Published on : March 01, 2011
The Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir Set to Be a Shining Star of Sustainability
The Military Health System (MHS) within the Department of Defense is producing large scale hospitals that serve as industry precedents for sustainability. Even with a host of requirements, regulations, and challenges, the MHS is excelling in the production of highly sustainable facilities such as the Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir. Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, just south of Washington D.C., will be home to a new hospital serving active and retired military and their families from all three Services in the National Capitol Area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District is managing the construction of the more than $800 million state-of-the-art medical treatment facilities (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2009). The facility is on schedule to open later in 2011 and is on an accelerated timeline as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure directive (Medical Construction & Design, 2011).
Sustainability has been incorporated into the design and construction of the Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir. The new complex will include 55 primary and specialty outpatient clinics, as well as extensive ambulatory surgery and ancillary capabilities. There will be 120 inpatient single-bed rooms, with the exception of semi-private in the behavioral health unit. This state-of-the-art medical facility will also include 2 parking decks, a standalone central utility plant, and helipad, situated on more than 45 acres, (HDR/Dewberry, December 19, 2008). The entire facility utilizes energy-saving technologies, a landscape design with native and adaptive plantings, and water-saving design elements to decrease its impact on the environment. A rainwater collection system has been designed to significantly reduce potable water use while simultaneously increasing awareness and promoting sustainability. As a Military Health System project, federal government mandates provide unique opportunities and barriers in the design and construction process. The Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir is registered with the Green Building Certification Institute and is actively pursuing LEED® Silver certification (DiPenti, 2010).
Locating the hospital structure along the natural high point in the site topography allows continued protection for the wetlands located to the northeast and southwest of the project. A mature oak forest, preserved by a steep natural swale on the western side of the hospital, will accommodate pedestrian traffic and a walking trail. Irrigation needs will be minimal because 62% of the site area is being restored with mid-Atlantic/Coastal Plains native and adaptive vegetation. Interior connections to the landscape are being provided by intermittent courtyards that break up the building structure and bring daylight in to the interior. Green roofs and “curbless” planted areas in the parking zones are designed to capture, treat, and filter storm water runoff. Additionally, reduction of the heat island effect and storm water runoff is achieved with permeable paving in the parking spaces and an “open pavement approach” in the service access areas (HDR/Dewberry, December 19, 2008).
The water collection system for the Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir is designed to collect rainwater that falls on the buildings and store it for later reuse in landscape irrigation. Collecting and reusing rain water for landscape irrigation will drastically decrease the amount of potable water used in the facility and reduce the quantity and rate of storm water runoff. The curved roofs of outpatient clinics will help direct rainwater into vertical pipes that will run through the waiting rooms. Condensation from the HVAC system is funneled to underground cisterns with a capacity to hold 160,000 gallons for future irrigation use. The courtyards, enclosed on 3 sides by glazed curtain walls, expose the building occupants to seasonal changes and the variable conditions of “wet” and “dry” that occur throughout the year in the Virginia climate (HDR/Dewberry, August 2008).
The project team creatively used the synergies between sustainable design and the Military Health System’s evidence-based design (EBD) principles to meet both LEED requirements and the EBD requirements throughout the design, construction, and operations phases of the project. Green roofs that provide occupants with a connection to nature help to minimize the impact of storm water as well as providing enhanced insulation. Ultraviolet (UVC) technology will be used to prevent surface organisms and other bacteria or mold from growing inside the HVAC system also reducing energy loads by preventing the air handling units from straining to compensate for restricted air flow. Gardens have been specifically designed to provide patients and staff respite areas and reduce stress. Carbon dioxide monitors will be used to adjust ventilation to “sustain occupant comfort and well-being” (HDR/Dewberry, October 14, 2008). Individual spaces and group areas contain both lighting and thermal controls to promote occupant comfort and improve staff productivity. Low-emitting materials and furniture are specified for the project to protect indoor air quality and reduce building occupants’ exposure to harmful chemicals. A “Green Cleaning” policy will also provide a positive effect on indoor air quality with a reduction in the use of harmful chemicals as well as reduce patients’ stress with the use of low decibel rated vacuums.
Because Ft. Belvoir’s Community Hospital is a federal facility, unique government conditions have steered the implementation of sustainability and LEED certification. In the case of Ft. Belvoir, government regulations played a positive role in the implementation of sustainable features. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) issued the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005) that requires a new federal facilities be designed 30% below the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards when life cycle cost effective. Early models render the Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir 27.6% below ASHRAE energy consumption standards due to the energy-saving lighting design, rainscreen system, high efficiency variable speed chillers and multi-stack heat recovery chiller system. The rainscreen system applied to the exterior of the facility will reduce energy consumption by increasing the insulation value of the façade and minimizing thermal bridging from the outside to the interior. Though the rainscreen creates additional up front construction costs, the long term energy savings along with the EPAct ‘05 energy reduction requirement prevented it from being value engineered out of the project.
In order to show compliance with federal mandates and quantify qualitative sustainable initiatives, HDR has evolved the Sustainability Return on Investment (SROI) tool (HDR Arcitecture Inc., 2009). The SROI utilizes a traditional life-cycle cost analysis, but additionally monetizes external costs and impacts such as greenhouse gases, criteria air contaminant as well as water, waste, and noise (Manning, Larocque, & Berger, 2010). Additionally, the SROI can be utilized to overcome initial investment and financial barriers in the implementation of sustainable design features. By accounting for non-cash variables such as reduced air contaminant emissions, conservation of fresh water, as well as improved health, productivity, resiliency, and safety of the building occupants, the SROI can provide potential investors with a “comprehensive cost-benefit analysis over a project’s entire life-cycle.” The SROI can also facilitate decision making by providing the true value of an alternative, the viability of that alternative, and the probability of a positive payoff for the alternative (Manning, et al., 2010). The end result of an SROI renders sustainable features to be more cost effective than if a traditional life-cycle cost analysis is used. Cost effectiveness is particularly important because federal mandates such as EPACT 05 and the High Performance and Sustainable Building Guiding Principles require projects incorporate sustainable features “when cost effective.”
The Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir is an example of what is possible when a project team sets their sights high and works hard to stay true to the project mission. This new hospital will provide a superior environment for caring for our nation’s warriors while also raising the bar for sustainable construction and operation.
About the Authors
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., LEED AP, is a Research Associate with the College of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she is responsible for project development and management. Ms. DuBose is a LEED accredited professional with a background in sustainable facilities and organizational sustainability. She has worked with government and private sector clients to help them develop policies and strategies for greening their facilities and operations. Ms. DuBose has a master’s degree in public policy from Georgia Tech with a focus on sustainable development. After completing her undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Oglethorpe University she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She may be reached at jennifer.
Joshua Crews is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Josh graduated from the University of Florida in 2007 with a Bachelor of Design in Architecture and pursued his career in healthcare design with Gresham, Smith and Partners until beginning his graduate studies at Georgia Tech. He is currently conducting research on sustainability in the Military Health System, flexibility in healthcare architecture, and the utilization of Active Design Guidelines in multi-family affordable housing projects. Josh is part of the Healthy Environments Research Group within the Health Systems Institute and is pursuing the Master of Architecture professional degree in the College of Architecture. You can contact Josh at
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (2009). New Fort Belvoir (Va.) Community Hospital Project. Retrieved July 13, 2010, from http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/projects/military%20projects/fort%20belvoir/homepage.asp