|"We invest in sustainable infrastructure to ensure our facilities are economically and environmentally sound and remain assets to service members and communities."
The Minnesota National Guardís Environmental Quality team was the recipient of the 2014 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Environmental Quality, team category.
The initiatives of the EQ began with a commitment to Net Zero, which focuses on reducing energy consumption by changing behaviors and adding energy efficient updates to new construction and existing facilities. To accelerate the organizationís Net Zero success, the Minnesota National Guard implemented an energy challenge program. The challenge encouraged eligible facilities to reduce energy consumption by 3 percent. With 41 Minnesota National Guard armories participating in the challenge, energy consumption was reduced by an average of 9 percent. Some of the upgrades included geothermal and solar thermal heating, water reuse, solid waste recycling and natural and LED lighting.
In 2014 the Minnesota National Guard partnered with Duluth-based Minnesota Power to construct a 10-megawatt solar array on Camp Ripley. The array, capable of powering more than 1,000 homes beyond the power requirements of CRTC, is set to be completed by 2016. Additionally, a request to construct a district heating facility on CRTC was submitted. The facility would be fueled by renewable woody biomass generated on CRTC, and reduce the postís reliance on natural gas by 90 percent.
The largest force-wide issue looming over the Minnesota National Guard has been the need to address the aging condition of many of the organizationís training and community centers Ė an issue compounded by sequestration, budget cycles and Army decisions on force structure. With hard decisions on the horizon, a years-long study was commissioned to assess facility condition, age, capacity for improvements, demographics and travel considerations for unit members with an eye toward future funding levels. The results of the study found that, if the Minnesota National Guard were to continue on its current trajectory, more than 86 percent of its facilities would be in poor or failing condition by 2030 Ė conditions that would affect personnel readiness and jeopardize the organizationís ability to effectively respond to state and federal missions.
Following the study the Readiness Center Transformation Master Plan was released, recommending new construction, consolidation and closure of some Minnesota National Guard armories. The RCTMP is a 20-year plan that officially began in 2014, necessitated by predicted reductions in force structure, aging buildings, Minnesotaís changing population patterns and continued emphasis on financial austerity following 13 years of war. The plan will ultimately reduce the number of armory locations from the current 61 to 52 by 2034; however, the 2034 end state of the RCTMP projects that 85 percent of the organizationís facilities will be in fair or good condition Ė compared to only 14 percent if the Minnesota National Guard were to do nothing.
Through a coordinated process of remodeling existing structures, consolidating nearby facilities, closing outdated buildings and constructing new armories in key communities throughout the state, the RCTMP will put the Minnesota National Guard on a more effective course for sustainable infrastructure. Though the number of facilities the Minnesota National Guard utilizes will be reduced in number, the improvements planned for future construction and remodels will be designed to expand reach and improve the capabilities of units utilizing those facilities, maintaining the organizationís presence throughout all of Minnesota. Further, modern armories are being built as shared facilities, co-locating with civilian agencies and departments, and being utilized as community resource and activity centers.