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News | Feb. 1, 2017

Grand, Green Opening

By Emily Tsambiras, Chris Erbe and Catherine Hopkins


The sunlight glinted off the glass front of the modern building, and jets flew overhead as guests took their seats, awaiting the Defense Logistics Agency director and the commencement of the ribbon cutting on this fall day in 2016. Tall, bright banners flanking the taut red ribbon displaying the DLA logo proudly announced the organization as “America’s Combat Logistics Support Agency.”

Excitement filled the crowd gathered to celebrate the result of 15 years of planning, as DLA Distribution’s new headquarters building was about to officially open for business.

Early Planning

The concept of a new DLA Distribution headquarters building first appeared in planning documents years before the organization was even known as DLA Distribution. The Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna’s October 2001 Summary Master Plan envisioned bringing all its Headquarters Command employees at the New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, installation into one space.

Championed by former Deputy Commander Phyllis Campbell, the project sought to replace decades-old buildings designed for the needs of the past. The oldest occupied building was nearly 100 years old, dating to the establishment of the installation. Other occupied buildings were established in the 1940s and 50s, while some employees simply worked out of temporary structures for years awaiting a proper workspace.

As a result of Campbell’s efforts to get the project funded, it was placed on Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Program Budget Review Military Construction list for fiscal 2011 execution, with an original targeted completion date of 2013. Because the installation is Army-owned, the project was turned over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to contract for the design and construction of the facility.

According to Denis du Breuil, USACE deputy chief of Construction Division North, who has worked on upgrading facilities on the installation for more than 30 years, the new building was a natural evolution with huge benefits.

“For many years, the Baltimore District has had a strong relationship with DLA and this installation, building multiple projects that support DLA Distribution’s mission and the quality of life for the installation’s residents and employees,” du Breuil said. “Like every military installation, DLA Distribution is really a small city. So getting this headquarters building literally up and running benefits and impacts an entire community.”

Design/Build Phase

When the contract of the building’s interior and exterior design was awarded to Clark Nexsen, the firm set about designing a state-of-the-art facility that would bring all identified DLA Distribution employees on the installation under one roof.

With DLA’s vision as a guidepost, the firm designed a 265,000-square-foot, multi-story command building. The design concept for the building was organized into three wings backing onto the existing golf course with maximized views of the adjacent Susquehanna River. The central wing was designed as four stories plus a mechanical penthouse, while the East and West wings were designed as three stories.

Each wing included a variety of office spaces, including open and private offices, conference rooms, a 200-seat cafeteria, a 394-seat auditorium, a videoconferencing center, a computer data center with raised flooring, storage areas for filing systems and other special-purpose spaces.

Most notably, the building and interiors were designed to be certified as Silver by the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design Council. To earn the LEED Silver rating, the buildings feature energy-efficient lighting and equipment with motion and occupancy sensors, natural light, rainwater harvesting, recycled and local materials, green roofs, photovoltaic roof panels, maximized solar orientation and increased levels of insulation.

Developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council, the LEED program includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods that aim to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.

The main building replaced Korean War-era buildings, said Michael Van Dam, the DLA senior energy manager, who manages sustainability projects at the agency.

These many small projects together make an impressive impact, Van Dam said.

“That’s a lot of nickels and dimes adding up to dollars,” he added.

After the design phase, construction of the project was awarded to Walsh Construction, and the DLA Distribution team held a commemorative groundbreaking in November 2012. Despite snow covering the ground, the DLA director, USACE North Atlantic Division commander and DLA Distribution commander joined to move the first piece of ground, kicking off construction of the building.

Nearly a year later, employees gathered to celebrate the organization’s 16th anniversary by signing a steel beam that was then incorporated as part of the building — leaving an indelible mark and becoming a part of DLA Distribution history.

In Fall 2016, employees began the process of cleaning out years’ worth of storage and filing to begin the move to the new building. Over three months, divisions were relocated to their new office spaces. The new building opened Nov. 18, 2016.

The Big, Green Picture

The new DLA Distribution headquarters building is just the latest example of the agency’s effort to reduce waste, cut energy use and save taxpayer money by using sustainable design.

Elsewhere at DLA, other projects include solar-thermal walls on the sides of warehouses in New Cumberland and in Tracy, California. The walls pre-heat the cool air coming into the building, often warming it enough that traditional heating is not needed.

