CIA goes green, from the roof to the drain

A green roof, preferred parking for drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles, and low-flow toilets

The Central Intelligence Agency said it is making its new campus buildings energy-efficient and pleasant places to work, with offices that have outdoor views, lots of fresh air and preferred parking for carpoolers.

The CIA is adopting green building designs and technology in its new campus facilities in northern Virginia. The end result is a campus that may be more corporate than spy novel, starting with the roof.

Among other things, the building will have a so-called green roof, with about 22,000 square feet of vegetation. Green roofs are designed to help buildings use less energy for heating and cooling.

The agency said it will cut energy consumption 21% by using technologies such as occupancy sensors and energy-efficient appliances and equipment. The project also addresses the quality of the indoor environment.

"The CIA has taken great care in creating a comfortable workplace that fosters efficiency and collaboration while respecting our natural resources," said Camille Hersh, chief of the CIA's facilities, in a statement. The CIA announced the energy work in a recent posting on its Web site.

The indoor improvements include 60% more fresh air than standard buildings, carbon dioxide monitors that will provide fresh air when necessary, individual lighting controls and "extensive outdoor views."

The agency said the use of water-saving technologies will result in 40% savings in potable water. Those efforts include the installation of low-flow toilets and waterless urinals. In waterless urinals, fluid passes through a cartridge to the drain, with no flushing required.

The agency said the energy-efficient and environmentally friendly building designs have earned it recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council, including silver and gold certificates in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

The CIA's green roof project is large but not among the largest, according to Nate Johnson, a green roof consultant at Roofscapes. Wal-Mart Stores, for instance, built a store in Chicago that has approximately 75,000 square feet of green roofing, which was installed by Philadelphia-based Roofscapes.

Johnson said it's difficult to know how much energy efficiency the CIA will get from its green roof installation, because it would depend on the size of the building and its height. Single-story buildings or buildings of only a few stories get more benefit than higher buildings with smaller roofs.

In the Northeast, buildings with green roofs typically have about three inches of soil and are planted with sedums. In more arid and hotter climates, more soil may be needed, Johnson said. Green roof technology has been in use for decades in Europe and is just beginning to catch on in the U.S., he said.

CIA officials weren't immediately available for additional comment on the green building plans.

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