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VAFB leaps forward toward greener future

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)


Two of the largest projects under development on Vandenberg Air Force Base are taking large strides into “Sustainable Design”.

The first project is the renovation of Building 7000 to be the 14th Air Force, Joint Functional Component Command for Space and the 614th Air Operations Center consolidation facility. The other project is the development of the Vandenberg Solar Farm, located northwest of the main gate in the old east-housing area.

“Decades ago, when resources seemed endless, the world’s priority was to make things fast and make it cheap,” said Ken Domako, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, chief of portfolio optimization. “That worked well under the theory that we can replace things in a few years, but the downside was that we became a throw-away society. We are now keenly aware that our resources are limited and that there are consequences for our actions.  Polluted air, water, land and climate change can have devastating effects on our planet."   

In an effort to be more energy and environmentally conscious, Vandenberg has begun focusing on sustainability improvements to the base.

“There are many organizations that are now working toward helping to ‘green’ our impact on the planet,” said Bob Griswold, 30th CES chief architect. “These are organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, Energy Star, and Green Globes. The USGBC is one of the leading organizations pushing for the implementation of sustainable design concepts worldwide. It is also the philosophy of the Department of Defense and the Air Force that sustainable design should be pursued to provide healthier buildings, as well as good economic and environmental stewardship.”

The 14th AF, JFCC Space, and 614th AOC consolidation project will cost approximately $70 million with the project managed through the Air Force Civil Engineering Center, the Vandenberg Project Management Office, the Base Civil Engineering office, the project designers at Benham Design LLC, and the construction contractor Gilbane.

“This 168,000 square-foot building project was designed in keeping with sustainable principles for the benefit of the base, the community, and the environment,” said Domako. “The design integrates the most current technology in both the military systems and in the sustainable design technology of the building itself. The building facilitates training spaces, operations centers, command facilities, conference spaces, offices, and the largest data center on Vandenberg.”

Part of the development of this facility was the submission to USGBC under the LEED Rating System Version 3, with the facility expected to be operational in 2018.

“The USGBC 2009 LEED Rating System is a voluntary method for analyzing the impact of sustainable efforts in development of the built environment,” said Domako. “It provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable ‘green’ building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. The system is a third party review of these efforts, and certification represents an industry wide acknowledgement of the project’s efforts.”

The rating system addresses the five critical areas of site selection, water efficiency, energy, environment, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. The Building 7000 renovation is anticipated to be certified LEED Silver as a minimum.

“The USGBC has developed as an international, non-profit organization that consists of a diverse membership representing the entire building industry, from design and construction to material production,” said Domako. “Their goal is to promote the design, construction, and operation of buildings that are environmentally responsible, economical, and healthy places to live and work.  This project represents an effort in making Building 7000 as sustainable as possible. Sustainable buildings or communities are designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.”

The solar panel project, which will be powering a large portion of Vandenberg, will be completed much sooner than Building 7000 and will be a significant step toward combatting dependence on other energy sources.

“Concurrently, the Vandenberg Solar Farm Project is being developed to supply power for the base,” said Domako. “It is due to be complete in 2017. This project will be able to supply a significant portion of power, 22.5 megawatts, under a 25-year contract with the base. This will reduce carbon emissions of power typically produced by other means of productions. Solar power is as ‘green’ as power gets and its benefits include an annual cost savings to the base of $1.5 million a year. It does not pollute our air or our water. Together these two projects advance the Vandenberg sustainable initiative significantly. Both projects are looking to provide a better environment to live, work and play on Vandenberg.”