Alabama National Guard opens first building in Alabama with highest eco-friendly rating

Release #2013071201

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MONTGOMERY, AL (07/12/2013)(readMedia)-- As time and technology move forward, so must we. Many of the Alabama National Guard's facilities are outdated and can no longer meet the training needs of the units that call them home. In an effort to create new facilities that are both effective and efficient, the Alabama Guard has increased its standards for new structures based on the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system. Growing environmental concerns have not gone unnoticed by the Alabama National Guard. To minimize our impact on the environment, as well as save taxpayers' money, the Alabama Guard is proud to open the first LEED Platinum certified commercial building in the state of Alabama.

The Alabama National Guard held the grand opening and LEED award ceremony at the new Armed Forces Reserve Center on Pelham Range, in Alexandria, Ala., Thursday, July 11, 2013. The facility is currently home to several Army Reserve units, and hosts some training of part-time National Guard Soldiers during their monthly assemblies. The 30,862 square foot facility boasts some of the latest eco-friendly technology available, such as geothermal heating and cooling. Piping was drilled to approximately 300 feet below the earth's surface, and air and water are pumped down and circulated to reach the constant temperature of the surrounding earth, then returned back into the building. This process reduces the amount of electricity and chemicals needed to maintain a comfortable, climate controlled atmosphere inside the facility.

The classrooms and offices have motion-sensitive lighting. The lights remain off until a person enters the room and triggers the sensor. A few minutes after the room is vacated, the lights turn themselves off, reducing unnecessary power usage. To help illuminate the rooms, the windows were designed to maximize the amount of natural lighting in the workspace. Even the orientation of the building plays a part in maintaining the building's light and temperature. The windows and outer walls are constructed in a way that takes advantage of the sun's position throughout the year, maximizing the solar heat in the winter and minimizing the incoming sunlight in the summer months.

"We have to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money," said Col. Brian Barrontine, Alabama National Guard's construction and facilities management officer. "We get less and less (funding) to operate our facilities, so if we build buildings that consume a lot of energy and do not incorporate energy-efficient technology, we just wouldn't be able to operate them."

In 2011, the Alabama Guard announced it would be closing thirteen armories across the state. This was necessary to cut maintenance costs and increase readiness. Older facilities in poor condition have various and widespread negative impacts on several things to include quality of work environment; health and safety concerns; space and capabilities to conduct proper, state-of-the-art training; and recruiting and retention of the highest quality Soldiers. There was no decrease in force structure; units were moved to newer and better facilities similar to this new AFRC.

"This is part of the Base Realignment and Closure process where we have decided to close some old facilities and replace them with new facilities like this one," said Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, Alabama National Guard's adjutant general. "We already have a lot of energy-efficient buildings in the Alabama Guard, but this is the first one in the whole state with the Platinum rating."

As the Alabama Guard plans the construction of future buildings, the LEED certification requirements are being added to the building codes, helping the Guard lead the way in environment-friendly, energy-efficient facility standards. The Alabama National Guard headquarters compound is also home to the state's largest solar power generation project.



IMG_0044: The new Armed Forces Reserve Center is located on Pelham Range in Alexandria, Ala. (Photo by Dean Sharp, JMR Architecture, PC)

IMG_0037: The new AFRC houses several Army Reserve units, as well as training areas for Alabama National Guard units. (Photo by Dean Sharp, JMR Architecture, PC)

AFRCplaque: The LEED Platinum plaque is displayed in the main lobby of the new Armed Forces Reserve Center. (Photo by Sgt. Brenda Thomas, Public Affairs Office)

AFRCpipes: Dozens of geothermal pipes reach deep into the ground beneath the building. Air and water are pumped to approximately 300 feet below ground where the temperature is steady. Once the air and water reach optimal temperature, they are pumped back into the building for consumption. This cuts the energy cost per square foot of building space by nearly half. (Photo by Sgt. Brenda Thomas, Public Affairs Office)