Sustainable Development

August 1998 - TI#18185
Important Terms
Goals of Sustainable Development
Economic & Environmental Benefits of Sustainable Development
The USAF Environmentally Responsible Facilitiees Guide
Stages of Sustainable Development Projects
Sustainable Development Initiatives
For More Information
Document References

The term "Sustainable Development" refers to structures and designs that cause no overall net environmental burden or deficit. Other terms commonly used in discussions of sustainable development, which have a similar meaning, are "Green Buildings" and "Environmentally Responsible Facilities." Beginning with the earliest stages of project planning, sustainable development considers a building's total economic and environmental impact and performance, from raw material extraction and product manufacture to product transportation, building design and construction, operations and maintenance, and finally, building reuse or disposal. Though sustainable building practices have, so far, been primarily voluntary, it is anticipated they will become more prominent in the building industry and will soon be reflected in the majority of its products, standards, codes, and regulations.

Sustainable Development concepts and practices may be applied to Military Construction (MILCON), Operation and Maintenance (O&M), Military Family Housing, and Non-Appropriated Funding (NAF) projects. The purpose of this Fact Sheet is to increase Air Force awareness of sustainable development principles and to provide sources of information available to guide United States Air Force (USAF) environmental, engineering, and architectural staffs as they seek to cooperatively plan, design, build, renovate, and occupy "sustainable" structures.

The USAF, as a demonstrated environmental leader, complies with environmentally responsible design, construction, and operation guidelines as it develops new facilities or renovates existing facilities. It also is required to implement certain sustainability practices as mandated by the following Executive Orders (EO) and acquisition policy:

EO 12873, "Federal Acquisition, Recycling and Waste Prevention": This EO mandates that federal agencies incorporate waste prevention and recycling into daily operations (including acquisition planning, affirmative procurement programs, standards, specifications and designation of items) and work to increase and expand markets for recovered materials.

EO 12902, "Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation at Federal Facilities": Section 306 of this EO requires new facilities leased or owned by the Federal government, to be designed and constructed in a manner which minimizes the life cycle cost of the facility by utilizing energy efficiency, water conservation, or solar (or other renewable) energy technologies.

Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 247, "Comprehensive Procurement Guideline": These regulations identify 36 items that are, or can be, manufactured using recycled or recovered materials. Construction, landscaping, and parks and recreation products are among the listed items. Federal agencies are required, with certain exceptions, to purchase EPA Guideline Items meeting minimum recycled-content standards. These purchase requirements are discussed in more detail in "A Guide to Buying Recycled: The Air Force Affirmative Procurement Program," HQ AFCEE, June 1997.

Title 10 CFR Part 435, "Energy Conservation Voluntary Performance Standards For New Buildings; Mandatory For Federal Buildings": This Department of Energy (DoE) regulation applies to all new buildings and multi-family high rise buildings. These performance standards are designed to achieve the maximum practicable improvements in energy efficiency and increases in the use of non-depletable sources of energy.

U. S. Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT): This legislation was signed into law on Oct. 24, 1992 and is a comprehensive energy bill covering many areas, including energy efficiency, fossil fuels, alternative fuels, and federal agency energy management.

Important Terms
Environmentally Preferable - Products or services which have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with other products and services that serve the same purpose. The comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product or service. Alternatives exist for nearly every building product and system. However, each alternative has a different environmental impact. In most cases, practical and affordable "green" solutions are available that are significantly better in meeting the Air Force's environmental goals.

Life Cycle - The life cycle of a product extends from the original procurement of raw materials, through its refinements, its manufacturing, shipping and installation, its use, and finally, its disposal or recycling. Any process associated with the steps within the life cycle of a product can have an environmental impact. Similar products can have widely different upstream and downstream impacts on the environment. Understanding the various environmental impacts and benefits in the life cycle of a material enables USAF personnel to make responsible procurement decisions.

