Over the past six years, SmithGroup has been working with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF) to design and build satellites to the 72,000-sf National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in Bethesda, Md., which since 2010 has treated traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by active-duty military personnel.
To date, seven NICoE Spirit satellite centers—which average 25,000 sf and between $10 million and $12 million in construction costs—have been built on the grounds of Fort Belvoir in Virginia, Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Hood in Texas, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, and Camp Pendleton in California.
Philip Tobey, a Senior Vice President at SmithGroup, says one other NICoE Spirit in design and two others await funding.
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is led by Arnold Fisher, a Senior Partner with Fisher Brothers, a real estate developer and builder in New York. Originally, he formed the fund to supplement the paltry ($6,000) benefits the government had been paying families of military personnel killed in action. When the government raised its payout to $100,000 per family, IFHF approached the Army Surgeon General to see what else it could do to help active duty military.
At that time (2005), 23,000 troops had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, 10,000 of whom sustained injuries that prevented them from returning to duty.
The fund, says Fisher, raised $72 million for the Center for the Intrepid, a 65,000-sf rehabilitation training and research center on five acres at Brooke Army Medical Center near Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. IFHF was instrumental in assembling the project team for this project, which included SmithGroup (design architect), Syska Hennessy Group (engineering systems design), Cagley & Associates (SE), Garcia & Wright Consulting Engineers (CE), Counsilman Hunsaker (natatorium consultant), Plaza Construction (owner’s rep), and Skanska USA (CM).
IFHF subsequently raised $92 million to build NICoE, which opened on the campus of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., The facility has $26 million of imaging equipment, which places it "seven or eight years ahead of civilian research,” says the 85-year-old Fisher.
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund donates the healthcare facilities it builds to the U.S. Department of Defense. Its only stipulation is that it have complete autonomy in managing the projects, which allows it to accelerate the production schedule. The Center for the Intrepid was designed and built in 18 months, and the NICoE Spirits are being completed in 14 months.
Fisher says that speed is of the essence to meet the pressing needs of physically and psychologically damaged troops. “I’m a builder, and I push to get projects done,” he explains. Fisher notes that SmithGroup has been the “perfect partner” because “they understand what we need and the importance of the look of the building” to a patient’s recovery.