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NEWS | April 22, 2021

NSA’s Contributions to a Greener Planet

In 2009, government agencies were asked to assess their energy usage and environmental efforts to strategically move towards sustainability for the Federal government and because of this assessment, the National Security Agency made a commitment towards proactive environmental stewardship to our employees and neighboring communities through green environmental strategies and by building innovative structures.

NSA’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings, reforestation efforts, improvements to storm water infrastructure, and reclaimed water initiatives are just a few of the agency’s growing list of environmental efforts to ensure a “green” work environment.

Lasswell Hall
Lasswell Hall
Lasswell Hall
Lasswell Hall
Lasswell Hall
Photo By: National Security Agency
VIRIN: 210421-D-IM742-1234

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications are the most widely used and well-recognized green building rating system in the world. Therefore, when approaching a way to expand our campus in response to mission needs, the NSA wanted to make sure new buildings were also as sustainable as possible. Working with our sustainability experts, NSA structures are designed to meet the principles needed to qualify as LEED-certified buildings. These principles include using materials with recycled content, low emitting materials, protecting ventilation systems, enhancing recycling of construction waste at project sites, and the use of biologically based storm water management (Environmental Site Design). In the United States, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in buildings account for roughly 40 percent of the total energy used, including 70 percent of electricity consumption. The average lifespan for most structures is 20 years or more, and taking steps to make these buildings, more energy efficient boosts the health of the planet. In response to the need for sustainable structures, NSA is working to improve its facilities, both in terms of comfort and environmental performance.

Every time it rains at NSA’s Ft. Meade, MD headquarters, thousands of gallons of storm water flow down from the structures, across the parking lots into storm drains that lead directly into the Little Patuxent watershed and ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay. As the storm water makes its way to the watershed, it can pick up pollutants along the way. Therefore, it is important to capture and treat this storm water before it leaves our facilities. With the most recent project soon to break ground, 20 acres of impervious pavement within our largest parking lots will use stormwater management techniques to decrease storm water runoff. In addition, NSA has installed over 175 storm water management techniques across our campus in concert with new construction and redevelopment efforts. These efforts fall in line with the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Requirements Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit.

Reclaimed Water Tower
Reclaimed Water Tower
Reclaimed Water Tower
Reclaimed Water Tower
Reclaimed Water Tower
Photo By: NSA
VIRIN: 210421-D-IM742-1236

However, rainfall is not the only source of water that the Agency manages. After several meetings with Howard County, NSA committed to working with the county to deliver one of the largest industrial applications of reclaimed water in the state of Maryland, a project that allows the Agency to use recycled water on our campus, and in the surrounding community. Reclaimed water is safe, highly treated water that reduces the demand on sensitive water supply ecosystems, such as aquifers.

Through the building of LEED-certified buildings, recycling of water, and managing storm water runoff, the Agency is working towards a greener work environment that promotes conservation and reduces environmental impact as well as operation and maintenance costs – and we are just getting started. In both large and small ways, NSA works to ensure the stewardship of the natural environment that our Nation relies on to provide a safe and healthy place to live, work, and play.