5 military construction trends
Defense spending may be down somewhat, but there’s still plenty of project dollars out there if you know where to look.
2. GREATER EMPHASIS ON FAST-TRACK SCHEDULING AND PREFABRICATION
With a strict spending deadline for the recent BRAC round, many projects had to be fast-tracked, which drove innovation, including heavy use of prefabrication. A 98,000-sf, four-story office building for the Army Legal Services Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va., is a notable example. “It was one of the last BRAC procurements, coming out late in the budget cycle,” says Mike DiNapoli, general manager of Boston-based Suffolk Construction. “There was deep concern about getting it done in time.”
The Warrior Zone – where troops can unwind
While most military projects directly support the operational mission, the Warrior Zone, located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., has a different function—boosting troop morale. Aimed at single soldiers, the 29,000-sf facility, which opened this past January, features a million dollars’ worth of high-tech gear: 16 game stations with 55-inch high-definition monitors, computers with high-speed Internet access, dozens of 52-inch HDTVs, and 32 custom gaming computers. Pool tables, a movie theater, a restaurant and bar, and a 4,000-sf covered patio round out the amenities. Funding came from the military’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, derived solely from soldier’s on-base spending at recreational facilities around the world.
Stellar Group, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., gave the facility a postmodern look with juxtaposing geometrical shapes, translucent panels, and exposed structural beams. “Because it competes with off-base entertainment options, it was essential to break free from the traditional military design mold,” says Richard M. Lovelace, vice president of Stellar’s commercial division.
Many of the troops stationed at Lewis-McChord have served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder. The Warrior Zone was conceived to encourage camaraderie among a generation that grew up with video games and technological gadgetry. “The idea is for soldiers not to sequester themselves in their rooms,” says STV vice president Dwyn Taylor, a retired captain in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps. Sharing war stories in the Warrior Zone, it is hoped, will help soldiers cope better with combat stress.—Peter Fabris
Facing a tight 12-month delivery schedule to meet the Congressional deadline, the CM-at-risk Building Team, which included Perkins+Will as primary design partner and BCRA Design on interior design, used a compressed design schedule. “We had to get into construction documents almost immediately,” recalls DiNapoli. That task was enabled by “unusually active participation from end-users for a government contract,” he says.
Extensive prefabrication helped the project meet its ambitious timetable. SlenderWall, a lightweight exterior precast concrete system, was an important component of the project. “We had the entire skin up within four weeks after the concrete frame went up,” DiNapoli says. Electrical and mechanical systems, including the two-part mechanical penthouse, were fabricated off site and assembled on site.
Just-in-time delivery of supplies helped keep the job site less cluttered and more efficient. To save time on commissioning, the fire alarm system was inspected off site. DiNapoli says that having a Suffolk Construction employee dedicated full-time to quality control throughout the project helped ensure construction quality and minimize last-minute corrective work.