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News > Military Housing division blazes trail into the next generation of green building
Military Housing division blazes trail into the next generation of green building

Posted 3/15/2013   Updated 3/15/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff reports
Balfour Beatty Public Affairs

3/15/2013 - F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- The West has long been a symbol of America's pioneer spirit. Although the days of covered wagons traversing deserted prairies have ceded to smart cars navigating bustling freeways, Balfour Beatty Construction's Military Housing Division recently proved that the dream of forging new frontiers is alive and well -- especially in the realm of sustainability.

Thanks to some trailblazers at Balfour Beatty, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., is now home to a net zero energy construction trailer -- the first of its kind in all operating companies of Balfour Beatty Construction Services, U.S.

A net zero building is one that, on an annual basis, produces as much or more energy than it consumes, successfully reducing carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. In summer and winter months, net zero energy edifices can draw their power from a grid. During the fall and spring seasons, more moderate temperatures allow the buildings to produce power and actually supply energy to the grid.

Although a number of countries have already established long-term goals regarding zero energy building construction, net zero facilities remain largely uncharted territory. Concerns about upfront costs have impeded their widespread adoption in both commercial and residential markets. Experts nonetheless anticipate that the net zero energy principle will transform construction practices over the next several decades and ultimately generate $1.3 trillion in global business by 2035.

With Balfour Beatty's deep commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency, it was only natural to begin exploring ways net zero energy consumption could be achieved.

"Net zero is the future of sustainable building, and we want to lead the industry by example," said Jim Taylor, BBC Military Housing Division president.

Sustainability champion and director of quality/warranty management, Geoff Bellchambers, discovered California-based EcoPort, a company specializing in the construction of net zero energy mobile spaces powered by renewable energy. Bellchambers collaborated with EcoPort to design and build the modular facility.

Construction began in April 2012, and three months later, nine project team members moved into the greenest trailer ever to grace a Balfour Beatty jobsite. Project manager, Aaron Tighe, observed one of the many benefits from working inside this super-efficient trailer.

"It's 29 degrees outside right now, and the wind is blowing upwards of 25 miles per hour, but I don't feel a draft," he said. "That's not what you would expect from a typical jobsite trailer."

The trailer is an impressive hub of sustainable features and renewable energy generators, including solar panels, wind turbines and Galvalume reflective metal siding. Its interior is equally green-equipped with programmable thermostats, light sensors and plywood walls in lieu of drywall, a material which is difficult to recycle. In fact, the entire trailer is 100 percent recyclable!

The investment in preemptively reducing emissions reaps significant dividends. The net zero trailer reduces Balfour Beatty's operational carbon footprint by 30,000 pounds, and compared to the construction of a typical trailer, its eco-friendly manufacturing processes prevent more than 33 tons of bituminous coal from being burned.

Because its materials include minimal volatile organic compounds, the trailer also maintains a high indoor air quality, resulting in a healthier working environment for the project team.

"In order to help our clients achieve their sustainability goals, Balfour Beatty strives to continually advance our building practices that incorporate environmental considerations," said Tracy Browne, vice president of sustainability. "Net zero facilities will be a catalyst for growth and innovation in our industry."

A building that generates its own energy may sound futuristic, but as Balfour Beatty has demonstrated, the technologies are here and the time is now to invest in a healthier future for our communities and our planet.

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