And last year DLA Aviation in Richmond, Virginia, installed ground-source heat pumps at its new DLA Aviation Operations Center. These heat pumps use moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce costs.

Geothermal wells are a clean technology, according to Alex Vazquez, DLA Installation Support at Richmond engineer and project manager.

“We aren’t polluting the air or water. They are very efficient and work well in winter and summer conditions,” he said. “The efficiency will be reflected in terms of lower energy costs for DLA and in the overall comfort of the employees working in the building.”

Occupants will also benefit from energy-efficient light sensors using LED lights, touchless water-efficient faucets, low-fill toilets and air-powered hand dryers. The building will also include flooring and ceiling materials that are environmentally friendly and contribute to the building’s LEED Silver rating.

The new operations center will operate using a fraction of energy of the buildings it replaces. In the past, 70 percent of Defense Supply Center Richmond’s energy was consumed in Buildings 31, 32 and 33. The buildings were built in World War II as warehouses and then converted to administrative space.

The new building’s envelope will be box shaped. A building envelope is the physical separator between the interior and exterior of a building. Envelope components are the building’s walls, floors, roofs, doors, etc. The closer you can get to a box or cube, the more energy you can keep in the building, according to Damon Igou, site energy manager DLA Installation Support at Richmond.

While the heat pumps were being installed, Vasquez said installation personnel were vigilant in protecting the environment.

“During digging, erosion and sediment controls and measures in the form of sediment control fencing, gravel and cloth on the job site protect center storm drain entrances that flow to the Chesapeake Bay,” Vazquez said. “These measures help ensure construction mud and material don’t flow into the bay.” 

Presidential Push

DLA’s push to build more sustainable facilities can be traced at least to 2007, when then-President Bush ordered DLA and other federal agencies (via Executive Order 13423) to reduce by 30 percent the energy consumption of their buildings before the end of fiscal year 2015. To comply, agencies began reporting this consumption per square foot — called “energy intensity” — relative to a 2003 baseline. Congress later included these goals in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which the president signed into law.

“While not all of our facilities achieved the energy-intensity goal, DLA has reduced overall energy consumption by about 37 percent over the past 10 years,” said Chief of Energy Resource Management Don Juhasz.

And last year, then-President Obama issued new 10-year sustainability goals for federal agencies, signing Executive Order 13693 in March 2015, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.” It instructs federal agencies to reduce energy intensity in their buildings another 25 percent by the end of fiscal 2025, relative to a fiscal 2015 baseline.

Through its policies, programs and projects, DLA continues to implement wide-ranging initiatives that reduce energy consumption. Past projects include replacement of inefficient incandescent light bulbs with LED, fluorescent and other energy-saving bulbs, which cut lighting energy use by at least one-third. DLA has installed occupancy sensors in bathrooms, break rooms and warehouse spaces and replaced manual thermostats with automated thermostats that turn back the heat or cooling after hours.

In addition, the agency installed hundreds of digital and networked utility meters at the DLA facilities using the most energy and water. The meters enable near real-time detection of energy waste, as well as equipment failures, equipment-scheduling errors, water leaks and other issues.

Reaching the energy-reduction goal over the next 10 years may depend on advances in technology. One innovation that will help: smart lighting that not only detects motion but also senses the level of ambient light and dims itself accordingly, Juhasz said.

The Future of Distribution

Four years after DLA Distribution’s former leaders broke ground on the building and more than a decade since Campbell’s vision began to take shape, DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch stood in front of the designers, engineers, employees, community members and logistics partners who supported the project, some from its early beginnings.

After discussing some of the installation’s history and the significance of the building, he thanked Campbell, who was in attendance, for being the impetus behind the project. He also reminded employees of why the building was necessary and the critical mission DLA Distribution serves.

“To the DLA Distribution workforce, enjoy this new facility,” he said. “Take advantage of its innovations — use them to serve the warfighter more efficiently and effectively. And let us all resolve to meet the future with the commitment and capabilities that we need to provide the responsive, agile and innovative support that our customers and stakeholders expect and deserve.”

Editor's note: The authors are public affairs specialists with DLA Distribution, DLA Headquarters and DLA Aviation, respectively.