Government Buildings

The Navy's LEED Gold Gem

November 2, 2010
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Environmental stewardship has become part of a proud tradition at Naval Station Great Lakes, the U.S. Navy’s Headquarters Command for training. In 2000, the Navy became the first federal agency to certify the environmental attributes of a project when its Great Lakes Naval Training Center’s Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification.

Almost a decade later, the naval base reached another milestone in sustainability by teaming up with Wight & Company—who was also the architect and civil engineer of the BEQ project—to design the Atlantic Fleet Drill Hall. In addition to energy and water use reduction goals, this project incorporated several best practices in sustainable site design and low impact development (LID) for stormwater management, and earned LEED Gold certification.

Site Design and Development

The Atlantic Fleet Drill Hall is a sustainable adaptation of the Navy’s existing conventional-prototype. Sitting atop a small hill, the building plays a significant functional and symbolic role on the base’s Camp John Paul Jones Recruit Training Center (RTC). The 50,000 square foot facility includes a 38,000 square foot drill deck with supporting administrative and mechanical spaces. Some 25,000 recruits use this multipurpose building each year for classroom training, organized sporting events, drill assessments, team building scenarios and physical fitness activities.  

From the outset of project planning, the objective was to create a facility that would become a distinguishing landmark and artfully fuse the existing traditional design aesthetic with sustainable building practices and technologies. Site design and landscaping were top priorities. The design team took advantage of the site’s crowned nature by placing a silt fence at the project’s edges to capture sediment. Filters were used to protect the various existing stormwater inlets throughout construction, and areas of disturbed earth were treated with temporary seed to keep soils in place. These practices, combined with a carefully phased construction schedule, helped to minimize the amount of environmental stormwater impacts from erosion and sedimentation.

The site design also preserved open space by reducing the building footprint and site improvements, such as parking lots. The site includes more than 78,000 square feet of open space. More than 60 percent of the site is an open vegetated area with Buffalo Grass-based sod—an adaptive species that requires no irrigation. These and other native plantings help to increase biodiversity and conserve water and energy

Stormwater Management: Following Nature's Model

The central principle of LID is that, like nature itself, stormwater systems should manage rain where it falls. Traditional stormwater management solutions focus on handling runoff from large storm events through regional systems located at the bottom of drainage areas. In contrast, LID focuses on treating smaller and more frequent storm events in upland areas of the watershed. 

The goal for the Atlantic Fleet Drill Hall was to closely mimic the site’s predevelopment hydrology. This was accomplished by using distributed, small-scale systems that infiltrate, filter, store, evaporate and detain runoff close to its source. For example, most of the stormwater treatment takes place at the top of the grade in order to utilize the groundwater gradient. Since the building does not have a basement, below-grade infiltration zones were excavated around the four corners of the building. Geotextile drainage fabric was placed at the bottom of the excavation, which was back-filled with gap-graded stone.

Runoff from the drill hall’s roof is piped into the upper layer infiltration zones, where it percolates down though the stone following the groundwater gradient. Stormwater is also both daylighted and discharged to the infiltration zone via perforated pipes connected to the downspouts. Smaller areas of roof runoff are daylighted at grade and allowed to percolate into vegetated areas. To avoid washout, larger runoff areas connect underground to the perforated pipe, which connects to a traditional storm sewer system capable of handling larger storm events. 

The choice of sod and use of plantings native to the Great Lakes region also minimize runoff in the open landscaped areas. The Buffalo Grass has root systems that can grow six to eight feet deep, and many of the plants have root zones that will eventually extend 10 to 15 feet deep. This creates a tight matrix of roots that prevents erosion and weeds while helping to infiltrate water and oxygen through the soil. By adhering to LID principles, the naval base has reduced the site’s stormwater runoff rate from 6.845 cfs to 4.451 cfs.

Other Sustainable Strategies

All of the building’s interior materials and finishes—including coatings, adhesives and sealants—meet or exceed the volatile organic compound (VOC) thresholds outlined by LEED. The drywall, acoustical ceiling tiles, concrete, steel, flooring and concrete masonry units (CMUs) collectively contain more than 30 percent recycled content with a minimum of 15 percent post-consumer content. More than 50 percent of the wood permanently installed in the project came from Forest Stewardship Council-certified and -managed forests. In addition, 82.5 percent of the waste generated during construction was diverted from the landfills.

The Atlantic Fleet Drill Hall also incorporates design features that improve energy and water efficiencies in its daily operations. Occupancy sensors in washrooms and storage areas automatically shut off lights when the rooms are empty. On the drill deck, where most of the recruits spend their time, controlled natural light augments high efficiency lighting fixtures. The building uses less than one watt of lighting energy per square foot. By using high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and controls, the drill hall has reduced its water use by more than 40 percent, compared to the baseline established by the EPA.   

Comprehensive digital mechanical controls regulate the amount of outdoor air supplied to each room for optimal thermal comfort. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system consists of two separate air handling systems (four air handling units), a chilled water system and a hot water system for maximum performance. Variable frequency drives enable all air handling units to optimize the facility’s energy efficiency.

The last part of the sustainable site design strategy addressed the challenge of reducing urban heat island effect. In addition to having large areas of open space, the drill hall featured the use of materials with an appropriate Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) value. For example, Portland cement (with an SRI of 35) was used for walkway materials, and the building has a white, reflective metal roof (with an SRI of 86).

With a stunning yet understated design aesthetic, the Atlantic Fleet Drill Hall is a landmark structure that welcomes new recruits and visitors at the entrance of Camp John Paul Jones. It demonstrates the Navy’s commitment to sustainable practices and provides a new model for future projects, melding its traditional architecture and prototype design with new sustainable design technologies.

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