Health and wellness have always been key elements in green construction. That's especially true of health services buildings, and a new U.S. Army project neatly illustrates how LEED standards could improve the well being of people who use LEED-certified buildings.
The project in question is the U.S. Army's Soldier in Transition Campus under construction at Fort Eustis, in Virginia. As part of the Pentagon's sustainability strategy, the Army has been applying LEED construction standards to its facilities and the new campus showcases the Army's ability to shoehorn multiple water and energy conservation strategies into one project. More importantly, it could serve as a model for using LEED-oriented design to improve the effectiveness of health care services.
Consolidating for sustainability and wellness, too
The new campus is a bit more modest than the Army's recent $1 billion LEED gold Mark Center, but it is still pretty impressive. It includes three buildings that will total about 66,800 square feet, providing housing for 80 soldiers assigned to the Wounded Warrior Unit, an office building to accommodate a staff of about six dozen people, and a support services building for soldiers and their families.
Without even getting into the specifics of its LEED elements, the campus could lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation. It consolidates a number of services and resources that are currently spread among other locations, and it is situated directly across the street from the existing McDonald Army Health Center, where the soldiers receive most of their medical care.
More importantly, the new facility will make things easier on soldiers assigned to the Wounded Warrior Unit at Fort Eustis. Though consolidation is not necessarily beneficial under all circumstances, in general it can offer health care clients the ability to access more services while minimizing the stress of travel and scheduling.
More LEED standards for the U.S. Army
The three buildings on the new campus are designed with a stormwater management system that includes rainwater harvesting and underground storage tanks. The harvested water can be used for landscaping irrigation as well as interior plumbing.
The family support building also sports a green roof, which could be maintained with the help of reclaimed stormwater.
The barracks will meet the highest LEED standard of Platinum (the other buildings are LEED Gold), with the help of a gray-water recycling system. Apparently the first time such a system as been incorporated into an otherwise conventional building, it will capture water from sinks, showers and laundry machines, and use it to flush toilets and irrigate the grounds.
Alternative energy also factors into the equation. The three buildings will each have a solar thermal system that provides 30 percent of more of their hot water needs, and geothermal systems will help reduce fossil fuel use for climate control.
Rounding out the major LEED features is a motion sensor "smart" lighting system using high efficiency LED lighting.
LEED standards for wellness
In a recent article for the Army, Senior Airman Jason J. Brown details the aforementioned LEED elements of the new campus along with another important feature, habitat conservation. The new campus incorporates existing trees and wetlands while adding sidewalks, walking trails and a pavilion.
Aside from the obvious intent to cut greenhouse gas emission by reducing dependency on automobiles, an attractive, walkable campus encourages physical activity leading to improved health.
In Brown's article, Captain Joseph Robinette, commander of WTU (Warrior Transition Unit) - A Company, also offers a poignant insight into interplay between LEED sustainability strategies that cut costs, the importance of aesthetics in a healing environment, and the realities of today's federal budget:
"This is direct proof that the Army cares about its wounded, injured and ill Soldiers, and has a long-term commitment to their care and overall well-being. Even during a time of downsizing, millions of dollars across the nation are being used for WTU projects."
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.