Life Cycle Analysis - Analysis of the environmental impact of processes associated with products and building materials from the gathering of raw materials, through manufacture, to the end of usefulness and disposal.

Life Cycle Cost - The cost accrued throughout the "useful" life of a building or material. Life cycle costs address the capital costs involved in production, maintenance, and disposal of a building or material.

Renewable Resource - A resource, such as energy, water, or a raw material, which is consumed at a rate that does not exceed its ability to naturally replenish or regenerate itself. Examples of renewable energy resources would be solar radiation, wind, or heat from the Earth's interior.

Goals of Sustainable Development
In Fiscal Year 1996 the Air Force constructed 2.4 million square feet (SF) of new facilities and renovated one million SF of existing facilities. The Air Force manages thousands of facilities in hundreds of locations worldwide. Each facility is an opportunity to put sustainable development theories into practice.

The overall goal of sustainable building design, construction, and operation within the Air Force is to be environmentally responsible in the delivery of all new and renovated facilities. To meet this goal, USAF construction planners and engineers should consider:

  • Using resources efficiently and minimizing the consumption of raw material resources (energy, water, land, and materials) during the construction and life of the facility;
  • Maximizing the reuse of resources;
  • Seeking out renewable energy sources as opposed to using fossil fuels;
  • Creating a healthy environment for workers, visitors, and neighbors;
  • Designing facilities for long term durability, flexibility, and eventual reuse; and
  • Protecting and restoring the natural environment.

Economic & Environmental Benefits of Sustainable Development
Sustainable development practices can significantly improve the overall performance, cost-effectiveness, and energy-efficiency of a building. It can also have a positive effect on indoor air quality, working environments, and worker productivity. Initial capital outlays that allow for these economic and quality of life benefits must be viewed and measured over the life cycle of the building.

A building's life span includes planning, design, construction, occupancy, operation, and ultimately, reuse or demolition. Sustainable development designs and practices, when implemented over the life span of a building, can result in significant economic benefits, including reduced building operation costs and increased productivity. Therefore, building-related costs and savings are best understood, and should be analyzed, over the entire life span of the building.

There are ways to reap environmental benefits from every aspect of building planning, design, and construction without incurring added cost. The environmental benefits of sustainable development can include resource and energy efficiency, conservation of non-renewable products and building materials, improved indoor air quality, waste reduction, ecologically-sensitive land use, transportation efficiency, and improved community acceptance.

The combined economic and environmental benefits of sustainable development are well illustrated by waste reduction and recycling. Construction-related wastes account for up to 40% of landfill content. Materials such as gypsum, glass, carpet, aluminum, steel, and brick can be reused or recycled. However, there is a tremendous need to establish processes, standards, and criteria focused on increasing the economic feasibility of recycling construction waste. Recycling initiatives must be more strongly imbedded into the planning, design, and construction of a building so that waste reduction and recycling will become essentially automatic.

When an Air Force facility is delivered, the desired outcomes have traditionally been tied to three "quality criteria":

  1. Meeting schedules;
  2. Staying within budget; and
  3. Meeting mission requirements.

    To move toward sustainability, three additional quality criteria should be added to the list of desired outcomes. These include:

  4. Conserving resources;
  5. Promoting a healthy workplace; and
  6. Avoiding environmental degradation.

The USAF Environmentally Responsible Facilities Guide
To assist in this transition, the Air Force has developed the USAF Environmentally Responsible Facilities Guide, as well as other tools to lead Air Force project teams toward sustainability. The Guide was written by an Air Force team including engineers, architects and environmental specialists for the purpose of introducing Air Force programmers, planners, designers, project managers, energy managers, environmental managers, facility users, architectural/engineering consultants, and building contractors to the environmental challenges faced in planning, programming, designing, and constructing or renovating sustainable facilities. The guide is intended to be a practical tool for implementing environmentally responsible practices.

