, and it is guided by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, or EPP program, which determines environmentally preferable products for the projects.
Wedge 1 renovations included blast-resistant windows, removal of hazardous debris and materials, and energy efficient infrastructure design. Part of this section was destroyed on 9/11, but the blast brought new opportunities for environmentally friendly products and materials to be installed such as wood from sustainably managed forests, low-water use plumbing fixtures, low VOC paints and sealants, mineral wool insulation, energy efficient lighting, and packaging, labeling, and instructions made from recycled material.
Water conservation, energy efficiency, and use of recycled content are also concerns. The Wedges 2-5 project, for example, has diverted 50 percent of its construction waste from landfills through salvage and recycling and the LEED-certified Remote Delivery Facility, or RDF, is covered with a green roof that can be an alternative location for ceremonial activities.
Insulated windows and advanced energy control systems at the Pentagon will also cut the building’s monthly $1.1 million electric bill. The Department of Defense awarded LED manufacturer Cree a contract to supply more than 4,200 recessed LED lights for Wedge 5. Cree’s LR24-recessed LED lights would offer a 22 percent energy reduction compared with traditional fluorescent lights, reducing the Pentagon’s carbon dioxide emissions by 140 tons per year.
The Pentagon has found other more efficient ways to use energy, too. When the original coal-fired heating and refrigeration plant stopped working in the mid-1980s it cost $200,000 a month. The New Heating and Refrigeration Plant, or NHRP, first installed in 1996, is computer controlled to be 30 percent more efficient than its obsolete predecessor, uses natural gas as its main fuel source, and does not disrupt the historical architectural features of the building.
Additionally, NHRP is now one of the most advanced solar energy systems in the country with 12 advanced features that use solar energy instead of fossil fuels, including a solar thermal tile air heating roof system, photovoltaics beneath solar thermal tiles that generate electricity and heat, and rainwater recovery from the solar roof to supply the indirect evaporative cooling stages.
But these are only some of the many green Pentagon renovations—a full list of PENREN projects can be found here. When the project is complete in 2011, the Pentagon’s 25,000 military and civilian personnel will not only work in one of the biggest office buildings in the world, but one of the most energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.