Written by Kristen Victor, LEED AP,
CEO, Sustainability Matters, Inc.
With the increasing costs of energy and the dirty footprint left behind by the production of gas, coal and oil, we are finding that mainstream energy efficiency design must take a backseat to innovation, emerging technologies and clean energy opportunities.
Fort Irwin National Training Center, located in the desert of Southern California, has become a leader and innovator within the military, driving the opportunity to prioritize and approach energy-use reduction and energy conservation within existing buildings in a holistic manner.
The approach to energy resiliency at one of country’s finest military training bases and its community is multi-solution oriented. With this approach, insight and understanding of different strategies is required to support current and future goals and objectives.
Sustainability Matters offered Fort Irwin an innovative approach to energy reduction within 20 existing building barracks as an alternative to spray foam insulation, which is a toxic, non- biodegradable solution to building insulation. Our approach included efficiency within the building envelope, including new cool roofs and dual-pane windows. Due to the extreme thermal nature of Fort Irwin’s location — being very cool in the winter and very hot in the summer — additional interior thermal loads needed attention. The application of a combination of insulation and phase change materials provided a passive/active strategy to reduce energy usage.
For decades, phase change materials (PCM) have been used as a building assembly solution to thermal mass and energy efficiency in buildings throughout the world. Over the past 10 years, the United States has toyed with the idea of PCM, though there has been minimal measurement and verification specific to mainstream applications of PCM. This is due mostly to short life cycles and the use of petroleum-based products that are not aligned with standard U.S. fire codes and regulations.
Increasingly, however, phase change materials are being made of non-toxic, plant-based byproducts, shifting from a traditional building solution with certain issues to an innovative building material, and solving the problem of one of today’s most global issues: energy.
The multi-solution approach used on these 20 buildings at Fort Irwin has been a success, based on the collection of actual building operations M&V baseline and post installation. The overall energy usage reduction combined with the described strategy is 37 percent energy reduction on the cooling load during the moderate summer/fall months. Continuous data collection will focus on the heating/gas usage reduction in the winter months and the extreme heat of the intense summer months through a 12-month M&V cycle.
In additional to the energy reduction, the barracks are a moderately consistent temperature, providing the human occupant, our soldiers, a much more comfortable environment.