Energy Conservation in the Department of Defense MHS Replacement Hospital at Ft. Riley

Published on : May 06, 2011

Energy Conservation in the Department of Defense MHS Replacement Hospital at Ft. Riley

Energy Conservation in the Department of Defense MHS Replacement Hospital at Ft. Riley

The Department of Defense (DoD) has demonstrated that it is committed to protecting and conserving the environment with mandates and policies, all while upholding its mission.  Each of the Services has adopted a sustainability policy to ensure the implementation of sustainable building practices.  On September 8, 2010 the DoD’s first Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan was released in which the Department established very aggressive targets for energy and water use reductions that can only be achieved by designing and maintaining their facilities in a high performance manner.


Sustainability is not only a goal for the DoD, but it is a mandate as well. Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, and Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, reinforced federal government commitment to existing regulations such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct ‘05) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) and resulted in the formation of the Interagency Sustainability Working Group (ISWG). The ISWG developed the High Performance and Sustainable Buildings (HPSB) Guiding Principles which outline specific guidelines around the design process, energy performance, water conservation, indoor environmental quality and environmental impact of materials that apply to all new DoD construction projects and must be met by 15% of all existing agency buildings by 2015. Sustainability requirements are also embedded in the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) documents and the recent Defense Health Board’s Achieving World Class report.


Sustainability in Healthcare Makes Sense

The DoD also uses the third party, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process to verify that all building projects in new construction as well as major renovations meet their sustainability goals.  The federal government is the industry leader and the single largest owner of LEED certified buildings. 

As part of the DoD, the Military Health System (MHS) hospitals have shown a commitment to sustainability and have provided performance standards for other facilities in the industry to model.  The sustainability movement has increasingly focused on reducing the significant impact that healthcare has on the environment. By some estimates 4% of all energy in the U.S. is consumed by healthcare facilities (Better Bricks, 2010) and this energy consumption adds over $600 million a year in healthcare costs due to the effects of pollution in the U.S. alone (World Health Organization & Health Care Without Harm, 2009). 

Healthcare projects have generally been slower than other market sectors to adopt sustainable building practices.  Traditionally, industry professionals have placed primary focus on the safety and well being of patients and felt that attention to environmental issues would compromise their efforts. However, keeping patients safe and doing no harm is consistent with sustainability.  Others have resisted applying green building strategies to healthcare because the existing guidance and tools, such as the USGBC’s LEED standard, were not until recently tailored to unique characteristics of healthcare facilities. 

Despite these apparent barriers the Military Health System has been forging ahead with sustainable design in their newest hospital projects. The Hospital Replacement project at Ft. Riley, located in Kansas, was designed by Joint Venture firms Leo A. Daly and RLF and is scheduled to be delivered through a series of five design packages, with expected completion in 2012: civil and site, foundation, structure, building envelope, and fit out.  The design will include 263,000 square feet of in-patient services as well as 289,000 square feet of outpatient clinic services (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2009).  Sustainability design and implementation is unique to each individual package and therefore bi-weekly sustainability meetings are scheduled throughout the project to discuss and maintain environmental conservation and energy reduction methods.  Additionally, the design team and the owner have been particularly proactive to ensure the implementation of sustainable features.  Leo A. Daly/RLF and the US Army Corps of Engineers permitted U.S. Army officers to actively participate in the production and development of project documents.  The Health Facility Planning Agency (HFPA) is also actively involved in the project development.  Ft. Riley personnel attend the design and sustainability meetings as well to achieve collaboration across the entire team from designers to user groups. The following table shows the remarkable achievements that are anticipated in this leading edge MHS project.


Designing an Earth Friendly Hospital

The Ft. Riley replacement hospital exhibits several examples of sustainable design elements as well as energy efficiency operations and maintenance.  Energy efficiency is achieved through many avenues including heat recovery chillers, lighting design, fritted glass, and spray foam insulation in the air cavities of the exterior wall construction.  The building envelope also utilizes triple pane glazing to increase R-value at vision panels.  Additionally, all of the LEED-NC Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Credits are being closely tracked by the designers with a desire to achieve each individual credit.  The team has a multifaceted approach to achieving superior indoor air quality: ventilation rates are increased above minimum requirements; a specific Construction IAQ plan will be initiated during all phases of work; and, low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials are specified throughout the project, including terrazzo flooring and carpet cleaning products. 

In addition to the replacement hospital, a central energy plant is included in the design of the new facility.  This plant, along with several active energy conscious lighting design features and heating and cooling engineering strategies, will reduce the energy load of the facility below the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.  The lighting design features include LED lighting in corridors, a daylight harvesting system, utilization of incandescent fixtures only where dimming is required and fluorescent fixtures cannot be provided, exterior lighting control by photocell on and time clock off operation, and occupancy sensors in low occupancy room types.  The heating and cooling engineering strategies include variable speed drive premium efficiency motors for fans and pumps, minimized chilled water need with airside economizers on air handlers, and direct digital control (DDC) systems for equipment control.  This combination of energy saving systems results in an estimated 17% to 18% reduction in energy consumption over the ASHRAE 90.1 baseline calculations using LEED criteria and over 30% using EPAct ‘05 criteria.  When modeled, the energy saving design features and engineering strategies produce the following graph of predicted usage.

Proposed Design versus Baseline Case Energy Performance by End Use (Leo A Daly, 2010)

When designing for energy efficiency and compliance to government mandates, a few sustainable features were not found to be cost effective over the estimated 40 year life span of the facility.  For example, geothermal energy and solar photovoltaics were explored and found not to deliver sufficient benefits when evaluated with a traditional life-cycle cost analysis.  Even without the use of these two technologies the new hospital at Ft. Riley has been designed to outperform traditional designs in terms of energy consumption providing a model for others to follow.



Jennifer DuBose, is a Research Associate with the College of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she is responsible for project development and management.She has worked with government and private sector clients to help them develop policies and strategies for greening their facilities and operations. She may be reached at [email protected]
Joshua Crews is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is currently conducting research on sustainability in the Military Health System and flexibility in healthcare architecture, he is also part of the Healthy Environments Research Group within the Health Systems Institute. You can contact Josh at [email protected].

Brad  A. Schaap is the Corporate Director of Sustainability for Leo A Daly and a licensed Professional Structural Engineer in California.  He is the Chairman of the AIA Large Firm Round Table-Sustainable Design Leaders Group and a Regional Leader of the Architecture+Design Sustainable Design Leaders Group. He served as the LEED and Sustainability Coordinator for the Ft. Riley Hospital Replacement Project for the design team.