Defense Dept. Must Include Sustainable Design in Construction

September 28, 2010

The Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill, recently signed into law by President Bush, contains landmark legislation that directs the DOD to incorporate "principles of sustainable design" and "life-cycle cost-effective practices" in military construction.

Getting these issues mandated has been a top priority of the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA).

This new provision in the legislation requires that the Secretary of Defense incorporate principles of sustainable design and life-cycle cost-effective practices as an element in all military construction projects submitted to Congress for approval. All projects submitted by DOD elements -- which include the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force -- will have to take into account these criteria.

By enacting this provision, Congress is validating legislatively the arguments long articulated by NCMA and the concrete masonry industry that the DOD projects should be utilizing construction materials that are more sustainable and cost effective over the life cycle of the given construction project.

These new requirements will likely require a significant paradigm on the part of the DOD in the way building materials are selected. While some military service branches have continued to favor the use of durable building materials-which provide maximum long-term sustainability and lower maintenance costs-other elements have sacrificed long-term cost-effectiveness and performance in the interest of achieving short-term objectives.

"NCMA has continued to take the lead for the industry in working with members of the U.S. Congress to ensure that design priorities for military construction are properly realigned," according to NCMA President Bob Thomas. "This particular piece of legislation is of particular importance to NCMA members, as well as other segments of the masonry industry and members of the North American Concrete Alliance (NACA). We look forward to working with our industry partners in supporting the military service branches in the months and years ahead to fully implement these provisions."

"From the beginning of our dialogue with Congress going back to last year, the House Armed Services Committee members and senior staff expressed a willingness to work with NCMA to address our ongoing concerns regarding the choice of building materials used to house our troops", declared Don Foster, Chairman of NCMA's Government Affairs Committee. "Our legislative effort focused on the 2009 DOD authorization bill as the appropriate legislative vehicle in which to seek to incorporate the life cycle language."

"This statutory change is aimed at beginning the shift away from the use of less durable, less sustainable building materials in military construction projects" continued Thomas. "Greater opportunities are expected in these projects for the use of materials such as concrete masonry, which not only have a lower life cycle cost, but also provide the enhanced security and fire protection that our military personnel deserve, while accomplishing the objectives of energy conservation and sustainability required for all new government construction. This legislation will spur growth for our member companies, provide jobs within those communities hosting military bases, and also enhance our industry's role as responsible stewards of our environment."

For more information on this bill and other government affairs activities of NCMA, please visit