DND photo KN2014-425-109 by CFB Kingston Base Photo

The Vimy Training Quarters in Kingston is a three-storey, 5160 square metre military residential building, modeled as a modest hotel, and it is an example of a DND Green Globes Building.

An Investigation into Sustainable Building Evaluation Strategies for Use within the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence

by Nicholas Vlachopoulos and Tina Basso

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Major (ret’d) Nicholas Vlachopoulos, PhD, CD, PEng., PE(Gr), is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario.

Tina Basso, M Sc., is a Research Associate with the Royal Military College Green Team.


The purpose of this article is to provide a critical analysis of appropriate green building/sustainable development strategies for new construction and large renovation projects, and to examine their suitability for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND). Green/sustainable will be used to describe the infrastructure under analysis, as the two terms ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ are used interchangeably in relevant literature. Green building/sustainable development strategies are those which address the environmental, social and economic aspects of a building in an attempt to lessen the negative impacts of the infrastructure. This investigation outlines the challenges of achieving current mainstream green/sustainable building accreditations due to the unique operating environments within the CAF. These unique environments include infrastructure in the Arctic, isolated areas, and overseas. These challenges require solutions which are specifically designed for implementation within the CAF, and not simply solutions which have been ‘imported’ from similar industries. As such, a proposed DND Sustainability Standard is outlined to assist the CAF in achieving the objectives of green/sustainable building initiatives without compromising the ability of DND/CAF to carry out regular activities. The two research areas that were investigated are:

  • What are the unique requirements of the CAF with regard to green/sustainable buildings? (Part 1); and,
  • What should be implemented in a sustainable development strategy for the CAF in order to achieve green/sustainable building objectives? What are the constraints of current DND policy, and how can those constraints be overcome? (Part 2)

These questions were investigated in order to illustrate the importance for the DND to consider implementing green/sustainable building strategies that are specific to DND and may be lacking in current rating systems, which would, in turn, create a Sustainability Standard; one that is more representative of the type of infrastructure DND owns and operates. The recommendations would be used to assist with the development of best practices and policies within DND with regard to green/sustainable building processes.

The scope of this study looks only at new construction within the CAF to provide insight into the DND’s decision behind mandating the use of LEED and Green Globes over other rating systems, and to establish criteria that should be included into a building assessment system, based upon the unique requirement and operations of the DND/CAF.


With concern growing in regard to global warming and the depletion of the Earth’s resources, a new focus upon environmental sustainability has arisen throughout the world. DND is the largest building owner in the federal government by quantity (i.e., number of buildings), holding more than 43 percent of the federal inventory. Installations exist in every province and territory, and are located in 217 cities/municipalities.1 Under the purview of the Canada First Defence Strategy, over the next 20 years, DND will replace 50 percent of its existing infrastructure. Considering that the DND possesses some 21,000 buildings, 2.25 million hectares of land, 5500 kilometres of roads, and 3000 kilometres of water, storm, and sewer pipes, it can be said that the activities of the DND will impact the whole of Canada2 (Figure 1). These impacts may also translate into international concerns, as many of the issues are trans-boundary by nature (i.e. air quality).

National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, 2012

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Figure 1: Current Infrastructure Projects for the DND

Implementing a green building strategy into policy can achieve many savings, and if properly designed, it can achieve many positive results. However, meeting the requirements of the 2010 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) and the 2006 DND Sustainable Development Strategy (DND SDS) to achieve accreditation within generic green/sustainable building systems has proven to be a challenge, due to the suite of special purpose infrastructure possessed by the Department and the CAF, as well as the nature of CAF operations; both domestically and overseas.

Uniqueness of the DND

The following is a list of aspects related to the CAF/DND that make it unique from other commercial, office, or industrial facilities. This uniqueness poses many challenges.

  • Infrastructure spans large geographic areas across Canada, including diverse climates and topography;
  • High turnover rates among personnel working on the bases (posting occurs on average approximately every 2-3 years);
  • A wide spectrum of specialized buildings, i.e., simulation centres, defence labs, indoor firing ranges, hangars, wash bays, and so on;
  • Variety of buildings all on the same base, which must be addressed with a uniform rating system;
  • Usage of public funds, requires transparency in spending;
  • Adjacent areas around buildings may be used for training purposes;
  • DND owns a lot of older infrastructure that needs to be replaced efficiently;
  • Building longevity insinuates that the building usage will change over the course of its lifetime;
  • Remote/isolated satellite facilities; and
  • Structure of DND complicated. Many departments involved in infrastructure development.

