New Analytic Tool Supports Master Planning for Net Zero Installations

By October 25, 2011October 17th, 2014General, Science and Technology
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By Dana Finney

Master planners and energy managers can study select buildings’ energy loads using the Net Zero Energy Tool. Here, Vince Guthrie (from left), Fort Carson, CO Utilities Program Manager, Cambrey Torres, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Engineer, and Hal Alguire, Director of Public Works, discuss the LEED features of Fort Carson’s Wilderness Road Complex. (U.S. Army photo by Susan C. Galentine, Fort Carson.)

The first tool of an integrated virtual model to help installations meet the Army’s ambitious Net Zero goals provides engineering analysis for planners seeking to achieve Net Zero energy at the facilities level. The new tool, which debuted at the GovEnergy conference in Cincinnati, OH in August, will feed a system-level analysis model coming in January 2012.

“Before you can optimize systems across the installation, you have to know what the loads are for individual buildings and then determine what energy efficiency measures (EEMs) can get the loads as low as possible,” said Dr. Michael Case, Program Manager at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) of the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). These measures include tried-and-true approaches such as added insulation; daylighting (maximizing the use of natural light); modifications to heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment; better windows; and lighting controls.

The Net Zero Energy (NZE) Tool, part of the Net Zero Installations (NZI) Planning Tool, allows master planners and energy managers to select clusters of buildings by simply dragging a cursor around those they wish to study. It then retrieves required information for each building type within the cluster. Next, users can run energy simulations to select the best EEM packages, along with costs and savings-to-investment ratios. The tool will use the selected options to optimize facility-level solutions and will provide documentation and justifications to use in preparing DD Form 1391, the Military Construction Project Data Sheet, or to prepare bundles of projects for private financing.

“We’ll never get to Net Zero energy on a building-by-building basis,” Case said. “But by making each building as efficient as practical and affordable, we can then evaluate district-level strategies, such as biogas-fired cogeneration solutions, that efficiently generate electricity while using normally wasted energy to heat and cool nearby facilities. We also need to consider centralized versus distributed renewable solutions, such as wind, solar, and other new or emerging technologies. Basically, the tool helps weigh the trade-offs among alternatives and costs, energy saved, fossil fuel eliminated, and greenhouse gases reduced.”

Research and development of the NZI Planning Tool is funded by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology as part of the Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Program. During FY12, CERL will begin work on modules for Net Zero water and waste to be integrated with the NZE tool. The research team includes subject-matter experts from the U.S. Department of Energy, academia, and industry. Web demonstrations of the NZE tool are available from Michael Case via email at

According to team member Dr. Hany Zaghloul, “Energy, water, solid waste, and greenhouse gas are complex, coupled systems. For example, strategies to achieve Net Zero energy can increase water usage, while processes such as desalination use large amounts of energy.”

To ensure that the integrated tool will reflect the most innovative, cutting-edge ideas from academia and the private sector, CERL issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation in July. The goal is to gather a critical mass of expertise to augment the research team and complete the tool at an accelerated pace. Topic N—“Integrating Installation Energy, Water, and Waste Modeling” (CERL-35) —calls for interested parties to bring their good ideas to ERDC for NZI studies and technology demonstrations. Innovators can submit pre-proposals through the BAA to ERDC for review. While no funding has been set aside for any of the topics in this BAA, the lab can seek funding from agencies that might be interested in sponsoring the ideas that have been submitted and evaluated favorably.

Through the BAA review process, ERDC subject-matter experts will provide technical direction in shaping proposals to obtain the best value for installations. It is expected that agencies would fund ERDC to manage contract execution in partnership with the installation and sponsor. The BAA allows for flexibility to award standard contracts, cooperative agreements, or grants, as appropriate.

The entire ERDC BAA is available for download at  The BAA includes instructions for preparing and submitting pre-proposals.

Numerous ongoing studies and demonstrations focus on energy, water, and waste technology and greenhouse gas. They will help lay the groundwork for the future modules. For example, regional water studies and conservation strategies will help in building the water model, and a pilot demonstration of a solid waste gasification plant started this year.

For more information, please contact Dr. Case at 217-373-7259. For more information on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visit, or for more information on ERDC, visit


  • DANA FINNEY is a Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. She holds a B.A. in science writing and editing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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