•  Carrier

Holistic Solution to Sustainability

HQ Air Combat Command partnered with industry to create a new measurement model for installations that takes the big picture into better account.
By Janele M. Taveggia, P.E., LEED AP and Lee D. Cravey, RA, LEED BD+C

The Installation Sustainability Assessment process provides installations with a holistic approach to determine resource consumption from all base activities. IMAGES COURTESY LEO A DALY

Although military installations are significant consumers of natural resources, their buildings, infrastructure and support mechanisms can be designed and operated to consume less energy and minimize environmental impact. The U.S. Air Force is for the first time taking a collaborative, holistic approach to evaluating the effects of both military operations and their accompanying support infrastructure, and then identifying actions that can help reduce potential environmental damage.

Headquarters Air Combat Command (HQ ACC), with the goal of better assessing, monitoring and improving the green posture of military installations, developed a new Installation Sustainability Assessment (ISA) process in partnership with Leo A Daly, and which now has been tested at a dozen Air Force bases.


The ISA process is groundbreaking in that it gathers information from multiple sources and provides a complete snapshot of an installation from a different perspective. It looks beyond individual buildings and previously isolated data, and broadly considers sustainability indicators from across the entire base—energy usage, water consumption, waste production, land utilization and the total carbon footprint. Uniquely, it combines aspects from both the operations side and the support side and demonstrates the interrelationship between the two.

Aside from its practical application, ISA represents a greater paradigm shift: The Air Force is looking beyond the individual building footprint and the desire to obtain a specific LEED rating, and instead assessing the big picture. This new protocol incorporates organization-wide policies and behaviors, and serves as a baseline for installations to assist in high-level planning and goal-setting. ISA also provides detailed recommendations, from general operations and policy to design and construction specifics that, when taken together, can help an installation utilize resources much more efficiently. (It does not, however, make direct comparisons among installations, due to their differing missions, climate variations and unique attributes.)


Leo A Daly worked with HQ ACC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District to develop a group of metrics that, when analyzed together, provides an overall picture of the installation’s current posture. This initial view becomes the baseline by which the installation can then continuously measure and monitor its sustainability status.

After completing the initial ISA program protocol, a proof of concept was conducted in November 2009 at Offutt Air Force Base (AFB), Neb. The ISA concept was presented at the 2009 Army Master Planning Symposium, and Leo A Daly has since provided ISA protocol training and orientation to other A/E/C firms working for HQ ACC.

Subsequent ISAs have been completed at: Beale AFB, Calif.; Dyess AFB, Texas; Davis Monthan AFB, Ariz.; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.; Holloman AFB, N.M.; Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; Moody AFB, Ga.; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and Nellis AFB and Creech AFB, Nev.


In completing an ISA, work phases include preliminary research and initial data collection, onsite evaluation and data collection, data analysis and a findings summary. The multi-discipline team typically consists of architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering expertise.

To streamline data collection, HQ ACC compiles reports from existing resources and provides them to the ISA team. Examples of reports used as data sources include: the Natural Resources Plan; Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan; Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan; Water Management Plan, Drinking Water Management Plan; Pollution Prevention Management Plan; Hazardous Waste Management Plan; Solid & Hazardous Waste Compliance; Economic Impact Analysis; Environmental Restoration Program; Transportation Master Plan; Department of Energy Report; Transportation Fuel Reports; Real Property Reports; and GIS database.

After the initial information collection process, ISA data then is grouped into categories that become the sustainability criteria.

  • Development–land use, building utilization, transportation, noise and light emissions.
  • Energy–electrical, gas, oil and liquid propane gas consumption; power purchased from a utility or generated onsite; and transportation and mission fuels for government vehicles and support equipment.
  • Water–domestic, irrigation and storm water consumption: sources and usage.
  • Waste–solid and liquid waste production and its usage.
  • Operations–best management practices such as procurement, training, maintenance and purchasing program for energy-efficient equipment.

At each installation, the team gathers additional data and interviews civil engineering flight staff, including contracting, engineering, maintenance and real property personnel. The team measures existing conditions such as nighttime light levels along the flight line and sound levels across the base.

Data is entered in a customized database containing industry-recognized calculations, which then distill the information into five broad sustainability indicators. These are quantifiable, repeatable and simple; and they illustrate installationwide conditions. The metrics establish a baseline for year-to-year comparison, and document compliance or non-compliance with federal guidance and other applicable agency governances. The five ISA indicators are: Carbon Footprint, Energy Usage, Water Conservation, Waste Reduction and Land Utilization.

ISA provides a summary of the data on the individual Air Force base, which HQ ACC evaluates using standard protocols. Recommendations for improvement are tailored specifically for the installation.

This method differs from other evaluation systems, such as LEED, which give points based on meeting certain thresholds no matter what kind of building is being analyzed and regardless of where it is located. ISA recommendations focus on the specific installation, offering potential projects, policy changes, incentives and year-to-year comparisons.

At Offutt AFB, the report on the Carbon Footprint indicator found that “Offutt AFB has an agreement that all electrical energy be from a hydroelectric source; therefore, the carbon footprint is reasonably good relative to installations that use non-renewable resources. Based on the information we had at the time, the areas of most impact on carbon footprint for Offutt AFB are building energy (in terms of carbon-based fuels like natural gas) and commuting.”

Offutt’s ISA recommended: 1) developing strategies to decrease the commuting carbon footprint by encouraging carpooling, public transportation, or high efficiency/ non-carbon-based fuel vehicles; 2) incorporating biofuels or non-carbon based fuels like electricity (hydroelectric) or hydrogen for ground transportation and aviation fuels; and 3) improving energy efficiency by using carbon-based fuels such as natural gas to reduce total carbon fuel consumed.


By integrating environmental, economic and social dimensions, the ISA process provides a holistic method for analyzing the overall posture at each installation. It delivers actionable recommendations that will help better utilize available resources.

Future goals include creating more environmentally sensitive designs, reducing the impacts from operations, and implementing an integrated operations and maintenance program.

Janele M. Taveggia, P.E., LEED AP, is Associate and Project Manager, Leo A Daly; 612-359- 4608, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lee Cravey, RA, LEED BD+C, is Command Architect, Air Combat Command, Sustainable Installations ACC/A7PS; 757-764-6266, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">lee. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..