The Army Reserve—Innovating Its Way To Sustainability

[author type="author"]Ian M. Donegan and Steven A. Patarcity[/author]

The U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) is using technology, innovation, and creativity to achieve its energy security and sustainability goals of reducing consumption and environmental impact, while increasing efficiency and the use of alternative and renewable resources.

Three USAR installations are participating in the Army’s pilot Net Zero program. Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, announced in April  that Fort Buchanan, PR, Fort Hunter Liggett, CA, and Parks Reserve Forces Training Area, CA, will participate in one or more of three categories: energy, water, and waste. These bases will strive to achieve “net zero” status, consuming only as much energy or water as they produce, and will endeavor to eliminate the addition of solid waste to landfills.

[image align="left" caption="A solar-powered street lamp at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA, was selected to feature in the Army’s pilot Net Zero program, whereby bases strive to consume only as much energy or water as they produce. (USAR photo.)" linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/FortHunterLiggetsolarpoweredstreetlamp.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/FortHunterLiggetsolarpoweredstreetlamp.jpg” height=”167″ width=”246″[/image]

“In many cases, the Army and Army Reserve are leading the way for our Nation in terms of the green building design and construction projects that we have underway,” said Tad Davis, Command Executive Officer, USAR Command. “We’ve made the deliberate decision to design buildings that are more energy-efficient and use less water.

 “The operation and maintenance costs for these buildings are reduced over their life span, which is longer because they’re just built much better than in the past,” Davis said. “All of this increases efficiency and lessens the impact on the environment, so that’s really the linkage we want.”

As part of the Net Zero program, the installations will receive support from one  another and guidance from their chain of command and the Army to reach net zero status as quickly as possible, ultimately by 2020. They will share lessons with other Army installations through monthly conference calls, newsletters, and participation in military and industry conferences, according to a DOD news release. Ultimately, Davis said, “we’re also looking at Net Zero as a concept that we would like to implement at our Reserve centers and other facilities throughout the Army Reserve.”

USAR installation management leaders have been incorporating innovations and unique systems since FY08, allowing as much flexibility as possible in new construction, complete renovations, and retrofitting activities.  

“We’re looking at a whole spectrum of renewable energy opportunities that we can incorporate into the buildings themselves,” Davis said. “Whether it’s the use of solar energy or wind turbines, there’s a whole host of renewable energy technologies that we’re attempting to integrate into the design and construction.”

For example, the Gallagher Memorial USAR Center in Las Cruces, NM was built this fiscal year using rammed-earth materials, native vegetation, and a unique courtyard setup. Rammed-earth construction uses massive and durable clay and sand compressed into formwork, which serves as an effective thermal barrier. The use of deep-rooted native vegetation eliminates the need for expensive underground piping or the high water maintenance required for typical ground cover.

In Chattanooga, TN, a USAR Center under design will use a geothermal electricity system that will provide half the energy to power the buildings. Geothermal heating and cooling uses the relatively constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool homes and businesses with 40 to 70 percent less energy than conventional systems. While conventional furnaces and boilers burn a fuel to generate heat, geothermal heat pumps use electricity to simply move heat from the earth into buildings, allowing much higher efficiencies. Heater efficiencies are measured by the percentage of heat output against energy output. The most efficient fuel-burning heater can reach efficiencies around 95 percent.

A new USAR Center construction project in Dodge City, KS, will take advantage of local ordinances that allow the installation of a 75-foot wind turbine to generate the power for the entire facility. Such ordinances do not exist in all communities housing Reserve installations.

[image align="right" caption="This photovoltaic array was installed at an Army Reserve facility at Fort Dix, NJ. The array is an example of the Army Reserve's efforts to design buildings that are more energy-efficient. (USAR photo.)" linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/FortDixPhotovoltaicarrary.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/FortDixPhotovoltaicarrary.jpg” height=”167″ width=”246″[/image]

Construction projects are not the only area where the Army Reserve has sought innovative approaches to achieving sustainability. It has also sought possible alternatives to retrofit its more than 1,100 stand-alone facilities. This plan is strongly influenced by the availability of funding and of possible alternatives when direct funding is not available.

Available current-year funds will first be used to execute approved projects. The priority will be based on current facility conditions and the benefit to the Army community. All approved projects will be funding-neutral, meaning that the total funds invested can be recouped through reduced energy and maintenance costs within 15 years. These projects include the replacement of boilers and chillers, windows, interior and exterior lighting, and water heaters, and installation of new light switches with advanced sensors.

The second effort will focus on projects that can achieve long-term benefits with minimal financial investment. These programs attract vendors willing to cover the cost of the retrofit. In exchange, a portion of the cost savings is contracted to the vendor over a specified period of time. Due to the improved rates of return resulting from continuing technological improvements, solar and wind farms are particularly suitable.

As the result of rising energy costs and improved capabilities for alternative energy generation, the USAR has received offers from private firms to install these systems on government property. Such agreements call for the installation of a system large enough to cover the needs of the resident facility. During a fixed period, the USAR pays the owner of the system a rate that compares favorably to the local utilities rate. When the contract is concluded, based upon prenegotiated terms, ownership of the system is transferred to the facility owner and the building becomes net zero for energy, as well as cost-free for utilities for the life of the system.

The sustainability initiatives are part of a vision the USAR has for its facilities to be at the forefront of energy sustainability, according to the 2011 USAR Posture Statement; “Continuing to invest in sustainable facilities will enable the Army Reserve to meet or exceed the Department of Defense requirement for a completely net-zero footprint by 2025. More importantly, the Army Reserve will save American tax dollars, return a valuable energy resource to the community, and assure reliable energy for Army Reserve Soldiers and Families.


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  • IAN M. DONEGAN is an Energy Strategist and Analyst for the USAR Installation Management Directorate. He has been working in energy reduction and energy management since 1997.
  • STEVEN A. PATARCITY is a Strategist and Planner for the USAR Installation Management Directorate. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Duquesne University and an M.S.S. from the U.S. Army War College. Patarcity is a retired USAR Colonel.

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