History of Green/Sustainable Buildings

Green Buildings are not a new phenomenon. According to Smith et al.,3 there were several buildings erected in the 19th and early 20th Centuries that integrated sustainable designs. After the Second World War, it was believed that, due to the abundance of cheap fossil fuel, building styles did not reflect energy efficient designs. It was not until the environmental movement of the 1970s that environmentally-conscious building designs became the focus.

Under the umbrella of sustainable development, the 1980s brought on a resurgence of green building discussions. The first environmental certification system was introduced in 1990 in the United Kingdom: the Building Research Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and it was brought to Canada in 1996. In the U.S., the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced its own rating system in 1998: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). In 2004, the Green Building Initiative (GBI) adapted the Canadian version of BREEAM through the creation of Green Globes, and began distributing it in the U.S. market in 2005.4 Since that time, various other countries have adopted national Green Building Strategies (Figure 2).


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Figure 2: Selected Green/Sustainable Building Systems around the World

Building Rating Systems were created to assess the negative consequences infrastructure has upon society by evaluating the infrastructure performance in a number of areas, i.e., energy consumption, waste production, indoor air quality, and so on, in order to improve efficiency. They are used as a tool to track performance and to provide building owners and developers with a guide to assist in building more sustainably. Based upon information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if the approach to constructing and operating buildings remains as the status quo, there will be major economic and environmental repercussions.5 Building Rating Systems provide a way for continually updating practices and procedures to ensure continual improvement and innovation.6 Green buildings are a term of the past, evolving into sustainable buildings, and the DND should follow suit. The following sections will refer to environmentally, socially, economically, and culturally sound buildings as ‘sustainable.’

Sustainable Development and the Department of National Defence

There are several Directive Orders within the CAF that require sustainable and environmentally friendly activities/practices/procedures within all facilities owned and/or operated by the CAF. However, there is one document in particular that contains the necessary requirements to assist the CAF with modifying its practices with regard to new construction of buildings and major renovations. In 2003, DND, in its Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) 2003, outlined a target (D1) to integrate the green building concept into the design process by having a percentage of eligible new building projects incorporate the green building concept. This target, although vague in nature, was a very important first step towards integrating green engineering into DND. The 2006 version of the SDS has taken the green building objective a step further with Strategic Commitment 2.1 (SC.2.1). This initiative aims to expand the integration of the green building concept into the total design process by ensuring that all new building projects incorporate green building concepts. This latest initiative has set goals for projects valued at over $10 million to achieve a LEED ‘silver or better’ standard, and for projects valued at under $10 million to achieve a Green Globe ‘3-out-of-5 or better’ standard. Currently, there is no available information substantiating the DND’s decision to adopt LEED and Green Globes rating systems, aside from the fact that they are widely used in North America.

Research Methods

Triangulation (a type of Mixed-Method Research) is an approach typically used for military strategy, surveying, mapping, and navigational purposes. Triangulation in the realm of social sciences implies the use of multiple methods of research to ascertain a more accurate analysis of social phenomena.7. Triangulation was specifically useful for this research, as it provided the opportunity to gain information about the current status of green buildings within the CAF, and feedback and recommendations from personnel associated with the issues surrounding green buildings, as well as comparisons to existing rating systems. This allowed the research to determine something important and useful about the status of Green Buildings within the CAF. This methodology included the activities associated with the qualitative research design process found in Figure 3.


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Figure 3: Mixed-Method Research for CAF Research Project

Triangulation has proven to provide many benefits when attempting to obtain reliable information. It can assist with eliminating biases, and it allows for a degree of cross-checking.8 It is an approach used to refine, broaden, and strengthen conceptual linkages, and it allows researchers to approach the subject with perspectives differing from their own perceptions.9 A Literature Review was conducted in order to help define relative concepts. It also assisted in the construction of the interview guide and established the set of categories and relationships that the interview must investigate.10 A document analysis was performed to gain insight into existing sustainable building rating systems, and policy documents were analyzed for ideas that would be most applicable and useful to the CAF. The last step in data collection was execution of long/semi-structured interviews, which provided the opportunity for in-depth insight into the issues at hand.11

Literature Review

The Literature Review was conducted in order to provide a background and baseline for the study. Definition of relevant concepts were sought out to help provide a clear understanding of the research objectives, as well as a baseline for the study design. Also, it ensured that there was consistency throughout the report by establishing definitions of pertinent concepts within the context of this research, i.e., green vs. sustainable buildings. The literature review examined existing theoretical academic literature on the topics of green buildings and sustainable buildings, and the relationship between those concepts and rating systems. Search engines and library catalogues were perused using the aforementioned key words.

