New DLA operations center to use environmentally friendly technology

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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Since last October, employees at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, have been hearing and watching as geothermal wells are drilled behind Building 31 as part of the energy-efficient heating and cooling system being installed for the new Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Operations Center. Approximately 85 percent of the 252 wells needed, based on heating and air-conditioning/energy loads, have already been drilled.



Hensel Phelps Construction is the general contractor for the five-story glass and brick building. Chesapeake Geosystems, in Baltimore, Maryland, is the geothermal contractor, installing the wells.

The huge investment in wells or ground-source heat pumps will increase the installation's use of renewable energy from 0.4 percent to nearly 15 percent, said Damon Igou, DLA Installation Support at Richmond site energy manager. The building will be largely heated and cooled with the wells and supplemented by conventional chillers and boilers. The wells connect through an underground network of pipes, assessable through three underground maintenance vaults. 

“The wells are considered renewable energy because they use the earth as a heat source in winter or heat sink in the summer, taking advantage of moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce operational heating and cooling costs,” said Igou.

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.”

The well drilling is only one aspect of the state-of-the-art technology that the building’s first occupants will see in late 2018 or early 2019. 

Occupants will also benefit from energy-efficient light sensors using light-emitting diode (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 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver rating. LEED is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide. Developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council, it 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 building’s north-south orientation layout in conjunction with the exterior brick walls and tempered, clear or laminated glass will provide better natural lighting and heat retention. The type of glass will depend on where within the building the glass is used to provide needed direct and indirect light, as well as, meet anti-terrorism and force-protection requirements. 

A built-in mass notification system will include local operator controls to allow employees to make emergency announcements. The building will also include the most up-to-date smoke, heat, and duct detection systems, as well as water and chemical fire-suppression systems.

Igou said the installation‘s energy costs will be cut in half, from $4 million to $2 million once all three phases are completed. Phase II and III are still in the preliminary stages; ongoing budget constraints and the military construction cycle have resulted in revisions. Estimated completion dates for Phase II and Phase III are 2021 and  2023, respectively.

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, 33. The buildings were built in WWII as warehouses and then converted to administrative space.

According to Igou, the buildings were never energy efficient with their long, rectangular shapes and lack of exterior wall insulation.

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 Igou.

Vazquez said the contractors are currently installing the underground structure piles, the building foundation, and installing site utilities.

While the work is being done, he said installation personnel remain 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.”