Sustainability manager discusses energy initiatives in construction at conference

Published June 30, 2017

OBERAMMERGAU, Germany – Discussing the similarities and differences of U.S. and German building requirements, how U.S. fiscal law and regulatory guidance effects the construction process and the importance of communication were topics of the 25th annual U.S. and German Partnering Conference at the NATO School here April 26-27.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District hosts the conference in order to foster communication with U.S. stakeholders and German Construction Agency partners from the four German states U.S. forces live – Rhineland-Pfalz, Hessen, Baden-Württemburg and Bavaria, the location of this year’s conference, said organizer Peter Barth, host nation liaison and a regional program manager for the district.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen common functions, learn about the latest developments and set the course for better collective project delivery, Barth continued.

The goal of the conference is to foster partnership and improve processes, said Ralf Poss, deputy chief of construction for the Federal Ministry of Environment, Preservation of Nature, Construction and Reactor Safety through a translator.

During this year’s conference, Rich Gifaldi, sustainability manager for the district, spoke to more than 100 attendees from USACE, the German Construction Administration and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center about Net Zero and changes to federal Sustainable Design and Development policies.

Net Zero is one of the U.S. Army’s leading sustainability initiatives focusing on energy, water and solid waste management on Army installations. Simply put, Gifaldi said Net Zero energy means producing as much energy as an installation or building consumes.

The January 2017 SDD Policy Update applies to all infrastructure planning, design, sustainment, restoration, modernization and construction activities on Army installations regardless of funding source with the exception of Department of Defense Medical funding and privatization initiatives, according to the Army memorandum. The policy includes the introduction of Energy Use Index target values for facilities newly constructed or undergoing major renovation along with the reinforcement of requirements to protect and conserve water, to enhance indoor environmental quality, and to reduce the environment impact of construction materials.

Compliance with Federal Guiding Principles for High-Performance and Sustainable Buildings has been, in one form or another, a requirement for more than 10 years, Gifaldi said. In the past, federal agencies used the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification as proof that Guiding Principles’ requirements were met. However, the Air Force is moving away from LEED certification and toward proving Guiding Principles compliance through the use of third-party Guiding Principles certification.

According to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center A-GRAM 17-01, the Department of Defense Sustainable Buildings Policy memorandum requirements are to “… establish an auditable process to ensure applicable new buildings and major renovations meet requirements as defined in the UFC (Unified Facilities Criteria.) The auditable process shall include green-building certification …”

LEED Silver certification doesn’t constitute compliance with federal requirements, according to the A-GRAM. In an effort to reduce confusion about project sustainability goal, advance compliance with federal requirements … the Air Force reviewed the Guiding Principles Compliance rating systems and determined they are better indicators of High Performance and Sustainable Building Guiding Principles compliance.

However, projects already registered for certification under LEED 2009 will continue with the process and attain LEED Silver certification and all projects not yet registered for certification will register for Guiding Principles Compliance certification.

“Mostly, what this means,” Gifaldi said, “is there won’t be plaque for the wall. All projects will still meet the standards for sustainability and energy conservation.”

One way many Army installations fund energy conservation projects is through energy saving performance contracts, Gifaldi explained. Congress authorized this funding technique in the 1990s to accelerate investment in cost effective energy. This means energy service companies, referred to as ESCOs, finance, design, construct conservation projects and is reimbursed from the energy cost savings of the conservation measures. ESCOs guarantee the energy savings for the duration of the contract. The installation benefits from zero upfront cost of the new systems and equipment and often sees immediate operating cost savings.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he said.
With the Army’s January 2017 Energy and Water Goal Attainment Policy for Installations, installations are required to have an installation energy and water master plan. The policy also requires installations to reduce energy use intensity by 2.5 percent annually and potable water use by 2 percent annually through 2025. It reiterates the Army’s commitment to add 200 megawatts of combined heat and power over the next four years and states that all new Army buildings entering the planning process in FY2020 must be designed to achieve Net Zero energy and starting in FY 2030 they must be Net Zero energy, water and waste compliant, Gifaldi said.

Europe District has developed a comprehensive Net Zero energy and water installation planning process that connects installation-level planning and building-level energy audits to installation-wide strategies that provide a roadmap to Net Zero energy and water. Typical projects for energy conservation are controls, lighting, heating system upgrades and retro-commissioning. Examples for water conservation include aerators and upgrading fixtures.

“Having a Net Zero energy and water installation plan in place is good,” Gifaldi said because when end-of-year money becomes available, installations can fund projects from the prioritized list of projects in the plan. Currently, 11 Army installations in Germany have these plans, with scoping for two more underway, he said.

“At Grafenwoehr, the Net Zero plan has worked great,” he said. “The plan provided the installation a list of projects and the installation used it to demonstrate how funding the projects would contribute to their progress toward Net Zero.”

While Net Zero is a U.S. Army initiative, Germany is recognized as an international leader in renewable energies. Annette Stadler, with Landesbdudirektion Bayern (a central state authority in the business area of the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior, for construction and transport), updated the attendees on Germany’s Renewable Energy Heat Act, which makes the use of renewable energy for space and hot water heating mandatory for new buildings.

Passed by European Parliament, Directive 2009/28/EC applies to the U.S. armed forces in Europe. At first the regulation was only for new buildings, Stadler said through a translator, but in 2011 that changed to include renovations, with no distinction between residential and nonresidential buildings.

This regulation will apply stricter standards in the future, she said, but it hasn’t been passed yet, so she directed attendees to the following websites and to stay current on the process.

Thomas Reindl, with the state building authority in Regensburg, spoke about how Hohenfels training Area recently upgraded an existing heating plant with a new cogeneration unit with a rated thermal input of more than 2 megawatts at Camp Nainhof. The generated power will be used year-round, he said through a translator, and a benefit of the installation is that it’s compliant with the Renewable Energies Heat Act.

As in previous years, officials discussed both German and U.S. processes for requirements planning and building projects.

Ruben Holzhauer, with Landesbetrieb Liegenschafts- und Baubetreuung Niederlassung Trier, said the German document, DIN 18205, provides a methodical determination of needs similar to the Corps’ design charrettes, but thinks the ABG75s (the U.S. planning document) don’t require enough information in the case of complex U.S. projects and would like to see improvements because lack of information causes delays.

Both sides agreed most projects move smoothly, but it’s the ones that don’t that get more attention.

It takes the dedication and passion of all involved to make the joint construction projects successful, said Matthias Vollmer, BMUB director.