Document Analysis

The second part of the methodology consisted of an analysis and evaluation of existing green building rating systems. These rating systems included: LEED, Green Globes, DGNB, Green Star, BREEAM, and the Swedish Green Building Rating Tool. The six systems used for evaluation were based upon:

  • Their prominence within North America (requirement of DND);
  • Usage within countries of similar climate/geography;
  • Second-generation systems;
  • Utilization within a Military System; and,
  • International Popularity.
Factor Rating System of Choice
Flexibility of Criteria Green Globes
Performance vs. Prescriptive indicators Green Globes
Third-Party Verification All
Integrated Design Process BREEAM
Lifecycle Analysis DGNB
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Reduction in Energy Usage in Buildings BREEAM
Vehicles: Reduction of GHG from Vehicle Emissions LEED
Encouragement of Virtual Meetings N/A
Water Quality
Reduction in Water Usage Green Star
Human Health Consideration of Water Swedish Rating Tool
Wastewater Management Green Star
Materials and Resources
Waste Reduction DGNB
Recycling/Separation of Operational Wastes BREEAM
Green Procurement Green Globes
Recycling e-waste N/A
Indoor Environmental Quality
Air Quality LEED
Indoor Temperature Controls BREEAM
Odourless and Low Emissions Products Green Star and LEED
Acoustic Comfort BREEAM
Indoor Design DGNB
Views LEED
Lighting Controls LEED
Site Selection
Regional Consideration DGNB
Environmental Integrity of the Site BREEAM
Location to Amenities DGNB
Security N/A
Social/Cultural Aspects
Cultural Sensitivity DGNB
Social Impact on Adjacent Properties/ Architecture Green Globes and DGNB
Monitoring N/A
Commissioning BREEAM
Education N/A
Employee Awareness Green Globes
Training BREEAM
Flexibility of Building Use DGNB
Measurement and Verification DGNB
Building Durability DGNB
Life Cycle Cost Analysis BREEAM and DGNB
Innovation All


Table 1: Evaluation Factors to be Included in the proposed DND Sustainable Development Rating System.

Each of these systems was analyzed, based upon criteria included in the evaluation categories, types of indicators, weightings, and overall applicability to the CAF. Table 1 provides a cross-comparative analysis of the evaluation criteria thought to be relevant, based upon the combined results of the literature review, interviews, and observations, and to determine which rating system best addressed those specific criteria or issues. The chosen criteria were based upon applicability and relevance to the CAF, as well as to whether or not they, in fact, had a substantial impact upon the social, economic, or environmental aspects of the buildings. Indicators were selected if they said something substantial. These elements of the criteria are then suggested to be used in the Sustainable Development Strategy for the CAF. In addition to existing rating systems, other relevant documents were examined for information they provided on the state of green buildings in Canada, as well as the national policies relevant to the federal government.

Long Interview/Semi-Structured Interview

This phase of the methodology consisted of interviews with relevant personnel within the federal government, private companies, and those who have experience or knowledge related to the subject of green buildings. Nine participants were members of the CAF, two were DND civilians, two were independent consultants, one was a LEED member, one was a Green Globes member, and three were participants from Natural Resources Canada. These individuals can all be considered subject matter experts in a particular discipline associated with green buildings. The participants were interviewed to determine how the CAF can best achieve its sustainability targets with respect to the construction of buildings. Semi-structured interviews were selected as the mode of information gathering from respondents, due to the complexities and sensitive nature of the research topic, as it still allowed for flexibility in a collaborative communication process.

Between October 2011 and April 2012, 18 interviews were conducted. These included one focus group, four in-person interviews (including the focus group), 12 telephone interviews, and two interview guides e-mailed electronically. Each of the verbal interviews lasted between 25-60 minutes. In addition to the data collected, the participant’s professional background, setting, and the manner in which the questions were delivered were also taken into consideration.12 Participants were chosen based on their positions held within relevant government bodies (DND, NRCan, and so on), or private companies (LEED, GG, and so on). As well, using the ‘snowball’ techniques described by Berg,13 several of the participants were selected for interviews based on recommendations from co-workers or industry associates. Following this guide, ensured that:

  • personnel associations and cultural biases were identified;
  • interview procedures were conducted in a way as to obtain as much accurate information from the participant as possible;
  • participants’ experience was positive; and
  • the data collected was synthesized and analyzed properly.