The Guide provides checklists and tools to assist project teams with each stage of sustainable development projects. It is process- and action-oriented, thereby allowing project teams to quickly begin the process of setting and attaining sustainability priorities and goals. The Guide is organized so that it can be integrated with existing facility design and delivery processes and environmentally responsible practices, as described in the USAF Project Manager's Guide for Design and Construction. It also references established Air Force procedures for complying with applicable environmental regulations.

The Guide was published in June 1998. It, along with its referenced documents, is available from PRO-ACT. The guide can also be downloaded from the Headquarters Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence's Environmental Quality (HQ AFCEE/EQ) and Design and Construction (HQ AFCEE/DC) World Wide Web sites at:

Stages of Sustainable Development Projects
Sustainable development construction projects, like all projects, progress through a number of stages in their life cycle. However, sustainable development projects differ from typical construction projects in that a multidisciplinary design and construction team is formed early in the process. This team cooperatively plans and integrates the building's functional and operational requirements into the achievement of specific environmental and financial goals. Members of the team could include planners, architects, engineers, construction quality assurance evaluators, contractors, building occupants, environmental and energy managers, and others. An outline of the principal stages and key concerns for each stage follows:

Planning: Project concepts, goals, and budgets are established. This is the point at which the project team should begin considering and incorporating sustainable development practices.

Pre-Contract: A Statement of Work for project design is prepared and an architectural-engineer firm is selected. Federal acquisition regulations require the selection criteria to include "specialized experience and technical competence in the type of work required, including, where appropriate, experience in energy conservation, pollution prevention, waste reduction, and the use of recovered materials."

Requirements Analysis: Information is gathered in preparation for design. The project team should review operations and maintenance requirements, environmental impact studies, pollution prevention plans, energy use budgets, and site surveys to lay the foundation for a design that will ensure the "best fit" of the new facility to the natural and human environment.

Project Definition: For MILCON projects, a conceptual design is created during the "charette," a collaborative, cross-disciplinary work session. The site design, floor plan and major building systems are defined. Since these decisions set the direction for the design, they largely determine the ultimate success of the team in meeting the project's sustainable design goals.

Contract Document Development: Construction plans and specifications are developed. Project teams will find checklists of sustainable development actions related to site work, water quality and conservation, energy efficiency, building material selection, and waste management in Chapters 6 through 10 of the USAF Environmentally Responsible Facilities Guide.

Construction: Waste reduction, installation practices that maintain good indoor air quality, and protection of water quality and natural resources are high priorities during construction of a sustainable facility. Contractors should be educated about these priorities and their role in achieving them. Quality assurance evaluators play a key role in ensuring the sustainable design provisions in the contract documents are translated into the finished project. Commissioning completes the construction phase and ensures the building is ready for occupancy.

Occupancy, Operations and Maintenance: A sustainable facility cannot fulfill its environmental and economic potential without the cooperation of knowledgeable occupants and maintainers. If these personnel are educated about sustainability and have been involved throughout the process, the transition will be smooth and the project team's sustainability goals will be realized.

Post-Occupancy Evaluation: Facility managers, in cooperation with the engineering flight and bioenvironmental engineers, can perform evaluations to measure the facility's water and energy consumption, indoor air quality, and waste generation. Maintenance requirements and operational costs should also be considered. This performance data measures the success of the design in moving toward sustainability and establishes a benchmark for future projects.

Facility Reuse: Existing facilities may provide opportunities to reap environmental and economic benefits if they are evaluated in this light before demolition. Sustainable development practices, beginning with the planning stage, have the ultimate reuse and final disposal of the facility in mind. As the Air Force begins to employ these practices in new facilities, the end of a facility's useful life should not pose the costly demolition problems so frequently encountered today.

Sustainable Development Initiatives
HQ AFCEE is developing case study information for these and other projects. For more information, consult the HQ AFCEE World Wide Web site at:

The Vandenberg AFB Military Family Housing Project Partnership
Vandenberg AFB, CA, is in the process of replacing over 2,000 Military Family Housing units. Phase 5 (of 14 phases) has been chosen by AFCEE and Vandenberg personnel as a "pilot" project for sustainable design. AFCEE's role as design agent and the proactive attitude of Vandenberg's architects, engineers, and environmental personnel make this an ideal project for testing sustainability concepts.

