Paving the Way
Integrating Sustainable Design at the Pentagon
By Michaella Wright
With nearly 25,000 people working in 6.63 million total square
feet, the Pentagon is the world’s largest office building.
Operating as the U.S. military’s nerve center since World
War II, the mammoth structure is undergoing an exhaustive renovation.
One of its highest goals is to incorporate sustainable design.
In 2001, the Pentagon Renovation Program (PenRen), construction
agent for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), established
a sustainable design team to be an ongoing source of information
and guidance in the renovation of Wedges 2 to 5. The first wedge
of the Pentagon renovation project was nearly finished when it
was demolished in the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Over the next year,
the damaged area of the building was rebuilt, and renovation plans
for Wedge 2 began. Completion of the second wedge is scheduled
for 2005, with the remaining Wedges 3 to 5 to be completely renovated
The project team for Wedge 2, made up of more than 20 firms, set
out to integrate sustainable design in the plans of all disciplines
for the 1.3 million-square-foot renovation. In the process, the
team learned lessons in three distinct areas: how to better integrate
sustainability; how to provide benchmarking in addition to the
LEED™ Green Building Rating System; and ways to develop a
materials selection process to include sustainability standards
at every phase.
Before discussing the three lessons learned, though, it is important
to understand some of the aspects of the project itself. Built
during the days of inexpensive and seemingly plentiful energy resources,
the existing Pentagon complex has poor insulation, inefficient
mechanical systems, and poor illumination with little or no natural
daylighting. The early involvement of the mechanical, electrical
and other contractors in the renovation encouraged proper integration
of today’s improved systems. Among the goals was to design
a mechanical system that was affordable and easy to install, with
smaller equipment and less ductwork.
Working closely, the different disciplines coordinated their respective
skills to develop an architectural solution that effectively integrated
the mechanical system. The result: an improved indoor environment
achieved by allowing additional daylight into the space via a smaller
ceiling plenum. Existing utilities bulkheads near windows were
removed to allow more natural light into the space, and a dropped
ceiling/bulkhead was placed over the center zone. The design approach
is a key factor in the universal space plan (USP), which integrates
sustainability further throughout the project.
One goal that resulted from the initial renovation of the first
wedge of the building—which was reviewed by PenRen as inefficient—was
to create a more simplified and standardized office interior. The
result was the development of the USP, which breaks down the building
into repetitive 10,000-square-foot sections that serve as one common
universal office area. The USP design is intended to provide the
following sustainable design outcomes: space flexibility, waste
reduction, access to natural light and the outdoors, ease of maintenance,
efficient integration of systems and durability.
The building system relocation was a key component of the universal
plan. The central bulkhead, housing primary air supply and return,
cable trays for electrical, telecom and data lines, and the sprinkler
main, services the center zone as well as the perimeter zones,
allowing for flexibility and easy reconfiguration. By focusing
all support utilities to the center of the space, ceilings at window
walls can be returned to their full height, clearing the windows
and allowing for the maximum amount of natural light to reach occupants.
To run data, power and telecom connections for users in each bay, “Smartwalls” were
specified versus full-height walls, thus also allowing in maximum
daylight. These walls also can be “infilled” to the
ceiling with glass to provide acoustic separation yet still allow
in natural light. In addition, removable, modular, reusable partitions,
instead of typical drywall on stud construction, will enclose or
define spaces as needed, further enhancing the efficient and non-waste-producing
nature of the long-term design.
As created and coordinated by the project’s many disciplines,
the USP concept will provide a flexible environment to meet the
employees’ changing needs, while creating a minimum of waste,
maintenance and employee time with each reconfiguration.
As with many fast-track and diverse design-build projects, the
team must hold quick and numerous meetings involving the various
disciplines. The amount of project material that needed to be covered
sometimes initially precluded discussion of sustainable design
issues and how they might affect a variety of project decisions.
In the weekly design team meetings, for example, each member took
turns discussing critical design issues, and during conclusion
sustainable design sometimes would be discussed. A similar situation
existed in the separate meetings such as those addressing electrical
and mechanical issues. Amidst all these many other meetings, a
separate meeting on sustainable design was held. In time, team
members realized that separating sustainable design issues within
regular communications was not an efficient way to integrate sustainability
into the renovation.
The solution was to firmly establish sustainable design on the
agenda of every team meeting, and to make certain that the topic
was part of daily team member discussions. Sustainable design experts
from design and construction were added to the electrical and mechanical
meetings. Quickly, the team members found that many sustainable
design problems began to solve themselves because of access to
detailed project information. For example, in discussing the complete
project schedule from a sustainability viewpoint, the two weeks
needed to “flush out” the building before occupancy
was coordinated much earlier than it might have been without the
ability to make all disciplines aware of the need.
For the W-2 renovation, HDR Sustainable Design Services, in coordination
with the entire project team, including PenRen and the Federal
Facilities Division, is working to meet the requirements of the
LEED Existing Buildings Rating System (LEED EB). Using the LEED
EB system requires meeting certain design criteria, as well as
ongoing requirements for building operation, maintenance and performance.
For the design team, LEED is not the only benchmarking criteria.
PenRen ultimately wants to show marked improvement of long-term
operation and maintenance through sustainable goals written into
the contract. This is especially true for those measurements that
need to be reported such as energy and water consumption and waste
reduction. For example, questions include: “How many tons
of waste has the building produced versus how much could be recycled?
After the renovation, how much more energy-efficient will the building
be: i.e., 15 percent, 20 percent?
Also, the Pentagon has specific goals for eliminating polyvinyl
chloride (PVC) and ozone-depleting substances (ODS). LEED’s
criteria addresses only ODS limits for mechanical refrigeration,
but the substances are present in many other areas, such as building
insulation. PenRen has asked the design team to identify existing
ODS products that are in the building and research some alternatives.
These kinds of requested measurements and projected improvements
offer a new set of benchmarks beyond LEED.
Maximizing the use of environmentally preferable materials is the
ultimate goal throughout the project. The design team has integrated
the Pentagon’s goals and LEED materials requirements into
specifications. Manufacturers of prospective materials are required
to submit documented proof of sustainableof sustainable criteria
such as recycled content and toxic emissions.
The fast-track, design-build nature of the project provides a lesson
that is still being learned. While sustainable design representatives
recommend the best materials alternatives early on in project planning,
these ideas at times do not survive the full process to purchasing.
The procurement specialist, responsible for the best overall selection
of a material, may for example make another choice, pressed by
cost or other factors. Educating all team members who are involved
in the materials procurement process would help to assure that
sustainable materials are procured to the extent possible.
Setting out to integrate sustainable design in the plans of all
disciplines for the Pentagon’s ambitious renovation, the
Wedge 2 (150 HPCC staff and& PenRen W2 staff) multi-member
project team paved the way for others to more easily integrate
sustainability through final completion in 2010.
Michaella Wright is vice president/director of sustainable design
services for HDR, Omaha, NE. She is a LEED-accredited professional
and a LEED faculty member. Wright can be reached at email@example.com.
The project is led by Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Greeley,