This section contains the numerous results from the data that were collected and analyzed as part of this research undertaking. The analysis of the data collected by the triangulation approach14 is divided into two sections, each addressing one of the research questions. These results identify all the major themes reflected by the interviews and supporting literature, regarding the essential components of a DND-specific building rating system, as well as challenges of implementing green/sustainable policies into the CAF. These results were compiled based upon the researcher’s data collected, and research into the specific operations and needs of the DND. In support of this overall objective, the results cited herein are the main results as determined through the rigorous methodology that has been applied in this research study.

Results – Part 1

Part 1 addresses the first research question and presents the results: What are the unique requirements of the CAF with regard to green/sustainable buildings? This first question aims to determine the needs of the CAF with regard to a sustainable building strategy. Figure 4 indicates the proportion of respondents who do not believe that the application of current building rating systems achieve the intended savings, or properly fulfill sustainable building philosophies. Of these respondents, an overwhelming majority are DND personnel. This indicates that within DND, the manner in which infrastructure is currently being managed is felt to be unacceptable.


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Figure 4: Percentage of Respondents [by Organization] stating that current Rating Systems do not Achieve Green Building Philosophies

Based upon interviews and supporting literature, the following section describes a series of factors that are believed to be important for inclusion in a DND specific sustainable building rating system. These factors were then compared against current ratings systems, and evaluated by the way in which these rating systems applied that factor. An existing rating system (and subsequent credit/criterion) was selected that best applied each of the factors highlighted through the research (interviews, literature, and researcher’s experience). The parameters of the existing rating system credit/criterion selected were based upon their applicability to the military, ease of use/implementation, and perceived environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Based upon the conclusions drawn from Table 1, it is evident that there is not one rating system that provides DND with all the required factors/criteria in order to effectively address sustainability within their infrastructure. Table 2 further summarizes the total number of factors each system was determined to best address the needs of the DND.

Rating Systems Number of Factors
Green Globes 5
GreenStar 3
Swedish Building Rating Tool 1


Table 2: The total number of factors each system most effectively addressed.

Results – Part 2

This section addresses the second research questions: What should be implemented in a sustainable development strategy for the CAF in order to achieve green/sustainable building objectives? What are the constraints of current DND policy, and how can those constraints be overcome?

Challenges of implementing sustainable building strategies within DND were raised, due to the current practice and structure of the CAF. Any policies created within DND must account for its unique command structure as it will have a direct influence upon operations and an influence upon all long-term aspects. The command structure is based upon making quick and efficient decisions, and when there is a five-year or a ten-year sustainability plan, the current structure is limited in terms of addressing that issue, i.e. the posting system. Issues and recommendations to mitigate these issues to make strategies more effective are summarized in Table 3.

Cited Issue Action Required
Short-term policies regarding sustainable development Consideration of high turn-over rates, and long-term budgets.
Lack of ownership and accountability Requirement of executives and directors to have their end of year assessments affected if they are not implementing sustainable practices.
Lack of spending on pilot projects and research and development Long-term budgets.
Lack of Training and Education Ensure clarity of policies and provide training programs to ensure proper execution of tasks.
Lack of Communication Creation of policy must consider all factors of building design and user group requirements.

Communicate requirements to all levels and between departments (green building policies should be shared between Environment and infrastructure).
Unclear Objectives Ensure all parties understand terminology and concept in policies and plans.

Requirement of consistent monitoring and re-evaluation of policies.
Not flexible Create a policy flexible enough to include both large and smaller infrastructure projects.
Lack of Incentives Provide incentives for managers and directors to implement sustainable building strategies.


Table 3: Issues and Required Actions for DND Building Management Plans.

The results in Part 1 of this section were used to help identify the most significant building rating problems, as well as to highlight areas that require the most attention in order to minimize the environmental effects of a building. National objectives and legal requirements were also used to showcase the areas of sustainable building tools that policy developers and sustainable building users find most important. However, sustainable building tools cannot stand alone, and must be part of a wider sustainable building policy initiative through the DND.