The working team includes Vandenberg's Base Architect, Project Manager, and Pollution Prevention Specialist along with AFCEE's Engineering Project Manager and an Environmental Quality Specialist. All team members signed a formal partnering agreement describing the sustainability goals for the project.

The initial sustainability goals included reducing solid waste generated during demolition/construction, increasing the use of recycled-content materials, conserving energy and water, limiting air emissions from construction and operation activities, and preserving and restoring the site's natural resources. As a result of open discussion and team cooperation, each of the initial goals has been further detailed and quantified as the project has progressed from pre-design through the design stage.

The next area of focus for the team was identification of building materials and products that meet agreed upon recycled-content goals. Following design completion, the team held a "lessons learned" meeting to document their experiences for use on future Vandenberg AFB projects and crossfeed to other project teams at other installations. The team also plans to participate in the project preconstruction meeting to communicate the sustainability goals and requirements to the construction contractor and inspectors, who will be key players in the actual implementation of the sustainability specifications. For more information on Vandenberg's housing projects contact Mr. James Willingham, Design and Construction Directorate, HQ AFCEE, at

"Green" Construction at Seymour-Johnson AFB F-15 Squadron Operations
Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, NC is partnering with a contractor in an effort to market waste construction materials not currently recycled by the base. The North Carolina Recycling Association was contacted and has provided a directory of potential purchasers of the base's waste construction materials. The good news is the cost savings potential from the marketing of the waste materials could exceed those in the contractor's original Waste Management Plan.

The primary goal of Seymour-Johnson's Green Construction Program is to divert 75% of the project waste from the landfill and/or recycle 75% of the waste back into the recycling market. A secondary goal is to use recycled-content material in the new building materials.

For more information on Seymour-Johnson's F-15 Squadron Operations Green Construction project, contact Ms. Emilee Blount at

For More Information...
  1. Mr. Randall Lierly, Architect, HQ AFCEE, Design and Construction Directorate, DSN 240-4208,
  2. Ms. Karen Kivela, Environmental Engineer, HQ AFCEE, Environmental Quality Directorate, DSN 240-4191,
  3. PRO-ACT, (800) 233-4356, DSN 240-4214,
  4. US Green Building Council, 90 New Montgomery St., Ste.1001, San Francisco, CA 94105 (415) 543-3001,
  5. Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development, a Project of the US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,
  6. Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST),
  7. USEPA Energy Star Buildings Program WWW site:
  8. Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency (AFCESA) "A-GRAM," "Federal Energy Star Buildings Program Partnership," January 1998, AFCESA is an excellent source of information and technical assistance. Visit AFCESA at

Document References
  1. "Federal Acquisition, Recycling, and Waste Prevention," EO 12873, 20 October 1993.
  2. "Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation at Federal Facilities," EO 12902, 8 March 1994.
  3. "Recovered Materials Advisory Notice," Vol. 60 FR 21386, U.S. EPA, 1 May 1995.
  4. "Comprehensive Guideline for Procurement of Products Containing Recovered Materials," Vol. 60 FR 21370, U.S. EPA, 1 May 1995.
  5. "Sustainable Building Technical Manual: Green Building Design, Construction, and Operations," Public Technology, Inc. and U.S. Green Building Council, 1996.
  6. "USAF Environmentally Responsible Facilities Guide," June 1998, HQ AFCEE.
  7. "A Guide to Buying Recycled: The Air Force Affirmative Procurement Program," HQ AFCEE, June 1997.
  8. "Establishing Principles and a Model for Sustainable Construction," Charles J. Kibert, Proceedings of the First International Conference of the International Council for Building Research, Task Group 16, 1994.