Technical Transfer of Net Zero Planner Tool from Research to Production Platform
Objectives of the Demonstration
The Net Zero Planner ToolTM (NZP ToolTM) is a sustainability master planning to feasibility analysis tool that was developed through Research, Development and Test (RD&T) funding and demonstrated in ESTCP project EW-201240. The tool can provide analysis from business as usual to net zero sustainability goals for energy, water, and waste.
The objective of this project was to transition the NZP ToolTM from a research environment with the capability to serve a single district to a production environment with a scalable capacity that is able to serve the entire Department of Defense (DoD). Further, this work aimed to make the NZP ToolTM easier to use through the development of tutorials, training events, and streamlining the interface. The scalability will need to grow with customer demand and paid subscription fees. However, having the tool ready to transfer to a scalable platform needed to be accomplished first.
The goal was to transfer the NZP ToolTM technology to DoD planners and engineers through the construction districts of each service. The NZP ToolTM was limited in the number of individuals that could be served at a given time (due to the capacity limits of the servers that hosted the NZP ToolTM). The tool was already available to anyone that had access to the .mil network but was unable to handle a large number of simultaneous users. The project aimed to solve this problem by allowing the NZP ToolTM to be hosted on an enterprise computing network.
This project aimed to assist in the technology transfer through two main approaches: 1) pursue Risk Management Framework (RMF) Application certification to allow hosting of SMPL-NZP Tool on DoD servers and add additional encryption to web services to comply with RMF requirements, and 2) provide training and tutorial materials for NZP ToolTM users.
It had been found that there is a significant learning curve associated with proficient use of the NZP ToolTM (this may be expected as it is leading users through a complicated process). Therefore, the project developed assistance for the users in the form of tutorials and a two-tiered analysis process (a less intensive tier for planning and a more intensive tier for feasibility analysis work).
An innovative aspect to this approach was the use of YouTube to host tutorial videos. This method provided free hosting to the government and provided marketing for the NZP ToolTM. Open access to these videos allows users to view and share the material, even when outside of DoD networks.
Also, many software projects are developed as research tools and then not certified to be installed and used from DoD enterprise servers or networks. This project aimed to take the NZP ToolTM from a research tool to one that was ready to install on a DoD enterprise system. This process was documented to make it available for other software projects to follow.
The technology that was the focus of this effort (NZP ToolTM) was successfully demonstrated at West Point Military Academy and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard under ESTCP project EW-201240. Since that demonstration, the tool had been used for an additional ~15 planning projects on multiple sites including: Fort Leonard Wood, Schofield Barracks, The Presidio of Monterey, Fort Hunter Liggett, NASA: Johnson Space Center and White Sands Testing Facility, Fort Hood, Wheeler Airfield, and Helemano Military Reserve. That project had resulted in multiple awards including the National Association of Environmental Professional (NEAP) Award and the Federal Planning Division (American Planning Association) awards - Outstanding Sustainable Planning, Development or Design Initiative category.
A small in-house group was trained on the RMF process, the SMPL-NZP Tool was assessed as an RMF case study, and the project's Final Report includes a guide for others. At the project's completion, the SMPL-NZP Tool has Authority to Operate (ATO) on the ERDC Cloud Computing Environment where it is currently being hosted. In addition, online training was developed and is now hosted on YouTube.
This project was originally planned using the knowledge of the DIACAP and CoN systems that were previously in place. The RMF process is structured differently and so is the categorization of assessments. Where a CoN could have been achieved in the old system, an “Assess Only” could be achieved for the SMPL-NZP Tool in the RMF process. The Tool proceeded down the Assess and Authorize Path. Advantages of undergoing rigorous security assessment and meeting RMF requirements are the assurance of a secured data set and a documented log of the approved architecture and uses of the system. The process provides necessary baseline for monitoring and counteracting any breaches to certified system or data use. Finally the SMPL-NZP Tool Program Owner was chosen to be The ERDC Center for the Advancement of Sustainability Innovations (CASI). It provides ERDC ownership for the Tool.
The NZP ToolTM is capable of providing a guided path toward planning and feasibility level decision making for DoD planners and engineers. Specifically, the tool was already being used to develop Sustainability Component Plans (SCP) that provide the installation with a list of the most cost effective projects that can be done on their facilities and/or infrastructure to help the installation meet federally mandated energy, water, and waste reduction requirements. The SCP also provides guidance on installation’s build-out capacity and storm water diversion measure to meet low impact development requirements.
The most significant benefit to the DoD will be an increase in the development of Sustainability Component Plans to allow installations to begin moving toward their mandated energy, water, and waste reduction goals in the most cost effective way possible. These plans provide great help to the planning staff on installations and can be used by the engineering staff to help prioritize and coordinate projects. Further, through use of the NZP ToolTM, the data collected from past SCPs can be reviewed and modified by the installation at any time to account for changes or updates to their activities. These changes can be processed quickly to result in updated guidance to the installation at a fraction of the cost of traditional rework.