Conclusions / Contributions

The objectives of this study were to address the following research questions:

  • Part 1 – What are the unique requirements of the CAF with regard to green/sustainable buildings?; and,
  • Part 2 – What should be implemented in a sustainable development strategy for the CAF in order to achieve green/sustainable building objectives? What are the constraints of current DND policy, and how can those constraints be overcome?

Conclusions – Part 1

The unique nature of the CAF and its Sustainable Development (SD) policies and practices were fully referred to previously in this article. The results of the interviews of the DND personnel, federal employees, and relevant experts further defined the unique requirements and policy of the CAF in this regard. Examining buildings within an SD framework from the macro-scale (holistically) to the micro-scale (CAF specific), the authors investigated the development of current sustainable building rating systems and strategies. The authors’ research has contributed to the examination of current green/sustainable building rating systems and their widespread application. The trends and themes that were thoroughly examined and determined helped contribute to the academic discourse in the field of sustainable buildings assessment. The results (i.e. the most viable and relevant components (or cited factors) of a variety of rating systems in regard to green building and sustainable development concepts) reiterate the fact that proper critical analysis, and a trans- disciplinary approach is required for selecting the most optimal rating system indicators and criteria, especially for use by the CAF and DND, with their stated unique requirements. The aim was to tackle and suggest a solution for a ‘real-world problem,’ as the tool should be used to improve the performance of buildings. Scientific knowledge from many fields needs to be collated and analysed in order to extract the most important aspects to be considered in the tool. In addition, appropriate policies and support are required to foster the progress of sustainability strategies. The following conclusions can be drawn from the results of this research:

  • The unique needs of the DND were identified and investigated as to how this uniqueness affects the application and effectiveness of rating systems (Summary provided in Table 2);
  • Core, Relevant SD factors/criteria were determined through a thorough, comprehensive, and international selection process that could be used as the foundation for a proposed DND sustainable buildings rating system;
  • A sustainable development framework was established;
  • Areas of improvement with regard to SD for DND infrastructure were identified; and,
  • Research addressed shortcomings and proposed sustainable building policy protocol.

Conclusions – Part 2

This research incorporated the relevant concepts of SD by addressing the components of the sustainability which highlights the applicability of these frameworks to the built environment, and their usability for practical purposes. The cited factors that were chosen and substantiated by the authors have the potential to become the standard through which SD can be not only evaluated, but practised through implementation. It also illustrates the potentialities for the framework to be used as a design tool, aiding in the mobilization of these concepts of sustainability from policy into practice. Obtaining sound feedback and input to the CAF and the DND, can, in turn, be introduced at the federal level. This can be accomplished through the creation of a DND-specific Sustainable Building Strategy. Policies which aim to advance the use of sustainability concepts within infrastructure practices should use these concepts when designing policy, and not just for the design of infrastructure itself. The current CAF LEED and Green Globes policy certainly have their shortcomings in this regard. This research has illustrated the need to re-evaluate the method of policy creation within the DND, to include more relevant and further reaching concepts of sustainability.

an Environmental Conservation Forest 3431/photo 9625723


  1. Department of National Defence. The National Defence Sustainable Development Strategy: 4th Iteration (Art Direction ADM(PA) DPAPS).(Ottawa: Canadian Government Printing Office, 2006.
  2. L. Craig, L, ‘Good to be Green,’ in The Maple Leaf, Vol. 13, No.19, p.4.
  3. T.M. Smith, M. Fischlein, S. Suh, & P. Huelman, Green Building Rating Systems: A Comparison of the LEED and Green Globes Systems in the US. University of Minnesota. 2006.
  4. Ibid.
  5. R. Reed, A. Bilos, S. Wilkinson, & K.W. Schulte, “International Comparison of Sustainable Rating Tools,” in Journal of Sustainable Real Estate, Vol.1, No.1 (2009), pp. 1-22.
  6. Ibid.
  7. W. Cox & J.H. John, ‘Triangulation,’ in Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2009), p. 496.
  8. P. Kennedy, ‘How to Combine Multiple Research Methods: Practical Triangulation,’ in Johnny Holland Magazine, 2009.
  9. B.L. Berg, Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. (Long Beach, CA: Allyn & Bacon, 2001).
  10. G. McCracken, The Long Interview. (Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 2003).
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Berg.
  14. Kennedy.