Sustainable Buildings

Since its inception in 1916, the National Park Service (NPS) has been a world leader in protecting resources for current and future generations. The NPS has preserved many of the country’s greatest natural and cultural treasures, and in the process, has been a model of resource management. NPS buildings play a critical role in the operation of parks and the visitor experience. Now, the NPS faces a new challenge as it seeks to ensure that its facility stewardship reflects the current mandates and requirements for sustainability.
The SOCC’s Sustainable Buildings Program is responsible for developing Servicewide policy and programs aimed at minimizing the impacts of buildings on the environment, improving utility metering, and developing strategies for integrating sustainability into the operations and maintenance of historical structures. As stated in the Sustainable Buildings Implementation Plan (SBIP), the NPS Vision regarding Sustainable Buildings is: 

The National Park Service will be a national leader in its staff and organizational commitment to, and adoption of, the highest achievable sustainable principles and practices. In doing so, the NPS will meet the requirements in the DOI Sustainable Buildings Implementation Plan, Executive Order 13423, Executive Order 13514, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and all other Federal sustainability regulations and future Federal sustainability guidance.

The NPS Sustainable Buildings Implementation Plan (SBIP) applies the NPS’s inherent commitment to sustainability found in the Director’s Call to Action and the Green Parks Plan to NPS building management. The SBIP provides NPS staff with guidance to implement the sustainable building goals of Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance by complying with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings(Guiding Principles). (Read more…)

  • Sustainable Building Assessments

NPS conducts assessments of select large buildings (greater than 5,000 square feet) within the NPS building portfolio to determine if they are compliant with the Guiding Principles.  Sustainable building assessments are performed individually or are coupled with broader energy and water audits.
Additionally, the NPS has conducted a Servicewide analysis to identify buildings that are “As Sustainable As Possible”—buildings that have a minimal environmental impact because they are unoccupied, use little or no energy and water, and provide little opportunity for environmental improvement or cost savings.  As of January 2014, 122 buildings were determined to be as sustainable as possible.

Identifying, installing, and monitoring meters are critical steps toward effectively managing NPS energy consumption.  Understanding where meters are located and compiling the information they track will provide the NPS with data on how energy and water are used, where they are used, and what is driving their use. By reviewing and analyzing these data, NPS can identify opportunities to reduce water and energy consumption, which in turn leads to lower operational costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. (Read more…)

Thirty percent of the NPS building portfolio is historic and many of those buildings and structures are considered to be premier historic buildings. Our bureau’s special connection with historic facilities implies an obligation to assist in the development of sustainable standards for historic buildings.  NPS Technical Preservation Services develops historic preservation policy and guidance on preserving and rehabilitating historic buildings—including incorporating sustainability. (Read more…)


Sustainable Buildings Highlights

As of January 2014, the NPS building portfolio included 71 buildings that were compliant with the Guiding Principles.  Of these, 51 are greater than 5,000 square feet.  Additionally, there are 122 buildings that are as sustainable as possible because they have a minimal environmental impact.

Example NPS sustainable buildings include the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park and Preserve and the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska: Eielson Visitor Center

Eielson Visitor Center ExteriorEielson Visitor Center Exterior
Source: NPS photo / Kent Miller

The Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park and Preserve is one example of recent success for environmental design. The facility is a low-profile building that blends into the tundra landscape, uses a green roof made from tundra mats salvaged from early site construction, but also camouflages the roof deck, and assists in storm water run-off reduction and thermal energy conservation. The building also uses renewable energy in the form of a hybrid propane generator system with photo-voltaic panels, small hydroelectric system and a battery bank.  This was the first LEED Platinum building in the National Park Service. More details can be found here.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California: Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

LEED Visitor Center ExteriorLEED Visitor Center Energy Efficient Lighting
Source: NPS photo

The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at Lassen Volcanic National Park achieved LEED Platinum certification in 2008.  An interactive eTour can be accessed here. For a visitor center overview, click here