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Military funding bill leads energy efficiency and climate resiliency

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The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act authorizes the Department of Defense to anticipate and prepare for utility disruptions through alternative energy sources and plan new facilities to meet changing environmental conditions. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Although the federal government has been delaying or rescinding programs that address alternative energy sourcing and climate resiliency, the Department of Defense (DoD) is looking at ways to reduce energy usage and protect military installations from the effects of climate change.

Last month, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (Act) was signed into law. It is arguably the most significant environmental legislation enacted in years. While it authorizes appropriations for everything from ammunition to space defense, it also contains the military installation construction budget.

One section of the bill is titled “Inclusion of Consideration of Energy and Climate Resiliency Efforts in Master Plans for Major Military Installations.” It authorizes the DoD to anticipate and prepare for utility disruptions through alternative energy sources and plan new facilities to meet changing environmental conditions. The DoD clearly saw the need to enact into law environmental mandates that foster the sustainability of mission-critical operations. The Act contains updates and modifications to the “United Facilities Criteria” (the criteria are currently under revision to match the new law so a new version is unavailable) for military installation master plans that affect all DoD projects and facilities and should influence other public and private construction as well.

Among the many requirements in the Act are these resiliency requirements:

  • Proposed projects that would be sited within or partially within a 100-year floodplain must be assessed for vulnerability and alternative construction sites.
  • Facilities not considered mission-critical have to have to be built two feet above the base flood elevation, with mission-critical facilities having a three-foot freeboard.

These provisions are important because of the size of the DoD’s real estate holdings. There are over 500,000 properties on more than 30 million acres of land, including facilities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 6 territories, and 70 foreign countries. So what the DoD addresses when it builds has a broader impact on the built environment.

Construction-related design firms have to be aware of the new requirements for DoD projects so that they can discuss with clients on non-military projects the forward-looking energy and climate resiliency issues recognized by the DoD.