The NEX building was designed by CMH Architects to replace the older 40,000 square foot facility with a state of the art 150,000 square foot, two story facility. “The base deserved a brand new Navy Exchange to match the needs of [Walter Reed Bethesda],” said Rico Macaraeg, NEX northern district marketing and public relations manager. “The fluctuating tenant hospital of over 11,000 people really required a Navy Exchange like the one we have today.”
However, the new NEX building improves upon the old in more than sheer size and the addition of a food court. According to the Design-Build Institute of America, the presenters of the award, the NEX met budget and schedule goals, but most importantly, achieved innovation in design and construction.
The building’s construction uses 100 percent American made materials, a portion of which were recycled from the old NEX. In addition, there are a number of design features which focus on eco friendly sustainability.
The roof of the NEX is covered with plots of lush green grass. According to Macaraeg, the fresh vegetation not only looks appealing to commuters driving by the base, but it also plays a vital role in maintaining the temperature inside the building. “In the summer, it absorbs the heat coming from the sun keeping our building cooler, as opposed to a tar, shingled or cement roof. During the winter, it insulates the building, keeping the building warmer by trapping heat in the building.”
The building also houses an internal irrigation system, which reduces public water usage by collecting rain water. The water is stored in tanks inside the building and later used to irrigate the grass roof and plants surrounding the store as well as operate the sprinkler systems and restroom facilities.
The store’s massive second floor skylight provides more than just natural light for shoppers. “There are sensors that are positioned near the skylight that measure the amount of light that’s coming in,” said Macaraeg. “If there is enough light coming in during the day that our store can operate, the [electric] lights will turn off, reducing energy use and increasing efficiency.”
“An eco friendly yet pleasing to look at building was always our goal,” said Capt. Frederick “Fritz” Kass. “This project was a great collaboration between our facilities team, both with NSA Bethesda and Naval District Washington along with NEX and the contractors. There was a lot of consideration involved with the design of the building in regards to surrounding areas and communities outside the gates.”
This isn’t the first time the building was recognized for its green construction and design. Upon its completion, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) awarded the NEX a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. This designation, the second highest certification awarded by the USGBC, identifies the building as having one of the lowest potential environmental impacts and the greatest human benefit in the United States.
“This is one of the first LEED buildings for the Navy Exchange,” said Macaraeg. “Its part of our commitment to the Secretary of the Navy and its service members to make sure that any [NEX location] we’re building or refurbishing is conscious of the environment and preserves it for the future.”