The Department of the Army is currently underway with an unprecedented transformation to Fort Bliss in El Paso. The $4.1-billion military construction program encompasses 90 projects involving 300 buildings on 3,100 acres to accommodate 10 million square feet of living and work space in support of approximately additional 30,000 soldiers.
Reason For Expansion
By 2013, Fort Bliss will realize a net increase of over 20,000 active duty personnel — the largest net gain for any military installation in America. Fort Bliss will transition from a Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) post that has long been the home of the Army's Air and Missile Defense program to an Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) installation that will become home to the headquarters of the First Armored Division. Fort Bliss will also receive numerous new units and missions including a combat aviation brigade, a Fires brigade, a sustainment brigade, and at least three heavy brigade combat teams (HVBCT). The region has also been tapped to be the integrated field experimentation site for the Army's Future Combat System initiative.
The expansion requires the construction of three Heavy Brigade Combat Team (BCT) complexes, two Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, and one Combat Aviation Brigade. In the first phase, the USACE contracted two BCTs (Brigade Combat Teams), with one more awarded later. The average cost of a BCT complex is about $400 million with infrastructure, according to the USACE.
Product Line Concept
To expedite construction and reduce the need for hiring new personnel, the contracts and work were set up as a "product line concept." Under the product line concept, Districts in the Corps of Engineers' Southwestern and South Pacific Divisions partnered and were assigned certain types of structures or infrastructure to oversee. Each was responsible for awarding Design-Build IDIQ contracts for their assigned type of facility.
This means that different USACE districts will be responsible for construction contracts that may be just across the street from each other within the same complex. For instance, the Fort Worth district is responsible for infrastructure, barracks and training ranges in addition to providing a central point of contact. The Little Rock USACE office is in charge of dining facilities and aircraft hangars; the Tulsa office is responsible for building maintenance facilities; and the Sacramento office is responsible for construction of brigade and battalion headquarters buildings.
J.D. Abrams was awarded the contract to prepare the site infrastructure for construction of three new BCTs. Site prep involves moving dirt, installing all utilities (electric, gas, communications, water, storm drains, and waste water) and building streets.
Earthmoving for the first BCT complex began in July 2006, and within three months, contractors were able to begin vertical construction, according to Jon Abrams, president and CEO of J.D. Abrams LP.
In order to make room for the first two complexes, 2 million cubic yards of dirt on 635 acres had to be removed. One BCT occupies about 300 acres and is approximately 1 mile by a half mile, which is close in size to the Washington Mall at 309 acres. As of early October, nearly 4 million cubic yards of dirt have been moved, 60 miles of pipe has been laid, and 120,000 cubic yards of concrete is in place on the three infrastructure projects, according to Abrams' records.
In order to meet deadlines on the projects, double shifts proved vital in completing construction on schedule. BCT 1 is in the final stages with the water system being completed. BCT 2 is nearly completed. BCT 3 is in the grading stage and is expected to be completed on schedule.
Site preparations needed before building contractors were able to begin their work on the first two BCTs were the construction of 14.8 miles of paving for streets and tank trails, said Abrams.
Jobe Materials of El Paso supplied the paving concrete from two mix plants set up near the projects on Fort Bliss.
"One central mix plant provides 400-cubic-yard capacity, and a dry mix plant is capable of 250-cubic-yard capacity," said Stanley Jobe. Jobe Materials imports its cement from Cemento de Chihuahua in Mexico, but produces its own aggregate.
Utility installation included 18.2 miles of water mains in addition to 8.7 miles of sanitary and 8.6 miles of storm sewer mains. More than 10 miles of natural gas mains will be installed along with 19.1 miles of duct bank and 39 miles of copper conductor for electricity and communications.
A typical BCT is comprised of barracks, dining facilities, company operation facilities, headquarters buildings, vehicle maintenance shops, unit storage facilities, equipment parking areas, and other features.
When it came to unaccompanied enlisted personnel housing or barracks, attention was given to methods used by private industry and to non-traditional construction methods such as pre-fabricated, pre-engineered, panelized, and modular construction. The barracks will house single soldiers and is intended to be similar to off-post apartment-type housing. A soldier's room includes private sleeping area, walk-in closets, a shared bathroom and kitchenette, and will be wired for telephone, cable and Internet access.
The BCT 1 project began turning dirt in September 2006 and was just completed in September 2008. BCT complexes 2, 3 and 4 are expected to be troop-ready by Sept. 30, 2009, 2010 and 2014, respectively.