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News | April 21, 2023

NSA Continues Work towards a Green Campus

An empty space on the National Security Agency (NSA) Washington East Campus where construction materials are currently stacked up will soon be transformed into a new park.

“Installations & Logistics (I&L) is working to create a place for people to be outside and disconnect from high-stress environments,” said Sarah Bowley, architect and master planner. “We don’t currently have anything like this on campus, and we are very excited to provide an outdoor park focused on the human experience and connection to nature.”

The project is just one of the many sustainable initiatives NSA has implemented throughout the years. Other efforts include the creation of a robust recycling program, the establishment of electric vehicle charging stations, the addition of reclaimed wastewater treatments, the construction of “green” vegetated roofs, and more.

Each April, Earth Day is celebrated globally to honor the achievements of the environmental movement, raise awareness of the need to protect the Earth for future generations, and reaffirm commitment to sustainability.

NSA Executive Director Catherine Aucella, who recently toured NSAW to witness first-hand some of the Agency’s major projects concerning sustainability, spoke on why knowing about these efforts is important.

“Green and sustainable initiatives are something I’ve personally very interested in,” Aucella stated.  “I am excited to learn more about the Agency’s role as a change agent for sustainability on Fort Meade and the across the IC, and I know there are other members of the agency who will be equally impressed with the variety of measures we are taking to support and protect the environment.”

Workforce Support Activities Director Paul Laugesen, who also attended the tour, explained why focusing on green solutions is essential to NSA’s success.

“It’s incredibly important for the workforce to know because in the long run, they benefit from these projects,” he added. “The sustainable projects we viewed are providing resources to enhance employee well-being and overall working experience.”

Ensuring New Buildings Meet Rigorous Environmental Standards
The Morrison Center, the brand new, state-of-the-art structure on East Campus, is an example of NSA working toward greener environments that promote conservation and reduce environmental impact, recently earning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Both I&L and NSA’s Occupational Health and Well-Being Services Office (OHWB) collaboratively design new buildings to be sustainable and to support worker well-being.

To achieve LEED certification, a building’s design must focus on minimizing energy use, using materials and resources that emit low chemical odors, treating storm water on-site to protect streams and lakes, and providing green areas to relieve stress and promote feelings of well-being.
Jeffrey Williams, a senior environmental engineer in NSA’s Environmental Safety & Health Solutions Division and an accredited LEED professional, explained the importance of the program.

 “LEED is the preeminent program for green building certification,” he said. “The Morrison Center is very close to achieving the points needed to reach Gold-level certification — the second-highest certification level a building can achieve.”

All of the East Campus buildings meet the LEED Silver Certification, as required by the Agency’s build team and verified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Our building materials and the construction process reduce indoor air pollution and improve employee wellness” Williams said. “Ventilation ducts are covered during construction to ensure there will be clean air flow, and soft, absorbent surfaces/materials are not installed until last so they do not absorb odors and dirt.”

NSA also requires the project to recycle over 75% of construction waste, reducing the amount of material going into landfills. Material selections focus on locally sourced materials, reducing the environmental footprint from material transportation to site.

“The Agency’s adoption of LEED principles and scoring helps insure both employee wellness and our environmental commitment,” Williams said.

The campus also uses Agency environmental practices such as strengthening NSA’s stormwater infrastructure and reclaimed water initiatives. According to Williams, the inclusion of these practices on East Campus will help to both reduce local heat island effects and mitigate glare from building structures. 

The Morrison Center specifically has a vegetated roof on top of the cafeteria that keeps the building cooler through heat dispersion, thereby lowering the usage of electrical and mechanical equipment and significantly increasing the lifespan of the roofing materials by reducing solar degradation. The green roof also serves as an area of relaxation with the goal of boosting morale.

Improving Green Space
Additional green spaces are also planned for other places across East Campus.

“With the development of Morrison, Chiari, and Kenny buildings, the upcoming population count on campus now supports the development of this space” Williams said.

For example, East Campus development includes substantial reforestation efforts. As the hundreds of planted trees grow, the reforestation area will both minimize storm water runoff and will include a path for walking or jogging.

Storm water management infrastructure and reforestation areas have been specifically designed to improve the quality of outdoor spaces for the workforce and encourage healthy interactions and activity.

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