With the help of sustainability consultant Vertegy, FirstLight Federal Credit Union & USO was recently recognized for its sustainable excellence by the U.S. Green Building Council. The organization notified Vertegy and the owners that the facility had achieved LEED Silver certification.
After receiving news that an expansion was needed to accommodate the biggest transformation Fort Bliss, Texas, has seen in its 164-year history, the United States Army became committed to building the base's new facilities with sustainable design and construction in mind. With the help of St. Louis-based sustainability consultant Vertegy, one of those facilities - FirstLight Federal Credit Union & USO - was recently recognized for its sustainable excellence by the U.S. Green Building Council. The organization notified Vertegy and the owners that the facility had achieved LEED Silver certification.
FirstLight Federal Credit Union operates nine branches and has been serving the greater Fort Bliss community for more than 50 years. After the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Fort Bliss learned its population would rapidly expand, and the base would need to do the same in order to provide the services needed to accommodate the growing work force. Upon being notified that the base would welcome 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers, FirstLight Federal Credit Union determined that further accommodations would be desperately needed, and the credit union allocated space in a new facility for the USO in a joint effort to better serve the soldiers. FirstLight Federal Credit Union recruited NewGround as the construction manager and developer for a new 16,000-square-foot, one-story building, and in turn, NewGround contracted Vertegy to help lead the team's sustainable efforts.
The project team found innovative ways to employ strategies that added points at little or no additional cost. Specific sustainable features of the building that helped garner the Silver certification include:
• Highly reflective roofing material to decrease
the heat island effects to the surrounding area
• Solar Reflectance Index (SRI)-compliant concrete
paving used throughout the parking lot, teller
drive-through lanes and sidewalks
• The installation of water-efficient flush/flow
fixtures in the restrooms and employee break room,
including, dual-flush water closets, low-flow pint
urinals, ultra low-flow lavatory faucets, and low-
flow shower and kitchen faucets
• A solar-control, low-emissivity "super" glass
that provides better insulation protection to the
Water efficiency was a primary concern for the project since Fort Bliss is located in the Chihuahuan Desert, and going above and beyond the standard water savings was very important. A large portion of the site is landscaped with an aggregate mulch that requires no mowing or irrigation and is a perfect example of smart desert landscaping.
The minimal amount of irrigation installed around the building is zoned with a drip irrigation system, resulting in over a 99 percent potable water reduction over a standard baseline.
Additionally, construction waste was tracked throughout the entire project, and the percentage of landfill materials never went above 15 percent. Recycled materials were found in many of the products specified and installed in the building, including steel, insulation and ceiling tiles. Regional products were also highly valued, and the team chose to highlight concrete, EIFS products and wall tiles.
"FirstLight Federal Credit Union & USO is a leading example of how sustainable design and construction can be incorporated anywhere - even on military bases," said Thomas Taylor, Vertegy's General Manager. "This facility will be a model of smart building practices and low-cost greening opportunities with long-term utility cost savings for years to come."
FirstLight Federal Credit Union includes a large entrance lobby, waiting area and greeter station; private offices and shared teller stations, including separate areas for commercial and mobile banking tellers; and approximately 6,000 square feet devoted to a USO center with internet café, gaming stations, refreshment areas and a theater room.
FirstLight is also incorporating educational information about the building into signage, explaining the sustainable features of the space. Tours of the facility are provided to all interested parties to highlight the sustainable features and educate the community about the benefits of building green.
Founded in February 2005, Vertegy provides clients with design, procurement and construction consulting services for green and sustainable facilities. One of the key ways Vertegy serves clients is by helping them gain certification for their projects from various nationally and internationally recognized certification bodies, such as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which provides LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification. Vertegy — which is derived from combining the Latin root for green and strategy — is based in St. Louis at the LEED Platinum Alberici Corporate Headquarters. For more information, call 314.733.2666 or visit www.vertegyconsultants.com.